Environmental column: How are bananas and space alike?

We always talk about the scarcity of natural resources and if they ask us “what resource is running out?”, We will probably say without thinking “water”, but in today’s environmental column we are going to see four resources that are running out and that maybe you didn’t know.

For Florence Srur

By definition, a natural resource is any product of nature, material or energy, that serves to meet the biological needs of human beings. So, among the most common resources we have: water, flora, fauna, soil and air. But what about other resources that are also essential to our life and that we are misusing? We are going to see some resources that are being depleted, their why, the importance of these resources and impacts of their depletion.

First of all, we have the space. Yes, although it seems incredible what is called “space in orbit” is becoming increasingly limited. This includes the strip of the earth’s atmosphere where artificial satellites are located for communication, geolocation (GPS), taking satellite images, climate, among others. According to the European Space Agency (ESA), some 29,000 objects with sizes greater than 10 cm, 670,000 with sizes greater than 1 cm and more than 170 million sizes greater than 1 mm are currently orbiting the Earth. These objects range from inactive satellites to flakes of paint. To this we must add the 2465 artificial satellites orbiting the Earth (in the year 2020). While this is generally good news for us as a species because it makes it easier for us to communicate, investigate, and predict weather events, there is no air traffic control for all of these objects; There is not even a system yet to clean up the useless and surplus elements that accumulate in orbit near the Earth. The busier this orbital space is, the more risk there is that objects will collide and cause damage to other satellites that are active. This can be very serious for GPS tracking and communications.

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Second, helium. Among the resources that are thought to be infinite, but are not so for the Earth, we have this gas. Helium is a noble gas that is used, beyond to inflate floating balloons or to sharpen our voices. Its main use is in medicine, in cooling the magnets that allow MRI scanners to work. Helium extraction is not easy, to the point that in 1996 three scientists who investigated this gas were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Some estimates indicate that we only have a few decades left of supply and that they anticipate shortages within 30 to 50 years.

Third, the sand. You may be thinking, how could we run out of sand with the number of beaches and dunes that there are? Yes, I know. It’s hard to believe, but unfortunately we are using more sand than is naturally created. This material is used daily on a large scale in construction, for land reclamation, for water filtration and to produce glass. We have to consider that sand takes thousands of years to form through erosion by the action of the wind and the sea. But we humans are using it at an accelerated rate. This is a problem not only for us, since the loss of sand threatens fragile and delicate ecosystems, so it has been thought at a global level to establish monitoring to regulate its increasing use.

Finally, we will deal with the case of bananas. The fruits of this species that we consume today are all of the same variety called Cavendish and this causes them to be affected by a fruit disease called Panama disease, caused by a fungus that attacks the roots of banana.

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In conclusion, humanity must take into account that every natural resource that it uses must have a sustainable management because very few are infinite in a finite world.

Engineer in Natural Resources and Environment. MPn ° 365. Email: This email address is being protected against spam bots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Myrtle Frost

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