Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Water Wednesday: We are one

Tibetan Endless Knot
Philosophers, religious leaders, New Agers, even The Lion King tell us We Are One. All things are connected. Now science is in on the act.

Recently, scientists discovered that the bacteria in the oceans communicate with one another. That's not all. Phytoplankton communicate with each other as well. In fact, the so-called red-tide or luminescence we see at certain times of the year appears to occur as a result of the plankton signaling the colony that it's time to shine. Those lovely little neon tetras that glow in blues, reds and greens? They can't do that without just the right population of bacteria in their cells, in just the right numbers, talking to each other like crazy.

Phytoplankton, bacterial and viruses account for >90% of all oceanic biomass.
Kay Bidle
as quoted by Larry O'Hanlon
IM Interview: The Science of Superorganisms

Phytoplankton - Foundation of the oceanic food chain
So what has this to do with #WaterWednesday and "We are One"? First, we need to know that bacteria, plankton and viruses make up about ninety percent of the total biomass in the ocean. Ninety percent, and they are at the bottom of the food chain.

Tiny organisms, crustaceans, and fish eat them. Those critters are eaten by bigger fish and other animals. We eat them. Sometimes the bacteria is passed along, just as Mercury and other toxic chemicals are passed along. We eat the fish. We get some of their bacteria, for good or ill.

Scientists believe that if oceanic bacteria have the means to communicate with one another, all bacteria may have the means. We just don't know about it. According to Kay Bidle, we do know that some pathogens regulate their potency much as the phytoplankton regulate their luminescence.

Another example is virulence. In some pathogens, the production of their toxins is regulated in a similar way. They won't produce it until there is a critical density of bacteria.
Larry O'Hanlon
IM Interview with Kay Bidle and Vardi Assaf
The Science of Superorganisms

That's good news for medicine, because if we can learn how disease-causing cells regulate their toxins, we might be able to use that knowledge in prevention and healing. It's never as easy as that, though, is it? We discovered penicillin and in less than a century saved untold suffering and lives. But there's a downside. Now, instead of developing ever stronger, more resistant humans, we've developed ever stronger bacteria, some call them Super Bugs, that potentially could wipe our entire species from the planet.

What's more, scientists recently discovered that sharks and fish are infected with "super-bugs" too. They don't know for sure why the marine animals have these bacteria, but they make a good case that it's because we humans excrete huge quantities of antibiotics into our waste stream. Eventually these antibiotics find their way to our oceans and the sea animals that live in them. The disease-causing bacteria that live in the oceans are inoculated with the antibiotics and develop resistance. Sea-faring super bugs escalate.

Fish farm out of Copacobana, Bolivia
© soylentgreen23
Creative Commons
Add to that enormous quantities of antibiotics hitting the waves in our salmon farms. Now, I love salmon. Lots of people love salmon. So much so that giant fish farms filled with millions of fish in a confined space--think oceanic CAFO*--are jammed together where they eat and poop all day long, pulling fecal matter into their gills along with oxygen-supplying water, and getting so sick that the fish farmers have to shoot them up, so to speak, with tons of antibiotics to keep them healthy enough to make it to our tables.

But if we are flushing antibiotics into waterways in quantities high enough to breed resistance in the fish we eat, we are only hastening the arrival of a time when dangerous infectious microbes come from the sea, preconditioned to withstand our efforts to stop them.

There's the rub. One way and another, we're pouring antibiotics into our streams and oceans. The microscopic sea flora and fauna are reacting to them. Killer bacteria are developing ever more resistance. They can wipe out whole populations of the food chain. Those they don't kill carry the super bugs in their bodies and to ours.

Now that we know single-celled organisms communicate with one another as a colony, signaling, "Hold off a bit, there aren't enough of us to light up," or "We have reached critical mass! All systems are go for killing off this shark!", we need to step back and ask some serious questions. As we pour more and more antibiotics, pesticides and fertilizers into the oceans, how will the signaling we only recently discovered, and have yet to understand, be affected? In turn, how will those changes affect the animals and fish that depend on the microorganisms for survival? That includes us. We are One. Everything we do is connected to everything else.

It's possible that my mitochondria are talking to your mitochondria right now, but I can't hear them, so I'm opening the cyber-room for discussion. Where are you on the continuum of "everything we do is related to everything else"?

*CAFO: Confined Animal Feedlot Operation

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Wanda said...

I don't even know what to say to this. But your mitochondria probably know what my mitochondria have to say about it.

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