Foreseeing Sixth Mass Extinction

In Context

  • Recently a new study led by the University of Hawaii claimed that Earth is witnessing its sixth mass extinction event. 

What is Mass Extinction? 

  • A mass extinction is a short period of geological time in which a high percentage of biodiversity, or distinct species—bacteria, fungi, plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates—dies out.
  • In this definition, it’s important to note that, in geological time, a ‘short’ period can span thousands or even millions of years. 
  • The planet has experienced five previous mass extinction events, the last one occurring 65.5 million years ago which wiped out the dinosaurs from existence.
  • Experts now believe we’re in the midst of a sixth mass extinction.

More about the extinction predictions

  • A mass extinction:
    • Studies show that loss of species is taking place across all ecosystems — from land to oceans, from the sea surface to the yet-to-be-fully-explored seafloors, from forests to desert, and from swamps to rivers. 
    • This proves that a mass extinction event is taking place.
  • The Living Planet Report by WWF:
    • The Living Planet Report by World Wide Fund for Nature released in October this year said there has been a 69 per cent decline in the wildlife populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish, across the globe in the last 50 years. 
  • Marine species:
    • Scientists have also warned of an imminent mass annihilation of marine species similar to one 250 million years ago that wiped out most lives in oceans. 
    • Migratory fish species:
      • Habitat loss and barriers to migration routes were responsible for about half of the threats to monitored migratory fish species.
  • Human induced:
    • Humans have annihilated 83 per cent of all wild mammals and half of all plants, according to a census of the biomass on Earth. 


  • Interdependent ecology:
    • Losing species at a such an alarming rate has a far-reaching consequence on the landmass. 
    • Each and every being is part of the complex ecosystem of Earth, where every existence has a reason and is rational. 
    • Each has an ecosystem service for the other that has evolved with them over billions of years, as they carved out their own society or ecological niche. If one fails, the other stutters.
  • Moving towards poles:
    • The IPCC report cites that half of all species are moving towards the poles or to a higher elevation to adapt to the new planetary climate. 
    • At the sea, due to the warming, species have travelled pole-ward at the rate of 59 km per decade on average.
  • Missing SDG targets:
    • The world may miss the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets by a wide margin if human civilisation does not pull up its socks and promptly acts to protect the natural order.


  • The “Living Planet Report 2020” points out five major reasons behind the biodiversity loss across the planet:
    • Changes in land and sea use (habitat loss and degradation), 
    • Overexploitation of species, 
    • Invasive species and disease, 
    • Pollution and 
    • Climate change. 
  • Pollution & Climate Change:
    • In the Asia Pacific region, including India which is experiencing a loss of species higher than the global average, habitat degradation is the biggest trigger, followed by species overexploitation and invasive species and disease. The role of pollution and climate change was proportionately higher at 16 per cent.
  • Invasive alien species:
    • Invasive alien species have spread across and populated faster. 
    • They have been regarded as the most serious drivers of biodiversity loss across the Asia-Pacific region. 
  • Overexploitation of species:
    • In just the last three centuries, global forest areas have shrunk by 40 per cent. 
    • Every year, to meet the timber needs from natural sources, the Earth is stripped of 100 million trees. 
    • They store 50 per cent of the world’s terrestrial carbon and provide a buffer from extreme weather, such as hurricanes and tsunamis.
  • Human induced:
    • The current rate and scale of extinction is unprecedented and is being caused majorly by humans.
      • From greenhouse gas emissions and ozone depletion to deforestation, plastic pile-up and the illegal animal trade, humans have actively stripped the world of some species and threatened many more.
    • The current period of human-induced warming is turning out to be a situation that organisms may find unadoptable.
  • Change in ocean circulation pattern and climate cooling: 
    • Cooling climate likely changed the ocean circulation pattern. This caused a disruption in the flow of oxygen-rich water from the shallow seas to deeper oceans, leading to a mass extinction of marine creatures.

Suggestions & Way ahead

  • Treating them as one:
    • Biodiversity loss and climate crisis should be dealt with as one instead of two different issues as they are intertwined.
  • Regulating wildlife markets: 
    • In the wake of the current pandemic, wildlife markets have been thrust into the spotlight as not only being environmentally irresponsible, but potentially dangerous to human health through zoonotic diseases that jump from animals to humans such as COVID-19. 
    • These markets, trading live exotic animals or products derived from them, are found worldwide.
  • Monitoring species population: 
    • One of the best ways to help prevent species from becoming extinct is to monitor their populations and identify any problems before it’s too late to help. 
    • Currently camera traps and surveys conducted on foot or from aircraft are the main method of data collection.
  • Institutional efforts:
    • From tackling global pollution emissions in the 2016 Paris Agreement to the U.K.’s Global Resource Initiative that combats deforestation, legislation will always be at the forefront of the fight against mass extinction.
    • 30X30:
      • Our leaders can support the America the Beautiful initiative to conserve 30% of US lands and waters by 2030.
    • UN Biodiversity Summit:
      • US leadership can play a critical role beside 195 other countries and agree to new ambitious global goals on biodiversity and how they can be financed and implemented.

New PM of Nepal

In News

  • Recently the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ was appointed as the new Prime Minister of Nepal for the third time.

More about the news

  • About the new PM:
    • Prachanda led the decade-long armed struggle from 1996 to 2006 that ultimately ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in November 2006.
  • Relations with India:
    • He has in the past said a new understanding with India needed to be developed on the basis of ‘changed scenario’ in Nepal and after addressing all outstanding issues, like revision of the 1950 Friendship Treaty and resolving Kalapani and Susta border disputes.
Issues regarding the treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950About:On 31 July 1950, India and Nepal signed a treaty of peace and friendship in an effort to “strengthen and develop these ties and to perpetuate peace between the two countries”.Contentious articles of the treaty:Nepal has always had reservations with Articles 2, 6 and 7 of the treaty. Article 2 states that both governments should “inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighbouring State likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two Governments”.Articles 6 and 7 stipulate India and Nepal will give the same privileges of economic activity, employment, resident and ownership of property to each other’s nationals in their territory.Issues & concerns:Nepal’s internal matters:As time passed, Nepal believed the treaty was “incompatible with national self-respect”.India was seen interfering in the internal political matters of Nepal by brokering its first steps towards achieving democracy.Nepal-China ties:Nepal was also questioned, albeit not publicly, for establishing defence ties with its northern neighbour China.Madhesi agitation:Matters only got worse during a stiff economic blockade between India and Nepal due to the agitation by the Madhesi population there over Nepal’s Constitution promulgated in 2015. Reviewing the treaty:After almost a decade of the treaty being signed, both sides have agreed to “review, adjust and update” the treaty.Kalapani border issueLocation:It is located in the easternmost corner of Pithoragarh and shares a border on the north with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and Nepal in the east and south.Nepal’s claim:The area is in India’s control but Nepal claims the region because of historical and cartographic reasons.Nepal’s claims to the region is based on the river Kali as it became the marker of the boundary of the kingdom of Nepal following the Treaty of Sugauli of 1816.According to Nepal, the east of the Kali river should begin at the source of the river, which is in the mountains near Limpiyadhura, higher in altitude than the rest of the river’s flow.India’s claim:India, on the other hand, says the border begins at Kalapani where the river actually takes the name Kali near Kalapani.Susta Border disputesSusta is a disputed territory between Nepal and India. It is administered by India as part of West Champaran district of Bihar.Nepal claims the area a part of West Nawalparasi District under Susta rural municipality (part of ward no. 5), alleging that over 14,860 hectares of Nepali land in Susta has been encroached upon by India while India claims “Susta” to be a part of West Champaran district.

India-Nepal Relations

  • India & Nepal share close and friendly relations characterised by age-old historical and cultural linkages, open borders and deep-rooted people-to-people contacts.
  • Sharing borders:
    • The country shares a border of over 1,850 km with five Indian states — Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
    • Land-locked Nepal relies heavily on India for the transportation of goods and services.
  • Trade and economic ties: 
    • India remains Nepal’s largest trade partner, with bilateral trade crossing US$ 7  billion in FY 2019-20. India provides transit for almost the entire third-country trade of Nepal.
      • India’s export to Nepal has grown over 8 times in the past 10 years while exports from Nepal have almost doubled. Despite the difficulties due to the pandemic, India ensured uninterrupted flow of trade and supplies to Nepal. 
      • Nepal is India’s 11th largest export destination, up from 28th position in 2014. 
      • In FY  2021-22, it constituted 2.34% of India’s exports. Infact exports from India constitute almost 22% of Nepal’s GDP. 
  • Development Partnership: 
    • Financial and technical assistance:
      • GoI provides substantial financial and technical assistance to Nepal for  the implementation of large development and infrastructure and connectivity projects,  as well as small development projects/high-impact community development projects in key areas of education, health, irrigation, rural infrastructure, livelihood development, etc. all across the country. 
    • The ‘New Partnership in Agriculture’:
      • It was announced in April 2018, which focuses on collaborative projects in Agriculture,  Education and R&D.
    • Cross-border railway links:
      • India is providing financial and technical assistance for construction of two broad gauge cross-border railway links viz Jayanagar-Bardibas and Jogbani-Biratnagar. 
    • India-Nepal Rail Services Agreement (RSA):
      • India and Nepal signed a Letter of Exchange (LoE) to the India-Nepal Rail Services Agreement (RSA), which enabled all authorised cargo train operators including private container train operators to carry Nepal’s container and other freight.
    • Mahakali River bridge:
      • Recently, a MoU was signed between India and Nepal for the  construction of a motorable bridge across the Mahakali River connecting Dharchula  (India) with Darchula (Nepal), under Indian grant assistance.
  • Operation Maitri & post-earthquake reconstruction assistance:
    • In the wake of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, GoI was the first responder and carried out its largest disaster relief operation abroad (Operation Maitri). 
    • India extended  US$ 1 billion to Nepal as part of its long-term assistance for post-earthquake reconstruction in housing, education, health and culture heritage sectors. 

Good Governance Day

n News

  • Every year December 25 is celebrated as Good Governance Day as it marks the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Good Governance Day

  • In 2014, the government announced that December 25 would be celebrated as Good Governance Day.
  • Purpose:
    • To increase public access to various government programmes and services via good governance.
    • The day is celebrated to  make sure that the country’s residents are treated fairly by the government, and they receive the advantages of various government services. 
  • Slogan: “Good Governance through e-Governance.”  
  • In 2019,the government launched the Good Governance Index on this occasion.
    • The GGI is a scientifically prepared tool based on various parameters of good governance which assess the level of any state at a given point of time and help in shaping future development.
Good Governance IndexBody: The Department of Administration Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) launched the Good Governance Index (GGI).Meaning: It is a comprehensive and implementable framework to assess the State of Governance across the States and UTs which enables ranking of States/Districts.Objectives: The objective of GGI is to create a tool which can be used uniformly across the States to assess impact of various interventions taken up by the Central and State Governments including UTs. Based on the GGI Framework, the Index provides a comparative picture among the States while developing a competitive spirit for improvement.Sectors covered:Agriculture and Allied SectorsCommerce & IndustriesHuman Resource DevelopmentPublic HealthPublic Infrastructure & UtilitiesEconomic GovernanceSocial Welfare & DevelopmentJudicial & Public SecurityEnvironmentCitizen-Centric Governance.

What is Governance?

  • The concept of “governance” is not new. It is as old as human civilization. 
  • It is the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented).
    • Governance can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance.

What is Good Governance?

  • It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making
  • It is participatory, consensus, oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.
  • It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.

Challenges in Good Governance

  • Criminalization of Politics
  •  Corruption
  •  Gender Disparity
  • Delay in Justice
  • Low levels of Awareness of the Rights and Duties of Citizens etc.

Recent Government initiatives for Good Governance

  • Revamped e-HRMS 2.0 Portal:
    • It will provide the following services in a digital mode to the employees:
      • Transfers (Rotation/Mutual), Deputation, APAR, IPR, iGOT Training, Vigilance Status, Deputation Opportunities, Service Book and other basic HR Services like Leave, Tour, Reimbursements etc.
    • The revamped e-HRMS 2.0 is the first digital system in Govt. of India to provide end-to-end HR Services
    • Presently, no other Government Service Cadre System in India is as advanced in its reach and applications, as the revamped e-HRMS 2.0. 
    • With the launch of this system, DoP&T will be moving towards total digitization of HR Services. 
    • It will save several thousand man-hours and tons of printing paper.
    • This will also go a long way in improving employee satisfaction, promoting ease of doing/processing HR work and enhancing productivity and transparency in administrative functioning.
  • iGoTKarmayogi Portal:
    • Launch of Mobile Application of iGoTKarmayogi Portal by Karmayogi Bharat (SPV) will aim at creating professional, well-trained and future-ready civil service for India.
  • Revamped Probity Portal for Government Employees will demand the right attitude towards public service with ‘integrity’ and ‘probity’.
  • The compilation of 78 Master Circulars is expected to promote ease and convenience and help the user Departments expeditiously dispose of their HR issues.
Atal Vihari VajpayeeHe was born on December 25, 1924, in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. He was elected three times as the nation’s prime minister:In 1996, he was elected as the nation’s Prime Minister for the first time.In 1998–1999, he was elected prime minister for a second term. On October 13, 1999, he was elected as the nation’s prime minister for the third time. Significantly, former prime minister Atal Vihari Vajpayee was the first head of state to address the UN in Hindi.The “Bharat Ratna” award was given to him on March 27, 2015.

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

In News

  • Non-tariff issues have recently flagged concerns in the ongoing FTA negotiations with the UK, the European Union, as well as the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Co-operation Agreement (CECA).
    • Some of the non-tariff issues are carbon emission norms, climate action, labour and gender balance standards.


  • There are significant differences between the old FTAs negotiated prior to 2015 and the new FTAs under discussion currently.
    • Earlier: predominantly trade-related issues used to dominate.
    • Now: non-trade issues such as gender balance, labour standards, environment and climate issues dominate these FTAs. 

What is a Free trade agreement?

  • A free trade agreement is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them. 
  • Goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.
  • The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism.

Major Challenges in finalising FTAs

  • Demographic dividend: These Non-tariff issues could pose hurdles for India in reaping the gains of its comparative labour advantage.
  • Shift of focus: Wrapping up these FTA talks could narrow soon given that India’s focus would shift to the series of events linked to India’s G20 Presidency.
  • Influential lobbies can delay it more: Political lobbying from influential lobby groups such as farmer unions and the auto sector could intensify.
  • Priority to non-tariff issues: In much of the negotiations currently under discussion, climate action, carbon emissions and labour issues are taking precedence over trade issues.
  • Recessionary conditions: These could potentially offer partner countries a handle to trigger non-tariff protectionist measures as developed nations stare at recessionary conditions. 
  • Environmental issues: Developed countries such as the US have brought up the issue of carbon emissions in the process of manufacturing melted steel as a non-tariff-related issue.
    • India mostly produces steel generated from iron ore which comes from mining.
    • Most developed countries have resorted to methods to generate it from scrap which results in lower carbon emissions.
    • Thus, there may be a levy of carbon adjustment tax.
  • GSP (Generalised System of Preferences): Currently, we may benefit from the GSP but if they come in a non-tariff barrier by citing labour or environment, then it becomes an issue citing standards, adjustments, child labour as reasons.
    • India had been a beneficiary of the US’ GSP programme since November 1975, under which beneficiary countries are allowed to export thousands of products to the US without the added burden of duties. 
  • Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism: The European Union has proposed CBAM to tax carbon-intensive products, such as iron and steel, cement, fertiliser, aluminium and electricity generation from 2026.
    • Here, EU importers will buy carbon certificates corresponding to the carbon price that would have been paid, had the goods been produced under the EU’s carbon pricing rules.

Way Forward

  • In favour:
    • Free trade is favoured by some advocates of free market economics because they say it increases access to high-quality, low-price goods; promotes economic growth; improves efficiency and innovation; drives competitiveness and promotes fairness.
  • Critics:
    • They argue that free trade areas threaten domestic jobs and industries by allowing production to migrate overseas, can make an economy too dependent on just a few products, prevent the growth of infant industries that need economic protection, endanger security if a country becomes too dependent on imports of vital resources, and can force countries to lower environmental standards to compete.
India’s FTAsIndia has signed 13 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with its trading partners, including the 3 agreements:India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA).India-UAE Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (CEPA).India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (IndAus ECTA).The list of FTAs signed by India is as under:1India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (FTA)2Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives and Afghanistan)3India-Nepal Treaty of Trade4India-Bhutan Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit5India-Thailand FTA – Early Harvest Scheme (EHS)6India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)7India-ASEAN CECA – Trade in Goods, Services and Investment Agreement (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam)8India-South Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA)9India-Japan CEPA10India-Malaysia CECA11India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA)12India-UAE CEPA13India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA)

Regenerative Farming

In News

  • Recently, the experience of farmers in Madhya Pradesh who follow regenerative farming methods finds the reduced need for frequent irrigation which conserves water and energy. 

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

  • Regenerative agriculture is a way of farming that focuses on soil health.
    • When soil is healthy, it produces more food and nutrition, stores more carbon and increases biodiversity. 
  • It includes the use of natural inputs, minimum-till, mulching, multi-cropping and sowing of diverse and native varieties.
    • Natural inputs help improve soil structure and its organic carbon content.
    • Planting water-guzzling and water-efficient crops together or in alternating cycles reduces the frequency and intensity of irrigation.
      • They conserve energy used by irrigation aids such as pumps.
  • In India, the Union government is promoting regenerative agriculture with an aim to reduce the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and to lower input costs.

Why is regenerative agriculture needed?

  • Soil degradation: Agriculture today, including the use of heavy machinery, fertilizers and pesticides to maximize food production, is contributing to soil degradation and loss.
    • Within 50 years, there may not be enough soil left to feed the world, according to the regenerative farming organization Regeneration International.
  • Climate Change: Intensive farming also churns up CO2 naturally stored in soil and releases it into the atmosphere. This contributes to the global warming that is driving climate change.
    • Agriculture accounts for over a third of greenhouse gas emissions globally, according to the United Nations (UN).
  • Extreme events: Damaged soil and eroded land can make environments more vulnerable to extreme weather events like flooding, which are increasing in frequency and intensity as the Earth warms.

Potential Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture

  • Multiple benefits: Regenerative farming can improve:
    • Crop yields
    • Volume of crops produced
    • Health of soil
    • Soil’s ability to retain water
    • Reducing soil erosion.
  • Feeding people: Improved yields will help feed the world as the global population grows.
  • Environmental benefits: Regenerative farming can also reduce emissions from agriculture and turn the croplands and pastures, which cover up to 40% of Earth’s ice-free land area, into carbon sinks.
    • These are environments that naturally absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. 
Related TermsRice intensification: It is a method in which seeds are spaced at wider distances and organic manure is applied to improve yields.Zero-budget natural farming: Also, known as Subhash Palekar Natural Farming, emphasizes on preparing and using inputs made from crop residue, cow dung and urine, fruits, among other things. The studies show irrigation frequency and energy consumption in natural farming decreases over time.

Major Challenges associated with Agriculture 

  • Groundwater: The Green Revolution of the 1960s pulled India from the brink of starvation, transformed the country’s ability to feed itself and turned it into a big food exporter. But the revolution also made India the world’s biggest extractor of groundwater.
    • According to the UN’s World Water Development Report, 2022, the country extracts 251 cubic km or more than a quarter of the world’s groundwater withdrawal each year.
    • 90 per cent of this water is used for agriculture.
  • No gain in production: A study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, shows that over 39 million hectares (ha) of area in the country under wheat, rice and maize have not shown improvement in the past decade.
  • Degrading soil health: A 2022 report by Delhi-based think tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), State of Bio Fertilizers and Organic Fertilizers in India, shows the severe and widespread deficiency of organic carbon and micronutrients in Indian soils.
  • Lack of scientific study: Civil society organizations and farmers do not have the capacity to conduct long-term studies.

Way forward/ Suggestions 

  • Sustainable farming: according to the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2022 if agriculture is to continue to feed the country’s undernourished population of 224.5 million then it needs to work in harmony with nature, not against it.
  • Chemical-less farming: Farmers, activists and agricultural research organizations across the world are developing methods of chemical-less farming which uses natural inputs and cultivation practices such as crop rotation and diversification which fall under the wider umbrella of regenerative agriculture.
  • Soil Health: According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, healthy soil helps in better water storage, transmission, filtering and reduces agricultural run-off.
    • Studies have established that one per cent increase in soil organic matter (an indicator of soil health) per 0.4 ha increases water storage potential by more than 75,000 liters.
  • Global practice: This practice is used in Latin America, the United States, Canada, Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Application in India: States like Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and Gujarat have introduced schemes to promote it.
  • Research: concerted research is required to understand the role of regenerative agriculture in saving water. The scientific findings will further help inform policy measures and future initiatives.
  • The National Project on Organic Farming is the country’s longest experiment on the practice, ongoing since 2004 and conducted by ICAR-Indian Institute of Farming System Research to promote organic farming. 

Dark Patterns on the Internet

In News

  • Some Internet-based firms have been tricking users into agreeing to certain conditions or clicking a few links.

About Dark Patterns

  • These patterns are unethical user interface designs that deliberately make users’ Internet experience harder or even exploit them. 
  • In turn, they benefit the company or platform employing the designs.
  • By using dark patterns, digital platforms take away a user’s right to full information about the services they are using and their control over their browsing experience.
  • The term is credited to UI/UX (user interface/user experience) researcher and designer Harry Brignull, who has been working to catalogue such patterns and the companies using them since around 2010. 

Use of Dark patterns

  • Social media companies and Big Tech firms such as Apple, Amazon, Skype, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Google use dark or deceptive patterns to downgrade the user experience to their advantage. 
  • In social media, LinkedIn users often receive unsolicited, sponsored messages from influencers. 


  • Dark patterns endanger the experience of Internet users and make them more vulnerable to financial and data exploitation by Big Tech firms. 
  • Disabling this option is a difficult process with multiple steps that require users to be familiar with the platform controls.
  • Dark patterns confuse users, introduce online obstacles, make simple tasks time-consuming, and have users sign up for unwanted services/products

Way Ahead

  • Internet users who are able to identify and recognise dark patterns in their daily lives can choose more user-friendly platforms that will respect their right to choose and privacy.


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