Chocolate in Danger of Becoming Extinct

Chocolate may be in danger of becoming extinct by the middle of this centuryPests and fungal diseases have been found in cacao trees that may endanger the crop’s survival.

In addition, cacao is also under attack by global warming. Trees grow in a very small area about 20° north and south of the equator, where humidity and temperatures are the same all year round. By 2050 rising temperatures and drier weather will push cacao production up into mountainous areas, many of which are home to wild animals.

Scientists from the University of California are trying to save the plant. Together with researchers from the American food company Mars, they are trying to grow cacao seeds that are more resistant and can grow at higher altitudes.

Most of the world’s cacao production comes from two countries in western Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. These areas may not be suitable for cacao production in the decades to come. Millions of farmers depend on cacao for a living.

 

Cacao tree
Cacao tree – Image: Luis Ovalles

Words

  • altitude = how high up something is
  • cacao = seeds from which chocolate is made
  • decade = ten years
  • endanger = to be a threat to something
  • equator = line around the middle of the earth
  • extinct = die out; not exist anymore
  • century = a hundred years
  • depend on = need
  • fungal disease= disease caused by  a simple plant that has no leaves  and grows in the ground or on other plants; mushrooms are a type of fungus
  • global warming = an increase in the world’s temperatures caused by growing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere
  • humidity = the amount of water that is in the air
  • in addition = also
  • mountainous = in the mountains
  • pest = a small animal or insect that can destroy crops and plants
  • researcher = person who studies a topic in order to find out more about it
  • resistant = here: it cannot be destroyed or damaged
  • rise = to go up
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seed = small hard object from produced by plants, from which a new plant can grow
  • suitable = here: to be the ideal place to grow something
  • survival = existence ; staying alive
  • under attack = to be attacked by something

China Bans Ivory Trade

China has put a ban on all ivory trade in the country.  The ban came into effect on January 1 of this year. 67 official ivory processing factories and shops were closed last year and a remaining 100 were shut down on December 31. A similar ban in the U.S. went into effect in June 2016.

The Chinese decision to stop the ivory trading business has been welcomed by the World Wildlife Fund and other organisations as a major effort in protecting the world’s elephant population. It is estimated that over 30,000 African elephants are killed every year.

Chinese citizens regard ivory as a status symbol. People buy jewellery, chopsticks and other objects made of ivory, leading to the development of one of the world’s largest ivory markets. When trading ivory was officially banned worldwide in 1990, China continued to sell it through shops and factories. The legal trade also brought illegal ivory into the country.

However, there is a major concern that the new law does not apply to HongKong, an important ivory trading hub. Authorities in the former British colony are working on a ban of their own, expected to take effect soon. On the other side, customers will probably go to Laos, Vietnam or other Asian countries, where trading laws are not so strict.

In the past year, ivory prices started to go down as more and more Chinese shops were closing. The ban will have a big impact on African countries, especially Kenya and Tanzania,  where most of the elephant poaching is taking place.

Elephant tusk with a carved decoration
Elephant tusk with a carved decoration

Words

  • apply = take effect
  • authorities = government organisations that have the power to make decisions
  • ban = to forbid something; not allow
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • concern = feeling of worry about something important
  • development = growth
  • effort = try
  • especially = above all
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is by the information that you have
  • former = in the past
  • however = but
  • into effect = start to work
  • illegal = not allowed; against the law
  • ivory = hard, smooth yellowish-white material from the long teeth of elephants
  • jewellery = small things that you wear for decoration, like necklaces or rings
  • legal = allowed by the government
  • major = important
  • official = allowed by the government
  • poaching = to shoot or catch animals illegally
  • processing = here: when you make an elephant’s tusk into jewellery and other objects
  • protect = here to keep animals safe
  • remaining = those that were left
  • similar = almost the same
  • status symbol = something that you have that you think shows high social rank or position
  • strict= here: law that must be obeyed
  • trading hub = here: a place where ivory is bought and sold
  • welcome = to be glad that something has happened
  • worldwide = around the world
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that tries to save and protect endangered animals

 

 

Artificial Light Makes Our World Brighter

A new study of satellite images has revealed that our planet is getting brighter and brighter during the night. More and more artificial lighting may cause harm not only to humans and animals but whole ecosystems.

The study has found out that the quantity of light has increased by 2.2 % per year over the last decade. Much of that increase comes from the Middle East and Asia, while in Europe and the USA brightness has stayed about the same.  Only a few countries have actually seen a decrease in the amount of light. Among those are Syria and Yemen.

Artificial light on earth is growing because more and more towns and other settlements are being created in places that were once farmland, forests or wilderness. In addition, China and other booming economies are building whole cities in sparsely populated areas.

Even though large areas of land surface remain dark, there are places on earth where lights never go out, for example, shopping malls, dining districts or international airports.

The technology of artificial lighting is also changing. More and more LED lights are replacing older light bulbs. They are more energy-efficient and emit a brighter bluish-white light. As they are becoming cheaper people tend to buy more.

Doctors warn that too much artificial light can bear health risks. It can lead to shorter periods of sleep, insomnia and changes in a person’s biorhythm.

Scientists have claimed that increased light have an effect on animal habitats. More light near beaches may affect the turtle population that comes there to lay their eggs. Migrating birds that rely on stars to navigate can be influenced by light and travel off course.

 

Satellite image of the United States at night
Satellite image of the United States at night

Words

  • actually = in fact, really
  • affect = influence, change
  • artificial light = light that is produced by people or machines, not naturally by the sun
  • bear = have
  • biorhythm = changes in the way and speed that your body reacts at certain times
  • booming economy = country where business is growing very strongly
  • brightness = being bright
  • cause harm = be a danger
  • claim = to say that something is true, even if you cannot prove it
  • decade = ten years
  • decrease = to go down
  • effect = change
  • emit = send out
  • energy -efficient = here: an object that produces more light and uses less energy
  • even though = while
  • habitat = natural home of a plant or animal
  • image = picture
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to go up
  • influence = here: to change the way you travel
  • insomnia = not able to sleep
  • migrate = to travel regularly to other parts fo the world
  • navigate = to find out which way you need to go when you travel from one place to another
  • off course = away from the route you would normally take
  • quantity = how much of something
  • rely = depend on, need
  • remain = stay
  • replace = to use instead of something else
  • settlement = group of houses or buildings where people live, especially in areas where nobody has lived before
  • shopping mall = large area with a lot of shops
  • sparsely = here: with few people
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a special subject
  • surface = the top layer of an object
  • technology = here: how something is done or produced
  • tend = here: will probably happen
  • wilderness = large area of land that has never been developed  or farmed

NASA Software Shows How Sea Level Rises Affect Cities

NASA scientists have created a new software program that can show how cities in coastal regions are endangered by flooding and sea level rise caused by global warming. The simulation shows how 300 coastal cities will be affected in the next century.

The software was developed by  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It calculates which ice sheets and glaciers are melting and how the additional water influences coastal regions. It takes into consideration the rotation of the Earth as well as the influence of gravity. The results are surprising. Sea levels will actually decrease around cities closer to ice masses, while the biggest rises will occur through ice caps that are farther away.

New York, for example,  will be most affected by melting ice caps in northeastern  Greenland. Sydney, on the other hand,  will actually be influenced by parts of Antarctica that are far away from Australia’s city.

The software aims at helping city planners prepare for sea level changes within the next few decades and how to keep ocean water out.

A climate report published this week shows that, since 1900, global sea levels have risen by about 20 cm, with half of the rise occurring in the last 25 years. Projections show that by 2100 ocean levels will rise by an average of 1 metre, however, the rise will not affect all coastal areas in the same way.

 

Ice Sheet in Greenland -
Ice Sheet in Greenland – Image: Christine Zenino

Words

  • actually = in fact
  • additional = extra
  • affect = change
  • aim = here: what it wants to do and who it wants to help
  • average = here: evenly spread out across all oceans
  • calculate = here: find out how much something will change by using numbers
  • century = a hundred years
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • decade = ten  years
  • decrease = go down
  • develop = create , make
  • endangered = to be in danger
  • flooding = when land becomes covered with water
  • glacier = very large mass of ice which moves down a valley
  • global = worldwide
  • global warming =  the increase in the world’s temperatures by higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • gravity = force or power that causes something to fall to the ground and stay there
  • ice cap = large mass of ice
  • influence = change
  • NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration = American space agency
  • occur = happen
  • prepare = get ready for something
  • projection = calculation about what something will be in the future  based on the information we have now
  • publish = to make information for everyone to see
  • rise = to go up
  • rotation = the Earth’s spin  around its own axis
  • sea level = the average height of the sea
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • simulation = here: software that shows how something could happen in the future
  • take into consideration =  here: to use  certain factors when you run the programme

Smog Returns to Delhi

Deadly smog has returned to Delhi. Air pollution reached several times the level suggested by the World Health Organisation. People were told to stay indoors and not walk on the streets of the world’s most polluted city. Doctors declared a state of emergency and some schools in the city stayed closed.

Smog in northern India is a big problem, especially during the winter months. From November to March cold temperatures force pollutants and dirt particles closer to the ground, mixing with the foggy air. Low wind speeds and dust from construction sites have also contributed to high pollution levels in the area.

Environmentalists say that factories and traffic are the biggest causes of smog. In addition, farmers in northern India burn the leftovers of crops after harvest and therefore produce more smoke.

Critics say that Indian government is not doing enough to protect India’s second-largest city. New measures took effect last October. Traffic became more regulated and several power plants were shut down. Authorities also want to restrict the personal use of cars to every second day, a measure that already worked in the past.

Last November Delhi was hit by the highest air pollution levels in 20 years, forcing over a million children to stay at home. Researchers claim that 2.5 million Indians die of pollution every year.

Smog in Delhi
Smog in Delhi – Image: Saurabh Kumar

Words

  • air pollution = when the air becomes dirty through factories and cars
  • authorities = official organisation or a government department that has the power to make decisions
  • cause = reason
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • construction sites = places where new houses are built
  • contribute = to help make something happen
  • declare = to say something officially, in public
  • environmentalist = person who cares about nature and the world  around us
  • especially = above all
  • dust = dry powder made up of small  bits of dirt
  • fog = cloudy air near the ground which is difficult to see through
  • force = to make something happen
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • harvest = when crops are gathered from the fields
  • in addition = also
  • leftovers = here: leaves and stems that are left over when crops are harvested
  • measure = action
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • pollutant = substance that makes air and water dirty
  • power station = building that produces energy and electricity
  • regulated = controlled
  • researcher = person who studies a topic closely in order to find out more about it
  • restrict = limit; control
  • several = many
  • shut down = close
  • smog = a mixture of smoke and fog
  • state of emergency = when the government gives itself special powers in order to try to get a dangerous situation under control
  • take effect = when something starts to work
  • therefore = that is why
  • World Health Organisation = international organisation that helps countries improve  their people’s health by giving medicine and providing information about diseases

 

 

 

Environmental Pollution Kills More People Than Smoking and Wars

A new report concludes that environmental pollution is world’s number one killer. Every year it kills more people than global wars , natural catastrophes,  or hunger. About 9 million people die prematurely every year because of our polluted environment.  Experts state that this costs  about $4.5 trillion  a year, 6% of the world economy.

Researchers say that pollution has never reached such a dangerous level before. Pollution-related deaths are one and a half times higher than the number of people killed through smoking and six times higher than people who die in road accidents. The real figures are thought to be even higher because pollution isn’t monitored in some remote place in Africa , South America or Asia.

Two thirds of the deaths are caused by air pollution. Burning wood and coal, as well as fumes of cars and other vehicles cause 6.5 million deaths every year.

The authors of the new report examined not only air quality , but took soil and water probes as well. They received additional data from the World Health Organisation.

Most of the deaths  occur in poor developing countries  , where governments care less about the environment and do not have strict laws in effect. Bangladesh and Somalia are among the most polluted countries.  In India, the second most populous country in the world,  one out of four deaths is caused by some form of pollution. China’s environment is also considered to be one of the deadliest  in the world. 

On the other side Sweden and Brunei have the lowest pollution levels. Pollution in developed countries is especially high in low-income areas of large cities, whereas  the rural countryside shows very low pollution levels.

The report makes a few recommendations . Fighting pollution should become a priority everywhere and more funds should be made available to combat pollution.

Environmental pollution from a factory
Environmental pollution from a factory

Words

  • additional data = more facts and information
  • available = to be used
  • coal = hard black stone which is dug out of the earth and can be used  to produce heat and energy
  • combat = fight
  • conclude = to come to a result
  • developed countries = the richest countries in the world
  • developing countries = the poorest countries in the world
  • economy = the system of products , services and money in a country
  • environmental pollution = the process of making air, water  and soil dangerously dirty so that we cannot use it
  • especially = above all
  • examine = to look at something closely
  • fumes = gases and smoke that come out of a car or factory
  • funds = money
  • global = worldwide
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • level = amount
  • low-income = people earn very little money
  • monitor = watch closely
  • occur = happen
  • populous = many people live there
  • prematurely = something that happens before the normal time
  • priority = the thing that you think is most important  and that needs attention before anything else
  • probe = a sample of water or soil
  • recommendation = suggestion
  • remote = faraway
  • researcher = person who studies a subject very closely in order to get more information about it
  • rural = countryside
  • soil = the top layer of the earth, on which plants can grow
  • state = to say that something is true
  • strict = something that you must obey
  • whereas = on the other side
  • World Health Organisation = UN organisation that helps countries improve the health of the population by giving medicine and offering information about diseases
  • vehicle =  machine with an engine that is used to  take people or things from one place to another

More Amazon Rain Forest Destroyed By Mining

A recent survey , examining the years between 2005 and 2015, has come to the conclusion that more and more of the Amazon rain forest is lost due to mining operations. According to the government, most of these mining activities  are illegal and unregulated.

Brazilian environmental organisations  now say that mining is one of the major problems of the Amazon rain forest. Whereas earlier estimates put the destruction through mining at about 2% of the total area, experts now say that over 10% of rain forest loss is caused by mining. Most of the rain forest is cleared to create settlements for mine workers , as well as new transportation routes  and airports. Minerals mined in the Amazon region include iron ore, bauxite and copper.

The destruction of the rain forest through  mining is 12 times greater outside official and regulated  areas than within. In some cases  observers saw mining activity up to 70 km from a mine’s border.

Rain forests are essential to the planet’s climate. They bind carbon dioxide and provide a living space for many plants and animals . Since 2000 more than 190 000 square kilometres of the Amazon rain forest have been cleared.  The leading cause of deforestation is still farming.

Officials  also report that, for the first time in years, deforestation throughout the year has  actually decreased – by 16 % between  August 2016 and July 2017.  This is a result of more surveillance and stricter controls, but it is also caused by lower livestock prices on world markets.

 

Deforestation of the Amazon rain forest - satellite image
Deforestation of the Amazon rain forest – satellite image

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • bauxite = soft material that you use to get aluminium
  • bind = here: not let something escape into the atmosphere
  • border = the end of an area
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals and people breathe out  and when carbon is burned
  • cause = reason
  • clear = here: cut down trees
  • conclusion = to decide or say something, based on the information you have
  • copper = soft reddish-brown metal that lets electricity and heat  pass through easily
  • decrease = to go down
  • deforestation = the cutting down or burning of all trees in an area
  • destruction = here: cutting down all trees in the area
  • due to = because of
  • environmental = about nature and the world around us
  • essential = extremely important and necessary
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is using the information you have
  • examine = to look closely at a topic in order to get more information about it
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • illegal = against the law
  • iron ore = rock that has iron in it
  • livestock = animals, such as cows or sheep, that are kept on a farm
  • loss = losing something
  • major = very important
  • mineral = material in the earth that is valuable and which you can sell
  • mining = the work of getting minerals, like coal, oil or metals out of the earth
  • official = here: allowed by the government
  • provide = offer, give
  • recent =  a short time ago
  • settlement = group of houses created to live in
  • surveillance = when the police watch a place very closely because there may be something wrong going on there
  • survey = questions that you ask people in order to find out more about a topic
  • unregulated = not controlled or watched by the government
  • whereas = although, while
  • within = inside

 

 

Sidewalk Toronto – City of the Future in Canada

Sidewalk Labs, a Google company, has announced  plans to build a futuristic city in Toronto, Canada. The new urban area, called Sidewalk Toronto, aims at turning the waterfront of Lake Ontario into a playground for city development and a testing site  for new technologies.

The project wants to make cities cheaper, healthier and even more exciting to live in .  The new city will offer its residents ultra-fast WiFi connections, lanes for self-driving cars and sustainable energy sources.  Thousands of sensors will report pollution and noise levels, as well as monitor traffic and levels of carbon monoxide.

Planners of Sidewalk Toronto want to find new solutions for  overpopulation, waste management , traffic , pollution and other urban problems. Several companies have said that they will make their services  available to the new city. 

Planners estimate that the project will cost around 1 billion dollars. However, it will also offer tens of thousands of people a place to live, work  and have fun. Eventually, similar projects may spread to other parts of the world, helping to build smarter and greener  cities.

Google has also announced that it plans to move its Canadian headquarters to Sidewalk Toronto.

 

 

 

Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario
Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario – Image: George Socka

Words

  • aim = wants to , plans to
  • announce = to officially say something in public
  • available = here: something that people can use
  • carbon monoxide = poisonous gas that produces carbon when it is burned
  • development = to become bigger, more modern and advanced
  • estimate = think about how much something will cost
  • eventually = as time goes on, slowly
  • futuristic = something  that looks unusual and very modern
  • headquarters = the main building or offices used by a large company
  • however =  but
  • lane = one of two or many areas on the road that keeps cars apart
  • monitor = watch, observe
  • overpopulation = too many people live on a small area of land
  • resident = here: a person  who lives in a city
  • services = work or help that a company gives you
  • similar = almost the same
  • solution = way of dealing with a problem
  • spread = move to another place
  • sustainable = something that can be used without causing danger to the environment or nature
  • urban = about a city
  • waste management = way of getting rid of unwanted materials and dirty water
  • waterfront = part of a city or town that is next to the sea or lake
  • WiFi connection = connecting computers and other machines to the Internet by using radio signals

 

Thousands of Penguin Babies Die in the Antarctic

Thousands of penguin babies have starved to death in the eastern Antarctic recently . Observers found thousands of unhatched eggs and lifeless baby penguins  on the coast. According to scientists , only two baby penguins survived during the 2017 breeding seasonAdélie penguins live in colonies that consist of thousands of animals.  It is the second time that a whole colony has been wiped out after no babies survived in 2015.

The World Wildlife Fund says that krill fishing in the area has led to the starving of penguin babies. Officials state that fishing in the area may permanently endanger the whole penguin population in the Antarctic.

Another reason for the declining number of Adélie penguins is possibly climate change.  In regions where ice gets thicker, adult penguins must  travel further away from the shore in order to find food. When they get back they find many of their babies already dead.

The WWF  and other organisations now demand that the eastern Antarctic coastline be declared a Marine Protected Area in order to help endangered penguins. Commercial fishing should be banned around these areas .

Adélie penguins live along the Antarctic coast  and usually breed from October to February.  They lay eggs in nests made up of stones.

 

Adélie penguin
Adélie penguin – Image : Andrew Shiva

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • adult = grownup
  • ban = forbid
  • breed = two or more animals get together in order to have babies
  • commercial fishing = fishing in order to make money
  • consist of = made up of
  • declare = to officially say that something exists
  • declining = going down
  • demand = want to have
  • endanger = to put a person or an animal in danger
  • krill = small shellfish
  • lifeless = dead
  • Marine Protected Area = area in the ocean where fishing and mining is banned and where animals and plants are protected
  • permanently = exist for a long time in the future
  • observer = a person who watches something closely
  • official = person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • shore = coast; where land meets the sea
  • starve = to die because you do not have enough to eat
  • survive = to live on after a dangerous situation
  • unhatched = if a baby animal does not come out of an egg
  • wipe out =  destroy completely, so that nothing is left
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that protects endangered animals and plants

 

 

Ocean Wind Farms Could Give Energy To Everybody

Winds and storms in the Atlantic are so strong that wind-powered turbines in the Atlantic Ocean could provide the whole world with clean energy. Energy experts now claim that ocean wind farms  can produce three to five times more energy than wind turbines on land. Over water wind speeds are up to 70% higher.

Winds on land create friction because of mountains and buildings. They slow down as they move inwards . In addition, turbines are built closer together, which takes some of the wind speed away .

Winds are especially strong across the northern Atlantic Ocean because of differences in water temperature. When the warm Gulf Stream moves up the North American coast it mixes with cold water in the northern Atlantic. This leads to higher storm activity and more winds, especially during the winter months.

Norway’s energy company Statoil has been operating floating wind turbines in the shallow North Sea for over a decade. These are connected via cable to the ocean floor.  In order to make them work  in the deep sea , however, they must be attached to vertical poles that have massive weights in the water.

One of the biggest problems that face ocean wind farms is transporting energy from the deep sea to land. Energy companies , like Statoil, are looking for high-wind areas that are closer to shore.

While wind farms on land are becoming more  and more common, production costs of running them are becoming lower. In the near future wind energy is expected to become one of the cheapest alternative energy sources .

Europe is the number one wind energy producer at the moment. Every year, about 12 gigawatts of energy are produced by wind power, whereas in America green energy from wind is still in its infancy. If  produced more effectively, the solution to the world’s energy problems may lie in ocean wind farms.

 

 

Offshore wind farm in the North Sea
Offshore wind farm in the North Sea – Image : Harald Pettersen / Statoil

Words

  • alternative energy source = energy that does not come from fossil fuels, like, coal, oil or gas
  • attach = fix, connect to something
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • coast = where land meets the sea
  • common = widespread, popular
  • connect = fix or tie to something
  • decade = ten years
  • deep sea = far away from land
  • Gulf Stream = warm water that flows to Europe from the Gulf of Mexico
  • effectively = here: to produce more with less money
  • especially = above all
  • face = deal with, manage
  • float = to move on water without sinking
  • friction = when something rubs against a surface
  • gigawatt = one thousand million watts
  • in addition = also
  • infancy = at the beginning
  • inward = here: away from the sea
  • massive = very big
  • provide = give
  • shallow = not deep
  • shore = land near the coast
  • speed = how fast something is
  • turbine = energy or motor  in which pressure pushes a wheel around
  • weight = a very heavy object
  • whereas = on the other side