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It’s been illegal to harvest C. parthenoxylon since 2004
That’s interesting, as in my understanding it was in latter 2005 that MDMA ceased to be the same product. The debate still rages on about MehDma vs loss of magic.

Well in my 9 years use in that original scene, I’m not aware of such discussions having existed.

No smoke without a fire for myself, on that one. If all MDMA now was exactly like the good old stuff, we wouldn’t see such a debate hit the headlines.

I never realised back then of course, in 2005 when Lyme curtailed all my drug use except organic cannabis, but I got out (of MDMA) at the perfect time, like a basking shark had it’s right good fill of Krill or Sprats, while the going was good.

LSD remains to be the incredible thing it always has been at least.
 

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Psychedelics promote eco-friendly behaviors by altering our relationship to nature*

by Eric Dolan | PsyPost | 3 Sep 2017

Psychedelic drugs can positively affect people’s relationship with nature and promote eco-friendly behaviors, according to research published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

“In light of these findings, the present results once more raise the question whether a continuing prohibition of these experiences is indeed a worthwhile pursuit,” study authors Matthias Forstmann and Christina Sagioglou said in their article.

The experiences they’re talking about are produced by the so-called “classic” psychedelic drugs, which include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), “magic” psilocybe mushrooms, peyote, dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and ayahuasca.

In their study, the researchers surveyed 1,487 about their past drug use, relationship to nature, personality traits, and a number of other demographic variables.

They found that people who had used classic psychedelics were more likely to report that they enjoyed spending time in nature and were more likely to see themselves as a part of nature. This effect was independent of personality and political orientation.

The heightened level of nature relatedness was not found among people who had consumed other types of recreational drugs like alcohol or stimulants.

Psychedelic users who felt their self-identity was embedded in nature, in turn, were more likely to report engaging in everyday pro-environmental behaviors, such as recycling and buying environmentally friendly products.

“That is, the perception of being part of the natural world — rather than being separate from it — that is heightened for people who have experience with classic psychedelics, is largely responsible for the increased pro-environmental behavior that these people report,” the researchers explained in their study.

The study employed a cross-sectional design, which prevents the researchers from making firm conclusions about cause and effect.

Rather than psychedelics promoting nature relatedness, for example, it could be that people who feel more connected to nature are more likely to consume psychedelic drugs. But the researchers do not believe that this is the case.

“As the relationship we found remained significant after controlling for demographic variables and personality traits such as openness to experience, conscientiousness, or political attitudes, it is unlikely that the association we found can be entirely explained by a collection of personality traits stereotypically associated with psychedelic users (e.g. being of the ‘hippie’ type).”

*From the article here :
 
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H2Pro's E-TAC hydrogen production system is a revolutionary jump in water-splitting efficiency,
and a 20-year plunge in the cost of clean hydrogen.

Is H2Pro's dollar-a-kilo green hydrogen a 20-year leap in clean energy?

by Loz Blain | New Atlas | 10 Mar 2021

Israeli company H2Pro claims its highly efficient water-splitting technology will deliver green hydrogen at less than US$1 per kilogram before 2030. That's a big deal; it would represent a 60-80 percent drop in green H2 prices, down to a level where it's cheaper per unit of energy than current retail gasoline prices in the United States. The Hydrogen Council's current projections don't expect that kind of price drop until 2050, and even then it's a best-case scenario.

Assuming distribution can be ramped up pronto, and assuming a carbon price of US$100 per ton of CO2 equivalent, it could immediately make hydrogen cost-competitive across a range of applications, from buses, trucks, trains and cars to replacing coal in steel production and natural gas in ammonia production and refinery use. Even without a carbon tax, it'd still be a terrific option to replace diesel in road and rail transport.

Some serious players are getting on board as H2Pro moves from the test bench into production – Bill Gates's Breakthrough Ventures, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, Hyundai motor company, Sumimoto Corporation – although the recent fundraising round total of US$22 million looks more like a toe dipped in the bath than a plunge into the water, a rather cautious approach given the company's claims. The devil's in the detail with these things, so let's have a closer look.


A US$22 million investment round aims to move the E-TAC technology toward commercial scale.​

What exactly is the promise here?

In a promotional video, H2Pro says its E-TAC water splitting process is "the first technology to deliver energy efficiency of 95 percent ... compared to 70 percent of water electrolysis." The E-TAC devices, it says, are "inexpensive ... scalable, safer, and operate at higher pressure ... By 2023, we will deliver hydrogen at under US$2 per kilogram, and later this decade, at under US$1." A press release further clarifies: "coupled with anticipated reductions in the cost of renewable energy, H2Pro's technology will enable $1/kg green hydrogen at scale – making it the world's lowest cost green hydrogen."

The cheapest green hydrogen on the planet: that would be massive. Currently, it's already possible to produce "gray" or dirty hydrogen for US$1-1.80 per kilogram through steam reforming using natural gas – a process that emits CO2. H2Pro, on the other hand, is a water-splitting technology, so its emissions impact will depend on what energy source is used to produce it. Getting to US$1/kg with green energy would make this nothing less than a revolutionary technology in the long uphill climb towards zero global emissions.

The other part of the equation is also significant. A kilogram of hydrogen stores somewhere between 33 and 39 kWh of energy, depending on who you ask. In a paper published in Nature Science, H2Pro claims its E-TAC process produced gaseous hydrogen at an efficiency rate of 39.9 kWh per kilogram, where today's electrolyzers consume as much as 48 kWh per kilogram.

Now, this was a laboratory bench test producing tiny amounts of hydrogen, but that efficiency jump, and a promised full-system efficiency of 95 percent, is certainly something to celebrate. One of the key knocks on hydrogen as an energy storage medium is the many inefficiencies in its usage cycle; typically, you lose around 30 percent of your hard-won renewable input energy the minute you split your water. Reducing that to 5 percent would make green energy go significantly further, even if the fuel cells that extract energy back out of the hydrogen at the end use side are still quite inefficient.​

How does the E-TAC process differ from traditional hydrolysis?

Effectively, by adding an extra step. Current-gen electrolysis produces hydrogen and oxygen at the same time, passing electricity through alkaline- or acid-enriched water to generate oxygen gas that's attracted to the anode and hydrogen has that's attracted to the cathode. This operation is performed in a chamber that's physically split with some sort of membrane, allowing each gas to be collected separately.

Left: a typical single-stage electrolyzer design, with a membrane separating the hydrogen and oxygen gases.
Right: the two-stage E-TAC process. The first, cold, electrochemical step generates the hydrogen and oxidizes the anode.
The second, thermally-activated step regenerates the anode by releasing the oxygen, and requires no current.

E-TAC, which stands for Electrochemical - Thermally-Activated Chemical water splitting, was originally developed at the Israel Institute of technology. The process generates hydrogen and oxygen in two separate processes. In the first (electrochemical) step, a current is passed through water at 25°C, evolving H2 which can be collected near the cathode, and hydroxide ions (OH-) that are attracted to the nickel hydroxide anode (Ni(OH)2). This oxidizes the anode, into nickel oxyhydroxide (NiOOH).

The second (thermally activated chamical) step disconnects the electrical circuit and heats up the water to 95°C, the optimal point at which that nickel oxyhydroxide anode reacts spontaneously with water to release the oxygen it gained in the first step, turning the anode back into nickel hydroxide and setting it up for another cycle. Additives to the water, including some cobalt, help ensure no unwanted oxygen is produced in the first step, and the all-important anodes are prepared by electrochemical impregnation of nickel foam substrates instead of being pasted or sintered, to maximize their surface area. This helps them handle higher current densities in the first step, and maximizes the regeneration rate in the second step.

The hydrogen and oxygen gases never mix, so the separation membrane – which H2Pro says is the most expensive and delicate part of a traditional electrolyzer – isn't needed at all, and the risk of explosive gas mixing is eliminated. The E-TAC system, unlike membrane systems, can support high-pressure production, up to 100 bar, meaning that you don't need to spend more money on compressors, and that plus the lack of membrane helps reduce capital, operational and maintenance costs.

It's also well-suited for use with renewable power sources like solar and wind, since it's capable at operating efficiently at partial loads; these renewables vary constantly in their output and rarely run at 100 percent capacity.​

Where to from here?

H2Pro says the US$22 million investment round "will be used to support ongoing development of the technology and scale up H2Pro's manufacturing capabilities." In a production system, the E-TAC process could be set up in a multi-cell system, where the room-temperature stage 1 electrolyte and the hot stage 2 electrolyte are kept separate and "pushed around" through the various circuits by a third fluid at an intermediate temperature. In this way, you could have the first and second steps happening concurrently in separate, hermetically-sealed circuits.


Smart Energy Fund has invested more than 252k euros ($175k) in H2Pro, the high-tech startup
led by Talmon Marco, the CEO and investor of the company and founder of Viber .

Smaller, slower implementations could use a single-cell system, in which the cell is "washed" between stages by a similar intermediate-temperature fluid. Either way, the electrodes will stay stationary and the fluids will move, and the electrolyte heat can be carefully managed for efficiency, taking advantage of the endothermic process in the first step and the exothermic process in the second step to minimize heat losses and thus energy costs.

The lab prototype, according to Bloomberg, can produce about 100 grams of hydrogen a day, with the researchers manually connecting and disconnecting the circuit between steps. The company expects to have a 1kg/day prototype in operation. It's an awfully long way from 1kg/day up to commercial-scale hydrogen generation, and the graveyards of capitalism are littered with companies whose tech broke records in the lab but couldn't cut it in the real world. US$22 million buys a lot of potato chips or jet skis, but this is "prove you can scale" money rather than "let's get a big one of these next to every wind farm" money.

So we'll temper our expectations. Still, if H2Pro can deliver a large-scale system making fuel cell-grade hydrogen from green energy at a buck a kilo by 2030, it will have achieved what most projections are estimating as a best-case goal for 2050, 20 years ahead of schedule. The fast-growing green hydrogen sector would explode – a word most folk would probably like to keep well clear of any hydrogen discussions – and this company would stand poised to make a huge contribution to the colossal task of decarbonizing the modern world.

The video below adds little, but will give you a sense of where the company's at.


 
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mr peabody

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Psychedelics and Environmental Sustainability
Harvesting and manufacturing practices for Ayahuasca, MDMA, and Ibogaine

by Sean Lea | Truffle Report | 27 Feb 2021

Research breakthroughs involving psychedelics have the potential to improve the quality of life for many —whether they’re being used as a treatment for addiction or for other issues, like anxiety or depression. On the other hand, the commodification of psychedelics for medical use is now pretty much inevitable, and has profound implications surrounding environmental sustainability worldwide.

It’s definitely not all bad. Some have argued that the popularization of psychedelic visions from substances like psilocybin may make people more environmentally conscious by causing them to feel more connected to nature. Recent innovations involving psilocybin synthesis may allow for more environmentally friendly production using sugar and yeast when medical psilocybin hits the market.

For many other newly popular psychedelics, however, there are still a host of environmental issues to consider. In order to be an informed consumer, it’s important to be aware of as many of these as possible.

Sustainable Ayahuasca: B. Caapi and P. Viridis

The ayahuasca tourism boom has been beneficial for many in Central and South America by stimulating local economies and producing jobs and revenue for communities. That said, there are concerns about what the popularity of the brew may mean for the rainforest where its ingredients grow. It would be challenging to harvest enough wild B. Caapi and P. Viridis to completely exhaust the supplies of the Amazon —foragers would need access to deep areas in the rainforest where they grow in order to accomplish this. This lack of access to the wild plants creates the need for plantation development, which may further result in deforestation, which is already an issue in the Amazon rainforest because of cattle ranches, palm oil plantations, and mining operations.

A core concern with sustainable farming and foraging for ayahuasca ingredients is that the B. Caapi vine takes around 5 years to mature. This makes it challenging to keep up with the rapidly-expanding demand for ayahuasca ceremonies. New and inexperienced foragers are also less likely to know how to harvest the vine correctly so that it can regrow. P. Viridis (chacruna leaf) has also seen a decline in supply and a corresponding increase in price, which has resulted in some ceremony practitioners using other, less safe plants to induce hallucinatory effects in their patients and customers.

While deforestation is already bad enough for the animal population, jaguars are also being more frequently targeted by poachers because of the ayahuasca boom. Trinkets made of their fangs and teeth have been dubiously marketed to tourists as “enhancements” to ayahuasca ceremonies. While many of the above-mentioned issues are complex in nature, you should at least now know not to support this unscrupulous practice as an ayahuasca consumer.

Safrole and MDMA

We mentioned earlier this week that a precursor in MDMA production is sassafras oil, rich in safrole. The sassafras tree of the United States is not the only source of this oil, however, and it is found in many plants around the world. Cambodia is home to the C. parthenoxylon tree, locally known as mreah prew phnom, the roots of which are also rich in safrole. These trees have been a major target for black market safrole extraction as MDMA has grown in popularity. It’s been illegal to harvest C. parthenoxylon since 2004 —but in 2008, 1278 barrels of safrole oil were seized during a bust. Unfortunately, the extraction of safrole oil from these requires the burning of several more trees as well. The facilities used to extract safrole are also, by nature, unregulated and dump harmful byproducts into local water tables, affecting many fish and animal species.

Further north, black market MDMA production in the Netherlands has resulted in constant chemical dumping around the area of Tilburg —where much of this production is localized. Dump sites have included parks, streets, and rivers. This practice is so constant that a Dutch law enforcement officer from Tilburg claimed to have teams cleaning a different dump site every day. Farmers have even been threatened into allowing criminal organizations to dispose of their chemicals by adding them to pig feed.

Sustainable iboga

Ibogaine treatment has become appealing to many people as a solution to withdrawal while overcoming addiction. Ibogaine is sourced primarily from a plant called T. Iboga, used extensively in ceremonies by members of a West African religion called Bwiti. Bwitist tradition sees iboga plants grown and fostered by the whole community —but as both the religion and the use of ibogaine have spread around the world, the sustainable cultivation of iboga hasn’t been able to keep up.

In response to this, the Gabonese government banned the export of T. Iboga in February of 2019, but the black market continues to put pressure on the plant supplies. T. Iboga was originally gathered from the wild, but the population of Gabon has quadrupled since 1960. This has created the necessity for expanded agriculture, which has also led to deforestation. The process has been fairly slow, as former president Omar Bongo designated several areas as national parks in order to protect them. Nonetheless, the reduction in forest habitat has caused a decline in animal populations, like elephants and monkeys, that aid in the proliferation of T. Iboga by spreading seeds.

There are community associations in Gabon devoted to the sustainable production of iboga for the international market. These have been slow to develop and receive export permits, however, and the onus will still fall to businesses and consumers to source these products sustainably.

Environmental impact

Environmental ripple effects like these are not unique to the budding psychedelic industry. Whenever a natural product becomes a commodity, environmental repercussions tend to follow one way or the other. Because the industry for medical psychedelics is still so young, the opportunity to lay a sustainable groundwork for it still exists. As a consumer, you can help this effort by voting with your dollars and supporting sustainable businesses and practitioners.

*From the article here :
 

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Graphene made from old tires helps strengthen concrete

by Michael Irving | NEW ATLAS | 29 Mar 2021

Researchers at Rice University have developed a new process to convert old tires into graphene, which can then be used to make concrete. Not only is it more environmentally friendly, but the team says the resulting concrete is substantially stronger.

The research builds on the team’s previous breakthroughs in making graphene through a process called flash Joule heating. Essentially, this involves using a jolt of electricity to quickly superheat almost any carbon source to around 2,725 °C (4,940 °F), converting it into graphene flakes. Specifically, it’s a form of the material known as turbostratic graphene, which has layers that don’t line up perfectly. That makes it more soluble, and easier to integrate into composite materials.

Last year the team demonstrated the technique using waste products like food or plastic – and now, they’ve moved onto discarded tires. The Rice team says that previous efforts to convert tires directly into graphene didn’t yield the best results, so for the new study they turned to the material left over after they’ve undergone a common recycling process.

Pyrolysis involves burning tires in a low-oxygen environment, which creates an oil that’s very useful for a range of industrial processes. But it also produces a solid carbon residue that’s been harder to find new life for.

Tires turned into Graphene that makes stronger concrete.

The Rice researchers found that this tire-derived carbon black was a great candidate for producing flash graphene. When they put the material through flash Joule heating, some 70 percent of it was converted into graphene, while a mixture of shredded tire rubber and commercial carbon black yielded around 47 percent.

Next, the team demonstrated a particular use case for the new graphene material – concrete production. They added 0.1 weight/percent for the graphene produced from tire carbon black, and 0.05 wt% for the mixture of carbon black and shredded rubber into Portland cement. They found that concrete cylinders made with this cement showed around 30 percent better compressive strength than concrete made without the graphene additive.

“This increase in strength is in part due to a seeding effect of 2D graphene for better growth of cement hydrate products, and in part due to a reinforcing effect at later stages,” says Rouzbeh Shahsavari, co-lead author of the study.

The team says that the graphene-reinforced concrete has several environmental benefits. Not only could it help prevent waste tires from ending up in landfill, but the extra strength of the final material could reduce the amount of concrete needed in structures.

“Concrete is the most-produced material in the world, and simply making it produces as much as 9 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” says James Tour, co-lead author of the study. “If we can use less concrete in our roads, buildings and bridges, we can eliminate some of the emissions at the very start.”

The research was published in the journal Carbon.

 
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POPCORN | A natural substitute for polystyrene


A lot of things we use come from fossil fuels, which means more non-biodegradable waste. But a scientist in Germany is looking for substitutes to counter this trend and is using popcorn as a replacement for polystyrene.
 

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A swarm of desert locusts in Meru, Kenya.

As locusts swarmed East Africa, this tech helped squash them

by Rachel Nuwer | New York Times | 9 Apr 2021

A hastily formed crowdsourcing operation to contain the insects in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia could help manage climate-related disasters everywhere.

Melodine Jeptoo will never forget the first time she saw a locust swarm. Moving like a dark cloud, the insects blotted out the sky and pelted her like hail.

“When they’re flying, they really hit you hard,” said Ms. Jeptoo, who lives in Kenya and works with PlantVillage, a nonprofit group that uses technology to help farmers adapt to climate change.

In 2020, billions of the insects descended on East African countries that had not seen locusts in decades, fueled by unusual weather connected to climate change. Kenya had last dealt with a plague of this scale more than 70 years ago; Ethiopia and Somalia, more than 30 years ago. Nineteen million farmers and herders across these three countries, which bore the brunt of the damage, saw their livelihoods severely affected.

“People were operating in the dark, running around with their heads cut off in a panic,” said Keith Cressman, a senior locust forecasting officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. “They hadn’t faced something of this magnitude since the early 1950s.”

But as bad as 2020’s swarms were, they and their offspring could have caused much worse damage. While the weather has helped slow the insects’ reproduction, the success, Mr. Cressman said, has primarily resulted from a technology-driven anti-locust operation that hastily formed in the chaotic months following the insects’ arrival to East Africa. This groundbreaking approach proved so effective at clamping down on the winged invaders in some places that some experts say it could transform management of other natural disasters around the world.

“We’d better not let this crisis go to waste,” said David Hughes, an entomologist at Penn State University. “We should use this lesson as a way not just to be adapted to the next locust crisis, but to climate change, generally.”

Desert locusts are the Dr. Jekylls and Mr. Hydes of the insect world. Normally, the grasshopper-like plant eaters spend their time living solitarily across the deserts of North Africa, Southwest Asia and the Middle East. But when rains arrive, they change from a muted brown into a fiery yellow and become gregarious, forming groups of more than 15 million insects per square mile. Such a swarm can consume the equivalent amount of food in a single day as more than 13,000 people.

The locust plague that hit East Africa in 2020 was two years in the making. In 2018, two major cyclones dumped rain in a remote area of Saudi Arabia, leading to an 8,000-fold increase in desert locust numbers. By mid-2019, winds had pushed the insects into the Horn of Africa, where a wet autumn further boosted their population. An unusual cyclone in Somalia in early December finally tipped the situation into a true emergency.

“Ten years ago, there would have been between zero and one cyclones coming off the Indian Ocean,” Dr. Hughes said. “Now there’s eight to 12 per year — a consequence of climate change.”

Countries like Sudan and Eritrea that regularly deal with small, seasonal swarms have teams of locust trackers who are trained to find the insects and recognize which life cycle stage they are in. They use a tablet-based program to transmit locust data by satellite to national and international authorities so experts can design appropriate control strategies.

But people outside of those frontline locust nations who may want to start using this system today would encounter a typical technology problem: The version of the tablets that the locust-tracking program was written for is no longer manufactured, and newer tablets are not compatible with the software. And even if the hardware were available, in 2020, East Africa lacked experts who could identify locusts.

“We’d never had a dress rehearsal for the real thing,” said Alphonse Owuor, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization specialist in Somalia. “We had people who were very familiar with locusts in theory, but who didn’t have the experience or equipment required to carry out this massive operation.”

With swarms suddenly covering an area of Kenya larger than New Jersey, officials were tasked with creating a locust-combating operation virtually from scratch. Collecting dependable, detailed data about locusts was the first crucial step.

“Saying ‘Oh, there’s locusts in northern Kenya’ doesn’t help at all,” Mr. Cressman said. “We need longitude and latitude coordinates in real time.”

Rather than try to rewrite the locust-tracking software for newer tablets, Mr. Cressman thought it would be more efficient to create a simple smartphone app that would allow anyone to collect data like an expert. He reached out to Dr. Hughes, who had already created a similar mobile tool with the Food and Agriculture Organization to track a devastating crop pest, the fall armyworm, through PlantVillage, which he founded.

PlantVillage’s app uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help farmers in 60 countries, primarily in Africa, diagnose problems in their fields. Borrowing from this blueprint, Dr. Hughes and his colleagues completed the new app, eLocust3m, in just a month.

Unlike the previous tablet-based program, anyone with a smartphone can use eLocust3m. The app presents photos of locusts at different stages of their life cycles, which helps users diagnose what they see in the field. GPS coordinates are automatically recorded and algorithms double check photos submitted with each entry. Garmin International also helped with another program that worked on satellite-transmitting devices.

“The app is really easy to use,” said Ms. Jeptoo of PlantVillage. Last year, she recruited and trained locust trackers in four hard-hit Kenyan regions. “We had scouts who were 40- to 50-year-old elders, and even they were able to use it.”

In the last year, more than 240,000 locust records have poured in from East Africa, collected by PlantVillage scouts, government-trained personnel and citizens. But that was only the first step. "Countries next needed to act on the data in a systematic way to quash locusts. In the first few months, however, officials were strategizing “on the back of envelopes,” Mr. Cressman said, and the entire region had just four planes for spraying pesticides.

When Batian Craig, director of 51 Degrees, a security and logistics company focused on protecting wildlife, saw Mr. Cressman quoted in a news story about locusts, he realized he could help.

Mr. Craig and his colleagues, who are headquartered at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Central Kenya, conduct regular anti-poaching aerial surveys that could be repurposed to seek out and destroy locust swarms. They also closely communicate with rural communities affected by the insects.

Additionally, 51 Degrees uses a free program called EarthRanger. Created by Vulcan, a Seattle-based philanthropic company originally co-founded by Paul Allen of Microsoft and his sister Jody Allen, EarthRanger compiles and analyzes geographic data ranging from rhino and ranger locations to sensor data and remote imagery.

Engineers at Vulcan agreed to customize a version of EarthRanger for locusts, integrating data from the eLocust programs and the computer loggers on aerial pesticide sprayers.

Lewa Conservancy quickly became the headquarters for aerial survey and control across the region. By June 2020, these efforts were paying off. Locusts were prevented from spilling into Africa’s Sahel region and west to Senegal.

“If we didn’t stop them, the locusts would have reached Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania,” said Cyril Ferrand, leader of the F.A.O.’s Eastern Africa resilience team. “We were able to prevent a much bigger catastrophe.”

The progeny of the 2020 swarms continue to cause damage across East Africa. But now, countries are better able to combat them — equipped with the new technology, 28 aircraft and thousands of trained government locust trackers. In February alone, locust-patrolling pilots in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia flew the equivalent of three times the circumference of the globe. They sprayed swarms before they had time to mature, stopping the insects from multiplying and spreading into Uganda and South Sudan, as they did last year.

“The situation is still very, very serious,” Mr. Cressman said. “But if you compare now to a year ago, the countries are a thousand times more prepared.”

Since February 2020, the F.A.O. estimates that this effort in East Africa has averted the loss of agricultural products with a commercial value of $1.5 billion — saving the livelihoods of 34 million people.

“These are big data for a region that’s already very fragile,” Mr. Ferrand said.

The new approach could yield even greater results in tracking, combating and even averting future disasters. Dr. Hughes is now working with experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to use locust reports to build models that will predict future plagues. Such insight would allow countries to implement pre-emptive control strategies that are less environmentally damaging than pesticides.

The same approach, Dr. Hughes said, could also be used to combat other climate-related disasters, such as floods, droughts and pest outbreaks.

“Locusts show how we can crowdsource with artificial intelligence,” Dr. Hughes said. “This can be an absolute game-changer to hundreds of millions of people as we adapt to climate change.”

 
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Could psychedelic drugs help us save the planet?

by Jules Peck | Open Democracy | 15 Feb 2020

Psychedelics are having an extraordinary renaissance. A sea-change in attitudes is rapidly building momentum towards mainstream acceptance of the role of psychedelics in human development, as has been documented in bestselling books such as Michael Pollan’s 'How to change your mind' and Kotler and Wheal’s 'Stealing Fire.' An estimated one-in-ten (32 million) Americans use psychedelics on a regular basis, and they are as widely used as in the 1960s boom era.

With Phase 3 clinical trials in the UK and US on their way for psychedelic treatment for many ailments, it‘s not long before psychedelics become commonly prescribed by doctors and perhaps decriminalized for public use in places like the US and UK, as they already are in many countries such as Holland, Portugal, Peru and Brazil.

‘Shaking the snowglobe’

In the medical field great progress is being made by groups such as MAPS and the work of pioneering scientist Dr Robin Carhart-Harris’s Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College. There, hundreds of patients are being treated with psychedelics for a variety of physical and psychological illnesses and addictions with astonishing outcomes far beyond those of standard medicine and therapy.

Psychedelics are said to ‘shake the snowglobe’ or push the reset button in our brains by releasing dopamine and nonrepinephrine neurochemicals. As the below image illustrates, they massively increase brain connectivity. They are popular with artists, creatives and techies because this unlocks the brain’s ability to boosting lateral and out-of-the-box thinking and complex pattern recognition, helping find new links between concepts and ideas. For many US tech entrepreneurs psychedelics are now the drug of choice for unlocking creativity and team-building. Deep ‘ecstasis’ experiences on high doses release endorphins and anadamine, knocking out the default mode network (DMN) or ‘me network’ in our brains, switching off the ego or self.

Humans developed this ‘me network’ to help them be more successful at a certain stage of their evolution, but it comes with certain drawbacks. As John Hopkins Professor Matt Johnson explains:

“So much of human suffering stems from having this self that needs to be psychologically defended at all costs. We’re trapped in a story that sees ourselves as independent, isolated agents acting in the world. But that self is an illusion. It can be a useful illusion, when you’re swinging through the trees or escaping from a cheetah or trying to do your taxes, but at the systems level, there is no truth to it.”

There’s strong evidence that such experiences catalyse psychological change and change the way we think, experience life and relate to others. Research by Carhart-Harris and others suggests that people’s politics become more ‘plastic’ and mutable and shift towards more intrinsically oriented cooperative, accepting, inclusive and communitarian values. As Carhart-Harris puts it: “the compounds may have a political effect. Many believe LSD played precisely that role in the political upheaval of the 1960s.”

Because of this ‘political’ effect, pioneering psychedelic research work has begun with people without psychological disorders. For instance, one such experiment is exploring the potential benefits of psychedelics for reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian people.

While more work on clear causality is needed, there is strong evidence that psychedelic experiences of awe and ego-dissolution cause subtle shifts away from self-focus, individualism, a desire for financial success and competitiveness towards more intrinsic, open, trusting, optimistic, liberal and collective dimensions of personal identity which resonate with egalitarian political views.

From egoism to ecoism


Psychedelics not only break down perceived barriers between our fellow beings, they have a powerful ability to break down barriers between humans and nature or matter itself. Anyone who has experienced a decent dose of psychedelics in a natural setting will recognise the scenes from the movie Avatar where the characters are tapped into the web of life.

A recent paper from Imperial College’s Sam Gandy and Hannes Kettner, 'From Egioism to Ecoism,' contains the first empirical evidence for a causative role of psychedelics in enhanced nature-relatedness. Referring to the boom-era of the 1960s, Gandy and Kettner note that “psychedelic drug use may have contributed to the impetus of modern ecology movements.” If increased connection to nature was important in the 1960s, it is ever more so now.

It has been shown consistently that increased nature connectedness enhances psychological connectedness in a more general sense and elicits higher valuations of the kinds of intrinsic goals and aspirations such as personal growth, intimacy and community compared to extrinsic ones like money, image and fame.

These changes psychedelics seem to affect echo the kinds of values shifts explored by the work of Tim Kasser and Common Cause which maps human values on an axis of ‘self enhancement’ values (i.e. broad-mindedness, equality, social justice, friendship, community, helpfulness) versus ‘self transcendence’ values (i.e. financial success, ambition, image, status).

The kind of values we prioritise represent a strong guiding force shaping our attitudes and behaviours and influencing our political persuasions, our willingness to engage in political action, our career and consumption choices and the way we bring up our children and interact with wider society.

Professor Kasser has shown that, compared to those oriented towards intrinsic values, people who have strongly held extrinsic values such as materialism express less love of the natural world, have higher ecological footprints, engage in fewer pro-environmental behaviors and report more greed and use resources less sustainably in social dilemma games, such as the "tragedy of the commons" problem.

Opposite values on the values map are in tension with each other, so dialling up one dials down the other in a see-saw effect. But where we sit on the ‘values map’ between the collection of intrinsic or ‘we’ values and extrinsic ‘me’ values orientation is not fixed – it can shift with the right stimulus. Upbringing, advertising and societal norms are likely to be crucially important in mediating where we each sit on the values map or circumplex.

New values, new economy?

Values are not just important at the individual level. The values of our overall social and economic system play an important role in shaping our psychological lives and determining our own personal values, our individual and social lived experience and world views. Repeated norming and engagement of these values in turn internalises these values in us and reinforces the ongoing hegemony of this dominant system and its values, rules, policy and structural designs.

The currently predominant world economic system has its own set of highly extrinsically oriented values and a guiding vision of individuals competing with each other for their own self-interests bringing optimum outcomes for all. But this vision is highly contested and it is increasingly clear that, whatever benefits it may have brought at a certain stage of social evolution, we are now paying far too high a price for it.

This system now inescapably causes serious, potentially civilisation threatening ecological externalities and extreme inequality. For this reason ‘new’ and ‘next’ economy movements are actively exploring ways to shift us to a new system where the citizen, community, civic associations and a ‘partner state’ are in the driving seat rather than capital.

The extrinsic ‘me’ self-enhancing values of power (dominance over people and resources) and hierarchy which dominate our psyches and maintain and underpin our current system encourages people, institutions and systems to give preference to things like financial success, prestige, authority, individualism, competition and materialism, and thus undermine our own wellbeing and that of our planet.

Imagine if we could shift our values towards the kinds of autonomously chosen intrinsic values like benevolence, cooperation, community, universalism, affiliation to friends and family, connection to and concern for nature, social justice and creativity. This might characterise a more democratic, postcapitalist, participative and commons based system of economics.

A 2014 study by Imperial’s Professor David Nutt showed a close relationship between psychedelics and ego-dissolution and selflessness, and conversely a close relationship between alcohol and cocaine and ego-inflation and self-centred experiences. Perhaps it’s no surprise psychedelics are characterised as hippie drugs, and cocaine the drug for the banker?

We know from systems theory that complex adaptive systems, such as hegemonic politico-economic systems like the current system, have feedback processes and self-correcting mechanisms to ensure their continued dominance. Thus, by way of self-protection, the values, incentives and disincentives, norms, institutional architecture and lifestyles that drive hyper-consumerist, extrinsically orientated people (whose lifestyles support the dominant system) are perhaps more likely to lead them to individualistic ego-inflation experiences and drugs rather than more collective and ‘open’ ego-dissolution experiences. What the impact of widespread ego-dissolution experiences might have on people with these extrinsic lifestyles and values sets can only be imagined, but that is certainly something that Gail Bradbrook, founder of Extinction Rebellion had in mind in calling for ‘mass psychedelic disobedience.’

Indeed, in 2008 Professor Nutt was vilified and then thrown out of high office by a mainstream repelled by the idea of non state-sanctioned states of consciousness when he pointed out the scientific fact that things like alcohol, tobacco, Ritalin and Oxycontin are many, many times more harmful than psychedelics. But these state-sanctioned drugs are all arguably tools of the current system – stimulants to drive more production and consumption.

It is striking that these extrinsic values so prevalent in society today are the very same values which psychedelics seem to help dial down in switching off the ‘me’ network, and switching on the ‘we’ network. But despite the popularity of organised psychedelic retreats few if any seem to have been designed and carried out with an overt focus on seeking to explore these values shifts, and to support a move beyond inbuilt resistance to system change.

The ego-dissolution which occurs with deep ecstasis on psychedelics is exactly what is needed at this moment in our social evolution. Perhaps they can ‘shake the snow-globe’, unblock our minds to seeing the need for and potential of radical system change?

Creative new ways of imagining and co-creating a new social story might be unlocked with their ability to help connect us to ‘greater-than-self’ challenges and boost lateral and out-of-the-box thinking, complex pattern recognition and help find new links between concepts and ideas.

Alnoor Ladha and Martin Kirk have made this point well on multiple occasions. Others such as Gail Bradbrook, the co-founder of XR, have made similar points about the potential power of psychedelics in relation to climate change awareness and action. The same vision that psychedelics should be a tool for social transformation and not just personal transformation was what united earlier thinkers in the 1960s such as Huxley, Dass and Ginsberg.

While much has been written about the idea that ‘psychedelics can heal the world’ or ‘fight fascism’, these are clearly overplaying their hand. There are also others like Brian Pace who challenge the idea that psychedelics could be transformatory for society and help shift politics to the left, pointing out that there are those on the alt-right who are big fans of these compounds.

But perhaps these challenges to the ‘heal the world’ thesis miss the point. It’s clearly not credible to suggest that just because you experiment with psychedelics you will automatically become a left wing eco-warrior. There are no doubt those on the right who are regular users of psychedelics to no effect of this kind. Indeed Alan Piper has documented in great detail the fascinating historical links between the far right and psychedelics. But as Pace notes, “it does not appear that the far right has embraced psychedelics anywhere near the extent that other subcultures have.”

But it’s important to recognise that most people are not alt-right in values and people with extreme values would never be the main target audience for such work. Perhaps Todd Gitlin is right when he commented recently to Marc Gunther that “the authoritarians who crush nature and love plutocracy are not the ones who are going to feel at one in the universe."

But there is a huge cohort of people in the political ‘centre’ whose values might shift in a more prosocial direction if they experienced psychedelics at the right dose and with the right set and setting, informed by what we know about values and the way they can shift.

As John Hopkins’ Professor Matthew Johnson says:

“I certainly wouldn’t say that psychedelics are a panacea that is single-handedly going to save the world. But perhaps, if cautiously used under the right circumstances, they could be part of and contribute to an overall greater level of awareness. Ultimately, we’re all completely dependent on each other, we’re on this planet together, trying to figure out how to ultimately survive and thrive, and I think these profound mystical experiences, however they might be occasioned, can perhaps help point us in the right direction.”

What is needed is clearly a more thoughtful approach than what Pace calls “vague implications that wider psychedelic use will somehow inspire progressive values, universal siblinghood, and an ecotopia of overlong, platonic hugs”.

Towards open source experimentation

At a time where there is an explosion of noise about the potential for a mainstreaming of psychedelics, and a very real threat of capture and enclosure of this space purely for profit, it seems important to experiment with more prosocial ways of using these extraordinary tools for societal transformation in an open-source manner.

Combining what we know about shamanic rituals, the science of psychedelics and values theory into a program of retreats might be a useful way to explore unlocking changes in people’s approach to system challenges.

It would be important that this new renaissance is not set back by another ‘Timothy Leary moment’ and these retreats would need to be undertaken in the most highly professional, ethical and responsible manner. Naturally, these retreats would for the time being need to take place in a country such as Holland where psychedelics are not illegal.

The curation, set (psychological context) and setting (sociocultural context) including the framing and curation of group discussions before and after the psychedelic journey would need to be designed to allow emergent and co-creative exploration of values change and systems thinking.

It would also be interesting to explore running these retreats in natural settings to explore nature-connectedness as well as using appropriate music, which the science of neuro-musicology has shown can help switch brainwaves from high-beta (normal waking state) to alpha and theta which is experienced in ecstasis, along with tools perhaps such as systemic constellations.

Such retreats would need to be science based and record open-source outcomes in a way which helps move forward the science of psychedelics as well as the field of values change and system change. One might work with a number of different pre and post assessment tools including values and political alignment, nature-relatedness, brain scans and heart monitoring.

Whilst we must not see psychedelics as a silver bullet, they are surely a potentially important and as of yet under explored potential tool for human transformation. Perhaps in this way, intrinsically oriented values, dialled-up by psychedelic experiences, could play an important role in shifting individual and organisational consciousness.

Ultimately, they could enhance acceptance of the need to a shift away from a winner-takes all race to the bottom of growth, profit and individualism towards a system characterised by more collective and community oriented values.

 

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Next generation water splitter could help renewables power the globe

By Robert Service | Science Magazine | 10 Mar 2020

Running the world on renewable energy is simple, in principle: Harvest solar and wind energy, and use any extra to power devices called electrolyzers that split water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen gas. Hydrogen (H2) can serve as a fuel; it is also a staple of the chemical industry. The trouble is that current electrolyzers are costly, requiring either expensive catalysts or pricey metal housings. Now, researchers report combining the best of both approaches to make a version that needs only cheap materials.

“I consider this a great breakthrough,” says Hui Xu, a chemical engineer at Giner Inc., an electrochemistry company. Xu says he and his colleagues presented similar results at a Department of Energy meeting last year, but have not yet published them. Their work and another team’s new device, described this week in Nature Energy, could bolster the global embrace of renewable energy if the new electrolyzers prove to be cheap and stable during many years of operation. “We are on the cusp of getting that done,” says Yushan Yan, a chemical engineer at the University of Delaware, Newark, who is working on similar technology. A handful of small companies, including one he founded, have formed to commercialize it.

Scientists have known how to split water into H2 and O2 for more than 200 years: Put two metal electrodes in a jar of water, apply an electrical voltage between them, and H2 and O2 will bubble up at separate electrodes. Because a mix of the gases can explode, today’s most common setups separate the anode and cathode with a thick, porous plastic sheet. They also use metal catalysts—most often inexpensive ones such as nickel and iron—to speed the reactions.

To make the water able to better conduct ions that move through the devices, today’s most common electrolyzers add high levels of potassium hydroxide (KOH) to the water. At the cathode, or negative electrode, water molecules split into H+ and OH– ions. The H+ ions combine with electrons from the cathode to make H2. The OH– ions diffuse through the membrane to the anode, or positive electrode, where they react to generate O2 and water.

But KOH is highly caustic, so engineers have to build their devices out of expensive inert metals such as titanium, says Yu Seung Kim, a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. That drawback prompted researchers in the 1960s to develop a version of the technology known as a proton-exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer, in which the dividing membrane is designed to selectively allow H+ ions through. A PEM cell’s catalysts aren’t on the electrodes themselves, but are tethered to opposite sides of the membrane. In this setup, catalysts on the anode side split water molecules into H+ and OH– ions, with the latter instantly reacting at the catalysts to form O2 molecules. The H+ ions then migrate through the plastic membrane to the cathode side, where catalysts tethered to the membrane turn the H+ ions into H2.

Because OH– ions don’t migrate through PEM cells, there’s no need for highly alkaline conditions. The devices also typically produce hydrogen at five times the rate of the alkaline version. But these membrane cells have their own downsides: They still need some expensive corrosion-resistant metals to withstand acidic conditions produced by the proton-conducting membrane. They also require catalysts made from platinum and iridium. Those metals are expensive and rare. For example, the global production of iridium is only 7 tons. “There is simply not enough precious metals for large-scale hydrogen production,” Xu says.

Now, Kim and his colleagues at Los Alamos, along with researchers at Washington State University, say they’ve combined the best of both approaches. Their new device creates a highly alkaline environment to encourage water splitting. But it does so with the PEM approach of tethering catalysts to opposite faces of an ion-conducting membrane. As with the KOH setup, catalysts on the cathode side split water molecules into H+ and OH– ions. The former converts to H2, and the latter travels through the membrane, known as an anion exchange membrane (AEM). It is designed to create a highly alkaline local environment that speeds the travel of OH– ions to the anode side, where tethered catalysts prompt them to react to make O2.

The upshot is that alkaline conditions near the membrane allow the electrolyzer to rely on cheap and abundant nickel-, iron-, and molybdenum-based catalysts to split water. Yet, because the alkalinity is localized, the electrolyzer can be built from stainless steel. The new device generates hydrogen about three times faster than conventional alkaline devices, though still more slowly than commercial PEM electrolyzers, Kim and his colleagues report. “The combination of the older alkaline technology and membrane PEM technology is the path forward,” Xu says.

The new setup needs to prove its durability. Initial indications suggest the membrane begins to break down after only about 10 hours of operation. Kim says the main problem is likely that the polymer membrane readily absorbs water. Over time, this may cause the catalyst particles to come unglued and drift away. The team hopes that adding fluorine to the membrane will repel the water. With that and other fixes, Kim hopes, AEM electrolyzers could join solar cells and windmills as a key technology for a carbon-free world.

 

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Changes to giant ocean eddies could have ‘devastating effects’ globally

by Graham Readfearn | The Guardian | 22 Apr 2021

Researchers fear increasing energy in these eddies could affect ability of Southern Ocean to absorb C02.

Swirling and meandering ocean currents that help shape the world’s climate have gone through a “global-scale reorganisation” over the past three decades, according to new research.

The amount of energy in these ocean currents, which can be from 10km to 100km across and are known as eddies, has increased, having as yet unknown affects on the ocean’s ability to lock-away carbon dioxide and heat from fossil fuel burning.

One expert said the changes described in the research could affect the ability of the Southern Ocean, one of the world’s biggest natural carbon stores, to absorb CO2.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, analysed the temperature and height of the ocean with the help of data from altimeters on satellites from 1993 until 2020.

Like clouds and storms in the atmosphere, eddies are like weather events in the oceans happening from the surface down to a depth of several hundreds metres. The research found that eddies were intensifying in places where they are known to be most active.

As well as detecting changes in the Southern Ocean, the research also found changes in the southern Atlantic, the east Australian current.

They found a significant increase in eddy strength over the Southern Ocean, as well as significant changes in their activity over the boundary currents – the intense flows of water along the boundaries of the major ocean basins, such as the Gulf Stream and the East Australian Current.

Lead researcher Josué Martínez Moreno, of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes and Australian National University, said the eddies were constantly merging and detaching from more permanent ocean currents.

The eddies played a “profound role” in moving heat, carbon and nutrients through the ocean and regulating the climate at regional and global scales, the research said.

Martínez Moreno said the research had revealed “a global-scale reorganisation of the ocean’s energy over the past three decades.”

The paper did not attempt to attribute the changes to human activity, but Martínez Moreno said they could have far-reaching effects on the world’s climate, and also on fisheries.

Getting a better understanding of the changes in ocean eddies could also improve climate change projections, he said.

As well as absorbing about 90% of global heating since the 1970s, the ocean has pulled in about 40% of the extra carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, mainly from fossil fuel burning, since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

A co-author of the study, Prof Matthew England, of the Climate Change Research centre at the University of New South Wales, said: “We know these eddies play an important role in the climate, but how this intensification might change a given weather pattern is hard to say."

“To see it changing at this scale to me is confronting,” he said. “To see these changes shows how much we are perturbing the system. There will be impacts on our climate and ecosystems that we will have to explore now.”


Solving the puzzle of how these ocean eddies were changing was “one of the last frontiers” in understanding how climate change could be affecting the ocean, he said.

Dr Janet Sprintall, an oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, who was not involved in the research, said the findings were “a great step forward.”

She said: “The world’s oceans soak up most of the carbon dioxide that humans dump into the atmosphere. The Southern Ocean in particular absorbs about 40% of the entire ocean uptake and much of that uptake is achieved by ocean eddies.”

Any change in the ocean eddies in the Southern Ocean, she said, can “potentially impact the carbon sink and the ability to uptake carbon that we might continue to emit in the future”.

“This could have devastating effects on global society.”

The research came after the United Nations released its second assessment on the world’s oceans on Wednesday, cataloguing a swathe of impacts on what UN secretary general António Guterres said was the planet’s “life support system”.

Sea levels were rising, coasts were eroding, waters were heating and acidifying and the number of deoxygenated “dead zones” was rising.

Marine litter was present in all marine habitats, the report said, and overfishing was costing societies billions. About 90% of mangrove, seagrass and marsh plant species were threatened with extinction, the report said.

The report said there had been progress in protecting more marine areas, but there were still many scientific knowledge gaps to be filled.

 

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Katrina Spade, the co-founder and chief executive of Recompose, monitoring the temperature of a mound of wood chips
that contains a human body. Her company offers human composting services in Washington State.


The departed could soon become compost in Colorado

If the governor signs the bill, Colorado would be the second state to legalize the composting of human remains.

by Bryan Pietsch | New York Times | 29 Apr 2021

DENVER — Food scraps and biodegradable utensils are common fodder for compost, but in Colorado, human remains could soon be transformed into soil too.

The Colorado state Legislature passed a bill on Tuesday that would allow composting of human remains in lieu of traditional processes like burial and cremation.

State Representative Brianna Titone, a Democrat who sponsored the bill, said she had gone to funerals and, seeing burial or cremation as the two options, thought, “I don’t know if I want either one of these things.”

When she learned about human composting, she said, “It really excited me.”

If Gov. Jared Polis signs the bill into law, which legislators said was likely, Colorado would become the second state to legalize human composting. Washington State did so in 2019, and legislators in Oregon, California and New York have proposed human composting legislation. A representative for Mr. Polis did not respond to a request for comment regarding his position on the bill.

The legislation was introduced last year, but “it ended up dying during the Covid session, no pun intended,” said Representative Matt Soper, a Republican who was a co-sponsor of the bill.

In an attempt to lighten the mood while discussing the bill at the State Capitol on Monday, Ms. Titone and Mr. Soper told their colleagues they had “resurrected” the bill from last year’s legislative session. “Look alive!” Ms. Titone said, introducing the discussion. “We know you dug it before.”

"The process of human composting takes about 30 days," Mr. Soper said. Under the new law, it would be illegal to sell the soil produced from human compost or to use it to grow food for human consumption.

Mr. Soper said he had spoken with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which said it would be legal to place the soil on public lands.

Recompose, a company that offers human composting services in Washington, places the body onto a bed of wood chips, alfalfa and straw inside a steel, 8-foot-long by 4-foot-tall cylinder, according to its website. Each body creates about one cubic yard of soil.

“Everything — including bones and teeth — transforms” during the process, its website says. The contents of the cylinder are also blended by Recompose staff members, “which helps to break up any remaining bone fragments and teeth.”

However, nonorganic material like prosthetics and artificial joints are fetched from the cylinder and removed.

Katrina Spade, Recompose’s co-founder and chief executive, said on Wednesday that the company was already looking at locations in the Denver area, where it hopes to build a 50-cylinder facility if the bill becomes law.

Ms. Spade said people in Colorado had expressed interest in Recompose, adding that “there is an ethos of ecological love and respect in the Denver area and in Colorado broadly, everywhere from the mountains to the farming that happens around the state.”

She said that Recompose’s process saved about one metric ton of carbon dioxide for each body that is composted rather than cremated or buried traditionally. Mr. Soper, who represents a rural part of Colorado, said some of his liberal constituents were interested in human composting for its environmental benefits.

Among his more conservative constituents from the agricultural community, Mr. Soper said, there are “farmers or ranchers who really like the idea of being connected to the land that they were born and raised on.”

The bill received bipartisan support in the Colorado Senate, but 18 votes against it in the House, all from Republicans. Mr. Soper said they had raised concerns that composting was not a “dignified” way to dispose of remains, some citing the Catholic Church’s opposition to the practice.

But Mr. Soper said that for him, the matter was less about explicitly supporting human composting and more about offering the choice.

“Why not?” he said. “Why should the government be prohibiting this type of option to be available to Coloradans?”

Mr. Soper said that Colorado was among the states with the fewest regulations for crematories and funeral homes, making it ideal for new human composting businesses.

Recompose has patents pending on its cylinders, but not on the human composting process, Ms. Spade said, adding that she hopes that human composting becomes “the default choice for death care.”

 
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Dr. Gail Bradbrook

Extinction Rebellion founder says psychedelic drugs 'helped start environmental movement'

by Max Channon | QWales Online | 21 APR 2021

"People on psychedelics make a connection with something bigger than themselves," says Dr. Gail Bradbrook

The co-founder of Extinction Rebellion has said a psychedelic drug brew which often gives people diarrhoea and vomiting played a key role in founding the global environmental movement.

Dr Gail Bradbrook revealed her visit to a retreat in Costa Rica - where she consumed ayahuasca and iboga - "was part of the birth of the movement from my perspective.”

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew combining two plants that has been used by shamans in the Amazon for centuries, whereas Iboga is a rainforest shrub native to West Africa which also has powerful psychoactive effects.

Speaking to The Independent, Dr Bradbrook said: "The consistent experiences of people who work with psychedelic medicines is that they make a connection with something bigger than themselves."

“There’s at least part of the science of consciousness which suggests it is bigger than – not an emergent property of the brain – something that is a kind of primary fabric of the universe.”


London Mayor candidate Brian Rose, an American-born former banker who now runs the London Reel podcast channel, has also said taking the 'plant medicine' Ayehuasca helped him to "reconnect with the world to appreciate that by destroying the planet we are destroying ourselves."

Back in 2019, Dr Bradbrook told BBC Inside Out West: “I'd been focused on trying to start civil disobedience since 2010 and I've tried many things and they didn't work, so I went on a retreat and prayed in a deep way with some psychedelic medicines."

"It was a really intense experience and I actually prayed for what I called the codes for social change, I thought there must be something I don't understand, and within a month my prayer was literally answered.”


In her interview with The Independent, Dr Bradbrook suggested quantum mechanics - theoretical physics that attempts to explain the properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles - could also explain her psychedelic experiences.

She quoted the work of quantum physicist David Bohm, who posited that the traditionally separate understanding of the mental and the physical world is inadequate.
Ayahuasca contains DMT, a chemical dubbed the 'Sprit Molecule' because of the way it alters the human consciousness and produces experiences that have been likened to a spiritual awakening.

A naturally occurring tryptamine, DMT is produced by the human body and is found in many plants and animals - but it is a 'Class A' drug that is illegal to distribute or possess.

Its role in the human body is not understood, but the intense visions DMT produces have been likened to a near-death experiences.

And researchers - who say it an help reset the brain and are using it to treat depression for the first time - says it has the potential to offer longer-term relief from symptoms than antidepressants, when used in a therapeutic setting.

Small Pharma, the company running the trial said: "The fact that DMT is endogenously produced in the brain, provides confidence for the safety of DMT."

"We believe the impact will be almost immediate, and longer lasting than conventional antidepressants."


Another recent study found that psilocybin, the psychedelic drug found in magic mushrooms, outperformed one of the leading treatments for depression.

Psilocybin is a naturally occurring type of DMT that is active when taken orally. DMT usually has no effect when swallowed. The ayahuasca brew works because it contains a plant rich in an monoamine oxidase inhibitor. This chemical stops the body from producing an enzyme which breaks down DMT in the stomach and prevents it from entering the blood stream.

 

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Psychedelics and Ecological Consciousness

by Dr. James Cooke | Reality Sandwich | 5 May 2021

Psychedelics have the ability to make us feel more connected to the natural world. This effect can be seen not just in the experiences of individual trippers but in the origins of the ecological movement in the 60s. Increased ecological consciousness following psychedelic use is even being found in scientific research today. What is it about these natural substances that allow them to have this effect? Why do psychedelic states lead us to feel an affinity with the natural world? And might a psychedelic awakening be the answer to climate change?

What is ecological consciousness?

Most of us go about our lives without paying much attention to the natural world. We might spend our days in cities with little nature, our thoughts preoccupied with the realm of human affairs. At other times, we may find ourselves out in nature, connecting with the present moment. On such occasions, our minds can shift into a state of ecological consciousness. This is a way of seeing in which we see beauty and value throughout the natural world, not just in ourselves.

We may feel a sense of respect and awe at an insect or a flower. We may feel the distance between ourselves and the rest of the natural world falling away. There can be a sense of kinship with the plants and animals you observe, of recognizing yourself as part of nature. This sense of connection can grow to the point where you lose your sense of being something separate entirely and you perceive yourself to be part of the vast ecological network that is the natural world.

The 18th century romantics

Since it was proclaimed in the Hebrew bible that humans were to rule over nature, the Western world has not been particularly associated with ecological consciousness. This began to change with the romantic movement of the 18th century, and drug-induced altered states played their part even here. In Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, published in 1821, the romantic writer Thomas De Quincey documented his use of laudanum, a combination of opium and alcohol. He was friends with the leading poets of this movement, Coleridge and Wordsworth, and they all removed themselves from the cities in order to live close to nature, a major theme in their writing.

The 60s - An ecological movement

Over a century later, drug use and associated ecological consciousness would erupt again in the West, this time in the USA. Before LSD and the hippie movement became widespread, there was a small cultural movement on the West coast that was reconsidering our relationship to the natural world. The poet Gary Snyder was a key figure in this movement.

Having been a part of the Beat generation of the 50s and of the West Coast poetry movement of the same time, known as the San Francisco Renaissance, he was interested in both Eastern religion and Native American culture. He, and others like him, lay the cultural foundations for the hippie movement which would explode in coming years after LSD had escaped from the lab.

The effects of psychedelics on the feeling of being separate from nature

What have psychedelics and eastern religion got to do with feeling connected to nature? When it comes to psychedelics, a key effect they typically produce is a reduction in egoic consciousness. Our ego or sense of self is the psychological construct that is responsible for keeping us feeling separate from the rest of the natural world. When the ego is dissolved, we’re left with a sense of there only being the vast ecology of nature, consisting of connections, not of separate individuals.

Eastern religion, with its centuries of reflection on the phenomenon of ego-loss, has provided many with a deep philosophical framework within which to understand the significance of this experience. Indigenous traditions, which often incorporate their own practices involving psychedelic plants, also provide centuries-old perspectives from which we can understand our connection with nature.

Scientific results

With the psychedelic renaissance, scientific research is finally catching up with these ancient traditions. When researchers looked at whether people who use psychedelics more often show an increased sense of nature-relatedness, a sense of identification with the natural world, they found that they did [1]. They also found that those who use psychedelics more often were more likely to report engaging in pro-environmental behavior, suggesting a real world impact of this change in consciousness. In another study, researchers found that nature-relatedness increased after a psychedelic experience.

What’s more, not only was this increased ecological consciousness still present two years after the experience, it had actually increased [2]. They found that the extent of ego-dissolution and the role of nature in the psychedelics experience itself were important factors in determining the increase in nature-relatedness that would occur after the experience. It seems that tripping in nature can start a process of increased ecological consciousness that can build over time, rather than simply fading away once the trip is over.

Plant teachers and indigenous perspectives

According to Wiler Noriega Rodrigues, a Shipibo shaman who runs the Ayahuasca retreat center Ayahuasca Spirit, our relationship to nature is central to this indigenous tradition. “When you drink Ayahuasca you are connecting on a deeper level with nature. It’s that simple”. He also says that the ayahuasca vine, as well as other plants, are thought of as plant teachers. “Every single plant is a teacher,” says Wiler, “That’s where the power and the medicine is, it is in every single plant. It is very important to connect to nature. When you are in the world of the medicine you see trees and plants and paths that constantly bring you into nature. Nature connects to us because we are nature, even though we forget at times.”

Interconnectedness with nature

Do psychedelics introduce an illusion of being part of nature or do they help us to see the truth of our situation more clearly? A scientific understanding of what we are suggests the latter. To begin with, on a physical level, we’re made of exactly the same elements as the rest of the natural world. When we die this material continues to flow around the ecosystem, becoming parts of other organisms. This exchange is going on even as we live, breathing the oxygen created by plants and putting our own waste products into an ecosystem that will repurpose them for something else.

On the biological level, we are an evolved organism like all others, there is no biological dividing line between us and the rest of nature. We share a common ancestor with all living things, including plants. What’s more, we’re not really a single organism. We contain bacteria that we need to survive, and they are organisms from an entirely different kingdom to the rest of our cells. We’re woven together out of many aspects of the natural world, we can’t help but be fully part of it.

Further evidence that ecological consciousness reflects relating more clearly than ego-consciousness comes from the scientific idea that the ego is not something solid and real but is instead a psychological construct. Combined with the evidence that psychedelics act to remove this construct, we’re left with a picture in which our usual story of separation from the natural world is the delusion, not the perspective of our being part of nature.

The possibility of plant consciousness

The experience of consciousness without a sense of self leaves many to reconsider whether other organisms, such as plants, might be conscious. Western science and philosophy have often presumed the natural world to be unconscious, unfeeling and inanimate, allowing us to treat it as we please. Other traditions, however, see consciousness as widespread in nature.

Certain scientific theories of consciousness, such as the Living Mirror theory which holds that consciousness is a feature of the life process, are beginning to bear out this idea [3]. In the future, it may seem obvious that other living systems have an experience of themselves and of the world around them, even if this experience is significantly different from our own. This perspective would only add to our sense of kinship with the rest of the natural world, seeing it as far more like us than we had previously thought.

Deep ecology, climate change, and ecological catastrophe

As psychedelics become more and more mainstream, what impact would widespread eco-consciousness have on our society? One tradition that explores the relationship between ecological consciousness and society is deep ecology. In shallow ecology, we might engage in pro-environmental behavior but still see ourselves as apart from the natural world. In deep ecology, we see ourselves as just one part of the community of nature, not separate from it or superior to it.

As it stands, our lack of ecological consciousness is hurtling us towards ecological catastrophe. It may take a mass shift towards the deep ecological perspective for us to save the future of our species. Perhaps psychedelics, with their ability to increase consciousness, might be the key to making this shift a reality. A wise re-engagement with psychedelics, on a global scale, might just have the potential to save the entire world.

 
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