During my time at university one of the units I studied that I found was of most ‘practical’ value was “The History of Climate Change”. When I say practical value, I mean it taught me things that are and will be hugely beneficial to my understanding of the climate. One of the things I learnt about was the ozone layer and how human activities have contributed to ozone depletion. The ozone layer surrounds the Earth and is made up of molecules of O3. O3 molecules are not as stable as the O2 we breathe. This means O3 is highly reactive with other molecules such as halogens. How do halogens reach the ozone layer? During the 1980s CFCs (found in fridges and degreasing solvents) were the main cause and contributed significantly to ozone depletion. But why should we worry about ozone depletion?
Our bodies would not be able to function properly without bacteria. They are found throughout our bodies and aid in many processes such as digestion. The human digestive tract is littered with 000’s of so called ‘friendly-bacteria’. These friendly bacteria help digest food and ensure harmful bacteria do not build up. If the harmful bacteria do build up an infection may begin. I imagine every single one of you reading this have had an infection of some sort, from a typical throat or chest infection to something a little more embarrassing! My point is, in the world we live in, what do we do when we have an infection? We go to the doctors and get a prescription for some antibiotics. Within a week the infection will have gone and we are back to normal. But what would, or what will we do without antibiotics?
You may have seen in your local GP surgery posters describing the growing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. This means as we use antibiotics more and more they become more and more ineffective against bacteria. If we continue as we are doing, eventually all antibiotics will be useless in fighting bacterial infections. The implications if this were to happen are huge. Procedures that would be affected include organ transplants, chemotherapy, potentially even a scratched knee!
So why don’t we just make some new antibiotics? Well unfortunately we have already done that and are now running out of possible alternatives. Over the last 4 years only 2 new antibiotics have been approved! Furthermore, bacteria are becoming much better at resisting antibiotics and much quicker at transferring resistance.
Scientists suggest that in 20 years people may die of bacterial infections that were treatable in 1990s. So what can we do about it? While the researchers carry out their research and the pharmaceutical companies battle over patents, it is our responsibility to be honest with doctors. If you have a cold (- colds are caused by a virus NOT bacteria) do not insist on antibiotics. They will not help your cold and will only worsen the problem of bacterial resistance. By helping doctors correctly diagnose and prescribe we can help to fight bacterial resistance, before it is too late.
The climate we live in today is one of change. There is a huge debate as to if that change is for the better or worse, but the fact remains the climate is changing. This is not a new phenomenon. The climate has radically changed since the beginning of life some 3.6-3.8 billion years ago. However, no single species has ever been directly responsible for changing the climate – until Homo sapiens rocked up. We are changing the climate so quickly evolution can’t keep up. This means many species are struggling to survive, leading to a significant number of species extinctions. We are very quick to jump to the needs of endangered species, particularly those that are beneficial to us. But what about the species we don’t like? What about mosquitos? How many times have you been on holiday and got a nasty bite, or been forced to religiously take anti-malaria tablets? Mosquitos are irritating disease spreaders, so why don’t we just get rid of them?