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NASA Study Predicts Mega Drought in the Later Half of 21st Century

Nasa Soil Moisture Map

NASA: Mega Droughts in Southwest and Central U.S.A.

In the last few years, U.S Southwest and Central Plains have faced severe droughts that have caused reduced yearly rainfall and increased temperatures across these regions.

For the past three millennia, this region of the United States has been affected by several major droughts, some that have even lasted up to 30 years. Past studies modeling drought variability and dynamics have only focused in using data from only the past century. However, to understand the risk that Southwest and Central United States is facing in the latter half of the century, a much longer timescale has to be used.

In a new study by NASA, scientists examined tree-rings to retrieve data going back 1,000 years to study previous wet and dry periods around the region. This natural data provided a wealth of information by observing the amount of space between rings in centuries’ old trees. During the years of prevalent rainfall, these trees grew more, and thus grew a wider ring that year. Narrower rings indicated stunted tree growth during years of drought.

tree rings, mega drought tree ring, spaces in tree trunks, dendrochronology

This same study compared tree rings of the same species of trees in modern droughts to produce an accurate drought map across the world reflecting the last 1,000 years of drought by examining moisture conditions. Having data spanning across a much larger timescale helped scientists examine a bigger picture of modern-day and future droughts, taking into account Earth’s natural drought cycle.

Natural Droughts

Historically speaking, Earth goes through cycles of natural drought. Recent evidence for these cycles of natural drought includes the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, which lasted around a decade, and the current drought in Southwest United States.

Records of other mega droughts in North America date back to medieval times, between 1100 and 1300. Although the data collected from studying tree rings during this period revealed that these mega droughts were no worse than present droughts, they spanned for around 30 to 50 years.

Mega Drought

Based on the data retrieved from the NASA study, scientists are suggesting that the drought models are predicting a drier and warmer latter half of the 21st century. What we do about green house gas emissions in the next few years will directly affect how these gas emissions affect areas of the United States. According to Ben Cook, lead author of the study and climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, estimates that the current likelihood of a mega drought lasting over 30 years is 12%.

Cook also suggest that if greenhouse gas emission levels continue increasing in a similar pattern as they are now doing throughout the rest of the 21st century, the probability of a mega drought increases to 80% between the years 2050 and 2099. If greenhouse has emissions stop increasing by mid-21st century, the probability drops to around 60%.

Human Challenge

“It is rare to see all signs pointing so unwaveringly toward the same result, in this case a highly elevated risk of future mega droughts in the United States,” comments Cook. When NASA scientists compared past droughts and mega droughts with the models projecting the mega drought expected for the latter half of the 21st century, mega droughts during the 21st century are likely to be even worse than previous mega droughts seen during Medieval times.

These mega droughts that occurred during medieval times had adverse effects on the societies that inhabited North America at the time. Due to the severe drought, they were forced to leave behind their agricultural economies and relocate to other societies due to repeated crop failure, reduced wild food sources, and increased competition for scarce resources.

There is no doubt that a mega drought would have severely adverse effects on the populations of Southwest and Central United States. As these areas are becoming increasingly more populated throughout the years, creating more demand for water and other important resources, people living in these areas will need to adapt to the changing climate conditions or be forced to relocate like their ancestors.

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Roses for Valentine’s Day: Don’t Buy Them

don't buy roses this valentine's day

Why You Should Not Buy Roses For Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day, 9.8 million dozen roses will be imported into Canada from Columbia & Ecuador, according to StatCan. These two Latin American countries are the world leaders in the flower industry, including the production of roses for Valentine’s Day. However and perhaps more interestingly, these two countries, and their flower industries in particular, have a horrifying record of hiring children and exploiting workers with poor working conditions to meet the demand of this romantic tradition.

A Not So Rosy Picture: Labor Standards in the Flower Industry

There is about a 1 in 12 chance that your good intentions of buying your significant other roses this Valentine’s Day might end up supporting flower plantations with poor working conditions and child labour.

Working Conditions

In order for countries to be able to successfully export flowers to other countries, these flowers must be sprayed with harsh chemicals: pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. Flower-importing countries refuse to import flowers that have not been sprayed with these chemicals for fear of them carrying unknown diseases and insects that can plague local flora and fauna.

These harsh, toxic chemicals are detrimental for human health. The U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project notes that 20% of these chemicals that are sprayed on these flowers are so toxic, that they are either restricted or banned in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

More so, the workers in these flower plantations often lack the proper equipment and adequate protective gear. Many of the workers in these flower plantations often suffer from headaches, nausea, impaired vision, rashes, asthma, stillbirths, miscarriages, congenital malformations, and respiratory & neurological problems (all related to being exposed to and handling these restricted chemicals).

In addition, in order to meet the high demand of the Valentine’s Day season, many flower plantations want to cut the costs of hiring more employees to meet the production demand and simply opt for increasing the working hours of their existing employees. This means that employees could be working up to 20 hour days.

Child Labor

The high demand for flower production, especially roses, also causes flower plantations to hire new employees, which often enough, happen to be children. According to The Atlantic, 8.3% of all flowers imported to the U.S. were cut by a child. To put it into perspective, at least 1 out of the dozen roses you buy this Valentine’s Day was cut by a child working in a flower plantation in Latin America.

Although efforts are being done by part of the U.S. government to help prevent child labour in both Ecuador and Columbia, but as of 2010, 13% of children in Ecuador are working, especially in industries such as agriculture. Another study found that in Columbia, children as young as 11 are working full time in the flower industry (although efforts by the U.S. government have been successful in reducing child labour within the country).

As Final Consumers, What Can YOU Do?

As the final consumer of the flowers that are imported every year into Canada for the Valentine’s Day season, you have the final decision on what you want your hard-earned money to support. Is this to support industries with poor labour conditions and that happen to also employ child labour? Hopefully, not.

A harsh reality of how globalization works is that our rich economy, empowered by everyday consumers like you and me, can actually make a difference. If a Canadian refuses to buy from a flower plantation that has poor working conditions and that also employs child labour, they can help shut this plantation down. In our globalized economy, dollar voting can create the change and make a difference towards helping save the planet. Little things such as opting to buy fair trade flowers this Valentine’s Day make the difference.

However, unless consumers stop being indifferent to injustices such as these that we find in the flower industry, human rights conditions will not improve in the international world where there are weaker court systems and poor labour unions. Hopefully this Valentine’s Day, Canadian consumers will rethink their flower purchases and opt for giving something that at least will not wilt in the next few days.

At ContactsForLess.ca, we believe in empowering those organizations that are fighting to save our planet from the profits generated from selling contact lenses. If you are a consumer who is interested into issues and organizations that matter, and you want your dollar vote to really count for something, please do not purchase flowers this Valentine’s Day.

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Sue Scotnicki of Victoria BC

Sue Scotnicki of Victoria, BC

Nov 11, 2014

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“The service was fantastic…”

“I have already told all my contact wearing friends to check out the website and order from contacts for less. The service was fantastic and the price was better than the big box competitors price. I was happy that I could chose the organization that my purchase was helping!”

Thank you Sue! We love you back and plan to be your online contact lens company for many years to come!


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