Space junk, or space debris, is any piece of machinery or debris left by humans in space. It can refer to big objects such as dead satellites that have failed or been left in orbit at the end of their mission. It can also refer to smaller things, like bits of debris or paint flecks that have fallen off a rocket. Some human-made junk has been left on the Moon, too.
While there are about 2,000 active satellites orbiting Earth at the moment, there are also 3,000 dead ones littering space. What’s more, there are around 34,000 pieces of space junk bigger than 10 centimetres in size and millions of smaller pieces that could nonetheless prove disastrous if they hit something else.
Unsustainable live (wild and farm) animal trade
The numbers of other live farm animals (we collected data for pigs, cattle, sheep and goats) being exported has also grown dramatically over the past half a century, according to data from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). This growth has shown no signs of slowing despite advances in refrigeration technology allowing fresh and frozen meat to be stored and transported and concerns around the spread of animal diseases such as African swine fever (ASF).
—Mark Levitt, The Guardian, Two billion and rising: the global trade in live animals in eight charts, March 20 2020.
One of the main problems with the current linear economy’s production and consumption model, as opposed to a sustainable circular economy system, is planned obsolescence. Planned or programmed obsolescence refers to the deliberate shortening of a product’s useful life by the manufacturer in order to increase consumption.
Planned obsolescence is a serious environmental problem for the planet. Every year, up to 50 million tons of electronic waste are generated, a very high percentage of which – around 85% - is usually discarded randomly, ending up in waste tips in developing countries, creating a risk for the environment and the health of people, animals and plants.
To combat planned obsolescence, which is also costly to consumers who have to renew their products more often, several initiatives exist, including a European Union directive, certification for the prolongation of product lifetimes, and specific NGO programs.
—Acciona, The battle against planned obsolescence.
The North Pacific Garbage Patch
A gyre is a marine phenomenon, caused by the relationship of neighbouring currents. Essentially, it’s a vortex of trapped water which spins around a centre point. It has no access to the neighbouring currents, so transfer of particles is not possible. In 1988, scientists predicted the garbage thrown off in the ocean will ultimately converge in one of these gyres and create a huge patch of waste floating in circles forever. Well, it happened. Estimates vary between 700 thousand and 15 millions square kilometres of garbage. Roughly 0.4 to 8.1 percent of the entire surface of the Pacific Ocean is covered in a mixture of toxic sludge, plastic, petrol and other thrown away waste. No wonder sharks don’t like us. Hell, I’d bite off the leg of anyone who comes into my home and empties their garbage can inside.
Fighting resistance to antibiotics
Antibiotics save lives but any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance.
Since the 1940s, antibiotics have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. However, as we use the drugs, germs develop defense strategies against them. This makes the drugs less effective.
—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, How Antibiotic Resistance Happens
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