Letter from the Author part deux

It’s been almost one year ago that I last contributed to my little experiment. One long year of new ideas and thoughts mixed with busy bee work and life changing moments. What should have been simple to put my words down on a piece of paper and call it ‘good’ turned into an endless stretch of noncommittal ramblings on a page. Oh sure there were some gems within the various drafts saved on my computer or notebook, but nothing that I felt as strongly about as the previous works.

I have been writing for Mother Earth News this past year so it hasn’t been a complete void of creation. Though to be fair, even this area is seeing its share of declining enthusiasm. Early on I couldn’t wait for one idea to post before almost contributing another, but now it has petered out to almost one every other month. What before was nothing to spit out thousands of words, now is a halfhearted attempt to get to six hundred. When before I would have my wife read all submissions before being submitted, now I send out without her critiques, just wanting to get the garbage I weakly scribbled down out of my sight before I throw it all away to start again.

I’ve wondered about this. Is it just the same ‘start off excited about something then get bored and move on’ M.O. that we all get from time to time? Was it my version of the New Year’s Resolution to work out? No. Of course my mind would protect myself from the shame by conjuring up some reasoning behind it even if it was (good looking out shipmate). This was something deeper. I wasn’t feeling as strongly about anything anymore and I was afraid I was so lost in the big picture that I couldn’t find that excitement of little things again. So lost in a sea of biased news reporting and dying bees, of corporate greed poisoning our food and water supply while we gladly pay them to do it, of being so distracted from ourselves that we don’t even know why we make the choices we do. I was afraid I had gotten to where I didn’t want to be.

In reality I was in the same place I had always been. My perspective had just shifted again and I needed time to understand it.

Everything is suspect

One year ago I would have told you that global warming is real and manmade, and it made this man sick to think of all the gases we were pumping into the sky. That was a short term viewpoint by someone who prided himself on thinking long term.

Try out this recipe: take the precession of the Earth’s equinoxes over 21,000 years with the varying tilt of the Earth and the 41,000 year cycle of the Earth’s wobble mixed with the 100,000 year cyclical variation of the Earth’s orbit around the sun, then add in variations in solar intensity and Earth’s magnetic field intensity and finally blend it all with changing landmass distribution (remember Pangea?) effecting variations in ocean displacement and what do you get? A whole lot of fucking change.

Is the burning of coal and other fossil fuels polluting our land, seas and skies? Absolutely! Are human’s contributing (contribute-verb; add to what is already present or happening) to climate change? Sure is! Will governmental inaction lead us past a point of no return and doom our species forever? Irrelevant. Do something or do nothing, the world will still rotate and revolve and hurtle through space at thousands of miles an hour. It’s more important to adjust to a life that is adaptable however the climate changes, (rising oceans, temps, droughts, etc.) than to fight over what political stance is closer to your unsubstantiated beliefs or spend trillions of dollars effecting one factor (CO2) out of many in a system we don’t truly understand yet.

For a disclaimer here: we should reduce our use of fossil fuels. I am not a ‘climate denier’ or whatever popular hate term is thrown about for those that don’t believe by those that do. I just think we should look at the problem from the pollution angle not just its greenhouse gas emissions. Say nothing of the fact that reducing the burning of these fuels will reduce pollution and CO2 (I believe that’s called a win-win).

For example; the EPA says that coal burning accounts for over half of all the human added mercury emissions. This mercury then rains down on our land and seas, though everything washes down to the oceans eventually (thanks a lot, gravity…). This then gets metabolized by certain fish and shellfish and can build up to a toxic level of methylmercury where we overfish them and slowly poison ourselves.

The other side of petroleum pollution we don’t think about is the plastic. We did a great job of creating a compound that never fully breaks down. Organic matter (animals, plants, etc) breaks down to its smallest usable parts such as carbon, nitrogen and potassium. These are then recycled back to the world for whatever can use it. Circle of life. Plastics break down slowly to smaller and smaller pieces of plastic but never get back to the components that it was made from. This collects in our rivers and seas and gets ingested in little fish and accumulates on up the food chain to us.

So what am I getting at here? Fish are bad to eat? Not if you read studies that show fish contains good omega 3’s. These studies only test the fatty acids while ignoring the possible mercury exposure and micro plastics the fish could have ingested in its lifetime. But then even this is misleading. Omega 3 isn’t inherently good by itself; it is only good if you have an abundance of Omega 6. In our vegetable oil rich western diet we have this out of balance ratio. So in other words, taking omega 3 supplements by this logic helps those with bad diets more than those who eat whole foods, limited oils and plenty of fish.

Moving forward

Everything is suspect. Everything must be looked at with an eye of skepticism and repeatedly examined for the total truth, not just the biased result of a study funded for a specific result. There are no black and white answers. Water is good for you but too much and you die. Oxygen is needed to live but it is also the catalyst of all decomposition and corrosion.

Not only does everything need to be looked at through a questioning eye, but more so today than ever. Yes we have always had a culture where media twists and spins things to get a story. Look at how the Boston Massacre was puffed up to epic proportions before the American Revolution. Now with the internet though we have so much more content to sift through, and most of it as half-assed as the English papers I would write in high school. Spelling errors, poor editing, misleading titles, and big holes in the message that leave more questions than answers.

I read an article on why ‘Kentucky hates Obama’ and it interviewed a county struggling with unemployment. The highest in the country I believe. One person interviewed had health issues and was out of work. The next person interviewed? He was in his late 20’s and gave no mention of why exactly he was out of work. He was complaining that the government checks of 300 dollars a month were tough to live on for him and his girlfriend. Why was he not working? Why was his girlfriend not working? What does this have to do with Obama? What is going on in this article? That was the last straw for me and I had to stop reading articles in major news outlets altogether. Now I seem to spend more time researching to see if what I read is correct than I do actually reading the article in the first place.

Just today I read an article from the Genetic Literacy Project labeled “How are crops modified—Are GMO’s more dangerous?” The article showed the four main ways humans have modified crop genes but the infographic only showed the quantity of genes changed by each method, not the hazards. They spent two paragraphs talking about the way we have been cross pollinating and trait selecting plants since the beginning of human civilization but only a sentence referencing what chemical companies like Monsanto are doing. The sentence: “Other than allowing more precision in genetic modifications, these molecular techniques also open up the possibilities of using genes from other species.”

The possibility of using genes from other species? They have been taking genes from bacteria resistant to pesticides and splicing them in corn, soybean and cotton so they can sell you more pesticides for years now. Not only that, but there was nothing in the article about whether GMO’s were dangerous or not compared to other crops. There was no summary to say maybe that all crops are modified on one form or another so there is no reason to label. No summary of one technique more dangerous than the other. Nothing at all about any health or side effects of anything, and this was from the Genetic Literacy Project? Who is funding this pointless garbage? It turns out it is under a non-profit designed to correct “scientific misinformation in the media resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge”. Pot, this is kettle. Now fight to the death.

This is where logic and reasoning mixed with caution and skepticism needs to be common tools for navigating the world we live in today. There is no reset button or redo’s when it comes to our health and safety. When it comes to having children you need to be especially careful. A compound that wouldn’t affect an adult human and so being approved for public use can still have dramatic negative impacts on a developing body. Instead of reading a headline and parroting the information, or liking the article on Facebook without a full review, we need to take some time to do some critical thinking and be objective, for our sake and each other’s. Don’t assume you know the right answer to something because you read it somewhere or the news reported on it. Don’t assume anyone knows anything for sure, one way or another. The greatest thinker in recorded history, Socrates, said “The only thing I know for sure is that I know nothing.”

If you don’t have the time to do such things, then don’t give your full trust to anyone or anything either. Be skeptical of everything if you don’t want to take the time to research ideas, practices or products. It’s your health and life you are giving away, not just your trust.

I leave you with an example of how I did this recently. I hope it shows you how easily it is to come to reasonable conclusion

Plant’s self-defense

In a Swiss lab researchers are studying the corn plants self-defense system. When the root worm starts eating on the corns roots, the plant responds by releasing a compound into the soil. This compound attracts nematodes (a microscopic organism in the soil food web) to come near. The nematodes then start feeding on the root worm. This is a typical ‘plant attracting predator insects for protection’ kind of response that we see throughout the plant world.

The genetically modified corn for some reason does not have this response when attacked by root worms. This, combined with huge fields of the same crop, is leading to a massive pest invasion and the only answer is to use more pesticides to kill the root worm when the seeds were marketed for having to use less originally. The researchers are trying to find out why the GMO corn doesn’t have the same response that natural corn does.

You can think of two possible causes for this:

1. When modifying the genes, the chemical/seed company accidentally destroyed, removed, or disabled the gene responsible for this defensive response to attack, or
2. When modifying the genes, the chemical/seed company purposely destroyed, removed, or disabled the gene responsible for this defensive response to attack.

Situation number 1 means that research is needed to find out what was accidentally changed and fix it so we can have more protection for one of the most profitable crops grown in the Midwestern United States. Situation number 2 means that without the protection of the corn’s own biological response, farmers are forced to buy more pesticides to kill the root worms. The pesticides are made by the same company that modified and sold the seeds in the first place.

There is no proof of anything. No conspiracy here that I am trying to uncover. I am just logically working out the possibilities in a situation. Based on what I can figure, I then choose the least destructive path for myself and my environment. I apply this approach to everything. This is critical thinking and logical reasoning to come to the most probable conclusion. This is the technique humans used to get from cave people to rocket ships. It’s the most valuable tool we have and we cannot afford to lose it.

Thank you for reading,

Aaron Miller

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About aaroninthought

I read too much and I think too much. I have questions and not enough time in the day to ponder where the answers will lead me. I've always been a better writer than speaker. This is my first attempt...
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