Investing in the Future

stock-arctic-sea-ice-2Stocks, houses, cars: these are the normal things that come to mind when we talk about “investing”. Money and the future are always intertwined. However, no amount of money in the world will do anything is we do not invest in the future of the health of our planet.

Ice levels in the artic continue to decline. In a paper from Nature Climate Change it has been reported that CO2 and human activities are responsible for near 2/3rds of this Artic sea ice loss.

If we don’t curb emissions we’ll lose this sea ice as well as many species that rely on it like Polar Bears. The rising tide that will happen when we lose this ice will impact all coastal cities that are at or below sea level.

Investing in our planet’s future is important if we not only care about nature but the safety of our own coastal cities.

Hawaiian Biodiversity

Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii

The Hawaiian Islands are a unique place. Strange birds, tropical fish, migrating whales. However in recent centuries many non-indigenous animals have started to take over the islands. These animals have a big impact on the biodiversity in the area, but recent analysis says that Hawaii’s unique animals and plant life have been declining for long before the introduction of non-native species—in fact the University of California, Berkley says that the native life has been declining for millions of years.

Shrinking land areas of the older islands puts stress on the life there. The only island growing is the big island after all, so the rest are giving less and less space to the various birds, insects, spiders, and plants there (there are no native mammals on the islands). At a certain point this means extinction.

 

Plant Intelligence

plantsWe are well experienced in knowing that many other forms of life have conscious intelligence. ravens use tools, elephants form complex emotional relationships with their counterparts, chimps and other apes have been seen using plant matter as umbrellas in the rain. There is no doubt that animals hold levels of complex intelligence, but have you ever wondered if plants do? If not you should.

Children have long asked their parents if plants can feel being eaten. We often rebuke them and deny that—but the truth is plants are more aware than we realize. IFLScience says “A small, flowering plant called Arabidopsis thaliana can hear the vibrations that caterpillars trigger when they chew on its leaves. According to a new study, the plants can hear danger loud and clear, and they respond by launching a chemical defense.” And this is just one example among many others.

To apply the idea of “intelligence” it is often said that you need a brain to truly qualify, but is that true if plants can sound the alarm of danger? That is an awareness. So where is the line drawn then? Because plants cannot really move in the way animals or humans can it is fair to say that to survive they must be very aware. They understand what is going on around them from the soil conditions to moisture, threats to pollution. That’s sensory processing. Roots grow towards nutrition and know to avoid other roots, but are fine with hitting up against intimate objects. There is evidence that fungi communicate to their tree hosts to help the chances of that trees survival. Could we see this as a form of corporation? A clear form of some level of intelligence?

Plants are more complicated than what we give them credit for, and it is time to consider them a bit more.

Save the Planet with a Garden

vegetable-gardenThinking of a home garden evokes a lot of imagery; big white houses, lots of green, older women bent lovingly over their growing plants. However, gardening is not limited to this ideal image—starting your own produce centered garden is easy, accessible, and a great way to start taking small steps to saving the planet.

Reducing your carbon footprint by starting production of food at home is more important than you might think. On average 1,500 miles is traveled before food ever winds up on a plate. Imagine all the gasoline needed to make it to your grocer, imagine all the energy wasted on keeping the produce fresh. Burning fossil fuels is not only bad for us, but it is also bad for the very food that is grown and transported all the way to our homes. Climate change could easily render certain foods extinct.

Growing your own food allows you to control the pesticides that go into crafting your garden. The EPA considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30% of insecticides carcinogenic. Obviously that is no good, and certainly something we need to watch out for. What easier way to control how much pesticides go into your food than growing it yourself.

A home garden can be done wherever you live, whether it is a large house or a small apartment. While making a garden in a large space is much more simple, being crafty about your small space doesn’t have to complicated. Window boxes, small balcony potted plants, and community gardens are easy fixes to making a place to produce food even in the smallest of apartments.

There is no reason not to give it a shot!

Tech is for Everyone

o-CELL-PHONE-facebookYou’ve heard it before maybe from a parent or a grandparent, your next door neighbor, or even your favorite cashier at the local store: tech isn’t for them.

In a world growing more and more attached to their tech this attitude is common, but still confounding. Every fascist of life is touched by new products and new techniques of using the technology around us to make life “easier”. We get doctors notes through online portals, set up meetings for the DMV on the computer, and can even order from Starbucks on our phone for instant pickup. We can argue about the benefits and the fall outs of everyday things like this, but resistance is futile. Tech is here to stay, denying it is only going to keep you lagging behind.

So why are people resistant to tech? Fear of the unknown? Fear of lack of personal interactions? Fear of robots taking over our planet? The last question is mostly a joke, but there are people who stand by the idea that using tech opens up our species to their demise.

However, tech could be a window into the world, instead of shutting down the life around you. You can reach out to people you may have forgotten about in the past, social media can keep you up to date on news faster than your cable or newspaper might, smartphones are useful emergency tools, and paying your bills online is officially the cheaper option. In every nook and corner tech is making life a little easier, you just have to keep your mind open.

Indonesia and Trump

id-mapA few months back I wrote about the future of relations between Indonesia and the US under the new presidency. Well, since then Trump has moved into the White House and begun a swift set of executive orders. One of the most talked about has been the executive order that targets seven Muslim majority countries, and though Indonesia is not on this list it is home to 220 million followers of Islam. Those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen are now not allowed to enter the US for the next 90 days. Syrian refugees are indefinitely banned.

Indonesian Foreign minister Retno Marsudi said that her government held “deep regrets about the policy.” Indonesian President Joko Widodo have not yet addressed the ban.

While there is no ban on those from Indonesia entering the US, what could this mean for relations between these two countries? The only thing that is certain at this time is uncertainty.

 

Animal Hybrids and Human Replacement Organs  

p04nb0mqAs the waiting lists for organ replacements grows by the day scientists have long been trying to find ways for patients to get the organs they need to save their lives. There simply is no other way for someone who needs a new heart or lung to go without, they will die without the life-saving donation. This has always meant taking organs from living relatives if the needed replacement is not vital to survival (like a kidney or even a lung), or from the recently deceased in the case of something that is needed to live (like a heart). Of course that makes these all the more difficult to procure.

Here we step from reality though into science fiction. Biologists have reported that they can now replace a patient’s failing organs with ones taken from the person’s own cells and grown within an animal. This could possibly improve the chances of not having the organ be rejected by the body after transplant because it is developed from the person’s own stem cells.

The organs would be grown in large animals like pigs that are chimeras, animals composed of two different genomes. This is made by implanting human stem cells into the pig embryo early, meanings the animal would be made of a mixture of human and pig cells.

The question then becomes the ethics of all this. What does it mean when an animal also contains human cells? Is it entitled to human rights? How will these animals be kept? What is their future after they’ve made the organ needed for the transplant? It is unclear what the future of this project will bring, but surely something we should keep an eye on.

World’s Oldest Orangutan Celebrates 62nd Birthday

PAY-PROD-WORLDS-OLDEST-BORNEAN-ORANGUTAN-CELEBRATES-62ND-BIRTHDAY62 is an age of seniority among all human cultures. It is a time for retirement, a time for grandchildren, and a time for leisure. Most animals will never make it to this age, and in that way humans are unique. However, on occasion there is time to celebrate the rarity of such a long life span in an animal; in this case let’s meet the world’s oldest Bornean Orangutan Gypsy Chan.

Gypsy Chan just celebrated making it to 62 years old at the Tokyo Tama Zoo in Japan. To mark the occasion, the playful grandmother ape shoved her two-year-old grandson’s face into her birthday fruit cake. Who says that age defeats humor?

Bornean Orangutans are highly intelligent creatures who share 97% of their DNA with humans. They typically weigh around 66-220 pounds depending on age and sex. In the wild they normally live about 35-45 years, so this makes Gypsy Chan’s age all the more reason to celebrate. Bornean Orangutans are endangered, with only 54,500 left in the wild.

Gypsy Chan has been a wonderful ambassador for her breed, and is a well-known peacekeeper. She has amazed scientists by breaking up fights between other apes. Orangutans spend most of their time alone in the wild, so this behavior is all the more interesting!

May you continue to go strong in 2017 Gypsy Chan!

Tech in the New Year

vrA new year, a new set of tech is on coming our way. We all remember when the Ipod was released so many years ago, and truly that may have been the birth of our modern tech boom. Since then it seems like every year something new and increasingly fascinating has been released; smart phones, personal drones, fitness tech, etc. So what’s on the rise for 2017?

Tech is ingrained in every part of our lives, many may resist this—but the overwhelming trend is clearly leaning towards smart technology. We have already dipped our toes into this first trend, but it is clear that virtual reality will continue to grow in 2017. Virtual reality will begin to take shape and become more mainstream within gaming. Call it the new Atari, rough and imperfect now—but clearly leading to something bigger down the road.

Next up is something that everyone uses, even the most tech-resistant among us; cars. Yes, self-driving car technology is only going to get bigger in 2017. Take a drive through the Bay Area and you are likely to see a plethora of these self-driving cars whizzing around from Stanford to San Francisco and everywhere in-between. This form of transportation will start to expand this year to more locales no doubt.

My last prediction is more people turning to get their news from social media. We already saw this trend in 2016; people pulling away from mainstream news sites and shows and turning to the news they see on Facebook and Twitter among other alternative sources. We already rely on social media, so it becoming a big source of our news only seems logical at a certain point. Will it be a turn towards more truthful news coverage or a rise of fake stories? Only time will tell. 2017 is surely going to be a volatile year, and news coverage will be more important than ever to follow.

Cheers to the new year and cheers to new tech.

The Mysterious Ceres

giphy

The search for habitable planets has always run into one big problem: no water on these space bound spheres. Water is a vital source of life, finding it on another planet is always a big boon in the ideas of trying to get out there to colonize another world.

Well, now NASA can add a new planet—albeit a dwarf one—to the list of planets with a form of water on the surface: Ceres. First discovered in 1772 by Johann Elert Bode, Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt that sits between Mars and Jupiter. It has a rocky core and now is confirmed to have water ice in one of its many shadowy regions that never see the light of day. These regions are about 350 degrees below zero!

Water ice is common on the dwarf planet, much more than previously thought—there could even be ice volcanoes that spout ice mixed with mud and salt. All of this makes it clear that at some point Ceres had liquid water.

What does this mean for us? Not much now, but as time goes on and space travel gets increasingly more common for us as humans we could find ourselves ready to look into a little planet that has the possibility for liquid water.