Our Rainforests Are In Peril. Here’s What Needs To Be Done

Our Rainforests Are In Peril. Here’s What Needs To Be Done

Most experts say that over 80,000 acres of rainforest are being destroyed every day, with an additional 80,000 being significantly damaged as a result of logging, agriculture, farming, mining, and dam building. Commercial deforestation occurs on a staggering scale globally, and scientists estimate that we lose 50,000 species of plants and animals annually to extinction due to deforestation.

A few specific industries are causing widespread upticks in deforestation rates, which the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization notes are 8.5 percent higher this decade than they were in the 1990s. Further, researchers estimate that the loss of primary tropical rainforest, which is the wildest and biologically diverse category, has increased by as much as 25 percent since the 1990s.

As many developing nations grow at a rapid rate, their appetite for raw materials as well as land to farm and develop is threatening rainforests around the globe. However, there are still plenty of ways that we can save rainforests, which will save species from disappearing forever while also alleviating other devastating global issues including the water crisis.

The Rainforest Makes it Rain

One of the most interesting and potentially devastating effects of deforestation is the way deforestation creates a ‘negative feedback loop.’ The same trees that absorb carbon dioxide and regulate moisture levels in the air suddenly release CO2 when they are chopped down, and they are no longer there to constantly filter the air. The Amazon rainforest’s massive network of trees creates a natural cycle that causes rain clouds and moisture to accumulate nearby.

Without this cycle, the Amazon region could quickly trend towards arid, further disrupting global weather patterns which have already created a dangerous water shortage in many regions across the planet.

National Geographic Magazine has explained the interaction of the world’s rainforests as creating a “giant flowing river in the sky” as different regions’ rainy seasons push and pull moisture through the air. Rainforests have a profound effect on the weather, and until conservation efforts begin researching and prioritizing the devastating, drought-inducing effects of deforestation, the water crisis will only intensify.

This is particularly true of many developing nations which happen to be located in tropical regions which are currently home to large swaths of rainforest which are being harvested for wood to use in construction and land to farm as these nations’ populations boom.

Food-Hungry Nations Drive Deforestation

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Oftentimes, deforestation is spurred on by a demand for food products that grow in tropical regions. In West Africa, the cocoa trade has spurred on massive deforestation in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% in the last sixty years.

The global demand for cocoa has created a rampant black and grey market for cocoa beans that has caused enforcement agencies in countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast to turn a blind eye to the illegal practices that account for up to 40% of the cacao in the global supply chain.

Because it is so difficult to discern the provenance of cocoa once it is gathered in bulk for processing, industry giants like Nestle and Hershey are fueling the demand for the illegal cocoa, which is farmed primarily in freshly-deforested areas, where local farmers believe the “fresh” soil and ashes from burned down trees produce the highest crop yields.

However, deforested areas end up drought-stricken and infertile due to their inability to naturally self-regulate, which only fuels further demand for the illegally-procured deforested farming plots.
Similarly, palm oil farmed in deforested sections of Sumatra is causing major ecological crises and loss of already-threatened species like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans. Much like the cocoa industry, palm oil is aggregated at processing plants which effectively obscure the oil’s origin, thus “absolving” buyers of direct responsibility for illegal deforestation.

However, the demand for these products is created by major international companies which are acutely aware of the practices required to create large amounts of palm oil and cacao, both of which incentivize farmers to operate illegally in order to boost production and have access to a profitable market.

Sumatra’s deforestation rate is among the world’s highest alongside Indonesia and Brazil, and the deforestation also contributes to drought and unusual wildfires which, in 2015 alone, created more CO2 emissions than the entire United Kingdom combined.

The logging-induced fires that year destroyed over 8,000 square miles of rainforest and contributed to over 100,000 premature deaths caused by exposure to smog or fire. Palm oil is a common vegetable oil that is used in foods, cosmetics, cleaning products, and fuels; it is a biological alternative to petroleum in many instances, but its harvesting is often similarly destructive to fossil fuel production.

Palm oil is the cheapest and most efficient vegetable oil to produce, which is why it’s in a staggering half of all consumer products on the market today. But just because it offers good economic incentives for major corporations, its environmental costs may make it among the most costly commonly-used ingredients today.

In addition to being obscured behind the generic name “vegetable oil,” palm oil is also frequently masked in consumer goods using names like “sodium lauryl sulphate, stearic acid, and palmitate,” all of which do little to betray their origins or allow consumers to make informed decisions.

In Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sumatra, the equivalent of 3oo football fields per hour of rainforest are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. The impacts of deforestation are alarming and widespread, but many developing nations are slow to legislate or enforce environmental action as they prioritize economic growth, even when it comes at the expense of human rights or global ecological well-being. The island of Borneo has lost more than 16,000 square miles of ancient rainforest to palm oil plantations, which has threatened thousands of species of tropical flora and fauna.

To put this in the context of one species which is quite closely related to humans, almost 150,000 critically endangered Bornean orangutans were killed between 1999 and 2015, all lost to deforestation, which occurs in large part due to demand for palm oil.

Local Solutions to Global Problems

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The unfortunate reality is that concerned environmentalists have little to no direct impact or power over the local governments which would theoretically protect rainforests. However, consumers, corporations, and environmental organizations can have a large impact through education initiatives and incentivizing viable alternatives to environmentally harmful products like palm oil and single-use paper goods.

Whether it’s public information campaigns that share the destructive backstory of palm oil with consumers in an effort to pressure major manufacturers or it’s small tech companies and nonprofits offering tools to help local enforcement agencies monitor and protect the forests under their jurisdiction, there are ways we can protect the fragile ecosystems of the world even if we do not have direct voting power in the nations they are located in.

The Rainforest Connection is using machine-learning and second-hand smartphones to create a network of “eyes and ears” in the Amazon rainforest to listen for noises associated with (illegal) logging activity as well as animal chatter that indicates the presence of certain critically-endangered and internationally-protected species.

This project solves a series of problems in protecting rainforests–when forests are still standing, they are extremely dense and difficult to navigate and monitor, which is both a challenge and an excuse for many local agencies. It also gives international watchdog groups credible evidence that CITES-listed endangered species are being directly threatened by logging activity in specific areas, which is a far more directly actionable data point than even the most thorough and credible research hypotheses.

Final Thoughts

Deforestation in global rainforests effects every one of us, no matter where we live. The good news is that every one of us can directly protect the rainforest by reducing the demand for products that contribute to deforestation, all while providing major corporations economic incentive to be transparent and support ecological initiatives instead of turning a blind eye to ecological and environmental catastrophes.

The Earth’s Population Is Reaching New Heights. Are We Prepared for the Consequences?

The Earth’s Population Is Reaching New Heights. Are We Prepared for the Consequences?

In the year 2000, the population of earth was 6.11 billion people.

According to the US Census Bureau’s World Population Clock, that number is now 7.49 billion.

The UN anticipates world population to increase to just shy of 10 billion people by the year 2050.

Without any context, those numbers are just that, numbers.

However, framed against the backdrop of earth’s finite resources and whether the planet can sustain a species that consumes faster than it can replenish, it’s clear why overpopulation is a growing concern for many.

But is overpopulation, with the many other challenges we face every day, really something that humans should worry over?

We’ve made it this long, so why wouldn’t we be able to continue to stretch the resources and technology available to accommodate our growth.

To adequately answer that question, let’s explore where this rapid rise in population originated, the potential impact to our planet, and ultimately if the earth can sustain us.

The Population Goes Boom

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In broad terms, overpopulation relates to whether our planet is capable of sustaining humans as our numbers increase and resources decrease. Overpopulation though can also occur at a micro level.

Individual countries can experience overpopulation, and many developing areas face the hardships that come with this crisis more so than developed nations.

Make no mistake though, whether it’s just one individual or 1 billion or a modern country or one that remains underdeveloped, we all need the optimal conditions that earth provides to survive.

How did we get to this point of stretching our only home so thin? There are several factors.

Birth Rate Versus Death Rate

First and foremost, the population of earth is a simple numbers game.

Let’s go back to the US Census clock and take a look at US numbers. In our country, there is a birth every 8 seconds. Every 12 seconds a death occurs. Not accounting for immigration, that means we are adding 2½ people every minute to the populace.

On a global scale, the numbers are higher. Four births each second versus two deaths, means 30 people are added to the world’s population every minute.

Though global births have seen a decline over the past several decades, they continue to outpace deaths at a steady rate.

Modern Medicine, Longer Life

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Medical technology is arguably the most significant contributor to the increase in human life spans. In 1900, the average lifespan of a person from the US was 47 years. In the year 2000, it was 77.

From the eradication of diseases that once consumed large swaths of people to developing vaccines and drugs that treated countless other ailments, medicine has been the primary driver in prolonging life.

Beyond that, technology has also pushed fertility rates (while also reducing maternal mortality) to greater numbers, again with medicines that benefit women who once we unable to conceive.

Poverty and Immigration

Both poverty and immigration are hot-button issues in almost every corner of the world. Though the fervor and nature of the conversation of each vary from place to place, both problems contribute to overpopulation.

With poverty, infant mortality rates tend to be higher among low-income families, especially in undeveloped countries. In this environment, large families would emerge from the necessity of having enough able bodies to do the work necessary for survival.

Also, those that live in poverty in developing nations lack education and are often illiterate. They do not grasp the concepts of family planning or sex education and the strain that large numbers of people put on resources and the related consequences.

Immigration, for its part, is often a concern for the resources for developed nations. To escape the hardships of their native countries, immigrants will seek out refuge in places that can best support their needs.

Hospitals, schools, and jobs are all beacons to draw those looking for a better life. The inevitable downside though is the stress placed on the infrastructure of a country. Higher demand for resources will in most cases lead to a shortage of those same needs.

An Exhausted Planet

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Arguably the most significant impact to an area that is overpopulated, whether its a city, country or the planet as a whole, is the potential drain on resources.

It’s hard to refute against the reality that the more of us there are, the more resources we consume and the less there is to go around. This creates several issues that can put many at risk in ways that might not immediately be clear.

Scarcity of Water

We could fill this section with any number of strained natural resources that prove vital to everyday life across the globe.

Oil, natural gas, or other earth elements that play a role in the systems we take for granted every day. However, the one resource that warrants the most attention is water.

More specifically, freshwater.

The earth, of course, is awash in water. The problem, however, is that of the 70% of the water that covers our planet, only 2.5% of it is fresh. To complicate the numbers even further, just 1.7% of the freshwater total is easily accessible.

The scarcity of fresh water only increases once you look at the developing world. Countries such as India are already facing critical shortages against a backdrop of a booming population.

According to one estimate from the World Health Organization, over 2 billion people cannot easily access safe drinking water. Another 4.5 billion, or more than half of the world’s population does not have what developed nations would consider acceptable sanitation.

Ecological Harm

Beyond the depletion of natural resources such as fresh water, overpopulation can also inflict direct physical harm to ecosystems spread across the globe. Even if you sidestep the debate on whether or not climate change is real, there is no escaping the damage humans have done to the environment.

Air and water pollution from automobiles and factories.

Harm to sensitive ecosystems and food supply through disasters such as oil spills.

Deforestation and hunting food sources to dangerously low levels.

Stripping or polluting the environment for our immediate needs will also hasten the potential environmental catastrophes that future generations will face.

Conflict

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Imagine yourself jammed into an elevator with a dozen or so other individuals. Your first, and in some cases only instinct, is to stake your claim to what little space you have.

Now picture the earth as one big elevator, with 7.5 billion of us all fighting for a spot.

Whereas we fought wars and conflicts of the past over ideals or to protect from aggression, future struggles will be over resources and basic tenets like oil, water, and fertile lands.

A 2013 World Bank report estimated that over 750 million people lived beneath the $1.90 a day international poverty line. In many parts of the world, the struggle to feed a family, find work or tend a viable farm, or access a decent water source may drive many to desperate measures and in turn, inciting violent conflicts. This is a real possibility even in developed nations.

Can the Earth Sustain More of Us?

The answer, unfortunately, is not a straightforward as one would hope.

According to a 2012 report commissioned by the UN, encompassing 65 different estimates, Earth’s human capacity could vary anywhere from 2 billion people to upwards of 1 trillion. Below is a quick recap of the vast disparities of the individual studies:

  • 6 studies estimated 2 billion
  • 7 studies estimated 4 billion
  • 20 studies estimated 8 billion
  • 14 studies estimated 16 billion
  • 6 studies estimated 32 billion
  • 7 studies estimated 64 billion
  • 2 studies estimated 128 billion
  • 1 study estimated 256 billion
  • 1 study estimated 512 billion
  • 1 study estimated 1 trillion

Although a clear majority puts the Earth’s sustainable carrying capacity at 8 billion, a total we will quickly exceed, the real takeaway is that the exact number is difficult to know.

These studies, while aiming to measure the same thing, take different approaches and focus on variable factors to reach their conclusions.

As the UN report also points out, there are certain factors about the earth that we do not yet understand.

How long until the release of CO2 into the atmosphere reaches a tipping point?

What is the temperature at which the Arctic ice sheets ultimately fail?

Just how much food, medicine, water, and other basic necessities will future humans need to survive reasonably?

All vital questions. All of them without clear answers.

Can We Lighten the Load?

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Let’s return to our original question and if the global issue of overpopulation is a concern for now.

As one of the few global problems that have the potential to impact every human on earth, understanding overpopulation and then working to ease the stress on our planet is a necessary undertaking.

Though we cannot ethically stem the population increases immediately, small steps can put us down the right path to ensuring a reasonable population level and sustainable earth.

Education, particularly in developing countries, will help people understand the consequences of overpopulation. We must also place a heavy emphasis on women’s empowerment, family planning, and sex education.

In addition, smarter and more efficient use of our resources is a must. This is especially true in developed nations where resource use far outweighs the actual need. The goal is that our consumption doesn’t outpace replenishment.

So yes, we do need to concern ourselves with finding a sustainable balance between our growth, what we need to survive, and the interaction we have with our planet.

If we don’t, the consequences could be dire.

If we do, then the earth will be ours to call home for many more years to come.

The Truth About Earthquakes: Everything You Need to Know

The Truth About Earthquakes: Everything You Need to Know

In an average year, there are hundreds of small earthquakes every day. These earthquakes usually only reach a 2 on the magnitude scaled and may not even be noticed by people on the surface.

However, major earthquakes, those of a magnitude of 7 or greater, occur on average more than once a month. Once a month may not seem frequent, but with the devastating effects that they can create, once a month is substantial.

Earthquakes can occur anywhere in the world, and they can affect all types of people. Natural disasters like earthquakes are no respecters of persons and therefore it’s important to understand why they happen, what can be done to prevent damage, and how to help those who have been affected by earthquakes.

How do Earthquakes Occur?

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Earthquakes are caused by plates under the Earth’s surface breaking or colliding with one another. The tectonic plates under the Earth’s surface are believed to be in a state of movement on top of the Earth’s mantle.

The plates collide at a location called “fault lines,” and as they intersect they don’t move past each other smoothly. Instead, they are jagged and get stuck against each other, causing friction, and building up energy. When they finally do release and move past one another, the energy is released which causes waves of energy, which in turn causes an earthquake at the surface.

Can an Earthquake be Predicted?

Seismographs are used to tell how big an earthquake was and where the earthquake occurred, but they can’t predict when an earthquake will happen. Scientists have been trying to determine methods of figuring this out for some time, but without success. They can tell that particular fault lines will eventually produce an earthquake, but they have no way of knowing when it will.

What Makes Earthquakes Dangerous?

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Earthquakes are dangerous for a number of reasons. Of course, there is the initial shaking of the earth which can cause a variety of issues like large items in homes falling over, buildings cracking or falling, and windows blowing out. There are also secondary issues created by earthquakes like mudslides and landslides.

Below is a list of issues that can be created from an earthquake.

  • Burst gas lines, water lines, and sewage lines
  • Decimated houses and buildings
  • Landslides and Mudslides
  • Tsunamis
  • Volcanoes
  • Liquefaction
  • Subsidence
  • Fires
  • Aftershocks
  • Illnesses due to poor sanitation and burst pipes

How to be Safe During an Earthquake

Since it’s difficult to predict an earthquake, it means that people often don’t have a chance to evacuate before an earthquake strikes. Should you ever find yourself caught in an earthquake, here is a list of things to do to help maintain safety.

DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON!!

This short description refers to dropping to the ground and crawling to a safer place such as underneath a strong table. Cover your head and neck with one arm, and hold on to your shelter with the other arm.

DO NOT RUN OUTSIDE

While it may seem like a good idea to leave the inside of a building in case the structure begins to break, it’s not a good idea. Exterior walls are the most dangerous place to be because windows, facades, and architectural details are usually the first things to break and fall creating a great hazard to people escaping from buildings.

DO NOT STAND IN A DOORWAY

For older homes that have strongly reinforced doorways, this may not apply, but today’s architectural standards are different. Doorways are now no longer stronger than other parts of the house, and do not give you better protection than other parts of the home. It’s safer to stay underneath a sturdy table.

BE PREVENTATIVE

If you live in a location prone to earthquakes, it’s a good idea to use preventive measures in your home to reduce the risk of injury. This includes making sure that your home is built to be more earthquake resistant, securing furniture with flexible fasteners, and making sure that heavy objects aren’t stored up high.

Major Earthquakes In the World in the past 10 Years

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Earthquakes can happen anywhere in the world but there are some places like Los Angeles, Tokyo, Jakarta, and Manila, where they are more likely to happen. This is because these locations are located on fault lines where earthquakes begin.

The devastation of an earthquake has a lot to do with where, what time of day, and what time of year that the earthquake occurs. While a highly populated, highly structuralized location will sustain more damages, they are also more likely to have stronger structures and quicker response times. For places in the world with poor infrastructure and poorly funded response teams, the effects can be more long-lasting.

China – May 12, 2008 – in Sichuan Province

In 2008, China experienced an earthquake in the south-west province of Sichuan. The earthquake was of a magnitude of 7.9 and left 87,000 people missing or dead. Due to poor infrastructure, 4,800,000 people were left homeless, and 137.5 billion dollars was spent rebuilding the areas that were affected.

Indonesia – September 30, 2009 – in Sumatra

With a magnitude of 7.5, this left thousands of people injured, and 130,000 homes damaged. It left a death toll of 1,117.

Haiti – Jan 13, 2010 – in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince

Haiti’s earthquake in 2010 was one of the most devastating in recent history. It was a 7.0 earthquake that left between 250,000 – 300,000 dead, and 895,000 homeless. Like Sumatra, Haiti’s buildings were not made to withstand catastrophic earthquakes and many buildings were reduced to rubble in the wake.

Sadly, Haiti’s earthquake destruction did not end there. After 100 years, Haiti received its first outbreak of Cholera. This was due to poor water and sanitation infrastructure that was more greatly damaged by` the earthquake. The outbreak of cholera resulted in 500,000 infections, and an additional 7,000 deaths.

Chile – Feb 27, 2010 – started off the coast of Chile

Just a month later in Chile, there was a massive earthquake off the coast that had a magnitude of 8.8. There were at least 700 lives lost and 500,000 homes damaged. The earthquake also created a tsunami which took the lives of several people on a Chilean island.

New Zealand – Feb 22, 2011 – in Christchurch

Christchurch, New Zealand, was hit with a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, 2011. 185 people lost their lives and several thousand were injured. Most of the people lost their lives when the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Corporation buildings collapsed.

Japan – March 11, 2011 – in North East Japan

In 2011, Japan experienced an incredible 9.0 magnitude earthquake that triggered a tsunami. It was reported that 18,000 people were missing or dead, and in some places along the coast, entire communities were washed away.

Iran – August 11, 2012 – in Tabriz

In 2012 Iran was hit with twin earthquakes one that measured a 6.4 magnitude, and the following one that measured 6.3. At least 300 people were killed in the two earthquakes.

Pakistan – September 24, 2013 – in Balochistan province

In 2013, a 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit Pakistan. It hit in a remote area, but still took the lives of 825 people and decimated the town of Dal Badi.

China – August 3, 2014 – in Yunnan province

In 2014, the Yunnan province in China was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake that left more than 700 dead and 2,000 injured.

Nepal – April 25, 2015

In 2015, Nepal experienced two earthquakes. One on April 25, and one on May 12. Between the two earthquakes, the United Nations estimated that 8 million people were affected, some of which were in neighboring countries like India, Tibet, and Bangladesh. The first earthquake also triggered an avalanche off of Mount Everest that took the lives of at least a dozen more people.

Afghanistan – October 26, 2015 – northeast Afghanistan

Again in 2015, an earthquake struck, this time in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was affected but so was nearby Pakistan. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake took the lives of at least 300 people.

Ecuador – April 16, 2016 – Pacific Coast

Ecuador was hit by an off coast by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on April 16, 2016. At least 650 people lost their lives and 26,000 were displaced.

Italy – August 24, 2016 – near Rome

On August 24, 2016, Italy was struck by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake affected a group of mountain communities outside of Rome, and took the lives of 300 people.

Mexico – September 19, 2017 – central Mexico

On September 19, 2017, central Mexico was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that took the lives of 300 people, and was the worst earthquake the capital has witnessed since 1985.

How to Help Earthquake Victims

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Since earthquakes are unpredictable, and can occur all over the world, it’s important to know how to help offer relief after an earthquake disaster. Below are some ways that you can get involved to help people in need.

UNICEF

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was designed to help in emergency situations around the world. They employ 12,000 people worldwide, and stand ready in case of global emergencies including earthquakes.

According to their website, “…UNICEF stands ready to provide both immediate and long-term necessities — food, water, shelter, protection, healthcare and psycho-social support — whenever an earthquake strikes.”

UNICEF always accepts donations and provides a number of ways to do so including donating to specific causes that they help with.

Other Places to Donate

It’s always important when donating to organizations to do your own research to make sure that they are upstanding and using the donations appropriately. Below is a starter list of places to consider in the event of a natural disaster.

It’s also a good idea to donate to organizations that are local to the disaster if possible. They’re often the best groups to help because they understand the needs of the local people and most importantly, how to help them. Because of this, in some cases, it would be more beneficial to see where the earthquake has occurred before donating. By waiting you can research organizations that are most prepared to be helpful to that specific region.

Fundraise

If you’re aware of an earthquake disaster and you’d like to help, consider running a fundraiser in your community and then donating the proceeds to an organization that can help. Not everyone can physically help after a disaster, and in many cases, it wouldn’t be possible or financially helpful to try. However, lots of people are capable of donating a few extra dollars towards relief efforts.

Donate Blood

Donating blood is a great way to help people in need — and you don’t need to wait until a disaster happens to donate. In fact, the process works better if there’s already blood stored in the event of a disaster.

If too much blood is donated immediately after a disaster, two things will happen. First, some of the blood will be wasted because it can’t all be used right away and has a limited shelf life. Secondly, even if people donate blood immediately after a crisis, the blood used right after a disaster will likely be blood that was already on the shelf. Partly this is because the blood needs to travel to the location, and partly it’s because it takes several days for the blood to be tested for safety.

It can also be beneficial to wait a few weeks until after things have settled since it’s often the case that many of the needed blood donations occur later.

Still, the very best way to donate blood is to do so regularly so the blood banks can keep a ready supply on hand.

Volunteer

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Volunteering is another great way to help when there are disasters in the world. Volunteers can work on teams landing in disaster areas, or they can work behind the scenes gathering supplies, recruiting workers, and working on communication. There are volunteer opportunities for many different skill sets because rebuilding communities requires many talents.

Generally, it is better to volunteer through a relief organization rather than buying a plane ticket and going directly to a place alone. Although with good intentions, traveling to damaged locations without a trained organization may actually detract from the work of those who are trained to provide help.

Conclusion

Earthquakes and natural disasters can happen anywhere in the world, and can affect anyone regardless of location or social status. There are some things that people can do to diminish the amount of damage left by earthquakes like building structures that can better withstand them, and earthquake proofing their homes.

Most importantly, it’s our job as people on the planet to help out our neighbors and lend a hand when we can. This year it may be a neighboring country, and next year it may be on our doorstep. We should all look for ways to help out when disaster strikes.

Everything You Need To Know About A Water Filtration System Before Buying One

Everything You Need To Know About A Water Filtration System Before Buying One

Everyone is looking for new ways to help improve their health. Whether you’re dieting, working out, or simply trying to increase your water intake, it’s requires dedicated effort with some parts easier than others.

When it comes to the water you’re drinking, are you confident that you’re ingesting lead-free, healthy, treated water? Can you count on the water you’re getting from your home?

It’s time to start thinking about how your water is filtered, regardless of whether you’re drinking water at home, out and about, or in any other location. If you live in America, water filtration and clean water probably isn’t the first thing on your mind when you head to the sink to fill up a cup.

You’re not living in a developing country, so your water has to be clean, right? Unfortunately, toxic tap water is a real issue in several different cities throughout the United States, including (but not limited to), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Brady, Texas, and the well-publicized and infamous Flint, Michigan.

We’re going to lay out everything you need to know about the state of your water, water filtration, and the types of water filters that might be available to you, as well as the benefits of water filtration for you home and your family.

What Is a Water Filtering System?

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If you’re unsure about what a water filtering system is to begin with, here are the basic. In its simplest form, a water filter helps decontaminate water by either using a physical barrier, chemical process, or a biological process.

People use water filter systems for a variety of different reasons, and there are dozens of benefits of filtering your own water. For example, people will use water filters to remove chlorine and bacterial contaminants to provide better tasting and better smelling drinking water. They’ll also use them to remove lead from drinking water immediately before they drink it, eliminating the chance of a harmful substance entering their bodies.

Another benefit of water filter systems is that they provide you with clean water without racking up a huge bill from plastic water bottles ( environmentally-speaking, this is a much better option too).

Overall, drinking clean, filtered water can help to protect your body from diseases and lead to greater overall health. Filtered water can reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disease by more than 33 percent, help children’s’ developing immune systems grow strong, act as the last line of defense against 2,100 known toxins from drinking water, and greatly reduce the risk of rectal cancer, colon cancer and bladder cancer by removing chlorine and chlorine byproducts.

And water filtration doesn’t only benefit drinking water. In fact, filtered water should be used for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, bathing, and more. Using filtered water means there’s a healthy mineral deposit and a healthy pH in the water you ingest!

Types of Water Filters

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There are several types of water filters that are typically used, each with different mechanics and functions, but all serving the same purpose: cleaning your water supply to provide healthy, safe water. Let’s focus on a few common types.

Activated Carbon

The activated carbon filter is one of the most common household water filters. This type of filter uses activated carbon granules that attract and trap chemical impurities through an absorption process.

Activated carbon granules are based on charcoal and are very porous forms of the carbon that is created by burning wood with a reduced supply of oxygen. Charcoal, somewhat like a cross between lead and a sponge, has an internal surface area that’s riddled with nooks and crannies that can help to boost that absorption process.

The Environmental Working Group does offer one important caveat to remember when using carbon filters:

Keep in mind that carbon filters vary greatly in effectiveness. Some just remove chlorine, and improve taste and odor. Others remove contaminants including asbestos, lead, mercury and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. However, activated carbon doesn’t remove common inorganic pollutants such as arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate and perchlorate.

Additionally, this type of filter isn’t ideal for dealing with hardness like limescale heavy metals, nitrates, fluorine, microbes, and sodium.

Here’s a helpful overview of how activated carbon works:

Reverse Osmosis

You remember osmosis from science class, right? It’s when one things absorbs another. Reverse osmosis is the forcing of contaminated water through a membrane at pressure so that the water is able to pass through, but the contaminants in the water are left behind.

Essentially, you’re making the water go against its natural inclination, to force the comaninents out of a water supply. Unfiltered water is pumped in through a plastic membrane, clean water flows through the membrane at pressure, and that semipermeable filter or membrane will catch all the contaminants in said water.

Again, the Environmental Working Group offers a helpful note regarding reverse osmosis:

Also, consumers should be aware that reverse osmosis systems waste a lot of water – they typically use three to 20 times more water than they produce. For this reason, EWG recommends that they be used for drinking and cooking water only.

Ion Exchange

Ion Exchange filters are some of the best filters for softening water. They can take hard water and make it more digestible by removing limescale. In layman’s terms, these filters are designed to split apart atoms of contaminating substances to make ions, then, then traps those ions  and releases less good ions.

These types of filters use zeolite beads that contain sodium ions. These beads, which act as filters, trap the incoming contaminants and replace them with sodium ions. Without that magnesium and calcium, your water is going to taste softer much more pleasant.

Distillation

This is one of the simplest ways to purify water. While this is less of a type of filter and more of a way to filter water on your own without the use of a fancy device, distillation is still one of the best ways to filter or purify water.

Distillation involves boiling the water, but then taking things a step further to ensure purity. First, you boil water to make steam, much as you would boil it to kill the bacteria. Then you capture the steam and cool it back into water in a separate container. Because water boils at a much lower temperature than other contaminants (like toxic heavy metals), these will stay back as the steam separates and boils off, leaving you with clean water.

Conclusion

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Regardless of where you live (home, on the road, or when you’re camping), it’s important to keep your water as clean and filtered as possible. Water filters are becoming more and more important in a world where every day health seems to be diminishing. Remember to change your water filter every 3 to 6 months, or sooner if you notice the water flow slowing down or your water color becoming darker.

You can easily pick up a water filter at your local grocery store or supply shop, and it doesn’t have to be fancy. Even a simple $30 home filter that you put on the end of your sink faucet will significantly help,. Ultimately, it’s important that you’re putting your health first, and keeping you water clean and filtered is a big step in that direction.

Does Water Usage and Conservation Really Matter? Yes. Here’s Why

Does Water Usage and Conservation Really Matter? Yes. Here’s Why

Water is everywhere, right? You use water when you turn on the faucet to wash your hands, to use the restroom, wash your clothes, and of course, you drink it. Water seems like an abundant, never-ending supply, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not true. In fact, is pretty far from the truth. Water is a limited resource, and even though it seems like you’re surrounded by it, only about 1 percent of water on earth is available for human use.

That’s because the rest of the water is either salt water in the oceans, frozen into polar ice caps, or is inaccessible for us to practically use. This should dramatically shift the way you look at the water. Not everyone has the same access to water, which means that you and your community should understand the way water usage affects you, those around you, and even those around the globe.

In this article, we’ll take a look at water usage, help you understand how countries use water, and discuss the details of water conservation.

Water is a precious resource, but it’s difficult to understand that until you get the global picture. That’s what this article is all about.

Let’s Talk About Water Usage

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“A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.” – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Water, as you’d imagine, plays a huge role in our everyday life. There are the obvious uses for water, of course, some of which we discussed above — drinking water, washing water, bathroom water — but think a bit deeper.

What about how your city uses water? Without water, there’d be no fire-fighting, no municipal parks, no swimming pools, or sewage systems. Now consider all the other uses for water, like:

  • Mining
  • Irrigation
  • Thermoelectric power
  • Industrial uses
  • Aquaculture
  • Livestock

That’s a lot of water being used every day.

Now, consider that the thousands of cities around the world using water in the same way. We’re talking billions of liters per day.

However, all that water isn’t spread around equally. Water usage changes drastically depending on the country, city, or town you’re looking at. For example, let’s first look at the United States as a big picture. In 2010, the United States used about 1,343,821 million liters of water per day or about 397,000 thousand-acre-feet per year.

These are massive numbers and it’s hard to grasp their significance until we compare them to other countries. Hang in there.

Now let’s zero in on now on the average American family. This average family uses about 1136 liters of water per day at home, with about 70 percent of this water being used indoors. About 24 percent of that water is for flushing the toilet, 20 percent is showering, 19 percent is from the faucet, 17 percent is for washing clothing, 12 percent is due to leaks in the pipe systems, and about 8 percent for other, miscellaneous uses.

To put that in perspective, it takes anywhere from 13 – 26 liters of water to flush a toilet. That’s a lot of water.

In fact, the average American uses almost 600 liters of water per day on themselves.

Now let’s step back see how much water other countries use in comparison to the United States.

In Australia, the country with the second-highest water usage rates, the average person uses about 470 liters of water every day. Following that:

  • The average person in Italy uses about 390 liters per day,
  • The average person in Japan uses 375 liters per day
  • The average in Mexico is 360 liters per day
  • The average in Spain is 325 liters per day
  • The average in Norway is 300 liters per day
  • The average in Austria is 230 liters, respectively

Contrast this to developing nations like Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda, Haiti, and Ethiopia, use about 2 to 15 liters of water per day, per person.

Are you starting to get the picture? Developed countries use an incredible amount of water compared to developing countries. The disparity is staggering.

Water Conservation Matters

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“Water links us to our neighbor in a way more profound and complex than any other.” –  John Thorson

After seeing how much water the United States uses compared to other countries, you probably have a lot of questions, such as:

  • How do we replace that water?
  • How does my water usage affect other countries?
  • What can I do to help?

Let’s break down it down a bit more to give you better grasp on the current water situation, how we replenish our water, and how each person’s actions can determine water usage for those around them.

First, let’s talk about the watershed. A watershed is a precipitation collector. In short, it’s an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet like a bay, a reservoir, or even a stream channel. This water is collected, stored, and then put to use for drinking, mining, industries, irrigation and more.

Watersheds are one of the biggest ways that we replace and replenish our water supplies. Put simply, watersheds are all over the place. Look at the ground below your feet, you’re standing on a watershed designed to collect the falling rain and drain it to a common outlet so that it can be used later.

How does this affect you, those in your area, and those far away? Watersheds are connected. In fact, all land and water are ecologically linked with each other through a  watershed (also called a catchment or drainage basin).

Watersheds don’t have boundaries, they’re not ruled by politics, and they can encompass several national, cultural and economic spans. All this to say, each watershed affects the next and the next and the next. It’s a web of cause and effect, and the actions we take direct the people downstream from us, downstream from them, and so on.

So, how does water conservation work, and can your actions help conserve water for other people who need it? Short answer: Absolutely.

There are dozens of ways you can change the amount of water you’re using every day in order to conserve water for others. For example, test all of your pipes at home for leaks. As you might remember, data suggests that about 12 percent of the average American family’s water supply is depleted by leaks, so get those checked out to keep a better eye on your water supply.

Additionally, monitor your showers. Take shorter showers, don’t leave the faucet running, and consider upgrading your toilets to new models that don’t need up to 26 liters to flush.

Also, watch how often you water your lawn, wash your car, or use the washing machine. Keeping a schedule and restricting your usage can make major changes in your water usage patterns, which in turn, will deeply affect the rest of the world. Everyone can, and should, do their part to conserve water.

How We Use Our Water: Some Final Thoughts

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. You are by accident of fate alive at an absolutely critical moment in the history of our planet.” – Carl Sagan

Even though water surrounds us, we’re constantly fighting the battle of depleting water sources, over-usage of our water supply, and unequal water distribution due to an area, poverty, and political issues.

It’s important to remember that water and watersheds connect us all. Our actions have a direct impact on the people near us and far from us. The way we treat and use our water can determine the outcome of the way other people and countries treat and use their water, and so and so forth.

Water usage is not always — in fact, is very rarely — equal among countries. Because we’re a web of connected watersheds, water conservation in your own home is extremely important to determining the amount of water that people in towns, cities, states, countries, and continents have.

Monitor your water usage, learn tips and tricks to cut back on the water you use daily, and remember that in some way, we’re all connected by the water around us.