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Our Senseless Consumerism Hurting Environment

Let’s pledge to restore our pale and sickly environment to its vibrant greenery.

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Fireworks, environmentalists
SC permits bursting of only green firecrackers. Pixabay
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By Salil Gewali

The festival of light – Diwali – representing the symbolic good over evil, light over darkness, and victory of righteousness and knowledge over ignorance is approaching. Well, the colorful displays of fireworks are popular traditions during major celebrations, not only in India but also in advanced countries. Despite its popularity, the air and noise pollution emitted by fireworks contribute to the degradation of our precious environment. Also, the harmful effects of chemicals and metallic particles used in firecrackers adversely impact human lives.

Although fireworks are a part of celebrations of almost all countries in the world, their use is limited to occasions. But, in India, particularly during Diwali, we celebrate this popular “festival of lights” predominantly by bursting fireworks. We set off rocket bombs thinking they vanish into thin air but Newton’s law gravitation brings them all back in the form of smoke and toxic ashes.

fireworks
We have to reform our culture and tradition for the sake of saving the beautiful creation of God.

India is one of the most polluted countries in the World. Our extended periods of use of fireworks cause irreparable damage to our whole animal kingdom. In the name of Diwali, our children, with all merriment, play with various types of fancy firecrackers almost two weeks in advance causing deadly pollution, both sound, and air. For newly born babies, each burst of firework is a “nightmare”. They can’t even cry against the frightful noise.  This is nothing but our uncaring cruelty towards them.

Fire hazards are common occurrences. Needlessly to say, smoke from fireworks containing metallic particles causes severe health risks. Is it the “price” one has to pay for this mockery of enjoyment by bursting crackers? Are we aware that the different colours and light effects produced in the firework displays are achieved only by mixing “poisonous” metal powders to gunpowder? Cases of burn injuries are very common during fireworks displays among our children, as they do not keep safety tips in mind while playing with deadly firecrackers, rockets, and sparklers.

Fireworks
For newly born babies, each burst of firework is a “nightmare”

The rotten egg smell that one gets during fireworks emanates from burnt “sulphur” which is the main ingredient of many fireworks. The fireworks that explode producing purple colour basically contain some amount of explosives and potassium compounds that cause extensive pollution in a very short period of time. Barbarous fireworks leave metal particles, harmful chemicals, smoke, and toxins in the air. These dangerous toxins do not disintegrate or break up for several days. They remain in the environment, poisoning the surroundings. People vulnerable to lung and respiratory illnesses are at a high risk of complication. Children fall sick with fever, skin irritation, vomiting, etc. The noise pollution is more dangerous than air pollution. Noise limits beyond 120db on all consumer fireworks are illegal in many countries, but in our country, since there is no voice of protest from any quarters, the products sold here are far above the permitted decibel.

Is it not a sheer stupidity that dangerous bangers, air bombs, and jumping jacks are indiscriminately produced and set off senselessly, thereby turning the festival of lights into the festival of disaster? Is it the way we welcome our Goddess Lakshmi and seek Her blessings?

Fireworks, environmentalists
The ban would be in force throughout the year. These conditions would also be applicable to marriage festivities. Pixabay

Yes, with a bang, the firecracker industries have been put on notice by the Supreme Court through a verdict on the 23rd of October, 2018 restricting them from manufacturing harmful fireworks. We all should welcome it. Further, the judgment on the “reduced time” of two hours between 8.p.m. and 10 p.m. for bursting crackers during festivals like Diwali and 11.55 p.m. and half past midnight during Christmas and New Year is doubtlessly a very positive move. But when will Supreme Court announce the strict regulation to restrict the plying of motor vehicles on ever-increasing roads and setting up of factories and industries which are only “blackening” the very face of Mother Earth. Since the environment has been intensely battered by the toxic heat from our senseless “consumerism”, now is the time that a “clause” should be incorporated within our “CONSTITUTION” that Government, each and every citizen and the business houses should ensure the sincere participation in cleansing the environment. We have to change our lifestyles. We have to reform our culture and tradition for the sake of saving the beautiful creation of God. HE will be very happy and bless us with more bountiful and nourishing vegetation. So, let’s pledge to restore our pale and sickly environment to its vibrant greenery. We can’t throw the caution to the wind and our “activities” ending up in smoke any longer!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.  Twitter: @SGewali.

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Skyscrapers May Have Made The Impact Of Hurricane Harvey Worse: Study

The scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

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Hurricane, climate change
Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, VOA

Humans helped make recent devastating U.S. hurricanes wetter but in different ways, two new studies find.

Hurricane Harvey snagged on the skyscrapers of Houston, causing it to slow and dump more rain than it normally would, one study found. The city’s massive amounts of paving had an even bigger impact by reducing drainage. Land development in the metro area, on average, increased the chances of extreme flooding by 21 times, study authors said.

A second study looked at last year’s major Hurricanes Maria and Irma and 2005’s deadly Katrina and used computer simulations to see what would have happened if there had been no human-caused global warming. The study found that climate change significantly increased rainfall from those three storms, but did not boost their wind speed.

Both studies are in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

Hurricane, skyscraper
A smoky haze envelopes the skyscrapers and Rocky Mountains that usually can be seen as a backdrop to the city from a high-rise building, Aug. 20, 2018, in Denver. VOA

Houston was a literal drag on Harvey as it sloshed through, with the storm getting tripped up by the skyscrapers, said study co-author Gabriele Villarini, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Iowa.

Co-author Gabe Vecchi, a climate scientist at Princeton University, said that forced the storm to move up higher, causing more concentrated rain over Houston and slowing, which also made more rain.

He compared it to a river running over rocks, creating bubbles.

“That’s sort of what’s going on here,” he said.

This effect is dwarfed, though, by the paving and building that don’t allow water to sink into the ground, Vecchi said.

Harvey’s record rainfall reached 5 feet in one spot near Houston. The scientists used computer simulations to see the effects of urbanization. In parts of the Houston metro area, the effects of development ranged from a 10 percent higher risk of extreme flooding in the less developed northwest to nearly 92 times the risk in the northeast, they reported.

Hurricane Florence, Lawmakers,
A work truck drives on Hwy 24 as the wind from Hurricane Florence blows palm trees in Swansboro N.C. VOA

That’s on top of the unique weather patterns that made Harvey slow down and stall and climate change which brought more water into the storm, Vecchi said.

MIT hurricane and climate expert Kerry Emanuel, who wasn’t part of the study, called the Harvey study “a real advance in our understanding of hurricane impacts on urban areas.”

But Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon wasn’t convinced. He said the team used generic shapes instead of the actual Houston skyline. He said the storm’s wind speeds may have slowed, but that’s different from the storm’s forward movement slowing.

The other study in Nature looked at a variety of historical damaging storms and tried to calculate past and future effects of climate change. In three cases, the scientists simulated the storms without the changes in the climate from greenhouse gases, showing that global warming increased rainfall 8.9 percent in Hurricane Maria , 6.3 percent in Hurricane Irma and 8.7 percent in Hurricane Katrina .

Maria hit Puerto and Rico and other parts of the Caribbean. Irma hit the Caribbean and Florida, while Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Climate Change, Hurricanes
Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C.. VOA

In Maria’s case, a warming climate concentrated heavier rain in the center of the storm and reduced it on the edges, said co-author Michael Wehner, a climate scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For 15 storms, which included the devastating Typhoon Haiyan , the potent Gilbert and 1992’s Hurricane Andrew , the scientists projected future warming and found future versions of the same storms would be significantly wetter and stronger.

Also Read: Vietnam Does Its Part in Cleaning The Environment, Cleans Plastic

“We are beginning to see a climate change influence emerge on tropical cyclones and that’s coming out as rainfall,” said study lead author Christina Patricola, an atmospheric scientist at the national lab.

Although replicating a storm in a different climate is difficult and can’t account for certain changes, this work bolsters science understanding of how climate change alters hurricanes, Emanuel said. (VOA)