We use it every day to check our emails, watch videos, read the news, chat with friends, purchase items, and the list goes on. Yes, I am talking about the Internet, which has become an inseparable part of our lives.
Through YouTube people can easily share videos of exotic animals they have adopted as pets and it only takes a few days for them to catapult to fame across the globe, inspiring new and sometimes strange online fads. But what impact do these animal videos have on public opinion? And what about the effect of celebrity endorsement? Earlier this year, researchers found that a ‘cute’ viral video of a person tickling a slow loris – most likely an illegal one – inspired a large proportion of viewers to keep one as a pet.
A Slow Loris (Nycticebus kayan) in Borneo
We’ve all heard that climate change is affecting our environment in a myriad of ways. But what is the impact on mosquito-borne diseases that afflict tropical and subtropical countries such as dengue fever? In the first long-term study, a research group found that temperature, rainfall, and access to piped water affect dengue incidence in Mexico and they predict that with climate change cases will climb up to 40 percent by 2080.
Our population now is the highest it has ever been, thanks to huge advancements in healthcare. There are more mouths to feed now than ever before. But the amount of land and resources available on earth for farming and cultivation is limited – and despite our immense progress, millions of people across the globe still go to bed hungry. Even worse, climate change is further straining our environment and threatening our food supply. In 2011 alone, tens of thousands of people – not to mention livestock – perished in the East African famine caused by crop failure due to a devastating drought.
What if we can grow crops that are resistant to extreme cold and dry weather? Sound like a good way to solve the hunger crises in poor nations? Well it might just be possible. Researchers have discovered a gene from a grass that when inserted into other plants and overexpressed, results in dramatic improvements in their survival under stressful environmental conditions. What’s more, their growth rate and seed yield is also boosted under non-stressful conditions.
We humans, without doubt, have had the greatest influence on our environment, more than any other species on earth. There are more of us on the planet now than ever before, established in every corner of the globe. Our impact on biodiversity in the last 50 years is alarming: half of all seed plants, a third of all amphibians, and almost a quarter of all mammals are threatened with extinction, according to a report in 2005 – their status now is probably grimmer. A recent study found that countries with higher life expectancies actually had more invasive and endangered species and those with a higher GDP per capita had more invasive species.
An outbreak of a creepy, mysterious illness is quietly spreading among children and adolescents in Eastern Africa – leaving scientists stumped. Previously healthy children are falling prey to a debilitating disease that deprives them of their childhood, and is devastating hundreds of families – a condition now known as nodding syndrome.