We May Soon Lose The Animals & Plants Featured In Today’s Google Doodle, Here’s Why

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The albatross is much more than just another word in Pink Floyd’s classic song “Echoes”, and the water lily is more than just a pretty flower to feature on our mobile wallpapers – as explained by today’s wonderful Google Doodle, celebrating Earth Day 2019.

Google Doodle has been known for time and again bringing the limelight to the lesser known and the lesser-heard, aiming to raise awareness. Over the past few years, Google’s Earth Day Doodles have highlighted quite a number of concerning environmental issues. The 2019 Doodle can be registered as informative, reminding the humankind once again how beautifully diverse and amazing our planet is.

The six amazing organisms which feature on today’s Google Doodle belong to a wide range of ecosystems – from the deepest cavern of the earth to miles high in the sky.

But, amid the soaring temperatures, melting ice caps and rising pollution, how well are our Earth Day superstars at present? Efforts For Good decides to have a look.

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1. Wandering albatross

The Google Doodle begins with an animated albatross in flight, with its remarkable ability of dynamic soaring that enables it to spend weeks hovering over the sea or migrating – without even flapping its wings once. The wandering albatross has the widest wingspan in the bird world, often reaching up to 3.5 m, the average being 3 m to 3.1 m.

 

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

The seabird is presently categorised as a vulnerable species by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), just one step short of becoming endangered. Owing to longline fishing, marine plastic pollution and the menace of fishing hooks, thousands of albatross are getting killed every year. Due to heavy trawling along coastlines, many of these birds get caught in fishermen’s nets as bycatch.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

2. Coastal Redwood

Textbooks talk about the monstrously tall Sequoia sempervirens or Coastal Redwood tree of California as the tallest living species on earth, standing at a massive 377 feet. The tree is also one among the oldest surviving flora on the planet.

The species currently features in the endangered category of IUCN list.

 

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

Even two centuries ago, the trees were nowhere near their present crisis, as forests of Coastal Redwood trees covered an enormous expanse of 2,100,000 acres in coastal California. Rampant deforestation due to commercial logging and urban expansion have reduced the number of these marvellous giants to merely a handful.

Since 1918, the Save The Redwoods League has been working actively to preserve these trees. Aside from climate change, they consider lack of awareness, illegal marijuana cultivation and forest fires as the major threats to the Redwood trees. In addition, irreparable damage is being caused by the unfortunate practice of burl poaching, where stress-induced outgrowths or ‘burls’ of Redwood trees are chopped off for their demand in the furniture industry.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

3. Paedophryne amauensis

A native of Papua New Guinea, the world’s smallest frog is a fairly recent discovery. The species was discovered by herpetologist Christopher Austin and his student Eric Rittmeyer in August 2009. A Paedophryne amauensis frog measures only 7.7 mm and can fit on a human fingernail. But, in one jump, they can cover up to 30 times their body length. Despite the near-microscopic body size, they are noted for their high-pitched mating call resembling insect peeps.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

Given their size, surviving on the littered rainforest floor is no cakewalk for these frogs. So, they tend to camouflage themselves with the fallen leaves and mimic insect noises.

Though the ‘coin-sized croaker’ in Google Doodle list is not yet a threatened species, climate change and change in the rainforest ecosystem can indeed pose a danger to the survival of the planet’s smallest vertebrate.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

4. Amazon Water Lily

Floating in the shallow waters of the Amazon river basin, the Victoria amazonica remains to be one of the largest aquatic plants. They were named after Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, in the 19th century. This particular species of water lily has quite an interesting history attached to its name. Their beauty and elegance once made them the bone of contention between the Victorian gardeners, who tried to grow the South American native species in enclosed spaces of England. In fact, they had a competition going on as to who would become the first person to flower this water lily in England, which was won by Joseph Paxton and Mr Ivison.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

The leaves of this water lily can reach up to 3 m in diameter, thus giving rise to the popular notion that a small person can easily sit and float on one of them.

Though the species does not face any imminent risk of extinction, we ought to preserve the natural sanctity of the Amazon rainforests lest the altered climate may affect them.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

5. Coelacanth

“At 407-million-years old, it’s one of the world’s oldest living species,” – so reads the description of Coelacanth in the Google Doodle. These feisty survivors were once considered to be an extinct species which existed over 66 million years ago. However, in 1938, these fishes were rediscovered along the South African coast. A local fisherman had unknowingly caught a Coelacanth, which was identified by Museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. Her astonishing discovery was later confirmed by ichthyologist J.L.B Smith.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

The ageless miracle survivors are currently under threat due to mismanaged fishing where they end up as accidental bycatch. Hence, the Latimeria chalumnae species of Coelacanth are deemed to belong in the critically endangered category of IUCN Red list, just a step away from extinction.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

6. Deep cave springtail

Living at 1,980 metres below the earth’s surface, the Deep cave springtail (Plutomurus ortobalaganensis) is the deepest terrestrial animal, found only in the Krubera-Voronja cave in Georgia, which is the world’s deepest known cave. Adapted to living in extreme darkness, these insects have no eyes.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

The species was discovered in 2010. Not much is known about them, but undoubtedly they are one of the natural wonders of the earth.

Google Doodle Earth Day 2019

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MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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It's not how much we give
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