Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are You Smarter Than A Jellyfish?

Way ahead of Homo Sapiens
The story of Feldheim should be in everyone's newspaper, but it won't be
Consider this:  Turritopsis, the "immortal jellyfish", pictured above.  This simple denizen of warm ocean waters, which has no brain, no stomach and no respiratory or central nervous system, has developed a way of surviving potentially fatal threats by transforming its adult self (called the medusa stage) back into its baby form (polyp) -- like the fictional Benjamin Button.  When faced with dangerous stress like injury or starvation, it attaches to a surface and reverts to a blob of cells which can then change into different types.  Muscle cells can become eggs; others can become new muscle cells.  Eventually a colony of polyps develops -- a nursery of future adults.  Now most individual Turritopsis do, in fact, die like any creature, but some just devolve and recover, defying age and death.  No  one, of course, knows how.

Too bad, because right now humans, with all those developed systems our wiggly friend lacks, really need to be implementing ways to survive several great threats.  And our unsustainably ever-growing numbers make that even more difficult each day as we gobble the planet's resources like a whale sucking plankton in by the millions.  If there were 7 billion whales, the plankton would become scarce, don't you think?

Just as only a minority of the Immortal Jellyfish actually do skirt their demise, only a few communities of humans are on the ball about solving one of our looming problems -- energy generation and use.  There are permaculture and "transition towns" in the United Kingdom (which have spawned imitators worldwide), there was the kibbutz movement in Israel, and in Feldheim, Germany, they have moved from hypothesizing and planning to establishing an efficient, integrated energy self-sufficiency.  This agricultural town re-uses its plant waste to generate biogas for heat and has installed 47 windmills and a solar array on the edge of town for electricity production.  The residents invested $4000 each to build their own local grid and now pay rates 30%  lower than before.  A company was hired to provide the expertise and coordination required to organize such a large infrastructure project.  In addition, they can just plug in and pay for their electric vehicles' juice at several places around town, and not at $3.95 a gallon, either.  Thirty jobs were created, too; there aren't very many areas other than security enforcement and medicine where we can see that happening as automation continues to reduce them.  I understand it wasn't all easy, as European big energy companies, like ours, do influence government to slip in rule and regulatory roadblocks.  I can't imagine what our state Public Utilities Commission would not do to stop such a project; the coal barons are still as always right behind their high-backed leather chairs, flanked by the oil and gas giants.

Knowing that it can be done provides some hope.  I'm not sure I'd give better odds on the success of humanity versus the jellyfish, though.

(Source:  This is a site well worth visiting.)

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