World Snake Day

World Snake day takes place annually on 16 July. The purpose of World Snake Day is to educate people about the habits and behaviour of thes fascinating, diverse reptiles which can range in size from several inches to 30 feet long, and from friendly and docile to aggressive and deadly.

Snakes are elongated, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes. Like all other squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales. Many species of snakes have skulls with several more joints than their lizard ancestors, enabling them to swallow prey much larger than their heads with their highly mobile jaws. To accommodate their narrow bodies, snakes’ paired organs (such as kidneys) appear one in front of the other instead of side by side, and most have only one functional lung. Some species retain a pelvic girdle with a pair of vestigial claws on either side of the cloaca. Lizards have evolved elongate bodies without limbs or with greatly reduced limbs about twenty-five times independently via convergent evolution, leading to many lineages of legless lizards. Legless lizards resemble snakes, but several common groups of legless lizards have eyelids and external ears, which snakes lack, although this rule is not universal (see Amphisbaenia, Dibamidae, and Pygopodidae).

Living snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica, and on most smaller land masses; exceptions include some large islands, such as Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, the Hawaiian archipelago, and the islands of New Zealand, and many small islands of the Atlantic and central Pacific oceans. Additionally, sea snakes are widespread throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans. More than 20 families are currently recognized, comprising about 520 genera and about 3,600 species. They range in size from the tiny, 10.4 cm (4.1 in)-long Barbados thread snake to the reticulated python of 6.95 meters (22.8 ft) in length. The fossil species Titanoboa cerrejonensis was 12.8 meters (42 ft) long. Snakes are thought to have evolved from either burrowing or aquatic lizards, perhaps during the Jurassic period, with the earliest known fossils dating to between 143 and 167 Ma ago. The diversity of modern snakes appeared during the Paleocene epoch (c 66 to 56 Ma ago, after the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event). The oldest preserved descriptions of snakes can be found in the Brooklyn Papyrus.

Most species of snake such as the Boa Constrictor are nonvenomous and they either swallow prey alive or kill by constriction. Snakes that do have venom use it primarily to kill and subdue prey rather than for self-defense. However Caution should be taken as Some possess venom potent enough to cause painful injury or death to humans such as the Rattlesnake, Cobra, Fer-de-lance, black mamba and Boomslang.

More International and National Events happening on 15 July

  • Guinea Pig Appreciation Day
  • Personal Chef Day
  • Corn Fritters Day
  • Fresh Spinach Day

International and National Events happening 13 July

  • Barbershop Music Appreciation Day
  • Gruntled Workers Day
  • National French Fries Day
  • Embrace Your Geekiness Day

Barbershop Music Appreciation Day takes place annually on 13 July to give the general public a chance to appreciate and, to learn more about the history of, and art of, singing Barbershop music and how it was created. Barber Shop music is a style of a cappella close harmony, or unaccompanied vocal music, characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture. Each of the four parts has its own role: generally, the lead sings the melody, the tenor harmonizes above the melody, the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completes the chord, usually below the lead. The melody is not usually sung by the tenor or baritone, except for an infrequent note or two to avoid awkward voice leading, in tags or codas, or when some appropriate embellishment can be created. One characteristic feature of barbershop harmony is the use of what is known as “snakes” and “swipes”. This is when a chord is altered by a change in one or more non-melodic voices. Occasional passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.

Barbershop music is generally performed by either a barbershop quartet, a group of four singers with one on each vocal part, or a barbershop chorus, which closely resembles a choir with the notable exception of the genre of music. According to the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), “Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal center and imply major and minor chords and barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths, while making frequent use of other resolutions.” Slower barbershop songs, especially ballads, often eschew a continuous beat, and notes are often held (or sped up) ad libitum.

Except for the bass, the voice parts in barbershop singing do not correspond closely to their classical music counterparts; the tenor range and tessitura are similar to those of the classical countertenor, the baritone resembles the Heldentenor or lyric baritone in range and a tenor in tessitura, and the lead generally corresponds to the tenor of classical repertoire, with some singers possessing a tessitura more similar to that of a high baritone. Barbershop singing is performed both by men’s and women’s groups; the elements of the barbershop style and the names of the voice parts are the same for both.

World Chocolate Day

World Chocolate Day, sometimes referred to as International Chocolate Day, is observed globally on July 7. Celebration of the day includes the consumption of chocolate. Chocolate was introduced to Europe By Christopher Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors after They first reached the shores of the New World on 12 October 1492, initially believing that he had reached India. This voyage was carried out to expand markets by establishing new trade routes and therefore rival the Portuguese Empire, which was already well established in Asia. Following the success of that first voyage to the New World, others were organised with the intention of exploring and creating new trade routes. On his fourth voyage, Columbus, in 1502, met an unexpected storm and was forced to temporarily land on 15 August on the Bay Islands.

In their first explorations of the area, Columbus’ group came upon a boat of Mayan origin travelling from the Yucatán Peninsula. The Spaniards were surprised by the large size of the vessel. Columbus detained the vessel and examined the cargo, which contained cocoa beans that he called almonds in his diary. However, he did not attach importance to these, and after this original inspection he let the boat proceed with its cargo. from 1517 to 1519, the Spanish conquistadors Bernal Díaz del Castillo (who referred to the use of cocoa by Aztecs in his book Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España) and Hernán Cortés both tried the drink and found it to have both bitter and spicy tastes due to the use of achiote. On occasions cornmeal and hallucinogenic mushrooms were also added to the drink. After the conquest of Mexico, the Aztec emperor, Montezuma, offered Hernán Cortés and his companions fifty jars of foaming chocolate. According to the account of Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, the great emperor had a stockpile of several thousand ‘charges’ (tens of thousands of cocoa “kernels”). Surprisingly Both The Italian Girolamo Benzoni in his book La Historia del Mondo Nuovo (1565) .José de Acosta disliked the drink, comparing the frothy foam capping chocolate to feces. Despite this, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo characterised it as an interesting ingredient, while showing some reluctance to describe how some Indians, after drinking it, had stained their lips as if they had ingested human blood.

As the Spanish settlers began to run out the stocks they brought with them, they had to find substitute foods. They therefore began to plant vegetables, such as chickpeas, cereals such as wheat and fruits like oranges or pears. Additionally they introduced the cultivation of olives, grapes and sugar cane. The latter ingredient became important. From the end of the 16th century onwards, sugar cane began to be added to the cocoa paste, which led to greater acceptance of cocoa among the Spanish settlers. around the 1520s, the Spaniards had to get used to new foods and flavours while they attempted to adapt old world cultivation methods to the new climate. Equally, however, the new ingredients brought by the Spanish settlers such as wheat and chickpeas struggled to find acceptance among the native populations who preferred their own homegrown dishes. Spaniards from humble economic backgrounds often married richer Aztecs, often as concubines. Thus, they tended to eat food influenced by Aztec gastronomy. This hastened the spread of cocoa among both cultures. Bernal Díaz del Castillo mentioned that in a banquet held at the Plaza Grande in Mexico (built on the ruins of the Aztec capital) to celebrate peace between Carlos I of Spain and Francis I of France chocolate was served in golden tablets. The wide acceptance of cocoa by the Spanish conquistadors, especially the women, was also described by the Jesuit José de Acosta in his book Historia natural y moral de las Indias (published in 1590).

The Spanish modified Chocolate For example, sugar was added, mirroring the native Mexican and Mayan practice of adding honey to cacao beverages. New World spices were replaced with similar Old World spices, in part for the sake of familiarity, but also out of practicality. The Madrid physician Colmenero de Ledesma recommended substituting the rose of Alexandria for mecaxochitl flower blossoms and black pepper for Mexican chilies, when necessary. Cacao beverages containing maize, such as atole, gradually phased out because maize-less chocolate lasted longer, making it more suitable for cross-Atlantic trips. Eventually, cocoa became more popular and, supplies were sent to Spain. The second major transformation of chocolate at the hands of the Spanish was in the serving method: the cocoa was heated until it became a liquid. This was in contrast to the natives of the New World, who generally drank it cold or at room temperature.The third change was the addition of spices from the Old World like cinnamon, ground black pepper or aniseed.

By the 15th century, the Aztecs gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica and adopted cacao into their culture. They associated chocolate with Quetzalcoatl, who, according to one legend, was cast away by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans,and identified its extrication from the pod with the removal of the human heart in sacrifice. In contrast to the Maya, who liked their chocolate warm, the Aztecs drank it cold, seasoning it with a broad variety of additives, including the petals of the Cymbopetalum penduliflorum tree, chile pepper, allspice, vanilla, and honey. The Aztecs were not able to grow cacao themselves, as their home in the Mexican highlands was unsuitable for it, so chocolate was a luxury imported into the empire. Those who lived in areas ruled by the Aztecs were required to offer cacao seeds in payment of the tax they deemed “tribute”. Cocoa beans were often used as currency.

Chocolate has been prepared as a drink for nearly all of its history. For example, one vessel found at an Olmec archaeological site on the Gulf Coast of Veracruz, Mexico, dates chocolate’s preparation by pre-Olmec peoples as early as 1750 BC. On the Pacific coast of Chiapas, Mexico, a Mokaya archaeological site provides evidence of cacao beverages dating even earlier, to 1900 BC.The residues and the kind of vessel in which they were found indicate the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink. Around 400 AD. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. The Maya grew cacao trees in their backyards, and used the cacao seeds the trees produced to make a frothy, bitter drink.

By the 15th century, the Aztecs gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica and adopted cacao into their culture. They associated chocolate with Quetzalcoatl, who, according to one legend, was cast away by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans, and identified its extrication from the pod with the removal of the human heart in sacrifice. In contrast to the Maya, who liked their chocolate warm, the Aztecs drank it cold, seasoning it with a broad variety of additives, including the petals of the Cymbopetalum penduliflorum tree, chile pepper, allspice, vanilla, and honey. The Aztecs were not able to grow cacao themselves, as their home in the Mexican highlands was unsuitable for it, so chocolate was a luxury imported into the empire. Those who lived in areas ruled by the Aztecs were required to offer cacao seeds in payment of the tax they deemed “tribute”. Cocoa beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost 100 cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans.

Chocolate is derived from Theobroma cacao seeds, roasted and ground, often flavored, as with vanilla. It is made in the form of a liquid, paste, or in a block, or used as a flavoring ingredient in other foods. Cacao has been cultivated by many cultures for at least three millennia in Mesoamerica. The earliest evidence of use traces to the Mokaya (Mexico and Guatemala), with evidence of chocolate beverages dating back to 1900 BC. In fact, the majority of Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl Nahuatl . The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste and must be fermented to develop the flavor. After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. The shell is removed to produce cacao nibs, which are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because the cocoa mass is usually liquefied before being molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, a combination of cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk, but no cocoa solids. Cocoa solids are a source of flavonoids and alkaloids, such as theobromine, phenethylamine and caffeine.

Chocolate has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, and a vast number of foodstuffs involving chocolate have been created, particularly desserts including cakes, pudding, mousse, chocolate brownies, and chocolate chip cookies. Many candies are filled with or coated with sweetened chocolate, and bars of solid chocolate and candy bars coated in chocolate are eaten as snacks. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes (e.g., eggs, hearts) have become traditional on certain Western holidays, such as Easter and Valentine’s Day. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages such as chocolate milk and hot chocolate and in some alcoholic drinks, such as creme de cacao. Although cocoa originated in the Americas, in the 2000s, Western Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, with Ivory Coast growing almost half of it. In 2009, Salvation Army International Development stated that child labor and the human trafficking and slavery of child laborers are used in African cocoa cultivation. In the United States International Chocolate Day is celebrated on 13 September, so Chocolate Ice-cream Day is observed on 7 July instead. Various other more specific chocolate-themed days are celebrated throughout the world and on various dates, including Milk Chocolate Day on 28 July.

World day to combat desertification and drought

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought takes place each June 17. The purpose of the world Day to combat desertification and drought is to educate people concerning the causes of drought and highlight ways to prevent desertification and recover from drought. Each annual celebration has a different theme. Desertification is a type of land degradation in which relatively dry area of land becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as through climate change and through the overexploitation of soil through human activities. When deserts appear automatically over the natural course of a planet’s life cycle, then it can be called a natural phenomenon; however, when deserts emerge due to the rampant and unchecked depletion of nutrients in soil that are essential for it to remain arable, then a virtual “soil death” can be spoken of, which traces its cause back to human overexploitation. Desertification is a significant global ecological and environmental problem. Desertification is defined as “the process of fertile land transforming into desert typically as a result of deforestation, drought or improper/ inappropriate agriculture”. Desertification Is defined by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities.

The world’s most noted deserts were formed by natural processes interacting over long intervals of time. During most of these times, deserts have grown and shrunk independent of human activities. Paleodeserts are large sand seas now inactive because they are stabilized by vegetation, some extending beyond the present margins of core deserts, such as the Sahara, the largest hot desert. The immediate cause of desertification is the loss of most vegetation. This is driven by a number of factors, such as drought, climatic shifts, tillage for agriculture, overgrazing and deforestation for fuel or construction materials. Vegetation plays a major role in determining the biological composition of the soil. Studies have shown that, in many environments, the rate of erosion and runoff decreases exponentially with increased vegetation cover. Unprotected, dry soil surfaces blow away with the wind or are washed away by flash floods, leaving infertile lower soil layers that bake in the sun and become an unproductive hard the controlled movement of herds of livestock, mimicking herds of grazing wildlife, may help to reverse desertification.

Desertification has played a significant role in human history, contributing to the collapse of several large empires, such as Carthage, Greece, and the Roman Empire, as well as causing displacement of local populations. Historical evidence shows that the serious and extensive land deterioration occurring several centuries ago in arid regions had three epicenters: the Mediterranean, the Mesopotamian Valley, and the Loess Plateau of China, where population was dense. At least 90% of the inhabitants of drylands live in developing nations, where they also suffer from poor economic and social conditions. This situation is exacerbated by land degradation because of the reduction in productivity, the precariousness of living conditions and the difficulty of access to resources and opportunities. A downward spiral is created in many underdeveloped countries by overgrazing, land exhaustion and overdrafting of groundwater in many of the marginally productive world regions due to overpopulation pressures to exploit marginal drylands for farming. Decision-makers are understandably averse to invest in arid zones with low potential. This absence of investment contributes to the marginalisation of these zones. When unfavourable agro-climatic conditions are combined with an absence of infrastructure and access to markets, as well as poorly adapted production techniques and an underfed and undereducated population, most such zones are excluded from development. Desertification often causes rural lands to become unable to support the same sized populations that previously lived there. This results in mass migrations out of rural areas and into urban areas, particularly in Africa. These migrations into the cities often cause large numbers of unemployed people, who end up living in slums.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development declares that “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations”. Specifically, SDG Goal 15: Life on Land states the resolve of the United Nations and the SDG signatory nations to halt and reverse land degradationTechniques and countermeasures exist for mitigating or reversing the effects of desertification. One controversial solution is to manager population growth. Another way of mitigating Desertification is to adopt sustainable agricultural practices. However the costs of adopting these sometimes exceed the financial benefits for individual farmers, even while they are socially and environmentally beneficial. Another issue is a lack of political will, and lack of funding to support land reclamation and anti-desertification programs.

Desertification is recognized as a major threat to biodiversity. Some countries have developed Biodiversity Action Plans to counter its effects, particularly in relation to the protection of endangered flora and fauna. Reforestation can help stop one root cause of desertification and is not just treat of the symptoms. In many places deforestation and desertification are contributing to extreme poverty and many organisations focus on educating the local population about the dangers of deforestation and sometimes employ them to grow seedlings, which they transfer to severely deforested areas during the rainy season. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations launched the FAO Drylands Restoration Initiative in 2012 to draw together knowledge and experience on dryland restoratio In 2015, FAO published global guidelines for the restoration of degraded forests and landscapes in drylands, in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Age.

Currently, one of the major methods that has been finding success in this battle with desertification is China’s “Great Green Wall.” This plan was proposed in the late 70’s, and has become a major ecological engineering project involving the planting of nearly 66,000,000,000 tress planted in China’s great green wall. It’s success depends upon providing enough water, Fixating and hyper-fertilizing soil. Fixating the soil is often done through the use of shelter belts, woodlots and windbreaks. Windbreaks are made from trees and bushes and are used to reduce soil erosion and evapotranspirati. Due to lack of water some soils can become consolidated rather than porous (as in the case of sandy soils. techniques such as zaï or tillage are then used to still allow the planting of crop

Another technique that is useful is contour trenching. This involves the digging of 150m long, 1m deep trenches in the soil. The trenches are made parallel to the height lines of the landscape, preventing the water from flowing within the trenches and causing erosion. Stone walls are placed around the trenches to prevent the trenches from closing up again. The method was invented by Peter Westerveld. Enriching of the soil and restoration of its fertility is often done by plants. Of these, leguminous plants which extract nitrogen from the air and fix it in the soil, and food crops/trees as grains, barley, beans and dates are the most important. Sand fences can also be used to control drifting of soil and sand erosion. Some research centra (such as Bel-Air Research Center IRD/ISRA/UCAD) are also experimenting with the inoculation of tree species with mycorrhiza in arid zones. The mycorrhiza are basically fungi attaching themselves to the roots of the plants. They create a symbiotic relation with the trees, increasing the surface area of the tree’s roots greatly (allowing the tree to gather much more nutrients from the soil.

As there are many different types of deserts, there are also different methods to stop desertification. For instance the salt-flats in the Rub’ al Khali desert in Saudi-Arabia are one of the most promising desert areas for seawater agriculture and could be revitalized without the use of freshwater or much energy. Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) is another technique that has produced successful results for desert reclamation. Since 1980, this method to reforest degraded landscape has been applied with some success in Niger. This simple and low-cost method has enabled farmers to regenerate some 30,000 square kilometers in Niger. The process involves enabling native sprouting tree growth through selective pruning of shrub shoots. The residue from pruned trees can be used to provide mulching for fields thus increasing soil water retention and reducing evaporation. Additionally, properly spaced and pruned trees can increase crop yields. The Humbo Assisted Regeneration Project which uses FMNR techniques in Ethiopia has received money from The World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund, which supports projects that sequester or conserve carbon in forests or agricultural ecosystems.

More International and National Holidays and events happening on 17 June

  • National Apple Strudel Day
  • National Cherry Tart Day
  • National Eat Your Vegetables Day
  • Stewart’s Root Beer Day
  • Work@Home Father’s Day