SUMMARY: Dr. Bill Miller, author of “The Microcosm Within” on climate & new diseases. From Wales, Lloyd Jones’ new “cli-fi” work, and “Victory Gardens” Vancouver co-founder Lisa Giroday on urban farming.
There’s lots to do and hear in this edition of Radio Ecoshock. I start out asking Dr. Bill Miller about climate change and disease. But we dig into humanity’s weak spot – the balance of immune systems which can wipe out any species quickly – or help us evolve. Miller says the microcosm rules all.
Then we’re off to a tiny village in Wales, tucked into the United Kingdom. From his family farm, author Lloyd Jones tells us about his cli-fi book, a tale of the unwinding of our good times as climate change grinds things down.
The finale is a bright young voice from Vancouver, Canada. Lisa Giroday explains her Victory Gardens workers co-op, and the ways to create green jobs deep in the city.
Off we go.
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THE MICROCOSM DETERMINES HOW WE EVOLVE OR GO EXTINCT
Dr. Bill Miller has been a radiologist for decades. That brought him out of any specialty, and into the world of tiny
things within our bodies. He realized the human DNA, recently discovered, hardly covers what we are as an organism.
In fact we are a confederation of tiny beings. At least 9 out of 10 cells found in the human body are not ours! We host other organisms on every part of us, from eyelashes to toe-nails. There is far more foreign DNA and tiny organisms in our blood, guts, – everywhere. This conglomeration of co-dependence would total a much larger DNA picture, something Miller labels the “Hologenome”.
Science shows that each of these organisms, from bacteria on up, have a type of cognition. They solve problems. Miller gives the example of an organism that enters our bodies, but seeks and finds our bones as the only place to live. There’s a kind of spooky recognition that we don’t know who we are at all, and our daily consciousness doesn’t reflect decisions made all over our bodies without our knowledge.
“Current research has unexpectedly revealed that all cells and microbes have elemental cognition and a previously unappreciated capacity for discrimination and awareness. From these faculties, cooperative natural genetic engineering is enabled; and it is from this starting point that biological complexity evolves. The Microcosm Within illuminates how immunological factors dominate evolution and extinction.”
This vision of the multi-self, if you will, led Miller to realize that the immune system is key to both evolution and
extinction. Sure Darwin’s slow process of natural selection of the fittest takes place. But there are also sweeping changes of biota due to changes in the immune landscape.
On the larger human scale, we can see this in the great plagues of the Middle Ages, or the decimation of the aboriginal people in the Americas, once European diseases arrived. There was no immunological resistance. Scientists recently found evidence of an “end-of-the-world” class disease in Ancient Egypt.
That’s the great fear behind things like SARS, the Bird Flu, or the Middle Eastern disease MERS.
Bill Miller adds a new disease to our radar: Chikungunya. This tropical disease has spread in the CariBbean, and is now showing up in the US South and Latin America. With proper medical care (which is not available in many countries) you can survive Chikungunya. But then years later you suffer painful after-effects which can be disabling. Check out this recent article in Wired magazine about the disease.
The point is with climate change, the range of formerly “tropical” diseases is moving north (or south in the Sounthern Hemisphere). We’re seing Dengue Fever in Florida and Texas. Nile Fever has spread as far north as Canada. Malaria has moved into the highlands of Africa which used to be safe.
Miller suggest it may be disease which determine our fate, personally and as a species. Not just our diseases, but diseases of our food animals and plants as well. The Koala Bear is threatened by a new disease, as are bananas and many other crops. Perhaps, says Miller, we should spend less on massive projects like Carbon Capture and Storage, and more on the study of the immune system which protects – or fails to protect, all of us.
Extreme weather can also affect disease. When we get those torrential downpours, a sewage plant can flood out, or mosquitos thrive – just when the human community has been weakened, possibly by homelessness or lack of food. Extreme heat also weakens us.
It’s a stimulating take not just on climate change, but what life really is. I found our talk eye-opening.
You can find a lot more in his book “The Microcosm Within, Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome” and at his website. http://www.themicrocosmwithin.com/
LLOYD JONES: CLIMATE CHANGE, WALES, AND OUR FRAGILE CIVILIZATION
Sometime we can see things better from the edge. Our guest, the Welsh wanderer and cli-fi novelist Lloyd Jones reports back from his personal edge.
Lloyd Jones discusses his relationship with the land and his concerns about global warming – the catalyst for his magnificent novel, “Y Dwr” (Water). We start with the moving audio in a short film on the farm in north Wales where he grew up. The film was created by Sara Penrhyn Jones for Wales Literature Exchange.
The farm is near the village of Abergwyngregyn, near Bangor Wales. The short film on Vimeo, about his life and work, touched me on several levels. In some ways, it captures a bit of my own journey, and this program.
As Jones says in his Vimeo presentation, it’s not like Wales can affect this path toward a new and unknown climate. Can people in Wales really picture this coming future? Is there anybody left who knows how to survive without plenty of cheap oil and gas from abroad?
I asked hopefully if Lloyd, in his travels, encountered people organizing to live differently, say in Transition Towns,
co-operative farms, or with self sufficiency? Sadly, he replied “No”. In fact, during his walks, most often people
are locked away each in their own homes watching television. We talk about what modern agribusiness has done to food and farms.
The novel “Y Dwr” (the Welsh word for Water) is set in rural Wales in a world changed greatly by global warming. Civilization has not been able to cope with the blows, and the cast of characters must re-learn how to survive directly from the land around them, as Lloyd’s parents did on their farm. It’s not easy, and in fact Jones does not provide a stock happy ending. The story of climate change may not end well for most humans.
The novel is available on Amazon in the UK (and so anywhere in the world). It is listed as a Kindle edition as well. Be warned: the novel is written in Welsh, not English!
Y Dwyr should not be confused with Llamhigyn Y Dwr, the mythological Welsh creature also called “the water leaper“. That one looks like a cross between a bat and a frog.
There’s a real charm about Lloyd Jones. It’s hard to describe, but I think you’ll like the interview, as I did.
VICTORY GARDENS AND URBAN FARMING IN VANCOUVER, CANADA
As soon as you start to grow food, whether in your own yard or a community garden, you’ll find a network of humans comes along too. Barely a day goes by, when someone doesn’t show up at our door with extra tomato plants, an arm-load of rhubarb, or a tip on where to find wild-growing cilantro.
A team of urban gardeners-for-hire in Vancouver Canada is taking that spirit to the world. It’s called Victory Gardens and you can expect their video tips to show up on Youtube.
Joining us from Vancouver is one of those Victory Gardeners, Lisa Giroday.
I see urban farming as a terrific way to create a lot of green jobs. I ask Lisa for tips for people who want to start
out doing this.
Listen to, or download this can-do interview with Lisa Giroday here.
Here are more links to learn about the Victory Garden project, for ideas you could apply in your own city. Their groovy web site is here. Find them on Facebook here. And check out this first Victory Garden You tube video.
I learned about the Victory Garden project from this excellent article in the Vancouver Sun newspaper.
IT’S MY CONTINUING PLEASURE…
It’s my continuing pleasure to make these programs for you. I’m Alex Smith. Tune in next week for Radio Ecoshock.
We leave the program with a snippet from a new climate song I’m working on. It’s called “Climate Change – We Don’t Want It.” That could involve you at your next climate action, or even a rave dance. This is the chorus to chant:
We don’t want it
We can’t stand it
Don’t let it happen!
I’d love to see that chant spread around the world. If you can have a choir sing that, or record a crowd chanting it
– I’d like to add that to my song.
May of 2014 was the hottest May on Earth since humans learned how to keep records of temperatures. This may end up as the hottest year ever. And those records will be broken as long as you live. Let’s use music to spread the word about the challenge of global warming!