Ukraine has a vast area covered with extremely rich soils that are well suited for growing grains and other agricultural products. In past years, the country has exported enormous quantities of crops to countries throughout the European Union, as well as in Asia and Africa. In 2019, almost half of Ukraine was cultivated land, feeding millions of people. Now, things are changing fast.
The title says it all: “The Mw 5.1, 9 August 2020, Sparta Earthquake, North Carolina: The First Documented Seismic Surface Rupture in the Eastern United States”. Lots of information is packed into those words. Importantly, it provides evidence of our limited knowledge about the hazards presented by earthquakes.
In the past century, manufacturing nitrogen fertilizers with ammonia has been explosive (even literally...). Increases in crop production from manufactured fertilizers have benefited tens of millions of people. Unfortunately, this fertilizer produces tremendous waste in an inefficient process that is highly polluting; we could lower global use with alternative methods. Over 500 years ago, the Incas implemented laws to conserve their valuable guano fertilizer.
Food security is a growing concern for our global population of close to 8 billion people. The essential natural resource that controls food production is soil, which is being eroded away and degraded worldwide. Without healthy soils, our capability to provide adequate food for billions is seriously in question. Methods for improving degraded soils are available.
Teeth reveal a vast amount of information about the creatures that once used them. From information about who was eating whom among dinosaurs, to the diets of our ancestors, to possible speaking ability in Neanderthals, teeth reveal valuable information. I’ll share some of those stories in this post.
The tsunami associated with Hunga Tonga eruption has sparked renewed interest in hazards associated with earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. A recent article about geologic hazards and preparedness especially caught my attention: “A Tsunami Could Kill Thousands. Is Escape Possible?” in the New York Times. The focus is on the Pacific Northwest- –specifically coastal communities along the states of Washington, Oregon, and northernmost California.
Our planet has a high level of tectonic activity. In the past few decades, disastrous earthquakes have captured our attention. A careful look at historical records, however, demonstrates that a major volcanic eruption would cause immensely more devastation that any natural event our world has experienced recently.
What would Italian food be without tomatoes or Indian food without chiles? Both plants were first cultivated and used for thousands of years in the Americas before being transported across the world to join the cultures where they are appreciated today. Plant and animal exchanges have shaped our societies and our environments -- especially the two major migrations and exchanges that have taken place in just the past few millions of years.
Large earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis can create shock waves felt around the world – literally. The blast from the volcanic eruption on January 15, 2022, near Tonga caused spikes in air pressure recorded around the planet. We can add this eruption in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean to our knowledge of pandemics, climate change, and numerous other interconnections that tie our planet and our societies together.
Best wishes to you and your loved ones for happy holidays! This is my final post for 2021 – I’ll begin publishing again in January 2022. In this post, I describe a few details about the story of the Three Magi and the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh they brought to the baby Jesus. Historians and biblical scholars have recorded many stories and traditions related to the Magi and their gifts, often reflected in the artwork of the time.