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203. Ocean Science Can Save the World

8 Feb

The oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface and contain 97% of the Earth’s water. Ocean researchers say that we know more about our moon than the deep ocean. Recently, there is more concern about oceans as a source of food supply and because of their role in climate-change. As I will describe below, better usage of the oceans can both feed the world and save us from the dangers of global warming.

Johnson and Davis (TED-ED June 2019) and a World Bank Group Report have suggested improvements to ocean farming techniques. Currently, there is an aquaculture, in which many large pens, offshore, are used to hold and grow fish for human consumption. The fish are crowded and stressed. Large concentrated piles of waste result and can lead to disease. Often, breaks in the nets can cause a dangerous release of the penned fish.

It is better to  farm seaweedSeaweed-imageand shellfish. These species have a very low maintenance. The seaweed feed off of sunlight and operators do not need to supply food. The seaweed can be prepared in various ways so as to be more appetizing, can be ground-up and mixed with animal feed, and can also be used as a bio-fuel. Growing seaweed can help with the depletion of fish and can counteract ocean acidification by absorbing CO2.

“Seaweed” is a group of algae that are only found in marine waters (salty sea waters). In terms of  human consumption, it produces algae protein and algae oil similar to soy. It also is a source of valuable omega-3 fatty acids similar to fish oils. There are three different types: red, brown and green.

Growing massive amounts of seaweed can help with global warming.  Seaweed captures CO2, removing it from the atmosphere. A good reference for this  feature is: Tim Flannery, TEDSummit 2019 Can seaweed help curb global warming.”  One problem with this system is that seaweed eventually rots and the carbon is released back into the environment. A solution is to lower the seaweed in the water to a depth where it will best retain the CO2. Scientists are working on various solutions to the release. As research continues, it may be possible to develop seaweed species that are more efficient in using CO2 and in keeping it stored.

There are many publications regarding the depletion of fish in our oceans.  A really good discussion of this is: Jackie Savitz, TEDxMidAtlantic 2013, Save the oceans, feed the worldShe describes how good international regulations can restore depleted species and greatly increase the fish available for increasing populations. 

Angelicque White (TED@NAS, Nov. 2019) writes about microbes in the oceans, that indicate and affect ocean health. When there are major changes such as ocean warming, the microbes are the first affected. 

Ocean microbes are tiny plants and animals that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They are at the bottom of the food chain. All animals in the ocean depend ultimately on this basic food source. Microbes absorb CO2 and produce oxygen, so they improve the composition of the atmosphere. 

Climate-change results in warming water, which tends to increase harmful algal blooms. The extra CO2 in the air also leads to ocean acidification, which has many adverse effects on ocean life.  The ecosystem health is generally affected. The changes impact economically important fisheries, like crab and salmon; and also affected are marine mammals like whales, dolphins, seals, and otters. Also important is that warmer waters increase the intensity of hurricanes.

Here are all the climate-change and other ocean problems listed by Angelicque White: harmful algal blooms, ocean acidification, sea-level rise, eutrophication, melting of the polar ice caps, expansion of oxygen minimum zones, pollution, loss of biodiversity,  and overfishing.

My conclusion and main point here, is that ocean science has the potential to help with many world problems. A responsible government will support research in this area.

126. Checklist for Personal and Planet Health

7 Nov

For many years I have been studying (1) human health and (2) planet health. I have a strong scientific background so I can learn and understand the relevant concepts, which are constantly changing. This essay is a summary or checklist of things we must do to improve both 1 and 2. I have combined these two, as they are inter-related. All of us can fail to deal with important factors so I have tried to list those that are easy to forget. Everything listed is like the beginning of a path to further knowledge, which you should to explore. Some of the ideas presented are controversial and possibly imperfect, but all are based on published reputable investigations, and extensive personal experience. (In many areas, consultation with doctors and other experts is advised.)

1. Human Health
a. Pay careful attention to what you eat. As you get older, this will become more important. The availability of healthy foods will depend on planetary health discussed below.
b. Limit consumption of all sugars, sugar substitutes, and simple carbohydrates, which the body can rapidly change to sugar. Briefly, the possible dangers are weight-gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, migraine headaches, cognitive ability, aging of organs, energy loss, etc. Simple carbohydrates include bread, cereals, pasta, rice, etc. Processed foods often contain harmful ingredients. The internet provides much info on this subject.
c. Limit or eliminate all dairy products, as these will affect your joints. This includes milk (use almond milk instead), cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc. There are excellent non-dairy substitutes for these. This is most important for people in their 40’s and beyond.
d. Concentrate on eating vegetables and decrease your intake of meat and fish. Too much animal consumption can lead to gout, acid reflux and other problems.
e. Study vitamin supplements and determine what you need. If your doctor says that vitamins often just run through your body, suggesting non-use, ask him/her if they understand what a “catalyst” is.
f. Drink plenty of water, which is vital for health and energy. Water is a key factor in almost every system of the body. For most people, water makes up most of the body. Don’t forget to keep you eyes moist.
g. Most vegetable fats are good for you, while most animal fats should be limited. Olive and some other oils have many health advantages. Sufficient fiber in foods is important.
h. Remember to exercise and stretch major muscles on a regular basis. This muscle work has a profound affect on many aspects of health, including: stress reduction, emotional control, sleep, proper glucose utilization, weight control, many diseases, accident prevention, etc. Even if you are old like me and have bad knees, there still are ways to get good exercise.
i. Most pains in the skeletal system (arms, legs, back, etc) of the body are fully or partially due to inflamation, which is the collection of certain body fluids that aid in healing. Generally, the best method for most areas is application of ice. Other areas, like the back, for example, benefit most from drugs, like Aleve. Back pain often is best resolved with careful, full stretching. I have written several blogs on this.
j. If you have dry skin, rub on moisterizing and restorative lotions.
k. Make sure everything that your body comes in contact with stays clean to avoid bacterial infections.

2. Planet Health for Humans
Your health and survival actually depend much more on planet health than you might expect. Immediately, we can see some common factors. Clean water and air are important for both. Trees provide conversion of CO2 to Oxygen, which is important for humans. Here is a list of environmental factors to work on.
a. Support laws and efforts to avoid water and air pollution. Under appropriate leadership, I think most manufacturers would agree with this.
b. Discourage the abolition of regulations that improve air and water quality. It is easy for rich people to move to safe areas, but many others can really suffer from various types of pollution. One must study history to be aware of these factors.
c. Burning coal and gasoline for warmth and transportation must be limited. We need solar panels, windmills, etc for energy. Cars must be gradually converted to battery operation. This is already possible, it just needs responsible leadership.
d. We need to plant and save more trees, as humans need the oxygen they provide, and they remove the CO2, which affects global warming.
e. GMO’s (genetic modification of plants) must be promoted, along with relevant safety regulation. The Earth’s population is quickly increasing so we will need more food. (Please see my blog on GMOs.) GMOs will also help with climate change problems as they will require less farm equipment energy. Remember that nature is constantly changing the DNA of animals and plants, without notification to us. On the other hand, if scientists develop a new GMO, it is known and can be tested. Our long-term survival will depend on the innovations of scientists.
f. The Oceans of the world are immense and yet they still need our attention. Large populations of fish have substantially decreased due to over-fishing, and oil spills (and pollution) have had great negative effects. Waste matter is filling the oceans and is damaging sea animals.There are many books and essays on this subject.
g. There are many ways to conserve energy, which will become more and more important as population increases and new tech requires increased energy. In our homes we can use low energy light bulbs, efficient furnaces, good insulation, etc. Our cars, factories, farms, etc must be designed for low energy use.
h. Meat requires much more energy to produce than vegetables (about 25 times as much). Scientists are developing methods of growing meat in the lab using DNA manipulations. Eventually, it will be more energy-efficient and less costly than using cattle. I have no problem with this, but some will object. Actually, humans need only a small amount of animal food for good health.
i. Vegetables can be efficiently grown in vertical structures so that they use less land and can be integrated into cities. Use of “vertical farming” buildings will require much less transportation cost and energy, and people will enjoy extra fresh food.
j. Failure to deal with climate change is already producing more hazards like severe hurricanes, droughts, forest fires, and flooding. Climate change causes alterations in worldwide air and sea currents. This can profoundly affect rainfall, so that some areas with normal rainfall will change to deserts and other areas will get too much rain. This will affect food production and will cause massive migration problems, that will make today’s migrations seem trivial.

3. Conclusion
Our planet will not suffer because scientists and technicians have failed to provide better systems to help with adjustments. It will be greedy, callous, and ignorant politicians that will cause disasters for Planet Earth and its inhabitants. There is enough food, clothing, and shelter, for all, and even some room for moderately rich people. Responsible leaders would be able to deal with all the adaptations that are needed.

18. Energy, Food, Water and Our Survival

25 Apr

An intelligent alien from another planet might see the great surge in human population in the last couple of centuries as similar to an infestation of locusts. Evolution of life on Earth has resulted in a species with an ability to survive and reproduce so effective that it is now straining the resources of the entire planet. We are gobbling up all the fish in the seas, we are creating huge heards of cows that consume massive amounts of energy and give off climate-affecting gases, and in many places we are running out of water and resources for electricity.

Although I have been aware of all these problems for a long time, an excellent article in Scientific American by Michael E. Webber (Feb. 2015) clarifies these issues and points out often neglected interactions. He states that:
ENERGY <> WATER <> FOOD
are the three most important factors for our survival, and that the interaction between these factors is of critical importance.

Here are some examples. To increase necessary food production, overuse of water pumps has often used up electrical energy resources causing massive black-outs. Producing drinkable water by desalination of sea-water consumes too much of available energy. Planting more crops for food uses up water and energy resources. Using oil for increased energy produces atmospheric gases that lead to droughts in some areas and floods in other places. Nuclear power-plants, great for energy, squander available water required for cooling processes.Food production and distribution can consume massive amounts of energy.

There are solutions to all of our energy, water, and food problems, but we must carefully consider how each factor affects the other. Times have changed. 50 years ago, all three were plentiful, but now we must make unbiased adaptations. “Deciders”, such as congressmen, need to be well-educated (particularly in science) in order to make the best decisions. Special interests can support short-sited legislation that will make our survival even more hazardous.

A final thought: terrorism, ISIS threats, and wars in general, are all stimulated by large populations of poor people. Desperate people are easy recruits for anti-social acts. Inefficient handling of the three factors clearly promotes these desperate situations and poverty.