Friday, May 27, 2011

Indian English, our heritage.


In India, we are brought up bi or even multi-lingual. When we speak English, we freely borrow from various languages without giving it much thought. The people we speak to are as multi-lingual as we are so we don't notice anything amiss. What we do has a name - Code Switching.

It is distinct from speaking "Pidgin" which happens when two people who don't know each other's languages at all or have very sketchy knowledge, try and communicate with each other. Pidgin is no doubt simple sentences with a lot of signing and gesticulating but I wouldn't sneer at it. It needs a lot of inventive ability based on guesswork plus a great deal of courage to be able to communicate with someone who doesn't speak your language at all.

After settling in New Zealand I realised I couldn't Code Switch anymore. My resources, if you will, were suddenly reduced by half or more. When we settle in English speaking countries, this is one of the difficulties many of us do encounter. We cannot borrow from other languages as the people we speak to don't know those languages. We do get used to it though so the best POA is to hang on in there with a huge dose of humour whilst we transition.

Our Accents: In American movies Indians sound like they have stones rattling around their mouths. The English have portrayed an Indian brilliantly in "The Party" by Peter Sellers. Some of us found it hilarious, as long as we watched it with other Indians whilst others hated it and even tried to have it banned. It is touching really. We want people to take us seriously; not poke fun at us. Some might say we are unable to laugh at ourselves.

Yet there is a very real, very major upside to Indian English.

We have a mix of many and varied accents. If we are all fitted into a single, homogenous box, we know that is a bit too simplistic. But guess what? The accents are ours. Today I live in New Zealand and have discovered, after many years of being settled here, that there is a unique reason for us to feel good about our spoken English. And it is nothing to do with the English.

The English left India in 1947. They weren't around when we, most of us, were born. Language being ever evolving, we had the freedom to do with English as we willed. So we coloured it with our local dialects (and accents :-) throughout India. What we did not have to contend with was another race of people constantly looking over our shoulder to correct us, perhaps to smirk, get amused or annoyed, to say it wasn't quite right, to say we were ruining what was naturally their property, their language. We learnt the language in school with teachers who were Indian. We were absolutely free to do with the language as we wanted.

And, if I might add, on the whole, we didn't do too badly. What's more, we understood each other with our myriad accents perfectly.

Today, Indian English is our heritage. We write books, magazines, newspapers, manuals in English - (check this out for an interesting article on the state of Indian Publishing then and now by Urvashi Butalia http://himalmag.com/component/content/article/4405-from-ansari-road.html.) We do business in English. We speak English. And we don't really think of the English when we do all of the above. Nor do we expect them to think of India everytime they drink tea or play polo.

This clip was sent to me by Navroze Dubash. It isn't about code switching but about how we sound to the Americans. I guess we do it too. When we portray Americans we drop our t's - internet is innernet; we speak out of one corner of the mouth and rrrrrroll all our Rs. Still, if you didn't like "The Party" don't watch it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw6RgIf6epQ&feature=related


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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Making Informed Choices


What are the hidden costs of ignoring the mantra, "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle"? On some level we know they affect the

• Environment
• Eco systems and Eco balance
• Climate change and
• Global warming

and that these, in turn, affect our health, the planet and are critical for our very survival. But on another plane we have other considerations.

On an individual level we think that it takes too much effort to make a change in our lifestyles. Besides, we ask, how can one person’s actions make such a difference to the above?

In the larger context, we feel we, in India, haven’t really had the chance to use technology and resources to our benefit like the Western countries have; that they should make the changes and not us.

As for our business sector, they don’t dare take that one extra step of recycling their waste. It might cost money and that would mean losing out to competitors.

And our government? Their angle is to see what words and action will make it most advantageous. Their justification – all governments do that and we’d be fools not to.

It would be easiest if they, the government, enforced some of the laws they've enacted to protect our environment so that business doesn’t lose out to competitors; so that the health of citizens doesn’t suffer; so that individuals don’t have to fork out huge medical bills for asthma, deformities, cancer etc.

Some individuals in our government might see that as yet another opportunity to make money – a nice fat bribe from some businesses to allow them to continue spewing CO2 and other life threatening chemicals into our air, earth or water.

If only ALL businesses took one more step in their business processes - that of turning the waste their factories emit, into reusable resources. If only...

The big question is, can we make them, while the government dithers?

We could make informed choices - buy from businesses that are known to convert their waste to resources of their own accord, without government legislation; buy items that are wrapped in recyclable packaging; buy recycled paper and change our light bulbs to the energy efficient LED ones, for starters.

While we are on the topic, what else can we, ordinary citizens, do? To be realistic, I won’t discuss using less petrol now. TATAs OneCat - the car that works on air - is so full of promise. I’d written about it previously. The link: http://www.tatamotors.com/our_world/press_releases.php?ID=281&action=Pull. (Unfortunately Tata's OneCat didn't work out although others have taken up the challenge) Besides, new innovations and technology are throwing up alternatives all the time - electric cars are far less toxic for our environment says Shai Agassi on TED - not only are they better than petroleun for the air we breathe, they are cheaper to run too. http://sustainabilityindia.blogspot.com/2011/04/car-20.html

What else can we do? Perhaps we could help our poor start using alternatives to coal for their cooking. Are there any such innovations? That's another article.

What we all could do is convert our own garbage to a resource. We could reduce that huge mountain of smelly, rat-roach-fly-mozzie-germ and disease breeding eyesore from our streets.

Possible? You bet. The good news is that so many of our schools and other organisations, NGOs and businesses already do.

We can too.

Ideas for this article from an inspiring author who spoke on Ted.com. He wrote "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things". His name: William McDonough; The Ted link:
http://townsendlab.berkeley.edu/townsend-center-course-threads/videos/cradle-cradle-ted-talk-author-william-mcdonough


Part II of this article describes how we can complete the cycle of taking a resource from the earth; the simple solutions some people have come up with to convert the waste we create to reusable resources; These are important innovations as they help prevent our earth from choking under that waste. The link:
http://www.nevermindyaar.com/reduce-garbage/






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Saturday, May 21, 2011

India Redefined (IR) a Long Term, Citizen's Action Plan


IR is a movement started by Ranjana Kanti to give our desire to do something for India a structure and a plan. IR believes we can be effective only if we are actively involved ourselves. That is the only way to hold our elected representatives accountable. Ranjana is right. We cannot leave governance to people who we cannot hold accountable. When we see the rule of law broken with impunity by those in power, when we face people who constantly fudge the facts and are not transparent, who take their cut, are corrupt, self serving to an amazing degree and arrogant, what should we do? To date we’ve simply grumbled, raved and ranted but eventually sighed and said, “Never Mind Yaar”. This waiting for our knight in shining armour, that one honest and honourable person who will right everything for us, hasn’t worked. As Amit, one of our IR members rightly points out, there comes a time when a tolerant and easy going people erupt.

But when things erupt ordinary people have no chance. People with their own agendas who are thirsting for someone’s blood come out of the woodwork to take advantage of the chaos. A better strategy is to unite. After all, whose voice is stronger? A billion lone individuals or a billion strong force?

So at the risk of sounding repetitive, our only hope is to get involved ourselves. There is so much Ranjana and IR have planned to give structure to our desire to do something. She has laid out simple initial steps – identify and do something about any three small, very small, things that ail your own locality. Then inform IR about what you did, what challenges you faced and how (or if) you overcame those challenges. I know she has more planned. But first, she wants to foster our spirit of volunteering and discovering for ourselves we can be effective.

It is obviously a long term plan. Some think it’s a pipe dream. A pipe dream to want ordinary Indians to live in a safe, clean and secure environment, to want to lift the appalling standards of living, health and education of poor Indians, to want to live in harmony with other cultures even while we are proud of our own? Let them call it what they will, I hope we never forget what we are all trying to achieve. I hope IR’s existing members, who are in their thousands, don’t lose faith.

So many of us have joined the movement because we are fed up of the indifference of some politicians and we are clamouring for change. But it won’t happen overnight. The problems are huge.

I know Ranjana is working on a document to outline some of the ideas she has. In the mean time, if you have any ideas, write and tell ALL of us on our Facebook forum, not just Ranjana privately. (I know she is inundated with phone calls, emails and Facebook messages. So much so that she spends most of her time answering those. Sorry Ranjana, the price of fame!) Our Facebook forum is either "Ranjana Kanti" or "India Redefined". Please join only one and not both forums. If your name appears twice, it denies one more person the chance to join. Everyone in India or abroad is welcome to join.

Also, your thoughtful comments on others’ posts are what we need to make our forum vibrant, alive and active. As Aparajita, another IR member, commented, “talking & talking of problems is better than shrugging them off in indifference.” True Aparajita. It is certainly a step in the right direction.

Once we identify those problems, ‘solutions’ is what we all in IR want to, and will, see.

To our continued success.



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Monday, May 16, 2011

Environmentally Sound, Two Cents A Mile Electric Cars

Here is an excellent TED talk on the future of the electric car and why it is imperative that Governments all around the world start incentivizing electric cars and the infrastructure needed to support them.

The speaker, Shai Agassi from ‘Better Place’ speaks about his company’s radical plan to take countries off oil by 2020.

Take countries off oil?? Impossible? Shai says it IS possible. What's more, the battery would give us

- 8 cents (US) a mile now,
- 4 cents in 2015 and
- 2 cents a mile in 2020

using a zero carbon, zero fossil fuel energy that won't cough up noxious fumes like those fossil fuels that are choking the Earth and Atmosphere and ruining our health. (For what exactly fossil fuels do, go to Why Fossil Fuels Choke Us

To find out how electric cars will result in clean energy, go to Akhilesh Magal's link to Shai's TED Talk at:

Shai on TED



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Monday, May 2, 2011

Why some gases are Deadly Dangerous-CO



Google Free Image Courtesy http://depletedcranium.com
Also published on GD's website
The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for. To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

1. This article tells us why certain gases like carbon monoxide are deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why these gases shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.


CARBON MONOXIDE (CO)

How do human activities like burning coal emit carbon monoxide?
Ideally, burning coal should give carbon dioxide and water.
If you have a camp fire in the open air, there will always be enough oxygen to make the fuel burn completely, so you don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide. But, if you share the oxygen you breathe with too many appliances and people – for example, in an enclosed, crowded place, there isn’t enough to go around.
That is when coal or wood burns inefficiently; there is partial oxidation and instead of carbon dioxide or CO2, Carbon monoxide or CO is one of the end products.
CO is also naturally produced in volcanoes and forest fires.

============
Who is at risk? 
============

Anyone who works or lives in a very small or enclosed space, sharing it with many others, is exposed to harmful levels of carbon monoxide. People who work in factories, blast furnaces, who are in their vehicles in traffic - like drivers and traffic police, fire fighters and people who use coal and wood burners are at risk. In short, everyone in India is exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

  • When it enters the bloodstream, CO reacts with the haemoglobin in our blood and forms carboxyhaemoglobin. This reduces the ability of haemoglobin to transfer oxygen to various parts of our body.

CO causes
  • headaches, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea.
  • Exposure to elevated carbon monoxide levels can cause impairment of visual perception, manual dexterity and learning ability

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning may occur sooner in those most susceptible - young children, elderly people, unborn babies, people with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, or those who already have elevated CO blood levels, such as smokers.



Some other gases that are harmful to humans:

Carbon Monoxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co.html  
Carbon Dioxide :  http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co2.html
Sulphur Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-so2.html 
Nitrogen Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-no2.html   
Acid Rain:  http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-acid-rain-is-deadly-dangerous.html    
Particulate Matter : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-pm.html   
Ground Level Ozone and Odours : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-o3.html     





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Why some gases are Deadly Dangerous-SO2



The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for.
To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

2. This article tells us why certain gases like sulphur dioxide are deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why these gases shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.

SULPHUR DIOXIDE (SO2)
Google Free Image Courtesy http://depletedcranium.com


Sulphur dioxide, a chemical compound with the formula SO2, is a heavy, colourless, non-flammable gas with a pungent, irritating odour. Even though SO2 is very toxic to humans, it is extremely useful. It is used extensively in the preparation of sulphur compounds and solvents, as a disinfectant, a bleach, a refrigerant in the ice industry, for fumigation and as a preservative for beer, wine, dried fruits and meats.

How is it formed through human activity?

Industry: Coal- and oil-fired power plants, steel mills, refineries, pulp and paper mills, and nonferrous smelters are the largest releasers of SO2.
Transportation, Keeping Warm and Cooking: No burning process is ideal. All fossil fuels have contaminants. Since coal, oil and diesel often contain sulphur and nitrogen compounds, their combustion generate sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
Mining: Coal mining itself produces SO2. Coal contains pyrite, a sulphur compound; as water washes through mines, this compound forms a dilute acid, which is then washed into nearby rivers and streams.

==========================
Why Sulphur dioxide is toxic to life 
==========================

If we are exposed to 10ppm (parts per million) SO2 for about an hour, it
• irritates the nose and throat
• sometimes causes a choking sensation
• It also causes nasal discharge, sneezing, cough and increased mucus secretion
• In addition, sulphur compounds in the air contribute to decreased visibility.
• SO2 is also a primary contributor to acid rain, which causes acidification of lakes and streams and can damage trees, crops, historic buildings and statues.
• High concentrations of sulphur dioxide (SO2) affects breathing and may aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Sensitive populations include asthmatics, individuals with bronchitis or emphysema, children and the elderly.




Some other gases that are harmful to humans:

Carbon Monoxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co.html  
Carbon Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co2.html
Sulphur Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-so2.html 
Nitrogen Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-no2.html   
Acid Rain:  http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-acid-rain-is-deadly-dangerous.html    
Particulate Matter : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-pm.html   
Ground Level Ozone and Odours : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-o3.html     

   









Why Some Gases Are Deadly Dangerous-CO2

The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for.

To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

3. This article tells us why certain gases like carbon dioxide are deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why these gases shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.

CARBON DIOXIDE (CO2)


Carbon Dioxide is beneficial to everything living.

It is necessary for plant life and photosynthesis. It is necessary for humans too as without CO2, the Earth would be too cold for life. This is how it heats up our planet. Carbon dioxide is completely transparent to sunlight and lets it pass through and strike the earth's surface. The sun’s light and warmth are partly absorbed by Earth but partly reflected back as infrared energy that radiates back into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is not transparent to infrared energy and it traps the heat on the surface of the planet like a blanket. The other gases that trap this infrared energy and warm our planet are nitrous oxide, water vapour and methane. Together with Carbon dioxide these gases are known as the greenhouse gases.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_green/390180606/
So if carbon dioxide does so much for us, why is it considered bad?

It isn’t carbon dioxide that is bad. It is just the excess carbon dioxide that has been released into our air due to human activity.

For millions of years living vegetation has provided the balance by mopping up the excess CO2 during photosynthesis. But in recent years the cutting down of our forests has drastically reduced vegetation and as a result, there aren’t enough plants to mop up the excess CO2 from our air.

Also, we use a lot of fossil fuels like coal and oil which have been buried deep into the Earth for millions of years. In the last few hundred years our level of dependence on these fossil fuels has increased exponentially. We bring up these fossil fuels from deep inside the Earth and burn them for our factories, as petroleum for our automobiles, as oil or coal to heat up our homes and to cook. The carbon that is trapped inside these fossil fuels reacts with oxygen from the air to produce the heat we need. One of the by-products is carbon dioxide which is released into our air.

The number of people breathing our air has increased a million fold too due to increases in population.

Now the problem is obvious – for the above reasons, too much carbon dioxide is thrown into our atmosphere but not enough carbon dioxide is being removed.

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How excess Carbon Dioxide affects the Earth
======================================= 

• With more and more infrared energy radiated back from our Earth trapped under the increased level of carbon dioxide, Earth is becoming warmer. This in turn causes changes in climate, currents, melting glaciers and ice caps. If enough ice melts, it could raise the sea level around the planet and low-lying coastal areas would become completely submerged.

• It disrupts our ocean currents which are caused by warm and cold waters meeting and mixing. With glaciers heating up and melting due to excess CO2 in the air, the difference between the cold and warm waters is greatly reduced.

• It increases the acidity of the oceans, which may interfere with the amount of oxygen that ocean life produces (the oceans are a far more important source of oxygen than all the plants on land).

By affecting the Earth, excess carbon dioxide harms everything living.

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How excess CO2 directly affects humans
====================================
• Increased levels of CO2 in the air causes nausea, dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, stiffness and a terrible odour. These reasons alone are worth human beings monitoring their activities to keep the level of CO2 in the atmosphere at the normal of 350 to 450 ppm. Right now it is too much more.




Some other gases that are harmful to humans:

Carbon Monoxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co.html  
Carbon Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co2.html
Sulphur Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-so2.html 
Nitrogen Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-no2.html   
Acid Rain:  http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-acid-rain-is-deadly-dangerous.html    
Particulate Matter : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-pm.html   
Ground Level Ozone and Odours : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-o3.html     


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Why some gases are Deadly Dangerous-PM

The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for.

To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

4. This article tells us why particulate matter or PM is deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why it shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.

PARTICULATE MATTER (PM)

Google Free Image Courtesy http://depletedcranium.com
Particulates, alternatively referred to as particulate matter (PM) or fine particles, are tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas. The variety is huge.
  • Sulfates, nitrates, ammonia, sodium chloride, carbon, mineral-dust and water.

  • Dust, dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets directly emitted by factories, power plants, cars, construction activity, fires and natural windblown dust.

Sources of particulate matter can be manmade or natural. Some particulates occur naturally, originating from volcanoes, dust storms, forest and grassland fires, living vegetation, and sea spray.

Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, power plants and various industrial processes (déjà vu?) also generate significant amounts of PM. Sulphur compounds react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form particulate matter or PM.

===========================================
Why is the presence of PM dangerous to human health? 
===========================================

PM affects more people than any other pollutant. These particulates penetrate deeply into sensitive parts of the lungs because they are easily inhaled and can cause or worsen respiratory disease, such as emphysema and bronchitis, and can aggravate existing heart disease by penetrating deep inside our arteries, leading to increased hospital admissions and even premature death. The smaller the PM, the greater its ability to penetrate deep inside our bodies.

Besides affecting our health PM can also
• damage materials
• clog stomata openings of plants and interfere with photosynthesis. This can stunt the growth of plants or even kill them.
• contribute to acid rain formation.
• form atmospheric haze that degrades visibility.

Some facts and figures that are a cause for concern:

The most concentrated PM pollution tends to be in densely populated metropolitan areas in developing countries. 

The primary cause is the burning of fossil fuels by transportation and industrial sources. 

Photo by Thunderror http://www.flickr.com/photos/thunderror/2463862190/in/photostream


Traffic exhaust is the single most serious preventable cause of heart attack in the general public. 

Children, seniors, and individuals with pre-existing respiratory diseases are most susceptible to these health risks.
 
In developing countries, exposure to pollutants from indoor combustion of solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves increases the risk of acute lower respiratory infections and associated mortality among young children. 

Indoor air pollution from solid fuel use is also a major risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer among adults.





Some other gases that are harmful to humans:

Carbon Monoxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co.html  
Carbon Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co2.html
Sulphur Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-so2.html 
Nitrogen Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-no2.html   
Acid Rain:  http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-acid-rain-is-deadly-dangerous.html    
Particulate Matter : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-pm.html   
Ground Level Ozone and Odours : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-o3.html     

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Why some gases are Deadly Dangerous-O3 and Odours


The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for.
To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

5.
a. This article tells us why certain gases like ground level ozone are deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why these gases shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.
b. Ground level ozone shouldn't be confused with stratospheric ozone which is a protective layer of ozone.
c. This article also explains how dangerous odours from garbage, sewage, and industrial processes are for human health.


STRATOSPHERIC (or Protective) OZONE

Ozone or O3 is naturally present in the stratosphere – high above the earth. This ozone layer acts like a shield and prevents dangerous parts of UV light from the sun to reach the Earth. This ozone layer is highly desirable. It is the beneficial layer of ozone. Unfortunately, due to human activities, the ozone in our stratosphere is getting depleted.

In New Zealand, they inform us there is a hole in the ozone layer and we are advised daily that “burn time” is so many minutes (this number varies). This means that we should remain in the sun only for that many minutes, say seventeen minutes, and then move into the shade. We are constantly advised to slap on “sun block”, wear hats, thin long sleeves in summer and take precautions so that we aren’t exposed to the dangerous parts of UV light from the sun.

There is a high risk of skin cancer in places whose ozone layer has been depleted by human activity. The harmful UV rays could also give us cataract, impaired immune systems, destroy plants and plankton which is food for marine life and the most effective carbon absorber on planet Earth.

Which Human Activities cause ozone depletion in the Stratosphere?

Ozone-depleting agents are used in coolants, foaming agents, fire extinguishers, solvents, and aerosols. It sometimes takes these ozone-depleting chemicals years to reach the stratosphere. Substances released into the air today will contribute to ozone destruction well into the future. The main culprits are chlorine and bromine compounds.
One chlorine or bromine molecule can destroy 100,000 ozone molecules, so ozone is currently being destroyed much more quickly than nature can replace it.

Ground Level (or Dangerous) Ozone and Smog

Smog Over Delhi from Google Free Images Courtesy: www.johnelkington.com
The ozone that is dangerous to human health is ground level ozone. It is exactly the same chemical formula as stratospheric (or protective) ozone – O3. Yet, it is a major health hazard and a major constituent of photochemical smog.
Previously smog was a combination of just smoke and fog. Today smog is a chemical mixture of various gases and particulate matter (PM) that forms a brownish-yellow haze primarily over urban areas.
Nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons (except methane) react in the presence of heat and sunlight to form ozone. It is a white haze that can be seen over many modern cities, especially the ones with sunny, warm, dry climates and a large number of motor vehicles. Because it travels with the wind, it can affect sparsely populated areas as well. It is close to the Earth in the troposphere and is called tropospheric ozone. This ozone is one component of smog.

It reacts with other components like sulphur dioxide, VOCs etc in various ways to form the brownish yellow haze, the modern day smog, that we see over so many cities with a poorly controlled environment. As the smog levels build, polluted air can be trapped and re-circulated for days so that car exhaust fumes are found in our atmosphere even when we aren’t driving.

Ground level ozone becomes a threat to the functioning of all living things after it reaches 82 ppb (parts per billion).
 
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What are the effects of ground level ozone on our environment and health? 
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Human exposure to ozone can produce shortness of breath and, over time, permanent lung damage. Research shows that ozone may be harmful at levels even lower than the current federal air standard Excessive ground level ozone can cause breathing problems, irritation, congestion, coughing, chest pain and swelling in the lungs. It triggers asthma. Even healthy adults and children get affected.
It affects the immune system. Many of the chemicals that cause ground-level ozone also contribute to other health effects, including cancer, and tissue and organ damage.
High ozone concentrations also cause damage to the leaves of plants, resulting in the loss of agricultural crop yields and forest ecosystems.

Odours such as from garbage, sewage, and industrial processes

Everyone knows the dangers to health and the environment of spitting, rubbish throwing, urinating and defecating on our streets. We all know the dangers of garbage piled high on our streets. What we don’t know is that apart from hygiene issues, it badly affects our olfactory (smell) and other systems.

As a result we have varied reactions like eye irritations and sore throats, coughs, drowsiness, asthma and even depression.

Odours disturb concentration and diminish productivity as our disgust with our environment remains uppermost in our minds.

At the same time, we tend to ignore and not complain about our symptoms of discomfort but productivity in such an environment goes down considerably. Our ability to perform tasks may decrease as our dislike for particular odours increases. Work force populations vary in levels of discomfort from odours because of exposure history and habituation. But whether we may, or may not realize the possible risks of consistent bad odours, they affect human health and well being.




Some other gases that are harmful to humans:

Carbon Monoxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co.html  
Carbon Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co2.html 
Sulphur Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-so2.html 
Nitrogen Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-no2.html   
Acid Rain:  http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-acid-rain-is-deadly-dangerous.html    
Particulate Matter : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-pm.html   
Ground Level Ozone and Odours : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-o3.html     

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Why Some Gases Are Deadly Dangerous-NO2

The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for.

To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

6. This article tells us why certain gases like nitrogen dioxide are deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why these gases shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.

NITROGEN DIOXIDE (NO2)

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a brownish, highly reactive gas that is present in all urban atmospheres. It is one of the several nitrogen oxides - NOx - but one of the most prominent air pollutants. This reddish-brown toxic gas has a characteristic sharp, biting odor and is like a brown haze hanging over our cities.
Photo by Thunderror http://www.flickr.com/photos/thunderror/2463862190/in/photostream
Nitrogen oxides form when fuels are burnt at high temperatures. The major emissions sources are the engines of vehicles and ships (transportation) and stationary combustion sources such as heating, power generation and industrial boilers (Industry, Keeping Warm and Cooking).
Nitrogen and oxygen in the air react with each other under these high temperatures to form oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

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Why nitrogen dioxide is toxic to life 
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Prolonged exposure to nitrogen dioxide can irritate the lungs and lower a person's resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. Symptoms of bronchitis in asthmatic children increase with long-term exposure to NO2. Reduced lung function growth is also linked to NO2
The brownish gas reacts with moisture in the air to form nitric acid, which can corrode buildings and monuments, and toxic organic nitrates, which contribute to acid rain and the acidification of lakes, rivers, and streams. Nitrogen dioxide also plays a major role in producing particulate matter (PM) and ground-level ozone or smog.




Some other gases that are harmful to humans:

Carbon Monoxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co.html  
Carbon Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co2.html 
Sulphur Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-so2.html 
Nitrogen Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-no2.html   
Acid Rain:  http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-acid-rain-is-deadly-dangerous.html    
Particulate Matter : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-pm.html   
Ground Level Ozone and Odours : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-o3.html     




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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why Acid Rain is Deadly Dangerous

The last post asked what we'd do if we had to make a choice between the environment and some of our life giving activities. It is a tough choice to make. At a certain point in time will we have to make that choice? Not if we modify our activities to benefit both - us and the environment.

To be able to do that we first need to understand what exactly human activities have been responsible for.

To date what we've done is, taken a resource from the earth, used it to make whatever's useful and ended the process there. We haven’t had to think about what by-product we’ve created.

All too often this has been a pollutant that poisons our air, waters and soil and damages our health.

7. This article tells us why acid rain is deadly dangerous for our health. It helps us understand why the gases that produce this kind of rain shouldn’t be the end product of our activities.


ACID RAIN

Here's a statue of St. Francis. Study the folds of his robe for a moment. And look at his face. You might see an inkling of the statue's previous days of glory if you look hard enough. But mostly, it looks ravaged. Isn't it sad what acid rain and pollution have done to this statue? 

Photo by Melody Murray http://www.flickr.com/photos/satyridae/2988212340/ 



And what about the Taj, our temples, ancient inscriptions and murals? These have previously survived for centuries but in recent years there's been a rapid decline.
Photo by Scott Norsworthy http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottnorsworthy/4839160213/

The Taj Mahal is beginning to turn yellow thanks to acid rain.  

This is what happens:

As seen earlier, our industrial activities and our vehicles, which involve the use of fossil fuels like coal and oil, release Sulphur oxides and Nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere.These gases combine with water vapour that exists in clouds and in the air to form sulphuric and nitric acids, which become part of rain and snow.

Sulphur dioxide not only reacts with water vapour, it dissolves easily in water to form sulphurous acid which reacts with oxygen in the air, (usually in the presence of a catalyst such as NO2), and gets further oxidised to sulphuric acid.

This acidic rain falls not only on man made structures but ends up in our lakes, rivers and oceans.

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What are the effects of acid rain?
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  • Over time our lakes and rivers might become too acidic for plants, fish, animals and human who live off them.
  • Acid rain also affects crops and trees in more ways than one. 
    • First, the roots get damaged as a result of which the plant doesn’t grow to its full potential or even dies. 
    • The acidity destroys nutrients present in the soil. Useful micro organisms which convert decaying organic matter to soil through natural composting also die leaving behind a decaying smelly mess instead of nutrients for plants. 
    • The waxy coating on leaves is damaged which makes the plant vulnerable to disease. 
    • Some of the sulphur dioxide is capable of clogging up the stomata. This reduces the tree's ability to make food. 
    • Also, toxic metals that are freed from the soil due to the acid in the rain are absorbed by trees through their roots, damaging them even further.
  • With trees destroyed, the animals or birds that live in the trees suffer due to loss of their natural habitat.
  • Acid rain also frees toxic metals which are present in the ground and washes them into our drinking water sources. Perhaps you’ve seen warning signs posted near some water bodies that the fish may have been poisoned by mercury. This is a direct result of acid rain causing elements like mercury and aluminium to be freed from the soil and rocks and washed away into the waters. Fish and others who use the water are affected.  
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Studies have shown that mercury that accumulates in the organs and tissues of animals, either directly or through the food chain, has been linked to brain damage in children, nerve disorders, heart problems and even death. People are not only unable to eat the fish, people who sell fish to earn their living, whose livelihood depends on fishing, suffer. As for aluminium, it causes Alzheimer’s disease. 
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  • The acidic water eventually gets to our drinking water supply and contaminates it. When the water is acidic enough, it may even corrode the water pipes, adding in dissolved copper and lead to compound the problem of clean water supply.
  • Toxic metals which are absorbed from water by fruits, vegetables, and in the tissues of animals  affect the human food chain.
  •  Acid rain affects buildings or other man-made structures like bridges, reacting with the material we’ve used for the structure and making it weak at the foundation by causing corrosion, fracturing or discolouration. We've seen what it has done to the statue of St. Francis and that it has started turning our beloved Taj Mahal yellow. Every structure we've built and which has withstood centuries of nature simply has no chance with the volume of man made chemicals being released into our atmosphere through car exhaust and industry.
The obvious solution is to decrease acid rain. But how?

A possible answer is environmental regulations that limit the quantity of emissions from our factories. Do we have to decrease the quantities of what we manufacture? Perhaps not. Once our desired product and sulphur dioxide (and other toxic gases) are produced, we could add scrubbers which react with the SO2 and produce harmless (or even beneficial) gases. This would, to a great extent, reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide released in the air. Or perhaps, we could use coal that has less sulphur and nitrogen compounds to manufacture our desired products. The other option is to continue poisoning the air we breathe, the soil and water we depend on for our survival - an option that is too dire to even contemplate.

It would hugely help if vehicle exhaust is converted to something harmless as well before being released into the air we breathe. The technology exists. It is only a matter of the informed choices we make, coupled with our government's will to enforce legislation.

Some other gases that are harmful to humans:

Carbon Monoxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co.html 
Carbon Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-co2.html  
Sulphur Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-so2.html 
Nitrogen Dioxide : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-no2.html   
Acid Rain:  http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-acid-rain-is-deadly-dangerous.html     
Particulate Matter : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-pm.html   
Ground Level Ozone and Odours : http://nevermindyaar.blogspot.com/2011/05/why-some-gases-are-deadly-dangerous-o3.html     







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