Celebrate our planet with this flashback from the Prairie Dog archives
by Gregory Beatty
We’ve been printing papers for a long, lonnng time but most of what we’ve done isn’t available online. Case in point: this column, originally appeared in our April 12, 2007 edition. We’re proudly republishing it in celebration of Earth Day. We hope you enjoy this flashback from our vast archives. —Editor
Originated by American John McConnell in 1970, Earth Day — marked annually on April 22 — has grown into a global celebration of our planet and its capacity to support and sustain life. In honour of Earth Day, here’s six interesting things you should know about our little homeworld.
1 PLANET FACTS
An estimated 4.5 billion years old, Earth orbits the Sun at 106,720 k.p.h., taking 365.24 days to complete its 934 million kilometre journey. With a circumference of 39,841 kilometres and a surface area of 510,065,600 sq. kilometres, Earth weighs an estimated 6.6 million trillion tons.
2 WHERE THE ACTION’S AT
Earth’s biosphere—the portion of the planet in which all known life exists—encompasses a thin layer of land (lithosphere), air (atmosphere) and water (hydrosphere) nine kilometres thick.
3 HERE FOR A LONG TIME
Life is believed to have originated on Earth 3.7 billion years ago but it wasn’t until the Cambrian explosion, approximately 540 million years ago, that life in all its diverse glory began to emerge.
4 TOUGH CUSTOMERS
Discovered in the late 1970s, bacteria-like organisms known as archaeans are the biosphere’s Xtreme sports equivalent, inhabiting some of the most inhospitable environments on Earth—including deep sea rift vents with water temperatures above 100 degrees C.
5 SAND LAND
According to UNESCO, a third of Earth’s land is currently threatened by desertification. Especially hard hit will be Africa, with the amount of arable land there expected to decline by two-thirds in the next 20 years, forcing an estimated 60 million people to migrate.
6 IMITATION IS FLATTERY
In the late ’80s, Texas billionaire Ed Bass spent $200 million to build Biosphere 2 near Tuscon. A prototype for a future space colony, the glass-enclosed, 3.1 acre site contained a mini-rainforest, ocean, desert and more. In 1991, eight “biospherians” were sealed inside for two years. Today, Biosphere 2 operates as a tourist attraction.