Saturday, June 27, 2015


Many years ago as a student, various teachers exposed me to the concept of survival of diverse biological systems such as a fox in the woods or a colony of bacteria on an agar plate. Invariably, a delicate balance existed between raw material and waste meaning the population of rabbits in the woods where the fox lived or sugar and protein in the agar. The pendulum swung from situations where waste was not a problem, but the supply of rabbits was critical, as in the woods where the fox lives. In other situations, the toxicity of waste products is the dominant as is the case of oxygen versus carbon dioxide in body cell environments. In other situations, the food-waste equilibrium counter balanced one another as in an experimental situation with bacterial cultures. When I ask the question, “Where are we going on this earth,” I come face to face with this problem. Like the child I was many years ago, my teachers looked at the world as such a huge place, as the woods are to a fox, that we would never worried about our collective waste. Things have changed. Seven billion people living in various environments in one sense is a celebration of our success in providing food under adverse environmental conditions, which resulted a shift in that delicate balance from the size of the supply of rabbits to the size of the woods. We have conquered the food supply problem but the supply of other resources. I was born and raised in Minnesota where we had a vast, inexhaustible supply of rich iron ore. Nevertheless, industrial interests exhausted that supply. Through the innovations of science, an enrichment process to make the use of low-grade iron ore in the form of taconite. In conjunction with established transportation systems, this made its use economically feasible. However, the production of taconite produced massive amounts of waste the industry dumped into to the huge sized Lake Superior. It was a “finger pointing” political nightmare in our State with economic and environmental groups at each other’s throats. A rich man invited several others and me fishing on a beautiful large launch out of New York City. The year was 1970. The ocean water was noticeable filled with floating plastic bottles and bags. About an hour into the trip, we hit a floating wooden pallet that caused a terrible vibration that ended the trip. We passed a barge filled with garbage on its way to dump its load into the inexhaustible sized sea. I have no idea if this is still happening. We cannot pick up a newspaper or listen to a newscast without hearing climate change mentioned. Fossil fuel and environmentalists have reduced greenhouse gas emission to a finger pointing exercise. I feel confident we will see that problem solved in favor of environmentalists, but this leaves the question, what is next? It is not a question of if it will happen, but what and when. We know which way the balance will type because we can create an inexhaustible supply of food. We know with the passage of time, the problem will be bigger and more difficult to solve. Can recycling ever be enough? Will alternative energy sources ever supply the energy we think we need? Can birth control ever restrain population growth? Is the alternative now clear; we are destined to die in our waste on our little blue planet unless we realize the size of the woods is not as big as we seem to think it is? URL: Comments Invited and not moderated

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