future of humankind is not a zero-sum game—a gain for one
people must not be equated with the loss for another. Nationalistic
agendas for coping with projected climatic changes will not only
be ineffective, but also divisive and counterproductive. Humankind
now faces different problems. If relentless global chemicalization
and poisoning of human habitat continue unabated—global warming,
without doubt, will explode the scale of oxygen crises—the
threat to human health and survival will increase exponentially.
There is no evidence that planet Earth is preoccupied with its own
stability. The study of the known aspects of the history of the
planet does not yield any evidence to support notions of its self-preserving
or self-stabilizing abilities. It does not seem likely to me that
humans—just one of its innumerable creatures, notwithstanding
our self-exalted status—can be in a position to materially
alter the planetary geological events. In this context, the following
three quotes, expressing differing viewpoints, are sobering:
"On climate change, we need to
build on Kyoto but we should recognize one stark fact: even if
we could deliver on Kyoto, it will at best mean a reduction of
one percent of global warming."
Tony Blair, British Prime Minister, September 1, 2002
"With all of the hysteria, all
of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made
global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American
people? It sure sounds it is."
James Inhoff, US Senator. July 28, 2003
"The Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) has grossly underestimated the challenges
of reducing and stabilizing greenhouse-gas emission, according
to an influential group of climate policy experts."
The dark message of the above three
statements—each disturbing in a unique way— underscores
a core point of my theme of the supremacy of oxygen issues over
carbon issues: it is not clear how an individual can address planetary
carbon issues. A realist would consider the large known geological
upheavals of the past and recognize the planetary limits on human
endeavors. An optimist would counter that in terms of the contemporary
civilization, individuals and the society can make definite differences—and
should. I was born an optimist, so I persist. I assert that, in
contrast to addressing carbon issues, an individual can do much
to address oxygen issues, for personal benefit, as well as for the
community. Indeed, this was my main purpose in writing the Darwin
Dysox Trilogy 1-3 (the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth volumes
of The Principles and Practice of Integrative
Primacy of Oxygen
Issues Over Carbon Issues for Aquatic Species
A new record for a fish kill was set in 1969. Over 41 million fish
were killed, including the largest single recorded fish kill ever
in one year, 26 million in Lake Thonotosassa, Florida alone.4 Many
causes were suspected—toxic efflux from farms and industrial
waste, toxic algal blooms, low oxygen levels in the water. However,
no single cause was agreed upon. That was the usual outcome of investigations
of such aquatic mortalities at that time. Later, technologic advances
made it possible to pin down the culprits. For example, in late
August 2000, there was a massive fish kill off the northern coast
of the Persian Gulf. Some angry Arabs claimed the deaths were caused
by toxins released by ballast water from a US tanker in the area.
Some of them suspected the US had avenged the attack on the USS
Cole by pouring poisons into the waters to rob Omanis of their livelihood.
Sober Omani scientists suspected the real culprit might be a toxic
algal bloom. Eventually, using data from two NASA Earth Observing
System (EOS) satellites, American and Omani scientists proved that
the fish kill was due to natural ecologic event changes that caused
severe anoxia in the Gulf surface waters.5
Oxygen is the organizing principle of aerobic aquatic life. Dissolved
oxygen is expressed as a percentage of the oxygen that would dissolve
in the water under specific temperature and salinity conditions;
warmer and saltier waters hold less oxygen. An aquatic system is
considered anaerobic, reducing, or anoxic when it lacks dissolved
oxygen (0% saturation), whereas a system with a low concentration
of dissolved oxygen—the range between one percent and 30%
saturation—is called hypoxic. An aquatic environment is considered
"healthy" when it generally does not experience a dissolved
oxygen concentration of less than 80%. Most fish cannot survive
oxygen saturation levels below 30%.
Enormous volumes of hypoxic waters occupy intermediate depths of
eastern tropical oceans. Diverse species of mobile macroorganisms
do not survive in such hypoxic waters. Recent climate models predict
that global warming will significantly decrease oceanic dissolved
oxygen.6 Fifty-year time series of dissolved-oxygen concentration
for select tropical oceanic regions have been constructed by augmenting
historical database with recent measurements. These studies show
vertical expansion of the intermediate-depth, low-oxygen zones in
the eastern tropical Atlantic and the equatorial Pacific during
the past 50 years. Such reductions in the ocean are expected to
have dramatic consequences for ecosystems and coastal economies.
The planet Earth is now febrile, becoming more puerile by the year.
In recent decades, spectacular displays of color—red tides,
orange waves, and others—produced by toxic algal blooms have
been observed along all three US coasts.7,8 In recent decades, the
frequency and size of toxic red-tides have increased in many other
parts of the world as well. A direct relationship between the outbreak
of red tides and anoxia in the bottom water has been observed in
the Seto Inland Sea and Ohmura Bay regions of Japan. Tomotoshi Okaichi's
book Red Tides (2004)9 is an excellent
resource for detailed information on this subject. A common related
problem concerns Pfiesteria, a family of one-celled organisms that
have earned the designation of fish-eaters due to their appearance
in the open sores of fish, especially during times of large fish
kills.10 Many people exposed to the fish infested with Pfiesteria
describe symptom-complexes that suggest neurotoxicity. In this context,
the conclusion of one North Carolina School of Public Health task
force is amusing. It recognized the toxicity of Pfiesteria toxins
and then declared that the general population should not worry about
these toxins. Since the task force did not test unwell people for
such toxins, one wonders about the basis of their pronouncement.
I close this section with the plight of polar bears. The summertime
Arctic hunting grounds of these animals have been drastically reduced
by a warming climate. After years of denial, on May 14, 2008, Interior
Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced that the bears will be placed
under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Primacy of Oxygen
Issues Over Carbon Issues for Land Animals
In Part II of this column, I included accounts of the battered butterfly
population of the world, collapsing colonies of honey bees, and
brain-fogged bats. Here I include brief comments about extinction
of amphibian species. The story of disappearing amphibians of Costa
Rica seemed complete when, in 2006, Nature pronounced that it had
clinched the diagnosis: global warming.11 After 20 years of die-offs
and unanswered questions, the Nature
report, disheartening as it was, seemed to provide the answer. However,
I could not understand how a difference of one or two degrees Fahrenheit
in ambient temperature could have caused the demise. Now more people
are joining me in questioning Nature's
conclusions. Consider the following quotes:
"Here we show that a recent mass
extinction associated with pathogen outbreaks is tied to global
Nature. January 12, 200611
"Other researchers have been questioning
that connection. Last year, two short responses in Nature
questioned facets of the 2006 paper...Now, in the March 25 issue
of PLoS Biology, another team argues that the die-offs of harlequins
and some other amphibians reflect the spread and repeated introductions
of the chytrid fungus."
The New York Times. March 25,
So, the real culprits are fungi—fermentative
metabolizers that grow profusely in hypoxic and anoxic environments.
Again, we recognize the primacy of oxygen issues over carbon issues.
The true issue here is oxygen deficit and not carbon excess.
Primacy of Oxygen
Issues Over Carbon Issues for Plants
On the surface, carbon issues should have primacy over oxygen issues
in the context of rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In
general, excess carbon in the atmosphere means excess growth of
trees and vegetation. In addition, global warming, whether caused
by the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide build-up or by other
factors, initially favors the growth of plants and trees in tropical
and subtropical conditions. However, these positive effects on plant
growth are lost with continuing rises in temperature and carbon
dioxide when soil begins to desiccate. I presented the subject of
desertification in Part II of this column.
Primacy of Oxygen
Issues Over Carbon Issues for Humans
In human metabolism, oxygen is the actor, carbon the substrate.
This basic order persists in all phases of the human food chain,
beginning with aquatic phytoplankton and extending to land animals
and vegetation. In earlier columns, I marshaled extensive evidence
for the central role of disrupted oxygen signaling and impaired
oxygen-driven mitochondrial ATP generation in the pathogenesis of
various clinico-pathologic entities, including diabetes, cardiovascular
disease, renal failure, inflammatory disorders, asthma, and children's
growth disorders (see citations in Part I of this column and consider
Darwin and Dysox Trilogy for full
discussions and long-term clinical outcome studies1-3).
The Age of Mystery
We live in an age of mystery maladies—from enigmatic fibromyalgia
to the mysterious chronic fatigue syndrome, from baffling brain
fog among teenagers to threatening memory lapses among the middle-aged,
from spreading epidemics of asthma to those of obesity.
On January 9, 2006, The New York Times
projected the rising incidence of diabetes with the following words:
"If unchecked, it is expected to ensnare coming generations
on an unheard-of scale: One in every three Americans born five years
ago. One in two Latinos." One in two Latinos! That is likely
to surprise only those unfamiliar with the sad story of the galloping
incidence of diabetes among the Pima Indians of the Southwestern
United States. In 1908, a traveling physician recorded a single
case of diabetes among the tribes. By mid-1990s, the prevalence
of diabetes among the Pima Indians had risen to over 60%.12 A 2008
study reported doubling of the rate of gestational diabetes in just
Life at the Edge—a
Metaphor for Dysox
A photo essay, "Life at the Edge," in the June 2007 issue
of National Geographic described
vanishing life at the melting edge of large ice sheets of the world.14
That title is a perfect metaphor for all imperiled life on the planet—from
autistic children to brain-fogged adolescents to women with fecundity
problems to men with azoospermia and vascular dementia, from disappearing
frogs to dead bats to collapsing honey bee colonies, from poisoned
manatees to dying Steller sea lions. Despite an allocation of enormous
research funds to find the cause of these phenomena, scientists
remain unsure about the underlying causes of all threatened forms
of life of that phenomena. I assert that the common denominator
in all causes suspected so far is dysox, a state of disrupted oxygen
signaling and impaired oxygen-driven mitochondrial ATP generation.
In Greenland, ice previously anchored life and determined its biology.14
The summers used to steal snow and lift ice; winters do that now.
Ice used to be there; now, it stirs and its meltwater create lakes
that vanish into unknown drains. The thick ice sheet used to spurn
the sun's light and heat. Now, the bedrock beneath thinned ice absorbs
both light and heat. Meltwaters that do not drain beget more meltwater.
In the Ilulissa region, the spring often experienced -20 degrees
Fahrenheit freezes. Now, it sees showers on some days. Phytoplankton
used to thrive on the undersurface of the ice sheet. Microbes dined
on phytoplankton. Larvae of some aquatic species, like those of
Arctic cod, hung in finger-thin channels in ice. Amphipods—shrimp-like
crustaceans and others—fed on microbes and the larvae. The
amphipod populations sometimes formed grey clouds in pristine waters
and attracted larger fish. Beluga whales visited and so did bowherd
whales, the species whose members often lived for 200 years. That
order of life endured for thousands of years. Now all that is changing.
Glaciers everywhere are evaporating or sliding into oblivion. They
race toward the ocean, fracture to spawn flotillas, clog sea waters,
and form "edges of life." Greenland's Jakobshavn iceberg
is melting at a faster rate than anybody had anticipated. In 1939,
Chacaltaya Ski Area, Bolivia began its operations. In 2007, the
skiers could expect only artificial snow, if any. As newsworthy
as stories of vacant snowless ski areas may be, their significance
pales before that of the events occurring at the polar ice helmets
of the planet.
Humans Are Not
the Apex Predators
Biology is an equalizer. We humans position ourselves at the top
of the food chain, and then celebrate that delusion in many ways.
I do not see the so-called food chain as a chain, nor do I recognize
any exalted positions in the hunter-hunted dynamics. In the eternal
predator-prey dance of life and death, the predator often becomes
a prey and the prey, a predator. Based on extended clinical experience,
morphologic observations, and biochemical findings in patients with
diverse clinical disorders, I consider mold allergy, overgrowth
of yeast species in the bowel, and mycotoxicosis to be the most
significant threats to human health. Considering the myriad roles
of fungi in the etiology of human and animal diseases, these "lowly"
oxyphobic microbes can hardly be delegated to the bottom of the
so-called food chain. Nor can humans be assigned the top position.
I cite the case of Staphylococcus aureus to support my larger point
here. In 1958, I learned that S. aureus was a nuisance, present
on the skin of up to 40% of healthy individuals. In 2008, I learned
that the microbial species killed more citizens of the United States
than the HIV/AIDS complex.15
What Next? A World
Order of Ethics
Biology is my preoccupation; history, my hobby. Biology is race-neutral.
History is nation-neutral. Biology informs, enlightens, and teaches
oneness of humans with other planetary life—ecology, in a
larger sense, is the name of this discipline of study. History also
informs, enlightens, and underscores the need for "oneness
thinking." It teaches the effects of intolerance and conflict.
History is also the study of the consequences of actions of one
group of people on other people; ethics is the appropriate designation
for this discipline. Ethics is also the study of inaction in times
when action is sorely needed. Biology has no agenda, except to delineate
the boundary between confusion and understanding. History provides
accounts of the deeds of cults of craven men who covet control of
everyone and everything in their paths. It gives us stories of unenlightened
men with confused and cruel agendas. The planet Earth also has a
history—increasingly uncovered by advances in geosciences—that
can teach much about oneness. The history of oxygen on the planet
fascinates me most. I find oxygen's message of oneness to be most
My interests in biology and history developed randomly, and not
from any well-considered plan of life. As I studied climatic changes—those
documented in this section and others projected by geoscientists—the
lessons of biology and history melded together to generate a compelling
case for a "new world order of ethics." I imagined a time
when a child would be respected because of being human. A child
would be taught to respect others because of their humanness and
not for reasons of race, creed, or faith. I envisioned a time when
a child would be loved because of her/his uniqueness. A child would
be taught to love others because of their uniqueness. I conceived
an epoch beyond nationalism, a time when no one would be deemed
superior to others because of being German, French, American, or
Charles Robert Darwin developed his central ideas of ecologic connectivity
and natural selection to define his theory of origin of species.
Herbert Spencer hijacked that idea and introduced the expression
survival of the fittest to advance his social manifesto, an unfortunate
choice of words that fostered self-centeredness, abuse of power
by the spiritually sclerosed, and oppression of people. Humankind
now faces different problems. If predictions about the looming climatic
chaos come true—evidence to the contrary is non-existent—there
will not be any "fittest" left among us. What poisons
some now will poison all with time. Is there a more compelling reason
in support of the core notion of oneness of the human species and,
by extension, oneness of all planetary life? Is there a more cogent
and forceful argument for accepting and fostering this notion of
a shared planet?
I end this column with four hopes. First, in the context of impending
climatic chaos, the readers will consider the evidence for—and
the broader implications for all humankind of—the primacy
of oxygen issues over carbon issues. Second, the information presented
and arguments marshaled will meaningfully broaden the current debate
on climatic issues. Third, the readers, clinicians as well as non-clinicians,
will develop a sharper focus on the immediacy of oxygen issues that
will precede and/or be exaggerated by carbon issues. In patient
advocacy, they will pursue ways to make their contributions, no
matter how small, to raise consciousness about the crucial health
issues of our time: toxic environments, toxic foods, and toxic thoughts.
Finally, the preceding consideration will promote the development
of a new order of ethics based on our shared oneness and complete
integration with all aspects of the planetary condition.
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Integrative Medicine Volume X: Darwin, Oxygen Homeostasis, and Oxystatic
Therapies. 2nd edition. New York: Canary 21 Press; 2007.
2. Ali M. The Principles and Practice of
Integrative Medicine Volume XI: Darwin, Dysox, and Disease.
2nd edition. New York: Canary 21 Press; 2007.
3. Ali M. The Principles and Practice of
Integrative Medicine Volume XII: Darwin, Dysox, and Integrative
Therapies. New York; Institute of Integrative Medicine Press;
2008 (in press).
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