Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 2010--Why We Shouldn't Mess With Mother Nature; and, Saudi's Mangroves

This year's Earth Day (April 22, 2010) is the 40th Anniversary of the day for global awareness and campaigning on behalf of the environment. The Telegraph (UK) has a nice summary of the history, Earth Day 2010: a history of four decades of environmental campaigning, while CNN focuses on the change in Earth Day over time Earth Day at 40: Environmental movement has undergone significant change. Forbes has an opinion piece, A Greener Earth Day: Science and technology must play vital roles in environmental protection, which opposes traditional tree-hugger environmental activists, and the humanitarian benefits of biotechnology, using the examples of genetically modified foods, and genetically modified cotton as a boon to India's economy and people. "Reuse, recycle, and reduce" has become a phrase of the popular culture, and one that is enacted more now that Earth Day is 40 than it was in its infancy.

This morning, when I woke to the news that is was Earth Day, I was more struck by recent events that have, in that age old conflict of Man vs Nature, proven the humbling power of nature. Although we are adept at turning our knowledge of the natural sciences, into applied ones to defy nature (fortunately so, for modern medicine, for example), Mother Nature can still remind us of our limitations.

Most recently She did this:

We still are mindful of Her January Haitian display:

Earth Day, like the earth, is Green (for the vegetation),

Blue (for the water that occupies most of the earth's surface),

and Brown (earth it self).

These themes and colour schemes are part of Saudi Arabia's logo for Earth Day, 2010. Saudi Arabia's official celebration of Earth Day is under the patronage of H.R.Prince Turki Bin Nasser Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, chaired by Mohamed Ridha Ben Mansour Bin Hassan Nasrallah.

The Saudi country theme is "Mangroves and Coastal Precious Resources". One major activity was a conference held on April 21 at Le Meridien Al Khobar, where the keynote speaker was Dr. Jameel Mohammad Ibraheem Alkhairy (PhD Botany/Biotechnology, University of Arkansas, 1991), on faculty at King Faisal University, and a member of the Shura Council (2009). The main schedule shows the varied environmental, scientific, and economic aspects of  mangroves and related coastal fisheries, and the diversity of specialists, affiliations, and interests in the topic, including for other GCC countries like the UAE, Bahrain, Yemen, and Oman.

Mangroves are species of trees and shrubs that grow in saline conditions along subtropical and tropical estuaries and seacoasts. Depending on the formation they may constitute a mangrove swamp or a mangrove woodland, mangrove forest, or may be generally called a mangal. They are dependent on specific saline, nutrient, and silt conditions created by major tidal activity in subtropical and tropic climates only. Major mangrove eco-regions include much of  Latin America from Mexico southward, of Indo-Malaysia, subSaharan Africa, and Australasia (Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand).

Mangroves of Farasan Island, Saudi Arabia

In the Middle East, Iran and Oman have well-known mangroves but so does much of the Arabian/Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. An issue of Arabian Wildlife gives some indication of  "Mangroves: Arabian Sea Forests". KAUST and the Smithsonian have teamed to restore the damaged mangroves of the Red Sea, as described in Shorelines, a Smithsonian publication, in an article entitled: Beyond the desert: Exploring Saudi Arabia’s mangroves. The slide show that is a feature within the article contains stunning photos done by the scientists themselves.

Indeed, in building KAUST, preliminary research showed the vulnerability of the Red Sea coral reefs and mangroves at the development site, so the design and building were done with environmental protection in mind and in collaboration with Saudi's National Commission on Wildlife Conservation and Development.

Red Sea coral reef and
Avicennia marina var. resinifera fruit, one of 2 mangrove species in Saudi Arabia

Mangroves are protective against soil erosion, and against flooding during storm surges, or as a buffer against tsunamis. They create a unique ecosystem with subsystems, and so are a particular conservation challenge, as well as requiring protection from development (city, port activities, oil extraction). Their submerged root systems host algae, barnacles, sponges, and marine bryozoa (invertebrate animals which appear flower like).  As the natural home to bottom feeders and filter feeders, mangroves have also been cultivated as commercial plantations for oysters, shrimp, crab, and lobster as well as fish.

Rhizophora mucronata, one of the 2 species of mangrove in Saudi Arabia, propagating
From: Halophytes of Saudi Arabia
Two species of mangroves are found in Saudi Arabia, namely Avicennia marina and Rhizophora mucronata. The highest concentrations of mangroves are seen in the southwestern Red Sea coast and in a significant number of Red Sea islands. The density of the mangroves, particularly Avicennia marina towards the northwestern seacoast is less and is often found in small patches. A significant number of sea grasses can also be seen in association with such mangal swamp vegetation, such as Halodule uninervis, Cymodecea rotundata, Thalassia hemprichii, Halophila stipulacea, etc. Avicennia marina is also found in the Arabian Gulf coast from areas around Qatif southwards. However, due to unsustainable utilization and habitat destruction, the population of Avicennia marina is in a highly deteriorated state.

Has Mother Nature ever messed with you? How?
In what ways is it best to defy Her, not defy Her?
What did you do for Earth Day?
What environmental or ecological problem is your greatest concern?
What do you think of the phrase "Reuse, recycle, reduce"?
Do you practice it? How?
If you have traveled in or lived in different countries or regions, what differences have you noticed in attitude towards and care of the environment, and environmental practices?
What are the attitudes and practices where you live?
Is "Saudi wetlands" a contradiction in terms for you?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?


Susanne said...

Love many of these pictures!!

Has Mother Nature ever messed with you? How?

Well, I don't believe in "Mother Nature" per se, but as far as the weather messing with me, no, so far, I've been spared any natural disasters, thankfully.

I suppose sharing how the humidity frizzes my curly hair doesn't really count, right? ;)

In what ways is it best to defy Her, not defy Her?

I believe God controls nature and think it's best not to defy Him! I try not to live in fear of bad things happening because I trust all things are in His control. If He wants to kill me in a tornado, I really can't stop it from happening! :)

What did you do for Earth Day?

stayed home, mowed the grass, read and responded to blogs

What environmental or ecological problem is your greatest concern?

I have a well so I occasionally get concerned about the underground water table if we have a particularly dry summer/fall.

What do you think of the phrase "Reuse, recycle, reduce"?

good advice!

Do you practice it? How?

I limit trips to town to conserve energy. If I go to out, I do several things at once.
I hang out my clothes to dry even though I have a perfectly good dryer.
We recycle plastic jugs.
We turn off lights when we aren't in rooms.

If you have traveled in or lived in different countries or regions, what differences have you noticed in attitude towards and care of the environment, and environmental practices?

I was surprised by how much litter there was in parts of Damascus.

What are the attitudes and practices where you live?

it varies

Is "Saudi wetlands" a contradiction in terms for you?


Chiara said...

Susanne--thank you for your comment! And for sharing your environmentalism.

I realize that even though I have the map of Saudi firmly in mind, and can visualize the coasts so well, I am still caught up in the idea that it is all dry--most of it is, but not all!

I am good at recycling, hanging clothes to dry, avoiding the use of the A/C, and conserving water. Lights and heat I am more generous with! :)

Mother Nature has messed with me with the ice storm that shut down Montreal/Quebec in 1998, and of course in more minor ways. I think it is important to recognize a force of nature and be respectful of it.

All is fair in humidity and hair. While mine doesn't frizz I had a lovely set of ringlets the first time I traveled to Hong Kong--but straight was in style and all I could normally manage was wavy :( so the ringlets were most unwelcome--especially since they inspired my mother to say that if I cut my hair shorter (it was waist length) I would have all natural ringlets like when I was a baby. That is probably why it took me another 3 years to decide to cut my hair, and then I went really short (about 2 inches max).

Thanks again for your comment, and glad you liked the pics!


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