Who are we?
Jean-Francois Rischard: I think that when you look at these various curves of sort of world population curve, or the curve that measures economic activity, you see something that rises very slowly for 2,000 years, then picks up steam around the Industrial Revolution – the old one, the 18th century one. And then you have the curve goes up and up, and now we’re in a period of human history where the curve goes straight up. Straight up meaning going suddenly from three billion people in 1960 to nine billion people in 2050. That’s an extremely fast runoff, and the same is happening on the economic front as well. And so to give you a sense of how steep the curves are, just consider the fact that for instance today, we have six billion people, as I said, on the planet. The world GDP is $40 trillion. And at this rate, we’re using 1.25 planets in terms of the ecological footprint that we have. Whereas 30, 40 years ago we were using roughly half a planet. And if you go from now, which is 2007, to 2050, and you make some modest assumptions as to what will happen in between to growth rate and population, you come up with the staggering figure that in 2050, we will have nine billion people. The world GDP will be $140 trillion. In other terms, more than three times bigger than the one we have now. And unless we do something about the ecological footprint of humanity, we’ll be at 2.25 planets, which is absolutely impossible – 1.25 is already impossible. But going towards two is the end of the system. So that is what’s happening, is that we’re now in the part of the curve where the curves go straight up. And that is absolutely unprecedented. There is nothing like this in human history before.
Recorded on: 7/2/07
We are using too much of the planet.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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