3rd September, 2020

Six ways loss of Arctic ice impacts everyone

Polar ice caps are melting as global warming causes climate change. We lose Arctic sea ice at a rate of almost 13% per decade, and over the past 30 years, the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by a stunning 95%.

If emissions continue to rise unchecked, the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer by 2040. But what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Sea ice loss has far-reaching effects around the world.

The Impact

See how sea ice is already affecting us

sea ice WW227588 Elisabeth Kruger  sea ice orange WW227585 Elisabeth Kruger

1. Temperatures

The Arctic and Antarctic are the world’s refrigerator. Since they are covered in white snow and ice that reflect heat back into space, they balance out other parts of the world that absorb heat. Less ice means less reflected heat, meaning more intense heatwaves worldwide. But it also means more extreme winters: as the polar jet stream—a high-pressure wind that circles the Arctic region—is destabilized by warmer air, it can dip south, bringing bitter cold with it.

2. Coastal communities

The global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900 and it’s getting worse. Rising seas endanger coastal cities and small island nations by exacerbating coastal flooding and storm surge, making dangerous weather events even more so. Glacial melting of the Greenland ice sheet is a major predictor of future sea level rise; if it melts entirely, global sea levels could rise 20 feet.

3. Food

Polar vortexes, increased heat waves, and unpredictability of weather caused by ice loss are already causing significant damage to crops on which global food systems depend. This instability will continue to mean higher prices for you and growing crises for the world’s most vulnerable.

4. Shipping

As ice melts, new shipping routes open up in the Arctic. These routes will be tempting time-savers, but incredibly dangerous. Imagine more shipwrecks or oil spills like the Exxon-Valdez in areas that are inaccessible to rescue or clean-up crews.

5. Wildlife

When there’s less sea ice, animals that depend on it for survival must adapt or perish. Loss of ice and melting permafrost spells trouble for polar bears, walruses, arctic foxes, snowy owls, reindeer, and many other species. As they are affected, so too are the other species that depend on them, in addition to people. Wildlife and people are coming into more frequent contact – and often conflict – as wildlife encroach on Arctic communities, looking for refuge as their sea ice habitat disappears.

6. Permafrost

Arctic ice and permafrost—ground that is permanently frozen—store large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. When it thaws, that methane is released, increasing the rate of warming. This, in turn, causes more ice and permafrost to thaw or melt, releasing more methane, causing more melting. As we lose more ice more quickly and see more rapid permafrost melt, we will start seeing the worst climate change predictions come true.


As the world warms, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense, sea levels are rising, prolonged droughts are putting pressure on food crops, and many animal and plant species are being driven to extinction. It’s hard to imagine what we as individuals can do to resolve a problem of this scale and severity.

The good news: We are not alone. People, communities, cities, businesses, schools, faith groups and other organizations are taking action. We’re fighting like our lives depend on it — because they do.

In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.

-David Suzuki

Here are some things that you can do to help resolve the problem:

  1. Reduce your electricity uses
  2. Reuse, reduce and recycle
  3. Green your commute
  4. Drive and fly less, carpool whenever available
  5. Invest in renewables and divest from fossil fuels

It isn’t too late to start caring about climate change, to avoid or limit the worst effects of climate change, we should all play our part in preventing it. The change starts with you but it doesn’t start until you do, collective efforts from people all around the world might be the key in solving climate change.

People Standing Around a Globe Vector Images (30)




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1st August, 2020

How lockdown may have changed your personality
Loneliness might be expected high among those who have been forced to spend lockdown in isolation by themselves, but early research suggests otherwise (Credit: Alamy)
Our personalities are shaped by our experiences and social interactions, so how might the months of being isolated from friends, family and colleagues have altered us?

There wasn’t just one lockdown – we all had our own experience. Some people were forced into months of unbroken solitude, others trapped for weeks on end with an estranged spouse. Some saw it as a positive experience – a welcome opportunity to slow down, go for walks and relax with a loving partner, or enjoy quality time with the children.

Whichever way the lockdown played out, there has been one near universal aspect to the past months – it abruptly disrupted our daily routines and living arrangements in ways that would not normally occur.

Will this strange time have left its mark on us, not just superficially, but deep down? As we venture out tentatively, do we do so with our personalities somehow altered? And if so, how will our new selves cope as we begin to mix and travel once again?

For much of psychology’s history, personality – the set of enduring habits of behaviour, emotion and thought that form each person’s unique identity – was considered set in stone, at least beyond early adulthood. Research over the last few decades, however, has led to a consensus that, while personality traits are relatively stable, they are not completely fixed. Instead they continue to evolve through life and in response to major life events.

In other words, from a theoretical perspective, there is every possibility that at least some of us will have been left changed by lockdown.

Social distancing has meant that people have had to get along without the usual daily face-to-face contact with friends, family and colleagues (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Social distancing has meant that people have had to get along without the usual daily face-to-face contact with friends, family and colleagues (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)

Anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the same. Although conscious that I’ve been more fortunate than many in my experience of the pandemic so far, I also know that I’ve been feeling less stressed due to less rushing around, but also more withdrawn and introverted. Friends of mine (also not too adversely affected) agree they feel different – more reflective, perhaps, but also less sociable.

“It’s likely that these unprecedented times shaped people’s personality traits to a certain degree as people were forced to leave their comfort zone and their daily routine,” says Mirjam Stieger of the Lifespan Developmental Psychology Laboratory at Brandeis University, in Massachusetts, where she’s been working on an app to help people deliberately change their traits.

The many months of changes to our routines may have led to changes in our behaviour that will stick long after the pandemic has finished. It “may lead to new norms, which may over time also shape our personalities,” says Wiebke Bleidorn at the Personality Change Laboratory at the University of California, Davis.

Lockdown might have turbo-charged a phenomenon known as ‘The Michelangelo Effect’

But while many of the experts I contacted agreed that the pandemic, and the accompanying lockdowns, likely have already changed our personalities, at least a little, they also noted that it’s very difficult to say exactly how much people will have been changed and in what ways. This is partly due to the lack of longitudinal data, but also because people’s experiences of lockdown were so different and would have interacted with their pre-pandemic traits.

“I don’t think there will be an average effect … a trend that the majority of people will show,” says Rodica Damian, from the Personality Development and Success Laboratory at the University of Houston.

Some preliminary data back this up. Angelina Sutin, a psychologist at Florida State University, led an as yet unpublished study that looked for signs of personality change during the very early stage of the pandemic in the US. It showed that most traits showed no average-level change at all, and contrary to expectations, average neuroticism actually fell slightly for those not in isolation, perhaps because people attributed feelings of stress to what was going on in the world, rather than to their own personality. Similarly, the personality testing company Hogan Assessments released preliminary data from the US suggesting average personality test scores had not changed during the first weeks of lockdown, up until early May.

But while we may not have developed a collective “lockdown personality”, at least not in the early stages, there are some prior findings that hint at ways we might have been changed idiosyncratically, dependent on our specific circumstances. For instance, the lockdown might have turbo-charged a phenomenon known as “The Michelangelo Effect”, which refers to the way we are more likely to develop into the kind of person we want to be if we’re with a close romantic partner who supports and encourages us to behave in line with our aspirations – akin to a sculptor helping to reveal our ideal self.

People's daily routines have been severely disrupted by the pandemic, which overtime can lead to new ideas of what is normal (Credit: Alamy)

People’s daily routines have been severely disrupted by the pandemic, which overtime can lead to new ideas of what is normal (Credit: Alamy)

People in loving relationships might also have had the chance to grow closer and deepen their bonds, notes Bleindorn, and to reflect on life and their priorities.

“This time of reflection might lead to increases in ‘self-concept clarity’ – the degree to which people have coherent beliefs about themselves and their goals in life,’ she says.

For people with a supportive partner, then the intense period of the lockdown might have offered a welcome opportunity for personal growth. By contrast, for people stuck indoors for months in an unhappy relationship or being harassed by their children, the effects on their personality are sure to be have been negative. “For example, there is some evidence that being in an unhappy marriage (independent of lockdown) is associated with declines in spouses’ self-esteem and happiness,” says Bleidorn.

People who score highly for neuroticism might have particularly struggled in this regard – this trait is associated with a tendency toward “negative emotions like anxiety, vulnerability, sadness, and irritability,” explains Rebecca Shiner, a clinical psychologist at Colgate University. “People who struggle with high neuroticism also are prone to creating more stress for themselves, for example, by getting into conflict with other people or by avoiding situations that they find threatening.”

What about those people who were left completely isolated on their own during lockdown? If this forced solitary confinement provoked intense loneliness, we might predict, based on earlier research into loneliness and personality, an adverse effect on people’s traits, in terms of increased neuroticism and an enforced reduction in extroversion. Yet, the lockdown data available to date paints a picture of human resilience.

Prolonged periods in Antarctic research bases and simulations of trips to Mars have been associated with significant detrimental effects on wellbeing

For instance, Thuy-vy Nguyen at the University of Durham and Netta Weinstein at the University of Reading monitored the loneliness and depression of 800 people in isolation through the first weeks of the lockdown and found no adverse effects. “What we’ve learned from our earlier research on solitude may explain why,” the pair wrote in a commentary on their research. “We don’t have to be lonely when alone, and solitude can be a positive space for reinvigorating, rather than depleting, our minds.’

Other preliminary findings by researchers at the University of British Columbia appear to back this up – their study of feelings of social connectedness during lockdown found few adverse effects. This is perhaps likely because modern technology now offers us so many ways to stay in touch with one another.

“Most people seem to be pretty good at finding environments that fit their extraversion or can dial it up or down when asked to,” says Bleidorn. “Social media, communication technology and other technological developments have made it possible to socialise virtually. I imagine that extroverted people are more likely to take advantage of such opportunities.”

It’s also worth remembering that anyone with an outdoor space at home was still able to enjoy fresh air and sunlight during lockdown, as well as creature comforts like deliveries and streaming box sets. Such factors might help explain why the confinement of the past few months doesn’t appear to have had some of the more adverse psychological effects observed in studies of people isolated in extreme environments. For instance, prolonged periods in Antarctic research bases and simulations of trips to Mars have been associated with significant detrimental effects on wellbeing, including heightened risk of depression.

Inspite of the fear felt by many in the early stages of the pandemic, research suggests people have shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity (Credit: Alamy)

Inspite of the fear felt by many in the early stages of the pandemic, research suggests people have shown remarkable resilience in the face of adversity (Credit: Alamy)

It’s notable that communication with the outside world is extremely difficult in these examples, and they present other challenges that didn’t affect most people during lockdown, such as the cold and dark of Antarctica and the close proximity of strangers in the Mars simulation.

For a clearer idea of the ways the pandemic might have changed us, we must wait for the slow business of science to catch up with world events – Bleidorn and Damian are among those with high-quality, longitudinal personality change projects underway. For now, the initial signs are that the isolation aspect of lockdown might not in itself have changed our personalities in a profound way.

But of course the pandemic has involved much more than just the lockdown, and Damian suggests that some of the other consequences of Covid-19 might more be more relevant to personality change, such as people losing their jobs, falling ill or suffering bereavement. “Job loss has been associated with decreased conscientiousness,” she says. “Illness has been associated with increased conscientiousness and neuroticism and lower extraversion.” She cautions though that this remains merely informed speculation until more data is available.

If we have been changed somehow by lockdown then as restrictions around the world are eased, a natural next question is whether and how we can change back again? Can we return to our old selves? Do we even want to?

For my part, I’m definitely feeling less inclined than before to socialise, even at a safe distance.

How you coped with lockdown will largely depends on your existing personality but who you spent it with also makes a difference (Credit: Alamy)

How you coped with lockdown will largely depends on your existing personality but who you spent it with also makes a difference (Credit: Alamy)

The message from the broader scientific literature on personality change is a positive one. People are adaptive – for instance, people’s conscientiousness tends to increase when they take on a demanding role, and their traits rebound in positive fashion after leaving a difficult relationship, suggesting that we’ll find a way to cope with whatever the future has in store.

Shiner warns though that introverts like me might find it a particular challenge, at least at first. “While in lockdown, introverts have been able to avoid the social pressure for interaction that is so common in places like the United States, and this may make re-entry difficult,” she says. Her advice is to spend time with “more familiar friends one-on-one or in very small groups – which is certainly more compatible with social distancing anyhow – as they navigate re-entry”.

Damian is upbeat about our collective ability to adjust as lockdown measures lift. “I don’t think people need to worry about changing their traits back to pre-lockdown,” she says. “I expect the change will happen gradually and naturally for most people, once the environmental pressures change. It will just take time.”

If anything, her advice is that we don’t rush back to old ways. In Texas, where Damian is based, hospitals are at capacity following a surge in new infections after lockdown was lifted. “I think that people have adjusted their pre-lockdown behaviours too quickly, so I wouldn’t recommend the rest of the world follow suit right now,” she says.

* Dr Christian Jarrett is a senior editor at Aeon+Psyche. His next book, about personality change, will be published in 2021.

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1st July, 2020

Clean Care is Safer Care

Clean hands protect against infection

Protect yourself

  • Clean your hands regularly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water, and dry them thoroughly.
  • Use alcohol-based handrub if you don’t have immediate access to soap and water.

How do I wash my hands properly?

Washing your hands properly takes about as long as singing “Happy Birthday” twice,
using the images below.

How to handwash

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3rd June, 2020

Causes of Environmental Degradation

Some environmental life species require substantial areas to help provide food, living space, and other different assets. These creatures are called area specific. At the point when the biome is divided, the vast patches of living space don’t exist anymore. It gets to be more troublesome for the wildlife to get the assets they need in order to survive. The environment goes on, even though the animals and plant life are not there to help sustain it properly.

1. Land Disturbance: A more basic cause of environmental degradation is land damage. Numerous weedy plant species, for example, garlic mustard, are both foreign and obtrusive. A rupture in the environmental surroundings provides for them a chance to start growing and spreading. These plants can assume control over nature, eliminating the local greenery. The result is territory with a solitary predominant plant which doesn’t give satisfactory food assets to all the environmental life. Whole environments can be destroyed because of these invasive species.

2. Pollution: Pollution, in whatever form, whether it is air, water, land or noise is harmful for the environment. Air pollution  pollutes the air that we breathe which causes health issues. Water pollution degrades the quality of water that we use for drinking purposes. Land pollution results in degradation of earth’s surface as a result of human activities. Noise pollution Noise pollution can cause irreparable damage to our ears when exposed to continuous large sounds like honking of vehicles on a busy road or machines producing large noise in a factory or a mill.

3. Overpopulation: Rapid population growth puts strain on natural resources which results in degradation of our environment. Mortality rate has gone down due to better medical facilities which has resulted in increased lifespan. More population simple means more demand for food, clothes and shelter. You need more space to grow food and provide homes to millions of people. This results in deforestation which is another factor of environmental degradation.

4. Landfills: Landfills pollute the environment and destroy the beauty of the city. Landfills come within the city due the large amount of waste that gets generated by households, industries, factories and hospitals. Landfills pose a great risk to the health of the environment and the people who live there. Landfills produce foul smell when burned and cause huge environmental degradation.

5. Deforestation: Deforestation is the cutting down of trees to make way for more homes and industries. Rapid growth in population and urban sprawl are two of the major causes of deforestation. Apart from that, use of forest land for agriculture, animal grazing, harvest for fuel wood and logging are some of the other causes of deforestation. Deforestation contributes to global warming as decreased forest size puts carbon back into the environment.

6: Natural Causes: Things like avalanches, quakes, tidal waves, storms, and wildfires can totally crush nearby animal and plant groups to the point where they can no longer survive in those areas. This can either come to fruition through physical demolition as the result of a specific disaster, or by the long term degradation of assets by the presentation of an obtrusive foreign species to the environment. The latter frequently happens after tidal waves, when reptiles and bugs are washed ashore.

Of course, humans aren’t totally to blame for this whole thing. Earth itself causes ecological issues, as well. While environmental degradation is most normally connected with the things that people do, the truth of the matter is that the environment is always changing. With or without the effect of human exercises, a few biological systems degrade to the point where they can’t help the life that is supposed to live there.

Causes and Effects of Environmental Degradation - Conserve Energy ...

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3rd May, 2020

Effects of Ocean Currents

1. They result in rain

Warm currents lead to evaporation, which turns into the rain for the coastal areas. For instance, North Atlantic Drift brings rainfall to Western parts of Europe that results in rains throughout the year.

2. They can also cause deserts

Cold currents do not give rise to moisture-laden winds and, therefore, there is no rainfall in the coastal regions. The conditions cause desertification in the affected coastal regions, such as the Kalahari and Patagonia Deserts because of the cold Benguela and Falkland currents, respectively.

3. They can destroy marine wildlife

Some currents might be too strong and end up destroying planktons. For instance, El Nino currently destroys planktons along the Peruvian coasts. It also brings with it several diseases that kill fish.

4. They help with the continuity of life

In Antarctica, strong upwelling currents pump nitrogen and phosphates up from the deep sea to blooms of algae and other plants. The planktons are eaten by crustaceans called krill. The krill in turn feed penguins, seabirds, seals, and the baleen whales – the largest animals on earth.

5. They save up on time and costs

It goes to the advanced knowledge of currents by sailors. When currents are in their favor, they can reach their destinations in time. They can also rescue shipping time and fuel costs.

However, if they are against the sailors, they might make tore time battling the currents, and use more fuel to sail past those currents

6. They can result in deaths

Ocean currents can also result in deaths and destruction of property if they are strong enough to overpower ships in the ocean. Of course, to do so, they have to be very strong and probably accompanied by tremors or lightning, but in the end, they can lead to disastrous results.

Climate change models predicted ocean currents would speed up ...

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3rd April, 2020

Importance of Urban Gardening

1. It puts school lessons into practice and can boost children’s interest in agriculture

Urban agriculture gives students an opportunity to try things out at home and more so, put their class lessons into practice. Through urban gardening, they easily connect their lessons to real-world gardening and how it is done, thereby increasing their stock of knowledge about cultivating plants.

2. It can boost food security

Urban gardening increases the land area utilized for agriculture, thereby increasing food security as the world population soar and arable land constantly facing depletion.

With urban gardening involving simple food crops such as vegetables and fruits, it can help reduce the dependence of vegetable and fruit produce from farms or imported from other countries, thus increasing available food for families and urban dwellers.

It also gives urban dwellers access to readily available foods that are rich in nutrients, supplementing other food products. As a result, it can serve as a solution to food insecurity for the future amidst the mounting concerns of how the billions of people on the planet will be fed.

3. Urban gardening is of economic importance and creates jobs

Urban gardening can make a city’s economic base expand by creating economic activities through the production, packaging, and selling opportunities for food, vegetable, herbs, and fruit products.

As a result, jobs are created, the cost of food goes down, and people consume more quality foods. A healthy community also translates to vibrant and hardworking people who can work towards building the economy.

At the same time, considerably big urban gardens may require the services of gardening experts thus creating new jobs.

4. It is of social importance and creates environmental awareness

Urban gardening allows individuals to socially interact, contributing to society’s social and emotional wellbeing. It creates a sense of community participation for not only the community but also individuals and families, making community events more possible and easier to work on.

5. Urban gardening improves the overall human body wellbeing

The ability to grow and produce one’s own food or for the family has been identified to improve a person’s mental and emotional state as well as self-efficacy because gardening calms and refreshes the mind.

The process of digging, mowing, raking, and tending to plants is also said to provide maximum body movement and the stretching of almost all the body muscles.

According to experts, gardening exercises burn calories fast (digging and shovelling: up to 250 calories, weeding: 105 calories, mowing: 195 calories, raking: 100 calories). Researchers have equally associated gardening with overall reduced risks of obesity, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.

6. It ensures healthy living

Urban gardening guarantees the consumption of healthy foods that are predominantly organic, “home-grown,” and free of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. In other words, it gives you and your family control of the nutrients you get from your food.

READ  21+ Astounding Reasons Why You Should Plant a Tree Today

Aside from healthy foods, urban gardening has an element known as “horticulture therapy,” which is reported to enhance plant-human relationships that considerably reduces stress, blood pressure, anger and fear, and muscle tension by inducing relaxation.

7. It benefits the environment

Urban gardening reduces carbon footprints by reducing carbon emissions during the transportation of food, vegetables, and fruits from other regions or countries.

It also relieves the farms where agriculture was traditionally practiced, freeing the land for natural regeneration.

Besides, urban gardening does not contaminate as much soil as in the traditional agricultural setting, through fertilizers, hazardous chemicals, and other wastes.

What is more, it provides wholesome environmental regeneration by improving air and water quality, protecting urban ecological biodiversity, and promoting water and organic waste recycling.

What is an Urban Garden and how to make one - Iberdrola

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12th March, 2020

Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases soar to 149

New Straits Times
Thee Malaysian health ministry has confirmed 20 new Covid-19 cases as of noon on Wednesday (March 11), bringing the tally to 149.
Published11 MARCH, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian health ministry has confirmed 20 new Covid-19 cases as of noon on Wednesday (March 11), bringing the tally to 149.

Its director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said from the current figure, 22 cases were detected among Covid-19 Patient-Under-Investigation (PUI), 124 from close contacts, one with a severe acute respiratory infection and two other cases from those who were part of Humanitarian Aid Missions.

To date, two Covid-19 patients are warded at the Intensive Care Unit and under stable condition, although both require the aid of breathing machines. They are being treated separately at Sungai Buloh Hospital and Sultanah Aminah Hospital, Johor Baru.

On a positive note, 26 patients who tested positive for the virus have fully recovered and discharged from wards as of Wednesday.

On the 66 Malaysians and their family members who were brought home from Wuhan via Malaysia’s Humanitarian Aid Mission on Feb 26, Dr Noor Hisham said they have all been allowed to return home.

The 66 were tested negative for Covid-19 and have ended their monitoring period at the Higher Education Leadership Academy in Bandar Enstek, Nilai, Negri Sembilan.

“All of them did not show symptoms of the virus and have been tested negative for Covid-19 from the repeated samples taken.”


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29th February, 2020

Coronavirus: Rescuing China’s animals during the outbreak

Dogs on a street in Shenzhen
Animal rescue groups say they are seeing an increasing number of animals abandoned across the country

Volunteers in China say they’re struggling to keep up with the number of animals being abandoned as the country battles the virus outbreak.

More than 2,000 people in China have died and more than 78,000 infections have been reported in the country.

Pet owners who fall sick or are caught up in quarantine can’t take their animals with them, and despite reassurance from the World Health Organization that animals can’t carry the virus, others are being dumped.

“I have rescued lots of dogs this month, most have been abandoned by their owners,” one volunteer from Furry Angels Heaven in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, told the BBC.

“One animal’s owner has coronavirus and was sent to quarantine. Fortunately a policeman sent her to me.”

The volunteer didn’t want to reveal her name because of fears of official repercussions. She said she has 35 dogs and 28 cats in her apartment in addition to the animal rescue centre she helps operate.

Animals abandoned in a box in Wuhan
Dogs found abandoned in a box in Wuhan by rescuers from Furry Angels Heaven

“It’s a bad situation here. We are not allowed to go outside and I am afraid my dogs and cats will be out of food soon. I am worried if I or my family get infected with the virus then all of the dogs and cats could be killed by policemen.”

Without income from its regular paid work at the moment, she fears the animal centre’s savings could be used up soon.

“It’s expensive to rescue these animals”, she said.

As soon as the lockdown is over, the animals will be available for adoption.

The coronavirus outbreak began in late December, but it worsened as people went away for Chinese New Year in January. Many people went to visit family in other cities, leaving food behind for their pets thinking they would only be away for a few days.

But then the lockdown was introduced. More than 60 million people in Hubei province were placed under travel restrictions. People were unable to return to their homes and the food they had left for their pets had started to run out.

Images of dogs inside a volunteer's house
One volunteer has 35 dogs and 28 cats inside her apartment

Panicked pet owners used social media site Weibo to plead for help.

“Help! I live in Ezhou City and my cat is trapped,” wrote one woman from a town near Wuhan.

“I’m asking a caring person nearby to help me feed the cat. I am willing to pay for it, thank the caring person and everyone else, please share.”

Wuhan streets left deserted
The empty streets of Wuhan during the lockdown

One volunteer, who gave his name as Lao Mao, is part of a group that provides assistance to people who cannot access their animals. So far his group has helped to rescue more than 1,000 pets.

Video footage posted on social media accounts show Lao Mao’s team entering properties, feeding animals and providing them with medical care.

“There are more animals needing help these days,” he told the BBC.

He said that the situation now for animals is “very dangerous”.

“So many of them have starved to death, only a few of them can reach me for help. There’s nothing much I can do but I will save as many as I can.”

It’s not just animal rescuers in Wuhan that are feeling the strain. Animal groups across China told the BBC that they were struggling to deal with the current situation and strict quarantine measures.

Animal Rescue Shanghai told the BBC that the situation is a “nightmare”.

“It is high season during Chinese New Year which means a lot of dogs are kicked out and due to coronavirus, a lot of flights have been cancelled. We now have over 350 dogs for a place sized for 120,” said, Nana, who works at the shelter. We are really desperate.”

An experienced rescuer in Shenzhen who did not want to give her name also said Chinese New Year was a busy time of year for animal abandonments, but that she has never encountered one every single day.

Dogs in Shenzhen
One rescuer said because of the lockdown, businesses are not feeding stray animals

“Businesses are closed so there is no-one to feed the strays. It started being very common to see roaming cats and dogs and hear them fighting and barking and meowing much more than usual.”

She said at one point, she saw a partially eaten mother dog with her puppies still around her.

But she said that as the situation has intensified, volunteers have joined forces like never before to handle the amount of animals in need.

“Community support has been really heart-warming, many people help, volunteer, support and share or decide to adopt or foster.

“Both Chinese people and foreigners have united to help each other help animals.”

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5th February, 2020

The Truth About Cat and Dog Food

The truth about cat and dog food

Those little paws leave a big environmental footprint.

cat in a bowl

It’s enough to make an animal-loving eco-warrior cringe.

A new study that calculates the carbon footprint of cats and dogs brings troubling news for pet owners. It turns out the environmental impact of our four-legged friends is considerable, and not in a good way.

“I like dogs and cats, and I’m definitely not recommending that people get rid of their pets,” said Gregory Okin, a UCLA geography professor and study author, who points out that pets provide us with friendship and other social, health and emotional benefits that cannot be dismissed. “This paper is not about telling people what to do or what not to do. It’s about providing information that should hopefully stimulate conversations with pet food producers and consumers.

“I do think we should consider all the impacts that pets have so we can have an honest conversation about them,” he added. “Just as consumers make decisions about reusable bags, getting solar on their homes, what cars to drive and what food to eat, the decision about what kind of pet to get — or whether to get a pet — could be informed by peoples’ convictions about environment impact, [and help them] make choices in line with their values.”

a cow
Cows are a huge source of carbon pollution.Pexels

Scientists have long studied the impact of food production on climate change. For example, one recent study found that substituting beans for beef could slash greenhouse gas emissions. Another recommendedsubstituting meat with edible insects, such as crickets and mealworms. But those were focused only on humans.

Okin’s computations were based on the number of pets in the United States, and the ingredients in market-leading pet foods. He found that the nation’s dogs and cats eat about 25 percent of the total calories derived from animals in this country. If the nation’s 163 million pooches and kitties formed their own nation, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption, behind Russia, Brazil, the United States and China, Okin says.


“Looking at the ingredients in the pet foods, I could roughly calculate which animal and non-animal products were in there,” he said. Since the energy components of fat, carbohydrate and protein are relatively constant, “I could then figure out how much energy was in each and what proportion of that energy was from animals,” he said.

Okin’s paper, which appears in the journal PLOS One, has captured the attention of experts who study the interaction between humans and other species.

a girl and a dog
Cute, but costly.Pexels

“What we do as we look at our relationship with animals is a microcosm of the human condition,” said Harold Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University. “We live with pets because they weasel their way into our lives, and we love them. We all keep pets, but there are ethical issues associated with pet-keeping.”


The study’s message “is that there is a non-trivial environmental cost to pet ownership, and it’s vastly larger than I would have thought,” said Herzog, who owns Tilly, a cat. “It’s good for us to recognize this and to be thinking about it. Does it mean you should get rid of your pet? No. But you might want to trade in your SUV, or get a smaller dog next time.”

Marc Bekoff, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado Boulder, believes studies such as these are important because “they ask people to reflect upon the human-companion animal relationship,” he said.

They also raise provocative questions that pet owners should consider. “Do dogs have to have meat? No, I don’t think they have to have meat,” he said. “I don’t think people have to have meat.”

Bekoff said he has raised several vegetarian dogs who “all lived long, healthy lives and were not overweight, like many pets are today,” he says. “My last dog was vegan. Whatever I ate, he ate, and he did well. I think much of this has to do with peoples’ attitudes about their dietary choices. Companion animals take on the traits of their humans. One of them will be the food they consume.”

I’d pick this pup over an SUV any day of the week.Marlene Cimons

But some evidence suggests commercial non-meat pet foodproducts are inadequate, and there are questions about whether cats can stay healthy without meat. Cats require taurine, an amino acid found only in animal-based proteins. Taurine is essential for their vision, heart function and immune system function. “Dogs can be turned into vegetarians. Cats cannot,” Herzog said.

Okin proposes a “snout-to-tail” approach where humans — but not pets — eat high quality cuts of meat found in premium pet foods. “A dog doesn’t need to eat steak,” Okin said. “A dog can eat things a human sincerely can’t. So, what if we could turn some of that pet food into people chow?”

Some might argue that food that isn’t fit for humans shouldn’t be given to pets either. “It’s an ethical decision, and one I cannot make for people, but which papers like this can raise questions about,” Okin said.

Okin, who usually studies dust bowls, deserts and wind erosion, decided to look at this issue after noticing the trend of people raising backyard chickens. “How cool it is that chickens are vegetarian and make protein for us to eat, whereas many other pets eat a lot of protein from meat,” he said. “It got me thinking: how much meat do our pets eat?”

Herzog says pet owners should think about these issues, but they should not stress over them. “Getting rid of your pets is not going to solve the global warming crisis,” he said. “I’m not getting rid of my cat because I read this paper. There are lots of things that give us happiness that come with a cost. We just have to try to do our best in a morally complicated world.”

Okin, it should be said, is not a cat or dog owner. He is allergic to them.

“I like animals, but my immune system has problems with the furry ones,” he said. “My critters are fish.”

Marlene Cimons writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture.

Posted at 9:55 pm | Comment (0)

29th December, 2019

Plastic wasteland: Asia’s ocean pollution crisis

This picture taken on June 4, 2018 shows a man sorting through used plastic bottles at a junkyard in Hanoi. -AFP

THANH HOA (VIETNAM): A Vietnamese mangrove draped with polythene, a whale killed after swallowing waste bags in Thai seas and clouds of underwater trash near Indonesian “paradise” islands — grim images of the plastic crisis that has gripped Asia.

About eight million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the world’s oceans every year, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic being tipped into the sea every minute of every day.

They are among the fastest growing economies in Asia, where much of the world’s plastic is produced, consumed and discarded — most of it improperly in countries where waste management is at best patchy.

World Environment Day on Tuesday is highlighting the perils of plastic with the tagline “if you can’t reuse it, refuse it”.

But it is not just an issue of aesthetics, plastics are killing marine life.

Last week a whale died in southern Thailand with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, an increasingly common sight alongside dead seabirds and turtles gorged on plastic and washed ashore.


Invisible threat

Experts warn the greatest threat might be invisible.

Microplastics — tiny shards that easily soak up toxins after breaking off from larger plastic pieces — have been found in tap water, ground water and inside fish that millions of people eat across Asia every day.

Scientists still do not fully understand the health effects of consuming microplastics.

”We’re conducting a global experiment with no sense of where we’re heading with this whole thing,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the global marine and polar programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, told AFP.

That worries Vietnamese fisherwoman Nguyen Thi Phuong, whose sleepy village on the South China Sea coast in Thanh Hoa province has slowly transformed into a dump site over the years.

”It’s unbearable, people discard their garbage here… it’s so polluted for the children, it’s not safe,” she said in the baking heat thick with the smell of trash and fish.

In the nearby mangrove forest, her neighbours dig through warm, trash-speckled mud for snails or shrimp.

But the tree branches above are blanketed with faded plastic bags left behind from tidal waters that wash up fresh waste every day.

A one-kilometre (half-mile) stretch of beach is lined with sandals, biscuit wrappers, tubes of Japanese toothpaste, juice boxes, fishing nets, furniture and heaps of discarded clothing, as piles of trash burn nearby.

”It’s hard for us to work here finding shrimp and fish,” said fisherman Vu Quoc Viet, who often finds plastic trash in his nets.


More plastic than fish by 2050

Rubbish collection is low in rural Vietnam as elsewhere in Asia, one of the main reasons why so much plastic ends up in the sea, according to Joi Danielson, programme director of Oceans Plastics Asia at SYSTEMIQ.

On average only about 40 percent of garbage is properly collected in the five plastic-addled countries that spit out most of the ocean’s trash, with few resources dedicated to proper waste management especially in mushrooming mega-cities.

Plus, plastic consumption — and waste — continues to balloon along with growing incomes and dependence on plastic products integral to almost every aspect of daily life.

”You’re battling against this constantly growing target,” Danielson told AFP.

At the current rate of dumping, the total amount of plastic trash in the world’s oceans is expected to double to 250 million tonnes by 2025, according to Ocean Conservancy.

That means there could be more plastic than fish in the world’s seas by 2050 if the nothing is done to turn the tide.

‘Not rocket science’

Environmentalists are looking to China to lead by example when it comes to tackling the problem.

Last year the world’s second largest economy said it would stop importing the West’s recycling, refusing to be “the world’s garbage dump”.

But the vast majority of China’s waste is homegrown and collection remains low in rural areas, according to Danielson.

Experts agree that while the problem seems daunting with plastic waste so ubiquitous throughout Asia, it is a crisis with a solution.

Social media campaigns calling for plastic bans and viral videos like the one featuring British diver Rich Horner swimming through clouds of trash off the coast of Bali have helped to spark pubic awareness.

Improved waste collection and reduced consumption have been flagged as crucial next steps.

Ocean Conservancy has also called for new plastic materials and product designs and more investment into waste-to-energy and waste-to-fuel schemes.

For Lundin, political will is perhaps the biggest hurdle at the moment.

”It’s not rocket science… there’s no place that couldn’t fix it if they decided they had to,” he said. -AFP

Posted at 9:24 pm | Comment (0)