Tapping into the senses: magic Moments beneath a night sky

Tapping into the senses: magic Moments beneath a night sky

A Little Cayman tale of connections.

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You know that feeling when something incredible just happened? The sudden rush of blood throughout your entire body? There have been multiple times in my life where I've felt this exhilaration. The tingling remains in your veins for a while after that one sudden rush occurs and you feel invincible. Nothing can spoil that moment for you.

These flashes of emotion usually come to me in the middle of the woods or at the edge of a coastline. This time, it was on a beach outside a tiny research center on the baby island of Little Cayman. I had felt this feeling one year prior on the South Island of New Zealand, but I was now with new friends and under a different sky. Instead of a Maori meeting house, I was two feet from the water, my toes dug deep beneath the icy sand. I was surrounded by Sargassum and shells of all kinds. Coral fragments lined my salt encrusted beach towel. Looking up, once again, at the blackness most humans shy away from, a sense of freedom filled my bones, instead of the usual fright associated with that time of night.

Darkness is nothing to be afraid of, it's something that envelops your entire being. You're forced to feel your surroundings. Details were blurred except for the shining lights of the constellations above, each one brighter than the next. My eyes floated to Orion's Belt, the alignment of stars I felt the most connected to. Under the New Zealand sky, it was opposite of how it looked the night on the shores of Little Cayman, but still connected all the same. In fact, all stars are connected. Find the end of one and you've just discovered the beginning to another. Beautiful, isn't it?

The fish hook I found straight ahead of me was really the Big Dipper, but flipped around. The end of that pointed to Polaris, which started Ursa Minor and so on and so on. What lies beyond our atmosphere is fascinating and complex. Everything in this universe and the next and the next are all SO complex!

I closed my eyes and blocked out the only light around me. I focused on the laughs of those by my side and the rush of the waves hitting my feet. The air was salty and the wind wet and warm. My body tingled, a smile came across my face and I whispered: I'm never leaving this island.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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The End Of The World As We Know It Might Be Closer Than We Think

Well, if we continue to put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at our current rate, scientists predict we are currently on track to exceed 1.5C of warming between 2030 and 2052, and by 3C by the end of the century.

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Scientists in the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii have just made a very shocking discovery. It is an organization that is known for releasing daily CO2 rates in the atmosphere, made up of a group from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. On may 12th they tweeted out what the CO2 rates in the atmosphere are, and it shocked the environmental community. The .measure of CO2 in the atmosphere was found to currently be over 415 parts per million (ppm).

To put this into perspective, levels haven't been this high in the past 800,000 years... Why is this so startling? There is no end in sight.

The levels continue to rapidly rise as humans continue to advance and adapt. In March 1958 the same observatory in Hawaii recorded levels of 313ppm; a number significantly lower. Why is all of this so bad you may ask? An increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere has a direct correlation with increased atmospheric temperatures. Our current CO2 levels are getting close to what they were during the mid-Pliocene epoch nearly two million years ago.

During this time the atmosphere was nearly 2-3 degrees Celsius hotter than normal, which had devastating effects on the planet. If our atmosphere were to even raise just 2 degrees Celcius life as we know it would change forever. The arctic will and its ice will melt causing devastating floods to thousands of cities, deadly heat waves and fires will become more frequent, and our livestock and animals would suffer a serious blow due to loss of land and resources. As you can see, just two degrees Celsius can cause a near doomsday-like scenario.

So... will it happen? Well, if we continue to put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at our current rate, scientists predict we are currently on track to exceed 1.5C of warming between 2030 and 2052, and by 3C by the end of the century. This sounds terrifying, however, we as humans have the power to make a change. If the world powers join together and recognize this issue as a potentially catastrophic event, things will change. Not only that, everyone must do a better job of trying to reduce their daily CO2 emissions. It is important that we realize how serious of an issue this potentially is before we can do anything. Not just us here at Rutgers. But for us as a planet.

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