“robot pollination”

I knew this day would come. People thinking we can replace nature’s services with robot technology…

I think it won’t work because of the following:

  • The energy requirements of robots are greater than insects. How long can a drone that small fly for? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? A bee flys all day long and doesn’t ever need to be “plugged in”; it refuels as it travels.
  • Bees and other insects already know what to do. They know where to go, how to get there, when to return, which flowers to visit. A bee already knows to avoid bad weather. They sleep in! No programming required!
  • Insects such as bees are already solar powered (they make their food from plants, which are powered by photosynthesis)
  • Robots are not currently biodegradeable and/or compostable. Are they? E-waste is a big problem today and this simply creates more of it. Recycling still requires the consumption of energy and the addition of new raw material to the batch.
  • Insects such as ants detect chemicals. They’re chemical detectors. That’s how they work (as far as I know). It’s not just their eyes, but their antannae.Do you want to know what the smallest CO² chemical detector is today? Unless there has been some amazing development in the field of gas chromatography that I am not aware of, current gas detectors would need to be mounted on a drone so big, that it would not be able to manouvre around individual flowers with enough precision. It would be like a fucking bald eagle trying to thread a needle with a cross wind.
  • Bees aren’t the only pollinators. There are pollinators even smaller than bees that can pollenise the tiniest of flowers only a few mm across.
  • Making one robot bee is not the same as making a whole swarm. Who is going to make the swarm? People? Or still more robots? So then there will be more “embodied energy” tied up in the manufacturing stage.
  • Most current manufacturing methods are not really sustainable in the long term. They just aren’t. Because they require things like lasers, magnets, chemicals, copper/PVC wiring, steel moulds, energy, transport.
  • Do we seriously see ourselves making an equivalent of the Earth’s biomass of insects for the next million+ years? Like a billion tonnes of robot bees? Where is all that material going to come from? More mines? Current mining operations endanger many species all over the world; habitat destruction will endanger further species… so it just seems to me that as we try to apply more and more technology to solve more problems, technology itself creates an ever-decreasing viscious circle.

Humans have this kind of “wait and see” approach, which I think is crap. Sure it “can be done”, but making robot bees is probably a thousand times less efficient than natural bees (if not a million times less).

I think it’s time robot technicians admitted something. That they cannot recreate a single bee, fly or mosquito. Like I say, is it biodegradeable, self-assembling, and self-regenerative? No. If you look at even the most advanced robot and then put an insect or bacterium alongside it, the natural version is way more advanced (even in terms of the hierarchical structure of the materials alone).

I’m open minded. I’m creative. I’m optimistic. But this is clunky at best. This is stupid. This is wrong. This will create more problems for ourselves. And I think anyone who knows about science, manufacturing, or ecology, will probably agree with me.

The way I see it, digging up the Earth is still quite a primitive thing to do. And there is only so much we can dig. Better to have a circular economy and manufacturing industry. That’s how nature does it, with zero waste!

I really think there is only one way we can go and that is a “less is more” approach. And I think if we don’t change, nature will simply force us to. It’s hard to be productive as well as profitable in a blizzard, a heatwave, a flood, etc.

I’ve been told that I shouldn’t even be garnering additional exposure for this idea by even discussing robot pollination, and to take my thoughts offline. But I think it’s better to leave this right up here so that some of my connections can put up their arguments as to why they think it won’t work. I’d particularly like to hear from biologists. Tell us all the ways insects are superior to synthetic robots. :)

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”

Do we have a choice? Do we? I think we have a choice.
North Korea street photography DPRK
Photography by (stephan). © 2017. Creative Commons.

Last month it was “fire and fury (they likes of which the world has never seen)”. See my artwork. This month it is “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”. I for one don’t condone that kind of inflationary, intentionally divergent rhetoric. I may not be a lawyer, but both statements sound like threats to me!

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” – Donald J. Trump

And not just threats towards the leader himself, but threats directed against the whole nation! And that, my friends, is a type of collective punishment. Collective punishment on citizens who don’t even know any different because they’ve been indoctrinated from day one.

That’s not right. That’s not right because they are not really ‘evil’ citizens are they? If you believe that all 25 million North Koreans are ‘evil’, it’s more likely that it is *you* who is in fact paranoid. They are over there trying to grow rice and put food on the table. I think Americans should try to put themselves in the place of the average North Korean. And I think Mister Trumpet should tone down his language.

Is this how Trump does business? By verbally attacking his opponents? Is this how he does politics? This is like the level of a 5 year old child. Whatever happened to negotiation? Communication? I think he’s sending the wrong message. It’s quite obvious that it’s a bluff. You don’t just nuke an entire nation in the year 2017. Why doesn’t the “great leader” offer a more appropriate, measured and proportionate response? Does he know how?

(I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which “great leader” I’m referring to here, to highlight the fact that they are pretty much both as bad as one another)

One choice would be for Mr Trump to just shut his mouth and for us to continue on with our daily lives. That’s one choice.

A new definition of life?

Erwin Schrödinger theorized in his 1944 book “What is Life?” that contrary to the general tendency dictated by the Second law of thermodynamics, life decreases or maintains its entropy by feeding on negative entropy.

One of the most difficult questions to answer is “what is the purpose of life?”. But how can we possibly answer what the purpose of life is if we don’t even know what life is?

What is life? Go to a year 9 science book and the definitions will vary. They will undoubtedly mention the following processes: Homeostasis, Organization, Metabolism, Growth, Adaptation, Response to stimuli, Reproduction. By these definitions, would ‘life’ from another planet even classify as life?

Whenever we attempt to ask what constitutes life, we arrive at all sorts of vague definitions, for example:

“the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body”

“a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings”

“an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction”

“the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms, being manifested by growth through metabolism, reproduction, and the power of adaptation to environment through changes originating internally.”

“the sum of the distinguishing phenomena of organisms, esp. metabolism, growth, reproduction, and adaptation to environment.”

There are many definitions of what life is, but for every one of these sub-classifications, there are exceptions:

Adaptation to the environment. At what rate must life adapt for it to be considered alive? If we rapidly create an artificially toxic environment, no life form will be able to adapt in time and hence it will die. The same can be said for the “reaction to stimuli” argument. The entire plant kingdom is at a great disadvantage here – although they can adapt relatively quickly to their environment, plants can only react to stimuli very slowly. Viruses do not appear to react to anything. In fact, I suspect that “adaptation to the environment” and “reaction to external stimuli” are really disguised as the same thing, albeit at different rates of application.

Reproduction can never be a valid prerequisite for life (at least for an individual being or entity). The process of reproduction occurs in every single life form on this planet, it has therefore not surprisingly swayed our perspective when we think about all life forms. Life is more than reproduction.

I suspect that reproduction is a way of minimising damage to our core DNA instructional program, by relaying this information over different generations (more on that later). I can easily imagine an organic being which is alive and does not need to reproduce to survive by continually renewing itself. Imagine the last surviving example of an endangered heterogenous species: in the short term, it is alive despite facing certain extinction (unless cloned). But in the long term, in the future, it (defined as a species) is already dead. Eunuchs are alive; so are spayed or neutered dogs — but neither can reproduce.

Nor can DNA or metabolism be a criterion for life. In biology, the word ‘metabolism’ usually refers to Earth-bound chemistry. Doesn’t this preclude off-world life? DNA is merely a recipe for life on this planet, it is not a blueprint for ALL life.

It seems to me that our definition of life is extremely Earth-centric. This is again perhaps not very surprising since it’s the only life we know about (so far). So I think it’s time to attempt to define life in a new way. But how can we ever begin to grasp the chemistry on other planets or in other galaxies? Well, we might not have to know. We just need to define one single common process of life. What do all life forms have in common?

Interestingly time is an essential factor when we consider the concept of life. It is present in all the above definitions of life (metabolism, reaction to stimuli & environment, growth and reproduction). We cannot think of definitions of life without thinking about time as well. The concept of time is an essential component. A life-form cannot be defined as alive without measuring one of its characteristics against time. Although so far knowing all this doesn’t help us much.

What other parameters do we know about the cosmos that don’t change? What if we could define life in terms of one of these constants, by direct comparison?

One of the most commonly accepted universal ‘laws’ (at least ) is the second law of thermodynamics, which basically states that the universe tends towards a state of disorder. You need to add energy to a system for it to become more ordered. In general, it’s a rule that cannot be broken. But I’ve never completely understood this, because according to most thermodynamics lecturers, this planet should be an amorphous lump, along with all the others in our Solar system. With this rule, you’d also expect the cosmos to be a 100% random distribution of gas molecules by now… I’m not arguing against the second law… it just made me think.

Physicists and thermodynamicists conveniently talk about open, closed and isolated systems and then scale the size of these imaginary boxes into whatever sizes fit their models in order to analyse various processes (either real or hypothetical). In our situation, they’d include the Sun in the size of their box to take into account its energy transfer. That doesn’t mean much to me.

What does all this have to do with life? Quite simply, as time passes, life in general has the unique capacity to re-arrange resources for itself and all by itself. It’s the one trait that separates inanimate objects (stuff that doesn’t appear to do anything) from animate objects (which do things spontaneously). Let’s just say that life evolves into more and more complex, ordered forms over prolonged time periods.

At first glance, you might not think that we as a civilisation are very organised. You might even call life “crazy” or “chaotic”. Look a bit closer, and you’ll see that the opposite is true. The very word “chaos” essentially means “an apparent state of randomness with the presence of an underlying order”. Think about the intertwined postal networks, telecommunications networks, street networks, social networks, food networks. Think about the logistical nightmare of supplying all the many things we consume on a daily basis; every single thing needs to be prototyped, tested, packed, inventoried, advertised, distributed, sold, consumed and disposed. That’s essentially what everyone is working toward: to offer a sevice to some one or some thing. Compare the sheer complexity of this life with the alternative: a completely barren desert lifeless landscape. Think about all the bits of information that we’ve created and stored in the world; think about the position of every single atom or molecule in both scenarios and then decide which one is more complex. Which one has had more order applied to it?

Consider the following new definition of life: any self-generating system which decreases local entropy levels over the long term. Why do I stipulate “self-generated”? Because artificial machines aren’t really considered alive until they can self-assemble or reproduce; once they become self regenerating, I’m sure they’ll be considered rudimentary forms of life too.

Large businesses [ironically called “organisations”] grow, react and in a sense spawn new companies. Still, these are not considered alive in the traditional sense because they are not self-generating. [Incidently- that could be one reason for the failure of large companies; there is so much re-organising going on, not enough work gets done!]

Viruses usually provide an example of a hazy distinction between life and non-life. In the traditional sense, viruses cannot reproduce on their own; hence some people do not consider them as valid lifeforms.

Using the entropy definition of life, parasitic viruses are only alive in terms of the whole system -when combined with the host organism. In other words, when you include the host as a part of the system, then they are both alive; if not, then the virus is ‘dead’. Like any parasite, you cannot define their existence without looking at the host as well. In my opinion, a virus is still alive in a sense since it replicates the genetic code (just another form of information).

I think we need to look more at entire systems, not just solitary organisms. You cannot draw black-and-white conclusions about life without looking at the surrounding environment. Highly constrained niche ecosystems are alive but very interdependent. If you remove one individual species it often cannot survive on its own. Indeed, remove just one ‘keystone’ species and you risking collapsing the entire ecosystem.

All this is not to say we break the second law of thermodynamics or that we are somehow exempt from its effects. Quite the contrary. There is an external all-pervading neutralising force which constantly acts against us.

Entropy manifests itself in various ways by attempting to randomise us. We experience both cellular and molecular degradation. The action of foreign chemicals & UV rays first come to mind. Cosmic rays, X-Rays, etc directly tamper with our DNA code. The bus that flattens you on the street has done a good job of increasing your entropy state. In fact, it seems that intelligent life itself has the potential to completely self-destruct. We’ve become too good at killing everything and we risk our own survival. I believe that this is entropy playing an unconscious revenge-effect type of role. Nope, it’s not some kind of god. Some people call this effect irony, some call it Karma.

I’ll admit that I am definitely not the first person to think about the connection between life & entropy in this way although I’m proud to say that did come to this conclusion independently … only 64 years too late!

American biochemist Albert Lehninger, argues that “living organisms preserve their internal order by taking from their surroundings free energy, in the form of nutrients or sunlight, and returning to their surroundings an equal amount of energy as heat and entropy.”

Ville Kaila and Arto Annila of the University of Helsinki describe how evolution explores possible paths to level differences in energy densities and so increase entropy most rapidly. Thus, an organism serves as an energy transfer mechanism, and beneficial mutations allow successive organisms to transfer more energy within their environment.

We are told very early on that this law cannot be broken. I think you know the one thing that ‘breaks’ this rule. Life. Life itself does not seem random. However, it certainly seems chaotic. But if you’ve read about chaos theory, it talks about “order in disorder”. What may seem disordered and random may in fact have an underlying order to it. Be it an international airport or the phenomenon we call the weather. It’s controlled by a simple set of rules, but all of these interacting together make it extremely difficult to predict. Some would say impossible. It takes someone like the mentalist to know what’s really going on.

This blog is essentially information (which is order) presented as a series of words (ideas). You could easily convert this paragraph into binary for example. Then it looks very ordered indeed. How am I able to do that?

01011001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01110010 01100101 01100001 01100100 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01111001 01100101 01110100 00100000 01100010 01101111 01110101 01101110 01100100 00100000 01100010 01111001 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110011 01100101 01100011 01101111 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101100 01100001 01110111 01110011 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 01110010 01101101 01101111 01100100 01111001 01101110 01100001 01101101 01101001 01110011 0101110 00100000 01010100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100010 01101111 01101111 01101011 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01100101 01110011 01110011 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101001 01100001 01101100 01101100 01111001 00100000 01101001 01101110 01100110 01101111 01110010 01101101 01100001 01110100 01101001 01101111 01101110 00100000 0101000 01101111 01110010 01100100 01100101 01110010 0101001 00100000 01110000

A thermodynamicist will talk about open and closed systems. That I need to look at the bigger picture, the net energy gain, not just the gross product. The net energy lost is the food and drink which I consume or ‘burn’ and convert into heat, thought and finger movement. That in order for me to produce a certain amount of order, I have taken it from somewhere else and created a net waste. Rest assured, my brain is working overtime right now. I certainly don’t feel that efficient. I do feel very much alive though, writing this. That’s precisely my point. I have taken energy and consciensously used it to make order. It doesn’t matter about the size of the ‘container’ for this open/closed system. I am the container. Me.

Nonliving things simply cannot do this. Crystals grow by minimising surface energy (dendrites).

At the edge of life you will find chaos.

While it’s difficult to appreciate the nature of order. Male bower birds collect and hord blue items in an attempt to impress their mate. That is ordering directly at work.

Ants create ordered colonies, much in the same way as we create cities. The size does not matter. Whether they are aware of themselves also seems irrelevant, although they can certainly communicate via chemical means.

If and when a computer is able to replicate itself in the form of a robot, as in the terminator, it will become a formidable source of life indeed. One can imagine an insatiable being whose only purpose in life is to make “order out of disorder”. Think along the lines of the Borg in Star Trek or the Simulants in the popular TV series Red Dwarf.

A gene gun doesn’t sound very precise. Or accurate.

What is a gene gun?

Gene guns are used to produce genetically modified food. A year ago, I did not know this; I had never even heard of a gene gun. Have a skim read of this. I am mainly sharing that link to show people how a gene gun works.

So they basically shoot one type of DNA molecules (like from a bacteria) into the target organism… the plant/crop… and unless I’m terribly mistaken… the incorporation of some new DNA strands is nothing more than “trial and error”. Or so it seems.

But there’s only one thing scarier than *not* knowing where your source DNA molecules are going. And that’s knowing *exactly* where they’re going.

Now, like a lot of people, especially designers, I’m very opinionated. That’s okay. What do I personally think about this?

I think there’s only one organism we really need to genetically modify. And that’s ourselves. How about new GM people that aren’t as greedy and destructive? Wouldn’t that be nice? Engineer ourselves… to just be content with what we have.

What I know about science is that the fields are becoming so narrow, general wisdom is lost. I don’t think any one person can know the full repercussion/consequences. And there ALWAYS ARE consequences. If we were really intelligent, scientists would ask themselves “what are they, the consequences?” before they started. Do they? Not all of them, no.

So unless someone convinces me otherwise, I personally think it should be banned. I believe that every species has a place in this world. Yes even the tiniest bacteria and parasites. Because for one thing, diseases control plagues. That’s the basic reason they exist. A world without disease would be unbalanced. And a world without plagues would also be unbalanced. That’s how nature works. And that’s what geneticists seem to forget.

I am not saying that geneticists don’t know what they’re doing. Or that they aren’t very intelligent people. Quite the contrary. But what I am saying is that they don’t know everything. And the more they know about genetic engineering, the less they know about everything else (yes, I’m being very serious).

Scientists are a bit like designers. A designer is never “just a designer”. Design is a whole way of life for these people. I know, because these days, I am more of a designer than a scientist.

Same with accountants. Have you ever met an accountant with a personal credit card debt?

See, most scientists I know are highly obsessive people. They forget that things cannot always be controlled by humans.

I’d like to remind these geneticists that species live in ecosystems. And there are reasons for the way that it is. We don’t even know all of those reasons. Sure we know a lot. Probably we know too much. But the truly clever people tend to realise when they don’t know something.

“What you don’t know you can feel it somehow” —U2

And that’s the trouble with some people. They think they have thought of everything. But they never do. They never do.

I just ask them to do one small thing. I emplore all geneticists to read a little less about genetics and a little more about two other, completely separate things:

  1. The revenge effect
  2. Chaos theory

Then come back to me, and tell me that this kind of genetic engineering is a good idea.

The true value of soil

Food practically grows all by itself on planet Earth.
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown. © 2015. All rights reserved.

Let me ask you something: do we actually ‘make’ our own food? Do we? The answer is “no we do not make our own food”. We just throw pre-existing seeds in the ground and make sure most of them get enough water to sprout. We don’t make it from first principles; it grows all by itself from the soil! We simply harvest that food (once it has already grown).

Let me ask you the next question: do we humans ‘make’ soil? Not can we make it, do we make it? Again, no. Bacteria, worms and insects do that for us. Sure we might put organic matter such as apple cores, banana skins and orange peels onto the old compost pile and think we’re making

loads more soil. We might even throw things like paper and cardboard onto our compost as well and think we’re creating heaps and heaps and heaps of soil.

But are we? What are we really doing? Once gain, where did that apple core come from? Where did that banana skin come from? Where did that paper come from? Where did those trees come from? The chances are you’ll find that most of it wasn’t hydroponically produced (using liquid fertilisers and zero soil). Was it? No. It was mosty farmed, from pre-existing soil. And I’m guessing that that soil, ladies and gentlemen, took thousands and thousands and thousands of years to form.

And so you might say: “well okay, I know people that actually eat 100% hydroponically-grown foods, I’ve seen it”. And again I ask: but the people who made the hydroponic setup, did they also get all of their food from hydroponically grown plants? What about the people who made all that fertiliser? What about the people who built the whole darn fertiliser setup? What about the people who transported all of the above? And what about the people who built the vehicles so that all of that lot could be transported? Did they all eat hydroponically grown food too?

Is everyone in that hydroponics industry only eating 100% hydroponically-grown foods? Short answer? No. So my point is that at the moment, even if we can hydroponically grow a bunch of food, it’s being heavily, massively subsidised by nature.

Do you know how many apple cores, banana skins and orange peels it takes to make just one kilogram of soil? The answer is: I don’t know, because I lost count. What I can tell you is that I have been throwing ALL of my organic scraps, and those of a second person, into one giant green 400L bin for the past two years. Everything from my hair to my paper offcuts. And it has never filled up. But how much soil did all that organic matter take to produce in the first place, for two people? I’m willing to bet that it was WAY more than just 400 litres.

So is it any wonder that farmers commit suicide, when they tell us that the quality of soil is falling?

We certainly tend to the plants. We avoid flooding unless we’re growing rice. But what I think humans really do is collect, store and distribute food. If we had to do all of that for 7 billion people, for 7 million people, for even 7 thousand people, with no air, no water and no soil to begin with, I think you’d see scientists really starting to scratch their heads. Can’t be done! It just can’t be done.

In other words, we’re not somehow magically separated from nature. Scientists are never really able forget this. If seven, eight, nine or ten billion people want to live on this planet for more than a few centuries into the future, then we’re going to have to re-evaluate our values and our priorities. I think it’s time we refocus our efforts on Earth (even Carl Sagan’s last book, pale blue dot was as much about Earth as deep space and look how ‘into’ deep space adventures he was).

I i irony

Why do we try to minimise human physical work by any means possible?

I‘ve noticed that Western society totally idolises an athletic body shape but resents the physical exertion required to attain it.

As far as I’m concerned, every time you switch on any form of electrical equipment, you’re basically signing an invisible contract that reads:

“I accept that as a consequence of using this device, I risk becoming physically and/or mentally unhealthy.”

We choose to avoid using our muscles at each and every opportunity and then suddenly wonder why we’re obese. We drive to work, drive home and then drive to the gymnasium (if at all).

So many have become too lazy to cook or make anything for ourselves – we invent power tools & kitchen utensils to do it all for us. Take this scenario for instance:

Rather than whip a cake using a wooden spoon the old-fashioned way, we’d now sooner collectively sit in front of a computers all day long, earn enough money for a mechanical cake mixer which can do it for us (basically employing a whole host of product design engineers, entrepreneurs, the sales & marketing department, and everyone else who works in the wholesale and retail chain).

But in so doing, have we really saved any time? And is it really any easier? It certainly doesn’t sound any more efficient. That’s because it’s not!

Even so, we’re now sending a global message that we’d rather do things this way and “bugger the consequences”. We don’t even question why we don’t do it the old way anymore.

We basically do it because everyone else does. Is it the fault of employers who continually expect a higher standard of work? Or does the blame lie with the consumers themselves, who insatiably demand “the latest and greatest”.

We become irritated just thinking about the repercussions. What repercussions? We blindly swallow some kind of pill to mask the long-term consequences of doing things which are unnatural… be it for cholesterol, obesity, stress, or some other kind of “disease”.

Perhaps it is our own mode of thinking which is the true disease?

Despite all this, some of us would still rather be ‘fat’ & ‘schizophrenic’ than utilise our muscles. Is laziness a human condition, or what? These days, I don’t think of laziness as laziness, but rather, the ultimate form of sustainability. Perhaps laziness is good or us humans in the long term? Perhaps it is a long-term srvival strategy?

There is currently no international standardisation for comparing the mental health of different countries. Granted, this is a difficult thing to measure. But I’m willing to bet that there is a direct correlation between the incidence of mental health problems in a society and the amount of energy it consumes per capita.

As we rely on artificial machines to a greater extent, we also now tend to isolate ourselves from our natural environment. It’s as if the very purpose of technology is to extract our dependence on -our very existence in- nature itself. We are fast becoming co-dependent with modern technology. Take away our machines and I expect that chaos would quickly ensue. At the same time, modern man is writhe with mental crises; as a species, it seems as if modern [westernised] man is failing to adapt to an environment which we ourselves have created.

If ever I had a conspiracy theory, this would be it: that we are training the next generation to live without the presence of the natural world. We encourage this behaviour, either consciously or subconsciously, because we expect that the natural world as we know it won’t last very much longer. I find this thought horrendously depressing.

People today entertain themselves indoors with computer programs and plasma screens. It’s not real entertainment, it’s virtual entertainment. We even eat packaged, artificial food (okay although a part of it might actually be real, it certainly looks 100% synthesised).

We’ve augmented our communications with technology so much, that we are fast losing the ability to communicate naturally. We’re becoming completely dysfunctional. I don’t even need to go into it. Pretty soon, we won’t even be able to survive without anything artificial. Imagine, a species so ‘advanced’, that it can’t survive without its own creations. I find that incredibly ironic. Well, I suppose that’s why I call this blog Vida Enigmatica (Strange Life).

Ain’t life ironic – we can’t survive without technology now?

Future optimism scale


Knowing what I know about materials, their effect on ecology and people’s obsession with consumerism, I give humanity a score of about, oooh, 2.9. (and that’s me trying *very* hard to be generous and optimistic)

And you can subtract 0.1 from that number for every decade after that.

The trouble I see is that people are becoming more and more disconnected from what they buy. They don’t see the impact that it is having on other parts of the world. They don’t see any direct or local impacts, so some people even think “everything is rosy”.

On top of that, product life cycles are getting shorter and shorter and shorter, which is bad. We should be reward companies that sell timeless designs. Because there is less of an environmental footprint if you manufacture the same thing without any changes. Every time a part changes shape, moulds also have to change, that is not good for the environment. And the manufacturing phase of synthetic products contributes more to pollution than their end-of-life disposal.

90% of people refuse to even talk about it, like the problems will all magically “go away”. Cat videos get more likes on social media than most current environmental issues. And I find that to be quite saddening.

I don’t even think climate change or overpopulation is the biggest threat. It’s probably land clearing. We’re not even giving nature the chance to recover! If urbanisation continues, there just won’t be anywhere for other species to go! And it has been said that if insects disappear, we will soon follow. I think a greater threat to humanity is a mass extinction.

People should try to realise that if you put a great big hermetically-sealed dome right over the top of Manhatten, for example, it probably wouldn’t even work, because central park does not produce enough oxygen, and there is not enough space to grow food and get other material resources…

Probably the worst thing of all is the collusion between government, politics and business. The wrong people are being the most rewarded.

It’s not even 2100 that people should even worry about. It’s the centuries that follow that. With the current rate of deforestation, it’s not going to be a very fun world to live in…

Do keep in mind, I give [some] other species a much higher score than us, many an 8, 9 or even 9.9999 for some. But unfortunately, many many others (mammals and amphibians) will be, like, 0.1, 0.2 or 0.3. That’s really how bad it is. There are species out there with only a dozen specimens in existence.

Why do I seem to ‘hate’ the rich?

Ecologists have always said that one of the greatest threats to our natural environment is habitat destruction.

One of the main gripes I have against ultra-high net worth individuals is that they cause the most environmental degradation of all groups on this planet and they don’t tend to offset this with direct contributions back towards the natural environment.

I think the following advertisement nicely sums up the ‘attitude’ that some rich people seem to have:


So the reasons that I question ‘rich’ people are:

  1. Because rich people are usually responsible for more environmental destruction than poor people, they have brought about more degradative environmental changes.
  2. Because rich people are primarily motivated by money, they are more likely can be bought out (corrupted) with even more money.
  3. When the rich do give, they tend to give back to humanitarian causes. And if they do give, is it really enough of an offset? Not always, but often. One exception I have found is Mohammad Bin Zayeed; the man started his own species conservation fund. Another is the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation.

Why is this a problem? Well, because the only physical thing (that I know of) that stops our Earth from becoming uninhabitable is all the life forms found on Earth that stabilise everything for us. The biosphere.

Any biologist will tell you that, realistically, what is going to happen is that as nature continues to “bite back” with ever-greater intensity, productivity (and therefore profit) is just going to go down eventually… it has to. It must! Less biodiversity is ultimately going to lead to less profit. Do all investors and directors of the board actually realise that? Do they realise that infinite growth on a planet with finite resources is a physical impossibility?

So not only will it be harder to make profit feeling the increasing effects of climate change (like with the recent New York blizzard for example), but more damage will be likely to occur due to storms and other weather extremes. I’ll say it again. Less biodiversity is ultimately going to lead to less profit. Why do I say that? Why do I think it will lead to less profit? Read on..

So we know that there are other planets out there. We’re not living on the only planet. Planetary geologists like to compare the planet Earth with Mars and Venus. All of these three planets are very similar in size and yet they have distinctly different environments. These other planets show us what is possible. As of today, both of these other two planets are essentially uninhabitable. Yes we could put a person on Mars and they might survive for a while inside an artificially heated, pressurised and oxygenated atmosphere, but would they be self sufficient? The answer is no definitely not at first.

As is, nothing grows there on Mars. Nothing. Not even the most basic life form. So that means no food. Worse, there is no water. And worse still is that there is no oxygen.

What about Venus then? Well again, even if we could get there, even if we could live there, most businesses would be more viable back here on planet Earth than on the planet Venus. Wouldn’t they? Maybe the exception would be companies that need to utlise lots of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid.

Let’s take sulfuric acid. Let’s go with that example. Sure its useful to us here on Earth for all sorts of industrial purposes. So say we started to mine sulfuric acid on the planet venus. Even then we’d first need to get robots over there, wouldn’t we? And then we’d need to get the sulfuric acid back here on Earth.

But what are the transportations costs? How much fuel is burned? And doesn’t burning all that rocket fuel fuck up the Earth’s atmosphere even further? Well yes it does. What about if the Venus mining corporation had to pay carbon credits on all the tonnes of rocket fuel? And once there, how would the rocket get back to Earth? It would have to take enough fuel and liquid oxygen for the entire return journey. Because there is no oxygen on Venus. So now you tell me. Would it be a profitable enterprise?

Think about this (and keep in mind that I am one of the few scientists who have also set up my own business, so I do know a thing or two about profitability). Well in my professional scientific and business opinion, if you wanted to set up a business on the planet Mars, it would be more economically viable to locate your business at the South pole instead.

Why do I even bring this up here? What’s this got to do with rich people? What’s this got to do with money? Well, I don’t know of any businesses that are viable on either the planet Mars or Venus. Do you? Not even the most basic lemonade stand would work on the planet Mars or Venus. Would it? And rich people tend to forget this fact.

The newest space mission is estimated to cost $1.5 trillion dollars. That is a lot of investment money for anyone. So where is the ‘ROI’ going to come from that lot? Here’s what I wrote in another post of mine:

To me, it’s the most expensive & inefficient way to create the most boring food menu imagineable. Really. I mean, just think about how much those first few thousand lettuce leaves are going to cost! A billion dollars per lettuce leaf. That’s really great NASA. Thanks.

You see, if we had to pay for our oxygen supply, our water supply and our food supply down here on Earth like we would have to on Mars, then I’m sure that most businesses on Earth would become bankrupt within a matter of weeks. So economists (and rich people) are forgetting to take nature’s services into account. And when they do, I think they’ll realise that a forest is a very valuable place indeed.


Open letter to William Henry ‘Bill’ Gates.

Dearest Bill Gates:

I have been with you since windows 3.1. Since dos 2.0 even. It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?

And I see you have done really well. Your operating systems are installed on the majority of computers around the world. You’ve been “the world’s richest man” since as long as I can remember. Forbes tells me that you’ve topped the list seventeen times out of the last thirty years. Wow, that really is some accomplishment! I suppose I owe you a belated congratulations:


William, may I call you William instead of Bill? Bill reminds me so much of, well, money. So William, we all know that you have made a lot of money out of all of these software and hardware upgrades. A lot. You have exploited the rise of technology at every step of the way. Well okay. Someone had to do it.

But now I think you’ve gone too far. Yes you’ve gone that little bit too far.

Let’s get down to business. Here’s the thing. If I lose the ability to choose what my system does and when –a system I paid for– then by installing windows 10, ultimately I’m ceding control of my computer (not to mention my wallet) to you. Aren’t I? And I don’t like the sound of that.

So. Bill, can you tell me now how much windows 11 is going to cost when windows 10 forces its users to upgrade? Ditto for windows 12, 13, 14 …  Do you not have enough money already? Does Windows 10 even take any advantage of new hardware? Probably not.

See, I happen to think you’re ‘rich’ enough already. Here’s a word I don’t like to throw around much. But what the heck? I think you’re getting greedy.

What do I want? I’ll tell you what I want. I want you to try to live off a disposable income of $10,000 per year. Like the rest of us.

Or I could be generous. Let’s make it $100,000. Because, you know, I’m sure you don’t have to pay any rent or mortages. Right? So it’s basically just food, electricity and rates that you have to pay for…

If you lived off $100,000 per year, you could essentially give away the other 99.999988% of your net worth.

You and Melinda have been named “most philanthropic Americans“. But let’s take a look at the percentage you actually give:

Over their lifetime, the two have given out $30.2 billion, about 37 percent of their net worth. [source]

Ouch! That’s quite a difference isn’t it? 37% compared to 99.99988% ?

See, I don’t think you are all that charitable. No not as much as they say.

How do I know that? Well at the moment, I live off a measly $12,000 per year. And yet even so, I feel charitable/guilty enough living in a first world country to have give at least $200 to charity this year alone. That means if I had your amount of money and continued with my current lifestyle, I’d be donating at a rate of 99.999988% (note the extra 9 in there). And the year is not done yet.

So Bill, if it isn’t crystal/amorphous clear already, I feel that I have personally lost a lot of respect for you. If this is what being rich is about, you can stick your money. And you can stick windows 10 too!

So do you know what I’m going to do? Instead of purchasing windows 10 some time next year, I’m going to donate that money to an environmental charity instead. Like WWF. Or Greenpeace. Or The Wilderness Society. Or one of those special save the rhinos funds like the black mambas. Or even the Bob Brown foundation. Or even all of the above.

And I’d prefer to see a billion people donate their $100-200 to charities other than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Aka Microsoft. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to figure out that would mean $100-200 billion in charitable givings. Annually. Which again, is way more than you have given in your whole lifetime. So how about you let us decide what to do with our money, and stop forcing us to upgrade to windows 10?

Synthetic orange.

Suppose we could obtain two different types of oranges:

  1. Firstly, we can synthesise and assimilate the following chemical compounds:

    limonene, myrcene, valencene, linalool, octanal, decanal, ethyl butyrate, α-ionone, citronellal, and α-sinensal, E-2-octenal, 1-octen-3-ol, Z-4-decenal, E, E-2,4-nonadienal, guaiacol, γ-octalactone, and m-cresol, O-glycosylated flavones, flavonols, phenolic acids, ethyl acetate, 6-C-β-glucosyldiosmin, 6,8-di-C-glucopyranosylapigenin, 6,8-di-C-β-glucosyldiosmin, 2-oxo-L-threo-hexono-1,4- lactone-2,3-enediol, beta carotene, 2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid and heteropolysaccharide.

    This is my version of an artificial orange, a “chemical cocktail” by the way.

  2. Secondly, we can grow a tree, harvest the fruit, peel the skin and simply eat the orange.

Do you think that these are essentially the same thing? I think that’s a very good question to ask. Do both sources of food essentially provide the same nutrients?

Because I think that although we can synthesise many many complex molecules such as these, we can’t actually ‘manufacture’ a wholly artificial fruit that is identical in every way to a naturally grown one. Can we?

And even though it takes an enormous effort to characterise these natural chemical compounds and synthesise them, and nature does it for free with soil, sunlight, air and water, we still try. Without a plant seed, or a tissue culture sample, or a DNA strand, there is no way we’ll be able to do it either.

What’s my point? Well, without any prior knowledge on the subject of the human digestion process, I’ll make an assumption that the structure of food is needed to aid in both the chemical breakdown of the food and the timely extraction of its nutrients. I’ll bet that introducing the same mixture of concentrated liquid chemicals simultaneously into your gut won’t do your stomach lining any good. Time has shown us that there is always a price to play for taking shortcuts, especially with concentrated synthetic chemicals. Indeed, cancer is now one of the greatest of all threats to our biology – in fact it is now common for people to suffer bowel cancer due to the lack of fibre in their diet.

You might say that my two versions of an ‘orange’ are both essentially the same thing. Certainly while the same constituents may be present in the artificial chemical cocktail, the microstructure of theis “artificial fruit” is completely absent.

But aside from that, who actually wants to eat synthetic food? Do we not have time anymore to simply peel an orange? Or is there something else going on? Something deep, dark and insidious? It is my belief that without even realising it, we’re creating an artificial world for ourselves, with almost no control or direction. As technology invades more and more of our lives it erodes the natural; every part, everything from our food to our transport and even our entertainment are now designed by other people. We seek to study everything and replicate it, including life itself. Why?

What am I saying here? Well, I am just saying that all things considered, I think the natural food sources will always be the healthier than the synthetic alternatives.

Farming Mars

Another one wants to colonise Mars! Sorry, I can’t help myself:

Breakthroughs happen only when we stretch our physical limits

To make Planet Earth survivable, we envision what’s possible on Mars.

The Mars Farm Odyssey is an international consortium of like minds: companies, researchers, NGOs and government groups from the United States to China. We connect bleeding edge technologies and science in Controlled Environment Agriculture to feed a planet of 10 billion Earthlings at home and on Mars.


Whenever I see people talking about colonising Mars, I just have to speak up. And sorry for the language that is going to come, but I feel very passionate about this.

Dreamers! I think you’ll find that Earth, even in the “semi fucked” state that it’s in, is a far better home for people. Nicer. Easier. Cheaper. Better. Better ROI. Easier for people to adjust to.

Sorry to disappoint you, but there is not enough rocket fuel on this planet for 10 billion people… not only that, but the more people you get there, the more you are going to fuck things here. The fable “the dog and the bone comes to mind”.

And if it did work, if it was self-sufficient on Mars for a few hundred or thousand people, Marslings are only going to be telling Earth people about sustainability. They’d be telling *us* not to fuck our air, water and food supply. They’d be telling us to plant more trees and buy less stuff.

I think we should only go when we can do it sustainably.

Good luck with it, seriously. I wish you good luck. And note that I’m not saying it can’t ever be done. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

“We made it happen.”

Industrial offshore history…


WTF am I talking about? What am I whinging about this time?

Yes, I know. This blog is becoming like a diary of my personal life quest to maintain a strong sense of values, ideals that will hopefully lead this planet on to a better future, not a worse one. It’s becoming almost like therapy for me, writing this blog. Truly.

And so whether you’re a regular follower of my blog or a casual reader, here’s yet another whinge for posterity’s sake. Here’s what someone posted on LinkedIn today:

“industrial offshore history we made it happen …..gorgon”

And I really had to bite my tongue this time. Because this dude is a 1st degree connection. They’re talking about this project. I felt like commenting:

What exactly did you do?
Get paid to drill a hole underwater?
Take a blurry photo?
Bleach the reef?
Thanks a lot.

Hello! Global warming not mean anything to you? Hello?! For fuck’s sake. They’re fucking celebrating. *mutters further under breath*

These are the blurry faces, ladies and gentlemen, of seven dimwitted natural gas miners in Western Australia. Eight if you count the idiot who is taking the photo.

These are the lugheads who aren’t listening to the cleverest people today. I’m not talking about me. There are plenty of people who are smarter than me. They just don’t listen. Is it any wonder people are becoming so depressed? Is it?

Yes they may have a lot of braun –that’s pretty obvious from the photo– and they may work very hard in some truly horrible conditions, but they don’t have a functional brain between them. Haven’t got a fucking clue. They are probably be getting paid 100k, 150k or even 200k per annum. But where the fuck is their personal responsibility? Company accountability?

Let me tell you, future person from the year 2350, it barely exists today. It barely exisits. I feel like I’m on a planet full of morons. Can you believe that government authority actually allows this? They allow it and they encourage it. We have solar panels that can be refined from friggin’ beach sand, silicon being one of the most common elements in the Earth’s crust, and an almost endless supply of photos coming from our sun. And people still insist on burning chemicals to get energy now.

Honestly, we’ve got a bunch of lying politicians making their own rules for government. We’ve got stupid nimwits like my local gardener (spraying pesticide all over the place, thinking he’s doing a good job). And we’ve got people being paid shiteloads to ruin mother Earth, which is currently our only fucking home.

Will this blog post eventually get pack to these people? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m not aiming to be popular. I’ve noticed that people who were remembered in history, they usually faced an uphill battle their whole life. If nothing else it makes me feel better.

I’m trying to reinstate an indigenous tradition. Air, water, food first. Environment first, then business. Not the the other way around. You’d be surprised to learn that 99% of people today have it backwards.

I think I just cured myself of “gear aquisistion syndrome” (GAS).

A strange thing happened to me today. Desire left my body.

A B&H catalogue duly/dutifully (pick whichever word you prefer) arrived in the mail. Even though I never ordered one. I thought I would open in anyway. If only to separate the polyethylene plastic covering from the paper so that I could recycle it properly.

Now I will admit that one of my past times is photography. And about the only money I spend these days is on food, clothes and work stuff…

Nevertheless, I am living in the first world. And first world people are told to buy. To consume. We’re hardwired for it from birth. From before birth even. We’re not even born yet and there are presents waiting for us. As we get older, they make “infant sized” shopping trolleys.That’s how bad it is.

So I obliged and flicked through the thing. All 340 pages.

I know enough already to avoid catalogues at all cost. Because they make you want things. Unecessary things. Here are two great articles, one and two, on how to cure your GAS.

But this was my first B&H catalogue. My very first one. “Just a peek” I thought. “To see what’s new”.

Anyway, I was quite surprised to find that as I was flicking through the thing, there was not one item that I actually needed. And believe me, I looked quite intently. I looked at photos. I even scrutinised the product descriptions. More surprisingly, there was not even even one item that I  wanted to own. The desire was gone. Gone I tell you.

No USB 3.1 peripherals. No more usb hubs.  No thunderbolt devices. No thunderbolt dock. No ‘other’ computer accessories. No new mice or keyboards. No new routers. No modem. No high-end scanners and printers. No network attached drives. No portable wifi drive enclosures. No optical drive. No new SDXC cards. No cloud. No data bank. No more storage space required. No storage case. No software. No  ipad. No new drawing tablets. No graphics card. No new motherboard. No interruptible power supply. No power strip. No new lenses. No teleconverters. No filters. No new cameras. No new micro 4/3rds cameras. No large format cameras. No flash. No tripod. No parabolic slider. No underwater housings. No more spare batteries. No video equipment. No projector. No DVD player. No flast screen television. No curved screen television. No 3D television. No holographic television. No television bracket. No television antenna. No streaming media hub. No HDMI extender. No digital voice recorder. No microphone. No headphones. No rechargeable power pack. No audiophile cables & connectors. No turntable. No AV receiver. No speakers. No sound bar. No sound system. No graphic equalisers. No digital preamps. No joystick. No steering wheel. No GPS navigator. No dashcam. No thermal imaging camera. No night vision binolculars. No multimeter. No new smartphones. No bluetooth cradle. No cordless phone. No smart watch. No heart rate monitor. No sleep monitor. No activity monitor. No other monitors. No drones. No security camera. No alarm. No 3D printer. No 3D goggles. No virtual reality. No new bags.

I am done. I am done with consumerism.

I know none of it will make me ‘happier’. I already know. I am happy now, in this instant, with what I have. Happiness is not an accumulation of possessions. It is a state of mind. None of it will make me more productive, either.

I did want a 24mm Nikon AFD lens. Because my 12-24mm lens is “too slow” at 24mm (being f5.6), fairly large, fairly heavy. And my next focal length autofocus lens up from that is 35mm. Because it’s ‘only’ about AUD$400. And I was so close to getting that a few months back. But you know what? I know, wisely, that if I get that lens, it will always be “just one more”. So I am going to stop right here. 24mm is still very wide, too wide, for a normal lens. And I have a small little 28mm lens. I have a 35mm lens also. So that is enough. Enough is enough. “!Basta ya¡” (enough already) as they say in Spain. “ya está.” (that’s it). “Ya bastante.” (another way of saying “enough already”).

I am done and I am happy.
I am done and I am happy and I just wanted to share that with the world.

A message from our great elder, Savid Suzuki.

I went to see David Suzki talk about our planet’s health earlier this year at an event called ‘Hope for the Planet’. I’ve always been aware of the enviornment, ever since I did general studies way back in 1991.

So I paid to see this talk “hope for the planet”. I think all business owners, CEOs, directors, managers, millionaires, billionaires, developers, miners, indeed the entire human race should hear what David Suzuki has to say here. He speaks as a grandfather, an elder. Indigenous peoples will of course already know what he has to say.

“Nature couldn’t care less about human boundaries.” — David Suzki

Watch it & share. Because the fact that it only has a thousand views is unfathomable. Our future as a species depends on how many people listen to a talk like this.

We need to work collectively towards a better future. Otherwise, what’s the point of even working so hard on our businesses?

It’s so true when David Suzuki speaks about the most important things for us humans in this world: clean air, fresh water and uncontaminated, healthy food. Without aire, we’d all be dead in two minutes!

It is absolutely ridiculous that corporations can poison our world and get away with it. They are encouraged to do so by our own government. Workers in such industries are paid HUGE amounts of money and I see that as a form of environmental corrruption. When you pay your workers $100k, $200k, $1M, $10M salaries, it’s a way of getting them to forget about their conscience.

Anyway, I think seeing his talk [which is not quite what this video is about] made me realise my place in the world. I studied materials science so I know better than anybody where all these materials come from, how they are mined, extracted and used. I know that every time you buy something physical, something mandmade and synthetic, you are directly supporting the mining industry. 

And I’m sure if mining industries had their own way, no areas would be safe on this planet. They don’t truly care about this world. They only seem to care about profit. And that’s one of the many reasons why I try to reduce my consumption and materialism in all areas of my life. Ever since I decided to do this, it has made me much, much happier as a person.

I think that the whole concept of the “7 generations” that Indigenous American Indians have is way more evolved than the concept of industrialisation. I think that in that respect, Indgineous Australian Aborigines are probably a thousand years ahead of us in terms of sustainability. I think we need to look to them on how to best protect our world.

Dear America,

[TOP SECRET: classified]

I just wanted to say that if allow this person to die in your custody, they will become a martyr. And you don’t want that, do you? Because a martyr is ten times worse than a political prisoner. A martyr can never be forgotten. They are forever remembered throughout history.

And I’m sure you don’t want to start editing history now do you? Because that would put you alongside places like North Korea. And I’m sure you don’t want to do that. Because you’re trying to be a ‘better’ country.

Which martyr am I talking about? Well that’s just it. They’re not a martyr yet. Because they’re not dead. They’re still very much alive…

Why am I writing this? Well, I’m writing this because here is what Chelsea Manning, your most famous politicial prisoner, wrote today:

I need help. I am not getting any. I have asked for help time and time again for six years and through five separate confinement locations. My request has only been ignored, delayed, mocked, given trinkets and lip service by the prison, the military, and this administration.

I need help. I needed help earlier this year. I was driven to suicide by the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for. I didn’t get any. I still haven’t gotten any.

I needed help. Yet, instead I am now being punished for surviving my attempt. When I was a child, my father would beat me repeatedly for simply not being masculine enough. I was told to stop crying—to “suck it up.” But, I couldn’t stop crying. The pain just got worse and worse. Until finally, I just couldn’t take the pain anymore.

I needed help, but no one came then. No one is coming now.

Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison—or by anyone within the U.S. government. I have asked for nothing but the dignity and respect—that I once actually believed would be provided for—afforded to any living human being.

I do not believe that this should be dependent on any arbitrary factors—whether you are cisgender or transgender; service member or civilian, citizen or non-citizen. In response to virtually every request, I have been granted limited, if any, dignity and respect—just more pain and anguish.

I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding. As of 12:01 am Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2016, and until I am given minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity, I shall—refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten my hair in any way; consume any food or drink voluntarily, except for water and currently prescribed medications; and comply with all rules, regulations, laws, and orders that are not related to the two things I have mentioned.

This is a peaceful act. I intend to keep it as peaceful and non-violent, on my end, as possible. Any physical harm that should come to me at the hands of military or civilian staff will be unnecessary and vendictive. I will not physically resist or in any way harm another person. I have also submitted a “do not resuscitate” letter that is effective immediately. This shall include any attempts to forcibly cut or shorten my hair or to forcibly feed me by any medical or pseudomedical means.

Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me. I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.

I need help. Please, give me help.
Chelsea Manning

Yes this person, Manning, exposed one of the underlying reasons for at least some of the terrorism that we are now seeing… and that is that innocent people were being shot down by helicopter gunships like in the video above.

That was actually a very brave thing for anyone to do. Because I’m sure that that person knew there would be some repurcussions. But they did it anyway.

And so what happened then? Well, instead of Americans and the government simply watching the video and starting to ask themselves the really hard questions like “why do some people hate the West?” or “have we done anything to piss foreigners off?” or “what have we done to deserve this?”. What did you do?

You took the ‘easy’ approach. Next, you tried to silence that person by giving them an unfair trial. [Read more…]

Message to the beauty industry

Someone recently wrote this on LinkedIn. And I think it is because of some of the more ‘critical’ things that people are writing on there. Here is what was said about us:

I am not sure that calling consumers vain, stupid or irresponsible is going to win hearts and minds. Many consumers will use these products to address real dermatological issues such as adult acne – if you’ve never suffered from it you are very, very lucky. It is not vanity to want to present yourself to the world blemish free.

Raise awareness, educate and inspire to use natural products like crushed apricots etc but as any parent, spouse, manager or mentor knows, constant streams of negativity do not win respect, admiration or a desire to follow/change.

I have taken a while to respond to your reply. Because I was thinking about how best to do that. Firstly, it’s not just consumers that are being “vain, stupid or irresponsible”, it’s the businesses that are as well! Perhaps ignorance is a better word to describe it?

Firstly, from a materials point of view, I do not understand why anyone would want *additional* exposure to synthetic polymers. Plastics frequently contain plasticisers and half of those are known to be carcinogenic… we touch plastic items all day long and I for one don’t think it is all that good for us.

Okay, so many plastics do not contain plasticisers you might say. Well here is something else that people should know more about. (antimony (III) oxide is used as a catalyst in the production of PET)

So yes, if you eat fish, or indeed any food that comes from an ocean and you use creams containing microbeads, and those same microbeads are found in one-third of fish that are being caught around the world, yes you are being kind of stupid. Sorry, but you are. I think all ecologists would probably agree with me on that one (because they cannot be considered good for the environment). Microbeads that is, not ecologists. Some things just need to be said. [Read more…]

Why do not more people care?

Or do they just not know what to do?

What I personally find unbelievable, incredulous in fact, is most people’s indifference to what is happening to this world. Are people merely in denial or do they simply not care about what is going on?

I think we’re getting to the stage where the environment should be getting top priority in all the media outlets, not the lowest priority. Citizens of this planet should be very concerned. They should be talking about it more. Because the problems won’t go away by themselves.

So this ex-scientist repeats:
Without biodiversity, not only will we stand less chance of long-term survival (I’m talking about the centuries and millennia to come), but it won’t even be as an enjoyable world to live in… less natural wonders to look at and be inspired by and less choice of food.

Can journalists stop using the term “dole bludgers” please?

I wasn’t planning on writing about personal issues on this blog, but I couldn’t help notice the headlines in the paper a few weeks ago…

I resent the term “dole bludger” being thrown around willy-nilly. I’m talking about this article, which appeared last month as a front page news headline. Really, this is not at all a politically correct phrase. It’s *absolutely* derogatory and offensive and I begin to fume with anger whenever I see supposedly “unbiased journalism” articles continually referring to this terminology in national papers such as the Telegraph and the Herald.

This is not a term that should be thrown around lightly. It’s *not* the 1980’s anymore. Since when did this term become acceptable to use in the national media?

I think this is a sorely outdated term and it *completely* isolates & alienates the thousands of people on legitimate welfare who ARE genuinely trying to seek employment (or self-employment). [Read more…]

What this scientist thinks of NASA’s 2035 mission to Mars…

The 2035 Mars space mission is said to cost an estimated US$1.5 trillion.

What are my thoughts on this? That sounds like an aweful lot of money to me — to keep four to six people alive on another planet— in my view it’s money that could be put to far better things, like keeping 7 or 8 billion alive on this one.

To put things into perspective, it’s the equivalent of spending 94% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product… for what? A dozen or so people to have the trip of a lifetime… at the most? That’s one hell of an expensive postcard!

If I personally had US$1.5 trillion dollars to play with and I wanted to ENSURE the future surivial of the human race, why, do you know what I’d do? I’d buy up all the wilderness areas up in poorer countries. I’d abandon that silly space mission. That’s what I’d do. And this is coming from someone that liked reading Carl Sagan’s cosmos… [Read more…]

Wouldn’t it be cool if this became a reality?

This new petition is gathering a lot of momentum right now…

Why should people sign? Because it’s the little things like plastic bottle tops that are easily blown around in windy weather… and these small items are also the most easily mistaken for food by marine animals.

Most plastic floats and now an area of plastic waste that is twice the size of Texas has already accumulated in the Pacific ocean and it even has its own name… the “Pacific Garbage Patch”.

I’m sure that PepsiCo already knows this. The question is, what are they doing about it? I think it’s time they were held a little more accountable. They should be more responsible and invent a completely new bottle opening system, so that the bottletop will not (or cannot) physically separate from the rest of the container. That way, they can be recycled together as once piece (as it should be) — with a smart redesign, plastic bottle tops won’t ever end up in the ocean again!

How come the plastic bottle tops last a thousand years longer than the actual drinks inside? [Read more…]

GLOBAL PETITION: Tell McDonalds to replace all their one-time-use plastic straws with paper straws.

I have started yet another petition; this one is aimed squarely at McDonalds restaurants…

Small items like plastic straws and bottle tops are easily blown around in windy weather. Millions of plastic straws end up in the ocean and tonnes of plastic waste has already accumulated in the Pacific Garbage Patch.

I think ALL fast-food restaurants need to be much more aware about where materials come from and where they go at the end of their life.

Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine animals, and their young, including sea turtles and the black-footed albatross. Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the patch. Of the 1.5 million Laysan albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are found to have plastic in their digestive system. Approximately one-third of their chicks die, and many of those deaths are due to being fed plastic from their parents. Twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons of that debris being fed to albatross chicks.

[Read more…]

What is the environmental cost of consumerism?

“We’re very very disconnected from what we consume. So because of the widening degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed we no longer have any real appreciation for the embodied energy, the embodied destruction, the embodied suffering that goes in to every stage of the supply chain in the things we buy.” — Mark Boyle

I‘m sure that most consumers don’t care less what chemical elements are used in the manufacture of all the products that they buy. I’m talking about all the elements and compounds required to make all of these products function like they do. But consumers should care. We should care about what products are made of, what they are made from.

But with things like consumer electronic devices, customers simply don’t think about their ‘ingredients’ much. I think the problem with this world today is that consumers don’t question the true origin of synthetic materials, let alone how they are extracted and processed.

I think people really need to wake up and ask where their materials are coming from, learn about all the many processing steps each material requires (extraction, refinement, manufacturing, production) and also ask what happens to all these materials at the end of the product’s life. In many cases, even with recycling of plastic/paper/metal, the majority of materials on the periodic table aren’t being recycled and are ending up in landfill (and/or the ocean).

I think each product sold should have an ‘ingredients’ label showing exactly what materials are in it. That way, people could [eventually] reference which materials have the highest ecological impact…

The obvious exception is of course food. Wherever food is concerned, then consumers quite rightly want to know what they are consuming. We want to know all the food ingredients. We want to know what we put into our bodies.

[Read more…]

Philosophy of green economics: promoting a new oxygen tax.

I think many people operate on the assumption that our technology makes us somehow ‘superior’ to all other species; thus we feel like we are more independent and separate from nature, we have become more detached. And therein lies the problem…

If you do think along those lines, perhaps you should ask yourself: Where does your oxygen supply come from? Where does all of our fresh water come from? And who, or what, actually cleans and maintains the health of rivers, lakes and oceans which have provided us with food for hundreds and thousands of years?

Who actually gets rid of nature’s organic waste? No, it’s not your local sewerage treatment plant. It’s bacteria. It’s algae. It’s molluscs. It’s crustaceans. That’s who.

Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown
Illustration by Leslie Dean Brown

And who renews the nutrients in the soil? And I don’t mean who fertilises the soil, I mean, who breaks down the fertiliser? It’s not the farmer. All farmers do is plant crops, remove ‘weeds’ and ‘pests’ and then harvest those same crops. In that sense, farmers don’t ‘grow’ crops — crops grow themselves! Farmers maintain crops. They guide crops so that they are more productive. The farmer doesn’t pay his legion of plant employees, does he? He doesn’t pay the organims that do all of the really hard back-breaking work right down in soil, does he? [Read more…]

What is the most valuable thing that exists today?

If you were to take a trip into outer space, you’d quickly find out that the most valuable things to us humans are the very simple resources we need to survive.

I TYPE “what is the most valuable thing in the universe?” into google and nine of the top ten ‘results’ talk about money. I might as well have typed “what is the most expensive thing in the universe?”.

It’s not the same thing though, is it? So let me tell you something about ‘value’. The most valuable things in the world cannot be bought or sold. To begin with, things are only worth what people are prepared to pay for them. Anything that can’t be recreated, replicated or reproduced by man somehow is deemed ‘priceless’ – it is a a term which essentially means we cannot place a true value on something that is irreplaceable.

We live in a very special place and every single day of our lives we take it for granted. The average place in the universe is devoid of oxygen, has no atmospheric pressure, no water, no food, no gravity and is 270.45°C degrees below freezing. If you were starving, dying of thirst, freezing or gasping for oxygen, I’m sure you’d find that all of those over-priced garbage items on any “most expensive things in the world” list would suddenly become completely useless to you and therefore utterly worthless in the whole scheme of things.

That’s why the cleverest scientists believe that the most valuable thing to us humans is [Read more…]

The ultimate rant from an environmentalist.

So I was signing a whole bunch of petitions on care2 just now and came across this text written by a man named John Smith, which was left as a comment!

I don’t believe in any form of god, but I think this man is at his wit’s end already and I know exactly how he feels. I thought I’d save it for the sake of posterity, and to hopefully encourage some of you [Read more…]