Newsdesk – April 10

Chicago in January 2019.Credit…Daniel Slim/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

According to two recent studies, it has been shown that African Americans are getting infected and dying from Covid-19 at disproportionately high rates. The other found that counties with higher levels of pollution are seeing greater numbers of coronavirus deaths than cleaner ones. In fact, multiple other studies, including from Environmental Protection Agency scientists, have found that African Americans and other people of color tend to live in closer proximity to coal plants, refineries and other sites responsible for emitting fine particulate matter than whites. Minorities have indeed been exposed to the worst effects. “Communities of color, they’ve always been the sacrifice zones,” Mustafa Ali, vice president of environmental justice, climate and community revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a video posted online Tuesday. Surprisingly, many cities and states still are not reporting coronavirus data by race, and experts note that other factors, like income, also are in play.  What if a disaster forces you from home? Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’s especially important — to protect yourself and others by minimizing the pressure on an already overburdened emergency response system. Currently, the hurricane and wildfire seasons are just around the corner. That means some people wisely following advice to stay at home might have to leave those homes. Abandoning your home might be necessary and it is important for “Every citizen to understand what the specific risks might be to their individual communities,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. One of the most basic precautions is to make sure you can move when you need to. Grab the things that you will need and take any emergency supplies that you have access to. Preparation for evacuation during natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires is important, and these orders can make social distancing difficult. These disasters are ongoing, and in the words of Dr. Redlener, the pandemic “not going to stop other disasters from happening” – The New York Times

  • Record-size hole opens in ozone layer above the Arctic – The Guardian 
  • Psychic Numbing: Keeping Hope Alive in a World of Extinctions – Yale Environment 360
  • Humans living in Amazon 10,000 years ago cultivated plants, study finds – The Guardian
  • The Pandemic Is Turning the Natural World Upside Down – The Atlantic
  • 6 simple sustainable travel tips for eco-conscious travellers to help the environment – Far Out
  • 5 communications tips to market sustainability – Green Biz
  • Human impact on wildlife to blame for spread of viruses, says study – The Guardian

Insects and the plants they feed on have been engaged in a co-evolutionary battle for millennia: to eat or not be eaten. With climate change, however, warmer temperatures could tip the balance in favor of the insects and spell danger for crops and the farmers that tend to them. A study by researchers in 2018 predicted that each degree of global warming will increase crop loss from insects by 10% to 25% because insect populations and their appetites surge in warm temperatures. Prolonged droughts or floods are also likely to compound those losses. Fortunately, there are some ways in which plants can fight off insect pests. Plants produce an arsenal of toxic chemicals that repel attack by insects and other plant consumers. When tomato plants were challenged with hornworm caterpillars under either normal temperature conditions, plants responded to the hotter temperatures by intensifying production of jasmonate and, as a consequence, increasing the output of various defense compounds. Even so, insects ate the plants relentlessly in the heat. And when the temperature is getting too high, plants use two strategies to cool down. They will open their tiny leaf pores, which are called stomata, releasing water that cools them much as sweating cools humans. But surprisingly, tomato plants challenged by caterpillars at the warmer temperature didn’t do these things, and thus failed to cool their leaves. Indeed, why insect attack keeps the plants from cooling themselves remains a mystery. To contribute to accomplishing the goal of plants being able to cool themselves when insects attack. The United Kingdom’s Royal Society and other scientific organizations have called for a Second Green Revolution that will permit the sustainable intensification of agriculture through development of crops that are more resilient in face of increasingly harsh environmental conditions – The Conversation

Covid-19: Working from home is doing wonders for the environment. In the midst of the uncertainty that comes with working from home and avoiding city centres, there’s a tiny glimmer of hope, a small positive emerging from the chaos. In fact, air pollution levels are dropping rapidly – and the change appears to be saving lives. Dr Marc Sarzi, Head of Research at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP), would agree. He says that despite the obvious and pertinent negatives that have arisen due to Covid-19, the environment has seen the opposite effects of the virus. Dr Sarzi specified that the pandemic has triggered a drop in pollution levels across Europe, most noticeably in Italy where the country has been in total lockdown for over a month. Dr Sarzi is originally from Italy and says that the air pollution in his home country has reduced by half since the beginning of last month. “Of course, this is only temporary, and they will increase again once people return to their normal routines,” he says. Furthermore, he believes that the high levels of pollution previously experienced in northern Italy – where the outbreak is most severe – could have been contributing to the high mortality rates. “Pollutants such as Nitrogen Dioxide, which comes from burning fossil fuels, can, over long-term exposure, lead to respiratory health problems.” These pollutants could be found in high levels in the air and as a probable result, 99 percent of patients who have died in Italy after contracting the virus had previous medical conditions. These people, including some children, have been saved in the thousands due to the decrease in air pollution recently. “Like the international community did with the ozone crisis, this pandemic can be an opportunity to reflect and take concrete actions to reduce the levels of man-made pollution,” Sarzi says – Her