Worms and Bacteria that eat Plastic

Disposable plastics are a major issue for the health of the planet. The problem is that plastic takes an incredibly long time to degrade and we keep producing more and more plastic. The plastic just keeps piling up. Unfortunately, very little of the plastic gets recycled and the plastic bottles that are recycled are often not made into new bottles but rather into clothes or bags.

The plastic just makes keeps adding to landfills and gets into the ocean. It kills animals that eat the plastic and this can have a really bad effect on the ecosystem in the long run. Unfortunately people also don’t seem to be trying too hard to minimize plastic consumption and so the market for disposable plastics is doing very well. Also, some disposable plastic materials are necessary for our modern society. This is really bad news for the planet and all life on it in the long run unless we can figure out a way to destroy the plastic.

It looks like nature already did the hardest part for us. Scientists have discovered that there are worms and bacteria that can actually eat plastic. Part of the reason why plastic takes so long to degrade is that it is such a new and unique material to the earth that scientists think that no bacteria or organism had evolved to break it down yet. Well it looks like those days are over.

In 2016 Japanese researchers said that a bacteria named Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6 can break down polyethylene terephthalate, also known as polyester. This is one of the most used plastics in the world. They believe that the bacteria adapted to its environment and evolved to be able to eat plastic. Since then scientists isolated the enzyme that allows the bacteria to do this. They then tried experimenting with it to try and understand how the enzyme evolved and in doing so made the enzyme even better at breaking down plastic!

Scientists plan to try and use this enzyme to break down plastic and make it back into plastic again so that they do not have to keep making more new plastic. This enzyme could even be used to clean up the plastic that is lying around all over the world. Even better than this is that now scientists discovered a worm that can also eat plastic!

Wax moth larvae can actually eat plastic. Just like the accidental strengthening of the enzyme the bacteria uses to break down plastic, it was accidentally discovered that these worms can eat plastic. A scientist and beekeeper had removed a worm infestation in a beehive and placed them into a plastic bag. She tied the bag but when she came back into her house the bag had an opening and the worms had escaped!

In the lab, these worms were confirmed to be able to eat plastic. 100 worms can eat 92 milligrams of plastic in 12 hours. These two discoveries are great news in the battle against climate change and pollution. Nature has provided us with the tools to destroy the plastics around the world and to be able to reuse those plastics instead of making new ones. If a bacteria has evolved to eat plastic and a worm has been discovered to be able to eat plastic, there could be many other bacteria that have evolved or will evolve to eat plastic and there may be many other organisms that can eat it also. This definitely gives some hope for the future since our modern society in some cases cannot and in most cases will not do without the modern invention of disposable plastic.

The information in this article and more can be found at these links:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/apr/24/plastic-munching-worms-could-help-wage-war-on-waste-galleria-mellonella

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/16/scientists-accidentally-create-mutant-enzyme-that-eats-plastic-bottles

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/10/could-a-new-plastic-eating-bacteria-help-combat-this-pollution-scourge

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/24/almost-no-plastic-bottles-get-recycled-into-new-bottles.html

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The Future of Meat

Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1940-1945, once said :

“With a greater knowledge of what are called hormones, i.e. the chemical messengers in our blood, it will be possible to control growth. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

That day is here. Companies in the United States and around the world are now in the process of creating real meat without the need to raise and slaughter an animal. Memphis Meats from San Francisco, JUST in Northern California, Mosa Meat in the Netherlands, Modern Meadows from Brooklyn, New York, Finless Foods also in Brooklyn, New York and Supermeat from Israel are all startup companies who have created what is called cultured meat in laboratories and are continuing to improve their products. Bill Gates, Richard Branson and agriculture companies like Tyson and Cargill have invested in this new technology. This new technology certainly will revolutionize animal agriculture. Before we get into the science of how cultured meat is produced let’s talk about the negatives of out current animal agricultural system.

The first issue with modern animal agriculture is that it is highly unethical in terms of the treatment of animals, one of which are pigs which are thought to be even more intelligent than dogs. We won’t get into the graphics but we are sure you’ve all seen some videos. It’s an animal holocaust.

The second issue is the amount of resources it consumes in order to produce the animal products purchased and eaten by consumers. Resources such as water, land, food, fuel, medicine and time are all used at absurd levels in order to produce animal products. This is a leading cause of climate change. De-forestation is often done in order to clear land to grow food for animals on farms to eat or to raise the animals. In addition lots of green house gases are released by the animals being raised for consumption. 1 pound of beef requires 38 pounds of food and 1,799 gallons of water. The land used to grow that food and the food and water used to feed the animals could be used to end world hunger.

The third major issue is health risks for people. The animals are crowded so close together that this creates a breeding ground for viruses. This is how the avian flu and swine flu broke out multiple times. The animals are also often very ill because of the conditions and so they are loaded up on antibiotics. Not only does this consume a huge amount of antibiotics that could be used for people and domestic animals, but this also causes the rapid evolution of deadly bacteria. Scientist are afraid that this could lead to incredibly strong bacterial illnesses in the near future that will be unable to be defeated by antibiotics.

These are major issues for our modern world. These will potentially be extinction level issues for the future if we continue animal agriculture in this way. This is because the human population is projected to rise to 9.6 billion people by 2050 and economies around the world are growing which leads to more middle class populations and higher levels of meat consumption. Our modern agricultural practices are not sustainable at our current population level so 9.6 billion people will be an even bigger horror show. There is no way our planet will be able to handle this. Highly unethical slaughter methods will continue, land will be destroyed, ecosystems will be destroyed, and viruses and bacteria will become too strong to be defeated with medicine. Massive extinction of many species will occur, green house gases will rise along with water levels and the human population will suffer greatly from natural disasters, droughts, famines and illnesses.

So yeah, we’re talking an apocalyptic scenario all because of food production. Well cultured meat can stop this. Before we explain how it will stop this, let’s talk about how cultured meat is produced.

The basic science of cultured meat is that there are cells in animal muscle tissue that can self renew. These cells are extracted from the animal and placed in controlled laboratory conditions. They are given the nutrients needed to replicate and grow into the particular muscle tissue that is needed. Eventually the cells grow to become whatever meat it was intended to be. It is called cultured meat because a culture is an artificial medium that provides nutrients for microbial organisms to reproduce. The cells are placed in a controlled environment and given nutrients to reproduce until they become meat. The companies working on cultured meat are also working on creating cultured dairy, sea food and eggs as well. Memphis Meats plans to have their products on the market in 3 years. Of course right now it is pretty expensive but as mass production gets underway the price will go down significantly.

Here is how this new science could help ward off that potential apocalypse we spoke about earlier. First off at a mass production level this new science would eliminate the need to raise and slaughter an animal for meat. Second, an incredible amount of land, food and water would be saved because you wouldn’t need to grow food to feed animals or raise animals. The meat production would be done in buildings. This also means no green house gases being released by farm animals. This would also save fuel because the buildings can be near by the locations in which the meat will be sold. Third, this also conserves anti-biotic usage and staves off the growth of viruses and bacteria into super bugs. The meat will also be much healthier because bacterial contamination would not occur in a clean controlled lab. Most bacterial contamination of foods comes from fecal contamination due to slaughter methods. This is also why cultured meat is sometimes called clean meat. The nutrient content could also be controlled. This would be able to be used to limit fats in the meat and fortify the meat with other essential nutrients people and domesticated animals may need. The prices may even get lower for animal products in the future if cultured meat, sea food, dairy and eggs becomes mass produced because it would take much less resources to create the animal products. Cultured animal products in combination with vertical farming of crops, spoken about in a previous article, could produce healthier food at a rate high enough to end world hunger without harming animals, the environment or people. Everybody wins.

Many people who have tried cultured meat products have said that it tastes just like meat. So yeah, clean cultured meat is coming to the market and it could save the world without making people give up consuming animal products. Let’s hope it does because 2050 doesn’t sound too pretty with 9.6 billion people if we still produce food the same way we do today.

The information here can be found at these links:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/winston-churchill-imagined-lab-grown-hamburger-180967349/

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/23/bill-gates-and-richard-branson-bet-on-lab-grown-meat-startup.html

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Are You Happy?

Time has come! You are ready to retire and relax for the remaining time you of your life. You plan to do all the things that you never got the chance to do! You don’t know how long you have left, but you just want to lay back and enjoy it without any responsibilities or duties, but are you happy with that? Do you feel like you lived a meaningful life and that you had purpose and fulfilled those goals you had as a kid?!

Finding happiness is one of the hardest things that any human can do. Is happiness having enough money to buy your own island? I mean yes that would be pretty fun for a time being, but after a few days or weeks you might get bored of it. Is happiness posting on social media how good your life seems while on the inside you just want people to like or envy you? This feels like it is coming to social norm today as people are more satisfied when people like their picture or that they have more followers than another person, but are they truly happy? People always seems to be happy on the outside just to show people that everything is okay or great, but all of us always have this feeling of not doing enough or feeling like they can do better. Unfortunately this thought causes depression in many people but we can only push forward and find what is actually means to be happy.

In my own opinion, I find a lot of happiness in trying to find my purpose in life. Finding that one thing you are really good at and contributing it to the world. The sad reality of it is that most of us pick jobs for the money and not really the enjoyment. Society is becoming more and more materialistic as well feel that the more items we have the more happiness we should obtain and this is not truth as we come to realize.

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A quote by Jim Carrey saying, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”. Its so simple, but it is extremely true. Most of us think that the answer is to get rich and famous as the meaning of happiness, but more of those who are rich and famous seem to not be happy enough with their lives if not at all!

Happiness is hard to find and some of us will never find it. One of the main things people should do is always chase their dreams. Find something you find happiness in doing everyday, either it being a hobby or a lifetime career, do it everyday and enjoy it as much as possible. Do things that you won’t regret. I feel a lot of people skip over opportunities and then sometime later think about how they should of took advantages of things including myself. One last thing which has helped me immensely in my life is never settle and never think that you aren’t good enough. As long as you put yourself to it and apply yourself you can go extremely far!