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The Sunday Feed

Till the Rivers Run Dry!

A wise man once said that when humans have managed to dry out all the rivers and cut down all the trees, shall soon realise that they will not be able to eat money. Rivers drying would have devastating effects for people and the environment, including reduced access to drinking water, absence of water for agriculture, loss of aquatic habitat for fish and other organisms. No one can deny that the most important resource of planet earth is not gold but water.

Water scarcity can be defined as a lack of sufficient water, or not having access to safe water supplies. Water is needed to grow and process food, create energy and serve industry for a continually growing population The essence of global water scarcity is the geographic and temporal mismatch between freshwater demand and availability. The increasing world population, improving living standards, changing consumption patterns, and expansion of irrigated agriculture are the main driving forces for the rising global demand for water.

It is a paradox that water supply is reducing even though the intensity of rainfall increases every year. The core reason for this is the excessive absorption of water by soil that is excessively dry. Usually, the soil is supposed to maintain a certain level of moisture so that when there is rain, it quickly gets saturated and the excess water is then passed on to the lakes and rivers where it gets stored as reservoirs. From America to China, Australia to India, some of the world’s most important rivers have been drained dry for agriculture, industry, and drinking water.

The yearly precipitation averaged over the whole Earth is about 100 cm (39 inches), but this is distributed very unevenly. The regions of highest rainfall are found in the equatorial zone and the monsoon area of Southeast Asia Colombia has the highest rate of precipitation, which is estimated to be 324 cm per year. With some other countries like Papau New Guinea and Malaysia being the heavy recipients of rain. While Antarctica contains the area with the lowest average precipitation worldwide, the individual country with the lowest average annual precipitation is Chile. The city of Arica in Chile has the lowest average rainfall of any city worldwide at just 0.03 inch per year.

For people like us who live in the greener areas of Australia fail to understand why we keep hearing the news that the farmers always have to battle it out when it comes to providing water for their crops or cattle. According to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), 80% of the land receives less than 600 mm (24 in) of rainfall annually and 50% has even less than 300 mm (12 in). As a whole, Australia has a very low annual average rainfall of 419 mm (16 in). One of the key factors believed to be causing this dryness is the increase in the earth’s temperature by increasing levels of CO2 emissions.

In the last 250 years, humans have increased the CO2 emission by about 40%. The earth can store up to 40% of atmospheric CO2. However, many estimate that by 2060, we will reach the tipping point where the level of CO2 will be more than what the earth will be able to hold. The reason for this is the excessive industrial waste and the methane gas emitted by humans and animals in the atmosphere. Essentially, the phenomenal increase in human population that has directly caused the exponential demand for growth in the farming of animals for consumption!

According to research, the rise in temperature from 1750 to 2016 is about 1.57°C. If we continue like this, we will manage to double the CO2 content in the atmosphere in the next 100 years. This will increase the earth’s temperature by another 3–4 degrees. While the entire world is responsible, USA, China and Europe are the 3 frontrunners when it comes to CO2 emission. The UN climate change conference in Paris in 2015 was a major act of determination in solving this crisis where 195 countries committed to reducing the CO2 emission by half. This will be done by developed nations guiding the developing ones in ways to reduce the emission while they themselves lead by example. To get active participation from all the member countries, it will also be necessary to develop some kind of an incentive scheme. Since 75% of CO2 is produced while generating fuel from fossils or other sources, it is vital to shift to other more renewable energy.

Now that you have come so far, let me reveal something mysterious. Aviation and shipping are major contributors to CO2 emission depositing about 2% and 3% respectively. And a cease in transport of men, machines and merchandise will directly impact other industries as well. So is this pandemic a nature’s way of retaliating. I cannot say for certain but earth definitely must have had a sigh of relief since this sector has now been at its lowest capacity for more than a year. History has shown us on many occasions that when humans start considering themselves to be bigger than the universe, they are put in place by nature. Many scientists believe that COVID-19 is not the only virus we might see. There could be more to come. And I think that if humans do not get their act together and respect mother earth, she is going to come down even heavier. And even if you were to speak rationally, what right we humans have to endanger not just our own race but also every other creature inhabiting the earth?

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