“What defines an invasive species? Are humans an invasive species?”, one of my students asked me during lunch. Earlier that day he had asked a similar question in front of the whole group, but I had responded that we didn’t have enough time to get into a long debate about the contentious definition of an invasive species. I said that if he wanted, we could debate whether or not humans were an invasive species over lunch.
268,940 tons of plastic float through the world’s oceans, spreading, accumulating, and being swallowed or absorbed. A group of researchers led by Markus Eriksen of the Five Gyres Institute in LA made this estimate in 2014. 5.25 trillion plastic particles are sitting in the ocean, they wrote in their paper, which was the first ever estimate for the total amount of plastic in the ocean.
One of the things we all have in common as citizens of Earth is our dependence on the it and on fully functioning ecosystems. Earth Day is about making sure that we can continue to depend on these processes, both for their intrinsic and their economic value. In the age of climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction, an age scientists have literally termed the anthropocene, which means “the age of the human”, Earth Day is more important than ever.
Each year, April 22nd is a reminder of the responsibility we have to be stewards of the planet on which we live. Earth Day reminds us of the environmental issues that may not always be at the forefront of all conversations. But how did it start? And who do we have to thank for bringing environmental issues into the national spotlight?
Once upon a time, sturgeon the size of school buses roamed the oceans, seas, and rivers of the world. Huso huso is the largest and now the rarest species of sturgeon, growing on average to about 25 feet long. Huso huso lives in the Caspian and Black Seas and it is now unclear whether the species has gone extinct in the wild or not. When the International Union for Conservation of Nature (the IUCN) last surveyed the species in 2010, the population had decreased by 90% over the past sixty years and a number of the populations had gone extinct in the wild. Most if not all individuals are now bred and raised in hatcheries.
Many threats face coral reefs today, from coral bleaching to storms to boats and anchors that break fragile coral branches. But all hope is not lost - corals are capable of regrowth. Recently, a great deal of research has gone into understanding coral resiliency.
Corals take at least several decades for regrowth and it is a slow and steady process. Naturally, it is important for coral to have evolved the ability to rebuild and regrow because natural disasters like storms and variations in fish grazing happen all the time. The problem now is how corals can regrow in the context of human-caused environmental change.
Fisheries are vital for providing protein and nutrients to people around the world; they sustain human life on earth, but humans are currently not using them sustainably.
Garbage patches are not an accumulation of these horrific encounters between wildlife and trash, however, they are spiraling masses of something much more subtle and sinister.
“The best bumper sticker I’ve ever seen,” my grandmother told us between gifts, “was one that read ‘Throw it away? There is no away.’”
We aimed for a waste-free gift-giving this year, not buying any new items for gift wrapping whatsoever. Rather than worry about buying enough wrapping paper, gift bags, gift tags, and tissue paper, it was fun to see which bags and boxes have made a comeback year after year.
One billion oysters will be given a new home in New York Harbor. That’s the goal of a non-profit organization called the Billion Oyster Project (BOP). Partnering with a variety of other people, including schools, restaurants, and the general public, BOP is planning on restoring the vast oyster reefs which used to single-handedly filter all of the water in New York Harbor.