Sixth mass extinction
"Kea, The Third Way" is first and foremost an adventure novel, written to engulf the reader into another world. But watching a different world allows the reader to contemplate our own world with new eyes.
Below are a few of the subjects explored in the novel with links to more detailed web pages.
If you haven't read the book, I would suggest you read it first!
The Holocene extinction
The Earth is in the midst of a mass extinction called the Holocene extinction. Our planet has already been through five mass extinctions. The last one, probably triggered by a meteor, wiped out all dinosaurs 65 million years ago. This one is different: it is us, humans, who are directly threatening the delicate balance of life, endangering our own world.
How do we know there is currently a massive extinction underway? After all, life seems to be thriving.
There are many animals and plants that are already extinct today. The best know is the dodo bird, who became extinct around 1680, after humans arrived on the Mauritius islands.
Species naturally appear, then become extinct. But the current extinction rate is at least 100 to 1,000 times higher than the natural rate, exceeding the rates of the five previous mass extinctions.
Tiger populations have fallen by 97% in the last century, leaving the animal close to extinction.
90% of all large fishes have disappeared from the world's oceans in the past half century, the devastating result of industrial fishing.
This includes whales, and especially the blue whale, that have been hunted almost to extinction. Their population declined to less than 1% of what they were before the whaling era. A whale hunting ban in 1966 helped the specie to slightly recover.
The southern bluefin tuna, which is regarded as the best eating raw fish, is listed as critically endangered, one step away from being extinct in the wild.
Global tuna stocks are fast reaching the limits of fishing sustainability.
A large majority of biologist agree with the prediction that according to current extinction rates, before the end of the century, as much as 50% to 65% of all species might become extinct.
The extinction started 12,000 years ago with the disappearance of the megafauna. One of the best known examples is the woolly mammoth who died out partly as a result of human hunting.
The island was initially densely covered with sub-tropical forests. Islanders were responsible for the deforestation of the island. When the Europeans arrived in 1722, it was a barren landscape.
This is not an isolated event. The same thing happened on the island of Kaho`olawe in Hawaii, and the Cyclades islands in Greece.
We are changing the climate by burning fossil fuels since the industrial revolution. Temperatures over the last century have increased on average by 0.78°C. 2001-2010 has been the warmest decade on record, and 2010 was the warmest year since 1850. 2011 was a year of climate extremes in the United States. Because of global warming, ocean levels have risen by 20cm in the last century. The North Sea could rise by 1.3 meters by the end of this century, threatening hundreds of costal cities by 2100.
Overt the 21st century global warming might affect hundreds of millions of people.
Some island-countries like the Kiribati and the Maldives are already considering relocating their populations.
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a giant accumulation of marine litter composed of plastic debris and fishing nets, in the middle of the north Pacific Ocean.
Kamilo beach in Hawaii is now sometimes called "plastic beach" as piles of plastic end up on this beach.
There is also another garbage patch in the South Pacific. Beaches in Peru get their share of plastic debris!
Will artificial meat be on our plates in a near future?
Production of meat requires lots of land. A vegetarian diet uses just half an acre per person per year to produce the food. This compares to almost two acres for a "standard" diet.
A recent study from Oxford University and the University of Amsterdam says that cultured meat would provide substantial environmental benefits: it would generate 78-96 percent less greenhouse gas, would require 7-45 percent less energy to produce, would result in 99 percent lower land use and 82-96 percent lower water use.
Artificial meat might be available as soon as fall 2012!
We might also soon have meat that is juicy and fibrous like a cutlet, and that even chews with the consistency of a real cutlet, but made from ingredients that are 100 percent vegetable.
Avalon is a legendary place or island featured in the Arthurian legend often associated with fairies like Morgan le Fey.
It was also called “The Fortunate Isle”, a winterless paradise where fruits and grain grow naturally, without labor.
The Andean cat
The Andean mountain cat is one of the rarest felines and is classified as endangered. He has a distinctive long, thick tail with rings.
Are electric cars really greener?
Well, that might not be true, depending on where you live.
Electric cars use electricity, so the answer depends on how this electricity is produced. In many countries, electricity is still produced by burning ... fossil fuels. A recent study shows that in China, pollution is 3.6 times greater for electric cars than for gasoline cars!
Regenerative medicine holds the promise of recreating in lab damaged organs from the patient's own cells.
Although still in its infacncy, a few organs like urethras, tracheas, and bladders have already been grown in labs and transplanted successfully into patients.
In March 2011, the UN's environmental agency expressed their concern about a huge decline in bee colonies in the industralised northern hemisphere.
The collapse is a major threat to crops, as two-thirds of our crops critically depend on honeybee pollination.
The main reasons of this decline are air pollution, mismanagement of our countryside, but also insecticides.
"The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century," said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.