Updates, Oceans, and Words

 

 

 

 

 

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

Naked Man’s New Direction (also known as Skip to the title Ocean Updates for the meat of the article!)

Hello 2010! Today’s entry is about returning to a few topics explored in the past by Naked Man in the Tree as well as give a little information on the lack of updates coming from this site. In this brief entry there will be some good news to be shared and some bad news to be shared. Such is life.

This image depicts a tree and woman excitedly imagining about the big changes coming to Naked Man in the Tree, one of which, I know not, is clearly hard of seeing

We’ll begin with the good news: This site was started in 2007 as a place for me to begin to start writing about my personal passions in which my previous site (yes, I bet you didn’t know I had a site prior to this one!) was not directed towards. My prior site was silly and funny, while this site tended to focus on more serious topics (hopefully I kept some parts of it fun). Naked Man in the Tree was a place I could to develop my thoughts and viewpoints about the world and was never truly meant for public viewing. Of course if anybody wanted to take the time out to read what I have written and constructively criticize or appreciate my writing, I was happy with that too. I didn’t need it to be private although it was created as a playground for my personal creative adventures. This is in part why my entries rarely have any association with each other. This is why in one entry I will write a modern translation of an ancient Arabian story and in another entry write about an ecological disaster. These are things that interest me personally and I never meant to appeal to a “base.” This is also the reason why I will go months without updating.

I am about to graduate with a Masters degree in 2 months which (I’m sure you can imagine) has been the biggest thorn in my side stunting my creativity in favor of prudence. And although this child has been neglected, it has not been forgotten. In fact, it is quite the opposite. This child has been coming to adulthood in my head and I am going to create a new project site that will become my highest priority outside of financially supporting myself. In this new site you can expect the following:

1. Revised and updated articles on the topics you have already read on this site.

2. Audio-versions of the text for those of us who have more time to listen than to read.

3. A wide variety of new topics to be discussed with an addition of other creative projects.

4. Far more frequent updates.

5. Increased opportunities for discussion.

And let’s face it, this is good news. The only problem with this good news is that unlike this site I am going to create a “reservoir” of articles and projects before I begin the site which will take me a large portion of my Spring and Summer of 2010. When this reservoir is complete I am going to create a professional layout on an actual domain name (it’s already chosen and saved) with an incredibly user-friendly interface (not so much like this one). The best part is I’m actually leaving out a few of the best surprises for when the site actually opens (hopefully this fall). Unlike the site I had before Naked Man in the Tree, I will share the location of my new site to everybody who visits this site, so please continue to return for the actual posting of the address. However, at this point I DO plan on posting a few more entries before I create my own site.

Finally, I want to relate how impressed I am with the visits to this site despite my infamously infrequent updating. Each day hundreds to thousands of visitors flock to this site for some reason or another. It is clear that when I discipline myself and create something it can be appreciated, and my future site will be almost completely about enhancing your experience as a visitor to my site. I appreciate all the positive, thoughtful, and caring comments that I have received while creating these entries. Every single positive or thoughtful comment is the true payment I receive for my labor (because everyone knows I’m not doing this for the money). At the end of this article I am going to share a couple of organizations that came to me for some help.

This guy knows how to keep track of the ocean!

Ocean Updates

Now it’s time for some bad news: National Geographic, stalwart in their understanding of the natural world, has three pieces of information crucial to our greater understand of our Ocean’s problems.

In June, 2008 and in May, 2009 I wrote an entry on The North Pacific Garbage Patch and The State of our Oceans respectively. The North Pacific Garbage patch entry was largely about the fact that plastics can’t easily decompose and spend time meandering for years in oceanic stasis around an unimaginably large groggy abandoned forgotten vortex in the Pacific Ocean. It touched on the fact that with each new tide that comes in on many islands, including the United States’ Hawaiian islands, a new disgorging of plastic is left behind in its wake. A big concern was that the plastics would not biodegrade for hundreds of years, floating seemingly forever. Also, I alluded to the idea that Bisphenol A (BPA) is likely the cause behind higher female birth rates.

National Geographic contributed more knowledge to the community at large in this August, 2009 article entitled Plastics Do Break Down in Ocean, After All – And Fast.  “Ha!” laughs the sociopath skeptic “I knew you were all left wing environmentalist crazies who make up problems that don’t exist. You all were worried that the plastic would never break down in the ocean and here is National Geographic proclaiming that they not only break down in the ocean, but they break down quickly. All of that worry for nothing.”

Although it is true that plastic does break down in the ocean at a much lower temperature than was previously expected, by all accounts this is not a good thing. Instead of our ocean water consisting largely of 2 things – Water and Salt – now we are making ourselves a little chemical cocktail that just so happens covers 70% of the entire planet. Our ocean was so old-skool, you know? I mean how plain can you be? Salt and water were the 2 main ingredients in the ocean when the dinosaurs reigned the planet for goodness sakes. Can we please get an upgrade?

Yes! The chemical companies of the planet are happy to oblige. Again, referring to our oceans as a “plastic soup” our NEW ocean is already consisting of large quantities of BPA and styrene trimer which are wrecking havoc indiscriminately on biological systems across the planet and found as ingredients in our most inexpensive products. Which is part of the irony of course, because the cost they create are so exorbitantly expensive the human race just prefers to turn a blind eye to the problem rather than immediately and appropriately address it. What else is new? The article lists a myriad of everyday products that are made with our new oceanic chemical compounds. Also, the article briefly mentions that almost half of all seabirds eat plastic garbage on accident (you mean they don’t get any nutritional value out of our material defecation? Sounds to me like we need to build new birds!). Also, they throw out the arbitrary number of species (267) negatively affected by our plastic garbage. I love that it’s only 267, no more and no less. I don’t have any scientific data to back this statement up, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess that ALL ocean species are affected by our plastic garbage. But hey, who am I?

This research was conducted by a chemist named Katsuhiko Saido from Niho University in Japan. I like how he kindly sums up his feelings on his study: “Plastic, he said, should be considered a new source of chemical pollution in the ocean.” Oh, you think so? Maybe after it gets argued in congress for months with billions  of dollars poured into propaganda only to find ourselves exactly with the same rules and laws as before, then we’ll think about treating plastic as pollution. But kudos to Saido for saying what needed to be said and having the data to back his statement up! So Saido gets to go on my list of people we need to listen to (note:  I did not use the words should, could, might consider… I used the word need). Also on this list (which you can find in my Ocean entry) are Callum Roberts, Jeremy Jackson, Steve O’Shea, Daniel Pauly, and Robert Diaz. Again, there is no other alternative than to physically raise these divine professors over our heads and crowd surf them directly to the leaders of the planet and force the leaders to listen to their professional advice.

Oh Prometheus, we know the pain of foresight all too well! Yet, we are still working on our ability to be as provocatively dressed as you!

Why? Why? Why were only a small handful of us given the capability of foresight on a planet covered in an identical species that has none? We are poor Prometheus, painfully aware of our gift of foresight, clearly acknowledging the horrifying tsunami of repercussions about to douse us, and we live on a planet inundated with Epimetheus, filled with afterthought and excuses. It is no wonder why Epimetheus was the cause of mankind’s misery by accepting Pandora as his wife! With no foresight, always creating a convenient excuse, our planet easily teams 10:1, no 1,000:1, no 1,000,000: 1  of Epimetheuses to Prometheuses. But I digress…

Plastics and their negative influence on the ocean is not new as I had written about the North Pacific Garbage 2 years ago. And I was not even one of the first to be aware of it. But the North Pacific Garbage Patch is only the grotesque superstar in a morbid production as National Geographic reports a Huge Garbage Patch Found in the Atlantic Too. If I could give it a name, I’d probably give it the Mid-Atlantic Garbage Patch as it’s determined to be about the size of Cuba to Virgina. I thought this was a nice touch because both the Pacific and Northern part of the hemisphere were totally stealing all the limelight. Now we can at least enjoy a nice swim in some tropical chemical soup. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Well too bad, because the package is already signed, sealed, and delivered.

In all honesty, I don’t believe the North Pacific and the Mid Atlantic are anywhere near the total of these delightful little garbage vortices. The Southern Hemisphere gets nowhere near the love that the Northern Hemisphere does and my spidey sense tingles at idea of more trash vortices down there – particularly the Indian Ocean, which seems to be more of a favorite to malnutritioned pirates than scientific study.  So what are some details about Miss Mid-Atlantic in our first annual garbage patch beauty pageant?  Well she is a bit more petite than her famous sister in the Pacific only weighing in at 520,000 bits of plastic per square mile while Miss North Pacific weighs in at a buxom 1.9 million bits of plastic per square mile. But, don’t discount Miss Mid Atlantic yet, she promises she’s working on her curves and before you know it, she’ll be just the same size as her sister, or bigger!

Ah yes, trash, billions of infinitesimally small pieces being forever absorbed into our ocean with reckless abandon by our species and the best part is most everybody doesn’t even think twice about it! The centuries, nay, millenia of human descendants that must inhabit the planet after us in gloom and despair riveted with malnutrition, diseases, and cancer will daily fall to their knees and look to sky and ask their creator why they must suffer so greatly. They will be certain that we, today, could not possibly have foreseen how we poisoned our very home. But if they have any record of history, they will know that all the evidence was there, clear and broad as daylight, and ignored by a vain species brimming with hubris. Yes, we deliberately ruined our only home – a mode of dust suspended in a sunbeam (score! Carl Sagan reference!). We turned the car on in the garage, ran a hose from the tailpipe to the kitchen, reversed the sewers, threw everything from the refrigerator onto the floor (2 weeks ago uncleaned), and replaced anything consumable with DRAIN-O. There is time to still curb this negative impact, but being a citizen in the United States I can tell you my government has a hard time tying its own shoe, let alone saving the world today.

"What did you just say?" "Obtuse, I said don't be obtuse..."

"What did you just say?" "Obtuse, I said you're being obtuse..."

You think I’m being obtuse, don’t you? It’s okay, you can think that, I won’t throw you in solitary confinement for a month for telling me that (unlike the Warden at Shawshank!). But I know, you think that I am exaggerating the situation. Of course, if that is true then you never read my entries or checked my sources. But to show you how accurate I’m trying to portray our situation, National Geographic has created a documentary entitled The End of the Line, which talks all about the state of our oceans today, and how it is truly The End of the Line. What line? How about the line of a non-primordial ocean without consisting globally of poisonous man-made chemical compounds? Maybe we’re at the end of that line. Watch the documentary please – it has some of those on my list of people we need to listen to.

One point where I will give some credit is to the company Sun Chips, they appear to have created a chip bag that decomposes in 14 weeks! Sustainable thinking. I like it.

Generosity Opportunities and Karma Points!

Now have I made you feel terrible enough? Good. Because it’s all your fault and the entire purpose of this entry was to make you feel terrible. Why would that be my purpose? Now you are sufficiently feeling guilty enough to donate, aren’t you? Aren’t you? Oh, I kid, I kid. If you’re feeling guilty then that’s your own stupid fault. This isn’t one person’s fault, but it’s our collective fault. I’m just writing about things that I feel are important and I don’t care if you donate money to anything or not. In fact – you can go and throw your money away on cheap plastic toys, and designer clothes, and big screen tvs and not donate ANY of it – I hear it’s all the rage these days. But let me tell you about two organizations that e-mailed ME PERSONALLY for some help concerning their organizations. I am greatly humbled by any organization e-mailing me on the topics of our oceans as if I was someone who even lived near one or even worked in the field of science. These are two organizations dedicated to the cause of saving our oceans. I decided to donate what I could to them, but I am totally nowhere near rich (does anybody using a wordpress account have any money anyway?) and these organizations could use your help. They also could use fanfare and you should tell people about these organizations so they can be more well known and get even more money.

Project Kaisei – A man creating a documentary following this project e-mailed me for media information. I actually had the honor to see the trailer for the documentary and I was very impressed. I would share the link but I do not see it on the internet yet. Kaisei is the flagship of a fleet of vessels that are doing the legwork on cleaning up the Garbage Vortices. On this site you will find some great videos and some relief that at least a small handful of people are doing something about this garbage patch problem. They could always use donations which are easy to give at the bottom of the page. I highly urge you to consider it, but I’m biased, I like clean plastic-free oceans.

The International Seakeepers Society – The organizer of the newsletter for the International Seakeeper’s Society actually requested to use some of my writing for their upcoming newsletter! This felt really good to me for somebody to appreciate my writing that much. So look for me on the first quarter newsletter of the International Seakeeper’s Society! Why should you support this group? They are incessantly collecting data from the ocean which we can turn into useable information to help protect our oceans through various methods. If Project Kaisei is our legs then The International Seakeepers Society is our eyes. They are giving us awareness of our surroundings making the frightening specter of ocean trauma tangible and something we will then be able to tackle. Check out the section labeled “Our expanding fleet” for more detailed information! I know! It’s super tough to decide which organization to donate to, so you might as well donate to both. After all, they both asked me for some help, and I always like to give more help than asked for.

Bonus Section for Word and Language Lovers

But wait! There’s more! If you are one of our first 100 customers you will receive a FREE… sorry. Really though, I have one more organization I would like you to donate to. After all, 3 donations is way luckier than 2. There will probably be a lot of good coming your way with 3 donations.

 

One Good Turn Deserves Another!

Librivox – I have totally become a Librivox fan lately and I have to tell you why. Librivox is an organization where anybody with a microphone (hey! That’s you!) reads stories that are in the public domain so that the rest of us don’t have to read them and can listen to them in the car or on the subway on our way to work. I have taken librivox up liberally on their offer of free audio books and have listened to everything from Grimm’s Fairy Tales to Rudyard Kipling to Mark Twain to Joseph Conrad. In fact (don’t tell anyone this because it’s super nerdy) I even PERSONALLY have read aloud multiple stories to add to librivox’s collection and they were super thankful and nice. And since one good turn deserves another (I always hear that idiom in the voice of the doorknob from the cartoon Alice in Wonderland) I am going to be super nice and thankful back by both donating and recommending that you donate to help librivox. In fact – librivox has never asked for donations before, but their site is getting so popular (because it’s so good!) that they are asking us to help cover the costs of free audio books. How can we say no? Help Librivox keep culture alive in the digital age! And go see if you can guess which stories I read!

Finally, I will leave you with a thought-provoking e-mail I left Merriam-Webster after attempting to search some definitions lately. Could you tell I was frustrated? If you loved language like I love language, you’d be frustrated too. Until next time!

m-w.com: For as long as I have used the internet I have used Merriam-Webster for my professional dictionary needs. However, as the years pass by, I am noticing a disturbing trend that must be addressed by a professional organization such as yourselves. It is so disturbing that I am e-mailing you with the hope and prayer that you might actually be unaware of how unprofessional and shockingly disrespectful to the user your website is.

While advertisements are crucial to the success of any website, no website uses quite the variety and cleverness of cruelty in their advertisements as your website. Whether those in charge of advertising are unaware of basic internet etiquette or are apathetic to it I am still unclear.

The ads found surrounding the page are natural and are to be expected. Even the pop-ups, as obnoxious and rude as they are to a user, are understandable. I guess you have to make money and if you truly believe pop-up ads are that successful then who am I to argue? But the fact remains that you are supposed to be a professional organization.

So when I choose your site (out of the many dictionary sites on the internet) to look up a word, and I type that word in the “Search” box, I do not think it is very professional of you to show me a PARTIAL definition to a word while an advertisement that could easily fit in the corner of my screen sits proudly in front of the definition purposefully obscuring it ensuring seething hatred toward whatever is being advertised and your website for participating in such rude advertising.

And when you finally do get the full definition, it is still surrounded by ads for Google and Bing hardly distinguishable from the definition. But what truly makes Merriam-Webster unique in their advertising is after you search for your definition and hunt for the tiny “skip this ad” button hidden to the side. Finally, the definition you have so longingly come for lay in front of you in its entirety and it is possible to begin to read it. And just when you do begin to read the definition a box from the corner of your site comes flying to the center of the screen, again, yes again, obscuring the definition until you click the tiny x to make it go away. Then at last, I am bestowed the honor of the definition in which I originally came.

The only websites that I have seen using such Machiavellian advertising tactics have been pornographic websites and infomercial sites. I hope your group remembers that you are attempting to appeal to an intelligent audience that actually cares about the definition of words and the advertising tactics you are using is flying in the face of what any intelligent person would consider respectful advertising.

Afterward, I got an automated response that promised a reply within 24 hours. It’s been like 168 hours, oh well.


The Darien Gap

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

I haven’t updated since July, but October was one of my best months yet. Despite being in the middle of finishing my masters degree (my albatross), I have found a window of opportunity to get a quick update in. Just to show this site has not left my mind, far from it, ideas are countless still. My next update should be during the winter break between fall and spring semester. So… in preparation for a more in depth article on Latin America I’m going to tell you about the Darien Gap.

What is the Darien Gap?

darien-gap-overview

The Darien Gap - thanks to Canary in the Coal Mine

This question is more difficult to answer than I had originally planned. ‘What is the Darien Gap’ is like asking ‘What is physics?’ Sure – there’s the simple answer that it’s the study of matter and energy and how they interact with each other… but anybody who has ever studied it knows that physics is the greatest mindfuck there is. And like physics, the complexity surrounding the Darien Gap might be equally boggling. And also like physics, there is a simple answer: the Darien Gap is a small swath of jungle that sits on the border of Central and South America on the edges of Colombia and Panama. It’s a mere 31 miles wide from the Caribbean Coast to the Pacific Coast and various thicknesses depending on your source and what they consider to be the Darien Gap since it’s not an entirely defined region. But as I said, this simple answer to the question “What is the Darien Gap’ does it no justice. If I were to create my own answer to this question I might simply call it the most insidious place on Earth.

And there was no light matter in choosing the word ‘insidious’ either. The Darien Gap is insidious in every aspect of the definition. Merriam-Webster describes insidious as “awaiting a chance entrap: treacherous, harmful and enticing: seductive” and the Darien Gap is most definitely both seductive and treacherous. The following are real-life situations and issues directly involving the seduction and treachery of the Darien Gap. And these stories are so extreme that they could only be fact because fiction wouldn’t believe them. But the Darien Gap is virtually unheard of despite its global reach. The 31 miles of unbroken jungle seems paltry to the behemoth Amazon to the South, yet it is crucial to understand the power it holds. But for all these stories to truly have weight, we need to understand the setting: The Darien Jungle itself.

 

60e0c72c3f8b539480e5461365724985_large

Thomas Griffioen's beautiful snapshot of the Darien Jungle

The Darien Jungle

The Darien Jungle consists of some of the most impassible and impossible terrain on the planet. In some areas rocky cliffs reign supreme while other areas are so swampy that you could hide a few passenger jets deep in the swamp with plenty of room to spare. Some rainforest areas have been described as if being in a giant Cathedral with nothing but dirt on the ground and nothing but canopied trees above, other areas are shrouded in a constant fog of clouds. The picture to the right is from one of the only places I could find quality pictures from the Darien Gap. Most pictures are small or grainy or poor quality in some way. Thomas Griffioen’s website has a lot of high quality beautiful pictures from the area, his set of pictures will really help you get a feel for the area. Through these pictures the seduction of the Darien Gap becomes obvious.  In fact, it seduced this entirely different man to be the first to cross the Darien Gap by motorcycle and he had this to say about describing one part of the jungle:

After two hours on the trail we arrived at the marker on the Panama Columbia border. The hills were getting steeper and longer, sometimes it took three of us to get a bike up a hill. At places the trail was on the side of a steep hill. One slip, bike and rider would plunge into a deep valley that would be almost impossible to get out of. To make problems worse, there were many fallen trees and the jungle seemed to be getting thicker. We could barley see the sky and the jungle seemed like perpetual twilight zone.

He also took some pictures. Ian Hibell, a bicyclist that made the goal to bike from the tip of South America to Alaska went through the Darien Gap and you can see him hiking through a torturous swamp. And that is actually the only video I have of the Darien Jungle deep in its own heart. To think so very few primary resources of any place teeming with life on the planet in the 21st century is shocking.

And hidden deep within the jungle along the coast not accessible by road lays nothing less than one of the most unique fishing locations on the planet. The Tropic Star Lodge’s website proudly acknowledges that they are rated the number one salt-water fishing resort in the world. Built in 1961 by a Texas oil rancher it has become an expensive fishing resort that lures the rich and famous across the planet including John Wayne and Saudi Shieks.

The Tropic Star Lodge poolside, the mystical Darien in the background

As in any unexplored jungle, it is needless to say that species of both plant and animal life still lay undiscovered inside. So naturally there are also numerous species that have been discovered that are endemic within the Darien Gap area. The Darien Gap is also a safe-haven for quite a few endangered species. Of these endangered species you might stumble across a Howler monkey, so surly in disposition it is the only untamed monkey by Native Americans. The Giant Anteater is another endangered species crawling through this tropical dimension. I’m going to take a minute to grind my axe here – I hate it when species like this are endangered, I’ve express this same feeling in my ocean entry about the endangered Leatherback turtles that eat jellyfish.  Speaking from one human to another, we do not want species like this to go extinct. I know the anteater looks like a joke with legs but truly this animal is really smart and useful. Like bats and Leatherbacks they get rid of the pesky primordial species that are always trying to overwhelm the planet to turn the Earth back in to the golden age of when simple-celled organisms and insects ruled the planet. Ants are ridiculously plentiful, nobody is complaining about the scarcity of ants, and nobody is all too keen on hanging around with ants – so why aren’t we worshiping these creatures that have adapted a nose to actually inhale them? AND it’s the BIGGEST of them ALL! These animals are worth not only saving but actually growing their population. But instead we blindly go around eradicating these useful complex species from our planet in favor of the mechanical insects and primordial jellyfish. Why are we so stupid as to pick stinging, burning, biting, insects over silly-looking ant-eaters, flying mammals, and cool turtles, I will never understand this…

But I digress… Another endangered species found in the Darien Gap is the Bush Dog – super cute little guy right there. The white lipped peccary is a hog-like species that are notoriously aggressive and travel in packs. So you might be going for a random stroll through the Darien Jungle when all of a sudden you hear a large herd of white lipped peccaries coming your way – you better climb up the nearest tree because these little guys are nasty and they aren’t afraid of people. The lesser capybara is another rare and endangered species, it also weighs in as the worlds largest rodent. But before you cringe in disgust it’s clear the picture that it looks less like a rat and more like a guinea pig. And giant guinea pigs should be cool in everybody’s book. In fact, looking at this animal makes me understand that even rabbits had to have come from rodent ancestry.  Another endangered species is the Oncilla, a super cute 5 – 10 lb wildcat, I suspect living in a jungle they could get pretty nasty though. Baird’s Tapir is the last endangered animal I’m going to showcase even though it is not the last endangered animal in the jungle; this strange mammal travels largely alone through the inexplicably unforgiving jungle trying to survive despite lower and lower numbers. These Tapirs take over a year to give birth after being impregnated and have to survive in a jungle in addition to being hunted by humans. I’m surprised any animal lives a year in that jungle with all the predators and deadly insects. Finally, some of the native residents of the Darien Jungle are the Embera tribe, traditional warriors of the region. Hunting with blowpipes and into some serious body painting, these native inhabitants have survived the Darien for centuries.

The Darien Scheme

Darien-map3

The Isthmus of Darien

So how unforgiving can the Darien Gap be? Well, listen to the story of how the Darien Gap defeats the country of Scotland. Yes – Scotland! How does a 30-mile swath of jungle in Central America defeat a country half a world away? Well, Scotland had existed as an autonomous entity for roughly 1000 years without compromising their independence. Yet it is well documented that at the very minimum the Darien Gap accelerated dissolution of Scotland and the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

William Paterson was a Scottish fellow who got rich by creating the Bank of England. And for his second trick he decided to return to his native Scotland and create a trading empire out of the tiny kingdom to the North. The cartography of the world had been complete enough at the turn of the 18th century and Paterson recognized a trading monopolists dream. It was clear beyond a doubt that the narrow isthmus of Darien, a mere 30 miles across (have I stressed that point enough yet?), would be ideal to establish a trading monopoly. Paterson was certain that if the Scottish government and the people of Scotland backed this plan they could colonize this isthmus and establish a crucial trading route from the expansive Atlantic and mighty Pacific.

I can only imagine Paterson’s vision. Any completed map of the world back then would clearly show the unique geographic feature of an incredibly thin strip of land sitting conveniently between two massive continents. I can even feel his excitement – the Panama Canal would not be created for another 200 years – plenty of time to make Scotland the ultimate trading monopoly on the planet. For all these years the Kingdom of Scotland sat in the shadow of the likes of England, France, and Spain colonizing half the planet while Scotland held no successful colonies. And here was Scotland’s prodigal son – William Paterson – a successful businessman with capital to invest getting ready to give Scotland its just due in the light of exploitation. No longer will England, Spain, and France be the only countries patting each other on the back for the capitalization of whole regions of the planet – in fact they’ll now be at Scotland’s mercy because they will have control of the Darien isthmus – and thus have control of the simplest trading route between the two monster continents. It would be an unavoidable monopoly and it would be Scotland who would benefit.

So Paterson started pitching this “scheme” to the Scots, and the Scots bought it – hook, line, and sinker. The Scots invested £500,000 which totaled about 50% of the nations capital. There was hardly a Scot who didn’t throw whatever money he could at this global conquest. Originally, the Scots weren’t going to bare the entire load and Paterson had worked the English and Dutch into the deal who subsequently backed out. To this day scandalous rumors float around questioning if this was done intentionally with the foresight of what would happen in Darien. Volunteers for the first trip to Darien were easy to find and were packed on a boat, 1,200 in number, and sailed 4 months across an expansive ocean to settle in their distant tropical paradise, build a colony, and make money! Of course when you cram 1,200 people on a boat for 4 months across an ocean at the turn of the 18th century enthusiasm tends to diffuse rather quickly. The Scots arrived in Darien sick and filled with dead – including Paterson’s wife.

They unloaded their ship and began setting up their colony in the exact jungle in which I’ve already took the liberty to describe for you. And if things were bad on the boat they only got worse in the unforgiving heart of tropical Darien. Jungle diseases quickly began decimating the population and rations were becoming thin. Back at home Scotland sent a resupply ship which got shipwrecked. It then took even longer to send two ships which began their 4 month journey to Darien too late. The colony, decimated, took to the jungle in search of nearby plantations run by other nations. The resupply ships, only equipped for the basic necessities for a fully operating colony landed at Darien in shock and dismay to find nobody.  1,200 resupply colonists reached Darien but it is said that as few as 30 survived.  With a complete and utter disaster realized it’s believed that Scotland became so crippled it forced the 1707 Act of Union with England.

The Pan-American Highway

PanAmericanHwy

Nothing can stop the pan-American highway... except for the Darien Gap -click to enlarge-

So we just read some history of the Darien region, now let’s fast-forward to modern day. But again, let’s step away from Darien for a moment and head to the top of the world where the small town of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska sits on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. Like Darien, this is a place on the planet where most people avoid. In fact, Prudhoe Bay has only about 50 residents all toiling in a remote, lifeless region of the planet to pump oil back to civilization for us to consume. According to their website that looks like it was made in 1995, there are 0 families that live at this northernmost town in North America. A few years ago Prudhoe Bay got some notoriety when BP spilled over a million liters of oil.

Now let’s go the the very opposite now – the bottom of the world, Ushuaia, Argentina – often regarded as the southernmost city in the world. Not as extreme as Prudhoe Bay, Ushuaia enjoys milder weather despite its location. What do these two places have in common? They are both the starting and ending points of the Pan-American Highway – a highway created to span across the expanses of two continents. Unbroken lay the chain of highway from Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia standing as a testament to the power of mankind over nature… well unbroken everywhere except for the Darien Gap.

Yes, you could take the Pan-American Highway and cross its distances from the icy Arctic, where no trees live through the towering rockies and conifer forests, down through the North American deserts, into unstable Central American countries shrouded in jungle, but in the small backwater of Yaviza, Panama the Pan-American Highway stops. A seemingly impenetrable wall of jungle faces you here – you are staring at the Darien Gap. Nothing but raw jungle stands between you and Turbo Colombia. From Colombia, you could follow along the Pacific through Ecuador, Peru, and Chile into the ribbed backside of the Andes Mountains.  The final leg of the intensely long journey would be through country of Argentina, showcasing its capital – Buenos Aires, before turning sharply South along the Atlantic to Ushuaia.

And it’s this fact that draws people to want to know more about the Darien Gap. We have a road that has conquered all aside from this stretch of jungle. Why hasn’t the jungle been breached? Why haven’t we connected this highway that would be an unrivaled global achievement? What power does this Darien Gap have that we cannot tame in this 21st Century? It turns out that these questions are presumptuous, because despite its inaccessibility, it was purposefully left unfinished.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – With all the endangered species I listed above it’s clear that a highway cutting through this very narrow and diverse jungle is something that humanity as a species would never dare ruin because the preciousness of diversity in life far outweighs the worlds longest road.  But the truth is a terrible livestock disease that exists in South America does not exist in North America. The disease is called Foot and Mouth Disease, from Outside Magazine:

FMD is the doomsday plague of the livestock industry, an illness whose outbreak can shake global stock markets. Most recently, an epidemic of FMD ravaged England in 2001, causing more than $7 billion in economic losses. No cases of the disease have been reported in Panama, and the last U.S. outbreak occurred in 1929. But in Colombia, FMD was endemic during the 1970s and remains present today.

“If FMD were to invade Central America, it could have very rapid access to the United States,” says Harold Hofmann, 61, associate regional director of the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an agency within the Department of Agriculture that’s charged with protecting the U.S. food supply from pests and diseases. “Therefore, the government’s plan is to keep it as far away as we can.”

Not only did the Pan-American highway never get finished but the creation of the Darien National Park was a result of the fear of this disease. A national park ensured no livestock would be raised within its boundaries. The United States has been puppeteering this region because it is precisely the country standing to lose the most if this disease crosses over. The United States Health Inspection Service has a $4.5 million regional budget working towards eliminating both FMD and a critter known as a screwworm whose larvae eat the flesh of cows.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

colombia_farc-rebels-march-in-la-macarenapreview

FARC rebels

So Darien is purposefully closed off, and with essentially good reasons. But when we look closer, we see there is still yet more to the story. It’s essential to remember the Darien Gap is insidious. And while we look at the Darien Gap and see 3 feet tall kitties and cute rodents and endangered species that need to be saved, the people who live with the Darien see the jungle as a giant death trap. Not simply for the natural causes of death – which are many – but because the Darien Gap has been home to Americas oldest terrorist organization. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are a by-product of over a century of civil war in Colombia. In the 1960s, rallying behind Marxist ideas, FARC was organized and began financing through the drug-trade. Today FARC is a multi-billion dollar drug-dealing enterprise supplying the United States with at least 60% of its cocaine.  This is unfortunate because this is financing a group who recruits child-soldiers and kidnaps anyone of seemingly value  and holds them in remote jungle prisons for sometimes years. The FARC have found their way to the Colombia-Panama border and are living (among other places)  in the Darien Jungle kidnapping those they could use in any way and killing those who don’t help in any way. There will be no arrest for your murder when you are murdered in the jungle, because you will never be found. Due to FARCs power people such as Hugo Chavez, leader of Venezuela, use them to cause confusion among accountable established nations by committing a certain amount of support for them. The United States has paid particular attention to them due to their influence.

Other rebel/terrorist groups that exist in this region are the National Liberation Army and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. All groups kidnap for some money. National Geographic Adventure magazine reporter, Robert Young Pelton, and two others were kidnapped for 10 days by the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia attempting to trek the Darien.  When asked advice for travelers considering going to the region he responded:

The Darién Gap is an extremely dangerous place—it’s probably the most dangerous place in the Western Hemisphere, definitely in Colombia. It’s used as a conduit for drugs. There are no police there, there’s no military, the trails aren’t marked. Kuna Indians are freaked out now because of the violence being perpetrated against them. Unless you have a lot of experience in Colombia, I wouldn’t suggest it. [For the most part] the jungle there is not viewed as a place that is pristine and beautiful—it’s looked at as a place where you get killed. Because no one bothers gathering information, like I did. I mean, I know how you can hike the Darién now. But you have to have a group of armed men with you.

 

Abandoned mining train succumbing to the Darien Jungle

Destruction of the Darien Gap

Despite the Darien Gap existing (albeit dangerously) into the 21st century, it is guaranteed that it will not exist into the 22nd century. In fact it seems the Gap has less than a decade until the natural plug is breached and the Americas are irrevocably connected. Deforestation of the Gap is rampant. The rebel groups infest the interior making it incredibly dangerous for any sort of ecological protection. And the clock ticks until the final, slim, remaining barrier between North and South America is breached and the transference of Foot-and-Mouth disease to the North will be uncertain. The Native Embera tribe and jungle animals are losing their home tree by tree for basic subsistence and the result will be the elimination of an ecosystem of transcontinental importance.

Home the movie

Click on the picture to see a free high def movie!

Click on the picture to see a free high def movie!

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

Wow! Hands down, I just watched a movie that should be mandatory for every human on this planet. A lot of what I try and talk about on here is expressed through gorgeous high definition images ALL for free right on Youtube!

Home” – the movie that should change your life if you weren’t already thinking like this every day of your life. If you weren’t, you should start doing it now. What this movie says is what you should base all your foundational decisions on. This movie is incredibly moving to me.

Why? First off, this movie is oriented correctly. This movie is filled with stunning images and jaw-dropping facts that most people are unaware of – and yet it’s free on Youtube. This is the kind of people we want making movies in our future. The entertainment industry is deadlocking our court system. With the advent of the internet we do not need the largely bureaucratic systems that were built to promote an artist or a movie. The only people who complain about copyright infringement and stealing are giant corporate bureacracies such as the MPAA and the RIAA. The MPAA and RIAA are the giant screaming toddlers that the United States government pacifies with the granting of retrieving ridiculous amounts of cash wherever they deem an unjustice happened to them. What would happen if the courts ruled against them? What would happen if we persecuted the entertainment industry where agents and promoters were the victims rather than a useless remnant of the 20th century still acquiring an income for simply existing? Where artists had a direct relationship with their fans and created their own mp3s which they could sell or even just give away and they make money by playing a live performance? Where anybody who wanted to make a movie would just fund it and toss it up on Youtube? Like “Home” did. What would we lose if we did such a thing? Such gems as “Night at the Museum” and “The Mummy” series? Bastardized Spielberg versions of “War of the Worlds” and “Indiana Jones”? Jokes such as “National Treasure” or “300” or “Titanic” or “Pearl Harbor” guised as historical but clearly warped? Oh, how terrible, imagine a world where those cookie-cutter movies that are churned out yearly as if from a factory disappeared. Money might actually be spent on something useful. Which brings me to my next point on why I like “Home.”

The movie steps back and tries to look at the world from an outside perspective. It really tries to show you the big picture and how critical THIS MOMENT is right now to our actions as a whole. There is no excuse in ignorance – the facts are clear and laid out and our bureaucratic mechanisms need to respond swiftly. And they shouldn’t be mucking around in the entertainment industry – we’re humans – we are entertained VERY easily. “Home” chooses its images carefully and contrasts where our money SHOULD be going and where it IS going. They show how we build cities in deserts such as Dubai as monuments to our glut at the expense of limited and quickly exhausting resources. The movie throws out important facts that reorient where we want to be and where we are: “The world spends 12 times more on military expenditures than on aid to developing countries.” “40% of arable land has suffered long-term damage.” “Every year, 13 million hectares of forest disappear.”

The man behind this film is a French photographer, journalist, and reporter Yann Arthus-Bertrand. This is a man who apparently cares about the future of humans not living in post-apocalyptic Hell within our lifetime and is calling us to attention with this movie. I can tell you that this man is someone you should take information from because he puts it together and can read the implications. And, as you know from reading this site, the implications are dire. “One mammal in 4, one bird in 8, and one amphibian in 3 are threatened with extinction. Species are dying out at a rhythm of 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate.”

Also, I liked how it ended. It did give me hope, and I might even admit a tear. Because no matter how much we’ve destroyed or ruined, humans are notorious for perseverance. And we might have to learn a hard lesson, but it would be a shame to have our lonely species annihilated due to our collective ignorance.

But what kills me is despite the beautiful images and despite the important and dire messages “Home” portrays it has only been viewed by just over a million people on Youtube. This thing is way too important to stay so far under the radar. So please – push this movie as I am because this movie should be a basis to a question to all people in charge of anything – what are you doing with what you’re in charge of to align yourself with this situation? Well, what are you doing?

Our Oceans

3D Ocean from an ocean screensaver!

3D Ocean from an ocean screensaver!

 

 

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

***Update 7/22/09: An Excellent New York Times article on how the damage from bottom trawling can now be seen from SPACE! Link.***

Back in June I wrote an entry on the North Pacific Garbage Patch. Despite writing on a myriad of uncommon issues that entry on the Garbage Patch has been unrivaled in popularity. In fact that entry has over 3 times as many visits as my next most popular entry. The entry focuses on how plastics are destroying our oceans and our health.

So if you thought that information is important or pertinent in any way then I strongly suggest you read this entry as well. The North Pacific Garbage Patch deserved its own entry but it is by far not the only problem facing our mighty oceans. Thinking about this topic puts me in a surreal place because as much as I’d love to be an optimist and expect things to change for the better the facts are strongly rooted in the concept of “There are consequences to actions.” I’m not trying to hoodwink you, I’m not a crazy environmentalist, I’m simply using plain logic and thoughtful reasoning. Please read what I have to say and if you have any substantial counter-evidence or proof things are just going peachy with the oceans then this will be a great weight off my back.

What Are The Oceans To Us?

I start with this question because it’s this question that brings mutual value to the oceans to us. The World Ocean is a mighty and terrible thing. She is so large we divide her up into sections and call her multiple names because even just one section is vast beyond comprehension. In fact, 71% (some say 72%) of this planet is bathed in Oceanic waters, while we tower only marginally above it with a paltry 29% of the surface clinging to our precious, dry, and hard land. It is no wonder why the most dangerous job in the world is fishing – no other job really can show you how insignificant you are to nature than being out on the stormy seas on a small fishing vessel. We all know the stereotypical fisherman who sits in the corner of the pub, drinking his alcohol deeply, scraggly and twisted – nobody can stare a man like this down because he has stared down death itself out on the oceans. And even fishermen distinguish themselves from us “land lovers,” or should I say “landlubbers!” If you are accustomed to working on a ship then you have joined a secret society that separates themselves from the rest of humanity – this is because being at sea affects you – it seriously affects you. It is one of the most powerful natural entities on this planet. When the ocean is upset – we know. Earthquakes, asteroids, weather – they all turn our oceans into a destructive force that gives no mercy. I just watched the show “Deadliest Catch” last night which proves the terror of our oceans.

Shrouded in mystery in history as well as today, depictions of Oceanus are hard to find. His horn, shaped like lobster claws, are just seen in the top left protruding out of his head.

Shrouded in mystery in history as well as today, depictions of Oceanus are hard to find. A horn, shaped like a lobster claw, is just seen in the top left protruding out of his head.

The ocean is not just all powerful to us as humans – it is also all mysterious. The word “ocean” itself comes from the mysterious Greek Titan Oceanus. He represented a “river” that encircled the world. He had a serpent tail instead of legs and a long beard with horns. The ocean holds many secrets under its waves – shipwrecks, treasure, natural resources, species we didn’t know existed… I heard once that we know more about space than we do about our oceans. Of course – this is absolutely ludicrous because space is so massively large, complex, and mysterious that we can’t even begin to pretend we know so much about space. But the fact that our oceans can even be compared to space speaks volumes. What that quote might mean is that there might be more time, money, and dedicated resources spent on space than our oceans – while I have no idea if this is true – it wouldn’t surprise me. Studying space is a noble cause, and a cause I back 100%, but if our oceans are not getting the same dedication then we have an imbalance.

There are many creatures from the bottom of our oceans that we do not even know they exist. Don’t believe me? Let’s just take a minute to see some only recently videotaped/photographed creatures.

The Oarfish – According to the video this is the largest fish in the ocean. Yet I bet you’ve never even heard of it. In fact – this video is the only video where they’ve ever been seen alive. It lives deep in the ocean and only comes up to the surface to die. Their faces creep me out.

The Frilled Shark – Unknown even to exist today until this irrefutable evidence was shown to their world – the Frilled Shark carries many characteristics of sharks that lived about 300 million years ago. Is this species 300 million years old? We just don’t know because like the Oarfish the Frilled Shark lives deep in the hinterland of the oceans. Hard to find – even harder to study.

The Giant Squid – Tales of giant squid are as old as tales of mermaids – yet we never were able to photograph one alive until within the last decade. This video goes a bit in depth about giant squid all together – but is definitely worth a watch – for a few reasons.

These are just a few examples of the largest and longest-lasting creatures in the oceans – and yet we know virtually nothing about them. In fact, in the giant squid video, Dr. Steve O’Shea goes on a high profile mission with the Discovery Channel hunting for giant squid and though some were found, they died a short time later.  Unfortunately, he ultimately ends up abandoned by the research community and lives his life almost entirely in the ocean, alone, praying for a second chance at finding a baby giant squid and raising it in captivity. His failure during his high-profile mission was due to ignorance of Giant Squid – for example – cubical containers killed the babies almost instantly while cylindrical containers kept them alive – they couldn’t possibly know this stuff already because they were the leading research team on Giant Squid. And now O’Shea is abandoned by financial contributors because he attempted to research and had mistakes happen that were unforeseen. The scene that struck me the most was when he’s explaining how interesting the ocean is and all the neat little things he catches (in hopes of finding a baby giant squid, but knowing without a better research vessel it’s virtually impossible)  and how there is nobody there to share it with, then his reactions almost turn primitive, like Tom Hanks in “Castaway,” when he hears the port-a-potty wall outside his cave. O’Shea looks into the bucket, stops in mid-thought, and dives his head deep inside the bucket looking hard. Perhaps, feeling nostalgic about the last time the cameras were around and how he caught over 20 squid, he thought the luck had come back again. Disappointed, he draws his head away explaining that he thought he had a squid, but alas, it was not. He explains how he’s supposed to be a squid-hunter and yet he never catches them and even admits the embarrassment it causes him. But he explains that nobody else is looking for them, and so until someone else does, he’s going to keep trying. Imagine that – being the only man in the world out there trying to find a creature that is dastardly elusive while the rest of the world continues to focus on any number of distractions. At the boundary of special knowledge, O’Shea sits alone.

What exactly is physically happening during bottom trawling

What do our ocean floors look like after bottom trawling occurs? O'Shea says "A barron wasteland."

And because of this unique knowledge in which O’Shea carries he would be able to tell us some things about the Giant Squid, or squid in general, that the average person could not. And O’Shea explains that the difficulty in finding squid seems to be related to the fishing industry. He states how “squid are incredibly good barometers of environmental health” and explains that 10 years ago he was able to find 23 squid in a year. After which, there was a dramatic drop. What was the cause? A form of fishing called “Bottom trawling” where a net is dragged along the bottom of the ocean floor.  What’s the problem with bottom trawling? O’Shea explains it wipes out centuries old coral communities, invertebrates of many shapes and sizes, and exhausts fishing stocks. O’Shea continues to explain that between New Zealand and Australia the ocean floor has been systematically trawled and is now moving to international water. What do our ocean floors look like after bottom trawling occurs? O’Shea says “A barron wasteland.” As he says those words the screen flashes a couple seconds of an untrawled area, filled with life, and a trawled area, looking desolate and empty (see image a short ways below).

Then O’Shea says something shocking, “But you think that the oceans are fine, but they’re not, there are no fish here at all, it’s been fished out.” Then he admits, fishing pole in hand, arms raised, “We can’t even catch a fish today!” He confides that within 10 years the Giant Squid might very well be extinct, and in fact there have been 5 species of octopus or squid that have gone extinct in the New Zealand area alone as a direct consequence to fishing. Bottom trawling is going to contribute to more mass oceanic death.  Then the screen cuts back to Dateline host who chuckles about his desire to eat some squid.

And it’s this disconnect that I want to address here, because I find it truly significant. A man who spends hundreds of days of his life in the ocean, studying the ocean, with a deep passion for understanding the ocean just cried out that our oceans are dying and it’s our fishing that’s at fault and the response from the Dateline host is to get a craving for seafood. It takes hundreds of years for coral communities to be created and these communities are not unlike the highly complex living environment of our terrestrial cities. Yet – a city takes a lot less time to build. In effect, we are destroying underwater cities with little minding about it. It falls under the “Out of sight, out of mind” category.

On the left - hundreds of years of effort to create a bountiful living garden. On the right - done in a day, ruins, nothing. Seriously, is this issue really that hard to make decisions on?

On the left - hundreds of years of effort to create a bountiful living garden. On the right - done in a day, ruins, nothing left alive. How will we have fish in the future with a practice like this?

The overriding mindset runs something like this. There’s a demand for seafood out there, typically by unaware, apathetic, people with money – like that Dateline host. The price for seafood rises to a point where a fisherman recognizes his financial benefit will be worth the effort. Fisherman uses the most effective technique for profit, even if it destroys cities without a voice, and returns with the goods to sell to the stores and restaurants so that Dateline man can be happy. Nobody sees the devastation left behind, nobody can claim damages to a centuries-old community to a fisherman. Because special (speeshal, not speshal) genocide is easier to deal with than hearing fat, rich, sea-food lovers bitch about regulations.

Overfishing and Poor Fishing Practices

“Yea,” you might reply, “but O’Shea is probably just one of those hippy environmentalists that are constantly shouting on how the sky is falling.” While there is always someone who is going to complain about something, O’Shea’s statements are real and common knowledge among those who actually study the ocean. The problem is that these people often don’t hold influential positions, and combine that with the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and the result is the ocean becoming a silent victim. Callum Roberts, a leading researcher in the field of ocean depletion and a marine conservation biologist at the University of York, has attempted to warn us of this global overfishing pandemic in a book entitled An Unnatural History of the Sea. Alas, I have not read the book yet, but it is on my wishlist. However, I did check out this interview with Callum Roberts which briefly explains how overfishing has been a problem for over a century. Callum Roberts, a comprehensive researcher, is one of the few sources referenced when addressing the problems with our oceans in articles such as this one by the Guardian:

‘Quite simply,’ Roberts says, ‘agreements and deals brokered by politicians will never be satisfactory. They always look for the short-term fix.’ He and his team at York University did a survey of the last 20 years of EU ministerial decisions on fish catches and found that, on average, they set quotas for fishing fleets 15 to 30 per cent higher than those recommended as safe by scientists.

‘What that figure doesn’t tell you is that often, for less threatened species like mackerel or whiting, they have set quotas 100 per cent higher than the science recommended. So, in their efforts to pacify the industry, they are bringing populations that could be sustainably fished into the risk zone,’ he said

Still don’t believe me? The day I happen to be writing this portion of this entry is Tuesday April 14, 2009. Tomorrow, Wednesday, April 15, 2009 is opening day for fishing the prized bluefin tuna over in Europe. I’m not sure exactly what goes into determining the starting date, but April 14, 2012 falls on a Saturday. According to people who actually study data and care about the sustainability of bluefin tuna, it is quite possible on that day no boats will be heading out to search for this highly sought-after tuna – because the bluefin population would be absolutely depleted.

 

We are not treating this species appropriately. We're killing them and cutting our food supply out from under ourselves

We are not treating this species appropriately. We're killing them and cutting our food supply out from under ourselves

Bluefin TunaImagine that – 3 years – not your great grandkids, not your grandkids, not your kids generation when they’ll die off – 3 years. And it is directly related to our human consumption of them. Personally, tuna gives me wretched heart-burn, I won’t even miss it, but the fact that we are losing another species on the planet, one so integral to the global diet, makes me think this is an issue that needs to be dramatically addressed.

“But it’s just tuna!” you say, “species go extinct all the time, theres plenty of other ‘fish in the sea,'” and then you probably laugh at the little pun you made. But the case is that overfishing has been a… I’m not sure what to call it… a “sin” mankind has been committing to himself for centuries. “Sure there might be less here after I’m done than when I started, but that is not my problem.” Generations of fishermen and fishing companies carried this attitude until present day. When we have 3 years left before tuna is depleted – the overfishing of centuries has fallen upon a crowd whose problem it most definitely is – ours. If you plan on being alive in 3 years and you have the audacity to believe that the bluefin is an isolated or overblown incident and no action is required please savor your moments of ignorance now so it can be all the more sweet to watch your witless smug face realize the very basic fundamentals of physics that actions do have consequences. And to clear the definition of consequences up, they are not always BAD, consequence simply means “with sequence” which basically means “with an order of events.” This depletion of ocean life is not something that we haven’t given ourselves fair warning on, and we can follow the trend, and we can come to future conclusions based on an unchanging trend – that is what the WWF did to determine that the bluefin are in serious trouble. This isn’t a political disagreement, this isn’t about viewpoint, this is a human crisis – it’s actually a global crisis. It involves everything in the entire world to an extent. We are systematically eliminating species for purposes driven by greed. If no other argument will reach you, then what will we eat when we deplete all the quality meat from every species? Can you imagine the Oliver Twist “please sir can I have some more” gruel lines we would have to be waiting in? But let’s have more nobler aspirations than that.

While that WWF article is very recent, here is an article from 2004 that clearly gave a strong warning signal, which if we would’ve acted then, would’ve more than doubled the time left to act on conserving these tuna. Now their depletion and possible extinction from the wild is all but certain.  So aren’t there people who are supposed to do something about this? Who is in charge of keeping track of global tuna stock, how does anyone even go about achieving such a goal?

 

A symbol of all that is wrong in the world

A symbol of all that is wrong in the world

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna – (or ICCAT) This is the face people point to when it comes to conserving tuna. They are the self-proclaimed largest tuna conservation organization in the entire world. They study tuna stocks and statistics throughout the Atlantic (specifically, I guess, I assume there is some global influence here as well) and make recommendations which 48 countries claim to follow and enforce – including Japan (the guiltiest party), United States, United Kingdom, and China. So it seems we found the right address, based in Spain, this organization claims on its own website their specific goal of conserving the Bluefin. So weren’t they warned of this catastrophe? Shouldn’t they have done something about it well before this point?

This 2007 article from the BBC was well ahead of the game and decided to find out what the ICCAT was doing for the bluefin. And the ICCAT’s response was… absolutely nothing. In fact, it was worse than that. Even though the United States (oh my God, the United States of all countries) and Canada backed by conservation behemoths like the WWF and Greenpeace proposed a moratorium for the bluefin due to the imminent depletion that was well known at that point (3 years after the MSNBC article above) ICCAT’s response consisted of allowing more bluefin to be fished in “a number of countries including Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia.” A lot of articles that mention ICCAT discredit it almost immediately, and I can only imagine it was in response to actions like these.  Without accounting for illegal or underreported fishing the European Union overfished 4,000 tonnes over the limit, the ICCAT claims nothing more needs to be done to save the bluefin. The environmental groups were seething.

Driss Meski - a man in charge of protecting a VITAL SPECIES to the planet and DOES NOT CARE TO PRESERVE THEM.

Driss Meski - a man in charge of protecting a VITAL SPECIES to the planet and DOES NOT CARE TO PRESERVE THEM.

So a man I am keenly interested in knowing more about, and any investigative reporters please take this and run with it, is a man named Mr. Driss Meski; who even dares to put his face up on the website as the executive secretary of ICCAT, as if this were a position to be proud of.  I’m not an investigative journalist but this guy seems to stay pretty low key despite his vital position in the continuance of a highly prized species. His personal response to the lack of preservation surrounding the bluefin was to point to a plan that began in 2006 that was too early to know the results of yet (right…) “The plan is still going on – our recommendations were that there should be no revision of the plan,” is a direct quote from Mr. Driss Meski.  And here we are 3 years later from that quote and in 3 years the bluefin faces depletion. Why is Mr. Meski so cold and callous to preserving such a loved and cherished fish when he in fact should be the biggest crier of genocide? That’s the question I want to know, and I’m sure a good investigative journalist could start finding some connections with Mr. Meski that should not belong. How come he is not interested in making a sustainable tuna population to ensure the continuance of his job and a stable and steady food supply for decades to come? What is he choosing to focus on instead?  I wish I knew.

CodSo! New Zealand and Australia’s fishing stock is depleting due to overfishing and poor fishing techniques, the tuna of the Atlantic and Europe are are depleting due to overfishing and poor conservation management. What else could go wrong?! Actually – plenty! Good Magazine decided to give their eulogy to fish with a story of a cod fisherman off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts entitled Fin: The Last Days of Fish. His name is Ted Ligenza and he has been a commercial fisherman for over 35 years. Again, another source that seems reputable, he’s not a marine biologist, he’s coming from the fishing side of things. But he sings the same tune admitting that all the typical places he has found cod in 35 years are now empty.

The article illuminates that this is not a fringe-belief but a well documented fact explaining the collapse of the cod industry in Newfoundland and Maine. The article states that the coast off Cape Cod is about to fall off the precipice with its Northern neighbors, Today, cod populations in the Georges Bank, off Cape Cod, hover near the brink, at levels 10 percent of what scientists consider healthy.

This Good Magazine article supplies us with more terrifying facts, What has transpired off the shores of Cape Cod is not unique. The same has occurred on coasts throughout the world. In 1988, at the peak of the output of the world’s fisheries, boats around the globe landed something on the order of 80 million tons of fish. Since then, depending upon which numbers you believe, the world’s annual catch has either plateaued or fallen by as much as 500,000 tons a year.

Alas, there’s more: And while fish stocks dwindle worldwide, an estimated 90 percent of large predatory fish—tuna, swordfish, cod, halibut—have disappeared since the mid-20th century. One study, published almost two years ago in Science, predicted a worldwide collapse of commercial fish stocks in just 40 years, if the present pace of fishing continues.

Shifting Baseline Syndrome – This Good Magazine article did an excellent job at reporting on this, and I particularly like that they got to interview a renowned fishery scientist who said something incredibly poignant, that I am going to use in terms not just related to fish. The scientist is Dr. Daniel Pauly who is an avid supporter of establishing marine reserves (which we will talk more about later).  The term he used was called “shifting baseline syndrome,” a term in which is a “habit of mind that allows us to adapt to the impoverishment of our landscapes.” Basically meaning over time, we lose track of the natural state of the world. I assume this is why we allow our major world rivers, the roots which sprung civilization, to be completely contaminated and polluted. I assume this is why we don’t mind depleting our timber resources yearly. And of course it’s why we don’t comprehend what it means to have an entire ocean brimming with fish. These changes don’t happen overnight, despite their freakishly fast speed, and we have a hard time truly perceiving the difference. I mean you go out one year and it’s a bad year, they happen. Hell – 3, 4, or 5 bad years in a row happen sometimes, and some people weren’t having the trouble you were… and before you know it it’s 2009 and the “oceans carry less than a tenth of the number of fish they once held, yet few of us have any sense that something is wrong.

Then the Good Magazine article returns back to Ted Ligenza, the 35 year fisherman, and he confirms all of our suspicions about ethical fishing: “‘I wasn’t willing to do a lot of things that other people have done,’ Ligenza said. ‘I wasn’t willing because it wasn’t fair to the fish, and it wasn’t fair to my sons and the next generation. So I’ve always tried to fish in what I thought was an ethical manner. But I’ve paid dearly for it. If I’d have gotten in big, with a bigger boat, I’d have something to give my children now. But I never wanted to fish that way. I just didn’t have the stomach for it.‘” Mr. Ligenza did everything but point his fingers at the trawlers and unethical fishermen who were willing to forgo sustainability for profit.

 

I made another drawing to help explain our highly technical process of developed nations gaining fishing rights in developing nations

I made another drawing to help explain our highly technical process of developed nations gaining fishing rights in developing nations. Click for larger image

Developing Nations – Though sharks are on the decline like the rest of our marine life they can easily be likened to developed nations predatory disposition towards the fishing stock in developing nations. In fact, developing nations can sell the rights to fish off their coasts to these powerful and rich developed nations and often promise more fish than are available depleting their own coasts as well. Nations such as the European Union, China, and Russia take part in these practices around the continent of Africa according to this New York Times article. Fishermen from these developing nations are casting in their nets and are starting to find nothing in them when they are brought back out. This is leading to emigration from developing nations by fishermen to developing nations to be able to gain access to better fishing. Again, trawling is the culprit for the depletion as well as poor governmental regulation.

Pierre Chavance, a scientist with the French Institute for Research and Development, said both foreign fleets and African governments allowed financial considerations to trump concerns for fish or local fishermen. “One side has a big interest to sell, and the other side has a big interest to buy,” he said. “The negotiations are based upon what people want to hear, not the reality.”

Quotes like the one above scream to my rational side because this behavior is so typical of humans. It is like having an owner of a football team wanting to have all the glory and win all the games (or fish), and the owner of the opposing football team is betting on the original team to win (to make a lot of money), and of course things are a lot easier when the opposing team throws the game for the sake of gambling profits. Everybody would love to be in this situation until it stops bearing fruit – when the opposing team has lost so many games, they couldn’t win if they wanted to anymore.

The coastal stock of bottom-dwelling fish is just a quarter of what it was 25 years ago, studies show. Already, scientists say, the sea’s ecological balance has shifted as species lower on the food chain replace some above them. In Mauritania, lobsters vanished years ago. The catch of octopus — now the most valuable species — is four-fifths of what it should be if it were not overexploited. A 2002 report by the European Commission found that the most marketable fish species off the coast of Senegal were close to collapse — essentially sliding toward extinction.“The sea is being emptied,” said Moctar Ba, a consultant who once led scientific research programs for Mauritania and West Africa.


Studies dating to 1991 indicated that Senegal’s fishery was in trouble. In 2002, a scientific report commissioned by the European Union stated that the biomass of important species had declined by three-fourths in 15 years — a finding the authors said should “cause significant alarm.” But the week the report was issued, European Union officials signed a new four-year fishing deal with Senegal, agreeing to pay $16 million a year to fish for bottom-dwelling species and tuna. Four years later, Mauritania followed suit. Despite reports that octopus were overfished by nearly a third, in 2006 Mauritania’s government sold six more years’ access to 43 European Union vessels for $146 million a year — the equivalent of nearly a fifth of Mauritania’s government budget. “I don’t know a government in the region that can say no,” said Mr. Chavance, the French scientist. “This is good money, and they need it.”

I hate to cut and paste so much, but it’s all incredibly important to the big picture. Not only are we depleting fish from the coasts of every major continent on the planet, we are removing local fishing as a possibility from our developing nations leaving them castrated, unable to become independent. Fishing is a huge food source, and it is being sold to developed nations by typically corrupt politicians.

Dead Zones

An Algal bloom - a symptom of a dead zone

An Algal bloom - a symptom of a dead zone

In the movie Silent Hill an air raid siren screeches through the already bleak, shrouded, and inescapable landscape. Within an instant darkness consumes the town, walls melt into cages, blood wallpapering them, creatures of unspeakable horror emerge, and hopelessness engulfs the soul. I imagine Dead Zones are kind of like that to our fish and more complex forms of life in the sea – except they don’t get the air-siren. You see – there is a natural force on this planet called gravity and we largely let it do the determining of where our waste goes. What kind of waste? Sewage, fertilizer runoff, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide from fossil fuels, and you only need to make a gruesome guess at what else. All of this waste from us runs off into the bays and coasts of our oceans.

And this is what happens next – clear waters begin to cloud and this might be likened to the ash falling from the sky in Silent Hill. You see – all of this runoff from fertilizer and waste is organic which is like filling the troughs for certain bacteria and algae which would feast greedily then die floating to the depths decaying. And this organic material floats lazily to the bottom, blocking sunlight, and killing off natural growth. The organic material slowly falls to rest on coral reefs and in stasis in the water. Then the air siren would ring – and fish would dash left to right looking for a place to run, but there is none. The algae and bacteria die in such abundance that their decaying process starves the water of oxygen suffocating the rest of the nearby eco-system with hypoxia – deprivation of oxygen.

All living creatures that we would consider “a gift,” “useful,” “delicious,” “beautiful” are dragging along the ocean bottom in dead water. There are no walls in the ocean covered in blood like as in Silent Hill – instead of blood an eye-watering weed which covers you in sores and boils and grows at a rate of a football field in one hour sprawls across the ocean bottom.  Deadly forms of bacteria murder the inhabitants of a coral reef and then degrade the coral itself until centuries of work are removed – until the cities of under the ocean are turned to pale, hollow forms of their once abundant self. Corals consist of only 1% of our oceans but provide  home for 1/4 of all marine life – over 2 million species. The loss of a coral reef by trawler or by waste runoff are both unspeakably tragic to our oceans stability. The only life that remains are grotesque creatures not unlike those that exist after the air siren in Silent Hill – various worms and gelatinous jellyfish – countless jellyfish.
Many of the same forces have wiped out 80% of the corals in the Caribbean, despoiled two-thirds of the estuaries in the United States and destroyed 75% of California’s kelp forests, once prime habitat for fish.” That is according to this well done and comprehensive article written by the Los Angeles Times entitled A Primeval Tide of Toxins. One man the LA Times and quite a few others of my resources turned to for information was a man by the name of Jeremy Jackson. He belongs to the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. And as far as I can tell he has no shady governmental relationships and seems serious about his cause. In fact he has released some studies providing factual evidence of the damage being caused in the oceans. On the topic of Dead Zones, “‘We’re pushing the oceans back to the dawn of evolution,’ Jackson said, ‘a half-billion years ago when the oceans were ruled by jellyfish and bacteria.‘”

 

An image on how dead zones are created from algal blooms

An image on how dead zones are created from algal blooms

Bacteria – Do you really believe we’re not doing 500 million years worth of damage to the environment in the span of a human lifetime? Due to our wastewater algae blooms form of a bacteria known as cyanobacteria – a bacteria first fossilized on this planet 2.8 billion years ago. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a warning out for cyanobacteria. They explain how first it clouds the water and makes it smell bad killing marine plants and animals. If humans or their pets come in contact with it, it can make you “sick.” It makes a special note to point out children are at higher risk for illness when exposed to this bacteria. It is cyanobacteria that is the cause of seaweed that grows at a rate of a football field an hour in hypoxic regions, because it is here that a form of cyanobacteria known as Lyngbya Majuscula (or “fireweed” and “stinging limu”) thrives. It consists of over 100 toxins, the LA Times Article elaborates:

Lyngbya has lots of tricks,” said scientist Judith O’Neil. “That’s why it’s been around for 3 billion years.”
It can pull nitrogen out of the air and make its own fertilizer. It uses a different spectrum of sunlight than algae do, so it can thrive even in murky waters. Perhaps its most diabolical trick is its ability to feed on itself. When it dies and decays, it releases its own nitrogen and phosphorous into the water, spurring another generation of growth.
“Once it gets going, it’s able to sustain itself,” O’Neil said.
Ron Johnstone, a University of Queensland researcher, recently experienced
Lyngbya’s fire. He was studying whether iron and phosphorous in bay sediments contribute to the blooms, and he accidentally came in contact with bits of the weed. He broke out in rashes and boils, and needed a cortisone shot to ease the inflammation.

Harmful algal events have been on the increase since the 1970s – they take place off of coastal waters because people are largely responsible for their cause. Which means we have to actively change this. Dinoflagellates are another bacteria bloom with harmful effects on both human and marine life. They commit genocide on the fish but can give us “gastrointestinal illness, permanent neurological damage, or even death.” Even Serratia marcescens, a bacteria found in the human intestine is being released into the oceans and decimating marine life.

 

Lyngbya Majuscula - a rapidly growing poisonous plant found in dead zones

Lyngbya Majuscula - a rapidly growing poisonous plant found in dead zones

Jellyfish – Jellyfish love to eat algae and microbes so Dead Zones have been helping the jellyfish increase in population. The Acting Director of Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth, Martin Atrill, seems to be a leading researcher keeping track of things on the jellyfish. He published a study which proclaims a significant increase in jellyfish for the next 50 – 100 years. Now I am pretty sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to be walking along the beach or watching a documentary in 60 years in which dozens of miles are covered like a blanket with jellyfish overflowing our oceans with no fish in sight. Yet with the increase in “Dead Zones” from human activity, it will only provide more reason for the jellyfish to thrive in this primordial stew in which it was made for.

Then the effect of this is cyclical because jellyfish also eat regular fish – so in addition to our overfishing practices and dead zones killing off the fish, we are helping the burgeoning of another species that also eat fish. And jellyfish predators have already been largely wiped out by… you guessed it… human overfishing.  “Well when all the fish die then the jellyfish will too, right?” No – not right, because the jellyfish can survive on things other than fish. Indeed, the overabundance of jellyfish are hurting our fishing stock as well. Both that article and this one cite Atrill’s study as evidence that the jellyfish population is rising. But Atrill isn’t the only one who knows it, ask the Northern Salmon Company from Northern Ireland:

The jellyfish attack wiped out the entire stock of the Northern Salmon Company; more than 200 metric tons (about 440,000 pounds) of fish worth £1m or US $2 million was lost overnight, according to numerous reports in the European press….

John Russell, who had just started as managing director three days before, was understandably taken aback.  “It was unprecedented, absolutely amazing. The sea was red with these jellyfish and there was nothing we could do about it, absolutely nothing,” he lamented.  The company’s dozen workers tried in vain to prevent disaster, but their boats were unable to penetrate the mass of jellyfish to rescue the salmon.  All were killed from a combination of stings, stress, and lack of oxygen.  Ireland’s Chief Fisheries Officer with Ireland’s Department of Agriculture said there was nothing he believed Northern Salmon or any fishery could have done or could do to prevent this or future attacks.

Callum Roberts offers us a little peak into what this future would be like – with bands of rogue jellyfish without predators roaming the oceans in the Guardian article again:

Callum Roberts, professor of marine conservation at York University, predicts that by 2050 we will only be able to meet the fish protein needs of half the world population: all that will be left for the unlucky half may be, as he puts it, ‘jellyfish and slime’. Ninety years of industrial-scale exploitation of fish has, he and most scientists agree, led to ‘ecological meltdown’. Whole biological food chains have been destroyed.

Jeremy Jackson agrees:

Dead zones support “an extraordinary biomass of diverse microbes and jellyfish that may constitute the only surviving commercial fishery,” Jackson writes, but little else survives in a dead zone.

The comprehensive LA Times article went to see what the “jellyfishing” industry is like today on a trawler off the coast of the Atlantic:

Plop. Splat. Whoosh. About 2,000 pounds of cannonball jellyfish slopped onto the deck. The jiggling, cantaloupe-size blobs ricocheted around the stern and slid down an opening into the boat’s ice-filled hold.

The deck was streaked with purple-brown contrails of slimy residue; a stinging, ammonia-like odor filled the air.

“That’s the smell of money,” Simpson said, all smiles at the haul. “Jellyballs are thick today. Seven cents a pound. Yes, sir, we’re making money.”

It’s simple math. He can spend a week at sea scraping the ocean bottom for shrimp and be lucky to pocket $600 after paying for fuel, food, wages for crew and the boat owner’s cut.

Or, in a few hours of trawling for jellyfish, he can fill up the hold, be back in port the same day and clear twice as much. The jellyfish are processed at the dock in Darien, Ga., and exported to China and Japan, where spicy jellyfish salad and soup are delicacies.

“Easy money,” Simpson said. “They get so thick you can walk on them.”

Fuck Jellyfish everywhere. Let's change this while we can.

Fuck Jellyfish everywhere. Let's change this while we can.

This seems to be confirming what the experts in these fields are telling us. The LA Times resorts back to Dr. Pauly for more expert advisement:

As their traditional catch declines, fishermen around the world now haul in 450,000 tons of jellyfish per year, more than twice as much as a decade ago.

This is a logical step in a process that Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist at the University of British Columbia, calls “fishing down the food web.” Fishermen first went after the largest and most popular fish, such as tuna, swordfish, cod and grouper. When those stocks were depleted, they pursued other prey, often smaller and lower on the food chain.

“We are eating bait and moving on to jellyfish and plankton,” Pauly said.

An argument I can see argued here is that our fishing of jellyfish will keep their population in check – but that is unlikely – despite the fact they will become a greater part of our diet:

Of the 2,000 or so identified jellyfish species, only about 10 are commercially harvested. The largest fisheries are off China and other Asian nations. New ones are springing up in Australia, the United States, England, Namibia, Turkey and Canada as fishermen look for ways to stay in business.

Pauly, 60, predicts that future generations will see nothing odd or unappetizing about a plateful of these gelatinous blobs.

“My kids,” Pauly said, “will tell their children: Eat your jellyfish.”

I quoted so much because I really wanted to stress the importance of this. We are turning our oceans into rampant breeding grounds for bacteria and jellyfish. If we consider the abundance of life in the sea just one century ago, and we compare it a century in the future – and how can you not feel ashamed to be human?! Millennia  of effort by evolution to give us a lush, stable, diverse planet teeming with all forms of higher life forms – decimated – due to greed and lack of foresight (perhaps Epimetheus did create us after all).  The good news is life can rebound exceptionally quick if given the chance – but I prefer we do this before we have to stand in an Oliver Twist jellyfish line for our daily rations.

Leatherbacks – You might say, “There must be SOMETHING good that likes to eat jellyfish!” and the truth is, there is – the Leatherback turtle, the largest turtle in the world is a natural predator to jellyfish. The leatherbacks, bigger than humans and can live almost as long, have existed for over 100 million years. But two things have been killing leatherbacks and neither of them have to do with fishing. The first is that their eggs which they bury on the beach and leave to never return again are picked up in countries like Thailand and Malaysia by people claiming the egg has a love-potion in it.  The other problem is that leatherbacks mistake plastic (oh fucking plastic!) for jellyfish and end up getting full bellies of plastic, becoming malnourished, and dying early. Very few leatherbacks get to live an entire life because of these dangers despite a whole ocean brimming with its favorite food. Again we are our own worst enemies.

Global Warming and Ocean Acidification

Hello future!

Hello future!

Oh yes – I dare to tackle it! And I’m not going to pull any punches. I’m just going to lay down the law to crazy (typically) Republicans who seriously dare to have the audacity – the sheer audacity – to deny the existence of global warming still. Global Warming is real. And if you dare respond to me that those are all examples of “liberal media propaganda,” I will respond to you that there isn’t any media outlet that reports on imaginary news – which apparently seems to be the only acceptable news to people with extremely narrow agendas that revolve largely around the preaching (but not the practicing) of Christianity, the denial of evolution, the complex philosophy of the definition of ‘marriage’ and caring enough about gay people to care what the fucking STATE calls their relationship (wasting taxpayer time and money- this is a ‘rights’ issue, not a ‘definition’ issue), frowning at abortions and stem cell research that could cure millions and buying “Pro-life” memorabilia, and denying the existence of global warming. Why this band of complete fuckups got in control of one of our two major parties infuriates me to no end. And to DARE pretend like the media agenda is “liberal” shows that the last time you read any real news must’ve been sometime before I was born when the political world was two-dimensional and pong-like in structure. Politics today are hairier and scarier than they’ve ever been and it is a 3 dimensional, surround sound experience. The intricacies and the complexities of politics today are not as cut and paste as things were back in the last time most Republicans checked the news. And I carry some real conservative beliefs – like fiscal responsibility and humility – which the Republicans were proud to turn a blind eye to with Bush because they are a bunch of slimy cowardly hyenas that blindly follow a leader instead of embracing the foundation of checks and balances in this country and instead bitch about petty issues not relevant for the 21st century. And, again, to clear the record – I am NO democrat – but at least they are standing for pertinent issues they believe in and affect the country as a whole.

The fact that I’m even wasting space on this immense article to just clarify that I’m not just some lost pathetic person caught up in the “liberal agenda,” which must be some imaginary spectre returning from the 1960s, is frustrating beyond recognition. Now other ‘arguments’ surrounding global warming is “sure – there is evidence that it’s real – but who says it’s man made?” And I will grant this sliver of credit that there is less definitive research on the precise correlation of mans impact on the atmosphere, but the fact that global warming is occurring is clearly a fact – understand a fact is a fact. And whether you want to blame the sun or other natural events on this “non-man-made” global warming it IS occurring. However, I warn you, if you believe that mankind, in his (and her) global occupation and colonization of every corner of this Earth, with all the manufacturing done around the entire planet unceasingly day and night, with all the cars, trucks, trains, and planes that are driven/rode/piloted daily, does not play a significant impact on this environment – don’t mind if I stare at you, because I rarely am gifted enough to see ignorance in such a pure and crystallized form… (I take that back, I get that luxury often).  But this is how the argument goes, “Well if it’s natural (or mostly natural) then there’s nothing we can do about it anyway – temperature on the planet has gone through many heating and cooling periods and this is most likely just another thing like that and we’ll just have to adapt and thats how things go.” The problem with that is that there are going to be extreme modifications to our climate and whole systems that humans (yes, humans, people, like you and me humans) depend on to survive. On land this is true – but that’s not what this entry is about – this entry is dedicated to our boundless neighbor – the sea. The proof will follow. But the overarching point is this – we need to respond to global warming in a manner that is (I vote) the most beneficial to humans. And I have come to learn that what is best for man is abundance – because we are a sinister being when in the face of scarcity. Specifically abundance in life is beneficial for man – because when we have abundance – we can all eat, share, give, love, and relax. However, we can not gorge on abundance voraciously depleting our stocks. Yet this is precisely the attitude we took with fishing our oceans, and now global warming is coming to help get rid of those we have not yet massacred.

Trouble

Trouble

If you read Atrill’s article he doesn’t even account for the hydra of Dead Zones popping up each decade as the cause for the increase in these bone-chilling, floating, stinging zombies – alive, yet not alive, sentient, yet unaware – void of evolutionary progress. Despite dead zones clearly playing a factor in the increase of jellyfish  (as we have discussed) Atrill and others account for global warming as the main culprit.

So how does carbon dioxide make oceans acidic? Well with the massive increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the oceans are naturally going to absorb some of the carbon dioxide too which lowers the ph levels of the oceans. In 1900 the ocean acidity levels were at 8.2, but with all of the absorption of carbon dioxide it is predicted that the ph level of the ocean will be at 7.8. Why is this a problem? Because coral will die out and crustaceans shells will dissolve leaving them paper thin thus eliminating even more bountiful species from our already hemorrhaging oceans. You see their shells are made of calcium carbonate, and they need carbonate ions which are easily found in the oceans now. But will disappear with increased acidification through carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.

How do we know what happens when our oceans reach 7.8 on the ph scale? NewScientist made a video studying a naturally occurring carbon dioxide vent in the Mediterranean Sea. On the outside of the vent the ph level was normal and mostly coral dominated. However, once the ph level reached 7.8 then sea grass and invasive algae took over. Corals and crustacean shells were weak and damaged. ScienCentral has a video documenting ocean acidification already occurring on the Western Coast of the United States.

Then we have professor Timothy Wootton of the University of Chicago whose mussels seemed to be disappearing. He would go to remote islands way up in the most northwest part of the lower 48 states in the state of Washington. Again, the culprit points to ocean acidity. Additionally Wootton admits that he’s nervous because the ocean seems to be acidifying at a much faster rate than predicted.

 

The effects of ocean acidification

The effects of ocean acidification

National Geographic completed its story on ocean acidification in November of 2007:

Users of the mineral aragonite—a very soluble type of calcium carbonate—are especially vulnerable. They include tiny pteropod snails, which help feed commercially vital fish like salmon. Computer models predict that polar waters will turn hostile for pteropods within 50 years (cold water holds the most CO2, so it is already less shell-friendly). By 2100, habitat for many shelled species could shrink drastically, with impacts up the food chain. And as the acidification reaches the tropics, “it’s a doomsday scenario for coral reefs,” says Carnegie Institution oceanographer Ken Caldeira. If current trends continue, he predicts, reefs will one day survive only in walled-off, acid-controlled refuges.

 

Time wrote its article on coral extinction in July of 2008:

You don’t have to be a marine biologist to understand the importance of corals — just ask any diver. The tiny underwater creatures are the architects of the beautiful, electric-colored coral reefs that lie in shallow tropical waters around the world. Divers swarm to them not merely for their intrinsic beauty, but because the reefs play host to a wealth of biodiversity unlike anywhere else in the underwater world. Coral reefs are home to more than 25% of total marine species. Take out the corals, and there are no reefs — remove the reefs, and entire ecosystems collapse.

NewScientist also has taken the time to write an extensive research article on ocean acidification citing a study from James Zachos of the University of California at Santa Cruz where he documents a case of ocean acidification 55 million years ago creating massive species extinction and 100,000 years of an acidic dynasty until alkalinity was restored to the oceans.  Ocean acidification is real – and if our overfishing doesn’t kill our fishing stock, then our inaction on ocean acidification will.

Almost all the information given is the same. Currently our oceans are already 30% more acidic than in 1900. By 2100 the oceans are expected to be 150 times more acidic. This would be the biggest global change in the oceans in 20 million years. Invasive algae will become the new dominant species in the ocean. Each year the sea absorbs about 2 billion tons of carbon from the air. If and when ocean acidification takes effect it will threaten the existence of over 1,000,000 species on the planet.

Serious Red-Alert Danger

How terribly we waste fish in graph form!

How terribly we waste fish in graph form!

So, I don’t know what else to write. Time is warning us, National Geographic is warning us. These are not crazed wing-nuts. When we add our list up we have a lot to account for that nobody truly feels the need to be held accountable for it. And this will impact us all – the guilty just as equally as the innocent. Let’s finalize the list of things decimating our ocean:

Things Decimating Our Oceans

1. Overfishing on a global scale.

2. Bottom trawling.

3. Unethical inter-governmental practices.

4. Plastics (See NPGP entry).

5. An “out of sight, out of mind” mentality coupled with an imperceptible time shift during which there is a weakening of fish stock for the planet making most apathetic on the issue.

6. Excessive nitrogen from fertilizer and organic waste dumped into our bays creating Dead Zones.

7. Accelerating environmental modifications through various vehicles which increase ideal conditions for dangerous bacteria, lower, dangerous, or less nutritious life forms.

8. Carbon emissions that get absorbed by the ocean which raises its acidity.

9. Insatiable greed.

The gravity of the situation is dire. And from my chair right here after all this research things look very bleak. When articles like this one which claims 40% of fish caught by global fisheries are wasted come around, I cringe at the length we must go to overcome our own incompetence. One article I read struck me in a different way from all the rest. It was this article on the overfishing of anchovies, one of the many endangered species in the ocean not yet mentioned in this article. It reminded me of an episode of Futurama I saw where Fry ends up with the last tin of anchovies in the world because they all went extinct shortly after Fry was transported to the future. They end up eating the last anchovies on the entire planet – I just wonder who will get that privilege, or rather sinful duty, in reality.  And there are hundreds of thousands of species, on the brink of extinction, all awaiting our action, or rather lackthereof, to determine their final fate. And when they are gone, we will learn the definition of humble once again, because we apparently are so far removed from it that we think we can fly without wings, breathe without air, and eat without a source.

Appropriate Responses

A large portion of this entry was to help make you aware and convince you of the immensity of the problem. However, without giving some basic guidance on where we go from here I am not doing a complete job. The fact is there are some measures that could be taken to avoid oceanic catastrophe. Here is what they are:

Become aware of what fish are endangered: In this Guardian article it’s clear that sellers in Spain are willing to overlook conservation efforts for a profit. This means that as consumers we need to become more aware of what species should not be eaten so as to loosen the demand on these species fighting for their very existence! This does not have to be complex either – think of some of your favorite fish and then head to the Online Seafood Watch Guides for Sustainable Seafood Choices and find out of they are on the “best choices” list or on the “avoid” list or somewhere in between. Make personal lifestyle changes if you are eating off of the “avoid” list – have some humanity and become the change that needs to be seen.  There is also this IUCN Redlist of globally threatened species to help clarify our boundaries for us. And if you’re really passionate about helping out with this – cuz we need some passionate people for sure – you’ll go through these lists and make an easier to use more comprehensive list that ensures proper guidance for sustainability.

Proper information and labeling of fish: Steve Hatt is a fishmonger who has already taken the above advice and is a well-informed fish distributor. He practices ethical fish purchasing and tries to keep his customers well informed. But he admits how difficult to understand everything in the fish buying industry. Being more specific with labelling was central to this interview by the Guardian.  This allows consumers to have the most information needed for the most informed choices.

Listen to the right sources: When the UN tells us that fish stocks are in trouble, we need to listen. Of course these are the faces of those who are focusing on these issues. (click links for more info on the person)

sm_callum Callum Roberts – Marine Conservation Biologist Professor at the University of York

Jackson-blueshirt-web Jeremy Jackson – Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation

oshea Dr. Steve O’Shea – New Zealands leading expert on giant squids

dpauly Dr. Daniel Pauly – Professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre and Zoology Department

diaz_rj Dr. Robert Diaz – Professor of Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Just last month some of the scientists above issued a warning to ban fishing in about 1/3 of those worlds oceans. These warnings should be listened to now. They are harder to understand the need of now but we can have significantly better chances if we began now instead of waiting until things get worse.

Underwater Protection Zones: For every $99 that goes towards protecting and conserving land, $1 goes to protecting and conserving the ocean. This has left a major gap of safe-havens for underwater life. There have been discussions to change this, my suggestion is you support these programs regardless of financial cost:

Protection zones are the most popular alternative, he says. “They should be the ecological underpinning of sea management. One estimate from 2004 put the cost at $12-24bn a year to run a worldwide network of marine reserves covering 30% of all oceans and seas. It seems a lot but they would cost less than the $15-30bn we currently spend on subsidies that encourage excess fishing capacity and prop up exploitation.”

 

Save this please!

Save this please!

Create containment and cleanup programs that work: Look to the examples that have worked in the past. The Baltic Sea has been dealing with algae blooms for years now and 2007 was their best year to date. Find out what the Baltic countries are doing right. In Queensland they have a Lyngbya management strategy to keep the toxic weed from spreading.

Support legislature that enforces serious reduction of carbon emissions: To slow the acidification of our oceans down we must not only stop producing but also find a way to extract the carbon out of our oceans for the chance of our oceans staying at a more evolutionary sound place.

Be extremely mindful on how much plastic you consume and throw away: Minimize both!

Demand strict inter-governmental rules on the practices of fishing: Just off the top of my head here I say no more than 49% should go to any foreign nation. But also a sustainable fishing stock should be maintained in the agreement.

Support the illegalization of bottom trawling: It’s just a really bad practice. It needs to end.

Encourage public interest in the ocean: I’m leaving this one up to someone else!

Better cleaning of organic and nitrogen-based waste: Let’s prevent Dead Zones – I’m sure it would take only minimal work.

Massive movement of regeneration of leatherbacks: Make it against the law to be in posession of a leatherback egg under penalty of death – I’m serious – let’s get this awesome species back thriving and sick them on the jellyfish. Let’s fight this right! And there’s no excuse for making a species go extinct because you want to pretend that it carries magical love powers. Not acceptable. I find death an acceptable punishment for being counter-productive on a global scale.

Check out these links from the LA Times: Loaded with information, these links are all you need to be your own personal ocean expert.

*You might have noticed some countries or regions in the color red while you were reading. If you live in any of these areas then these problems are affecting you. I wanted people to recognize how wide-spread this problem really is. Feel free to comment below!

 

Population

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

Who doesn’t love babies? I know I sure do. Some of you may claim to be that one who “can’t stand babies” but all things being serious I’m certain that experiencing the death of a baby would be far more traumatic than that of someone older. Like all species we are attached to our young with something so adhesive only Life itself could’ve come up with it. Like any animal protecting their children we can go primal when it comes to threatening their safety. The abortion issue is a clear indication of how important our children are to us, they need only be conceived and their life has become sacred.

The reason why we, as humans, all love our children; the reason why all life loves all life, particularly their own species is because it is genetically imbedded in us. To evolve we need something driving the continuation of the species – otherwise life would be a lot more of a “miss” than a “hit.” The reason why sex is so unimaginably pleasurable and seductive to us is not so much sin but instead our natural urge to do the one thing we were knowingly meant to do – and that’s reproduce.

Our genetic code is complex, but the urge for sex will surpass social standards, legal standards, and moral standards that also keep the genetic code intact. That is why this drive is so primally strong and so zombie-esque in need. As a species we feed on sex like vampires to blood.  But of course – nothing new here – we are not even the most sexually active species on the planet.

There is a point to all this – the preservation of life is sacred to us all that exist through it. But specifically the preservation of your particular species, even more specifically – your personal genetic code. From this simple purpose you came to know to love, for nothing melts our hearts more than a love for a child. And I’ll admit – that sounds really sappy – but it’s just a simple fact that shouldn’t be overlooked.

A single life is so complex and beautiful. The creation of a child should never be diminished in its importance as it might as well be a miracle for every time it occurred. The conception of a new life is practically magical in the rapid assembly of itself. For generations which I cannot even fathom this has occurred and this is something profound to say about both life and humanity.

The Problem

With all that being said above, we do have a problem. I just wanted to make it perfectly clear that I think human life is a beautiful, sacred thing that has signficant importance to all our lives. The problem lies directly on the graph to the right. Now, I know you all see what I’m talking about and you want to skip right to the end where you see the giant leap. But let’s take this graph step by step. First let’s recognize that 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago not very much changed in the human population growth. How do we know this? Because more people would’ve meant more bones and bodies found in the ground – but we stayed a relatively low-key species for about 2.5 million years.

Then something happened about 10,000 years ago to change this very sustainable way of living. What was it? What took the population control away from Fate’s hands and into our own? What was our key to control over our own population levels? The answer happens to be something pretty boring sounding considering its power – the agricultural revolution. It’s hard to express my emotional attachment to this time period in human history. To me the agricultural revolution is more than just simply learning how to farm and store food, it was the first breath of civilization. This is important to me because civilization is the one thing we are completely surrounded by with virtually no questioning or truly understanding it. And it was simply the result of deciding to stop running around everywhere and make use of what was directly around us.

And a human living in a world of tribal sustenance, hunting and gathering, incessantly setting up camp and taking it down, almost completely exposed to unfavorable weather, and sometimes not knowing if they’ll have a next meal or have a day to rest I can only applaud their sheer brilliance of fortifying a single spot and attempt to master some of nature to work for us for a change – instead of the other way around. And because of this we prospered, and our genetic code was ecstatic pumping our brains with endorphins as our species finally could put their efforts in to other things rather than simply surviving – one of those other things quite obviously being sex. Yet other things were medical advances which helped people live better and longer lives, and still yet other things were to make life more convenient so as to decrease the risk of something going wrong. And through this we prospered even more, having more free time, and being productive in our own definition of the word with that free time.

Continuing on the graph our species goes through the many periods on which historians use to define eras – we float by the New Stone Age, in which some of the earliest civilizations on the planet began to flourish, in modern day Egypt, Iraq, India, and China. The Iron Age gave rise to the world’s most prominent civilizations to date, mighty empires rising and spreading across the planet only to crumble and fall again, sometimes centuries later. Additionally the Iron Age gave rise to our modern day commonly accepted religions, hardly a blip on the radar of humanity, life, the planet, and the Universe.  For now we’ll skip over the Middle Ages and move right to the Modern Age. Wow. How did the population get so high so quickly? Things hardly changed in millions of years and in the course of a few hundred years it skyrockets.

This is known as an exponential curve. The exponential function is an interesting concept best summed up by this quote right here:

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponentional function.

Albert A. Bartlett, Physicist

And even though humanity has done a great job of demonstrating exponential growth with our populations and subsequently demand for resources, we as a race, rarely take it in to serious consideration. So what is this exponential function? What does it mean? And really the best source of explanation of that comes from the same man who gave the quote above. He has about an 80 minute video on Youtube aptly labeled The Most Important Video You’ll Ever See. If you truly want to feel the gravity of a blindsiding slap of what we as a species are doing to ourselves and the planet with very simple math, you should watch that video. Additionally if you want to understand why John McCain should not support drilling as much as he does – this isn’t political – it’s math – solid fact.But here is how Albert A. Bartlett brilliantly describes exponential growth (with my clever illustration to go with it).

He tells you to imagine a bottle with a bacteria in it that splits every minute, so that after an hours time the bottle will be full.

See the bacteria? He’s in there. The number along side the bottle? Bartlett decides this is the time in which we’ll put the bacteria in the bottle to watch it reproduce.

And there it is! The miracle of life! Where there was once bacteria there now is two. Now, at 11:02 both bacteria are going to split, so again there will be twice as many bacteria.

And there they are! All 4! Now, again, they double. And Again. And Again.

I like how they are stacking themselves up. It reminds me of a flea circus or something. But Bartlett asks this question: Using this method, at what time would the bottle be half full? My initial answer was probably similar to yours if you never thought about this before ” I dunno.” But the question is a trick because it was answered by the problem itself. If it doubles every minute, and after an hour it is full, it must be that at 11:59 the bottle was half full, as such:

Not as cozy and cute as the first 5 minutes. And in a single minutes time, we recieve this:

Even when you are expecting it, it is still slightly shocking, I must admit. For the simple reason that every single minute PRIOR to 11:59 you would’ve never guessed such a substantial growth rate. There is an old riddle whose origin and type of grain changes, but the story follows the same line. You start by putting one piece of grain on the first square, two on the second, and so on – before you reach halfway (or so) you’ve already used up all of the world’s known resources of grain. This is exponential growth – it sneaks up on you even when you know it’s coming. The next question Dr. Bartlett asks is If you were an average bacterium in the bottle, at which point would you realize you were running out of space?  I have taken the liberty to graph the bacteria experiment aforementioned above. Along the bottom is time and along the Y-Axis is the percentage of the bottle that is full (I have no idea how to tell Excel to stop at 100):

That is a fair question. Becuase certainly we can discount almost the entire history of the bacteria existence up until about 11:50. Bacteria at 11:50 have lived the whole history of their entire world, all 50 minutes of it, with a number that virtually amounts to 0. By 11:55 the bacteria are only taking up 3% of the entire bottle. 5 minutes until 12 – and the bottle is 3% full. What bacteria is going to naturally think that in 5 minutes the entire bottle is going to be full? Especially when the last 55 minutes have hardly incurred any growth at all?!

The beautiful thing about a man like Dr. Bartlett is that he thinks ahead. He allows the ability for him to be wrong by large proportions and still make his point. He first off allows the bacteria to “recognize” their danger when they are 25% full – or 2 minutes to 12, which is very generous as the average bacteria would say “There is still 75% of the bottle left to go.” So the bacteria recognize that they are running out of space at 2 minutes to 12 and they send out search parties across the world and they find 3 new bottles! Problem solved, right? Well, this leads to Dr. Bartlett’s 3rd question: How long can the growth continue as a result of the discovery of three new bottles; this quadrupling of the proven resource? Well by 12:00, the first bottle is full, by 12:01 2 bottles would be full, and by 12:02 all 4 bottles would be full, what does this mean?

It means that in this Bacteria-world, even though it took 59 minutes to fill only half of the first bottle (or 98% of the time), it would take only 3 minutes to fill 4 bottles (or 0.05% of the time). Now before I lose you, let me explain how this relates to people: This is why it’s bad to continue on the path of the exponential consumption of oil. Even if we found 3 times the total known amount of oil – we would still use it all up in minutely small amount of time.

You see – that chart I showed you with the rate of growth of the bacteria – it looks familiar. It looks like I’ve seen it somewhere before, where could it have been?! Oh wait, I remember! It reminds me a hell of a lot like the people graph I originally showed near the top of this entry – let’s take a look at what I mean:

So what does this mean? Simply – it means we are the bacteria in the bottle. Instead of bacteria in the bottle, it is humans on the planet. Just as the bacteria cannot survive outside of a bottle, we humans cannot survive outside of our planet. 12:00 is a metaphor – one that is almost cliched – it is a metaphor for our doom. And what time is it now for us? At the very earliest it is 11:59. And the problem for us, unlike the bacteria, is we cannot go exploring out in space and drag 3 other similarly identical planets back near us so we can populate them. We only have 1 bottle – 1 planet – that will sustain life as we know it – diverse and abundant. But every day the seconds tick by to our 12:00, human’s 12:00, in which maximum capacity has been reached and the only way for the population to go is down.

What Does The Population Going Down Really Mean?

Let me tell you what I’m not saying – I’m not saying every square inch of this Earth is going to be crushed with people – that is silly. But at some point this idea of “growth” that civilized culture so unwaveringly supports will not happen anymore. Why am I so certain? One neat thing to do is to take a look at this site that really puts you in perspective with the rest of humanity. Population: One shows what it would be like if each person on the Earth were a single pixel, with you being the first. If you did not click on that link, I encourage you to do it now. Each pixel you see there is a mouth to feed and a butt that poops. Each pixel you see there is someone who needs shelter, and potable water. Each pixel you see there is someone who needs resources to create what they desire, and each pixel you see there creates waste. Many of those pixels contribute to creating waste that does not turn in to something useful again for a long time – leaving less useful natural resources for the pixels to come… and they’re coming. Each of those pixels was once a precious indispensable human fetus.  The pixels are getting larger at an exponential rate – every day. If you would like to see it in real time (as well as many other jaw-dropping statistics) I suggest the World Clock. No matter how hard you try, you can never feel the full impact of what the World Clock is counting – it’s literally impossible as it silently calculates its statistics – yet it’s happening. Right now. Right. now.

At about 2 minutes to 12, or in 1798, a man by the name of Thomas Malthus was our bacteria that recognized the problem early on, when the world was still only 25% “full.” While he did not send tug-boat space ships to each corner of the galaxy to find us 3 new planets, he did prophesize that eventually food production would not be able to increase at the same rate as population. This has been known as the Malthusian dilemma. While some have ignorantly attempted to ignore the exponential function the Malthusian Dilemma is still a very valid and encroaching fear. A quote from Thomas Malthus:

The Power of population is so superior to the power of the Earth to produce substinence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race

Premature death visiting the human race. That is probably the most eloquent way to put it – however in reality that means the creation of humanity’s worst nightmares. And yet we play blind and ignorant to this fact because it is taking on the responsibility of curbing the population of our entire species, which individually we all feel too small to do. And this is so counter-intuitive in thought as everything that we consider good, from medicine to peace all facilitate population growth. But the fact remains – our species will reach a point that if we don’t curb our growth, nature will. How?

Well one way is to look back up at my initial chart of the human race over the last 2.5 million years. There is something noteworthy that I breezed over initially. Between 1000 AD and 2025 AD the chart makes note of the only dip in our population – the black death. For any who choose to minimize the severe impact of disease on humanity, I encourage to click that link, and recognize the apocolyptic scenario we would be facing. In the span of about 6 years, 6 measley years, about half of the population of Europe was wiped out – so much that it even impacted the entire global population of humans (hence the dip on the chart). Today disease is even easier to spread with the simplicity of transportation. A disease that lay dormant for 24 hours, yet strikes like the black plague, could decimate our entire species in roughly the same timespan, if not smaller, than the black death.

And if the disease doesn’t get us and we continue to ignore our population growth – something else will. As we continue to team the planet, wars will be fought more frequently due to the dwindling amount of energy or fresh water sources, there is sufficient evidence to link the current Iraq War with the demand for the untapped oil resources that lay beneath the country. What other energy wars may occur in the future? And of course there is Malthus’ ever-famous famine that will occur if all else fails to diminish our population. There is only so much arable land on the planet and every year we lose more of it to the already voracious need for food in some places around the globe.

But let’s take a closer look at food. As it was the agricultural revolution that had sparked this population dominoes. A man named David Pimentel is quoted in this (boring, yet still relatively) informative slide show :

The populations of all organisms increase to the limit of their food resources

Let’s see. Are we an organism? Check. Well, that was easy, we’ve met all the criteria needed to increase to the limit of our food resource. Ever since we’ve been able to store food, we’ve been subconsciously increasing our population to meet the amount of food available. David Pimentel claims it in his study Human Population Numbers as a Function of Food Supply. All too often we hear people cry out that in many places in the world people are starving and that we need to be able to make more food for them. WorldHunger.org refutes this by saying:

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9).  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.

Notice how they openly admit that we are currently producing more food than we ever have before, despite the 70% increase in population (in only 30 years). To make this point clearer, I am going to cite a portion from one of the most inspiring authors I’ve ever read, Daniel Quinn, in his book The Story of B (p. 261 – 262):

Imagine if you will a cage with movable sides, so that it can be enlarged to any desired size. We begin by putting 10 healthy mice of both sexes into the cage, along with plenty of food and water. In just a few days there will of course be 20 mice, and we accordingly increase the amount of food we’re putting in the cage. In a few weeks, as we steadily increase the amount of available food, there will be 40, then 50, then 60, and so on, until one day there is 100. And let’s say that we’ve decided to stop the growth of the colony at 100. I’m sure you realize that we don’t need to pass out little condoms or birth-control pills to achieve this effect. All we have to do is stop increasing the amount of food that goes into the cage. Every day we put in an amount that we know is sufficient to sustain 100 mice — and no more. This is the part that many find hard to believe, but, trust me, it’s the truth: The growth of the community stops dead. Not overnight, of course, but in very short order. Putting in an amount of food sufficient for 100 mice, we will find — every single time — that the population of the cage soon stabilizes at 100. Of course I don’t mean 100 precisely. It will fluctuate between 90 and 110 but never go much beyond those limits. On the average, day after day, year after year, decade after decade, the population inside the cage will be 100.

Now if we should decide to have a population of 200 mice instead of 100, we won’t have to add aphrodisiacs to their diets or play erotic mouse movies for them. We’ll just have to increase the amount of food we put in the cage. If we put in enough food for 200, we’ll soon have 200. If we put in enough for 300, we’ll soon have 300. If we put in enough food for 400, we’ll soon have 400. If we put in enough for 500, we’ll soon have 500. This isn’t a guess, my friends. This isn’t a conjecture. This is a certainty.

So that’s it. We have to come up with a global limit to food supply for the entire human race. With that food supply limit we may not all die of a terrible bubonic plague or a massive nuclear winter, but instead we would taper the population off and, down the road, attempt to decrease it.

It is at this moment in time that I would like to invoke my initial statements of this entry. I’m not supporting this decision because I’m cruel or think humans, especially starving babies, aren’t special and don’t deserve to be fed. I am only supporting this decision because to me, it seems like the least cruel outcome. But let’s face facts here: It’s 11:59 and Thomas Malthus did not send space ships out 1 minute ago to save us with 3 times our current resources. We are on the brink of population collapse, and assuredly extreme disorder – in a world that we have proudly polluted for centuries, especially within the last 10 – 15 decades.

I would also like to add this as well: Don’t have children. If you’re reading this, whatever your age, don’t have children. And if you already have had some children – don’t have anymore. I only beg this of you because I know most will not listen, and they have every right. I would never believe that the government, or any group, should have the right to punish you for baring children. To me that seems as cold as you can come – I cannot support population control with prison and babies thrown out to sea. But please take an active part in our 11:59 attempt at stabilizing and decreasing the population. Dr. Barlett used many amazing quotes with his presentation, this being one of them, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:

Unlike the plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases (which) we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution, but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and the education of the billions who are its victims.

Food production control and your own personal choice to not have children are not the only two things there are either. Let me make it a point that I’m a teacher of some of the most unloved children in New York State, and yet I still acquire many positive relationships with them. I try hard to make a personal connection and influence on all of my students who look even remotely accepting of any positive and progressive influence. Yet, as much as I love children of all ages, I will never have any of my own. Does this make me sad? Not really, I never let it enter my head as a true option because by the time I was adult-enough to understand the population situation, I had decided that it would be nothing less than selfish for me to be the one to create a child.

With saying that I am about to say some politically controversial things, but I believe given our circumstances, these should be nothing but common sense. First is sex education should be comprehensive and international regardless of religious beliefs due to our 11:59 situation. Within the sex education program abstinence should be promoted, if for no other reason than to stop the spread of disease. Additionally condoms and birth control should be completely free for anybody who wishes to use them – please take full advantage. So Catholics – this means you – as precious as life is, it’s okay that not every load blown is for the sole purpose of impregnation. Our sexual drive is too strong for that at this dire hour.

My other controversial belief is that abortions should be legal without thought of debate. Now I’m not talking about weird-ass late term abortions where a woman decides to kill a fully developed fetus on none-other than a whim (which my parents seem to think are the only kind of abortions going on). I believe early abortions for accidental pregnancies should be legal, not because I don’t think that child isn’t special, but because we really have too much on our plate right now to say, on principle, that a woman MUST bare her child if she becomes impregnated, regardless of rape-cases or accidental preganancies. A late-term abortion should only be allowed if the mother is endangered or a similarly good reason. I’m not promoting a murder-of-fetuses-for-fun-day or anything like that, but the fact that an individual should have the right to choose whether or not she wants to bare the life that is within her should be a non-issue. If it isn’t your body, it isn’t your choice in the matter, please if you are really intent on saving lives, focus on one of the many that are in need of you that currently reside on the planet and not in a womb. That is a serious request.

I would like to complete this entry with another quote used by Dr. Bartlett on his video that I implore you to watch. Also, feel free to comment on this entry below, I’m always happy to hear intelligent and thought-provoking responses. This is a quote from Asimov:

In the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation.

Human dignity cannot survive overpopulation.

Convenience and decency cannot survive overpopulation

As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies, the more people there are, the less one individual matters.

Water

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

You should read this entry if water is in anyway important to you. So you should probably move along if you are a rock or a star or the vacuum of space. But as for the rest of you perhaps you can take a moment and really appreciate the chemical compound that sustains all life on this planet. You know good old water – the stuff that makes up 60% – 80% of your body, the stuff that makes up 71% of the Earth’s surface, the stuff that make up the clouds, the stuff that covers our polar regions, the stuff that makes up any river, stream, lake, or ocean you’ve ever see. It’s on the grass in the morning and it pours at us from the sky, it’s the stuff that’s in your swimming pool or it’s the stuff that runs out of your sink, and even the stuff that carries your waste (the giant turd you just dropped) to some distant forgotteness. Water, indeed, deserves at least a little bit of your time – regardless of how busy you are.

You already make time for it daily. Everybody loves a delicious drink, and at the base of every drink is good, delicious, pure, unadulterated water. In fact it has become so integrated into our lives I am here to make the case that we not only stopped appreciating it, but if we don’t recognize the true, vast, and utter importance of water that we will no longer have it to appreciate in most places.

It sounds like a bold claim, but I’m certain everybody has heard in the news somewhere that in the near future, while most on this planet are still alive, that billions will be without clean potable water. It’s one of those stories you see on CNN at an airport after a long unsuccessful business trip, concerned about the mortgage, and suspecting your children are falling into the hands of an unfavorable crowd. You look up from your uncomfortable plastic seat at the droning talking head telling you that the UN suspects that 2/3 of the global population will be in water-stressed regions and you really let it sink to your gut for a second. You know what I mean – that gut feeling that says “What are we doing?! The world is undeniably doomed.” But of course the ever-familiar narcissistic vanity so typical of Americans returns and you are once again lost in your own troubles. But how often do you think, do you worry, that you might not beat the odds? How often do you let it cross your mind that in 2025 or 2030 that YOU might be living in that water-stressed region? And you thought you had problems now…

This is a good moment to take a break from the disconcerting news above and do a 1st grade lesson – maybe 2nd. We are going to determine the difference between a need and a want. I made “need” red because without a need we are going to have to stop – living. I made “want” green because wants are always something we want to go after. For example, if you need to take that dump I was talking about earlier, that just simply must occur, it’s not usually something you’re craving to do – it’s business – it’s life business. If you don’t poop your body will sooner, more likely than later, stop living. If you want something, for example the man at the airport wanted to pay his mortgage, there is no danger of him losing his life. While he may be homeless, certainly he can find shelter, albeit not nearly as luxurious as a house.

Of course losing a house is no small deal. Certainly that is a very strong want. In fact it’s so strong that man might do anything to keep that want. Some people have pushed as far as murder or genocide to achieve their wants. And therein lies the water problem – people putting wants in front of needs. Imagine replacing all of the red bulbs (or LEDs or whatever) at stoplights with green ones.  The problem of putting green lights where the red lights should be is that we are under the impression that it is indeed okay to proceed when it is not okay to do so – when in fact your life will most likely be in danger.And that is exactly what replacing needs with your wants does.

This is the argument that could be made in the case of water. Water happens to be one of those very few things that have been placed on our needs list (I stopped using color because I figure you get the picture now). Yet we live in a very materialized want-based society, and surprisingly it is the driving force in the world today. Americans especially (but many other nations as wells) are notorious for creating things – not because they’re needed – but simply because they’re wanted – they’re desired. Yet this is not a problem that has started with America – it is as old as pollution.

A great example of this is that we can assume there is a beautiful, clean, bountiful, flowing river and there are two properties along the river 10 miles apart. We’ll pretend those properties are virtually identical and cost the same if you were interested in buying it. Both properties are completely self sufficient. There is no need for a dependency on others for water – such as the water company – to get your water for you because clean water is freely accessible on the river. However, due to the high demand for complex chemical products the property upstream was purchased so a factory had a place to dump its waste. A chemical factory dumping waste into the river completely depreciates all properties downstream, including the one 10 miles away. They are now unable to be independent for water, and because it is a need, they must turn toward another system to obtain it.

There was never and still isn’t a value put on the depreciation of our natural resources – specifically the ones we need. The voracious illegal logging across the planet, the dumping of chemicals and waste into our water and air that we breathe are all these things we allow to happen, free of charge. Please don’t confuse what I’m saying with things that can be replenished or renewed – things that humans do that are sustainable, or largely sustainable, are things I’m okay with. I’m okay with tree farms made specifically for logging that do not contribute to desertification. I’m not really okay with losing a forest that will never return to the Earth until humans are dead and their unquenchable desire for materials lost back to nature.

Slowly across the world pollution is taking a stronger and stronger grip. Certainly there have been gains – for example, in America air pollution has consistently decreased throughout the last few decades. But there are two problems with evidence like this. The first is that it would make sense for the increase of air quality for America with the decrease in industrial production due to outsourcing since the ’70s. But since the ’70s China’s coal use has doubled from just over 600 million metric tons to more than 1.2 billion metric tons. My reason for making this point is to prove that this is a global problem that connects and affects us all, and it is only getting worse. The second problem with the good-news evidence is that air pollution is not the only way to pollute. I’ve written previous entries on the pollution of plastic to the decimation of entire regions.

And again all of this pollution occurs because of “wants” in the most stripped definition of the word. They are wants, perhaps, with very good reasons behind them – perhaps it is even an idea used to save lives, but it comes at the cost of poisoning our natural right – water. For example, in the same book that dished out the facts on China’s coal consumption had this to say:

Indeed, China’s use of chemical fertilizers has more than quadrupled during the reform period, from 8,840,000 tons in 1978 to 42,538,000 tons in 2001. According to the World Bank, the poor quality of fertilizers and their inefficient application is contributing to significant nutrient runoff, which in turn is contributing to eutrophication in many of China’s most important lakes, in which the growth of dense algaie depletes the shallow water of oxygen.

This is just one example of how water gets polluted across the globe – including in America. China’s poor environmental practices are not the exception – but the rule. And they are being rewarded with a booming economy manufacturing materials for the West. They can circumvent the rules we, the West, put in place to have a clean and sustainable future thereby receiving the illusion of having the best of both worlds. But in reality America is still a high polluter due to our high desire for materials.

And this is the bombshell – this is the whole point: When we lose our free and natural sources for clean potable water, where do we turn? In the past for humans water was owned by Gaia, Mother Earth, God, Allah, Yahweh – in other words – somebody we don’t have to pay. But now we have a planet full of consistently filthier and filthier water and someone needs to clean that water (a process that was not needed nearly as strongly in the past) and, let’s bring the argument full through here, doesn’t that person who takes the time, energy, and money to clean that water deserve to be compensated?

Traditionally water has been a public domain. Perhaps you pay to get water pumped to your home but certainly you are not paying for the product being produced – it’s just water – it’s owned by no one. But now water is slowly becoming a product. More and more work is involved in getting water. Partially due to the pollution and partially due to the exponential growth rate in humans. Already the American midwest is experiencing water stress. So who is going to solve such big problems for us? In the West there is a major movement to privatize water. What this means in the most simplest of terms is that somebody will own the water – somebody we do have to pay. Not Gaia anymore. Can you imagine one of your needs to be owned by another human or group of humans? Imagine if they owned your right to poop, and you never had enough money to pay them, what is the ultimate result?

Fucking scary. That’s my answer to that question. When you privatize a need only bad things can happen. But don’t just take my word for it – Take it from the makers of an amazing book called Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water. This book came out in addition to the movie Thirst. The authors do a much better job at explaining the different arguments for and against Private and Public water than I ever could:

One is concerned with practical issues of efficiency and economics, and the other is about principle. In the first case, both advocates and opponents of privatization point to successes and failures that allegedly prove their case. The debate over principle is more fundamental and involves questions of ethics and moral values.

I consider that a fair and powerful statement. When something becomes privatized the conversation MUST revolve around efficiency and economics  while a public conversation has the ability to discuss the moral value of such efficiency or economics. It brings in to question the very foundation of what the terms public and private actually mean. If we privatize water, what IS public? On the topic of water should we REALLY just limit ourselves to narrowly defining it in terms of efficiency and economics? And whats to stop them from withholding water so long as they have military might behind them? Why not just let the rich and powerful drink and live easy letting others to fend for themselves and find their “own” water source to “purchase”? The authors continue:

The practical debate over who can provide water better focuses on the issues of transparency, efficiency, rates, and sustainability. In public systems, major decisions must go through a deliberative process that not only is conducted in public but also involves the public. Such transparency gives citizens’ groups and individuals access to the information they need to understand the workings of their utility and to follow the money. The same cannot be said for private water companies. Yes, wholly-owned water systems are regulated by state public utilities commissions and public-private partnerships are overseen by city councils, but getting information out of a giant corporation – even information required by contract – is often a difficult and contested process. In addition, it is nearly impossible to audit money flows between a local subsidiary and its parent multinational based abroad…. In 2006, two top managers at a Suez/United Water plant in New Jersey were indicted for covering up high radium levels in the drinking water. Prolonged exposure to radium is linked to to cancer, and communities served by the plant had a history of unusually high rates of childhood cancers.

And they continue on for no short length of time explaining all the risks that come with giving up our freedom to water. Now if you’ve read my entries before, you know I am an avid believer in gathering any information on the people behind an opinion to see if there are any tell-tale signs of corruption or greed. In the case of both plastic and biotechnology I found backers with ambiguous relationships in the government that would give them more profit and power to themselves and their relationships if their beliefs were followed. When I look up Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, the authors of this book, the only paper trail they have leads them back to PBS. PBS has proved through decades of nonpartisan work to have thoughtful and fair programs – providing as impartial a view as possible. If people kept water public Snitow and Kaufman would not profit – this is an excellent sign – this means while they promote the idea and profit off of promoting that idea, they do not profit off of people following the idea. This is rare to see in backers of privatization – they not only attempt to profit off of promoting the idea, they tend to profit off of people following the idea. For example:

Private Water Corporations

RWE/Thames – An energy behemoth German corporation known as RWE (because who wants to spell out the entire name? not me.) is the first example Snitow and Kaufman point out for why privatization is a bad idea. In the beginning of the 21st century RWE was hungrily devouring companies to put underneath its belt. One such company was known as Thames, which was the water company that supplied England with its water. In a report written by Public Citizen they found RWE/Thames had been England and Wales worst polluter for three years running.

This was of little matter to RWE who had reached number 78 on the Global Fortune 500 list raking in the largest profit of any water company in the entire world just barely beating the French water giants Suez (who was number 79) and Veolia (Page 1). A hop over the pond and RWE/Thames were ready to do business with America’s largest private water company – American Water Works – with 16 million customers in 29 states and 3 Canadian Provinces. Yes, this is the very same company with a terrible pollution record. In about 10 years time RWE had racked up $27 billion in debt and 2002 alone stocks dropped 40% (Page 2).

The implications of depending on a profit-driven entity that can not or does not make the expected profit are always negative. If a corporation does extremely well, such as Exxon-Mobil’s $40 billion profit, the savings do not get passed on to the consumer, as we well know. However, if a corporation does extremely poorly and we are dependent on it, such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, it is up to the public to bail them out at the expense of those who act responsibly.

Due to RWE not acting responsibly they had to resort to some dirty tactics for profit. Two-term mayor, Gary Podesto, of Stockton, California was happy to oblige by blocking information to the public on the privatization of their water system. Snitow and Kaufman paint Podesto as a man who had every intention of allowing RWE/Thames to take over their water system with minimal to no public decision on the topic. They accuse Podesto of not releasing details and refusing a public input on the matter. When public water supporters wanted to bring RWE/Thames in front of a referendum RWE/Thames and OMI (the American company they were working with) contributed $60,000 to the antireferendum campaign, which Podesto backed. Considering those who supported the referendum were a local grassroats group the decision seemed to have a heavy bias. I think it’s important to remember that this is about drinking water and sanitation which are needs. Should we allow the market to lay such a heavy bias on something that is so crucial to our existence?

Gary Podesto and RWE/Thames seemed to have no problem with it as “RWE/Thames took out full-page newspaper ads. Leaflets and mailers went out to homes across the city, and Podesto recorded automatic phone messages, warning voters against the ‘misinformation and sometimes downright lies’ being spread by the Coalition supporters [for public water]“(p. 40 of Snitow and Kaufman’s book). It is clear that RWE/Thames and Podesto were not interested in facts so much as winning, and winning is what they got.  Snitow and Kaufman discuss the results explaining that while Podesto claimed only a 7% rate increase during the 20 year contract there was already an increase of 8.5% after only the first 3 years. “In addition, leakage doubled, maintenance backlogs skyrocketed, and staff turnover was constant, even on the management level, where there were two general managers and four operations managers in the first two years” (p. 46). And even in addition to that Snitow and Kaufman explain they cut odor-control chemicals to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, pumped chlorine into a waterway killing fish and getting the city fined $125,000, and spilled 8 million gallons of sewage into a river contaminating a swimming area.

So why was Gary Podesto so willing to blindly back such a bloated and pollution-prone corporation based a half a world away? He needed the money freed up to build a minor-league ballpark which was riddled with ineptitude. A report by a former city finance commissioner found the “city had inappropriately drained $36 million from water and sewer accounts to pay for the ballpark” (p. 46). Ultimately it was found that Stockton illegally implemented OMI and RWE/Thames as the water authority and returned it to municipal control. In other words the way a private company operated exclusively with a public official, in this case Gary Podesto, shows that water can be wasted and contaminated when driven by profit. The local interests of Stockton, California were moot to a desperate corporate giant desperate for profit. As for Gary Podesto, does he regret his terrible mismanagement of the water authority and his precious ballpark? Despite the Stockton City Council being found guilty of financial mismanagement Gary Podesto still backs them in hopes to regain political favor. Luckily as of 2006 he seems largely forgotten.

Also after buying American Water Works RWE/Thames continued to work deceptively. They’ve increased rates to over 100% in another California town of Felton, they manipulated neighboring district rate figures to attempt to trick the residents, they planted “community operatives” to “conduct reconnaissance,” in other words supplanting citizens who seemed impartial but were staking out the situation for the company. They used a public relations group known as the Moriah Group based in Tennessee to coerce citizens without the need of impartiality. In fact a grassroots website that quickly popped up supporting the privatization of water turned out to be done by a designer who also created the Moriah Group website… in Tenessee. It’s once again clear that winning overtook any informed decision on such a matter. They even went as far as to attempt to rewrite the state’s eminent-domain laws. All of this can be found in the 3rd Chapter of Thirst.

Suez – When Atlanta, Georgia’s public water and sewage system were too old and needed a major financial investment one would suspect the mayor of the city, Bill Campbell, to be concerned. However Mayor Campbell was happy to privatize the system selling it to Suez, a French company and United Water out of New Jersey at the curiously low price of $21.4 million a year over 20 years. Shortly after the sale is about the point where the Mystery Machine starts driving through Atlanta and the van breaks down. Because it was shortly after the sale to Suez and United Water that strange things started to occur. Only this wasn’t a scary ghost doing the strange things – it was Suez and Mayor Campbell.

Suez has a history of corruption. In exchange for privatizing the city of Grenoble the mayor accepted $3 million in bribes and was sentenced to four years in prison. Originally it was thought to be just a local bribe between local Suez officials and the mayor, but the CEO who finalized the deal was also a close adviser to Jacques Chirac, mayor of Paris, future President of France. However, it was only the mayor that was imprisoned.

So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Suez was already a partial owner of New Jersey based United Water and within a year was the 100% owner. Now the joint-work supposed to be between the two companies in Atlanta was now just Suez and again the desire for profit cut quality immensely. Service wait-time increased across the board and maintence workers cut staff from 479 to about 300 (p. 76 in Thirst). Advisories to boil water and water shortages increased and the quality of the water such as clarity and purity were lower.

How did Suez respond to their poor performance?

United Water subsidiary quickly began playing politics. It donated $10,900 to Ralph Campbell, Mayor Campbell’s brother, who was running for state auditor in North Carolina, a state in which United Water has no operations. The company also made contributions to Campbell’s campaign organization, even though Campbell – now in his second term – could not run for reelection and wasn’t a candidate for any other office. Although these contributions were not illegal, they reeked of impropriety and financial payoffs.

Meanwhile, United Water had a series of explanations for the growing cacophony of consumer complaints. Amazingly, the company said that it didn’t know about existing conditions when it signed the contract. (p. 78).

Additionally Mayor Campbell got an all-expense-paid trip for himself and a female companion in 1999 to visit the Suez corporate headquarters for 2 1/2 hours. However, all 5 days were paid for racking up a total cost of $12,900.  In fact Campbell ended up being “indicted on 7 counts of racketeering, tax violations, and taking corrupt payments from various developers, political supporters, and contractors” (p. 83). When all was said and done Mayor Campbell was sentenced to 30 months in prison. As for Suez the new mayor was in shock at how poorly the system was run and was able to void the contract due to the terrible performance via an audit.

The audit also confirmed that United Water had not come close to delivering the $20 million in annual savings (a reduction from the $30 million tossed out by Mayor Campbell at various times). The amount saved was closer to $10 million a year, and no one thought those savings made up for the incompentent water service.

Corruption happens. I understand. But corruption occurs much easier when a lot of money is moved around behind closed doors instead of transparently in the open with public collusion. Water, being a need, must be as transparent as possible – just as it was when it was cleaned by Mother Nature. There were no ulterior motives of profit – only bounty.

Nestle – Another side of the privatization of water is bottled water:

In 2005, Americans spent well over $10 billion on bottled water, and sales are skyrocketing. The Beverage Marketing Corporation reports that bottled-water sales are increasing nearly 10 percent a year, growth almost unheard of in the food and beverage sector…. (p. 143)

In addition, if we get used to paying gas prices for a bottle of water, we might also get used to the idea that private corporations should provide tap water as well – at prices that guarantee a hefty profit….

From California to Maine to Florida, local and state governments are giving bottlers tax breaks and incentives, in effect paying them to appropriate the natural springs and aquifers we own in common as a people, all in return for the promise of a small number of jobs. Other companies receive similar subsidies for filling their bottles with inexpensive municipal water, slightly filtered or straight from the tap.

Consumers of bottled water pay roughly one thousand, sometimes even ten thousand, times more water for bottled water than for tap water. And what do we get? Study after study has concluded that bottled water is neither cleaner nor greener than tap water. The Natural Resources Defense Council discovered that a surprising number of the bottled waters they tested contained contaminants, pesticide residues, and heavy metals. The results shocked most people, who had not realized that bottled water is less regulated than tap water. While the Environmental Protection Agency enforces strict standards on municipal tap water, the Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water and is concerned more with the accuracy of the label than with contents of the bottle. Water bottled and sold inside a single state isn’t covered by federal regulations at all but by state regulations, which vary from strict to virtually nonexistent. (p. 144)

I don’t mean to seem like I’m quoting the whole book, but this information is important for us to know to make informed decisions. Aside from bottled water being lower quality than tap water it also contributes largely to plastic waste. Thirst goes on to say that 88% of the 40 million bottles drank a day do not get recycled.

Nestle, however, felt they could cope with that fact. Being the world’s largest food company and based in Switzerland they knew people were going to want a drink with that. So Nestle created a division called Perrier and bought Poland Springs, Calistoga, Zephyrhills, Arrowhead, Ozarka, Deer Park, and Ice Mountain. Another quote:

Nestle Waters sells seventy-two brands in 160 countries. By 2005, its U.S. subsidiary was exploiting 150 water sources to feed over twenty bottling plants. The company’s $3.1 billion in 2005 sales accounted for almost one third of the U.S. bottled water market (p. 148).

Another big corporation and another story of corporate corruption with our precious need – water. In Newport and New Haven Wisconsin, after receiving a sour welcome from the town, people from Perrier contacted local landowners who had spring water. They promised to give them a good price for them if they agreed to keep the talks secret from everybody they knew – including family.  Again, I understand business is business, but when it comes to a need such as our water supplies, this creepy backroom deal stuff is shameful. Nestle spends millions a year lobbying the government to continue to find sources for water.

Even though Nestle spent plenty of money on brochures 74% of New Haven and 81% of Newport wanted Perrier to leave with only a local official supporting them (which I’m sure he was not promised something by Perrier at all). Perrier would not leave the area claiming public support and 0 environmental impact without an environmental study and despite proof to the contrary with their test pump. After Perrier and local residents took it to court both sides had its victories and defeats. However, Perrier changed its name after the incident to Nestle Waters North America.

Additionally Nestle has been sniffing around the largest fresh water resource in the world – the Great Lakes, particularly Michigan:

They quickly discovered that a year earlier Nestle’s representatives met with the Republican governor, John Engler, and his staff won their support for an expansion of the company’s bottled-water business. “Support” doesn’t quite express the relationship however: Nestle had been offered almost $10 million in state and local tax abatements and other subsidies over ten years.

One of the governor’s senior aides apparently felt some pangs of guilt about the giveaway. In a “conscience-clearing” memo to his boss, the aide, Dennis Schornack, wrote, “Michigan won’t just be giving away the water; it will be paying a private and foreign-owned firm to take it away.” And in a later interview he went further: “The plentifulness and purity of the water that drew them [Nestle] to Michigan was going to draw them here anyway,” he said. “Tax abatements were unnecessary and unwise.” Schornack estimated Nestle could clear up to $1.8 million a day when the plant was up and running, a figure Nestle disupted (p. 172).

In both Wisconsin and Michigan Nestle was getting friendly with local leaders to circumvent public opinion. In a place called Sanctuary Springs Nestle received the right to lease the springs for pumping for 99 years. I mean let’s face it – politicians are known to take bribes – which, again, I know we cannot stop that completely. However, if all the dealings with water were done 100% transparently with public knowledge and interaction without multi-BILLION dollar corporations pushing legal boundaries as far as they go and sometimes breaking them then we might be able to come up with a clever, smart, sustainable, cost-effective system. Private corporations can sometimes pull that off, assuming the market and predictions go well, but they sometimes can not pull that off – for way many more reasons – being too bloated, internal greed, poor communication, bureaucratic hierarchies, poor profits 10,000 miles away, a lagging stock market… and my point is simply that we shouldn’t let the fate of our water supplies be determined in this fashion. It should seriously be illegal – owning water is sick, not smart. And the laws aren’t there yet – at least in Michigan. In 1998, when Ontario promised Asia 50 tankers of lake water a year there was an outrage and the company was forced to stop. Nestle claims that pumping for tiny bottles of water is not nearly going to have the same effect, but:

the original supertanker export proposal was to ship about 160 million gallons a year. That’s far less than the 240 million gallons a year Nestle could pump from that springs in Mecosta County alone, and the company was already developing new sources, including wells in the town of Evart, just fifty miles north of its Stanwood plant in Mecosta County (Michigan) (p. 186).

And oh yea, there’s this point too the book makes which is pretty important:

industry and industrial agriculture have been profligate in their use of water to produce food and other commodities. But Nestle isn’t making anything. It is merely exploiting a substance in the public domain, pasting on its brand name, shipping it out, and marking it up for sale by a factor of a hundred or more (p. 187).

And in court in November of 2003 a judge ruled against Nestle pumping in Mecosta County, Michigan and told them that they had 21 days to leave town by December 16, 2003. On December 15 “company lawyers reportedly held a private noontime meeting with top officials of Governor Granholm’s administration” (p. 191) who then supported the Nestle appeal and the pumping continued. I mean seriously – Nestle (and many other major corporations) are manipulating the system with an extremely disproportionate advantage leaving piles of money turds on the feet of anyone who can help them get what they want. “That’s just the market!” someone can ignorantly say, but this is water. W-A-T-E-R. We need it and exploiting it should not be the name of the game here – for Nestle and other private water companies, it is. But who would’ve thought that a major corporation would’ve ended up having secret meetings with public officials to get their way despite the lack of benefits to the local owners? Well after reading this entry you should’ve thought about it because Mayors and Governors seem to be the usurpers of democracy, local support, and humanity as a whole for being so lenient with such aggressive and manipulative corporate entitites. In 2006 at the 4th World Water Forum, which is dominated by private water companies, the authors of Thirst had this to say:

By the end of the conference, the Forum’s organizers, in an apparent fit of pique, blocked any reference in the final declaration to water as a human right because doing so would carry certain legal obligations and guarantees under international treaties. Instead, they substituted vague pabulum: water is “a guarantee of life for all of the world’s people (p. 207).

Now, water is a human right in my book. Just as if a government was withholding food from its citizens they would be denying their people of a basic human right, so would a private corporation holding water simply for a return profit. The wording they chose is so slippery it kind of makes me a little sick: water is a guarantee of life for all the world’s people. What that means, if you didn’t take time to break down the semantics, is that they are simply acknowledging the importance of water to people… but that people do not have a basic right to it. That is scary – that is Dr. Doom talk – we need to be smarter and pick up on these idiosyncrasies – otherwise the sentence might go as follows: “Water is a guarantee of life for all of the world’s people… which you will not be supplied with unless you pay us.” And in short that sentence is already implied, just not discussed, due to the whole “cruel” factor that might be played.

How Bad Can It Really Get

But seriously, how bad can it really get? Nestle has that cute chocolate rabbit – there is no way they’re going to be willing to deprive the world of the most efficient water conservation techniques and the cost of profit, is there? If only we can look into a world where privatized water industry got everything they wanted – maybe it’s just us who want transparency and lack of bribes that ARE really the source of trouble – if only there was a place where all water was privatized – what would that world be like?

Bechtel – Being the largest engineering company in the United States Bechtel was happy to lend a helping hand to Bolivia when the World Bank demanded that they privatize a city’s entire water system – including rainwater (yes RAINWATER). Cochabamba, the third largest city in Bolivia, began having to pay 1/4 of their income for water having to hold back on buying medicine, allowing their children to go to school, and having the elderly beg for money. Shortly thereafter riots began and the Bolivian government chose to back Bechtel – not its people. Of course many were injured and killed, including children. Eventually Cochabamba got their water back. So is this worth the right for someone to make a profit?

It reminds me of a quote I have from Catch-22 on my About Page where Milo Minderbinder is wondering how he can make a profit off of something nobody wants (for him it was Egyptian cotton, for us it’ll be water you must pay for), Yossarian says he should bribe the government into buying into it:

“Bribe it!” Milo was outraged and almost lost his balance and broke his neck again. “Shame on you!” he scolded severely, breathing virtuous fire down and upward into his rusty mustache through his billowing nostrils and prim lips. “Bribery is against the law, and you know it. But it’s not against the law to make a profit, is it? So it can’t be against the law for me to bribe someone in order to make a fair profit, can it? No, of course not!” He fell in to brooding again, with a meek, almost pitiable distress. “But how will I know who to bribe?”

“Oh don’t you worry about that,” Yossarian comforted him with a toneless snicker as the engines of the jeeps and ambulance fractured the drowsy silence and the vehicles in the rear began driving away backward. “You make the bribe big enough and they’ll find you. Just make sure you do everything right out in the open. Let everyone know exactly what you want and how much you’re willing to pay for it. The first time you act guilty or ashamed, you might get into trouble.”

And isn’t that the case? Wasn’t it the case with RWE/Thames, Suez, and Nestle? Bechtel even paid a record low for the water business of Cochabamba because the government was against the wall. When people rallied against the idea of paying for a human right the giant companies just dropped money in all the right places to attempt to keep it working for them. Some succeeded, others failed, but with water crises quickly coming up we know they will not stop and just like the hole in the dike, it will get bigger and more powerful to stop – the more we allow private companies to invade and control our natural resource made for all life – the more dependent we become on others, and not ourselves, and the less we take care of ourselves, the more infantile we deserve to be treated. And these companies are not the only players in the game – Pepsi and Coca-Cola are right behind Nestle selling their bottled water brands of Aquafina and Dasani respectively. Plastic is piling up and the cost of water in 16-ounce forms is costing us over 100% of what it’d cost from our usually cleaner tap-water supply.

Change your beliefs, abstain from buying bottled water (fill one up on your own), and keep your local water supply (wherever it may be) public and transparent. Of course, as usual, despite being a 6,000 word entry, I still am only touching the tip of the iceberg. For way more information on this topic I suggest the following. Comment please!

Scarcity is the soul of profit – if profit can be said to have a soulThirst (p. 3)

Biotechnology and Transgenics

I like this Frankenstein

I like this Frankenstein

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

“How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips… I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.

– Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.

It was the summer of 1816 when Mary Shelley first dreamt up this image. Her husband and she went to go visit their friend in Switzerland – Lord Byron. Due to the dreary weather they were confined to the indoors and shared ghost stories. For Mary’s entire life she was surrounded by some of the most famous writers in British literature – both her parents, her husband, and her friend Lord Byron all went down in British history. So, to no surprise, during this dreary summer the idea came up that everybody would create their own ghost story. Finally she dreamed the image quoted above, as she explains in the introduction of the third edition of Frankenstein:

I saw – with shut eyes but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.

For it was not a ghost story that really shook Mary to her bones. Mary was concerned about the concept of mankind playing God. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. She was questioning the dark corridors that science could lead us down. The idea that some people would try and use science to do the work of nature, and in fact replace nature, was alive in Mary Shelley’s mind as she wrote the famous words of Frankenstein.

Of course in 1816 it was not biotechnology or transgenics Mary Shelley had in mind – but electricity. While many scientists worked diligently to help pave the way to the creation of all benefits electricity has given us, many scientists felt that within electricity the elixir to life was hidden. The possibilities were endless in many scientists mind – electricity could’ve been the key to bring back the dead. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein warns us about using crude knowledge of science to try and follow a pipe dream, such as Dr. Victor Frankenstein did. You see – in Frankenstein’s mind he was certain what he was building was going to be a beautiful, perfect creature, but as soon as he had succeeded in what he was pushing for so long he becomes aghast at what he had created and tried to run from his own creation, but what he created was irrevocable and ultimately the death of him.

In the book Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering on a Biotech Planet by Denise Caruso, I see a Mary Shelley of the 21st Century. The mysticism of electricity is long dead – Since Mary’s masterpiece physicists have found a way to link it magnetism and most other forces of the Universe, we have harnessed its power to energize virtually every household and machine product. It was done collaboratively for the public good and today we couldn’t function at the level of society we do without the gift of science and the lack of greed that consumed them. Sure – we could find a more efficient way to transport it among other things but civilization has democratically agreed electricity has been conquered and put to its most efficient use. But science is never out of new boundaries. Today it’s genetics and biotechnology. Denise Caruso assesses risk and she tries to make sure that others assess risk properly. Of course nobody will take eloquent, centuries-old, fiction as warnings anymore (though many would do us some good), so Denise Caruso writes a logical, referenced-reinforced, and deeply interesting book on how we should assess risk with technology we do not understand yet. And if you don’t have time to read the book, you should read this entry though it’s long, because it’s shorter than the book. I use both information provided by her and information I’ve found on my own as my references which are linked along the way (please click, lots of work involved)

So What Is Biotechnology and Transgenics?

Don’t feel dumb. That’s a fair question to ask – I know you’re not a scientist (most likely). Imagine you are about to have a child and it is born with a disease that will severely impact his life – now imagine that a doctor could use genetic engineering to remove that disease. Pretty cool, huh? The doctor would simply replace the “broken” gene with a healthy one and your child would have averted the disease. But let’s not stop there – Imagine if you could alter genes in delicious fruits and vegetables so that they could stay fresh 10 times longer to reduce the impact on the planet? I mean – we simply are treating the gene that makes that fruit or vegetable rot just like the gene that was going to cripple your child for life – we just need to put a gene that keeps freshness longer – what difference does it make what gene we change, so long as it benefits us? I mean don’t even stop there, let your imagination come off the reel here – what if we could infuse some common, mass produced food, like bread, with a bunch of essential nutrients and send it to poor countries to feed their teeming famished? And why deal with animals if we could just grow their body parts from DNA and only produce the profitable and delicious parts? And what if we could create species as we pleased with whatever clever DNA already exists from any species on the planet? We could have pigs that glow and fish that grow super fast and we could design our children to look exactly like we wanted, and if we want them to be athletic, they can be athletic, and if we want them beautiful, they can be beautiful – the sky is the limit!

Now take everything written above and stick it in your pipe because this is our current pipe dream. This is the early 21st century’s electricity.  Biotechnology and Transgenics have achieved most of those things above to some or partial success. If they have not achieved them they are promised to come in the future by those researching. But they are in their infancy and the corporations conducting research are fervent believers that biotechnology and transgenics are the answer to most, if not all, of our future problems. But when they finally achieve their idea of success with biotechnology – will they awake to a horror not unlike Frankenstein’s monster?

Anybody can dismiss that question as absurd. But I am a true believer that any unknown front in science should be objectively risk-assessed so we’re not blindsided with something we could have predicted – because the story of Frankenstein is a question: At what point does your dream become your nightmare? Where do we draw the line? How do we know? and who decides? On the fronts of biotechnology and transgenics these questions are falling to the wayside for the simple motivation of profit – which I will support with evidence further on.

Will Smith - you are so fucking tough.

Will Smith - you are so fucking tough.

So – again – what is transgenics? We know it has the capacity to be both our dream and our nightmare, but what is actually the process? Well here goes – I’m no geneticist, but it seems to be a relatively simple concept: I’ve read it likened to “cutting” the desired traits from gene A (let’s say a trait that make honey bees docile) and “pasting” the trait into the DNA code of gene B (let’s say the aggressive Africanized honey bee).  The result? Docile Africanized honeybees – or so we’d hope. As we know, things are not always as simple as they sound.

Let me try and magnify the risks as “cutting and pasting” makes it sound like a 2nd grader could do it. Instead of collecting body organs geneticists find the proper components to infect the desired trait into the plant or animal victim.

That’s right – infect. Because essentially that is what transgenics could be described as in one single word – infection. And that holds certain negative preconceptions – as it should – infection indicates a foreign body invading a natural environment with the intent to permanantly change that environment. To infect holds significant risk alone. When your body becomes infected with a disease, the disease is attempting to take over your body by force, your body is not okay with just naturally accepting it and your body wants to fight it off. In transgenics all of these things need to be overcome so the infection wins. Because the intent is to infect the body with something good as opposed to something bad.

If you’re a fan of zombie movies – I Am Legend provides an excellent example of this. If you listen to how the zombies came to be it was the result of something totally unexpected – a cure for AIDS. And in the movie the person who designed the “cure” explains a very similar process about infection. But ultimately there were no long-term studies done on this “cure” and the infection ended up becoming extremely aggressive as well as airborne infecting virtually everybody with extremely disastrous results. Another movie (and video game) Resident Evil creates a post-apocalyptic world via zombies that came about through a highly secure DNA testing facility having a disease released using the same processes described here.

While it is unlikely this infectious process will turn us all into zombies, it is likely that there could be unforeseen consequences to infecting living beings with “better” qualities. The main reason being that infectious items are aggressive and accomplish their needs through means of force, not through a working symbiotic relationship.

They\'re wearing biohazard suits because they\'re afraid of infection

Theyre wearing suits because theyre afraid of infection - Resident Evil

So how do they infect, for example, a crop of plants to become resistant to weed killer? Well they take a soy plant, for example, and now they have to find out a way to stop it from being harmed when it is sprayed with glyphosate (aka weed killer). So what is glyphosate resistent? Salmonella. However since we don’t want the gastroenteritis that comes with it, we just extract the good part, the part that happens to be resistent to weed killer.  And now, how do we get it into the soy plant? Now that we have the cargo we have to deliver the goods. So we take a little bit of E. Coli to use as the vessel to deliver and infect the soy plant on a DNA level. And, in addition Denise Caruso explains:

There are generally other bits of DNA included in transgenic cassettes that are designed to perform various other functions, like impelling the target protein to express in certain parts of the plant (or animal) and not in others. In Roundup Ready, this bit of genetic material comes from a petunia, for example. Until recently, virtually all commercial transgenic cassettes have also included a sequence of antibiotic resistant DNA from Streptococcus bacterium.

Can anyone not see Dr. Frankenstein’s parallel? We are taking the best parts of life, much like Dr. Frankenstein gave his monster the best parts of a human. But when they come together and work, what do they produce? Has mankind out-done nature or “God” as Mary Shelley put it? The roundup ready soy we just learned the basics of transgenics on is actually a product on the market now making a hefty load of cash. The EPA approves it. So can there be any serious risks or problems with this Frankenstein-like work? Have we put Mary Shelley’s classic work to shame? Have we proven stronger than the natural Universe itself?

I won’t make you wait for the answer – it’s simply No – we haven’t. And without proper oversight and insight from those leading the front of biotechnology the problems will continue and we will have a Frankenstein on our hands – and we will recoil in horror at what we had created. What problems, you ask? These problems:

Problems with Biotechnology and Transgenics

Instead of burgers it\'s lifetime enslavement - thats the only difference

Instead of burgers its eternal enslavement - same diff

Profit is the number one problem for biotechnology and transgenics. It skews reason, it disregards long-term testing, and it corrupts government. Okay, how do I prove these things? We can start with Monsanto which is literally the Hamburglar of the world. As Grimace, Ronald, and the chicken nuggets are looking the other way Hamburglar sneaks behind the counter and steals more hamburgers than he could even possibly eat. Only instead of the counter Monsanto sneaks behind the world, and instead of stealing more hamburgers than he can eat, Monsanto steals more money than it can use. Bold claim! But not without cause. Monsanto was the producer of Agent Orange – of Agent Fucking Orage – and they have the audacity to make their logo a fucking plant? I mean isn’t that seriously insane? Agent Orange killed everything it touched and mutated both animals and plants for generations to come – and yet we find Monsanto a member of a website called Bio.org with the theme “Science for Life.”

You would think that anyone with that theme would have at least this single pre-requisite: The creators of Agent Orange are not allowed to join strictly on principle but they made it in. Now we can all say “Hey, that was Vietnam, Monsanto has a totally different staff, they’ve turned over a new leaf, they’re an honest company now – they now are not motivated strictly by profit as they were back during Vietnam – at some point the company grew a conscience.” Then it would be hard to explain the phenomenon known as Monsanto Revolving Doors. Excerpt from one of the multiple Monsanto documentaries:

The state of affairs in 1999 includes Linda Fisher moving from the Environmental Protection Agency to Monsanto, Michael Friedman from the FDA to Monsanto, Marcia Hale and Josh King from the White House to Monsanto, Margaret Miller from Monsanto to the FDA, William Ruckelshaus from the EPA to Monsanto, and let’s not forget Michael Taylor who went back and forth several times.

Monsanto employees are flopping between the company and the government at the highest of levels and in areas that could change the biology of the Earth for centuries to come could at nicest be described as a conflict of interest, and at the strictest could be described as a crime against humanity. Because Monsanto has made a business out of biogenetics – roundup ready crops can only be bought for a single season – you are not allowed to replant the previous years seeds at a penalty that could cost everything you own. Much like the RIAA Monsanto has been trying to create a profit by becoming as litigious as possible filing loads of lawsuits because they knowingly have the upperhand in lawyers. Also it’s a great way to eliminate your competition – which happens to be individual farm owners and not giant impenetrable behemoth corporations (which makes it super convenient for Monsanto).

Now I’m not just calling Monsanto a giant impenetrable behemoth without just cause. I’m not doing it to belittle it, but Monsanto has been the poster child for what is going wrong in the world of biotechnology today. A couple paragraphs up I linked a documentary on Monsanto. I’m going to do it again to be sure if you don’t believe in the unethical practices Monsanto is engaging in that you know the facts you’re up against. It’s called The World According to Monsanto. This is not the only documentary on Monsanto and its unethical practices, but it’s the only one available on the internet. It kills me when people get defensive of big business as if the very suggestion of unethical practices in the area of business deserves to be scoffed. But these are not men and women who dedicate their lives to peace, unity, the Universe, God, cohesion – they are dedicated to making a profit. What makes more logical sense? That Monsanto insists on creating a new seed every year because it’s a great way to turn a profit or because they just want to update to the genetically best enhanced version for their customers and don’t want previous batches soiling it? In the area of business profit is more than essential. And this should settle the argument alone because even Monsanto’s public relations chief said:

Monsanto should not have to vouch for the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.

Wow, Monsanto-claus, why didn\'t I think of that!
Wow, Monsanto-claus, why didnt I think of that!

I stress that point so much because I feel people would rather believe it’s alarmist than make a stand against such methodological manipulation. All of these moves by Monsanto and its employees who went to and from the government have clear reasons to be motivated by profit and little else. The astoundingly lax standards on such an unknown technology with the obvious influence of Monsanto Employees within the agency that governs it – and because Monsanto is a corporation it makes no secrets that it’s number one responsibility is to his shareholders. Now – before people get confused – I’m not saying there is anything wrong with capitalism – that is a totally separate issue. But the government is put in place to ensure safety for all before a rabid desire of profit. Because, after all what is capitalism but another complex game we play to make things seem less confusing. So at what point do we know when to say “Hey, that’s unethical and a total detriment to nearly everybody but yourself”? The government is our agreed upon source for that. So when those who desire primarily to profit go into an agency of governing its own product to a pretty advantageous degree – that is wrong.

How advantageous? Remember earlier how I described the process of transgenics – like an infection? Creating genetically engineered plants with bad infections is obviously bad and illegal. But the fact remains – creating genetically engineered plants with good infections is not the same as making a regular plant (ie. planting just a regular seed). But high level biogenetics companies like Monsanto in the 80’s were already working very closely with the government on a new and upcoming technology – genetically modified plants.  Biogenetic companies seemed to try and portray the dutiful American by promising the wonders we’ve previously imagined that biogenetics could provide. But there was just one tiny eency weency problem – the industry hadn’t even begun yet – it was still completely in its infancy. There was no data to prove that Genetically Modified organisms were safe. “Well shucks!” says the GMO (biotech) companies, “If you want to be the best in the world we need to get started right away. It’s just un-American to not let us lead in such a dream-delivering idea. Hey – I got an idea, judge us by our product, not by our process.”

This is known as substantial equivalence. Basically if you breed a new strain of corn by taking two types of centuries old, untainted breeds you would not need to go to the FDA to get it approved. So the GMO companies say “That’s basically exactly what we’re doing – but instead of naturally breeding we’ll just forcefully infect whatever parts of whatever species we please – but it’ll look identical to corn so it’s close enough. That’s what substantial equivilance is – The law of close enough. It’s like saying I’ve come up with a new way to slaughter cows for mass production – and as long as the meat isn’t covered in e-coli or Mad Cow I have the right to sell it regardless of the process of how I butchered it. But if I butchered it in a way that was totally unsafe for the environment I’ll never have to have a legal repercussion for that because we made a deal not to assess my process – only my product. And the government bought it hook line and sinker – but once again most likely with internal help. Finally after a lawsuit the FDA was forced to release documents proving it knew there was potential danger with the products that are not going to occur in naturally occurring plants. And that took a lawsuit – there was no apology and it’s still in effect. Why wouldn’t we want to know what the dangers to GM food is? Denise Caruso quotes from a critic (Linda Kahl) of the substantial equivalence product –

I believe there are at least two situations relative to this document in which it is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The first… is that the document is trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices.  This is because of the mandate to regulate the product, not the process. The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks. There is no data that addresses the relative magnitude of the risks – for all we know, the risks may be lower for genetically engineered foods than for foods produced by traditional breeding. But the acknowledgment that the risks are different is lost in the attempt to hold to the doctrine that the product and not the process is regulated…. [The second square peg is] the approach of at least part of the document is to use a scientific analysis… to develop policy statement. In the first place, are we asking the scientific experts to generate the basis for this policy statement in the absence of any data? It’s no wonder that there are so many different opinions – it is an exercise in hypotheses forced on individuals whose jobs and training ordinarily deal with fact

Regardless the FDA approved the law of substantial equivalence. But for the biggest reason on why it’s obvious that profit is the primary motivation we have to revisit bio.org. Simply looking at the slogan and the picture on the site one would assume the organization is around for the benefit of life. Yet the picture is truly symbolic – it is a picture of a plant growing out from dirt on top of a hand. Previously we only needed to put plants into just dirt to have them grow, but it is literally the goal of this site to remove that ability from you in exchange for growing your food out of their own hands. Even on the front page we can see profit is primarily the focus in this organization as all the entries seem to be directed at shareholders. Today there is a link to a blog entry called Science is your brand. The problem with language like that is that you’re speaking as if you’re talking to consumers – people who are looking for personal gain – not gain for humanity. And it’s true – the blog addresses shareholders letting them know to “protect their investment.” The only problem with that is that a shareholder only protects his investment as far as he believes he’s going to make a profit off of it – not to the point that it’s for the benefit of humanity or the world. In fact when we move to the members section of bio.org I start to notice something fishy – like something out of the Stepford Wives or Pleasantville. All the sites seem to be extremely similar. They all have serious scientists doing precision work or happy children and families or caring doctors… and of course the occasional cool close-up picture. In fact looking at the members of bio.org is like strolling down the suburbs of the internet – it is a place where image is more important than information. Lets take a look at some:

Monsanto – I just still am so stunned that Monsanto dares tries to remake its image to be a positive and natural thing when it is most definitely the very definition of unnatural in what they’re doing.

Captial Royalty L.P. – hot looking girl doing something smart, check. double helix invading her skull? Check. What is the site actually for? Seems to be good for distributing money “appropriately” among GMOs, but they keep it vague enough that it just wants to you to give up at finding its actual duties.

Wyeth – Wyeth too has a randomized image maker of looking-out-for-you-doctors and satisfied customers. Thats because Wyeth is the creator of Robitussin and Advil. However it makes you wonder how far they will go, being a pharmaceutical giant, with a technology that has 0 risk assessment – it makes you wonder how many they already did.

PaleoTechnology – Ah yes – the sprawling beauty of nature covering the site following Monsanto’s lead in replacing facts with nice pictures. Of course it’s vague but it seems they have the crazy idea of finding solutions to our “problems associated with existing technologies” (ie. the oil crisis) by looking at oil. Who would have such backward logic but an oil company with too many assets to find a real alternative? Well their parent company – PetroHunter – seems to be quite close with Encana Oil & Gas as all of their producing wells are operated by Encana, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world.

Scigen – A Singapore company also directly related to bio.org. Again we see the surgeon-like hands doing careful scientific work and of course the happy little girl and boy jumping for joy. With those plus the cool blue background the site figures you need little more information now – so they politely explain that they do work dealing with endocrinology and immunology. Now these items are seriously important – I have a family member who is very close to me that could use the sciences of endocrinology so he doesn’t need to take pills every day multiple times a day for his entire life (which hopefully will be very long), so it’s not that I’m insensitive to the work… but how can you possibly work on genetically engineered immunities without assessing the risk? Also I find it interesting that this company is based in Singapore but all the key executives for the company aside from a secretary are white males (she seems to be doing her best to look like one though).

Yorktown Technologies, L.P. – Another fine innovative member of bio.org. They create the product known as Glofish (which come in 3 exciting colors! Electric Green, Starfire Red, or Sunburst Orange!) which are exactly what they sound like – fish that glow in the dark. What are they created for? For you! And your friends! They’ve genetically modified a species of fish for the sole purpose of making them glow in the dark. God knows what other parts of species ended up in these fish – but Glofish are an excellent example of where do we draw the line? and especially what about the risk of genetically modified pets? At what point do we agree that genetic infection stops here? Glofish are a promise by the biotech industry that there is no brake.

Spaltudaq – Though the company explains their website is under construction we can clearly see that they are nearly complete. They have their exciting picture of technology up there that gives us (the reader) only feelings – not facts. My only suggestion is that the site put up a scientist or a doctor doing something really important – and to balance out the seriousness put a happy family or some children. But again – they are part of bio.org and totally for pushing ahead on a technology that has no risk assessment and making it sound like they know what they’re talking about – even though nobody does. But it is clear that they are working on these technologies for the ultimate goal of profit like all the other sites on bio.org

Sound Pharmaceuticals – Here is another company part of bio.org that is under construction – oh wait, no it’s not. It’s easy to get them confused because they all look so similar – under construction or not. This site is interesting because they plan on restoring hearing by regenerating your cells – obviously with the intent to profit which would be totally fine except for the process has unassessed risks (did we cover this thoroughly enough yet, because it seems a lot of people like to forget that part).

I made this picture myself and it says - Oh yea sure guys. I always thought biotechnology was a good idea. Honest! I agree with you completely

I made this picture myself and it says - Oh yea sure guys. I always thought biotechnology was a good idea. Honest! I agree with you completely

These are just randomly chosen sites (aside from precious Monsanto) out of the hundreds that cover the “Members” section on bio.org. You come across behemoth companies like Wyeth who need to stay on top financially and apparently are willing to risk our safety by supporting products that we do no know the risk to but are put out into our environment. Other companies such as Paleotechnology can be connected to other big companies that need to stay on top financially at any expense. Once again – this can be argued with reason – the cohesiveness and community-minded ability that naturally occurs within the individual is lost when profits, jobs, and livelihoods are at stake. Now let’s look at some other members of bio.org:

Yale – Wow. My argument seems weaker and weaker the more I wrangle in established names (such as Monsanto, Wyeth, and now Yale). I mean everybody has the conception that Yale is a totally respectable top-of-the-line University. Which is exactly why multi-billion dollar corporations have descended upon the Ivy-League Universities as now they seem to solely be preparing for private work. There is a solid and fair argument against today’s higher education being controlled too much by the market. As if this entry wasn’t going to be long enough, I’ll have to save all the details of that for another time. But if you are interested in the subject of Higher Education focusing too much on money and less on academics I suggest the book The University, State, and Market: The Political Economy of Globalization in the Americas. But basically the point is that that this privatization of our educational direction means if what the school is funding isn’t financially beneficial then the program should be cut. Diversity is shunned and grant money is the new direction. The problem with this is that it makes our educational system far less objective, because those who dangle the grant money are usually doing it for a profitable (not necessarily publicly beneficial) project. So how do we prove this privatization of the educational system is occurring? Well those who fund the programs shouldn’t be actively ready to patent what is discovered under their grant. Essentially that would be like employing the students directly. A notorious example of this was in 1998 when another pharmaceutical company that is a member of by bio.org named Novartis promised $25 million to the University of California, Berkeley in exchange for rights to negotiate licenses on roughly a third of the departments discoveries – including results of research funded by state and federal sources – the results have not been beneficial for the public.

Well it goes to show that the Yale Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Society is sponsored seemingly entirely by for-profit enterprises (Note the opportunity for sponsors to participate in a variety of their programs). Sponsors such as Bristol-Meyers Squibb (you’ll do yourself a favor to not click that link and hear the most obnoxious video of your life) and Achillion Pharmaceuticals are also members of bio.org. In fact, the only sponsor that seems remotely related to the state is a company called Connecticut United for Research Excellence in which Achillion and Bristol-Meyers Squibb are again members. And maybe all of this would be okay but the simple fact remains there are known risks in the process of biogenetics that are not being assessed. And the federal government, Connecticut, Yale, Monsanto, Achillion, Wyeth, and virtually everybody else seems okay with just ignoring this. From the highest levels of government we’ve all just been calmed into thinking that refusal to physically contain genetically modified plants and animals allowing them to spread in nature as they please with unknown risks as it has never been done before is okay. We should know better than this. Let me continue on with the story of some other members of Bio.org:

Calgene – Calgene doesn’t have its own website anymore despite being part of bio.org. Monsanto bought them out and now owns 100% of the shares. Instead that link takes you to the Wikipedia entry on Flavr Savr tomatoes – a legend in the biogenetics industry. Calgene was one of the first companies to try and make a profit off of this miracle technology – if it went right they’d be a pioneer in the industry. So even though their project wasn’t quite as noble as curing totally debilitating diseases prenatally, they did pick a serious problem for almost everybody in America and the world. Tomatoes! The problem was when tomatoes grew ripe they also became soft and shipping soft tomatoes is difficult. Well Prince Calgene comes down from his castle in his sky with his miracle solution: “We’ll just modify the ripening and softening genes so that doesn’t happen anymore. Fresh ripe delicious tomatoes for everyone!” then Prince Calgene went up into his cloud castle and returned with his tomatoes and held out his hand for payment.

But the people planted the Calgene Tomato called The Flavr Savr. But less than 20% of the harvest were the quality promised by Calgene. And when they tried to ship them in hopes to have the firm, ripe tomatoes Prince Calgene promised, they were actually not as good as the traditional shipment of green tomatoes losing more tomatoes than ever. Prince Calgene couldn’t handle all the problems with his seemingly perfect idea – it all fell apart on him. And as he died confused at why his little Frankenstein didn’t work the giant cyclops Monsanto came and swallowed him whole, stole the best of the technology, and began to make its own profitable tomatoes from it. But Calgene’s Flavr Savr problem was not only short-sighted on the type of tomato used but also the actual usefulness of their tomatoes. The studies produced by Calgene found a significant amount of stomach lesions on the rats that were tested and although this was addressed by the FDA somebody approved it regardless to push it through. It seriously begs the question how many things are not being appropriately tested with this totally new technology? And already we’re seeing negative results from this new type of technology – and it is because people were so hurry to turn a profit that they figured things and used political leverage to make it work. What specifically I’ll get to shortly, but first there is one more member of bio.org I’d like to take a look at:

Syngenta – After a terrible meteorite accident near a nuclear factory Captain Syngenta was given powers of a superhero thusly earning the right to determine the future of global foods. Syngenta decided that he would always use his powers for good, not evil. His first mission – save the blind and starving millions. There is our problem, and now Captain Syngenta invokes the power of transgenics for our miracle solution. He created a type of rice that had beta-carotene in it to produce vitamin A which helps sight (We all knew that anyway, thats why we eat our carrots). The people rejoiced and it was called gold rice because surely it would be as precious as gold to the starving and blind. It literally took millions of dollars to create and adapt while other countries use much cheaper supplementation programs. The vitamin A was easily lost losing its minimal nutritional value simply by being boiled or stored inappropriately. In fact the nutritional value was so little it wasn’t enough to help most cases of blindness due to vitamin A deficiency. But this is the biggest reason why it’s not okay – anybody can argue that it still has a case with what I wrote above – but the most significant problem is this: They are living beings and they need to be exposed to the environment, and then they interact with that environment.

You know which side Im on

You know which side Im on

GMOs make no pretentions that they know how to contain their products that they grow. Do you know how hard it was to write about genetics for this long and not bring this point up yet? But think about it – these companies are making living beings that will be put into the environment to grow. They could easily mess with a whole species DNA because there are no built-up immunities or relationships between the species. Monsanto has transgenic bentgrass that ended up 13 miles downwind. And this is the same company that sues you if they find their transgenic crops on your property – that is ludicrously criminal. And Golden Rice, like any rice, cross-pollinates with other plants. Now these are infected plants with infectious traits. And because we know absolutely nothing of these long term effects it’s important to keep track of them and study them before releasing them to the world. We need to have higher standards for our science forefronts – we can’t just hope it won’t decimate a biosphere. Additionally they are already seeing mutations within the rice. The information I used to recite to you the history of Golden Rice came from Denis Caruso – only she didn’t make the superhero analogy.

Golden Rice and Bentgrass are not the only example of genetically engineered plants causing trouble. For one, Genetically Modified plants have been a source of negative contamination for naturally grown plants. Additionally it’s being found out now that genetically modified plants, including Monsanto’s poison-resistant crops, are having a negative effect on the insect community, from bees to butterflies. This is really terrible if you really think about it. If our pollinating insects can’t handle these crops (an unforseen consequence both Captain Syngenta and Prince Calgene know all too well that it’s fucking impossible to predict all the factors of a genetically modified species). And the worst part of it all is that biotechnology could be such an integral part of our society – but because we didn’t take the time to do the objective research first, and because we refuse to acknowledge the unforeseen genetic mutations in the plants, and because we insist we already know what we’re doing – it will be a detriment to our society.

On top of the problems above, genetically modifying anything is costly and inefficient, especially without an objective focus (hence glofish to regenerative hearing, to oil biogenetics). But animals are also genetically modified. If you thought glowing fish might be pushing the limit – why not glowing pigs? Now we are at the forefront of human technology and Taiwanese researchers found nothing better to do than genetically change pigs so they glow. The article goes on to say that it isn’t anything special because other people have made pigs glow before. Seriously? Seriously seriously? Has this what transgenics has come to? Trying to make the most florescent pig by ripping the fabric of life and mutating a pig into a now partial jellyfish-pig. Within the article it also notes the laborious work it took to get 3 glow-in-the-dark pigs. Out of 265 pig embryos only 3 came out how they wanted them to. What else does this say about the field of biotechnology aside from that it’s still deep in its infancy? It comes down to something I heard somewhere that I forgot – it’s the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Is waiting all year for plants to bear fruit in the spring efficient? Not necessarily – but is it effective? Absolutely. Are changing the genes of animals for our benefit efficient? That’s what’s promised (though it’s not currently), but is it effective? No. Always within genetically modified animals is the appropriate birthrate near 0.

Even in death...

Even in death...

And remember Dolly, the first cloned sheep? It was hailed as a breakthrough but even she had her troubles. After fertilizing over 25,000 eggs only 134 calves were produced and out of the 134 only 9 were transgenic. 9 out of 25,000.  And then as soon as she was rushed out into the global spotlight to hail her success Dolly died prematurely with arthritis and lung disease. How much did going through the transgenic process affect her health? We will never know because scientists aren’t looking at that – because it’s not profitable and doesn’t “bring in the grants.” In fact one of the few studies done that can be publicly seen on transgenic animals have found that out of a total of 12,000 transgenic embryos, only 207 of them, resulted in live births. Transgenic animals that didn’t turn out as expected didn’t live as long. These are reasons – solid reasons – why we should hold up a brakelight to transgenics. Not to say they can never do it – but at least hold off on the profiting of such an industry. Have some self respect and know solidly what the risks are instead of just ignoring it entirely.

Transgenic salmon are another miracle fix through transgenics. The concept is to infect fish so that they grow alarmingly fast but so they don’t pose a danger to the environment they must be sterilized too. If a transgenic salmon gets released into the wild it could become invasive. And there are hundreds of invasive species already – but imagine what a totally unnatural life-form could do that is genetically engineered to be bigger and grow faster than other species. A company called Aqua Bounty Farms seems to be the attempted miracle-worker this time. Again, the site design looks like it might be a mafia front for money laundering, but the picture in the corner speaks for itself – transgenic 6 month-year-old salmon in front and eensy-weensy regular 6 month-year-old salmon in the back. Now let’s look at all the unforeseen consequences that occurred with all of the other transgenic things above – now look at the 6-month year old transgenic salmon. The battle here is between two different parts of your brain – the part of you that says “Bigger faster = better” is more in the amygdala (I’d assume) part of your brain because it is a quick emotional reaction. However if we use the more developed parts of our brain – we recognize that this may not be better considering that every single transgenic experiment (even foods approved by the FDA) have had unforeseen consequences, many of which are infecting the rest of the planet. But – can we find anybody who will promote transgenic salmon hands down? Yes we can – of course it’s bio.org again – and look who’s a member – Aqua Bounty. Interesting huh? Now this multi-billion dollar organization wouldn’t be pushing the concept of FDA-approved transgenic fish for the purposes of profit over all else, would it? Does that seem plausible at all? Especially when Monsanto themselves admitted that is their number 1 goal? I mean they have NO RIGHT to pretend they can use objective reasoning with an un-assessed technology which their whole company rides on – there is no way that they will be hunting for potential problems – undoubtedly this project has cost them millions – and for what? To get it thrown down the tube because one of their own employees, someone who is siphoning their own money, tells them it needs to stop? I wouldn’t even put up with that in that situation – it’s just such a substantial amount of money to be invested into a mistake. So the mistake is promised to be fixed by another mistake and yet promised to be fixed by another mistake and yet another and so on until billions are tied up in this technology that is being forced to bare fruition, regardless of risk.

How could you possibly say no?!

How could you possibly say no?!

Ultimately the problem with biotechnology is that we have not studied this area of science well enough. In normal circumstances that would be fine because they could just keep testing but the problem is that we are already exposing biotechnology to the world. But don’t worry – scientists have thought of this and have come up with a few ways to manage this situation. First – the idea of physical confinement isn’t even on the table. Labs and test fields in the middle of nowhere are too expensive and not 100% guaranteed so scientists came up with the term “biological confinement.” For instance with the Transgenic Salmon – so they don’t end up becoming an invasive species with their supernatural evolutionary gains they are made “mostly” sterile. The man in the NOVA video said that if these salmon get loose (which is being dealt with as a 100% possibility as fish farms lose fish all the time) and somehow reproduce they would decimate the salmon population because they would be the first to mate but unlikely to have healthy (or living) offspring. They could still be eaten by predators and the effect of the salmons genes on the predator are unknown – as the biotechnology industry still has done 0 risk assessment by doing these experiments in a physically confined place. So they would also plan on feeding the salmon something that can’t be found in nature and that is only manmade – Denise Caruso uses skittles as an example. Aside from this still not being effective what kind of Frankenstein monsters are we really making here? Everything that is occurring is unnatural – they’d even be fed on something unnatural – and there is no idea of the long term effect on people or the environment. And yet this is allowed.

The Biotech industry has come up with insidious methods to “biologically confine” all sorts of species. A way to biologically confine engineered microbes is to make them highly demanding of energy to survive. However if that microbe can adapt such as the bacteria has against anti-bacterial soap the threshold effect will take place and there most likely will be unforeseen consequences. For plants another company absorbed by the gluttonous Monsanto developed plants to produce sterile seeds to biologically confine them. Can you feel the magnitude of that? We would be refusing our food sources to reproduce naturally. Are we really okay with letting this technology blow about this planet and infuse these corrosive genes into our natural bounty?! While it is not sold commercially both Monsanto and the USDA have continued to develop it. There is such a demand for biological confinement already including for those herbicide-resistent plants that are being blamed for our insect dilemmas provided above. Another type of biologically confined species so gruesome and slavish Denise Caruso explains:

there are plants and animals engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, vaccines or industrial chemicals – a genre often referred to as “pharming” – which have the capacity to harm people or other species that might accidentally consume them…. the purpose of pharming is simply to use the plant or animal as a cheaper or more productive (or both) living factory for the substance, which will then be harvested.

Biological confinement has been unsuccessful (much to Monsanto’s litigious joy). In 2005 when Denise Caruso wrote her book 62 cases of contamination in 27 countries have occurred with transgenic crops. Today, in 2008, there are 216 cases of contamination in 57 countries. And, as shown in the link in the parantheses Monsanto is profiting off of their own contamination of crops. So not only are we engineering poorer quality products but we are infecting healthier and beneficial plants all over the world with poorer qualities. So in other words biotech companies are forcing us slowly into their dependency. They already demand that you pay yearly for seeds. This is our food, this is one of our few essential sources needed for survival on our planet. Why are we letting them fuck with us so bad? Because billions are invested into it. The most powerful pharmaceutical businesses, biotech companies, educational facilities, and oil companies are all depending on it to bring them their miracle source of profit.

Well John, I guess we didnt see that coming with the terminator gene. But you win some you lose some ya know?

Well John, I guess we didnt see that coming with the terminator gene. But you win some you lose some ya know?

To hit home this point Denise Caruso tells a story of the GM Nation survey done in the UK to determine the public opinion of GM crops. The study overwhelmingly reported that the public was not happy with the idea of GM crops being planted on their lands based on the fact that nobody knows the long-term risk of doing this. Regardless the government allowed GM crops to be planted on their land. But how do the GMO companies still support their work after such a lack of support? They find sites that look like they’re straight out of the mid-90s to skew all the data so it wasn’t an appropriate sample of the whole of the UK. Another tactic to muddy the data against GM products made by a site called PG Economics. Where it doesn’t take long to find that the ones who run the site have a history of working for the GM companies – including, yes, Monsanto. They must go through some sort of brainwashing program and then send them out on their own to continue pretending theres a market for these poorly planned or understood products. Is that an overexaggeration aimed at stripping the opposite view on GM organisms? Not really – as Monsanto was caught having bribed at least 140 government officials in Indonesia so it wouldn’t have to provide an environmental assessment for its Bt cotton. If Monsanto were a person he would be considered a heinous criminal, but because it’s a corporation and armies of lawyers are attached we have to pretend that their warped view of the world should come above all else. And like those who oppose global warming is occurring, they don’t need solid fact to back up their claim, they just need to create enough confusion to not have to deal with the problem directly. And this tactic can be very divisive.

Monsanto was also part of a subpoena in 2005 along with Goodrich,  Goodyear, Union Carbide and 20 in total chemical companies that are refusing a release of a book. They are restricting our freedom of knowledge. The book was to be about corporate cover-ups of industrial pollution written by two highly regarded professors from NYU and Columbia. At the same time the forefront of science and technology are hidden behind these doors with refusal to publish anything about their work unless it’s positive or forced by law. Big biotech, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies are not trying to be progressive, they’re trying to be profitable, they’ve never explained it any differently. They are not directly accountable for their actions. Many companies create their biotech dream, watch it fail, and then go defunct – and if that failed biotech project has an extremely negative effect on the world at large – we will have no one to hold responsible – and if we did, what’s the use? The damage is irrevocable due to unassessed risk.

And these ideas that we can use biotechnology for anything keep occurring. In 2004 a professor thought it’d be a good idea to plant trees that could absorb mercury, break it down into a “less harmful form” and release it into the atmosphere. Maybe – just maybe – there should be some regulations on this stuff? I can’t even walk off a trail in some places in this country for public fear of ruining the natural environment and we’re allowing professors who know no risks to transgenics plant trees that want to put mercury into the air? Another type of scary technology is known as “DNA synthesis” which attempts to construct gene and genome length DNA fragments from scratch. Again, there is no risk assessment on this. Yet despite being virtually alone working in the field the company has raised millions of dollars for their work. This could create entirely new species or change existing organisms “for useful purposes.” The company is called Synthetic Genomics and yes, they are also a part of bio.org. The founder of the company is none other than Dr. Craig Venter. Notice how the author of that article, a microbiologist for NYU, is ecstatic about the creation of the new company on his creepily named blog “biosingularity.” Anytime I find an evangelist supporter of biotechnology I love to find their reasoning, for him, he follows biotechnology blindly because:

I aim to follow and contribute to these advances with the hope that they will have positive impact on our health, greatly increasing our lifespans, enhancing our standard of living and improving our environment.

(Italics and bolded print are mine!)

Great. A microbiologist for NYU and he is being led by the same faith of hope as the religious. He follows these “advances” because he knows they will have a positive impact on our health and whatever and whatever? No. He follows these “advances” because evidence strongly supports that they will have a positive impact on our health and whatever? No. He follows these advances because he strongly believes risks have been greatly minimized to the public on these technologies? No. He hopes. And do you know why he hopes? Because the above statements are impossible for him to say because there are no studies – there are no risk assessments – only blind capitalism and hidden investors hungry for a 10-fold-return on their investment for doing absolutely nothing with it personally.

So who is this Dr. Craig Venter that founded Synthetic Genomics? He is famous for sequencing the human genome – for understanding what all the parts of a human gene look like. He became infamous for backing academia and then switching to backing industry. The battle for funding these exhaustively expensive projects was a choice between dealing with a bureaucratic government or vociferously voracious for-profit industry. Dr. Venter decided that with his research he should be able to pop out a few products that should return a profit – but at what risk? We’ll never know because assessment of risk in this undeniably highly controversial field will not occur. The private industry has held governments at bay on regulations with confusion and sweet whispers of miracles. If you don’t believe me there was a whole book written on it – and it explains how much of the advancement is controversial and ego-oriented, hardly in the publics best interest.

No - shes serious

No - shes serious

In fact profiting from the human genome has already had significant steps taken for it. When Craig Venter sequenced the human genome he could not have done so without public records, yet now he supports privatization of the human genome down to individual genes or even smaller. What does this mean? Well for giant biotech, pharmaceutical, and chemical companies it simply means investors (who literally do nothing but already own a lot of money they don’t care to share) need only to patent a part of the gene and if it is used for the purpose of any cure or idea they can profit off of it. So basically it means people who already have a bunch of money need to do little more than transfer a large amount of money into researching it, patent what’s discovered, and lie in wait for the cure to cancer or for a longer life or for happiness to be found in his now-purchased-gene and then he gets even more money he doesn’t share without a price. I mean working with Satan is hardly any different. What does this mean for reality? It means the patent office is inundated with 20,000+ patents on the human genome right now that are totally private to the outside world. As of Denise Caruso’s book 20% of the human genome had already been patented and some of the genes have been patented as many as 20 times each because they’ve been “improved” upon. Scientists refuse to do any research with the gene because if they discover something and it comes to show some jerk has patented the gene, he is allowed to demand money for simply having the money to put down on it in the first place. So research is halted, or only done with “sure-fire” genes that won’t cost a fortune in the long-run. What makes this more cruel is that these genes are found in each and every one of our bodies – they are beginning to patent what is inherently ours – what comprises you of you. I don’t know how that emotionally affects those who patent it or what lousy excuse or “reason” they can give for it – they are doing nothing but owning us from the inside out, and not letting everybody share the divine knowledge that makes us who we are.

Making a profit from genes and transgenes has become paramount. It comes at the cost of people with the very illnesses they promise to cure. It makes cows produce milk faster. They make farmers pay yearly for crops (our very food source, we must pay to be allowed to grow) all in the name of intellectual property. Just to tell you whats in your genome is becoming a fast growing business. It’s being used to systemize us and control us. And yet when these things get out into the environment – the real world – we have no way to protect ourselves against them if they are harmful (which we don’t know because we haven’t assessed the risks of this technology). Detection data is weak and transgenic crops accidentally wind up in all sorts of places they don’t believe. So once its let out into the world it is something we must deal with regardless of the negative effects of the transgenic crop or animal. If it decimates an entire species, food-staple, or region there is absolutely no repercussion strong enough to make the ends justify the means. The company that produced the rotten transgene would go bankrupt and the world would suffer and be forced to depend on this new infectious transgene because there are no other alternatives. In fact, Syngenta, the makers of the useless golden rice described earlier had contaminated a strain of corn en-route to Japan, who has much stricter guidelines on their food than America. However New Zealand received the same rice as Japan and it went through undetected even though it was contaminated with the transgene. Even biological confinement is a literal impossibility. And what for? Even Syngenta says GM food will not save the world.

Conclusion

So why did I write this? Already it is my longest entry to date (which I regret because people don’t like reading long things) and yet the problems I mentioned are only eclipsed by the problems I haven’t mentioned strictly due to space and time constraints. I see an industry that wants to have its cake and eat it too. Companies as scary as Synthetic Genomics which could create bioterrorism that crushes all bioterrorism (the scariest form of weapons) fill me with nothing other than the feeling that I’ve seen this somewhere before. To me this is a very old story – it comes with the fallacies of mankind – and is most famously portrayed in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Certainly people such as Craig Venter and the rest on the forefront of biotechnology have their visions – just as Frankenstein envisioned his creature as beautiful up until the very point it came to fruition and the disaster realized. But unlike Frankenstein’s monster – the monster tortured relatively few people and died alone out in the Arctic. If any single one of those hundreds of companies at the forefront of biotechnology release a Frankenstein monster into our world – it will not go up to the Arctic to die – it will become invasive – removing the competition of diversity, it will interact with us on the smallest of levels in unknown ways, it could decimate the planet or a food industry. Will they? We simply don’t know – because there are no risk assessments. Too much money is tied up into miracle working these days and people forget about the common good. We have enough technology that is safe for all of us, with risks already assessed, that would not take the financial weight to get the biotech industry off of the ground. But our pharmaceutical companies, our chemical companies, our oil companies – they’ve all found refuge in the sirens songs of genetic technology.

They have the power of life on their fingertips and its hidden behind secret doors with egos and millions of dollars to be lost or gained. But where are the regulations? Where are the risks? Is it okay to throw out into the environment a genetically different species? Animals and plants have no inherent defense intricately primed through ages of evolution to promote diversity and weather naturally-produced problems. Now we are creating unnatural species that natural ones must interact with on a molecular, biological, and environmental level. I mean this could mean the difference between the American midwest being a steppe or a desert. While nobody is opposed to physically confined experiments the biotech industry flaunts a big “fuck you” to having it that way simply because they should be entitled to turn a profit off of their studies. The problem is that if a study ends up with little fruit there is an attempt to create a demand for what is needed – much like Syngenta’s golden rice.

How far will it stretch?

Because I am not a super smart scientist why should my argument be worth anything? My argument started to be worth something the minute they took unassessed transgenic plants outdoors and began having all forms of life interact with it with no proof to me that they know what the fuck they’re doing. I may not be a scientist but I am certainly no idiot. I am not a religious man and the hope that feeds the giddy microbiologist up there and the hope that feeds the Christian desire of the second-coming-of-Christ does not feed my fact-based need for proper risk assessment. I wrote about this because it’s such a complex topic and the reason why it’s not getting taken care of properly most likely is because people don’t have a fucking clue with whats going on in this area so they decide to “leave it to the experts” – who all happen to be foaming at the mouth with profit-rabies. And don’t you dare have the audacity to call me an alarmist or extremist for saying that – there are billions of dollars tied up in that industry – there is a unquenchable desire for profit in an industry like that and the proof lies in the risk assessments. But now with this entry you’re an expert. You’re allowed to say “We don’t have a clue what the long-term effects of these transgenic crops and animals are and until you’ve followed some pretty basic standards in this field – we don’t want to know what you’ve got for us.”

The biggest problem is you’re most likely already eating it – just like many other species on this planet – because we’re not even allowed to know whether a crop was genetically modified or not. Ignorance is what is allowing the biotech company to keep from acting morally responsible – I’ve provided many links of information including Denise Caruso’s book. I don’t know how to compete with millions of dollars, but I do know I can’t stand when we have to pretend something is good when it’s not.