Thursday, June 13, 2024

Deep Sea Mining, Indian Ocean, Infectious Diseases

Some readings for you:

1) Mining the bottom of the sea: The deep sea bed is considered the last frontier on earth for mining. Large patches of the sea bed are littered with metallic lumps or nodules rich in manganese, cobalt, zinc, and nickel. These elements are considered vital for powering the world's green economy. Nauru, a tiny Pacific Ocean island nation situated northeast of Papau New Guinea, along with a Canadian mining company, wants to start mining a region of the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico known as the Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Scientists warn that a hurried push to mine the deep ocean bed will result in an irreversible loss to biodiversity, ecologic functioning, and ocean health. Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the complex legal and regulatory issues and conflicts of interest related to international deep sea mining.

As things stand in June 2024, a deep sea mining code is still being decided by the International Sea Bed Authority. Rohini Krishnamurthy of Down to Earth has the latest news on the progress made on this issue. Negotiations are hampered by a lack of basic science and divergence of views between member states.

2) Indian Ocean headed for a near-permanent state of marine heat wave:  Rapid fossil fuel emissions over the past century or so has changed the earth's energy balance. More energy is now coming in than is being radiated out to space. More than 90% of this excess energy is ending up in the ocean as heat. As a result, the world's oceans are warming up. The Indian Ocean is warming rapidly too. Recent studies have found that it may be heading towards a scary sounding situation known as 'permanent heatwave state' where the sea surface temperatures exceed a threshold value for 220-250 days a year.

Environment and climate journalist Nidhi Jamwal summarizes the findings of this research and a new book titled The Indian Ocean and its Role in the Global Climate System. The consequences are far reaching, impacting tropical cyclones, biodiversity, and fisher folk livelihood.

3) Probing the pathogens that afflicted ancient humanity: Pathogens and humans have been co-evolving for millennia. Paleoanthropologist John Hawks charts out the history of some of the common infectious diseases afflicting humanity. Infection patterns are not random. Rather, they follow networks of transmission shaped by ecology and culture. Very illuminating essay!

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