Thursday, March 31, 2016

A kid's adventure with nature (mural)

Dr Abe V Rotor
 
 
Little Jun before a wall mural of nature painted by the author at his residence, 2016

Lucky this kid away from television,

the mall and the computer,

Lucky this kid for being with nature,

away from a robot master.~

Ode to the Mushroom


You link three worlds - yesterday
with tomorrow, and briefly today...

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday


Stinkhorn

Youth and death, pleasure and sorrow,
One comes to this world after you;
Who and when we will never know,
In your domain where you grow.

You cover all, like grass in Auschwitz,
In fuzzy web, transforming into rich
Mass when the sky rolls in dreadful pitch,
Waking Lazarus as Zeus speaks -

In another body, time and space,
Where new life begins in a new place;
You are the link, and Nature the pace,
Of all life, ordered in seeming maze.

You link three worlds - yesterday
With tomorrow, and briefly today,
In our work, sleep - even as we play -
The world wakes up to a new day.~



Auricularia (tainga ng daga)


Dung mushroom
Shelf mushroom, log mushroom


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Re-writing the Book of Life


Dr Abe V Rotor
Mutation through Genetic Engineering, acrylic 2002

After man has "perfected" the model of the DNA, the code of heredity, he has succeeded in cracking the code itself, which is the “code of life.”

This feat was preceded by the cracking the atom which brought out the first genie, the atomic bomb. What would the second genie look like?


1. Does GMO cause cancer and other diseases? There is no evidence to this yet. But cancer is too complex a disease for us to understand fully. Whatever triggers the disease is not immediately determined until we accurately read it in the human genome map. Questions are asked: “Where did prion (protein infective principle of mad cow disease) come from? “How does it cause Bovine Spongioform Encephalopathy (BSE), and the human the Crueztfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD) to which the mad cow disease is associated?” “Other than cancer why are there more young people contacting diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases?” We do not know the answers to these questions. We cannot blame these to GMO either. It is too early to say. But we have to be wary.


2. GMO and the Terminator. In this case, the genie is a multinational organism placed by fate in its hands of the farmer. This problem is worse than the conditions imposed by producers of hybrid corn seeds, where farmers are forced to renew their seed stock every time they plant. The Terminator is a GM corn variety carrying genes which automatically kill the crop embryo after harvesting. Consequently, the farmer needs to buy new seeds from the company. The creator, Monsanto, got the ire of many people. It projected a bad image of biotechnology.


3. Processed Food from GMO. Seemingly, you do not see this kind of genie. We do not know but we are eating GM Food, often referred to as Frankenfood, after the novel Frankenstein, no matter how much we try to avoid it. There was no referendum conducted or public consultation before GMF was put to market. Today, GM soybean is processed into cooking oil, soy sauce, TVP (Texturized Vegetable Protein), taho, tokwa, etc. GM potato finds its way through fast food chain. There are steaks, burgers, corned beef and milk which come from GM cows. But who is accountable when things go wrong, and how can we seek redress?


4. GMO touches the fiber of culture, beliefs and religion. People are generally sensitive to many things: cultural, religious, personal. Protests may be felt even in their silence. Could it be that people are silent since to protest can mean deprivation of food? As they say: Beggars are no choosers.


5. "The genie obliges only to its master's command." Who’s afraid of the big werewolf? Ask George Orwell. Anyone who has read his book, “1984” will understand. His definition of big brother is one that is benevolent and abusive at the same time, according to his will. Susan George, in her book, How the Other Half Dies, is equally provoking. She claims that part of the world is without sufficient food. One half of the world’s population is hungry and deprived of many basic needs, while the other half simply has much more than it needs. What guarantees do we have that GMO will not fall into hands of capitalists? Monsanto gave the early signals. One wonders who controls (owns) the gene banks at the International Rice Research Institute, the International Wheat and Maiz Research Center (CYMMT), and other research centers.


6. GMO may be useful in medicine, but it can also create havoc to the living world. Genetic engineering (GE) is as young as dawn. As light breaks, we take a glimpse before the sun is up. Genetic engineering, according to its proponents, is the key to the control of malaria and dengue. Entomologists have already isolated parasite-suppressing genes in mosquitoes. GE in medicine, such as insulin production, has expanded into the production of more potent antibiotics and hormones. If we can modify the efficiency of beneficial organisms, so can we increase the virulence of pathogens. Genetic engineering may wake up one day the sleeping Bubonic Plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis) that killed one-third of human population in the Dark Ages. Or propel Anthrax into pandemic proportion. Genetic engineering can increase the virulence of potato blight fungus that caused starvation of Ireland in the 18th century. It can trigger the dreaded tungro virus disease of rice, so with rice blight fungus and other rice pathogens, and wipe out ricefields in unimaginable scale.


The incorporation of drugs in genetically modified food plants opens a new field of pharmacology, called biopharming. GMO mixed with vitamins can reduce infant mortality, blindness, and other associated defects. But do we need to take medicine when we are not sick? What would be the effect of biopharmed food crops to our healthy body? Conventionally man derives medicine from products of organisms and from naturally occurring sources. Today we are modifying these sources - even before discovering the potential ones. Scientists believe that we have yet to find out the uses of more than 95 percent of all plants. Man has bare knowledge of the creatures in the deep ocean, and the rich diversity of the living world. The thrust of research has shifted to the gene rather than the species.


7. Modern Frankenstein. It is inevitable that genetic engineering will be applied in human cloning. Today, we have so far applied human biotechnology mostly in helping childless couples bear children, such as through in vitro (outside of the womb) fertilization. But with current results in animal cloning, a technique is being developed to clone the human being without encountering the problems that beset Dolly the sheep, which is premature aging. If this is not handled well, we may be bringing forth a new Frankenstein monster into our midst. x x x


Monday, March 28, 2016

Value-added Principle through Recycling


The ecological bridge between the living and the non-living world.
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday


Kinds of Recycling

• Biological – Trichoderma, a fungus, to hasten composting
• Enzymatic – Wild sunflower in composting, urea in hay
• Mechanical – Shedding, decortication, grinding
• Fermentation – Silage, retting, biogas digester
• Burning – Rice hull ash, wood
• Combination of two or more of these methods. Ex. Mushroom production, mulching and composting using rice hay


Fruits in season are made into wine and vinegar (rambutan, dragon fruit). NOTE: Plastic containers are for temprary use only.  Fermentatiion and aging must be done in glass or glazed jars (burnay or tapayan).

Recycling in Nature

1. Lightning is Nature’s quickest and most efficient converter and recycler, instant manufacturer of nitrates, phosphates, sulfates; it burns anything on its path, recharges ions. Lightning sustains the needs of the biosphere, it is key to biodiversity.

2. Fire is the Nature’s second tool. While fire is indeed destructive, in the long run, fields, grasslands and forests are given new life by it. Fire is a test of survival of the fittest. It is the key to renewal and continuity of life.

3. Volcanoes erupt to recycle the elements from the bowels of the earth to replenish the spent landscape, so with submarine volcanoes that keep the balance of marine ecosystems.

4. The Laws of Nature always prevail with the seasons, weather and climate. They govern the life cycle and alternation of generations of organisms; the food chain, food web, and food pyramid. The same applies to long term phenomena such as Continental Drift and Ice age.

5. Naturally occurring cycles govern the physical and chemical properties pf the earth’s chemical elements and compounds, principally Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen (CHON), which are essential to life.

6. Nature recycling of organic materials in through the action of microorganisms: bacteria, algae, protists (amoeba, diatoms), fungi, blue green algae. Fibrous materials are broken down by fungi. Other than roughage and fuel, rice hay is used as substrate for mushroom growing. The spent materials decompose easily into organic fertilizer.

7. Recycling in nature through the action of microorganisms. Top left, clockwise: bacteria (dark sports) attacking a cell; algal bloom (note evolution of CO2 gas); phosphate bacteria glow in the dark; protists (amoeba, diatoms, blue green algae). Recycling of fibrous materials with fungi. Other than roughage and fuel, rice hay is used as substrate for mushroom growing. The spent materials decomposes easily into organic fertilizer.

8. Recycling by animals also helps in controlling the destructive ones such as the mosquito, which is food of fish, spider and bat.

9. Nature’s nutrient converters. Simple life forms such as lichens, algae, mosses and ferns silently work on inert materials, convert them into nutrients for higher organisms.


Harvesting Sesame. The stalk is used as fuel, and material in composting. 

10. Nature’s recycling with waterways Mekong river in Vietnam (below), Pasig River in the Philippines, Great Britain, Danube and Rhine in Europe, the Nile, Mississippi, Amazon, Yangtze, Tigris-Euphrates. Rivers, lakes, swamps, basins – they provide many basic needs of man. They are arteries of life, the ecological bridge between the living and the non-living world. It is said that no civilization exists without a river.

Dust Bowl – Nature's Ultimate Signal



Dr Abe V Rotor
Time Life Photographs (Enhanced with Adobe Photoshop)
  


  Among the photographs sent to me by Time-Life are telltale evidences of Nature's angry response to man's abuses of the environment.  Improper and over farming in pursuit of immediate economic gains resulted to a phenomenon - the great Dust Bowl that blanketed over much of central United States from the Dakotas, down to Colorado where these photos were taken.

The landscape, once rich agricultural lands and grasslands suddenly began  transforming into a desert which science calls desertification. The Dust Bowl gave man his greatest lesson never to abuse nature again. Rehabilitation was a gargantuan task led by the government that took place for many years with  agriculture taking a new path from the conventional and unilateral approach,  into one that combines agriculture and ecology (agro-ecological farming) which is today the key to sustainable productivity.  

What greater wrath than one induced by man, 
     the skin of the earth ripped off;
its skeleton bare and staring out of its tomb,
     dusts stirred into a deadly roof. 

Fear - but what is fear in Armageddon, 
      when all around, no more?
pain - what is pain of the flesh and mind,
       when it has reached the core? 

Lost - whereto, there's no sight of home,
            
       once home under the sun;
death - destiny at the inevitable end, 
      waiting, ‘til it’s gone.  

Eerie, it's all cemetery; woe to a rich country
       console, but whom and from where?
when the world is lost and gone
       so with venerable man.

In light of climate change and all it portends, LIFE.com looks back, through the lens of the great Margaret Bourke-White, at a period when — as LIFE phrased it in a May 1954 issue — there was a “Dusty Plague Upon the Land.”

The delicate, lethal powder spread in a brown mist across the prairie horizon. Across Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, the darkening swirls of loosened topsoil chewed their way across the plains, destroying or damaging 16 million acres of land. Man fought back with such techniques as chiseling …. driving a plow six inches into the soil to turn up clots of dirt which might help hold the precious land from the vicious winds. Against the dusty tide these feeble efforts came too little and too late. Two decades after the nation’s worst drought year in history, 1934, the southern plains were again officially labeled by the U.S. government with two familiar words — ”Dust Bowl.”

Thursday, March 24, 2016

10 Frankenstein monsters roaming in our midst

Topics for Meditation this Lenten Season 2016
Dr Abe V Rotor

 
Hiroshima atomic bombing, and aftermath.
 Holocaust, Nazi Concentration Camp in Auschwitz



Scene of Dr Frankenstein and the monster he created (Wikipedia),
based on the celebrated novel by Mary Shelly in the 19th century

Anyone who has read Frankenstein cannot forget the frightful scenario of a monster created in the laboratory that eventually turned against his master and terrorized the world - a reminder of the unpredictable consequences of science-on-the-loose.

Invariably we have revived the Frankenstein monster in many forms, such as these.

1. The invention of the atomic bomb and its subsequent progeny - hydrogen bomb, neutron bomb and cobalt bomb - that are far more deadly and destructive, and their stockpiling into a power keg that still exist today even after the Cold War has ended in 1989.

2. Medical breakthroughs in saving lives and extending life span contribute to the population explosion and demographic imbalance where societies are burdened by too many young who are unproductive and highly dependent, and elderly group, with increasing healthcare-dependent members.

3. Organ transplantation and replacement which is leading us farther and farther to a new frontier called bionics; a combination of the rational being and the robot, natural and


artificial intelligence.


4. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) whereby it is possible to combine genes  of organisms outside their kind, irrespective of species - or kingdom, for that matter. Bt Corn carries the gene protein of a bacterium - Bacillius thuringiensis - that parasitizes caterpillars that feed on corn crop. New strange life variations are sprouting defying identity and classification.  They are nameless like the monster created by Frankenstein.   


5. Mega-industrialization that has resulted not only to the demise of natural environments (ecosystems) and many species of organisms, but the destruction of the ozone layer and the gradual and steady buildup of atmospheric gases and temperature known as global warming. Global warming has alarming effects in changing climate patterns worldwide, spawning more frequent and more destructive force majeure from drought to f
lood to  typhoons and tornadoes.  

6. Urbanization leading to the growth of megacities which continue to destroy the homeostasis of rural-urban relationship, spawning poverty and leading to the degradation of human life at the source of migration on one hand, and at the burgeoning centers on the other.



 

 


7. Population explosion setting a record of 7.7 billion people today and doubling in less than fifty years if left unchecked - indeed a grim reminder of the ghost of Malthus two hundred years ago (Malthusian Theory), and a proof that the natural laws that govern survival has been radically changed.

8. Consumerism on which capitalism flourishes in the guise of progress and the good life, but in effect creates imbalance of the economy of nations, dividing them into power-wealth categories, and have and have-not, loss of values, and abusive exploitation of resources at the expense of Planet Earth.

9. Gold rush syndrome resulting in the Tragedy of the Commons, a principle that is based on Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, a story that illustrates that greediness and wanton destruction has always a tragic end, as evidenced today by the declining fish catch in the ocean, dwindling freshwater supply, logged over forests, spent farms and pastures, near exhaustion of fossil fuels, and the like.

10. While ecumenism bridges religions, cultism is divisive and segregative. There is a rise of the so-called hybrid religions which have lost their dogmatic identities, and are gaining popularity as a kind of religious liberation. On the other hand, more and more people around the world are drawn into the world of nones (people who have lost faith in organized religions) - if not the atheism, particularly those overwhelmed by the influence of postmodern living.~


These ten attributes of a modern Frankenstein haunt modern man and his society today exacerbated by his aim at globalization. The shrinking of the planet into a global village so to speak, through scientific breakthroughs, expansion of commerce and industry, opening of new frontiers of human settlement and habitation which sooner or later include the building of cities under th sea and in space, and the proliferation of multimedia making information accessible anywhere in any place of the globe - all these make the avenging monster closer to his creator, and therefore making him vulnerable to its evil intent. Such is the story of Mary Shelley's fiction that has a tragic ending - the destruction of both monster which never bore a name, and its creator - the young genius, Frankenstein. ~

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Kutsay (Allium tuberosum): A Spice and Vegetable


Kutsay is a spice-vegetable known as nira in Japanese,  gachoy in Cantonese, buchu in Korean, garlic chives, Chinese chives.
Dr Abe V Rotor
A country lass, Isang displays a rare phenomenon of tillers (young plants)* arising from the inflorescence of Allium tuberosum. Seeds normally reach maturity on the stalk (lower photo), before they are dehisced or disseminated by wind, animals and other means.     



Potted kutsay serves as ornamental and food condiment.  The plant is also repellant against flies, moths, mosquitoes and common garden pest, including African Giant Snail. Kutsay grows perennially owning to its tubers that can survive extreme drought, and spring back to robust vegetation come rainy season. The small bulbs or tubers are group in clusters.  In summer kutsay produces umbel inflorescence characteristic of members in the lily family (Alliaceae) to which onion and garlic belong - so with many ornamental lilies. 


 

 

We have never been without kutsay growing in our garden since I was a child. Dad would gather some leaves and add to fried or scrambled eggs. “It’s good to health," he would tell us. Miki (Ilocos noodle soup) is not complete without this spice-vegetable that has the combined flavor of garlic, chive and onion in a moderate degree. The seed contain edible oil which carries the characteristic flavor.  

Kutsay has antibacterial, anti-emetic, and stimulant properties. It improves circulation and digestion, and kidney function. It is used to treat urinary incontinence, kidney and bladder weaknesses. Traditional medicine recommends kutsay in the treatment of spermatorrhoea. (Spermatorrhoea is involuntary loss of semen, which generally takes place during sleep or under various conditions, like during urination. It is often associated with irritability and debility of the generative organs.).

I remember my Auntie Yaya applying mashed leaves of kutsay on sprain, cuts and bruises.  Our herbolario applied kutsay poultice on dog bite. Today we understand that this remedy is just a palliative measure to prevent infection and ease pain, and that medical attention is needed.

As a vegetable kutsay leaves are mixed with salad. They contain about 2.6% protein, 0.6% fat, 2.4% carbohydrate, 0.95% ash. They also contain small amounts of vitamins A, B1 and C. Flowers and flower buds make a delicious flavoring - raw or cooked - of many recipes of fish and meat. 

Next time you prepare scrambled egg, miki and batchoy,  add liberally chopped fresh kutchay leaves. You'll know why a home garden or a kitchen is not complete without this humble aromatic herb. ~

*NOTE: I transplanted the tillers to compare with the conventional means of propagation - by bulb and by seed. The result of the experiment will be known in due time.