Why is biodiversity important?

Woodlands, Natalya Critchley

Versión en español

Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth. It includes all living things, from plants and animals to bacteria and fungi. Biodiversity is important for many reasons, including:

  • Ecosystem services. Biodiversity provides a range of ecosystem services that support human well-being such as air and water purification, nutrient cycling, and soil formation.
  • Food security. Biodiversity is essential for agriculture and food production, providing the genetic diversity needed to breed crops that can adapt to changing environmental conditions. Many of the things we rely on for our survival, such as food, medicine, and building materials, come from plants and animals.
  • Medicine. Many medicines are derived from plants and animals, and the loss of biodiversity could result in the loss of potential medical treatments. Biodiversity helps to keep pests and diseases in check by providing natural predators and competitors. For example, ladybugs eat aphids, which are pests that can damage crops.
  • It helps to maintain healthy ecosystems. Biodiversity helps to keep ecosystems healthy by providing a variety of functions such as pollination, seed dispersal, and nutrient cycling. For example, bees pollinate crops that help to ensure a food supply.
  • Climate regulation. Biodiverse ecosystems can help regulate the Earth’s climate by sequestering carbon and producing oxygen.
  • Economy. About 40% of the world’s economy is related to natural resources: food, forestry, and ecotourism. Also, a considerable percentage of the food crops rely on pollination from diverse animals and insects such as bees.
  • Cultural value. Biodiversity is simply beautiful and inspiring. It is a reminder of the amazing diversity of life on Earth. It is also a source of wonder and curiosity.
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What can we do to reduce plastic pollution?

Pile of rubble, Natalya Critchley

Versión en español

Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles in the Earth’s environment, particularly in the oceans and other waterways, that adversely affects humans, wildlife and their habitat. Plastics that act as pollutants are categorized by size into micro-, meso-, or macro debris. Plastics are inexpensive and durable, making them very adaptable for different uses; as a result, manufacturers choose to use plastic over other materials. However, the chemical structure of most plastics renders them resistant to many natural processes of degradation and as a result they are slow to degrade. Plastics can take hundreds of years to degrade, and even when they do, they break down into microplastics, which can be harmful to the environment and organisms that ingest them.

Plastic pollution is a global problem that is having a devastating impact on marine life, as well as on human health. It is estimated that over 8 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans each year, which can have significant impacts on wildlife. Marine animals can become entangled in plastic waste or mistake plastic debris for food, leading to injury or death. Plastic debris can also impact ecosystems by altering food chains and nutrient cycling. Plastic pollution is also a health hazard for humans. Plastics contain harmful chemicals that can leach into the environment and enter the food chain, potentially causing health problems for people who consume contaminated seafood or other products.

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Ecosystem Restoration

Morichal, Natalya Critchley

Versión en español

Can large-scale reforestation mitigate climate change?

Planting trees is one of the most effective ways to mitigate climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as part of the process of photosynthesis to produce oxygen and store carbon in their wood and roots. This helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which is one of the main causes of climate change. A study published in the journal Science in 2019 found that it is possible to restore 1.2 billion hectares of degraded land to forests by 2050. This would sequester an estimated 205 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is equivalent to the emissions of 40 years of global transportation. Reforestation is not a silver bullet for climate change, but it is a powerful tool that can help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.

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Water Shortage Due to Climate Change

Queuing for Water, Natalya Critchley

Versión en español

Global Water Access

The current situation of water access in the world is critical. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, approximately 785 million people lack basic drinking water services, and 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Furthermore, an estimated 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services. These statistics highlight the magnitude of the crisis and the urgent need to take action to improve access to clean water and sanitation facilities. This lack of access to clean water has several negative consequences, including:

  • Increased risk of disease: People who do not have access to clean water are more likely to get sick from diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever, and other waterborne diseases. Diarrheal disease is responsible for the deaths of approximately 485,000 children under the age of five each year.
  • Poor health: People who do not have access to clean water often have poor health overall. They are more likely to be malnourished and underweight, and they are more likely to die from preventable diseases.
  • Economic hardship and social isolation: People who do not have access to clean water often have to spend a lot of time and money collecting water. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, as they are often responsible for collecting water for their families. In many cases, this involves walking long distances to collect water from unsafe sources, which can take up to six hours a day. The time and energy required to collect water often prevent women and girls from attending school or participating in income-generating activities, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

The water crisis is a global problem but particularly acute in developing countries. In these countries, climate change, population growth, and poverty often exacerbate water scarcity. The water crisis is a major threat to sustainable development, and it is essential that we take action to address it. This lack of access to water is a significant challenge for public health, economic development, and environmental sustainability.

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Climate Migration and Death in the U.S.

Frank Wolf

I assume climate change is real and was caused by people starting during the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century.

I have organized my talk around five topics:

  1. How weather affects migration
  2. How groups of people are affected by migration
  3. How location affects migration
  4. How decisions by people affect migration
  5. Where people migrate to.
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Climate Migration in the U.S.

Crossing, Natalya Critchley (2022)

Climate migration is a term used to describe the movement of people from one place to another due to the impact of climate change on their local environment. In the United States, climate migration is becoming an increasingly urgent issue as rising sea levels, more frequent and severe natural disasters, and other climate-related factors force people to leave their homes in search of safer and more stable living conditions. In the coming decades, millions of Americans are expected to be displaced by climate-related disasters.

The effects of climate change on migration patterns in the United States are complex and multifaceted. Some of the key factors contributing to climate migration include:

  1. Sea Level Rise: Coastal cities and low-lying areas are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise caused by melting glaciers and ice sheets. As sea levels continue to rise, more and more people may be forced to leave their homes and communities in search of higher ground.
  2. Extreme Weather Events: Climate change is also leading to more frequent and severe extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires. These events can cause significant damage to homes and infrastructure, making it impossible for people to continue living in affected areas.
  3. Water Scarcity: Droughts and other water-related issues are also becoming more common due to climate change. This can make it difficult for people to maintain their livelihoods and access basic necessities such as drinking water.
  4. Agriculture and Food Security: Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns can also have a significant impact on agriculture and food security, which can in turn affect the livelihoods and well-being of millions of people.
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A Midwinter Virtual Renga*

Winter on Vine St., Natalya Critchley, 2017.


Renée Szostek

Claudio Mendoza

Timothy Adès

Snow-covered branches

become bright, lacy patterns

against the gray sky.

Icy ferns trace my window

as temperatures go down

January cold

skiing in the Alps, or else

April, village slush

I stroll amidst the snow. An

early robin chirps of spring.

My boots are too wet

yet many miles to the pub.

Fly me to your nest

London winters are mild now

not like Michigan, I guess

Depressed by dreary

drifts of snow, I long for warmth,

of winter weary. 

Sunday roast, walk on the moor.

Cheer up, love, the Super Bowl 

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Mangled Hopes for Bridges

Mangled Hope for Bridges by Natalya Critchley, 2020.

Mangled Hopes for Bridges is the paintings show by Natalya Critchley, my wife, on the Venezuelan diaspora. This exhibition opens at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center in the town of Vicksburg, Michigan, USA, on September 27th, 2020, as part of the event “Destination Venezuela: Culture Amidst Crises”. It expresses her pain and solidarity for this tragedy since in many ways we are very much part of it, part of the unstoppable and massive bleeding of the best of our country: its people.

The Simón Bolívar Bridge between the cities of San Antonio del Táchira in Venezuela and Cúcuta in Colombia has become the icon of this migration from savagery to civilization, a complicated toll Venezuelans must pay with the hope of finding subsistence and some prosperity on the other side.  I have crossed it several times, by myself and with my physics students on our way to some international conference or school. Not long ago it was more practical and cheaper to fly out of Cúcuta than from the Maiquetía Airport of Caracas. We took the overnight bus of Expresos Occidente to the city of San Cristóbal, and Mr. Clinton, the cab driver who knew all the tricks of the trade, would take us across the bridge. But soon we reached the point of no return, Venezuela laid waste, we could no longer pursue our professional goals at home. The international scientific family to which we belong helped us with projects and doctoral and postdoctoral fellowships difficult to turn down. 

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