Bare Bones Biology 102 – Religion and Science

Where Christianity, and also other religions, seem still to be failing, is in the effort to understand the biological reality of overpopulation. Any religion that is based in love, compassion and kindness, in my opinion, has the deepest obligation to try to understand the ecosystem that gives us life — and our obligation to that life.

Certainly that is the message we get from the native peoples who have spoken out. Oren Lyons (Oren Lyons the Faithkeeper, interviewed by Bill Moyers) a Chief of the Onandaga, most eloquently warned us:

“We are now. Now is us. We’re the seventh generation. I’m sitting here as the seventh generation because seven generations ago there were people looking out for me. Seven generations from now, someone will be here, I know. And so each generation makes sure that seven generations is coming all the time. That’s accountability. We’re accountable. We, you and I, we’re accountable. Yes we are, and they are going to call us. They’re the ones that are going to say, why did you do this, or why did you not do this?” Listen also to NASA scientist Jim Hansen, for the scientific rationale.

So I will today give a very Bare Bones outline of the implications of world wide overpopulation, in my personal opinion and my professional opinion as a basic research biologist and geneticist. This is one of those tragic situations where the needs of level three (ecosystem) health conflict with the needs of level two (the health of the human population, and or economics, depending how one looks at it) which also competes with needs at the individual level (the health and welfare of individuals and their families). That’s exactly what happens when resources are not sufficient for the need –when, as in the graph, the food needs of the population are greater than the carrying capacity. In the case of the reindeer in this small area the result took place in a space of about 20 years, a little less. As is true for us on earth, the reindeer did not have access to food from any other place. I don’t like it any more than you do, but I challenge you to address this issue seriously, and prove that I am wrong before you settle back into denial mode.

Human populations world wide are now about at or somewhat above the carrying capacity of the earth, and our population is still growing. Our current solutions to this problem are 1) to destroy the earth, air and water of our home planet, and 2) to kill off millions of people, as we have been doing in wars all during the last century and this. Neither of these solutions is rational, because first they cannot be sustained and second, we now have the technology to provide a kinder future for our billions and for our host planet.

Our immediate action should be to make family planning available to everyone who wants it, worldwide. There is an unmet need of about 215 million couples. I am told by people in the field that many women who want contraceptive help — to pretect their own welfare and that of their children — are unable to get it. I do not understand why we believe that contraception is immoral but war, genocide and preventable starvation are not, especially as reduced populations would have less incentive to war and genocide; and even if these figures are off by a million or so, which I doubt, the implications for improving our biological sustainability are obvious. What we are doing instead is “educating women” while reducing availability of funding for family planning. This reminds me of the “abstinence” solution of one of our recent presidents, and I suspect it is based on that philosophy. It didn’t work even here in a country where contraceptives are readily available.

Our biological problem is that food for all living things comes from and is created inside of the ecosystem (by photosynthesis) and we have no other source for food and no firm expectation of finding any. As a result, we are killing off other species (using the food they need and poisoning them with herbicides and pesticides at high levels) in our efforts to make more food for ourselves. As a result of that, the ecosystem is becoming LESS HEALTHY and therefore less able to make our food, and also it is becoming LESS RESILIENT (think climate change) and therefore more likely to become uninhabitable for humans.

Meantime people keep asking why there are more and more poor and suffering in spite of our efforts to prevent this. The answer is that the only thing that CAN prevent an increase in need is to stop killing off other species (resilience) and to restore the balance between supply and demand (sustainability). The only way that humans can restore the balance is to reduce our population. We cannot make more food for ourselves because of the law of thermodynamics, which I can’t explain in one sentence, and even if we could make more food, we still would be destroying the resilience of the earth ecosystem. That is, its ability to stay healthy and make our food, our water, our air and our soil, which we cannot get from any other source .

Sometimes we wonder if these corpo-politicos understand what they are doing. Apparently they do. I have a recording of a young man who was raised and trained in one of the biggest of the big oil companies and who recently presented his opinion in an open hearing about whether or not one of these big pipelines would be built. His concluding sentence echoes the precautionary principle:

“If on one hand you had an unpredictable path that leads into a new dream, and a new way of life for all of mankind, and on the other hand you had another path that leads to the slow, inevitable decline of a civilization, which path would you choose?”

Bare Bones Biology 102 – Religion and Science
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM
Podcast available here or at
http://FactFictionFancy.Wordpress.com

Recommended References

Oren Lyons the Faithkeeper, interviewed by Bill Moyers.
http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=11252309
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/

NASA Scientist Jim Hansen
Nasa scientist: climate change is a moral issue on a par with slavery
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/apr/06/nasa-scientist-climate-change?fb=optOut

http://www.earth-policy.org/

Precautionary principle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle

Oil executive son’s powerful testimony at Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline joint review panel (includes transcript) Lee Brain, son of an oil man, receives a standing ovation and brings a crowd to tears after delivering powerful & inspirational testimony in front of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel in Prince Rupert on February 18, 2012. http://youtu.be/1X3VynNZQaQ
http://energybulletin.net/media/2012-02-23/oil-executive-sons-powerful-testimony-enbridge-northern-gateway-pipeline-joint-revi

Bare Bones Biology 079-The Vision

Photo © Photos by Lynn From the upcoming book Ouside the Circle.

Many people agree that our human cultures have gone off track in a number of ways, and that we need a new vision of the future if we are to grow a better future for our grandchildren. And beyond. Many people disagree about the new vision. No need to argue, I’ve been studying this for about a decade and I’ll tell you. Then, if your ideas are better, please get in touch and we can try together to make a vision. For now, as we step out in our new direction, this is my belief.

The minimum requirement for a viable human social structure is that its citizens must be educated in the skills of practical compassion applied to problem solving, the nature and needs of a healthy ecosystem, and a rule of law that recognizes the conflicting human rights at the individual level and the level of the whole. That’s a big order, and the next question is how? How can we do this? But first let’s talk about why we should make the effort. Listen to a statement made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in he film Dalai Lama Rennaisance:

“As a result, nobody is taking care of the long term, I think for strategy or interest, and in the meantime many problems we are facing today are not just from superficial causes, but there are deeper causes. I think the crisis in the late 20th century, that we are facing, is due to negligence of the previous century. Of our previous generations.”

So our crisis is not due to superficial causes that we are addressing as symptoms, but is primarily due to negligence of the previous generations. I agree completely, and we were both here to see it happening. Well, we were both here for part of that, on opposite sides of the globe, and we both agree that doing more of what caused our problems in the first place will not cure our problems. So let’s forget about going backward, trying to grow a better culture, because what we did, it didn’t work. In fact, it caused our current challenges, and it’s easy to predict that if we continue as we are in this moment, the results will be even worse for our grandchildren than they have been for us. And for the fifth generation. Or the seventh generation.

“We are now. We are now. Now is us. We’re the seventh generation. I’m sitting here as the seventh generation because seven generations ago those people were looking out for me. Seven generations from now someone will be here, I know, and so each generation makes sure that seventh generation is coming all the time. And that’s accountability. We’re accountable, and they’re going to call us. They’re going to say Why did you do this? Or Why did you not do this?”

That was Oren Lyons, Chief of the Native American Onondaga and Seneca Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, talking with Bill Moyers http://www.pbs.org/moyers/faithandreason/watch_audioarchive.html. But you don’t need to be on the other side of the world. And you don’t need to sit in the council of a tribal chief. Just look at your own children, and their children, and you know we have an obligation to the future.

So then, the next question is How? How do we accomplish this enormous task. The answer must be for each of us to carry our own load of responsibility, regardless of whatever other people are doing. We can’t wait till we win something or convince someone. We have one moment in time to grow a better future, and that moment is now. We can’t change anything that happened yesterday, and we can’t do anything tomorrow because by the time we get to tomorrow it will be now, and we will have lost a whole day when we could have been living our ideals. And that’s our responsibility, to live what we believe, beginning with the Golden Rule, and I’ll talk more about that next time.

Bare Bones Biology 079 – The Vision
KEOS Radio 89.1 FM
Audio download available later this week at
WWW.BareBonesBiology.com

Bare Bones Biology 060-Fracking I

I have lived in a Tokyo suburb, and in the shade of a mountain in Montana, but it’s in rural loneliness where I learned the most about community. I learned to sit under a tree in the forest until the little creatures gathered around to investigate this stranger in their midst. Almost like a Bambi forest glade with the little birds and flowers, but I learned this before I ever saw a motion picture. And I always knew it was no fairy tale, but the deepest source of life itself.

So I already knew this when I went to college, and there I found the wonder of basic science and I dedicated my life to learning how we humans can use our knowledge of basic science to bring to ourselves a life of ordinary happiness, in a perpetual way, like a forest glade that blooms for us and for our children unto the seventh generation yet to be born, and beyond. I mean learning how the whole system works so that we can help us to continue nurturing us on into the future. And now we know; we are choosing not to do it, and that is our human tragedy.

For a long time, I have been wondering how anyone could make that choice.

This morning I woke up remembering how exciting it was in college, that three year period when I understood how forest glade ecosystems function – using all the species at once, and all the cycles, and the flow of energy at all the levels (see the Bare Bones Ecology Energy Handbook) – to maintain the well being of us all, the rabbits and birds and flowers and all of us who are a part of the ecosystem.

This morning after the fracking ]presentation, I woke up remembering how that felt and wondering how anyone, as we heard yesterday and have been hearing for the past 15 years or so – how anyone could dedicate his life to tearing down this wonderful dream of a forever fine future.

And then I realized there isn’t very much difference between a young person who dedicates her life to understanding the factual truth of a functioning world ecosystem (that would be me). There isn’t that much difference between me and, say, a young man who grows to that age of enlightenment and observes the amazing power of the workings of the corposystem. A young man raised on Star Wars make-believe instead of the beauty of factual reality can believe in the corposystem very much in the same way I believe in the ecosystem. Very much as Bernie Madoff’s clients and even his sons believed in his Ponzi scheme, even though anyone can do the math and know there is no future in it. Star Wars economics is of course impossible to sustain for the same reason that any Ponzi scheme is impossible to sustain within a universe that operates according to the laws of energy and the law of cause and effect. Anyone can do the math. But when we are dreaming big dreams and deciding where to devote our lives, if we don’t know about schemes and scams and the first and second law of thermodynamics we get big ideas and are willing to make big sacrifices for them. That’s the tragedy of human kind.

Of course there are no tragedies at levels three and four (corposystem and ecosystem), so far as I know. It’s all about cause and effect. But level one, the individual person and level two, the communities – the tragedy is all around us now, in the air and the water and the soil and every forest glade. Not only the sacrifice of our best human values – honor, honesty, compassion — but also the promotion of suffering – and the effort it takes for idealistic people to believe that what they are doing is for the best.

Even though anyone can do the math.

Bare Bones Biology 060 – Fracking
KEOS Radio, 89.1 FM, Bryan, Texas
Audio download later this week at http://www.BareBonesBiology.com