Tuesday, 23 June 2015


There are many praiseworthy human individuals and groups out there striving to compensate for the ignorance of humans and for their destructive behaviour to others as well as to themselves.  They include saviours of climate, water, elephants, humanity, snails, and whales.  What an immense task!          Climate does demand our first attention, so what do we also need to do about ourselves and other living things?  Some say we have 30 millions species while others claim we are discovering so many more, mainly at the microscopic level, that the count is now 100 million, yet only 1% of all those created still survive.
Consider those no-nucleus Bacteria.  Do we fear, exploit, fight, or help them?  Perhaps, just co-exist?
Most of us do ignore the 100 trillion bacteria essential for the maintenance of our bodies - ten times more than the human cells we each have.  How many of us cringe at the realization we are murderers of innocents when our dentist or doctor orders those 7 to 10 days of anti-biotics to kill those few invaders who cause infections?  We still resort to mass destructions rather than drones to target only the guilty.  But then a benevolent bacteria moved to a part of the body different from its niche can become a killer.  As we share this planet we do need to pay them far more empathetic attention, making friends not enemies.
We complex-but-not-intelligent-enough humans have taken 3.5 billion years to evolve, being in our present form a mere 40 to a 100 thousand years, depending on where you draw the line.
This planet circled the Sun for a billion years before simple cells called Prokaryotes (Bacteria and Archaea)  evolved 3.6 billions years ago.  Creative and essential Viruses are worthy of a separate blog. 
       Arriving 200 million years later, Marine Cyanobacteria (Blue-Green Algae) were the first to use photosynthesis to produce Carbon and release Oxygen, a gas poisonous to most life of the time.  It did take them about 400 million years to produce enough Oxygen to cause mass deaths and force Evolution to create oxygen-tolerant life forms.  Just one of the Tipping Points that have visited us.
     Then, some 251 million years ago, bacteria ended the Permian Period by causing the greatest mass extinction yet:  95% of marine and 85% of land life went extinct.  Recovery took 10 million years. That is another worrisome story.
    This essay gives just a sample revealing it is vital we devote more effort into understanding Bacteria.
  We are now probing ever deeper beneath our feet only to find that bacteria have beaten us there.  We have found them in rock 2,000 metres down and just recently 1,391 metres down in gabbroic layers that have pushed to within 70 metres of the basaltic ocean floor in the mid Atlantic where they feast on methane and benzene.  While visiting mines in Manitoba I was pleased to see that biologists had been hired to study bacteria found thriving in veins in deep shafts, particularly where water had seeped down. 
We humans have multiplied to an unsustainable degree even though not up to bacterial numbers. We are guilty of causing grievous harm to the environment and the current global warming is mainly our fault.  While this will ensure dire consequences, it is not yet up to the changes bacteria have caused.  A few micrometres in length with a wide range of shapes, from spheres to rods and spirals, Bacteria inhabit every niche on Earth, growing in soil, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, water, and deep in the Earth's crust, as well as in the live bodies of plants and animals. There are 40 million bacterial cells in a gram of soil and a million in a millilitre of fresh water; The world supports some 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) bacteria, providing most of the world's biomass.  They are vital in recycling nutrients, such as the fixation of nitrogen from the atmosphere and putrefaction. Only about half of the phyla of bacteria have species that can be grown in the laboratory.
The vast majority of the bacteria in our bodies are harmless due to the protections of our immune system, and many are beneficial. However, a few species of bacteria are pathogenic causing infectious diseases, including cholera, syphilis, anthrax, leprosy and bubonic plague. TB kills 2 million people a year. Over-use of anti-biotics evolves dangerous immune bacteria. In industry, bacteria are important in sewage treatment, the production of cheese and yogurt through fermentation, as well as in biotechnology, and the manufacture of antibiotics and other chemicals.
So, to all you humans out there: Discard all your weapons of Greed and Hate.  With the major problems we have with Climate Change, Over-Population, and the like, we need to combine our energies into co-existing with our Environment, Ourselves, and our Bacteria.

Ye Olde Scribe, 23 June 2015

Monday, 8 June 2015


     Tipping Points, Nature-induced,  have been intermittent visitors to this planet for some 4.5 billion years; but the fearful one now assaulting us is Human-induced and, ever more frequently, solicits the question “What can I do?”  from those born to caring parents who were able to provide comfortable life styles and educational opportunities that led to a continuance of the comfort.  Admittedly, too many of these fortunate ones take this as a birth right so never think to raise this question, but a growing number do feel deep concern and responsibility.   
It is apparent that the old adage is true: “Nature in the raw is seldom mild”.  Among other life forms, humans have evolved to not only cope with Nature but to bend it to serve humanity, but the portions served bear little resemblance to Equality due to human indifference to fellow humans.  Like Nature, humans in the raw can be far from mild.  Common folk, like you and me, see a bewildering array of human-induced problems such as:
1. Population growth that not only exhausts resources but also lacks the tender, loving care so vital to developing Brains throughout the long formative years.
2. Climate Change aggravated by clinging to old technologies in spite of new and safer ones.
3.  Piles of money buying our democracy to enhance special interests.
4.  Police brutality and inhumane prison systems, plus UN troops abusing people they were sent to save.
5. Misuse of religions to justify crimes.
6.  Large numbers of humans in all countries exploiting other humans.
7. Conflicts, human trafficking, and misuse of our fragile environment.
 8.  Migrations - fleeing persecution, poverty, and climate.  Today there are over 50 million refugees.
9.  874 armed US Hate Groups + 44,000 bikers in 3,000 gangs killing 200 in Quebec, Scandinavia, and Texas.
Too many, even realizing the enormity of this sample, continue selfish life styles claiming there is nothing they can do about it, so grab what they can while they can.   Others, who are concerned, do nothing because they believe their input would be too tiny to make a difference.  This is where hopelessness, fear, disillusionment, and the like take root and flourish.  Can we ever command enough boots of the ground to save the minds our future needs? 
It behooves all of us, Agnostics to Zoroastrians to be brave enough to face the facts that our best minds have uncovered: Nature and the Universe do not care about us.  We obey their laws.  None of us was asked “Would you like a tour of duty as a Human, a Salamander, or a virus?"  None of us has evolved to create, or know anything about, an afterlife, yet worldwide there is a human sense of Self, Dignity, Purpose, and Noble Pursuits.  How do we harness this to eliminate Greed and Harm to Others?  Life may be a Hologram or a joke and the joke may be on us but that is no excuse for not using our limited freedoms to make this a better place because we were here.
Pause for a moment to consider how individuals have sparked countless movements both good and bad, how mind sets can be created and changed, how violence begets violence and good deeds beget good deeds.
Now, we know not whether our expanding universe has a purpose.  We do know it is controlled by laws but know not how or who created the laws.  We humans are quite good at making our own laws and establishing mindsets of which there have been numerous recent changes.
     In the desire to better Life most of us are confined to influencing acquaintances and to contributing to the numerous individuals and organizations who are physically in the fields where help is needed.     It makes sense to ferret out those that devote the least portion of donations to administration, publicity, fund raising, and conferences and who use our money where it does the best good. We also need to encourage co-operation among organizations to avoid duplication and waste and to cover as many areas as possible. There are over 1.2 million  charitable organizations in the US alone.  In the Muslim world, most, and in the Western world, many, such organizations restrict donations to members of their own faith.  But we do have a choice of scores of international donors who serve wherever the need exists.  A few of these are: Amnesty International, ColaLife, Doctors Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, Goodwill Industries, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Nature Conservatory, Rotary International, SHARE, Union of Concerned Scientists, UNICEF, and Wheelchair Foundation.  Even here there is dissent as some argue that  when groups get too large they concentrate more on fund raising than on good deeds.  Even Greenpeace with 2,400 staff, 3 ships, and 15,000 volunteers is criticized for going after soft targets rather than the hard ones like China, yet  30 crew of its Arctic Sunrise ship were imprisoned for 3 months for harassing Russian arctic oil drilling.
  Now, whether in the long run it matters or not, care for our environment and other living things does enhance human dignity and pride - and it imparts a personal glow  of satisfaction.  Go for it!