Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ECOTOURISM: What can you do as an eco-tourist?

by Ines Koski

Although the world has not geographically gotten any smaller, it may seem so since you can get to even the furthest corner of the globe in under 12 hours. Nowadays, travelling has become a hobby and a popular life style for many people. For example in Finland, travelling abroad increased by 17 % from the year 2011 to year 2012. This 17% is equivalent to an addition of 7,8 million trips in various forms of travelling.  (Tilastokeskus, 18.04.2013) However, travelling, in general, has a lot of problems, for instance social, political and environmental. In this blog I will focus on the environmental aspects. According to traveltips.com (http://traveltips.usatoday.com/positive-negative-effects-tourism-63336.html) tourism, in general, has a significant impact on the environment. The main environmental impacts are littering, traffic emissions, increased and not properly constructed sewage production.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vegetarians vs. omnivores: the battle since time immemorial

by Martta Paavola

We have to eat – there’s no way around it. And unless you’re growing potatoes in your backyard and keeping cows in your toolshed, cultivating your food is likely a huge burden on the environment. Conscientious consumers wish to know how to minimize their own impact, and it is said that a rather effective way of doing this is cutting back eating meat. How exactly does meat production compare to vegetable cultivation, and would the planet be better off if we all became celery-munchers and carrot-chewers?

The answer is more complicated than one might suspect. This is partly because there are numerous ways of assessing the impact that a certain type of food has on the environment, including the water it consumes, the land it requires or the waste it produces. But there is no dearth of research exploring this very issue, from all possible angles.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) did a lifecycle assessment of 20 different types of meat and vegetable proteins on the basis of how much CO2 the production of each emits. According to their findings, beef, lamb, pork and salmon are the worst offenders, but cheese is also right up there, meaning that dairy-consuming vegetarians are not entirely absolved. But the greenhouse gases emitted depend heavily on the fertilizers used, the differences in soil conditions, and the extent to which practices such as cover cropping and manure managements are implemented. One lettuce farm may be much less environmentally friendly than a neighboring one, depending on the farming methods.

Full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of various food products
(based on data from EWG)

An article in The Star suggests that instead of comparing meat with plants in terms of the greenhouse gases each generates, or the feed or fertilizer that goes into its production, the comparison should be done in terms of the calories that each item provides. For example, a kilogram of beef contains 2280 calories, whereas a kilogram of broccoli contains only 340 cal, meaning you would have to eat 6.7 kg of broccoli to get the same amount of calories. This requires a whole lot of nutrients, water and space to grow.

What the calorie-based approach fails to take into consideration, however, is the calories that went into producing that one kilogram of beef in the first place. Livestock are fed mainly corn and soy, and resources and land that has gone into the growing of these crops could have been used to grow food for human consumption, instead. To avoid this issue, some livestock is fed only grass and hay, which is generally considered a more sustainable choice.

Another thing that The Star article points out is that where your meat comes from counts. Should you eat a wild animal whose overpopulation does damage to its habitat, you will be doing a favor to the environment. Of course, this is not an actual solution, because no wild populations of animals could possibly sustain the numbers required by the demand for meat. A tragic example of a species once estimated to number in the billions, but hunted into extinction in the late 19th century largely for its meat, was the passenger pigeon. These North American birds once flew in flocks so large it took hours for them to pass, but once the massive commercial exploitation of the species started, their numbers plummeted, and the last known passenger pigeon died in 1914.

But the type of meat and its origin certainly play a part in how environmentally friendly it is, and these issues are often more complicated than seems at a first glance. The grass-feed diet, mentioned above, is better because it leaves the food crops for human consumption, plus grazing can sometimes be done in areas where no crops can be grown, thus providing more efficient use of our dwindling land resources. But in the stomachs of ruminant animals, grass and hay also produce more methane, which has 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide; furthermore, the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations estimates that 20% of the world’s pastures have already been degraded by grazing livestock.

In the end, there are so many factors affecting one’s choice of diet that it is almost impossible to give any bite-sized advice. That doesn’t stop environmental groups from trying. The report by EWG boils down to a few basic things: get more of your protein from lentils, beans and tofu, consume only organic dairy products, waste less and buy only what you eat, choose chicken rather than beef, and try to at least have one meat-free day per week. Many big changes start from little ones.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014



Written by: Kashobwe Lackson

What are hormones?

 Hormones are chemical messages that are released from the body’s gland tissues located in the endocrine system. The chemical information is sent as a signal through the blood stream to the targeted cells that contain receptors.  The function of hormones on the targeted cells is to deliver the chemical message that activates the cell to perform a specific task, for example, estrogen from the endocrine system is responsible for egg (ovum) release during ovulation. An illustration of hormone release from the secreting cells and its flow to a targeted cell is shown below (image from: www.sinauer.com) in fig 1.

Fig 1. Flow of the hormone to targeted organ


Monday, May 12, 2014

Dioxins (The Nightmare of incinerating)

 By Bello Adedayo

I went numb as the lecture about the origins and effects of dioxins was delivered in one of my ecotoxicology classes. My mind flashed back to the ignorant behavior in my past adventures while growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. I reminisced about how I and my siblings were always excited when given permission by our parent to burn some old household materials in our backyard. We really got so excited that we went as far as collecting our neighbor’s trash so we could have more stuff to incinerate. We would all gather around the burndrum and watch it burn with so much excitement. That was then; now I know that improper incineration produces very toxic and hazardous chemical compounds called dioxins and furans. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Apocalypse later

By Daniel Bodenmiller

Currently there is about 250.000 – 300.000 tons of high level nuclear waste on our planet and this amount is only going to increase. 300.000 tons of highly radioactive waste is an alarmingly high amount, and the only conclusion to draw from this figure, is that it is time to do something, as worldwide there is no final disposal facility yet. Because it is us who benefit from nuclear power, it should also be us, not later generations, who deal with the waste. It is up to our generation to find a stable environment for the nuclear waste to decay until it reaches safe levels. There is only one problem: high level nuclear waste may take up to 100.000 years to reach safe levels. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Environmental Impacts of Energy

by Christos Paraskevopoulos

Since the dawn of mankind, when our ancestors started walking on Earth, there was need for energy that would replace our own physical labour. As we managed to domesticate wild beasts like horses and wolves, learned to produce fire at will and designed our first stone tools, we replaced some of our own energy. The need for energy never ceases to exist. On the contrary, our voracious need for energy has kept on increasing. We learned how to control the power of streams by creating watermills; we invented sails and windmills and put the wind to work on our behalf. We did everything to make our lives easier and for a few hundreds of years things seemed to be going our way. Nature always had its way to make things right, to restore the damage that we did. But that was too good to last forever.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Disappearing bee colonies

Elina Manninen

For the past few years in many countries, bees, specifically honey bees have been disappearing.  Honey bees are native to Europe and other parts of the world, and were brought in to the US originally in the 17th century to produce honey.  Since then they have been bred especially for agricultural purposes; in Europe alone, honey bees contribute over € 22 billion annually to agriculture by pollinating plants such as broccoli, apples, nuts, blueberries, cucumbers and many other crops important to our diet. Losing honey bees could therefore have catastrophic effects on the human race. Already in 2006, beekeepers and researchers in the US started to notice that worker bees were disappearing from their hives, leaving the queen and the young ones behind. Without the worker bees, the hives cannot sustain themselves and will die out. This event is called Colony Collapse Disorder. Researchers are currently studying what could make the worker bees disappear from the hives. One possibility is that different parasites, pests or diseases are drastically decreasing the bee numbers. Also pesticide poisoning, and habitat and nutrition loss are believed to be partly at fault in this case.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

An overview of GIS Applications in Hydrology

“The application of GIS is limited only by the imagination of those who use it”.
Jack Dangermond, Esri Company

So, today,my glorious readers, I am going to tell you about GIS applications in hydrology! One of the most common applications is thehydrological application, and the opportunities here are enormous! To proceed, I´ll use the simple logic of narration: first, what things can be displayed, second, how they can be analyzed, and third, what conclusions and decisions can be made.