Monday, August 26, 2013

Devolution of Life (Reverse Evolution)

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Destruction of the ecosystems 
Dichotomy of man's future, interpretation by two artists  

“Man has reversed the process of evolution and he has put into his hands the pattern and trends as he wishes, playing the role of his Creator.” - AVR
All living things, past and present, are progeny of evolution and are interconnected in one way or the other. And each one has a place in the phylogeny, the chart of evolution.

Imagine the organisms in countless numbers assigned in distinct groupings scientists call as “kingdoms,” with the ancient ones occupying the bottom, and the complex ones at the top. And each kingdom is divided into sub-groups arranged in the same pattern – from simple to complex members.

1. From the first Green Revolution – the transformation of man from hunter to farmer some 10,000 years ago – man has narrowed down the diversity of crops and animals according to his needs.

2. The loss of ecosystems all over the world as population and settlements continue to expand has not only predisposed species to extinction but caused permanent damage of these natural habitats, that it is virtually impossible to rebuild them back into their original states.

3. Life on earth is threatened by Global Warming which is causing sea level to rise and flood low lying area. On the hand polar ice and ice caps are melting. Global warming stirs climate change which is causing climatic disturbances. There is a increasing rate and intensity of typhoons, hurricanes, tornado, flooding, drought, and the like.

4. Pollution on land, water and air, in increasing levels brought about by industrialization, growing population and affluence of living, has triggered man-induced phenomena that threaten species and life itself.

5. Rapid population increase, industrialization and affluent living all lead to changing chemistry of the land, water and air. We do not only mix natural elements and compounds; we synthesize them into products foreign to nature. Plastics for example do not decompose, gases from car react to form acid rain, toxic metal run through the food chain and food web, and natural waterways are open sewers. These do not only disturb life; they maim, kill, annihilate; they turn productive areas into wastelands.

6. Man intrudes into the wildlife which continues to shrink. Gone is 80 percent of the rainforests of the world. Ninety percent of the coral reefs have been destroyed by over fishing and by reckless means. The grasslands are shrinking to give way to farming. The sea is being farmed. Islands are now owned by private persons and organizations.

7. Genetic engineering has broken down the barriers that separate species by directly combining genes of different organisms, thereby destroying the identity and integrity of species, and therefore change their behavior and interrelationships.

8. Evolution it seems is no longer a natural process, but one dictated by human intelligence that continues to build from the indulgence on the fruits of the “Tree of Knowledge that makes man as powerful as God,” the very thing that vanished his first ancestors from the biblical Garden of Eden.

Where have all the rice varieties gone?

There are more than 50,000 cultivars of rice presently stored in the Gene Bank of the International Rice Research Institute at UP Los BaƱos, Laguna. According to IRRI scientists this number represents but a fraction of the possibly rices (the plural of rice to denote distinct genetic variations) of the world since agriculture began some 5000 years ago or so.

Similarly at the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento del Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT) in Mexico the gene bank for wheat and corn faces the same problem as in rice, and if this is the case, it is logical that many varieties and cultivars of field crops we know today are but the selected few that man, the farmer, has intentionally preserved. In short, what these banks as well as those conserved by other organizations, are but the remnant of the world’s naturally occurring genetic pool on the one hand, and those genetically modified by man.

A cursory examination of rice sold in the market makes a short list of about a dozen misleading varieties as sinandomeng, wigwag, intan, which are pseudonyms to attract customers for the likeness of quality with those they have been named after.

To validate this observation through field survey one is likely to find even a simpler classification as upland and lowland rice, or aromatic, glutinous, red rice and the like. This is the same observation in the former prairies of North America, now the biggest cereal granary of the world extending across the Canadian border covering the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there are only 10 major wheat varieties planted on the vast plains. For corn, the indigenous varieties are rare to find on the farm. Hybrid corn – a cross of two or more purified varieties – makes up the bulk of corn produced. Hybrids are unstable genetically. In the succeeding generations the lose hold on the genetic vigor of their parents, resulting in drastic decline in yield.

What is the implication of narrowing down the choice of varieties to be planted commercially?

First, it will result in indirect elimination of varieties in the bottom of the list, by displacement by the preferred ones and by neglect on the [art of the farmer in maintaining them.

Second, fewer varieties planted is food security risk. Severe damage to even only one major variety is likely to result in economic disaster.

Third, the narrowing down of genetic diversity disturbs the ecosystem, laying much on man’s care the survival not only of the cultivated crops but other living things in the area as well, thus leading to the further decrease in diversity and population. The loss of diversity in cereal lands applies as well in other areas as evidenced by the following:

• Vegetables sold in the market are limited to those that are salable, leaving out those that are not, and the so-called “wild vegetables” represented by such vegetables as bagbagkong, papait, sabawil, sword bean, and alukong or himbaba-o.

• The kinds of fruits may be counted by the fingers, and like vegetables, only those that are acceptable dominate the fruit stands. Today it is rare to find such indigenous fruits as tampoy, sapote, batocanag, anonang and the native counterparts of guapple and ponderosa.

• Industrial crops are also suffering of the same fate. Take the following:

1. Dipterocarp species of forest trees (narra family) are now endangered. These include apitong , yakal, tanguili, and guijo.

2. Fiber plants such as maguey (Agave family), ramie, kenaf, jute, abaca, have bee vastly neglected since the introduction of synthetics fibers.

3. Today bamboo groves occupy the fringes of wastelands and certain watershed areas. Traditional bamboo areas, like the Dipterocarp forests, are vanishing, so with many of the species and variety of this so-called giant grass.

4. The increasing demand for firewood has decimated many indigenous sources, what with the open exploitation for day-to-day gathering of firewood in marginal communities. These include madre de cacao, ipil-ipil, acacia, and aroma.

5. Even plants of medicinal value are being exploited severely such as quinine for malaria, banaba for kidney trouble, derris for insect control.

6. Seaweeds suffer the same fate as more resorts are put up, aquaculture selective only to those species of major importance are raised, deleterious effects of pollution, notwithstanding.

Agriculture, the Nemesis of Biodiversity Conservation

Whenever a land is cleared for agriculture five consequences are likely to happen. These are

• Direct elimination of plants and animals which interferes and does not constitute or conform with farming practices.

• Breaking up of the food chain and therefore, the disruption of the food web leads to the disorganization of the ecosystem. For example, a swamp converted into riceland will necessarily lose its natural biological and ecological properties. Loss of habitats results in migration or death of affected species.

• Modern agriculture, with the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, is destructive to the ecosystem.

Mismanagement leads not only to loss in productivity, as shown in this formula.

Biotic Potential = Carrying Capacity/Productivity over Environmental Resistance

The Carrying Capacity of an ecosystem is dependent upon favorable biological factors (biotic potential), which in turn is affected by the presence of factors that negate them (environmental resistance), among which are lack of water, poor soil condition, and destructive activities of man.
Decreasing productivity therefore, means decreasing biodiversity – which means devolution of life.
x x x

Do humans aestivate?

Dr Abe V Rotor

 Summertime.  Humans find it a "vacation" different from other organisms's way of spending the dry and hot months in a state of inactivity or aestivation. 

 Hot weather slows down work. Biologically the body must conserve energy by slowing down metabolism. Otherwise you will literally burn up.

So I applied this knowledge through discreet research, observing my students in biology attending summer class. The class was from 7:30 to 10 o’clock in the morning, Monday to Friday.

And these are my findings. Given a leeway of ten minutes, I would be lecturing, pretending not to be disturbed by latecomers sneaking now and then through the backdoor. There is a pattern I found out in the population – same early and late comers, and absentees. I confronted the concerned students privately.

Sir, mahirap gumising sa summer, which means it’s difficult to get out of bed in summer. Well, it’s not the season, I suppose. It’s psychological – summer is synonymous to vacation. Why are we in school in the first place?

Sir, mainit kasi, mahirap maglakad. (Sir, it’s hot; it’s difficult to walk.) Well, don’t I warn myself, being in my senior years, of heat stroke and over work? And not to get exposed unnecessarily under the sun?

Sir, sinipon ako kasi dahil sa tinding init. (I got sick because of the extreme heat). Oh, well, if you are indisposed it's better to stay home. Heed your biological clock.

As summer began to wear off I studied the performance of my students as a population. Why the graph is eschewed to the left compared to the normal curve. Which means that scores in tests and recitations fall off the median point, bulging on the left side. A curve eschewed to the right indicates very good performance. At least I expected a typical 20-60-20 curve.

Well, I said again to myself, summer class is generally for repeaters – those who failed in the same subject before, as well for those coping up with back subjects to become regular students. While a few enroll advance subjects in order finish their course ahead.

Seeing the results of my students’ performance is like looking through the window on the fourth floor. Outside is windless; the tree tops attest to that. Mirage creates impressionistic images, almost abstract, from superheated concrete structures and highways. Outside our air-conditioned room lies the city virtually a frying pan, very few could endure it. Traffic is light. Shops are empty. Life barely stirs.

I remember Rizal’s essay, Indolence of the Filipinos. But we were then subjects under a foreign master, and to be indolent was a silent protest. Or there was no driving force to break from it. We wanted self-rule. Freedom. But there’s something our national hero as an expert of life science and psychology pointed out.

Hot weather slows down work. Biologically the body must conserve energy by slowing down metabolism. Otherwise you will literally burn up.

That particular summer gave me a lot of insights about human behavior in a tropical summer, more so with the current global warming. I was most lenient in all my years of teaching.

Ah, a teacher must grow into a sage, they say, although I say it is enough to become wise in some ways such as understanding the relationship of studying and weather conditions.

In the school year that followed I was asked to handle the same subject – Life Science, a 3-unit general subject for all college courses.

When finally the semester gained momentum, I found out that many students were consistently either late or absent, or both. I asked the concerned students for reasons.

Kasi Sir, mahirap gumising sa tag-ulan, which means it’s difficult to get out of bed during the rainy season.

Sir, umu-ulan kasi, mahirap maglakad. (Sir, when it’s raining it’s difficult to walk.)

Sir, sinipon ako kasi dahil sa biglang malakas na ulan. (I got sick because of sudden strong rain.)

And when I plotted the performance of the class as a population towards the end of the semester, the curve is eschewed to the left.

I looked out through the window of the fourth floor and saw the treetops swaying in the stormy weather. The city was buried in thick suffocating air.~ 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Decorative baskets from leaflets

Dr Abe V Rotor

Don't refuse those colorful leaflets at the mall.  Gather them instead.  Have a second round.  Tell the kind fellow you need more for your friends.  And  neighbors.  Put a smile to show your (good) intentions.

Now you have a bagful of colorful leaflets - housing, food, appliance, fashion, party, promo of many kinds.  Get them all.  The giver will just be too happy.  You are his potential customer.

Of course you are.  Who knows someday you will patronize any of those advertised products and services?  Or someone in the family or in the office will be curious about it. 

You see, you are a great help in getting rid of litters.  You make something useful before it is thrown into the garbage.  You turn garbage to beauty.  You give life to a short-lived leaflet. That’s more than recycling.  You make a table alive, a corner filled, a shelf attractive. You make something functional for pencils, laces, ribbons, hankies, in fact you can use it as flower base other than just a receptacle. 

You make children curious.  They want to know how you do it?  You are now a mentor, a teacher.  You are now an environmentalist.  An artist, not only for art sake, but to make this world a better place to live in. ~

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Lonely Island

Dr Abe V Rotor 

 Danajon Reef, Bohol 

Let life's burden to ease,
in ripples and rivulets, 
save the passing breeze, 
whispers like clarinets.

and the sun in lazy haze
blankets the cold and old,
veils the face pained by grief, 
and conquers the bold.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sun and Blue Sky

         Dr Abe V Rotor 

Unedited photo taken in Virac,Catanduanes, with Sony 
Cybershot camera, 7.2 mega pixels. October 20, 2011

Never aim at the sun, never, said my mentor,
     a rule I never forgot;
Photos I took, the sun at my side or back, 

      became pride of an art.

But art with no rules grew, and took over the helm; 
     take it from artists Picasso
and Van Gogh, their masterpieces with the sun
     burning in deep arctic blue. 

Wonder how the soul suffers when the body
     is hale yet unwilling;
and triumphs in the works of Milton and Monet, 
      their inner sun shining.~