Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Can a Newly Discovered Fungus really solve our Plastic Waste Problem?

 Image Collage by Genesis: Go Ahead... Make My Lunch.

A team of students from Yale University have discovered a fungus which apparently enjoys snacking on polyurethane, one of the most commonly used plastics. Led by Scott Strobel, a molecular biochemist at Yale, the students found the fungus in the Amazon in Ecuador on their annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory

Experiments by a team of researchers found that the fungus, Pestalotiopsis microspore, can thrive on eating plastic in an anaerobic environment—like that which you find at the bottom of landfills.

Image Collage by Genesis: P. microspora under microscope.

This is a significant development, because the implications for a number of reasons, beginning with the global problem which plastic has become.

‘Houston, we have some plastic.’

We all know that plastic is a bit of an Achilles heel of modern civilization…and that may be a bit of an understatement. Sure, plastic is light, flexible, inexpensive, convenient, easy to work with and oh-so-disposable. Aye, there’s the rub.

We all like to believe that most plastic is recycled. Apart from the horrendous amounts of energy which is spent collecting, processing and then re-purposing that plastic, it’s a pretty good idea, too.  Except it’s nowhere near reality.

According to a study published in Science, plastic pollution is growing, particularly in underdeveloped coastal countries. 

Chart: Plastic Pollution is Growing, Credit: Jambeck et al, Science, 2015

This, of course, contributes to the notorious plastic flotilla in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (also known as the Great Pacific garbage patch), not to mention the plastic debris littering the shorelines of all major bodies of water around the world. 

Image: Great Pacific garbage patch 

Here’s some more interesting tid-bits about plastic which you may not be aware of…

Inforgaphic: The Truth about Plastic 

Biology to the Rescue?

So clearly something has to be done about plastic, right? The Yale scientists certainly seem to think so. In fact, they’re not the first to suggest a biological approach to solving the plastic waste problem, particularly in the Pacific.

Be it mushrooms from the Amazon rainforest or genetically engineered E. coli bacteria, scientists are scouring the natural world (and their very unnatural laboratories) searching for ‘silver-bullet’ organisms to clean up our mess.

Does anyone else see any inherent danger in this approach? Have these scientists forgotten the lessons learned from cane toads in Australia, killer bees in North America, and every other attempt to introduce a foreign species into a new environment?

Of course not, because materialist scientists don’t seem to learn from experience.  Their arrogance and hubris makes them believe more in their theories than in proven reality, believing in the technocratic dogma of the incessant march of progress which promises them (and the world): ‘this time will be different.’

Materialist Science: Playing with forces it cannot comprehend…nor control.

In July of last year, PeapodLife took on the question of GMO Foods in its blog by pointing out the dangers of introducing new species into the environment. Read the article and watch a related video on the introduction of foreign species here.

Despite what the scientists will tell you, they are in no way, shape or form ‘in control’ of the ‘technology’ they are purporting to wield, here. Anyone who’s seen Jurassic Park can tell you that!

Image Collage by PeapodLife: Jurassic Park Genetic Power, Nature & Science montage

So, are we saying giant mushrooms are going to devour New York City or Tokyo?

Image collage by Genesis Eco Fund: Rampaging Gumba, NYC.

No, of course not. We just couldn’t resist the image.

What we are saying is that nature is governed by chaos, and there is positive chaos, the chaos observable in evolutionary fractals—defined to a large part by the Fibonacci sequence—for example, the pattern of petals in a blooming flower or branches of a growing tree. But then there’s also the negative chaos of a devolving fractal: water as it’s being flushed down the toilet.

Rainforest Keeps on Giving; Humans Keep on Taking

Having said all that, that’s not even the greatest problem with this story about the plastic-eating mushroom. As always, it’s a story of exploitation. Here’s thing in nature, let’s see how we, the human race, can exploit it to the maximum of our abilities.

You would think that when we find such organisms that there would be a sudden and universal outcry: “Hey! Maybe there are other as-yet-undiscovered organisms that can solve other major problems we face!” But sadly no, rainforest devastation and resource extraction continues globally at an unprecedented pace.

Image collage by Genesis Eco Fund: Rainforest devastation: cutting; burning.

And the discovery of new species with ‘practical applications’ like our friend Pestalotiopsis microspora, doesn’t help precisely because it, too, is just another example of humanity’s culture of exploitation. Not harmony, not mutual symbiosis, but the same old ‘we’re at the top of the food chain so the world is ours to command, control, use and abuse as we see fit’ mentality which is responsible for how we’ve completely mismanaged and ruined the biosphere.

Be a REAL human being. Get an ecosystem and develop a harmonious and mutually symbiotic relationship with it. Allow the knowledge which comes from that experience to inform all your actions, inquiries, decisions, and goals.

Take Responsibility. Reduce your plastic consumption.

10 Tips to Reducing your Plastic Use

1.    Use reusable bags, not plastic or paper.
2.    Drop the bottled water.
3.    Don’t use single-use plastic packaging (buy in bulk when you can).
4.    Leave the sandwich bags on the shelf and use reusable sandwich boxes instead.
5.    Go the classy route and use silverware, not plastic-ware.
6.    Let the ’90s go — go digital… no more CDs, plastic CD cases, and so on.
7.    Use a refillable dispenser for your soap and cleaning supplies.
8.    Use a nice “to-go” mug instead of cups made of plastic or styrofoam (don’t even want to go into that issue).
9.    Try to buy products that don’t contain hard-to-recycle plastics (when you need to buy something, that is).
10.    Better yet, find products not made of plastic at all (again, when you absolutely have to buy something).
Source: http://greenlivingideas.com/2011/08/01/plastic-world-infographic/

No comments:

Post a Comment