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By Nithin Sridhar
The Center for Global Development based in Washington recently undertook analysis and interpretation of data and satellite imagery from around 100 countries and have estimated that around 714 million acres of tropical forests, roughly the size of India, may be cut-down by 2050.
Deforestation is a world-wide crisis which will have far reaching and long-term consequences on the ecology and future of the world. Forests play a very vital role in the ecological cycle. They serve as carbon storage banks and hence help in reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere by absorbing them during photosynthesis.
Forests are also a big source of various commercial and medicinal products. Tropical forests, in particular, are home to various species of plants, birds, and animals. Without forests, the rich bio-diversity cannot be sustained which in turn will lead to ecological disaster. The green cover helps to enrich the soil and recharge the ground water level.
Forests also help in regulating the water cycle. They prevent wastage of rainwater and allow it to permeate through the soils into the ground water. This water in turn helps various animals and birds through ponds or streams and to humans through man-made wells.
One of the major reasons for deforestation is agriculture. For last many centuries, forests have been repeatedly cut down and cleared to cultivate those lands with food and commercial crops. While, farming and producing food is important, the consequences of these actions were not given importance. Forests were also used and are still being used as a source for firewood and timber. A large number of trees are cut every day for utilizing the logs for various human purposes like buildings houses, making furniture, making paper etc. Industrialization has also been another major reason for felling of trees.
In “Deforestation: Causes, Effects and Control Strategies”, while explaining about these driving forces of deforestation, Sumit Chakravarty and others, quote Pearce and Brown thus:
1. Competition between humans and other species for the remaining ecological niches on land and in coastal regions. This factor is substantially demonstrated by the conversion of forest land to other uses such as agriculture, infrastructure, urban development, industry and others.
2. Failure in the working of the economic systems to reflect the true value of the environment. Basically, many of the functions of tropical forests are not marketed and as such are ignored in decision making. Additionally, decisions to convert tropical forests are themselves encouraged by fiscal and other incentives.
Other harmful effects of deforestation include destruction of biodiversity, decrease in soil fertility and decreased ground water levels. Deforestation will also impact the world economically and socially. Water and food scarcity will induce more migration and food wars. Many indigenous people will also be devoid of their forest homes, hence causing a destruction of their entire culture.
The best measure to tackle growing deforestation is to strictly monitor felling of trees and to plant new trees. The reforestation programs will have long-term positive impact on the globe. At the same time, the rate of deforestation must be brought down. Brazil can be a good example, which has reduced deforestation in the Amazon. Controlling population growth can be another effective measure.
Massive awareness campaigns to increase awareness about forests and sincere efforts by various governments across the globe can definitely bring down the deforestation and may even slowly increase forest cover.
NASA will pay up to $1 million to people who can come up with innovative and sustainable food production ideas to feed astronauts in space, as the US space agency prepares to send astronauts further into the cosmos than ever before. Giving future explorers the technology to produce nutritious, tasty, and satisfying meals on long-duration space missions will give them the energy required to uncover the great unknown. In coordination with the Canadian Space Agency, NASA has launched the 'Deep Space Food Challenge' that calls on teams to design, build, and demonstrate prototypes of food production technologies that provide tangible nutritional products -- or food.
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"Feeding astronauts over long periods within the constraints of space travel will require innovative solutions," said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, DC. "Pushing the boundaries of food technology will keep future explorers healthy and could even help feed people here at home," he said in a statement. Over time, food loses its nutritional value. That means for a multi-year mission to Mars, bringing along pre-packaged food will not meet all the needs for maintaining astronaut health.
Innovative food production technology that produces safe, acceptable, palatable, nutritious food products. |UnsplashUnsplash
In October 2021, Phase 1 of the challenge culminated as NASA awarded 18 teams a total of $450,000 for their concepts for innovative food production technology that produces safe, acceptable, palatable, nutritious food products. NASA now invites both new and existing teams to enter Phase 2 for a prize purse up to $1 million. "Everything needed to store, prepare and deliver food to the crew, including production, processing, transport, consumption, and disposal of waste should be considered," said NASA. Proposed technologies such as plant growth systems, manufactured food products, and ready-to-eat solutions combined could provide the future crews with a variety of options that would provide the needed daily nutrition, it added. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : NASA, innovative, food, healthy, idea, astronaut, USA, tasty, technology, space, travel, explorer, health, nutrition, prize, solution, variety.)
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People suffering from depression are more likely to believe vaccine-related misinformation, according to a new study. The study found that people with moderate or greater symptoms of depression were more likely to believe at least 1 of 4 false statements about Covid-19 vaccines.
Those who believed the statements to be true were half as likely to be vaccinated, the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated. 'It is clear the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the mental health of Americans, especially young people," said researcher Katherine Ognyanova from Rutgers University, the US.
People suffering from depression are more likely to believe vaccine-related misinformation. | Unsplash
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, approximately one-quarter of adults in the US have consistently reported moderate or greater depressive symptoms during the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings suggest that people suffering from depression may be at a higher risk of Covid-19, highlighting the need to address mental health disorders.
For the study, the team used data from the research group The Covid States Project, which conducted surveys approximately once every six weeks since April 2020. The researchers analysed data from 15,464 adults in the US and the participants were asked to rate vaccine-related misinformation as accurate (statement is true), inaccurate (statement is not true) or not sure.
Approximately one-quarter of adults in US reported moderate or greater depressive symptoms during the Covid-19 pandemic. | Unsplash
The four statements of misinformation included "The Covid-19 vaccines will alter people's DNA", "The vaccines contain microchips that could track people", "The vaccines contain the lung tissue of aborted fetuses", and "The -19 vaccines can cause infertility, making it more difficult to get pregnant". The survey participants completed a health questionnaire to measure major depressive symptoms over two weeks. (IANS/ MBI)
(Keywords: depression, vaccine, misinformation, patients, health questionnaire, study)
The space economy is on track to be valued at a trillion dollars by the end of 2030, but assets such as navigation, weather and communication satellites that serve our society daily are threatened by space debris, an Indian-American professor has stressed. According to NASA, it is estimated that millions of pieces of space debris orbit around Earth. A major portion of these objects as well as active satellites reside in the low-Earth orbit region, at altitudes between 200 km and 1,000 km. In November last year, Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile, creating thousands of pieces of debris that passed through the International Space Station (ISS).
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The astronauts and cosmonauts had to take shelter in their Soyuz and Dragon vehicles docked at the space station, as the orbital lab continued to pass through a debris field every 90 minutes. The US identified more than 1,500 trackable pieces of debris from the event, and many thousands of smaller ones couldn't be traced. According to Piyush Mehta, Assistant Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at West Virginia University, the US, in low-Earth orbit, our ability to safeguard these space assets depends on modelling of the aerodynamic forces acting on the satellites, specifically satellite drag.
The astronauts and cosmonauts had to take shelter in their Soyuz and Dragon vehicles. |Unsplash
"The drag force acting on a satellite is affected by various physical parameters, however, the most crucial and uncertain are the drag coefficient and mass density," said Mehta, who leads a collaborative effort on satellite drag coefficient modelling under the International Space Weather Action Teams (ISWAT) initiative. Mehta explained that because of the interconnectedness of the two parameters, one of them is held constant, typically the drag coefficient, while the other is investigated.
However, he added that this causes inconsistencies or inaccuracies in our understanding of the mass density variability in the upper atmosphere or thermosphere. Jason Gross, Interim Chair of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Statler College, West Virginia University, said: "With the continued rapid increase of manmade satellites in low-Earth orbit, his (Mehta's) work towards improved orbital decay prediction becomes more important for the future of space environment sustainability with each passing day. His lab is at the forefront of this important field." (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : dollar, space, economy, debris, satellite, navigation, weather, orbit, astronaut, cosmonaut, inconsistency, aerospace, collaborative.)
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