The biosphere of planet earth is in great peril from global warming. In many ways this on-rushing planetary disaster is like an inflammatory disease.
Inflammation was described 2,000 years ago in Roman medicine, recognizable as calor, rubor, tumor, and dolor, heat, redness, swelling and pain. Later the historic physician Galen added loss of function. Although inflammation can be a healthy response to threats such a bacterial infections, it is always stressful and accompanied by cell damage.
Chronic inflammation is key to cellular damage caused by autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis. Inappropriate chronic inflammation is currently seen as basic to a host of modern diseases. Any source of long term inflammation, any condition ending in -itus, such as gingivitis, should be avoided. Obesity is some real ways an inflammatory disease.
The planet Earth now seems afflicted with an inflammatory-like disease.
- Heat is a prime manifestation of inflammation. Excess heat is also the prime driver of the on-going climate change. The atmosphere of earth, plagued with historically high levels of carbon, is retaining more of the heat energy pouring in from the sun. The earth’s biosphere, the only sphere of life that we know to exist in the entire universe, is suffering from a dangerous warming. Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, are heating up like an injured limb.
- Redness is a second manifestation of inflammation. Startlingly, new sources of redness have emerged on the earth’s surface and water. Red tides stain the oceans with zones of death. Great rivers carry red earth, eroded from dry hillsides, far out to sea. Dust storms visible from space carry red dust clouds from Africa to spread over Europe. Red dots of flame, visible from space, glow in oil producing areas as gas bi-products are burned off. Other areas of red flame issue from the remains of the world’s rain forests being torched in an equatorial zone of fire stretching around the globe.
- Swelling is another inflammatory symptom that is reflected in the rising oceans. Sea levels climb not only as great glaciers melt, but also the oceans bulge with warmth. CO2 counts swell in ever higher parts per million of the atmosphere.
- Pain is an unwelcome manifestation of inflammation. A human feels pain as an injury or autoimmune condition causes inflammatory pressure on nerves and release of pain biochemicals. Unfortunately, people and other lifeforms on the planet are in for a lot of pain as warming shrinks habitats, both from sea level rise and desertification. The melting of river-filling glaciers will cause the pain of great thirst across much of the globe.
- Loss of function is the last symptom of inflammation. With a significant portion of the world’s human population and economy living and working near the oceans, rising sea levels will inflict incalculable damage and hardship. This at the same time as hundreds of millions displaced by drought seek refuge.
It is a bit startling to compare the inflammation symptoms of the planet with the function of inflammation in the human body. Acute inflammation is a life-saving response. Bacteria entering any small flesh wound would soon multiply enough to kill a human if the person’s body did not answer quickly with an immune response using inflammation. Invading bacteria are killed by this response before their number can rise to the point of danger to life.
Is the planet’s inflammation also a life-saving response, in this case the life of the biosphere? The result of global climate change may be end up reducing the number of carbon producing units on its surface. Six and a half billion people is probably far more than the biosphere can support; the nine billion predicted in 2040 will compete, and probably fight, for ever diminishing land and fresh water.
Continuation of his heating would/will result in catastrophes of colossal proportions. The Copenhagen conference has done little to change things.
Interestingly, the cure, or at least reduction for inflammation on the planetary level might be similar to an effective treatment for humans suffering inflammation. A subsequent post will explore how cannabis can moderate inflammation, not just in the human body, but also for the planet Earth.