Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Free The Children! (From Their Parents Fear)

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming anybody. But I’ve been reading the introduction to Carl Honoré’s Under Pressure: Putting The Child Back In Childhood, and it’s a strange world in a strange time. But you parents out there can offer way more intelligent feedback than I can.

Here are a couple of stats for you, pg 8:

“The International Association for the study of Obesity estimates that 38 percent of under-eighteens in Europe and 50 percent in North and South America will be obese in 2010.

For those keeping track, that’s ten months from now, give or take. Maybe 2011 will be a lean year. Things are cyclic, after all.

Already the extra pounds are condemning children to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arteriosclerosis and other disorders once confined to adults.

Well, why should adults get all the effects of privilege?

And this on the next page from the World Health Organization—who must be in cahoots with Big Giant Fat Ugly Pharma (who in power isn’t?) (pg 9):

“…by 2020 mental illness will be one of the top five causes of death or disability in the young. In Britain, a teenager tries to commit suicide every twenty-eight minutes.

Rather than end it all, Japanese teens retreats into their bedrooms and refuse to come out for weeks, months or even years at a time. Experts estimate that over 400,000 of the country’s adolescents are now hikikomori, or full time hermits”!

That borders on laughable, if not insane. What does this mean? What is in our water? It’s fantastically perverse. What’s in the bedroom? Hopefully air-freshener and a toilet. To begin with, I am sure, the most modern personal technology, alas…and I’m using a little of it right now.

But it’s still the following psychological infection that shakes me the most (pg 5):

“Even when children do have spare time, we are often too afraid to let them out of our sight. The average distance from home British kids are permitted to wander by themselves has fallen nearly 90 percent since the 1970s.”

It’s the same in Canada. What is this? I’ve asked before, but is it the media? Increased population or environmental factors somehow changing our neural pathways? Is it consumerism making us more and more terrified of nature? Is it the coming of the New World Order?

It’s just so weird, yet I even feel it when my niece and nephew visit, and I live right on a huge park with a lake. But people are there too, which is terrifying! Aaah!

Geniuses? Experts? Expansive thinkers? Anybody?

Here’s to freedom, trust, and a decrease in whatever toxic pesticides cause paranoia, because something has drastically changed over the past thirty years. By the way, stop following me,

Pete xoxo

And speaking of both truth and paranoia, check this out. It’s a a fix-up, with lyrics added with fancy moves, and absolutely nobody is watching it, so you’re in on a secret. Good luck tonight. Be careful. Over.


Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

Once again, scientific results are showing in yet uncertain ways that life is always more interconnected, more subtle, and more stunningly beautiful than science previously thought. In fact, epigenetics may just usher in a huge expansion on the traditional view of Darwinian inheritance, and that would be wonderful.

So much for our heavy-handed, definitive—if not fundamentalist—conclusions on the mystery of it all being solved.

From a BBC web-page for the very interesting documentary Ghost in Your Genes:

Biology stands on the brink of a shift in the understanding of inheritance. The discovery of epigenetics—hidden influences upon the genes—could affect every aspect of our lives.

At the heart of this new field is a simple but contentious idea—that genes have a ‘memory’. That the lives of your grandparents—the air they breathed, the food they ate, even the things they saw—can directly affect you, decades later, despite your never experiencing these things yourself. And that what you do in your lifetime could in turn affect your grandchildren.

The conventional view is that DNA carries all our heritable information and that nothing an individual does in their lifetime will be biologically passed to their children. To many scientists, epigenetics amounts to a heresy, calling into question the accepted view of the DNA sequence—a cornerstone on which modern biology sits.

At the conclusion of the documentary, scientist Marcus Pembry offers this:

“They may get to the point where they [scientists] realize you live your life as a sort of guardian of your genome. You’ve got to be careful of it because it’s not just you. You can’t be selfish. You can’t say, ‘Well, I’ll smoke or I’ll do whatever it is because I’m prepared to die early.’ You’re also looking after it for your children and grandchildren. It’s changing they way think about inheritence forever.”

In the film, a Professor, Lars Olov Bygen from Sweden, had studied—via well kept records—generations of a small farming village in Sweden, near the Arctic Circle. He had started to see increasingly interesting patterns across generations that indicated that environmental pressures (ie famine) in one generation might be causing genetically interesting results (both positive and negative) in another generation. Bygen sent the information to Pembry, and the two joined forces in the research.

The NOVA narration states:

Pembry was immediately struck by seemingly bizarre connections between gender, diet and health—connections that were most pronounced two generations later. Men, for example, who experienced famine at around age ten, had paternal grandsons who lived much longer than those [grandsons] whose grandfathers experienced plenty.

Yet women who experienced famine while in the womb had paternal granddaughters who died on average far earlier.

Pembry adds:

“…we were dealing with a trans-generational response. [The results] were so coherent, and that’s important in science. The effect was coherent in some way—was tying in when eggs and sperm were being formed.”

NOVA states:

The diagram [the results Pembry is talking about] showed a significant link between generations, between the diet in one, and the life expectancy of another.

Questions remain of course: why does the situation appear to only effect the paternal line of inheritance? And why does famine appear to be damaging and/or beneficial, two generations later, depending on the sex and age of the grandparent who experiences a given environmental condition?

Either way, Pembry says:

“We’re changing the view of what inheritance is. You can’t in life, in ordinary development and living, separate out the gene out from the environmental effect. They’re so intertwined.”

But are these effects truly epigenetic? Michael Skinner (in research with rats), says:

“We knew that if an individual was exposed to an environmental toxin, they can get a disease state, potentially. The new phenomena is the environmental toxin no longer effects only the individual exposed, but two or three generations down the line.

I thought this effect was evident already from Hiroshima and even Vietnam post-war descendants. In Vietnam, birth defects appear to be from exposure to Agent Orange, brought to you by that wonderful producer of nutritious food for a healthy future for our kids, Monsanto. If only the company leadership had a conscience! They could do such beautiful things.

I just don’t think companies like this or Philip Morris (cigarettes) should have power in the world’s food supply, but they have massive power (ie market share). That is a deep, deep perversion.

What a world.

I’m also reading Survival of the Sickest, which is equally interesting, and talks about how certain diseases that kill us now, diabetes for example, may have been, in a sense, adaptive and necessary for survival under certain environmental conditions (say, a quick Ice Age!) at some time in the relatively recent past.

Man, we are the past and the future.

Love to you and your ancestors and descendents, may the live with dignity and beauty,



Friday, July 11th, 2008

“Only a crisis, actual or preceived, causes real change”
—Milton Friedman

Actual or perceived. Hm. One man’s crisis is another man’s opportunity—actual or perceived.

A Naomi Klein interview—always deeply thought provoking. Talking about her book The Shock Doctrine, and what the Shock Doctrine is: a philosophy of power that exploits disasters, be they imposed (9/11) or natural (Katrina). The ‘shock’ itself of a given disaster—natural or imposed—allows an opportunity for deeply unpopular policies to be pushed through:

“The so-called Homeland Security industry didn’t really exist before 9/11. It’s now a 200 billion dollar industry, which is bigger than Hollywood and the music industry combined. So that’s one of the ways the ‘Shock Doctrine’ was applied after 9/11.”

The questions from Tavis Smiley are good, Devil’s advocate yet supportive questions. Klein says in response to one:

“…I base the thesis of the book not on something I cooked up myself but a body of research coming from top level economists in Washington and prestigious universities—like the University of Chicago, Harvard—talking about the need for crisis to push through these policies.

She says the Bush government are not simply bumbling idiots—au contraie—but in fact deeply “competent”, imposing their beliefs and agendas with great success.

Strange world, but with such immense variation that I am sure a deep strain of great big love and compassion for sisters and brothers everywhere remains a constant, and perhaps eternal, possibility. Stay with it!

Lots of love to you,

Pete xo

Here’s the first part of the interview.

PS: If it depresses you, make sure you watch the second half, too.