It’s taken time, but finally, people start to realize that they need to change the way they interact with the world, and more especially with the environment. Indeed, creating environmentally-friendly approaches has become a priority for all, not only in an attempt to keep the grass in our front yards green but to ensure that the grass everywhere stays green and healthy. The Chaos theory has been part of the meteorology school of thoughts since Henri Poincaré suggested during the late 19th Century that a small change could have immeasurable effects onto the climate. The idea of the butterfly effect that has a far-reaching ripple effect on events was first used by Ray Bradbury in a short story in 1952. However, the butterfly has long left Bradbury’s story to make its destructive ripple journey through our climate and civilization. Climate change is not a new concept. But in the recent years, the climatic ripples of constant levels of pollution and lack of environmental measures have created the most unnatural disasters around the world.
Did we just cause a hurricane?
Scientists all around the world have been quick to agree that climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey. But they suggested that the horrifying levels of destruction it generated might have been the result of global warming. Indeed, while climate changes are not perceived as the direct causes of a hurricane, meteorologists believe that the ripple effects of global warming have turned hurricanes into destructive forces. Poised to become the most expensive disaster in American history, with $190 billion in damage to the infrastructure, it’s impossible not to feel a pan of guilt when one thinks that human lifestyle habits have potentially turned Harvey into an unnatural disaster of mass destruction. Donating to help is one solution, but it will not stop the next Harvey or Irma to hit us even worse.
The risk of megafire increases
Global warming is, to put it simply, caused by rising temperatures, which in return are the result of polluting practices. A recent study by Nature Ecology & Evolution indicates that the risk of megafires is increasing proportionally to the temperatures. In fact, the study predicts a 35% increase in the days with a danger of fire around the world. However, some regions are more likely to be touched, namely western US states, southeastern Australia, the Mediterranean regions and southern Africa. Between 2002 and 2013, the study identified 144 unnatural fire disasters caused by global warming. How many more to come before we act?
Plants in Europe equal drought in India
The sulphate emission from power plants in Europe have been linked to one of India’s most devastating unnatural drought in 2000, that has affected more than 130 million people. Indeed, scientists estimate that European emissions have caused a drop by 40% in rainfall. As the monsoon delivers over 70% of regional annual rainfall, the effects of a sudden precipitation drop were terrible for the population. This study convinced the European Union to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions actively.
How many more unnatural disasters do we need to endure as a civilization before we finally understand the damaging force of climate change? The answer is: Too many already. For now, only local petitions and actions can help to swing around the world governments and introduce protective measures
A New Normal?: What We Need To Take Away From the Cape Town Water Crisis
The Cape Town water crisis is still very much in the news and there is a lot that needs to be learnt from what has been happening in the city where 4 million people are actively struggling to push backward Day Zero: the day when the city runs out of its water resources and water supply is shut all across the city. If you have been keeping up with the story, you’d probably know that Day Zero was set by the city’s authorities to occur early in April. With a combination of supervised action and good fortune, recent estimates have pushed the date by nearly two months, with Day Zero now set to occur some time in early June. However, it is still too early to celebrate for the citizens of Cape Town since the dams that account for the availability of water to the city are still at alarmingly low levels, with analysts wondering whether the increased scarcity of the essential natural resource should be treated as a new normal for the region or not. The mere thought of the same spells an apocalyptic warning for mankind, for it has been known for quite some time that the crisis being faced by Capetonians is not unique and soon the citizens of many major cities across the globe could be facing the same, albeit with differing levels of severity.
A Game of Numbers: What the Future Holds
We are made to learn in the earlier years of our schooling that water makes up nearly 70% of the earth’s surface but only 3% of it is freshwater, that is, water that we can drink. Couple that with the population boom witnessed over decades in developed and developing countries all over the world and you have statistics which suggest that a quarter of the largest 500 cities in the world are dealing with issues related to scarcity of water. Moreover, a warning has been issued by the United Nations World Water Development Report that by the year 2030 the global demand for drinking water would exceed the global supply by roughly 40% due to a combination of climate change, growth in population, and actions of humans: a daunting figure at the very least. Even today, more than one eighth of the human population lack access to safe drinking water, and on top of that another 2.7 billion people find water to be scarce at least one month of the year. Where this puts us 12 years down the line is by all standards a circumstance not pretty, and what this means for the cities touted to be next in line after Cape Town is pretty clear: save water as if your life depends on it, because it does, as put forth by former mayor of Cape Town Helen Zille on tackling the issue in her city.
The Next Cape Town: An Inevitability?
11 major cities have been identified as being the most likely to be affected by water crises, if any in the near future. The list also includes the south Indian city of Bangalore. Bangalore, known as technological hub or the silicon plateau of India, has often been touted as the country’s IT capital, and that is precisely why it is now so high up in the list of cities struggling to manage its water supply. Rapid property developments in the city along with the huge influx of people to fill up these spaces have put up immense pressure on the city’s antiquated plumbing and sewer systems. The whole system is so ineffective that it has been estimated through a national report itself that the city loses half of its water meant for drinking as waste. Rampant pollution over the years has just added to the huge challenge. Of all the lakes in the city, none are clean enough to be used for drinking or even bathing, and water from most of the lakes can be at best only used for industrial cooling and irrigation.
The list contains a total of 4 Asian cities out of 11 including Bangalore. The remaining three are also the capital cities of three of the largest Asian countries in terms of population: Beijing; the capital of China, Tokyo; the Japanese capital, and Jakarta; capital of Indonesia. While China is inhabited by nearly 20% of the world’s population, it is home to only 7% of the world’s reserves of fresh water. Like Bangalore, Beijing also suffers from high levels of water pollution which has attracted the attention of the Chinese government over the past few years. The remainder of the list includes the cities of Sao Paulo in Brazil, the Egyptian capital Cairo, the Russian capital of Moscow, Istanbul in Turkey, Mexico City, Miami: the only city from the US to make the list, and surprisingly even London, the capital of the United Kingdom. London receives an annual rainfall of only about 600mm and is dependent for most of its supply of water on the rivers Thames and Lea. It is estimated to face supply problems by the year 2025, and by the year 2040, London is on track to face serious supply shortages.
You Don’t Have to Wait, You Have to Start
The threats of water shortages are not new when you consider for how long the warnings have been in place, in the same places for all this while. Even if this is all new to you right now, there are lessons that have to be learnt from what is happening around us and it is the need of the hour to be aware and to be responsible for your actions and for those of others around you. We shouldn’t have to wait till the going gets as bad as it did in Cape Town when we can do better. The power to control/minimise the effects of water shortages is within you, and through your example and your actions it is extended to others around you. Take it upon yourself to be the person to lead the change, attaching all the more power to yourself as well.
The Technology Helping to Control Air Pollution in the 21st Century
From Warsaw to Beijing and from Johannesburg to London, air pollution is an all-important issue. In this article we’re going to discuss what is being done about it, specifically looking at the technology and techniques involved. These range from pollution control systems like wet and dry scrubbers to the use of greener technology such as electric cars.
Specialist environmental engineering and contracting firms such as ERG are leading the way in controlling air pollution, utilising a variety of methods to tackle the problem at its source. Just one of the techniques they use is wet scrubbing, which remove pollutants from a gas stream by bringing the pollutants into contact with a reactive liquid solution. This is used with success for cleaning:
- Fuel gas;
- Toxic or corrosive gases;
- Dust particles.
The scrubbing solution can range from water, which is used for dust, to any number of reagents that target chemical compounds which could go on to pollute the atmosphere.
This is a cleaning process which does not saturate the gas stream with moisture, but rather uses solid material. Dry scrubbing is usually divided into two categories, representing the most common techniques used:
1) Dry sorbent injectors (DSIs), which add alkaline material such as soda ash or hydrated lime into the gas stream to react with the acidic polluting material;
2) Spray dryer absorbers (SDAs), which add the gases to be scrubbed into a dryer (also known as an absorbing tower), where they come into contact with an alkaline slurry that has been finely atomised.
This is the process in which particulate collection devices remove particles from the air, or another gas, using the power of an induced electrostatic charge. Electrostatic precipitators are considered to be very efficient when it comes to the consumption of electricity, as they only target the particles to be removed.
Unlike the other methods on this list, electric cars do not actively remove air impurities. Rather, they deal with the prevention of pollution. In contrast to cars relying on internal combustion engines, these do not create harmful exhaust emissions such as:
- Carbon monoxide;
- Particulates such as soot;
We have looked at three methods of removing pollution from the air, along with one method of prevention. When it comes to technology, these represent the tip of the iceberg, but they should give a good introduction when it comes to how we are working to combat this worldwide issue.
Day Zero: A Desperate Warning from Cape Town to the World
The unpreparedness of the human race has slowly but steadily come to the surface over the previous decade when it comes to ensuring our own survival and more importantly, that of the following generations. Before we even attempt to realize the impacts of climate change that are thrown into the faces of some community who then serve as the unfortunate examples of what’s going to happen, another repercussion pops up into the frame at the cost of another unsuspecting community, a country, or even a city. The city of Cape Town in South Africa serves as the most recent of those examples, and the crisis in the city bodes an ultimatum like never before to other thriving cities on the planet: mend your ways or follow suit.
“Day Zero”: as dire as it sounds
The event currently underway in Cape Town could be aptly described as probably its worst drought in nearly a century, one that has seen its people and authorities struggle to obtain water in the wake of depleting natural sources in order to sustain even their daily hygiene rituals. The city is quickly closing in on what has been dubbed as “Day Zero“: the day when the city will run out of its water. When that happens, it would be the first occurrence of such an event for a major global city. “Day Zero”, originally estimated to occur on April 22, was more recently moved up to April 12 with Cape Town’s 4 million strong population finding it difficult to adjust to the demands of reduced consumption.
A point of no return, is it?
The authorities, including city mayor Patricia de Lille have urged citizens to restrict their usage to 50 litres per person a day with effect from February 1 to accommodate the shortage and help prevent the situation take a turn for the worse. However, most citizens have been ignorant of these warnings in the past month and have irresponsibly consumed more than 87 litres per day, the restricted amount in place till the end of January. “It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero” she said, adding, “We have reached a point of no return.”
Despite the comments of the mayor, it can be safely mentioned that many people of the city are realizing the weight of the crisis, and have begun to get creative with the different ways in which they can collect and reuse water in order to restrict their consumption to the stipulated limit and escape hefty fines. Long queues to purchase bottled water for household consumption in supermarkets has also become a common sight over the weeks.
Former mayor Helen Zille, who will also direct the disaster management response on the arrival of Day Zero has sounded hopeful, going so far as to say that Day Zero can be avoided should everyone realize the implications and make a concerted effort towards conserving water. “That is not difficult if we all put our minds to it in our homes and in our workplaces,” she said of the situation. Ms. Zille, along with other officials have provided tips to the people for saving water and getting the maximum use out of the water that they use: turning off the taps of toilet cisterns and using the grey water from washing in the toilets instead and showering less often. “No one should be showering more than twice a week at this stage. You need to save water as if your life depends on it because it does” were her words.
Not a crisis out of thin air
The crisis that the people in Cape Town are facing is not sudden by any standards. In fact, first warnings against the occurring were given out in the 1990s which were largely ignored. One main factor identified behind the crisis and its scale is the city’s population of about 4 million individuals, which has seen a high rate of growth over the years and is still growing strongly. Coupled with the drought that the population is currently facing, the strain on the resources for water has increased. South Africa hasn’t received sufficient rainfall for three years now. The drought in turn arises from climate change and the El Nino effect. There are six dams that supply water to the city and are currently 25.8 per cent full. The figure stood at 85% in 2014 and 38.4% a year ago.
What the dawn of Day Zero would mean for the people of Cape Town
On the dawn of Day Zero, Capetonians would be allowed just 25 litres of water per person a day, or roughly 7 gallons. To put that into perspective, you can take the average amount of water that Americans use: 80 to 100 gallons. A single flush of a toilet amounts to 2 gallons, and a 90 second shower could use up 4 gallons. To keep the restrictions in check, most taps in the city would be switched off and residents will have to get their daily share of water from any one of 200 allocated points in the city. Plans are also being made to store emergency water in military installations. The sooner the city head towards Day Zero, the sooner Capetonians will need to prepare for a new lifestyle, one that is significantly astray from that of entitlement that we all are living in right now. The crisis in Cape Town is a crystal clear warning to us, and one that will likely be not be given the consideration it is due.
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