Scientists say humans have triggered the “sixth great extinction.” The ongoing Holocene extinction, as it is called, is happening even faster than previous mass extinctions, which doesn’t bode well for the planet. According to Dr. Gerardo Ceballos,
“We were very surprised to see how bad it is. This is very depressing because we used the most conservative rates, and even then they are much higher than the normal extinction rate, really indicating we are having a massive loss of the species.”
A recently published report shows that the extinction rate of animal species is a lot higher than previously anticipated, with scientists saying animals are being wiped out nearly 100 times faster than they should be and that the rate is similar to when the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago.
Fortunately, scientists also noted that intensive conservation can help to prevent the loss of many species. And, scientists and engineers are helping to make this possible with technology that can protect animals and the planet something that even kids can take part in. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the technologies being used to save the environment.
Protecting the Rhinoceros – By Turning Them Into Cyborgs
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Operation Wild show looks at the use of pioneering, high-tech medicine to try and save animals’ lives. In one such episode, they showed an alternative method for protecting rhinos from poachers.
The poachers attack the rhinos for their horns, which are made of keratin – the same material as our fingernails. The horns are then sold on the black market for their purported medicinal effects. They’re so highly prized that they’re worth more than gold on a pound-for-pound basis.
The vets and scientists involved in the anti-poaching operation captured a rhino, and injected its horn with red dye – a dye that it is also used in bank notes (which shows up under airport scanners) and is poisonous for humans to ingest.
Going a step further, conservationists from the UK have developed what they call the “Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device (RAPID)” This system uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, heart rate monitors, and a camera mounted in the rhino’s horn to prevent poachers from killing the animals – essentially turning the rhino into a cyborg that can be easily monitored. The piece of tech was developed by the nonprofit group Protect, which focuses on conservation and animal welfare.
The system is activated when the heart rate of the rhino suddenly rises or falls. When this happens an alert is then triggered to operators at a control center, who then remotely turn-on the camera in the rhino’s horn. The GPS system attached to a collar wrapped around the rhino’s neck is also alerted. If the operators view that the animal is under attack, they can then send a team of enforcers to the area in an attempt to protect the rhino.
“It acts as a deterrent so that poachers realize that any animal that’s got one of these collars or units attached to it is basically off the list. There’s no point in attacking it, there’s no point in killing it, because you’re never going to get away with the valuable parts of the animal.” Steve Piper, a director at Protect
Protecting Big Game with Drones
Who are these anti-poaching fighters? One such group is the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), spearheaded by Damien Mander. The nonprofit group trains Green Army rangers to protect animals through direct action, who often use technology to monitor the animals’ whereabouts and livelihood.
The group uses surveillance technology such as thermal imaging cameras, aircraft, and drones, which can produce some incredible photographic images and is transforming the future of war. The idea is to monitor as much of the land that the animals live on to prevent poachers from killing wildlife. According to IAPF founder Damien Mander,
“As soon as I came over here, I said technology was going to win this war. And it will. Drones are the biggest revolution on the battlefield in decades. Mark my words, conservation will be changed by drones. We’re entering the drone age.”
I just wish this same type of tech could have prevented the killing of Cecil the Lion, who was illegally killed by an American dentist in Zimbabwe.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 1, 2015
Detecting Pollution with Digital Sniffers
Technology isn’t just protecting animals – it can also be used to reduce pollution, visualize climate change, and even prevent it. From robo rhinos to simple, energy saving tech, it all contributes to a cleaner world The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses several tools to prevent, detect, and identify violations. Many of their tools are used to ensure that industries comply with environmental law, such as overseeing oil and gas production facilities.
Geo-spatial Measurement of Air Pollution (GMAP) is one such mobile system that assesses oil and gas production facilities, refineries, and shipping terminals. It detects possible pollutants by drawing air into the system and then reading the levels of emissions. Once pollutants are detected, an in-depth inspection may be administered to further analyze the area.
The scientists involved have mentioned their excitement with GMAP and other newly developed tools, which they say could prevent health risks and pollution. With the right tools, we can look forward to a cleaner future.
Protecting The Oceans with new Sensors
The ocean is also being protected. Once thought of as being a buffer against pollution, scientists now know that this idea this idea is flawed, and that serious consequences can come from not protecting our oceans. The Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) company has been conducting research on pH levels (the acidity or alkalinity of a solution) in the Pacific Ocean.
The team has developed a sensor to monitor the ocean’s pH level in order to try to determine the acidity of our oceans, which could eventually kill off entire ecosystems if not monitored and controlled.
There’s No Time Like the Present
Prevention is key. Scientists are developing technology in an attempt to prevent environmental disasters and the extinction of species. We are at a crucial time – a time that many scientists and world leaders admit there is no turning back from. Action is needed for all of us to live a greener life. According to president Obama,
“We’re not moving as fast as we need to…these ecosystems are all interconnected, and if just one country is doing the right thing, but other countries are not, then we’re not going to solve the problem. We’re going to have to have a global solution to this.”
What Do You Think?
Is technology being used appropriately to save our environment? Is tech destroying our world? Are you doing your part to live a green life? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.