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August 30, 2012

Science and Population 2

Last week I posted a short entry on the noxious environmental effects of overpopulation. Since then, I've had a bit more time to look at the issue from a variety of different viewpoints and have found that, like so many other problems we haven't had time to think about for a while, all aspects have become worse a lot faster than was thought possible. It's not just greenhouse gases and our failure to address the climate problem; it's also about the impetus our rapidly growing US population (which has at least doubled since the end of WW2) is having on American farming. In a word, Agricultural industrialization since the Fifties, largely driven by greed, has been a disaster. Meat production has been streamlined and consolidated for beef, pork and poultry. Animals are treated less humanely than ever in crowded conditions, they are fed a generally unhealthy diet in the interest of diminished cost and convenience.

Waste storage and disposal are major problems with all three industries and has a significant ripple effect, on the environment, on water, on other crops, and also on human consumers. Ultimately, grain fed beef is almost certainly contributing to human obesity. We are also receiving obligatory hormones and antibiotics from all.

A current environmental example is that the Gulf Coast states now being inundated with record rainfall from Hurricane Isaac also account for the bulk of our record chicken production; thus massive stream and groundwater contamination must be taking place as this is written.

It's also interesting that John Calhoun, the modern researcher who identified and forecast this problem also carried out a classic experiment that demonstrated the noxious effects of overcrowding in Norway Rats alongside of the emergent Agricultural Industries that were busy proving his point.

Behavioral trends also suggest that humans are starting to respond to the emotional stresses of overcrowding in much the same way as Calhoun's rats.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2012

Science and Population 1

Even though its precise definition remains elusive, there can be little doubt that the combination of unbiased observation, hypothesis, and experimental validation now generally recognized as the Scientific Method revolutionized our species' ability to both understand and exert a measure of control over its planetary environment. Not until the advent of Science five centuries ago could human culture have been accelerated to the degree that has allowed our species to progress from its first steam locomotive in 1815 to the successful launch of a Mars explorer in a just under two hundred years.

Ironically, our exploitation of Science and the ever increasing material rewards of scientific technology have not been accompanied by a commensurate degree of wisdom or restraint; thus we are continuing to exacerbate a uniquely human debacle: our single-minded pursuit of progress has overpopulated the planet without regard to potential consequences and despite a series of timely warnings, both early and late, that too many humans on the planet could represent a serious problem with dire repercussions.

Rather than take those warnings seriously, they were rejected out of hand. Apparently, because the authors' specific dire predictions didn't come true, their underlying ideas were ignored and have continued to be ignored even after credible evidence of a specific problem: that of anthropogenic climate change, began to accumulate over forty years ago. It's now clear the the build up of CO2 would have started with expanded use of the fossil fuels and population growth that accompanied the Industrial Revolution we are now trapped in and must somehow sustain as we attempt somehow, to mitigate the effects of increased levels of greenhouse gases on Earth's climate.

The underlying explanation seems to be that we humans were so easily seduced by the siren song of scientific "progress" that we ignored the threats implicit in the alarming Twentieth Century population growth for far too long.

More on this subject later.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2012

Generational Differences

News that Mark David Chapman will be considered for parole a seventh time seems like an an appropriate subject to consider because the dominant themes in his assassination of John Lennon and fixation on J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield also underscore the insanity of modern America’s war on drugs and its history since the reclusive Salinger came to prominence with his only full-length novel in 1950.

What examinations of thousands of cannabis applicants have quite unexpectedly- but convincingly- revealed is that today's "cannabis industry" didn't begin to grow to its present size until the early Sixties after Baby Boomers had been exposed to Beat Generation authors in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Clearly, their youthful interest in a plant made illegal in 1937 is what led to development of an illegal market under very noses the feds from about 1960 on.

After the Supreme Court struck down the MTA in 1969, it was quickly replaced by an even more arbitrary piece of legislation based on the ridiculous drug "scheduling" concept contrived by John Mitchell and still fiercely defended by the DEA.

The resonance between a disaffected adolescent as personified by Salinger himself, his Holden Caulfield character and Chapman would be as obvious to many as the grotesque mismanagement of Chapman's case by the American legal and psychiatric establishments. Beyond that, Democrats and Republicans will probably see the issue along lines dictated by dogma.

Most Democrats are likely to see it as irrational to confine a mentally ill patient 21 hours a day in a high security prison rather than a secure hospital where he could be managed by medical professionals. The response of the GOP to Chapman's petition will predictably be to "throw away the key;" perhaps with an expression of regret that his trial wasn't followed by speedy Texas style execution.

A further thought: Holden Caulfied was clearly modeled on Pre-Boomer Salinger, who had a distant father and problems succeeding in the expensive prep schools he was sent to; also a marvelous ability to speak directly to troubled youth. Yet he didn't mention marijuana in Catcher. On the other hand, Boomer Chapman, for whom Caulfield was a hero, was abused by his own father and also a high-school toker.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:53 PM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2012

Population Growth and Competitive Self Destruction

One of the great anomalies of human history is that the founding of the United States in 1787 corresponds roughly to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, less precisely defined chronologically, but acknowledged as a phenomenon that has radically reshaped the modern world over the same general interval. Since 1804, about when the IR is thought to have started, the planet's human population has grown from an estimated one billion to an astounding seven billion today.

Ironically, the fusion of thirteen separate ex-colonies, each struggling to go its own way under Articles of Confederation into a single nation under a tripartite Constitution was a critical first step in the creation of the United States. During and after its (their) subsequent erratic development as a single nation, the US has risen from relative global insignificance into a veritable superpower. By the end of World War 2 in August 1945, it had become the sole possessor of nuclear weapons and its own territory had been nearly untouched by a war that left other "advanced" nations in ruins. It had also played a decisive role in the defeat of the three rogue dictatorships that, as the Axis Powers, had been most responsible for the conflict.

Since August 1945, the United States has hosted the United Nations and become a mecca for seekers of both political freedom and economic opportunity. Its colleges and universities have helped educate hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of advanced students from around the world, many of whom later made major contributions to their chosen fields. Its own population has more than doubled from 149 million in 1945 to over 311 million today. Yet; sadly, any claim that those changes represent “progress,” or have been accompanied by an increase in overall happiness and satisfaction would be difficult to make. Quite the opposite: America leads the world in incarceration. It is increasingly seen as an inept meddler in the affairs of other nations and the attempts of its military to enforce American notions of “democracy” and "freedom" have inspired violent- even suicidal- resentment of the type that produced 9/11 and still smolders beneath the surface in many parts of the world.

At the same time,it would also be difficult to claim any other nations are in better shape on a planet struggling with economic instability, violent religious conflict, and accelerating climate change. How this state of affairs developed is something many people simply don't want to discuss- or even consider- but, as a species, we ignore such painful reality at our peril.

Concerns about the planetary consequences of human cultural devolution were beyond my wildest imaginings when I started asking cannabis applicants why they were seeking a medical dispensation in 2001. How the two have come to be so densely connected will be the subject of subsequent posts.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2012

Annals of Speculation

A favorite human speculation is considering what might have happened if a particular event or human decision had either not taken place or had a significantly different outcome. For example, if an eighteen year old Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip had not assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, Sophia, on a 1914 June day in Sarajevo, would World War One have even happened? What if the Archduke had survived? Indeed, one could ask similar questions about any of the myriad assassinations that abruptly changed history: Julius Cesar, Abraham Lincoln, the Kennedys, to name but a few of the most familiar. Beyond that, a detailed review of each reveals several contingencies that might have altered their outcomes. Thus we are left with the idea that human history has been shaped by cascades of unpredictable events.

On the other hand, a very different concept has dominated religious thinking for centuries, one that may still be preferred by a majority of humans: that an omniscient, all powerful deity created the universe and would not be surprised by any single human action or decision; nevertheless, God is also believed to judge individuals on the basis of their specific choices ("free will"). That such a belief is inconsistent with ordinary logic does not appear to faze "true believers" of many persuasions.

My purpose here is not to discuss religion, but to question how a US policy that was radically altered when the Supreme Court declared the Marijuana Tax Act unconstitutional in 1969 was not only replaced, but greatly intensified in less than a year, thus becoming both a domestic and an international “war on drugs,” almost without missing a beat and without any serious discussion; either in Congress or at the UN. An additional irony is that the same federal bureaucrat primarily responsible for the deceptive 1937 "tax" act nullified by the Court had, as the first-ever UN "High Commissioner of Narcotics," led the campaign to convert his dubious legislation into global prohibition.

It's also important to note that as this is written in 2012, there has never been an unbiased modern study of cannabis- clinical or otherwise- in a setting where it was not already "illegal." Also, the US prison population, already spiking up in the early Sixties, has quadrupled since the MTA was replaced by the Controlled Substances Act conjured up by Watergate conspirator John Mitchell in 1969 was passed by Congress in 1970. The bottom line is that a small amount of "marijuana" detected at any UN member nation's port of entry can result in arrest and prosecution based on the UN's (impossibly vague) version of Mitchell's nebulous "Schedule One."

These policies offend me as a physician because a comparatively simple clinical study of its chronic users reveals that cannabis is a safe and useful medicine; despite the DEA's (uninformed) opinion. The primary reason its obvious medical benefits haven't been recognized has been its US illegality, which- ironically and tragically- was somehow “grandfathered” into UN policy after John Mitchell’s imaginative scheduling algorithm became the basis for American domestic policy.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, more properly-the Criminal Market Creation Act- made things a lot worse. Not only did it make useful medicines categorically illegal and create multiple violent criminal markets; it also denied important medical benefits to the whole world and anointed the US Attorney General as overseer of the ever-expanding list of categorically illegal Schedule One substances!

The disastrous American experience with (alcohol) Prohibition should have taught us that illegal markets for desired commodities are potentially enormous and impossible for police to "control;" they are also bereft of the usual safety and quality standards.

Over four decades of experience with this expanding US/UN folly have produced rogue nations with economies dominated by the global illegal drug trade; yet the pressure to change an obviously failing and destructive policy has been scant and largely ineffective.

Why the silence? What would it take to change such an obvious act of cognitive folly? Are we even capable of saving ourselves? The available evidence suggests we are not and the outcome of the raucous, impossibly stupid American Presidential campaign may turn out to be an important straw in the wind.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2012

Why Analysis of the War on Drugs is Important

American drug policy, which began with the Harrison Act of 1914 and had evolved into a global “war on drugs” by 1971, has been such an obvious policy disaster that its continuing enforcement by both America and the UN can be seen as a disturbing manifestation of humanity's tendency to ignore serious existential threats. In a world where overpopulation, rapid climate change, damage to the global ecology and a struggling economy, are but a few of the serious problems confronting our species, it behooves us to study such problems rather than ignore them on the very logical premise that the better we understand them, the more intelligently they can be dealt with. Unfortunately, many humans still seem reluctant to do so, an attitude that encourages apathy and calls for urgent change if we hope not to be overwhelmed by a “perfect storm” of long-neglected problems.

That the US had no national drug policy before 1914, makes the Drug War amenable to contemporary analysis. That it has been endorsed by the world via UN treaty means the world’s political leadership has embraced it; thus an objective analysis, if possible, might potentially be understood by a majority of literate humans. This is written in the hope that the policy's approaching centennial (December 17, 2014) might provoke a long overdue objective discussion of two rather obvious problems: first, a fundamentally flawed and and destructive drug policy affecting the entire world, and second, the human preference for denial; a behavioral characteristic that has allowed similar anomalous policies to be imposed on whole nations and blocs of nations with calamitous consequences.

What has motivated me to undertake this expanded analysis has been the opportunity to conduct a study of American “marijuana” prohibition (euphemistically referred by proponents as “control”) from the perspective of its victims. The accumulated data, which appear unique, have persuaded me that they should be shared with as many others as possible for the reasons listed above.

Because the modern internet allows individual bloggers of limited means to share information with the whole world, it seems like the least I can do.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)