Is This The Extinction Event We Were Warned About?

Geologists have been talking about peak oil for quite a while now. Yet, there are still oil deposits that haven’t been tapped. And in some places fracking has been implemented to squeeze more out of the ground.

But, even if we use up all the oil in the world, it won’t be the end of life as we know it. There are substitute fuels and technologies waiting in the wings, waiting for that day when the powerful oil companies become redundant.

But there is another natural resource that is reaching its peak, and there are no substitutes for this resource, and most importantly, without it, all life on earth would perish.

If ever there was a potential extinction event it would probably be the depletion of phosphorus. Why is phosphorus so important? Every living thing (whether plant, animal, or human) needs phosphorus to produce healthy cells. So, the fact that the world’s reserves of phosphorus are dwindling fast is really bad news. Unlike oil, which is found in many areas of the globe, phosphorus is not as ubiquitous.

An estimated 85 percent of the globe’s phosphate reserve is controlled by Morocco’s royal family. Much of it is located in the Western Sahara. Jeremy Grantham, cofounder of the prominent Boston-based global investment firm Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co., called this “the most important quasi-monopoly in economic history.”

Oddly, peak phosphorus doesn’t get the attention that peak oil gets and yet it is far more important. In a recent essay in Nature, Grantham, who also runs an environmental foundation, put the case bluntly: Our phosphorus use “must be drastically reduced in the next 20-40 years or we will begin to starve.”

The United States imports about 10 percent of our phosphate from Morocco. We also have some phosphorus mining operations in the U. S. The largest mining operation is in Florida.

Florida's strip mining operation solves one problem adn creates another.

Florida’s phophorus  mining creates a huge environmental problem.

Mining for phosphorus is environmentally devastating. It requires stripping large areas of land. It also creates massive amounts of phosphogypsum, an undesirable and toxic waste product. Phosphogypsum contains low levels of radiation and several heavy metals.

To date, these waste products have not been dealt with. There are huge piles of the stuff  in mining regions. The EPA estimates that central Florida houses nearly 1 billion metric tons of toxic phosphogypsum and it keeps growing to the tune of 32 million metric tons each year.

As the toxic waste piles grow, the phosphorus reserves dwindle. It is estimated that within 25 years Florida’s phosphorus will be depleted.

Is this a hopeless situation? No, there are ways to extract phosphorus from waste products, but to date no one is recycling waste products. Currently, phosphorus is allowed to fallow in the fields or wash away into waterways and eventually into the ocean. Animal manure and human urine are excellent sources of phosphorus. But there isn’t any infrastructure in place to recycle these waste products.

There is no simple solution, but its crucial that something be done soon because our other option is to pay outragious prices to the King of Morroco,  and eventually use up all the phosphorus.

Next Step, Transhumanism

Last year, Rachel Dolezal was elected president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP. However, last week she resigned that prestigious position because she was caught in a lie.

She lied about her racial heritage. There is absolutely no African-American ancestry in her family tree, yet she has been parading as an African-American for years. She claims to identify closer to that ethnicity more than her actual Czech-German blood line.

But, race in itself is not the bigger story. I’m looking at this in a totally different way than most people.

Consider another recent story that has been making headlines and magazine covers. I’m referring to the former Bruce Jenner. According to him, throughout his life, he felt there was a woman inside that desperately wanted out. As he grew older, medical advances and social attitudes had progressed to a point where he felt it was time to release the woman trapped inside. Bruce is no more. Caitlyn lives.

And then there are those who desparately desire to change, but will never be able to. Society is not ready for them, but neither is science. No, I am not talking about race or gender. No this goes even deeper. I’m talking about species.

Gary Matthews, of Pittsburgh lives much of his life as a dog. He first got this idea when he was a kid of seven years old and saw the Disney Movie, the Shaggy DA. At that age, his parents just assumed it was a child’s wild imagination when he barked and dug holes in the backyard with his bare hands. But when he continued these behaviors as a teen and then as an adult, his parents would scold him and forbid his dog bahaviors.

So he stopped—in front of them. But it went underground until his parents died.

Now as a 50-year old man, he lives much of his life as a dog named Boomer. He wears a shaggy dog costume, eats dog food from a bowl on the floor, chews on dog treats, and even sleeps in a doghouse he built himself. Not surprisingly, he is a member of a Pittsburgh Furry group.

In case you are unaware, Furries are people who dress up in animal costumes and socialize together. To many in the furry community it is an obsession as it is for Gary Matthews. Furry role playing was introduced to the public at large in a 2013 music video entitled “What Does The Fox Say

Vastly different as these three stories are, there is a common thread. Some people are willing to give up the person they are to become something totally different, taking the chance of being shunned by society.

Being born one thing (be it race, gender, or even species) is now becoming optional and changeable. With enough cash, creativity, and/or courage, we can transform ourselves into whatever we desire.

But should we? Are their limits? Where will this lead us next?

I believe that the next thing down the line is transhumanism. This involves augmenting humans with technology to enhance our mental and physical abilities.

People who are old enough, might remember the popular TV show “The 6 Million Dollar Man” starring Lee Majors in the title role. In this series, his sight, strength, and running speed was way beyond normal human ability. We didn’t have a name for it then, but that is the definition of transhumanism.

Many people who suffer now, could benefit greatly. Those who have lost limbs could have some of their normal abilities restored.

But, I predict that people with normal abilities will also be taking advantage of these technologies, to become super humans. And these super humans may become the soldiers of our future. Because, as we know, every time a new technology is developed, it eventually ends up on the battlefield.

Superman Would Have Approved

Many of us remember the heartbreaking news of the tragic horse riding accident, in 1995, that left actor Christopher Reeve paralyzed from the neck down.

He was at the peak of his career, having starred as Superman in four hit movies. His work in Hollywood didn’t end completely, but it was drastically curtailed due to his injury.

He was optimistic that researchers would someday discover a treatment for spinal injuries. He believed that embryonic stem cells were the answer to a cure and lobbied the U.S. Congress to make legal their use in research. He died in 2004, unable to achieve that goal.

FAST FORWARD TO 2015
Two separate research teams in two different parts of the world are simultaneously working on treatments for spinal injuries. These two teams are not connected. They are not collaborating. And yet the two teams may have each discovered different halves of the future treatment for spinal injuries.

A NEW DRUG THERAPY
A group of U.S. scientists have developed a drug that can encourage nerves in the spinal cord to grow.
This drug concentrates on interfering with a natural reaction that occurs when the nerve cells are injured. Normally, when the spinal cord is damaged sugary proteins are released at the site of the injury, creating a sticky goo. The long spindly part of the nerve – the axon – gets trapped in this goo when it tries to cross the site of the injury.

The researchers used rats with spinal cord injuries in their study. These rats were injected with a chemical under the skin at the site of their injury. The drug works by disrupting the formation of the “sticky goo” which prevents nerve cells from growing after the injury. Lab tests resulted in 21 out of 26 rats showing some degree of recovery either in their ability to move or in bladder function.

“It was amazing – the axons kept growing and growing,” said lead researcher Professor Jerry Silver. “What we could see was really remarkable. Some recovered to a fantastic extent and so well you could hardly tell there was an injury. But, further testing in larger animals is needed before human trials can take place.”

Professor Silver expects that future therapy, resulting from this research, would most likely be used in conjunction with other treatments that are now being pioneered, such as nerve transplants and electrical stimulation.

Dr. Lyn Jakeman, from the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said: “There are currently no drug therapies available that improve the very limited natural recovery from spinal cord injuries that patients experience. This is a great step towards identifying a novel agent for helping people to recover.”

This study was published in the journal, Nature.

A NEW CELL THERAPY
Darek Fidyka, 40, from Poland, was paralyzed from the chest down after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in a 2010 attack. He’s been confined to a wheel chair since that time. Recently a research team from the Institute of Neurology at the University College of London, tried an experimental treatment on Mr. Fidyka that shows real promise.

The treatment uses olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs). Olfactory glands are the only nerves in the human body that regrow and its the OECs that act as pathway cells, enabling nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed.

Their experimental treatment involved two main procedures. In the first procedure, surgeons removed one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in a culture for two weeks.

The second procedure, two weeks later, was more involved. In this step, they transplanted the cultured OECs into the spinal cord. They only had a drop-size (about 500,000 cells) of material to work with, and yet, they were able to make about 100 micro injections of these OECs just above and below the injury.

In addition to the injections, four thin strips of nerve tissue, were taken from the patient’s own ankle and placed across the 8mm (0.3in) gap on the left side of the cord (a narrow strip of nerve tissue on the right side had survived the knife attack and was still connected).

The scientists believed the OECs would provide a pathway to enable fibres above and below the injury to reconnect, using the nerve grafts to bridge the gap in the cord.

Today, Mr. Fidyka is walking again. He has to use a support frame, but he is thrilled with the outcome. He says, “It’s an incredible feeling. When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s like you were born again.”

Professor Raisman, Chair of Neural Regeneration, led the team in the U.K. He said this is “more impressive than man walking on the moon.” Professor Wagih El Masri, Consultant and Spinal Injuries Surgeon remarked, “I have waited about 40 years for a moment like this and I am hopeful that this moment will be repeated and confirmed independently” Their research was published in the journal “Cell Transplantation”.

Unfortunately, Christopher Reeve died in 2004. The preliminary results of both of these studies would have been great news to him, maybe even hope for his condition. Ironically, his much touted embryonic stem cells were not part of either of these treatments. But somehow I think Superman would have approved.

Hey Kids! Let’s Roundup All the Essential Minerals

crop-duster

Thanks to Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, these crops can be sprayed with Roundup Weed Killer multiple times throughout the season.

If you haven’t heard of GMO corn or RoundUp-Ready Corn, you have probably been spending too much time on a mountain-top in Tibet. I suggest that you might want to stay there.

The first thing you need to understand about GMOs is Monsanto’s patented weed killer, marketed as RoundUp. The active ingredient in RoundUp is glyphosate. This product is widely used by mega-corporate farms to keep weeds from growing among their crops.

What many people don’t know is that an earlier version of RoundUp was originally developed as a chelator agent for use in cleaning the mineral buildup that accumulated in industrial pipes. Glyphosate bonds to minerals at the molecular level—most all minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium & manganese. Once bonded to the mineral buildup, it is then flushed out, leaving a clean pipe.

But now, glyphosate is used in herbicides. The same chelating process that cleans out pipes, also kills weeds because, like every living organism on Earth, they need essential minerals to thrive. For this reason, RoundUp cannot be used near natural farm crops, grazing land, hay fields, or even flower gardens, because it doesn’t play favorites. It can and will kill any green, leafy plant it encounters. In years past, farmers would spray their plowed fields a few weeks prior to planting their crop. But, once the seed or seedlings were planted, they couldn’t use RoundUp again until the next growing season.

Monsanto realized if they could develop a strain of corn that was immune to the chelating action of Roundup, they could multiply their sales to farmers by up to 10 times. The plan went like this: Charge the farmer a premium price for their special patented RoundUp -immune corn, then sell even more RoundUp for supplemental sprayings, because now farmers can spray their crops as often as they need to. The farmers will be thrilled to finally have a way to keep those pesky weeds out of their cornfields.

The plan worked beautifully. Now just about everything we eat has some level of Roundup-immune corn. Nearly all boxed, bagged, canned, and frozen products include some corn products, the most common being high fructose corn syrup.

Laboratory tests performed on Monsanto’s genetically modified corn indicate that Monsanto’s patented corn is as safe and nutritious as Mother Nature’s version. These conclusions should not surprised you at all. Anyone could plant it in their own backyard and it would be a good healthy source of food. But, the study does not indicate that the corn was subjected to multiple applications of RoundUp, this study means nothing. It is not the corn itself that is a danger to our health. corn

The danger lies in the fact that this strain of corn tolerates sprayings of RoundUpthroughout the growing season, at every stage of the corn’s growth cycle. It saves the farmer a lot of work and money. Instead, of hiring many farm hands and purchase expensive machinery to tackle the weeds, he hires one crop duster to spray the corn every couple weeks.

Maybe you remember, back in 1989, the controversy surrounding the plant growth regulator known as ‘Alar’. It was sprayed on apples, pears, and other tree fruits in the United States. It was determined that, even though these fruits were washed before processing, traces of Alar were still detected in juice and other products made from the sprayed fruit. As a result of these findings, the product was voluntarily withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer, Uniroyal Chemical Company.

But, Monsanto has too much invested in this project to pull their products off the market. This is not just a single chemical, this is a catalog of patented strains of corn and a growing catalog of other farm crops, that only have the benefit of tolerating their weed killer.

Yes, Glyphosate is being sprayed on our food in massive quantities, and like the Alar that stayed with fruits even after washing, has a huge potential of remaining within the food itself. When we ingest food containing corn products the likelihood that we are ingesting Roundup is quite high.

Everything we ingest, eventually ends up in our blood stream—the good, the bad, and the ugly, the same place where essential minerals are found. The only question lingering is, what does ingesting foods that have been sprayed multiple times with an industrial pipe cleaner do to our health?

That’s the study that needs to take place (and not by Monsanto or any lab they select)

Who Would You Like to Eat Today?

In 1931, Winston Churchill predicted a future in which all the world’s meat would be grown in labs. Churchill asked, “What, was the sense in raising a whole chicken merely for the sake of its wings or breast meat?” Where did he come up with that idea? What kind of mad science was he privy to in the early 1930s that caused him to predict lab-produce meat? Can you imagine the funny looks and the gossip that followed such a statement?

That would be the equivalent to President Obama predicting that in the future we will be visiting cantinas on Mars and taking honeymoon trips on the actual moon.

Its been 84 years since Churchill’s odd prediction, but he has finally been vindicated. He wasn’t crazy after all, he was quite the visionary. Because, right now, there are several labs working on that exact problem. The world’s population is growing, yet the earth has only a finite amount of land. 30% of the Earth’s inhabitable land mass is used for the production of meat. If we could reduce that to 5%, new villages, towns, and cities could take the place of factory farms.

Most people who witness the way animals are treated in factory farms would categorize it as cruelty. These farms also have a measurable negative impact on the environment. Antibiotics are used on these animals to reduce loss from disease. Growth hormones are given to animals to fatten them up so they can get the to market quicker. As consumers of this meat, we also ingest these antibiotics and growth hormones to the possible detriment of our own health. On the other hand, lab grown meat removes all these issues. The amount of land needed to produce the same amount of meat is drastically reduced and other environmental issues are eliminated.

The process of growing meat in the lab still requires an animal, but the animal is not killed. One cow would replace many thousands. The process starts with a small biopsy of a cow’s myoblast cells (also known as stem cells). The cow is not slaughtered. These myoblast cells multiply, increasing in volume until they have reached the desired mass. Once the first batch of meat is grown, the next batch could be started with a sampling of the first.

This method of growing meat in a lab can offer so much more than just replicas of beef, pork, and chicken. Imagine tasting the meat of a rare species, like Polar Bear or Python. Artisan blends created by famous chefs could be developed.

One of these meat producing companies, Bitelabs, is adding an even wilder twist to this concept. And to be honest, it is a little creepy. Bitelabs is going to offer celebrity meat. That’s right, meat cultured from a biposy from a celebrity donor. I am not aware of any celebrity who has signed up for this, yet. But Bitelabs is urging tweeters to tweet their favorite celebrities and urge them to offer a little of piece of themselves in the interest of science.

This idea may have the unintended consequence of shining daylight on vampires, cannibals, necrophiliacs, and Jeffrey Daumer wanna-bes. We may be sorry we opened up that can of worms.

If you decide to tweet some celebrities about this novel way to connect with their fans, make sure you are selecting the right celebrity. I would personally not tweet the likes of Charlie Sheen because of all the bad stuff he puts into his body.

It might be a better choice to convince someone like Ellen DeGeneres who became a vegan after watching footage taken at slaughterhouses and dairy farms. Since she is so opposed to the way livestock is treated, she might be the first celebrity to get behind this science. She could go down in history as the first edible talk show host.

If Bitelabs is looking for a catchy product name they might consider “Soylent Green”. That’s the title of a 1973 sci-fi movie, starring Charlton Heston. It takes place in our not too distant future (the year 2022) and portrays an overpopulated world facing food shortages and starvation.

With our global population tipping the scale at 7-billion people, the dystopian world depicted in this movie may be predicting our real future, which includes a bio-engineered food source called Soylent Green that is distributed to the population on Tuesdays only.

Below is a very short clip showing Charlton Heston’s character revealing the secret ingredient in the government-supplied food, Soylent Green.

One Man’s Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga can be bad for your health, especially if you play it all day for two months straight. A 29-year old man, who went to his doctor complaining of “chronic left thumb pain and loss of motion”, admitted to playing Candy Crush “all day for 6 to 8 weeks.”

The patient, who is right-handed, played mostly with his left hand while using his right hand for other activities. “Playing was a kind of secondary thing, but it was constantly on,” he said.

The patient was diagnosed with a rupture of the tendon between the wrist and the first thumb knuckle. The injury required surgery.

Considering the seriousness of the injury, the doctor was surprised that the patient had not experienced pain earlier. Yet, the pain manifested only after the tendon ruptured.

A report on this case, authored by a group of doctors led by Dr. Andrew Doan of the Naval Medical Center San Diego theorized that the visual distraction and pleasurable nature of playing Candy Crush provided a plausible explanation for why the patient did not feel pain until the injury escalated to a rupture. The doctors’ report cited previous research that found video games could suppress the perception of pain in pediatric patients and burn victims.

In other words, playing a video game, such as Candy Crush, for an extended time may prevent a player from experiencing pain that he or she should could be experiencing. As a result, some players may play beyond the point when they should in order to avoid serious injury.

Previous research has suggested that playing certain video games can:

  • reduce stress
  • make players more morally sensitive
  • cause lingering effects in behavior and visual perception
  • cause injury
  • and increase brain size

The authors of the medical paper wrote, “Research might consider whether video games could have a role in clinical pain management and as nonpharmacologic alternatives during uncomfortable or painful medical procedures. They may also have a role in reducing stress. It may be interesting to ascertain whether various games differ in their ability to reduce the perception of pain.”

However the report also noted, “The potential for video games to reduce pain perception raises clinical and social considerations about excessive use, abuse, and addiction.”

The Land of the Rising Sun Flowers?

“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,”
Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president

The earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, left in its wake 23,000 people dead or missing. But, the damage that occurred to the Fukushima power plant will continue to negatively impact the country and its people for a very long time. Its not getting better, in fact, the Fukushima power plant meltdown which began in March 2011 continues to this day. More than four years later, the resulting negative health consequences are only growing.

But something else is growing at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

Within weeks of the disaster, a program was launched by civil servants and independent entrepreneurs to plant sunflower seeds in and around the contaminated area. Soon the fallout zone was covered in bright cheerful sunflowers. Was this just a symbol of hope to the people of Japan and the world, or was there more to it than that?

These cheerful flowers covered an area so large that the sunny yellow patch could be seen from passenger airliners, and maybe even from the International Space Station on a cloudless day.

But, sunflowers have been touted to do more than just brighten up an area. The sunflower project was promised to save Japan and their people. It is said that sunflowers absorb large amounts of cesium from the soil.

A similar project was implemented in the radioactive cleanup of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine. This historic reference gave the Japanese people a string of hope to hang onto.

So far, more than 100,000 packets of sunflower seeds have been sold to approximately 30,000 people at the equivalent price of just under $6 each.

One of the major patrons of the sunflower project has been the city of Yokohama, which planted sunflowers in 200 of its parks.

Seeds were also sold to volunteers who took the responsibility for planting them in contaminated soil. This involvement of the Japanese public has given the people hope and a sense of pride by being part of a noble cause.

But, has this amazing claim been proven? Is this a scientific fact or has somebody pulled a fast one?

What were the results at the site of the Chernobyl disaster? To this day, the area around the Chernobyl power plant is fenced off and access to the site is prohibited, due to high levels of radiation still present.

Four years have passed since the Fukushima Sunflower project began, and the results are in. Sadly, sunflowers just don’t do the job. The roots of the sunflower grow too deep to absorb the cesium which is concentrated in the top 3-4 inches of soil.

The soil in the sunflower fields, when tested, showed a .05% reduction in the amount of active cesium. On the other hand, planting the area with shallow rooted grass, then scraping and removing the top 3-4 inches of soil was far and above more efficient. With this method, the amount of active cesium was reduced by 97%.

Somebody pulled off a huge hoax on an entire nation at a time when they needed real solutions. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been swindled from well-meaning Japanese citizens buying seeds and risking their health to plant them in contaminated soil?

As a symbol of hope for the “Land of the Rising Sun” the sunflower falls flat. The hope still lies in the stopping of the meltdown. To this day Fukushima continues to contaminate the air, water, and soil, not just in Japan, but to a lesser degree, throughout the entire planet.