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Large airships were too sensitive to wind gusts and too sluggish to win against aeroplanes. But today, they have a chance to make a spectacular return.
India finishes last of 60 countries in environment and sustainability, as ranked by the expats who work there.
- How 'green' is life in your work country?
- That's the question InterNations asked its network of expats.
- The United States ended 30th out of 60 countries.
Nordics on top<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2NjgyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTczNzkyOX0.VgfqyjAa9avw6gFOE0qlgSgKuBN7DJmzOc5lzFGLm8g/img.jpg?width=980" id="1f0dc" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b27458cf472d26cf1f87cb91623a0621" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Evo Hiking Area, H\u00e4meenlinna, Finland." />
Evo Hiking Area in Hämeenlinna, Finland. Great nature, clean air, clean water? Check, check and check.
Credit: Kanta-Hämeen kuvapankki on Flickr/ Public Domain.<p><br><strong>1. Finland</strong></p><p>The Nordic country scores at or near the top in all categories surveyed, including the quality of the natural environment (say 96 percent of expats in Finland), water and sanitation (96 percent) and air (95 percent). <br></p><p><strong>2. Sweden</strong></p><p>Swedes lead the world in environmental awareness (84 percent versus just 48 percent globally). Perhaps not surprising, for the homeland of <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/greta-effect" target="_blank">Greta Thunberg</a>. This is reflected by government policy. Sweden currently gets more than 50 percent of its power from renewable sources and wants to go 100% renewable before 2040. "I've been here for over 20 years and I clearly see the benefits of my taxes paid coming back to me and the rest of society," says one American expat.<br></p><p><strong>3. Norway</strong></p><p>"The beautiful nature, the clean air and tap water, and the focus on the environment," are what one Ukrainian expat enjoys most about Norway. With 76 percent of expats happy with the availability of green goods and services, Norway's 'weakest' category is still 13 percentage points above the global average. <br></p><p><strong>4. Austria</strong></p><p>The first non-Nordic in the global ranking, Austria places in the Top 10 for each category and comes in first for the availability of green goods and services (90 percent). <br></p><p><strong>5. Switzerland</strong></p><p>Swiss nature is the most appreciated in the world (98 percent versus 83 percent on average). Switzerland also gets stellar results for air and water quality and the availability of green energy and green goods and services. </p><p><strong>6. Denmark</strong></p><p>Danes are very much into green causes, as is their government, say 83 percent resp. 84 percent of expats. "Organic food is readily available, and they are good with recycling," observes a South African expat. And they love cycling: 9 out of 10 Danes own a bike.</p><p><strong>7. New Zealand</strong></p><p>85 percent of expats agree that the New Zealand government takes green issues seriously. In fact, New Zealand plans to use 90 percent electricity from renewables by 2025. The country also scores high on the quality of its natural environment and all other categories – albeit slightly less on the quality of its water and sanitation.</p><p><strong>8. Germany</strong></p><p>"I enjoy the rising awareness about environmental issues and the alternatives the government and society are developing," says one Colombian expat. Indeed, 80 percent of expats agree the German government is pro-environment (versus 55 percent globally). <br></p><p><strong>9. Canada</strong></p><p>The only North American destination in the Top 10, thanks especially to expat appreciation of Canada's natural environment (96 percent), but also the quality of its water and sanitation (90 percet) and the availability of green goods and services (80 percent). <br></p><p><strong>10. Luxembourg</strong></p><p>"Access to nature for hiking and bicycling" is a definite boon for one American expat. In fact, the country's natural environment, although ranking 13th out of 60, is its lowest-rated subcategory. Luxembourg does even better when it comes to green energy, waste management, and the quality of its air and water.</p>
Taiwan, most sustainable destination in Asia<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2Njg1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzkxMDAxNH0.Roy7h_Od1cmaqBmamk-DP4rKMpLjTM-qIajG96alZAg/img.jpg?width=980" id="00799" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dab52370e1edb5da5ebb0f5631027b1c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bEternal Spring Shrine in the Taroko Gorge, Hualien County, Taiwan." />
Eternal Spring Shrine in the Taroko Gorge, Hualien County. Outside of Taipei, Taiwan can be surprisingly green and beautiful.
Credit: Zairon, CC BY-SA 4.0<p><strong>11. Taiwan</strong></p><p>The highest-scoring expat destination in Asia, Taiwan boasts 92 percent approval of its waste management and recycling, and 80 percent of the availability of green goods and services. But "the air pollution (in Taipei) is getting worse because it is too crowded," one expat complains.</p><p><strong>12. Netherlands</strong></p><p>Green goods and services are widely available, agree 82 percen of expats, as is green energy. However, 13 percent rate the Dutch environment negatively, 4 percet above the global average. <br></p><p><strong>13. Portugal</strong></p><p>Well ahead of its neighbor Spain (#20), the country scores high for air quality (91 percent) and natural environment (95 percent). "I like the opportunity for gardening and growing our own food," says one expat. <br></p><p><strong>14. Estonia</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Estonia scores in the Top 20 for every category and gets its highest marks for its natural environment. "A beautiful country with excellent air quality and open spaces," praises an Indian expat.<br></p><p><strong>15. Costa Rica</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Both the government and the people are very supportive of green policies, find 82 percent, resp. 67 percent of expats. "It's easy to live a healthy lifestyle with regard to the food, climate, clean air and water," says one. Costa Rica won the 2019 UN Champion of the Earth award and has pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050.<br></p><p><strong>16. Czechia</strong></p><p><strong></strong>"The beauty of the environment" is one of the best things about living in Czechia, says a Russian expat. No less than 97 percent of expats agree.<br></p><p><strong>17. France</strong></p><p><strong></strong>77 percent of expats are happy about the availability of green goods and services in France, which is 14 percentage points above average. The country also scores well for waste management and recycling. In short, France has a "good, green and clean environment," one Iranian expat finds. <strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>18. Australia</strong></p><p><strong></strong>While ranking high on the quality of its nature, water and air, Australia scores low when it comes to government support for green issues (51 percent). Fortunately, expats see more interest among the general population (68 percent). </p><p><strong>19. Singapore</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Expats rate the government's interest in green issues higher than globally average (77 percent versus 55 percent), but the Singaporean public's engagement for the same less than average (40 percent versus 48 percent). Of course, in a small, crowded place like Singapore, "(nature) spots are limited."<br></p><p><strong>20. Spain</strong></p><p>Spain's "scenery, diversity of places to visit and healthier environment" are what rate highly with one British expat. Its weak point is governmental and public support for green issues – but still slightly above the global average. <br></p>
London is "polluted and noisy"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2Njg4Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDg3NjkyOH0.3ySSD7jFBfAWA07u-EN-oL9x9cq9FZn06iz5aV0hEOw/img.jpg?width=980" id="f5630" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="80c9fa119e7ff3acc91e027b7529bfed" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bEven at 2:30pm, London gets clogged." />
Afternoon traffic jam in London.
World map for the 'sustainable expat'<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2Njg5MC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzAyNjQ2MH0.hjRiMDmOSnn9EvKJtx_tlzql3Gf7ph8lt8bL6dPCft4/img.png?width=980" id="def5d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="149be2f5a19cc625cb555d8078f62ce2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="The best & worst destiations for the sustainable expat" />
Sixty expat destinations ranked for sustainability, from best (orange) to worst (light blue). In between: fairly okay (brown), middling (grey) and not that great (dark blue).
South Korea's "rather horrible" air<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2NjkxNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTY1MjIwNn0.2e6eBIc38sAZLFQGKw4UL3-SY3hA9NthX0Uj9L4ibZA/img.jpg?width=980" id="c10db" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cba918e6e5455c2e5ff4f9d5caf54775" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bSmoggy Seoul" />
Seoul's air quality is so bad you can picture it. Only India's air is perceived as worse than South Korea's, according to the expat survey.
Bad, worse, India<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2Njk0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTcyMTczMH0.Pt2bGDrpSKSwVjimMK_iK0Jejpu8ILn77VEzHTdzQQ4/img.jpg?width=980" id="28411" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8b8b602261a168a46b05c53e09ab1b02" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="man standing surrounded by garbage" />
India scores worst in all three categories, but to be fair – some of its problems were imported from more developed countries.
Noise pollution is terrible for our health, yet we don't discuss it often enough.
- Excess noise leads to elevated fatigue, stress, blood pressure elevation, and negative attitudes.
- Increased levels of noise have been shown to negatively impact our ability to learn.
- A new study shows that noise levels have dropped significantly during quarantine.
Daily LEX8h over time in California, Florida, New York, and Texas.<p>As with much else in our nation, <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/02/city-noise-might-be-making-you-sick/553385/" target="_blank">noise is also political</a>.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The two largest sources of environmental noise are transportation and industrial activity. The cars for which early noise ordinances helped clear the streets have amplified that noise to a universal, inescapable level. Industrial areas, often designated for land close to the poorest nonwhite areas in a city, are even worse."</p><p>Industrial noise ranges from 80 dB to 109 dB (for workers regularly near furnaces and excavation sites). Police sirens come in at 120 dB; police helicopters, regular features in cities like Los Angeles, churn out 85 dB of sound. </p><p>Despite the numerous social and economic problems we've endured due to the pandemic, bright spots have emerged. Pollution levels in Wuhan, Italy, Spain, and the USA <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969720323378" target="_blank">dropped</a> by as much as 30 percent following quarantine. This <a href="https://www.insider.com/before-after-photos-show-less-air-pollution-during-pandemic-lockdown" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">photo</a> of New Delhi went viral in May after only a few months of reduced transportation. Now local officials in India are attempting to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/05/world/asia/india-delhi-pollution.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">keep levels down</a>. </p><p>The sky isn't the only region to benefit. So have our ears—and by extension, our nervous systems.</p><p>That's the consensus of a group of researchers at the University of Michigan. In a new <a href="https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abb494" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Research Letter</a>, published in the journal IOP Science, they write that social distancing practices have greatly reduced environmental noise. By measuring noise levels from the iPhones and Apple Watches of 5,894 participants, they observed a noticeable drop in noise exposure.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"COVID-19 social distancing measures were associated with an approximately 3 dBA reduction in personal environmental sound exposures; this represents a substantial and meaningful reduction in this harmful exposure."</p>
Why Noise Pollution Is More Dangerous Than We Think | The Backstory | The New Yorker<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ae7b6bd4cac5a7abdec0d9246cc793ec"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Is_5X2z2b0k?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Study participants live in some of the noisiest states in the nation: California, Florida, New York, and Texas. In total, the team analyzed data from 516,729 monitored days. The study began in November 2019, so by a chance of luck, the team recorded sound exposure levels before quarantine as well as after lockdowns began. Interestingly, the team noticed noise was lowest on Mondays, rising throughout the week to peak on Saturdays.</p><p>With so many moving pieces affecting the environment, noise pollution tends to get overlooked. Excess noise is another way we unnecessarily tax nature, as well as ourselves. Though mental health is declining for a number of people due to isolation, and a global Depression is <a href="https://time.com/5876606/economic-depression-coronavirus/" target="_blank">predicted</a> for 2021, we cannot let that blind us to important research emerging on real-world interventions to ease our footprint. </p><p>Humans are loud and wasteful animals. The <a href="https://www.latimes.com/projects/california-fires-damage-climate-change-analysis/" target="_blank">worst wildfires</a> in California's recorded history are ravaging vineyards, mountains, and entire towns. With <a href="https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-10-11/southern-california-braces-for-another-hot-week" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">another heatwave</a> returning to California this week, these fires will likely pick up in intensity. Our current lifestyles are not sustainable, and we can only ever be as healthy as the planet we inhabit.</p><p>Noise pollution is an under-discussed problem. Increased sound exposure destroys ecosystems and wreaks havoc on our nervous systems. If anything, we can learn from these small victories for when society completely opens back up—and, hopefully, apply a lesson or two from what we've learned.</p><p>For example: say no to Amazon's drone delivery fleet, which is expected to regularly <a href="https://theconversation.com/drones-to-deliver-incessant-buzzing-noise-and-packages-116257" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">raise noise</a> levels across the country. Some technologies are simply not worth the cost. Our hearing (and much more) depends on it. </p><p>-- -- </p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
Stone stackers enjoy the practice as a peaceful challenge, but scientists warn that moving small stones has mountainous consequences.
Stacking up the history<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNTg1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjcyOTIzOX0.UtKz33QrDgK5scyJPbikuAQax_4yN2toQjkXyUf4AlM/img.jpg?width=980" id="6294c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5044ba5b984c8e2de74234ee8f590be7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A Bates cairn at Acadia National Park. Revived in the '90s by park officials, these cairns mark the park's many interlocking trails.
Eroding our natural heritage<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNTg1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDEwNDIxN30.0zMFQ-3YDlkJFRw453NfSO-Vg3pfK311a8usC1WRm0w/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C88%2C0%2C88&height=700" id="c62e0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9cd939f4081d342a425d1738f616be74" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Rock cairns marking a trail at Hawai'i Volcanoes National park. These official cairns can easily be mistaken for personal rock stacks.
A problem of scale<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNTg2Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDAyMzIyMn0.RVpaBb7HR7oj8SYl4AT0ycxK29rWMw0cq-Y6BTJLZV8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C59%2C0%2C59&height=700" id="21cd0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eff63ccecc069c1f658f705f9b4c3800" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A collection of rock stacks on Angels Landing summit plateau at Zion National Park that shows the "contagious effect" of such stacks.
(Photo: Mike Young / National Park Service)<p>Of course, any one stone stack isn't much of a concern; the problem is one of scale. While ancestral cairns were produced at a more artisan pace, today's stone stacking has practically become industrial, driven by an economy of clicks and likes.</p><p>"Social media has kind of popularized stone stacking as meditative, and you used to have a handful of people doing it, but it has really escalated over the past few years on public lands," Wesley Trimble, the program-outreach and communications manager for the American Hiking Society, <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/culture/rabbit-holes/people-are-stacking-too-many-stones" target="_blank">told the New Yorker</a><u>.</u></p><p>Acadia National Park, for example, is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S., hosting more than 3.5 million visitors per year. It's also relatively small—<a href="https://www.nps.gov/acad/learn/management/statistics.htm#:~:text=Acadia%20National%20Park%20protects%20more,by%20the%20National%20Park%20Service" target="_blank">47,000 acres</a> compared to <a href="https://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/management/statistics.htm" target="_blank">Yosemite's</a> 760,000 or <a href="https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/parkfacts.htm" target="_blank">Yellowstone's</a> more than 2 million. With such a density of human activity, even minute damages have the potential to devastate Acadia's ecology if performed by enough people.</p><p>As Christie Anastasia, Acadia's public affairs specialist, told Big Think in an interview, in 2016 and 2017 park volunteers deconstructed nearly 3,500 illicit stone stacks on just two mountains—the influence of potentially less than one percent of visitors. Luckily for park visitors, Acadia's rangers and generous volunteers have been trained to dismantle illicit stacks and replace the stones in a way that limits repercussions. But that initial displacement still damages the landscape and leaves creatures homeless during the interim.</p><p>That's just Acadia. In total, U.S. national parks hosted more than 328 million visitors in 2019, a number that clarifies the exponential damage small stone stacks can cause if even just one percent of visitors take up the hobby.</p><p>"People come to national parks for lots of different reasons, but our parks have been set aside as historic and cultural resources in an unaltered state. When people come across these stone stacks, that can hurt their experience," she said.</p>
Leave no trace<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNTg2NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2ODUxMDgwNn0.sUAfVBGcCR3mWejebwckLYHFDGiMdn1LUC4WFSTnMi4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C59%2C0%2C59&height=700" id="a6bbb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e38180145474afafedb584ac6fc15031" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Angels Landing summit plateau after being restored by park rangers and volunteers.
(Photo: Mike Young / National Park Service)<p>When it comes to nature and our national parks, writers, conservationist, and scientists all agree on one unassailable rule: Leave no trace. When it comes to obvious human influences, such as plastics, dog scat, or forest fires, few would disagree.</p><p>But for many, stone stacks are beguilingly innocent in this regard. The materials come from the land and seem perfectly attune with nature. They blend our dual loves of artistry and the environment, and when these projects step outside of time and pass down to us from our ancestors, they crown some of our most cherished historical sites.</p><p>So, it's not a question of whether stone stacking is or is not an acceptable pastime. "It's a question of where the activity belongs," Anastasia said. "At the end of the day, stone stacking is not an activity that belongs in national parks." Though she stresses that it isn't a value judgment; it is simply a question of where an activity can and should be enjoyed.</p><p>If you want to stack stones, you can do so without fault in your backyard or interurban park or man-made beach. Leave your mark there and proudly share your creations on social media. But when it comes to nature, our actions add up to a social whole we must be conscious of. We can leave our mark in both what we create and what we leave untouched.</p>
Animals are adapting all the time these days to stay out of our way.
- Evolution is something that happens over time, but animals (humans included) are always mutating and adapting.
- Thanks to human presence and interference, animals are experiencing what has been referred to as "human-guided evolution."
- More animals are becoming night owls. Pollution determines which moths dominate the tree trunks of the U.K. Are these short-term changes, or is humanity doing lasting damage?
We often think of evolution as taking place over extended periods of time as mutations prove themselves advantageous, or not. Mutations, though, are not rare things: They happen all the time. Scientists estimate that there were 37 trillion of them in your own body just over the last 24 hours. (It's amazing more things don't go wrong, right?) The characteristics we see in ourselves and other organisms are merely the latest winners in a wild and woolly mutation free-for-all competition, in which nature, or random chance, tries out many wonderful, bizarre, and ridiculous traits as things settle out over the long term.
Adaptations in response to changing environmental factors occur all the time, too: An attribute that may have been meaningless before may suddenly become very helpful. Here in the Anthropocene, animals are adapting to all sort of habitat changes we've imposed on them. While not yet long-term changes, necessarily, these characteristics suggest we may be having a considerable impact on the ongoing process of evolution in the world's organisms.
Image source: Marek R. Swadzba/Shutterstock
Before the Industrial Revolution got up and running in the U.K., light-colored peppered moths, Biston betularia morpha typica, were a common sight. However, by about 1864, they'd been essentially replaced by a darker peppered-moth cousin, Biston betularia morpha carbonaria. Why?
Pollutants — mostly coal soot —covered the British countryside, darkening its trees. Worse, sulfur dioxide emissions wiped out many of the trees' lichen and moss coverings. Against these darkened backdrops, light-colored peppered moths became far too easy to spot by predators. Better suited were the darker peppered moths, which soon came to dominate the habitat — by 1895, some 95 percent of peppered moths spotted were the darker variety.
Fortunately, the Industrial Revolution days passed, with dirty factories over time being replaced by cleaner alternatives, and today, the light-colored peppered moths are back on top.
The story is a pretty fast-paced and dramatic example of how extreme our impact can be, and also — and there's a hopeful feeling to this — how short-lived it can be if we fix what we've broken.
Urban vs. rural red fox skull measurements
Image source: K.J. Parsons, et al
Researchers published in June a really interesting study regarding a surprising way in which foxes are adapting to life in human-dominated urban environments.
An examination of 111 red fox skulls from London, UK, revealed "urban individuals tending to have shorter and wider muzzles relative to rural individuals." Essentially, the more urban a fox's environment is, the shorter its snout was likely to be. The change may be considered an example of Darwin's "domestication syndrome," as Big Think previously reported.
The study suggests it's all about the biomechanics benefits imparted by such a change:
"Firstly, a shorter snout, as found in urban foxes, should confer a higher mechanical advantage but with reduced closing speed of the jaw. This may be advantageous in an urban habitat where resources are more likely to be accessed as stationary patches of discarded human foods. Furthermore, in some cases, these foods may require a greater force to access them, explaining the expanded sagittal crest in skulls of urban foxes."
If these traits make an individual fox better suited to its city life, it's that much more likely to survive and reproduce than a longer-snouted competitor.
Nighttime on human Earth
Image source: Viktor Grishchenko/Shutterstock
Habitat loss is the single most destructive thing we're doing to animals. It can lead to utter displacement and death, and it can also change the way animals go about doing the things they need to do to survive.
In many cases, animals dealing with fresh human encroachment bend before they break, and some are trying to carry on around us, so to speak. A 2018 study in the journal Science finds, for example, that animals are becoming more nocturnal to get out of the bipeds' way.
The authors of the study analyzed data from 76 other reports to learn how 62 species on six continents were trying to adapt to our intrusive presence. The data was sourced from all sorts of devices such as cameras to GPS trackers, and ran the gamut from 'possums to pachyderms.
What the researchers found was that animals known to split their activities between day and night were overwhelmingly becoming busier after dark. There was a 68 percent increase in nighttime activity among such animals.
If this habitat pressure continues, will we start to see individuals with, for example, better night vision, come to dominate as competitors for scarce resources? It'll be interesting to see.
When people say, "Such and such animal has this trait because it allows them to…" what they're really saying is that "Of all the crazy mutations that nature tried out, individuals with this mutation fared better than others did." Whether it's effective camouflage, the ditching of a trunk, or becoming a night owl — except for owls who already… never mind — temporary adaptations become fixed evolutionary traits when the conditions in which they are beneficial remain in place long enough. In the case of the pressure we're continually imposing on other life forms, it bears saying that only the ones lucky enough to survive humankind's challenging influence in the first place will get that chance to change.