Monday, 30 January 2023

Climate Change and Iberico Ham

Jamon Iberico bellota is a delicacy from Western and North-west Spain. The pigs, from which the ham is obtained, gorge themselves on acorns in the dehesa oak forests of that region. Jamon Iberico bellota currently sells for circa £88 per kilo (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/30/spains-prized-jamon-iberico-under-threat-from-climate-crisis). Climate change has increased temperatures and reduced rainfall in Western/NW Spain. This means that the oak trees in the forests produce many fewer acorns. The fewer the acorns, the less Jamon Iberico bellota is generated. Last year showed a 20% decline in the ham's production. Prized local delicacies (truffles, wine, cheeses etc) depend on reliable weather conditions, in places where they are produced. Jamon Iberico bellota is yet another regional product threatened by changes.

The Human Genome : All the Eggs in One Basket?

Healthcare's Standard genome is based on a single, American from Buffalo, New York. Although the genes of all humans are 99.9% the same, the inherent bias of the 'human genome' has drawbacks for much of the world's population (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/jan/29/the-human-genome-needs-updating-but-how-do-we-make-it-fair). One person cannot be representative of the entire world. Most genome sequencing for medical purposes, is actually fundamentally biased. Indeed, the less ancestry one shares with the guy from Buffalo, the more unlikely it is that your particular genetic variation will be detected. In some patients, this will result in conditions being undiagnosed. Possible treatments may consequently be unoffered. In an attempt to limit this inherent bias, reference genomes for specific countries are now being generated. Having said that, one individual (usually a male), will not even be entirely representative of each of these countries.

Seeing the Changes 1738

A bright green larva, tempted out by a little sunshine, in Loughor.

Life, But Not As We Know It, Jim?

There is currently (and probably never will be), any possibility of moving substantial numbers of folk off 'spaceship, Earth'. If climate change got really bad, what are the possibilities of alternatively creating 'a spaceship-on-Earth'? Poorer people are likely to be left to suffer the consequences of global heating. There are many technological devices that could be used by rich folk, in wealthier countries. People could be housed in insulated, air-conditioned pods. Electricity production presumably would be ensured. These pods could be supplied with food, largely using hydroponics (climate change will have decimated much of agriculture). The hydroponics would have to use human waste from the pods, to continue producing foods. Human residents would largely remain in their pods (their health could be routinuely monitored, using 'smart toilets' etc). Entertainment/education could both be provided. These are likely, however, to consist largely of pre-recorded material and/or VR. Some individuals would be able to occassionally leave the pods, at auspicious times, in protective suits and/or vehicles. It's hoped (although nothing's certain) that there would be no millitaristic activity (although, the poor are unlikely to approve of the behaviour of their rich counterparts). I really don't like the sound of much of this! Surely, it's much better to maintain a liveable planet for as long as possible? Even the rich (major causal agents of climate change), must admit this?

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Unique Iraqi Wetlands Disappear, While New Zealand Floods

The Huwaiza marshes are fed by the river Tigris. They have been occupied since the dawn of civilization. Climate change is now causing these marshes to disappear at an extraordinary rate (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/29/death-in-the-marshes-environmental-calamity-hits-iraqs-unique-wetlands). Three thousand square kilometres of the Huwaiza marsh have already been lost. A further 400 square kilometres are currently being lost to desertification each year. The authorities estimate that 25% of Iraq's fresh water will disappear in the next 10 years. Concomitantly, there is intense flooding, with loss of life, on New Zealand's North Island (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/29/auckland-flooding-death-toll-rises-as-new-zealand-hit-with-more-heavy-rain-and-landslides). Clearly, it's not just North America and Europe, who have climate change-fuelled extreme weather events (although we are major causal agents). Global heating means extreme weather will be (and are) worldwide happenings. Our media, naturally, focuses on 'local' events but there are extreme weather challenges, that most of us never hear anything about.

Leaf Scald to the Rescue?

The development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, risks medicine being rapidly returned to a pre-antibiotic era, where even slight wounds/operations could result in death. There are now, however, big hopes for a new range of bacteriocidal compounds derived from albicidin (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jan/29/plant-toxin-new-weapon-antibiotic-war-against-bacteria-albicidin). Albicidin is a toxin produced by the bacterial plant pathogen, Xanthomonas albineans. Xanthomonas albineans infects Sugar cane, producing a condition called 'Leaf scald'.Albicidin not only attacks the tissues of the Sugar cane (a grass) but is highly effective in killing other bacteria. Recent research, published in Nature Catalysis, suggests that the bacteriocidal mechanism in albicidin would not cause problems in the human body. It's also of interest that, the scientists carrying out that study, were unable to find any evidence that bacteria could become albicidin-resistant. There is consequently the possibility of generating an entirely new range of antibacterial drugs from albicidin. This finding also strongly suggests that more organisms producing antimicrobial agents are 'out there'. Medical advances (like that of Penicillin itself) are sometimes found in the most surprising niches of Biological investigation. We should never ignore so-called 'pure research'.

Climate Change and Iberico Ham

Jamon Iberico bellota is a delicacy from Western and North-west Spain. The pigs, from which the ham is obtained, gorge themselves on acorn...