Human Consumption and our Planet’s Future

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Pixabay: Peter H

Human consumption is not just about food. It’s about clean water, clean air, energy sources, minerals, rock, sand, lithium, rubber, wood, all the ingredients that provide us with our homes, furniture, cars, clothing, tech devices, electricity, heating and cooling our homes, means of running our cars, sports equipment, entertainment, and other creature comforts. The increase in population and need for homes mean more natural land is being paved over for homes and agriculture.


To take one example, we are buying more clothing and discarding it sooner. The clothing industry accounts for 20% of our water pollution and remains only behind the fossil fuel industry in that regard. Every year the world consumes over 80 billion clothing items. In 2013 over 15 million tons of textile waste was produced according to the EPA. When clothing ends up in landfills. chemicals, such as dye, leach into the ground. When unsold clothes are burned, CO2 escapes—as much as 1.2 billion tons per a World Resources Institute report.


Amazon trees are being felled to make way for agriculture, reducing oxygen produced by them, and an environment for wild life. We buy knick-knacks, souvenirs, toys galore, decor for every holiday, political swag, gadgets for special uses or plain silliness—remember that awful fish on a board to hang on your wall that wagged its tail and talked or sang. When the last parent passes on, their belongings don’t. They are hauled to the dump by the truckloads.(Advice to the elderly is to clean out the attic so your loved ones are spared such trips.)


Plastic has been my bugaboo as it takes eons to degrade and is killing ocean life including the plankton that produce more oxygen than the Amazon forest. Containers for goods are next to unavoidable. We once used glass, but glass requires sand, of which there is not an infinite amount, and too much removal from some sites have had a negative impact. Cardboard originates from trees. Face it, we’re consuming at a faster rate than Mama Nature can provide.

I’m as guilty as the next person, seeking the perfect lemon squeezer, the foam pillow designed to prop my ipad in bed, plastic storage boxes to park stuff in my attic. Now, I’m determined to turn over a new leaf. I’m saving plastic containers and bags for reuse rather than buying those convenient seal plastic bags. I reuse unsoiled tinfoil. My hubby thinks I’m nuts but gets in trouble when he balls it up, thinking it’s fun. I’m encouraged by efforts to manufacture a biodegradable plastic or plastic-like material to use in containers, millennials who are eschewing abundant wardrobes. Like most of us I’ve spent most of my life accumulating. Now it’s time to stop and begin shedding. Unfortunately, most of the young don’t want our family heirlooms of china, crystal, and silver.

As a footnote, I highly recommend David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet on Netflix. In fact, it should be required in our schools and for adlults to be allowed to vote. I plan to devote my next blog to its message. The documentary not only is a stark commentary on human’s impact on the planet, it includes ways we can avoid disaster.

Does The Future of Humanity Depend on Colonizing Mars?

It’s commonly known that our sun will die someday, but if you’re like me it’s of no concern. It’s not expected until about five billion years from now. My worries regard the humans in this century and whether the human race will survive not only climate disasters but the aftermath of shortages to water, food, and energy, which affects our very way of life.

Thus, when visionary entrepreneurs like Elon Musk talk about humans needing to find a home other than Earth and suggesting establishing life on Mars, I’ve rejected the idea as an infeasible solution to Earth’s decline in habitability due to climate change. In my thinking, colonization to any extent simply cannot happen fast enough if at all. I am now reading a book whose title is embedded in this blog’s title that made me realize the concern is over the very long term future.

I was surprised to learn how much thinking and research has gone into ways of making Mars habitable. There are ideas about how to melt ice a few feet under the surface and the ice caps for water for normal use, and for extracting oxygen to replace the atmosphere of carbon dioxide. Other plans exist to warm the planet from its bitter temperatures. Solar would provide energy. Further, rockets bringing cargo could be refueled for the return by fuel created via solar energy making room for more cargo. Eventually, they believe the soil could support agriculture using human waste as manure. All of this, not surprisingly, would take centuries. Scientists are considering having the enormous amount of work done or assisted by robots.

While Mars will also suffer if our sun dies, it is thought that humans might be able to hopscotch to outer planets in perpetuity using the technology developed to terraform Mars.

Besides climate disasters and a dying sun, there are other threats to our home. Eventually there will be an ice age—in tens of thousands of years as opposed to billions. A major collision by an asteroid could be disastrous. I’m glad scientists are paying attention. There is a project planned to nudge an asteroid out of its orbit to test the feasibility in case a large one is ever discovered heading toward us.

After the 2008 recession, interest in funding NASA waned, and President Obama asked private industry to take up the enterprise. Indeed, the amount of precious metal in asteroids if harvested could make space travel profitable. One of several TV series about colonies living on Mars provoked an interesting question regarding ownership. One colony was government funded, the other by industry whose goals of research and profit were in conflict. That’s a likely conflict in the future given our history.

https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/heres-what-happens-to-the-solar-system-when-the-sun-dies

Was COP26 a COP-OUT?

It was a Bad News/Good News scenario..

Bad News: (I always like the bad news first.)

1.The pledges fell short of meeting the need identified by climate scientists of containing Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade by 2030.

2. There is no means of accountability for keeping the pledges.

3. The Paris pledge of developed countries to collectively provide 100 billion dollars per year to developing countries was not met.

4. The carbon emitting sources were divided into sectors about which resolutions were made with only 6 resolutions of  97 beginning with “decides”and the rest beginning with words like “urges, welcomes, invites, encourages, …”

5. There was no resolution to provide reparations to island  nations and other small countries who have been hurt by climate change. A leader from Tuvalo, one of the Pacific Islands gave an address standing knee deep in ocean water which a few years ago was beach.

6. Independent investiagtions indicate that a number of countries under reported their net carbon output.

7. Some sectors like agriculture admittedly received short shrift.

Good News:

1. Early days of the climate conference were more promising than previous COPs in that gone were the arguments over whether climate change was human caused. They could settle down to arguments over what to do about it. They passed significant resolutions provided countries actually feel urged to act.

2.The pledges made were also signficant A.Halt and reverse deforestation in 85% of the world’s forests, and land degradation by 2030. 100 countries B. Dedicate 8.5 billion to help South Africa decarbonize its coal-heavy energy system. U.S., U.K., France, Germany, & EU C. No new coal power for decades. 190 countries D. End public financing of overseas oil, gas and coal projects by the end of 2022. 25 countries including the U.S., U.K., Denmark, Canada, Italy & the European Investment Bank.E.. Cut carbon emissions to net zero and increase renewable energy by 100 gigawatts by 2070. India F. Various private individuals & organizations pledged 3.5 billion for various projects. An alliance of private & global organizations plan to tackle access to renewable energy across Africa, Asia, & Latin America.G. End building coal-fired power plants. China in abstentia.

3. There will be a COP27 in a year.

4. Satellites will be more involved in measuring and monitoring results and inhibiting under reporting carbon emissions.

5. While not mentioned by name there is an organization GFANZ (Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero) made up of 450 investment institutions in 45 countries who aim to achieve net zero carbon among the companies they invest in and provide capital from private investors for companies to do the work of meeting the commitments of COP26 and beyond. There may be other parties willing to finance and share solutions. Governments alone cannot or will not be able to supply the necessary capital.

My Conclusions

Whether Cop26 is a failure or a success depends on what happens next. If the world conducts business as usual, it will be a failure. If, however each of the following happens it will be a success: All pledges met, all resolutions taken seriously, sufficient capital to support innovative solutions which are shared among countries, along with a worldwide spark of “let’s get this done together,” which carries into COP27.

Climate Change Fighters

There are a myriad of efforts to halt the warming of Earth and its consequences in different ways. Accordingly, there is a plethora of organizations working on the issues.

Getting off dependence on fossil fuels: The use of fossil fuels—coal, oil, natural gas is why we are where we are. Planes, cars, factories, homes spewing poison into the air. Climate scientists have long called for reduction in use. Attempts to improve fuel efficiency, turn to renewable energy, reduction of consumption have dominated early efforts. They must be stepped up. We need to:

  • get out of our cars by using public transportation, carpooling, working from home when possible, flying less, stop building more highways and lanes
  • electrify our cars and homes and sign up for electricity from renewable sources like  solar, wind, and hydrothermal. Improve energy storage.

Carbon Capture: We’ve waited too long, and done too little to stem the warming by less carbon pollution. The above efforts won’t happen fast enough on their own. Scientists are seeking ways to remove carbon from the air and to capture carbon as it’s produced in industry.

Special Attention to our Oceans:

Our oceans produce 70% of our oxygen via plankton, whose numbers are threatened by the warming of Earth. Oceans also absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide. Heatlhy oceans are critical to our survival. Above are only two of many who see the problem. Also, critical to the planet’s survival are wild animals. Other organizations are fighting for them. Their success in reintroducing keystone species to their former habitats has regenerated the areas and proof of Climate Scientists’ claim that humans need to move from exploiting nature to protecting nature and regenerating any areas we overuse.

Legal Means and Political Will:

  • Organizations like Earth Justice support environmental laws and sue corporations for damage to the environment that affects public health, etc. I like their slogan “Because Earth Needs a Good Lawyer.”
  • Big Money talks loudest in our political system, and many fossil fuel industries and industries that pollute in their manufacturing processes work hard to conduct business as usual. Individuals must pressure their politicians to step up to stem the damage from climate change.
  • Organizations like 350.org apply even more pressure from the size of their membership. EDF tries to work with companies on ways to improve their carbon footprints.
  • This year’s climate disasters have changed the mindset of the peoples of the World. Few doubt now that we are in trouble. The COP26 discussion has changed from arguments over human causation to the best means of dealing most quickly with the crisis. While 100 countries have pledged to stop deforestation and other promises, Greta Thunberg isn’t convinced.

Today’s Climate Action Plan Can’t Become Tomorrow’s “Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda!”

It’s not only about your grandchildren and children any longer regarding concern over climate catastrophes. It’s also about whether you think you will still be alive in 2030. Unfortunately, there are two camps who are motivated to do nothing. One doesn’t believe human behavior is causing our current disasters. The other believes we’re already doomed so why bother. I guess there is a third faction who are so wealthy, they and their descendants will be able to afford livable places and don’t care how costly water and food become. OTOH, who will provide basic services such as security, maintenance, entertainment, mobility, etc.? Corporations are buying up land in South America and probably other places rich in ground water. Sadly, they legally stole land formerly dedicated to native South Americans who have been on the land since the beginning of time. Meanwhile, drought in South America is bankrupting farmers and increasing migration.

I can relate to the second camp as it’s clear that much of what we’ve done can’t be undone and we will continue to suffer consequences. However, it is still a question of how bad, which now needs to be addressed. My favorite saying is that I’m glad I’m old. It’s the only thing that keeps me going. I’ll be lucky if I’m around  in 2030, or is it unlucky?

No matter your campground I highly recommend the book Under the Sky We Make by Kimberly Nicholas, subtitled  How to be Human in a Warming World. The author’s  nutshell message : It’s warming, it’s us, we’re sure, it’s bad, we can fix it. She also points out, however, that once in our atmosphere carbon is essentially forever, and we need to get to zero carbon pollution by 2030 to stabilize the climate. She describes how humans have approached nature to exploit it for the betterment of their lives, and the need to turn from the exploitation mindset to a regenerative mindset. (I would make an exception for indigenous people, who understand the need to leave enough in nature for future generations.)

The book has specific suggestions for how individuals can lessen their carbon footprint, naming the three largest sources of carbon are due to flying, driving gasoline cars, and eating meat. The author would probably agree with a recent article that the problem is no longer solvable by individual behavior. Governments must act. No financial incentives/disincentives, but outright bans. It’s a stitch in time saves nine time. Fema is rapidly becoming a larger part of the federal budget.

Perhaps the best individual behavior is to pressure your government representatives to act for the good of us all and for the future of those to come.

Every LItter Bit Hurts

I recently discovered that sending even a one-word email uses 4 grams of CO2 emissions. Further, storing emails uses energy. The accumulative effect is scary. Check it out. You’ll be blown away. I send many emails, and I let old ones pile up. I do try to unsubscribe, but it’s a never-ending chore. I can only take pride in not hitting Reply All merely to say “That’s great” or “Thanks” to the sender.

When I thought about the bigger picture of energy use I thought about all the other small energy usurpers. I take so long to drink my morning cup of coffee that I keep it on an individual coffee warmer. Then I routinely forget to turn it off along with lights around the house. I get up in the middle of the night, and I don’t need to turn on anything since tiny blue, white, and red lights guide me to the kitchen for a drink of water. Hard drives, speakers, electric clocks, Wi-Fi boosters, microwaves, stoves, sidewalk lights, and more all beam “We’re here.” At least I don’t use bitcoin, which uses an insane amount of energy.

It doesn’t matter that we have signed up for a 100% renewable electricity program or that sometimes we feed the grid from our solar panels. If we used less electiricity, we’d be able to feed more solar into the grid. We have a long way to go to be free of fossil fueled electricity. If everyone used less, the difference would be substantial.

Stay tuned to hear about a remarkably well-written book about climate change in my next blog. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through Under the Sky We Make-How to be Human in a Warming World by Kimberly Nicholas. She manages to inject a bit of humor along with personal grief in the doom & gloom portion of the book and explains in concrete terms what we can expect depending on the actions we take.

How Does Any Vaccine Find the Bad Guys?

Given all the unfortunate hullabaloo about Covid vaccines, I’m reminded of a vague question that has lived at the back of my brain for some time. How does a vaccine get to the places it needs to be to hunt down the small beasts hoping to take us over as their private home? We are filled with harmless invaders who mind their own business in our guts. Some of them even carry their weight by making us healthier. So how does the vaccine get to the ones determined to make us seriously ill?

My curious thoughts: Why not inject into a vein? It would easily travel through our blood circulation system. A needle would more easily pierce fat than muscle, so why not stick us in our pudgy places? I had to dig deep to discover the answers.

If injected into a vein for some reason, a vaccine is vulnerable to destruction. No explanation found.

Muscle unlike fat evidently has a great supply of blood, which helps disperse the vaccine at a measured rate according to  immunology researchers.  Muscle holds and captures dendritic cells that scoop up injected antigens. (An antigen is anything that stimulates an immune response, most commonly dead virus cells or a small amount of living virus cells of the targeted disease.) These cells then migrate to lymph nodes, and take up residence. Our lymph node system is like the body’s built-in vacuum cleaner. The system filters and cleans the lymphatic fluid of any debris, abnormal cells, or pathogens. When the altered dendritic cells encounter white blood cells in the system such as T and B cells—defenders of our bodies from pathogens—they present them with the injected antigen, saying “See this guy? Go get him.”  

I understand the mRNA vaccines work slightly differently. mRNA controls the production of proteins in our body. Many are desirable essential proteins, but not all. For example, Alzheimer’s disease is associated with buildup of particular proteins. Covid cells are coated with a particular and recognizable protein. mRNA vaccines train our cells to go after any guy wearing the signature protein coat, but the vaccines are injected into the muscle and are distributed into the lymph node system in the same way.

With any vaccine, you may have a sore or red arm, slightly enlarged lymph nodes, but this is evidence that the vaccine is working.

I understand Covid nasal spray vaccines are being researched and developed, but I haven’t heard much about them besides the fact that the nose is the entry point for Covid, making the idea seem worth a look.

Can We Brave Our New World?

Given this year’s fires, smoke, floods, hurricanes, and drought, there can be little doubt that we are suffering under the effects of climate change. In fact, we’ve reached a point of no return according to climate scientists in terms of melting ice in our poles. To wit, we could stop using all fossil fuels, and the ice would continue to melt. The question is now how bad things will get. Since we cannot turn off the fossil fuel switch overnight, scientists and others are turning more attention to the question of how to mitigate the damage. They are stepping up such efforts, which previously were not advertised lest people become complacent about the need to stop spewing greenhouse gases. Here are some hopeful ideas.

Carbon Capture,which may involve storage or utilization,

Plant life consumes carbon dioxide, but once it dies the CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Biologists are working on creating plants that store the carbon dioxide in the roots, which will remain sequestered in the ground. This is only one of many efforts to capture carbon and store it.

Some companies that create carbon dioxide in manufacturing processes capture and utilize in more products; such as plastics, concrete or biofuel; while retaining the carbon neutrality of the production processes. (Don’t get me started on plastics, however.)

Severe climate events not only destroy many homes annually, but create power outages that harm and threaten lives. Putting transmission lines underground is the ultimate solution, and PG&E recently announced plans to put 10,000 miles underground over several years. Presumably, areas at most risk for fires will be targeted. The process is expensive, and one company is working on lines above ground supported by structures that collapse without creating a domino effect. While power will still be interrupted, it will be restored much more quickly because of fewer collapses, diminishing the effect on the dangerous disruption to families and loss of food.

In South Korea solar panels shade bicycle paths between highway lanes. A win-win: it gets people out of their cars and provides solar energy.

These are the kinds of efforts that must be stepped up in order to protect quality of life while we battle to live in a way the preserves our planet’s sustainablity .

And here are a couple of visual unrelated amazing video treats:

Check out these clever bees: https://twitter.com/i/status/1435362486811861005 and

a seal hugging a diver: https://twitter.com/i/status/1435408292872740867

Use Hydrogen for Energy? Not so fast!

Should we use hydrogen for energy given that it burns clean. It depends on the color!

Green Hydrogen: Yes, it is produced by using energy from renewable sources.

Brown Hydrogen: Hell no! It’s made by gasifcation from coal releasing carbon dioxide along with the hydrogen, and there is pollution from the mining of coal.

Gray Hydrogen: No! It’s made by reforming methane in natural gas with high carbon dioxide emissions, and of course, natural gas is a fossil fuel whose extraction risks polluting the atmosphere

Blue Hydrogen: Still no! it’s made like gray hydrogen with carbon capture but doesn’t prevent unburned fugitive methane from escaping.

The latter three sources seem convoluted to me. What’s the point of turning fossil fuel energy into a different kind of energy? Granted the burning of hydrogen in our cars means less carbon down our canyons of freeways, but creates new low income areas with undesirable air quality where the hydrogen is produced.

The reason this is of interest is that the sorely needed pending one trillion dollar infrastructure bill includes several billion for hydrogen research. I’m campaigning that in the implementation, the research is for green hydrogen. The best way for that to happen is for the word green be inserted as an amendment.

Climate Preservation Heros & Heroines

It is heartening to see that the younger generation is fighting to save our planet from dire consequences.

Radhika Lalit (32) invented air conditioners 4 times as efficient as durrently available. On market by 2025.

Gene Berdichevsky (37) is revolutionizing battery technology for automobiles with batteries that can store 40% more energy and cost up to 40% less!

Etosha Cave (34) started a company that enables industries to recycle carbon dioxide to make fuel, plastics, and household cleaners. This is the one that excites me most.

Benji Backer (23) is a political conservative who attempts to convince his political allies that conservation is what conservatives should be about.

Alexandra Grayson (20) is another advocate of tackling climate change and has founded a chapter of Defend Our Future—an affiliate of the Environmental Defense Fund, an organization that sponsors Climate Science education, promotes environmental protection legislation, and assists companies in going green.

Geeta Persad (33)  researches global impact of local environmental pollutants. With a rotating Earth, pollutants emitted can fly around the world.

Damage Environment Destruction Pollution Earth

Alexandr Criscuolo (31) helps fledgling companies using Kickstarter with strategies that reduce environmental impacts such as minimizing packaging and building sustainability into products

Matt Panopio (29) analyzed Lyfts’ carbon footprint and designed a plan to reach zero carbon. He is working as a manager at Amazon to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

To learn more about these pioneers go to:https://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/documents/solutions-Summer2021.pdf

EDF, Environmental Defense Fund is just one of numerous environmental organizations fighting to save us from more and more climate disasters. EDF has been criticized for working with industry to reduce their carbon footprint out of fear that industry will spank its hands and declare they have done all that’s needed. More aggressive organizations like Sea Shepherd Conservation Society deliberately interfere with illegal operations on our oceans. I’m glad to see many approaches as that’s what it may take to slow our damage to our Earth home.

Can keystone species help save our planet?

Many ecosystems contain species that are called keystone because without them the system would collapse into barrenness. I don’t know if every ecosystem contains a keystone, but there are many examples. I would have guessed the keystones would be the creatures at the bottom of an ecosystem’s food chain, but it turns out there are examples with keystones at the top, namely the predators.

In the 1960s, marine biologist, Bob Paine conjectured that there were predator keystone species, but testing required controlled environments. He chose tide pools as one of the easiest. Starfish prey on mussels using  their succored legs to open them. Paine removed starfish by hand from a chosen pool, tossing them into an adjacent one over a long period. After months there were more mussels but less of everything else. Years later only mussels remained. Well, since mussels eat by filtering plankton from the sea water, plankton must have been there, but not easy to detect as they appear as mere specks.

After this breakthrough discovery, more predators were discovered to be keystone, but not all keystone are predators. Keystones include:

 African elephants tramp down trees and provide corridors that contain fire. They excrete seeds that maintains grassland. Grizzly bears toss their salmon bones, which fertilize the soil. Sharks eat dead diseased fish, curbing pandemics Sea otters control the sea urchin opulation, which destroy kelp. Krill feed whales, seals, penguins, squid, and fish Beavers build dams that provide habitats for salmon and other creatures.  Bees, Hummingbirds and Honey possums are absolutely critical pollinators to our food supply. Parrotfish are the janitors of coral reefs. Prairie dogs are gardeners of the prairies, positively impacting water supply. African termites fertilize the land and provide small homes. Woodpeckers also provide space for nests. Saguaro cactus are condos for birds and small animals, They provide fruit in season.

Given the importance of keystone species, efforts are being made to restore areas of our planet that have suffered. Wolves have been reintroduced into Yosemite. By keeping the deer population down, the variety and quantity of vegetation has increased followed by streams and other animals who now thrive. Dwindling wild dog populations in Africa have been boosted by World Wild Life funds with a similar benefit.

Wildebeests have restored the Serengeti. They eat grass that burns easily, and without fires trees recovered supporting elephants, giraffes, birds, and other species including predators like lions.

Bass are keystone in our rivers.

Wild dogs photo:  https://www.maxpixel.net/ph