Category Archives: Life on Earth

We have an ethical obligation to relieve individual animal suffering

Last winter, unforgettable video footage online showed a starving polar bear, struggling in its Arctic hunting grounds. Because of global warming, the ice was thin and the food supply was scarce. The video generated a wellspring of sympathy for the plight of this poor creature, and invigorated calls for stronger efforts to combat climate change – and rightly so.
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Extinction is forever: de-extinction can’t save what we had

When I hike up into the hills around Salt Lake City, above the Bonneville Shoreline Trail where the sagebrush gives way to the shade of the forest, mastodons are on my mind. Immense bones pulled from a sinkhole on the nearby Wasatch Plateau placed Mammut americanum in the area about 7,500 years ago – practically yesterday from the perspective of Deep Time. It might sound strange to say that I miss creatures I wasn’t around to see in the first place. But still, I mourn their loss as I plod through the woods, imagining their low rumbles and the splintering crashes as they browsed among the trees.
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We are missing our chance to stop the sixth mass extinction

The immense challenge of climate change has caused myopia among a lot of politicians, sending them into a self-destructive state of denial. More quietly, though, that immensity has triggered another kind of myopia, this one among conservationists. In focusing on the staggering planetary impacts of greenhouse emissions, they are losing sight of the other ways that human beings lay a heavy hand on the planet. In particular, they are paying too little attention to the true causes of (and potential solutions to) the loss of species around the world – a massive die-off often referred to as ‘the sixth extinction’.
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The Lost Rainforest of Mount Mabu

One day back in 2005, Dr. Julian Bayliss was sitting at his laptop looking at Google Earth in 2005, to look for potential unknown wildlife hotspots in Africa. He was working an isolated mountain in Malawi, then he noticed that there were similar mountains over the border in Mozambique. There was nothing written about these mountains. As he zoomed in, he saw a dark green patch suddenly emerge, which looked like a rainforest. An expedition was scheduled, and it turned out to be just that: a rainforest, which was unknown to plant and animal scientists. Today, Mount Mabu forest is frequently referred to as the “Google Forest”.
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Bananas have died out once before – don’t let it happen again

You probably take bananas for granted. In the United Kingdom, one in four pieces of fruit consumed is a banana and, on average, each Briton eats 10 kg of bananas per year; in the United States, that’s 12 kg, or up to 100 bananas. When I ask people, most seem to think bananas grow on trees. But they don’t, in either the literal or the figurative sense: in fact, they’re in danger of extinction.
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Dinosaur-killer Asteroid Triggered a Global Warming which lasted 100,000 Years

Around 66 million years ago, an asteroid or comet at least 10 kilometers (6 miles) in diameter impacted a few miles from the present-day town of Chicxulub in Mexico (hence it is dubbed as the “Chicxulub impactor”), at around 64,000 kilometers per hour (40,000 mph). The impact has created a crater (Chicxulub crater) more than 180 km (110 miles) in diameter. But, what’s more, the energy of the impact (which is equivalent of about ten billion Hiroshima atom bombs) vaporized the rock which was rich in sulfur compounds, filling the air with a thick cloud of dust, similar to that created by a catastrophic volcanic eruption. This cloud blocked out the sun at least for a decade and caused a global, dark winter: even in the tropics the temperatures were barely above freezing, and the average global temperature was below 0°C (32°F). Before the impact, the average global temperature was around 26°C (47°F), so this means a huge drop. And the recovery time was more than 30 years! The dinosaurs which had dominated the Earth for more than 150 million years were used to living in a lush climate and were already in decline, so non-avian dinosaurs couldn’t survive after the last deadly blow.
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What’s the Difference Between a Meteoroid, a Meteor, a Meteorite, an Asteroid, and a Comet?

Hint: they are all space rocks. But, there are some differences. The biggest difference between an asteroid and a comet, for example, is what they are made of.
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Most species hold their geographic range if we limit global warming to 1.5°C, study says

If we limit global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C above the pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, the impacts of climate change would be much less dramatic, a new study says. According to the researchers, for vertebrates and plants, the number of species losing more than half their geographic range by 2100 will be halved when warming is limited to 1.5°C, compared with projected losses at 2°C. It would be even better for insects, the most diverse group of animals on Earth: the number is reduced by two-thirds.
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Endangered animals more likely to get donated if they’re cute, study says

43% of Americans would be more likely to donate to an endangered species if it were cute, according to a study titled “Selective Sympathy: Comparing Sentiment Toward the Appearance of Endangered Species” published by African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). A team at AWF has surveyed 1k Americans on how much they know about wildlife conservation, and how much they’re willing to open their wallets to help endangered animals. Here’s what they found:
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