Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 23 August 2023

The vegetated canopies for creating green spaces

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

As Europe battles scorching temperatures this summer and wildfires blaze across the continent from the Mediterranean to Spain, the role of climate change in making heatwaves hotter and more frequent has come into focus. At a broader level, greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have heated the planet by about 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times. These grim predictions have brought attention to a range of mitigation measures. One such initiative to bring greenery back to urban spaces in Spain involves installing vegetated awnings or canopies.

What are vegetated canopies?

  • Introduced in Santa Maria Street in Valladolid, Spain, the awnings are tensioned sail-like structures that have been anchored to the facades of surrounding buildings. They mimic natural canopies found in forests and various plant species.
  • The lightness and ease of installation of the ‘Greenshades’ allow for shade and the presence of greenery in commercial streets and public spaces, where trees or other vegetation are often absent.

Here is how they work:

  • The sails with anchors and supports are prepared by laying down the specific geotextile substrate or material. An irrigation system is installed at the highest side, from where the water falls by gravity, soaking the entire substrate.
  • In addition to water, fertilizer keeps the vegetation in perfect condition. The excess water is collected at the lowest point and into a connected drainage system.
  • The seed mixture is then projected onto the geotextile. After four months, the shade is expected to be completely covered with vegetation.
  • The awnings can be placed in streets, where planting trees may not be feasible owing to the lack of space. The plants grow hydroponically, with a water supply point and water outlet for draining purposes.

What are their advantages?

  • The plants chosen for these awnings belong to species that are optimised for the absorption of gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.
  • The substrate also absorbs sound waves, reducing noise pollution. square metre of a vegetated canopy generates the oxygen required by a person for the whole year, apart from filtering harmful gases, according to the company.
  • The hanging planter also allows for the centralisation of water and light installations.
  • This is meant to induce savings as the lights are equipped with movement sensors that illuminate the street according to its need.
  • The adoption of such canopies could eventually contribute to urban biodiversity, creating a healthier ecosystem that supports a variety of wildlife.


Maternal vaccine to prevent RSV in infants

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

The United States became the first country to approve a vaccine for pregnant women that prevents severe disease caused by Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in their babies.

More about the Vaccine

  • The Pfizer shot, which was already approved for use in older adults, has now been greenlighted for use as a single injection from 32 through 36 weeks of pregnancy, to protect infants from birth through six months.
  • It is the latest in a succession of medicines recently approved against the common microbe, which causes tens of thousands of hospitalizations among infants and the elderly in the United States every year.
  • Researchers have targeted an RSV vaccine since the 1960s, but the spates of shots that are emerging now were made possible thanks to a scientific breakthrough a decade ago.
  • RSV is a common cause of illness in children and infants are among those at highest risk for severe disease, which can lead to hospitalization.
  • This approval provides an option for healthcare providers and pregnant individuals to protect infants from this potentially life-threatening disease.
  • The approval follows a clinical trial involving some 7,000 pregnant women, which showed Pfizer's vaccine, called Abrysvo, reduced severe disease caused by RSV by 82 percent in babies from 0-3 months, and 69 percent from 0-6 months.
  • Abrysvo was previously approved by the FDA for adults aged 60 and over, as was another vaccine by drugmaker GSK, called Arexvy.
  • While RSV most often causes mildcold-like symptoms in infants and young children, it can also lead to more serious outcomes such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

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