Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

October 20, 2021

What We’re Made Of

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 5:47 am

            The same stuff that makes up the world around us – rocks, soil, grass, trees, air – makes up our bodies. The same water that covers 71 % of the Earth makes up 60 % of your body. The Calcium which makes rocks hard is in your bones and teeth. The Iron which turns red with rust makes your blood red. The Nitrogen that grows plants and trees is in your DNA.

            You shrug. So did I when a Native American said this, but then it made me look at a picture larger than what I’d learned in Med School. And it forced me to see the even larger picture that looms for all of us on a fast-approaching horizon.

            Goes like this: the Sun is a gigantic Hydrogen bomb in the midst of its explosion. It, and many other suns (which we call “stars”) are fusing atoms of the smallest element – Hydrogen – into larger, heavier building blocks. These include Carbon, Oxygen, Silicon, Iron and Nitrogen. These elements make up our atmosphere (Nitrogen, Oxygen, Carbon) and our Earth (rocks, water, sand, various minerals).

            These building blocks become molecules, like di-hydrogen oxide (AKA “water”), and build plants and trees. Carbon, Nitrogen and Oxygen unite to form proteins, fats, carbohydrates and nucleic acids. These molecules keep living things (from viruses to plants to us animals) functional. Silicon provides elasticity to our cartilage, skin and connective tissue.

            And we get our energy from the same engine that powers everything from grass to hurricanes. Radiation from our Sun stores its energy in our food. And the bio-chemical reactions I learned about in Med School do the rest.

                        “Existence is a free gift from the Sun.”


            One of the great gifts of Mariposa is just beyond my back deck. On occasions when I ignore the i-phone and ‘puter  and go out there, I drink in the sound of breezes thru the pine needles, the smell of late Summer grass or Springtime flowers, the almost-too-high-to-hear voices of the hummingbirds, the definitely audible “thwack” of the hummers when they fly into each other, the soft undulations and subtle colors of the mountains, the dances of the leaves on trees, the daily cavorting of turkeys, rabbits, deer, snakes and quail like some circus parade across my yard.

            I’d like to believe it’ll go on forever.

            But the drought has the deer abandoning their natural wariness. They approach us, looking for water and something to eat. Of California’s twenty largest fires since 1932, the increasing heat has birthed nine of these over just the past two fire seasons. Abnormal heating of the ocean’s water has spawned increasingly powerful, increasingly wet hurricanes in the last few years. The Carbon Dioxide level in our planet’s very thin atmosphere is higher than it’s been in the last 800,000 years. And it continues to climb.

            If you too, go out on your back porch to take in the Beauty, do yourself a favor and take an apple. Wrap it in a single layer of Saran Wrap. If the Earth were the size of that fruit, the part of our atmosphere we call “the air” – the part in which we can survive – would be as thin as the plastic wrap. This layer supports life with oxygen and is where we find “weather.” It’s both very thin and very vulnerable.

            As can happen to our bodies, our planet has a fever. You can feel it in the air. You can measure it in the ocean’s water which then swirls up into the vortex of growing hurricanes.

            As can happen to our bodies, our planet has a chemical imbalance. You can measure it as Carbon Dioxide levels. You can measure the smoke contaminating our atmosphere. It’s like a worsening case of emphysema.

            As can happen to our bodies, our planet is starving. It is becoming depleted of the minerals we mine and the chemicals we suck out thru our oil and gas wells. Seems counter-intuitive, but our supply of sand, composed mostly of the element Silicon which suns have created, is  becoming scarce. This high-demand commodity (second only to water) is used to make concrete for roads, buildings, cities. Desert sand won’t work – has to be beach or river sand, created by water, not wind. Additionally, crop yields are down about 5% since 1981 due to increasing heat.

            As can happen to our bodies, our planet has a fluid imbalance. The engines that produce weather (air pressure systems, ocean currents, warming seas) are causing two opposing extremes: expanding deserts and more powerful, wetter cyclonic storms. California’s getting drier and the Sahara desert is enlarging. While hurricane frequency has not changed much in 150 years, their intensity is worsening. Can you imagine living thru a storm that dumps 60 inches of rain? That happened in the U.S. in 2017, breaking a record set in 1950. Meteorologists project a pattern of tropical storms bringing even more precipitation in coming years. And those massive storms are moving progressively poleward, away from the equator which has been their historic stomping grounds. Storm surges are greater, causing worse flooding, due to rising sea levels (2.6 inches higher since 2014).

            And we humans?

            We creatures made of the elements the stars created and which makes up our planet? How we doing?

            On September 16, The New England Journal of Medicine, America’s most prestigious Medical journal, and multiple other Medical publications world-wide sounded an alarm. They documented that deaths from excessive heat events among those over age 65 have increased by 50% over the past 20 years. More specific human illness related to the changing environment includes pregnancy complications, increasing and emerging new infections, Mental Health issues, kidney insufficiency and increasing death from heart and lung illness.

                        “We can not wait for the Pandemic to pass

                   to rapidly reduce emissions.”

                                                                        (Medical Scientists in N.E.J.M.)

            As anyone who can fog up a mirror with their nose could figure out, disruption of the planet’s health doesn’t only affect humans. 23 species were recently removed from the Endangered Species list. Not because they’re no longer endangered. They are no longer found, and believed to have gone extinct. Including the “Lord God bird,” a spectacular woodpecker of southern U S forests whose beauty has triggered people to exclaim that reference to God in awe at seeing it. At the current rate, its is projected that half the animal and plant species alive today may be extinct within 80 years. 

What we’re running out of:

            Let’s do this as a Quiz.  Ask Mr. Google or go old-fashioned – read a book.

            1. Clean Water –  

                        What percent of Central Valley wells are contaminated?

                        What % of California’s water is used by the Ag Industry?

                 In return, what % of California’s Gross Domestic Product comes from Ag?

            2. Clean Air – 

                        How many weeks in the year does smoke contaminate the

                                    atmosphere we breathe?

            3. Clean Food – 

                        What chemicals end up in the meat we eat?  In the veggies?

            4. Sand –

                        How many tons of sand are taken from beaches and riverbeds each

                                     year to make concrete?

            5. Beauty – 

                        How much Natural Beauty has been lost to cities, industrial activities, 

                                    freeways and suburbs?

                         How much Natural Beauty has been lost to wildfires?  To droughts?

            6. Shelter – 

                        What percent of humans can’t shelter from excessive heat waves?

                        What percent of humans can’t shelter from hurricanes / typhoons /


            7. Happiness – 

                        What’s the goal of your life’s work?

                        Does pursuit of money stress you out?

                        Is Wealth fairly distributed ?

                        Has Capitalism degenerated into Greed?

            8. Love –  

                        What do you do to make the lives of others at least tolerable, 

                                    and, perhaps, enjoyable?

                        Who is it that Jesus called our “neighbors” when He said 

                                    “Love – – – your neighbor as yourself” ?

                        Has pursuit of money gotten in the way of Giving love? 

                                    Receiving Love?

                        “The world is violent and mercurial – we are saved

                  only by love – – – love for each other and the love

                  we pour into the art we feel compelled to share.” 

                                                                                                            (Tennessee Williams)

            There’s more to HEALTH than the simple absence of disease.

            This free gift from the Sun, this – – – Existence we experience for a while – is doomed if we continue our destruction of the health of the planet, whose atoms and molecules we share.

            Want a healthier planet and atmosphere to live in?  For your grandkids to live in?

         DO SOMETHING.

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