Doctor Nature: How our health hinges on biodiversity – MAHB

http://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/doctor-nature/

This is an excellent blog post by Holly Moeller about the threat of disappearing environments and the flora and fauna within them and the fact that most of our key medicines are found from nature.

The most telling part of the post was a fact that made me open-mouthed with amazement:

It’s no wonder, then, that when scientists hunt for new medicines, they often begin by screening natural compounds. Today, as concerns mount over antibiotic resistance, with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus killing 18,000 people in the United States each year, and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis infecting almost half a million people annually, the need for new antibiotics is urgent. Research expeditions into the heart of the rainforest or to the bottom of the ocean bring back samples that are screened for antimicrobial activity. Newly discovered compounds are also tested for anti-cancer activity as we continue to seek elusive cures for that deadly set of diseases.

Successful as these approaches have been in the past, they will continue to work only so long as we have plenty of raw material to work with. At the moment, scientists estimate that we have described 15% or less of all the species currently alive on the planet. A huge potential reservoir of new medicines is contained in Earth’s biodiversity – hidden in plain view among omnipresent microbes and tucked into remote corners of the planet where humans never venture.

The fact that we have discovered only 15% or less of all species currently alive on Earth  is the thing that made me sit back in amazement. We are threatening habitats that contain life that could help us overcome some of the dreaded diseases that constantly threaten humanity and we will destroy them without ever knowing what they may have helped us to overcome. In my  book that is just plain madness. We really need to see how important the conservation of the environment is for any future we may have!

This is a timely and important post that I urge people to read.

Why I am voting Green

I will be casting my vote in the forthcoming General Election here in the U.K. for the Green Party candidate.

I do not expect the candidate to win and therefore my vote will simply be for my personal satisfaction.

I believe that it is important that I vote because so many fought for so long to secure the rights that people take for granted these days and are not bothered if they ignore.

I can understand fully their apathy. The present political scene is a confused mess that has been caused by successive managerial so-called “leaders” who lack any real convictions. I ,on the other hand, do have beliefs and issues that I care about. My vote will be cast to add my name to the list of those like-minded people in my country who have similar beliefs. We do not expect to see a Green Party landslide victory in the morning of Friday 8th May, indeed they may have just their one seat in Brighton to fight their cause in the next Parliament.

But I will have used my democratic right to vote and used that vote on a Party that actually stands for the issues of fairness, equity and of course has a powerful stance on the environmental issues such as CO2 emissions and Global Warming that the main political parties pay lip service to.

For those who are interested, below is a short run through of the Green Party’s main political policies. It ticks most of the boxes for me in a way that none of the other political parties’  policies do.

I hope you use your democratic right to vote (if you live in the U.K. or are eligible to vote in our election). I hope you will vote for the party that matches your political outlook and beliefs and not because your family have always voted that way. I suspect I am in a minority of those who are really concerned with issues and not personalities.

I think, I believe and I support the Green Party.

What we stand for

Imagine a political system that puts the public first. Imagine an economy that gives everyone their fair share.

Imagine a society capable of supporting everyone’s needs. Imagine a planet protected from the threat of climate change now and for the generations to come. That’s the world we want to create and we believe we have the means to do it.

By ensuring that everyone has access to a secure job that pays at least the Living Wage we will build an economy that works for the common good, not just the privileged few. By restoring public services to public hands we will ensure they are run in the interests of the people that use them.

By investing in renewable energy and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, we will build a stable and sustainable society that protects our planet from climate change.

By building more social rented homes and bringing abandoned buildings back into use we will ensure that everyone has a secure and affordable place to live.

Vote for Green Party of England & Wales and you can help us build a society that works for the Common Good.

– See more at: https://www.greenparty.org.uk/we-stand-for

The need for sleep and other issues

In the above video Dr Dan Siegel discusses the effect on your brain when using tablets or smart phones late at night.

I feel that his warnings about the dangers of our “digital lifestyle” are not getting through.

Put very simply we need sleep for a reasonable period, say seven hours, in order for the toxins in our minds to be destroyed or dissipated.

This need for sleep was a major part of an excellent book I read recently, “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington. She wrote the book following a collapse in her home during a period of her life where she lived to work and was constantly connected and got about three hours of sleep a night.

She has become, to quote her, a “Sleep Evangelist” trying to get people to realise that we can’t continue the punishing lifestyle that we have created for ourselves.

She goes into other areas of change of lifestyle, including the need to turn off our machines as often as we can and appreciate real human interaction with important people that we know and love and not numerous “virtual friends” who we do not really know.

She discusses the need to focus on the present and not regret the past or live with numerous plans for the future.

It all seems to be common sense to me but I have stepped off the treadmill following my retirement and can appreciate the need for these things when I am not in the middle of trying to get material advancement in order to keep up with everyone else.

If you are still on the treadmill then I would advise you to spend a few hours of your time reading Arianna Huffington’s book. It may transform your life!

The Technology Shabbat

Tifffany Shlain and her husband Ken Goldstein are very much a couple who live the life of highly  tech savvy Californians. She is an acclaimed filmmaker who co-founded the famous “Webby Awards” (the Oscars of the blogging world). He is a Professor of Robotics and an acclaimed digital artist who teaches at The University of California, Berkeley.

They have introduced into their lives (and the lives of their two daughters) a fascinating idea. Once a week on a Friday evening as the Sun sets until Saturday evening as the Sun sets (the traditional times set out in the Old Testament as the Jewish Shabbat), they switch of all electronic communication devices, laptops,tablets, cell phones and live without them for the day.

In the video above Tiffany explains the way that this action has allowed her family to catch up with each other, to talk, play and plan. She feels that we are bombarded every day with masses of information and that we need some sort of break in the routine.As non-religious Jews they felt that it made sense to use the Shabbat, the day of rest, as the obvious place to take their break from the invasion of information that was the basis of their life for the other six days of the week.

I was very taken with this idea and felt that it was something that many of us could consider trying. I am not proposing that we all follow the Shlain’s and use the Jewish Shabbat as the day. Any 24 hour period would be useful. It would surprise us how much time we have for rediscovering the joy of interacting with each other as well as the joy of small talk and catching up with personal news.

The Shlain’s look forward to the time that the Shabbat ends and they can get back to joining in the chaotic noise that constitutes our daily digital lives. The advantage though is that they feel rested from the assault to their senses and more able to play their full part in contributing to what Tiffany calls our global interdependence.

The 50$ challenge

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/proving-the-butterfly-effect-with-a-single-act-of-kindness/

The link above is to a really heartwarming report on the CBS Evening News about a man, Chris Rosati, who has ALS otherwise known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”. Despite his illness, he has decided to live the rest of his life in a positive fashion and try and do good for others.

In this report he decided to see if the idea of “The Butterfly Effect
could be used in the field of charitable giving. He went to a local restaurant and gave 50$ each to two young sisters with the request that they did something with it as an act of kindness.

Now this was an interesting experiment in more ways than one. It would of course be interesting to see what good cause the young girls chose to support. But there was of course the chance that they would have thought that this was their lucky day and gone off to the nearest shopping mall and spent it all on themselves!

In fact they did pass it on and Chris’ intentions were well used as you would see if you see the report. But this does raise the question of just how divided a society the U.S. is and indeed the rest of the so-called “First World”. There are those who genuinely want to help others and understand that they live a life of plenty whereas others (many in their own country) do not and then there are those who believe that society is every man for himself and that they are not “their brother’s keeper”.

I would think it a good experiment to distribute as many 50$ “gifts” as possible to as many young people as can be found and then track what was done with the cash. The “Butterfly Effect” can indeed work, but it needs the butterfly to flutter by and land on the leaf in the first place!

Selma: the next 50 years

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/07/john-lewis-selma_n_6823268.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&ir=Politics

image

As a commentary on a significant historical event, I found Congressman John Lewis’ series of Tweets and photos about his recollection of the famous Selma March (see link above) very compelling reading.

I have always been interested in the Civil Rights  Movement of the 60’s having seen the events from the safety of an armchair as a white boy living in a foreign land ( the U.K.).

Throughout my life I have continued to follow the “progress” of the fight for black people to get the chances to contribute to their society that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke so eloquently and emotionally about in his great speeches.

I have placed the word progress in the above-paragraph in inverted commas because a half century after the events of Selma, so little has changed for so many and there is an argument that things are getting worse.

The commentary on Selma is about the memory of a significant historical event but also helps us to see that Dr. King’s fight is not over and that more, much more still needs to be done if anything is to improve in the next 50 years!

See:

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-lewis-selma-movie-20150119-story.html

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/eyewitness/html.php?section=2

Signing off for now

I have decided, after 625 posts over a period of over three years to have an extended break from blogging.

Since I started this blog my life has changed in a number of ways. I have stopped working, I have retired, I have moved to a different part of the country and my time is largely spent supporting my wife and in studying various MOOCs.

I have found myself having less and less time to research and write blog posts.

I have had over 75000 views of my posts, which averages 25000 a year, so not too bad. I have 45 regular followers which I am very grateful for.  To all who have read my work I extend my thanks.

I shall not be closing down my blog as a number of posts have regular views.It also holds open the possibility that I shall write a post in the future. A blog is a great place to express your ideas and there my well come a time that I will feel that I need such a place to shout out or reflect.

So for now, as the title says I am signing off…. with thanks to you all.

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