Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Poison Poisson

The other day I was eating a sword fish steak and about a third of the way into it I took a bite that tasted like petroleum. I was so shocked that after spitting it out I took another bite as I was in disbelief of what I had just experienced. Unfortunately, it was just as noxious. I spit that bite out too, and after inspecting the rest of it and finding it smelled somewhat like gasoline or tar, I threw it out. My first though was of the 2011 gulf oil spill. Had this fish swam through the slick or possibly eaten other fish that had? I then began to wonder if the part I had already consumed was also tainted, just less so. That got me thinking about all the toxins in our food that we don't even notice.

Better Living Through Chemistry
Yes indeed, nothing says quality of life like Sword Fish a la Kerosene. Poisoned food has got to be one of the most galling of technology's ill effects. Yes I appreciate having affordable gasoline to drive instead of walk when I need to. I also appreciate the many inexpensive products made possible by fossil fuels, but is it really worth the cost? The Ingalls had to work hard and they didn't have an Escalade to drive to the mall in, but they never had to worry about toxic vegetables or mercury tainted tuna either.

You know something is seriously wrong with the system when food that is supposed to be good for you is killing you all in the name of expedience or profit. You might think its all the corporations' fault. That people like BP's CEO and Monsanto's share holders are the ones to blame. But the problem is much bigger and way more complex than that. The entire system and way of life it supports is built on hydrocarbons and the energy and chemical compounds derived from them. If you just stopped pumping oil and mining coal the whole global system would grind to a halt and millions, possibly billions would starve.

The Hydrocarbon Age
Without the energy in hydrocarbons the modern world with its prosperity and plethora of stuff just isn't possible. Before the industrial revolution, if you wanted to do work you had to use human or animal power. This meant there was a limit to how much you could accomplish. Even the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, who were able to mobilize large amounts of human and animal power took decades to build the pyramids. Today with the power of hydrocarbons 100 story skyscrapers can be built in a just few years. Factories filled with machines that run on power produced through hydrocarbons make mass production possible. Additionally, goods can be shipped around the world cheaply allowing us to eat fruit out of season and increasing price competition.

But hydrocarbons bring us more than just the energy released by burning them. Far from being just a source of gasoline or electricity generation, hydrocarbons are the source of most of our synthetic compounds. They are used to create everything from plastics to fabric, pesticides to fertilizer. For a more extensive, but by no means exhaustive list click here.

Farming With Hydrocarbons
Global food production is more than its ever been before and each year it increases. This is due in large part to mechanized factory farms growing one crop over huge swaths of land using pertol-powered equipment and very few workers. Natural gas is used to produce anhydrous-ammonia for fertilizer. Most of the herbicides, pesticides and fungicides used to protect the crops from damage are also created from fossil fuels. Without these products and systems there's no way to sustain the current level of food production. In other words ending or even significantly reducing our use of fossil fuels would mean mass starvation.

The use of these systems, particularly the toxins used, is destroying the environment and diminishing its future ability to produce quality food. One way this is happening is by decimating the natural bacteria, earthworms etc. that create fertile soil. By adding only synthetic fertilizers instead of rich organic mater like manure and compost, trace minerals and other vital compounds are not replaced and our food becomes less nutritious. This problem is compounded by monoculture.

The situation fits the definition of a dilemma as there are no good solutions. The system will collapse if these poisonous practices are halted and will continue to kill us and our quality of life if continued. Humans created this mess but they can not fix it anymore than the dog that tracked in mud and chewed up your shoes can mop the floor and by you a new pair of loafers. Humans and their technology are incapable of dealing effectively with these problems. Fortunately there is someone who can - Rev 11:18.

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