Saturday, October 14, 2017

Growing Threats of Biological Warfare

History is not replete of the fact that the more civilized societies have been the cause of the loss of peace, and  the destruction of the less civilized ones.
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog

 Convalescing patients of the Spanish Flu of 1920 in NY.  An estimated number of 100 million people died from this mysterious virus - more than all victims of the Bubonic Plague, or those killed in the two world wars combined.  One out of 6 people on earth then succumbed to the disease. The epidemic suddenly ended as fast as it became an epidemic two years before. 

International epidemic signs: radiation, chemical and biological 


 As an aftermath of the catastrophic 9/11 bombing of the Twin Towers in New York, the US Postal Service ordered gloves and masks and irradiation systems for key mail-sorting facilities in Washington, New York and New Jersey, but questions as to whether these measures to prevent anthrax from spreading via mails are effective or not remain unresolved. Does zapping letters and packages with radiation really kill anthrax spores? What is the downside to irradiation? Are the postal workers really protected from anthrax and other biological warfare germs?


- As a precaution the US government has accelerated the delivery of 40 million doses of smallpox vaccine to add to the 15.4 million doses already stored. These will be enough to inoculate every American. One drawback is the possibility of side effects of the vaccine particularly to those receiving other medical treatments such as chemotherapy.


- African killer bees (Apis mellifera scutellata) claimed to have escaped from a laboratory have interbred with the domestic species creating an equally deadly hybrid that now threatens the US after spreading throughout Brazil, Central America and Mexico. A colony is made up of some 70,000 ferocious bees with the queen bee reproducing up to 5,000 a day to maintain this enormous population.


E. coli is a familiar intestinal parasite. Naturally occurring outbreaks of Escherischia coli typically the result of fecal contamination in anything from hamburgers to swimming pools, sicken hundreds of thousands of people each year. What really trigger the outbreak of E. coli? What caused the epidemic that hit Tokyo three years ago?

Acknowlegement: National Geographic, Internet  

As I ponder over these scenarios I remember when I was a child seeing many people who were survivors of smallpox epidemic. The center of the epidemic was a town whose population was decimated. The mere mention of its name rings the sad memory of the early 1900s’ disaster. Lapog became virtually synonymous with the name of the dreaded disease. It was later renamed San Juan (Ilocos Sur).

My father told me that of the eight siblings in the family, only two of them survived the disease. Uncle Leo who was the oldest miraculously survived, and my dad who was the youngest was born after the epidemic had subsided.


In my mind I still can picture the faces of a dozen survivors. Pockmarks cover their faces, and may also cover the body, arms and legs, including the ears, nose, eyelids and lips which become somehow disfigured. Fingers and toes are deformed in serious cases.


But I remember how these survivors continued to live normal lives. I remember them as happy and hardworking in spite of the traumatic experiences they went through. Psychologists say there are many survivors of tragic experiences who find the new lease in life a new opportunity. Stories on how whole communities rise with these survivors uplift the spirit. I saw this miracle happen in the family and community I was brought up. Many people in many places I believe, can overcome painful experiences with this kind of spirit.


Conquest and Diseases


Christopher Columbus and his men allegedly introduced syphilis in the New World. The meeting of East and West during the era of colonization also resulted in the exchange of diseases. James Michener’s novel, Hawaii, relates how smallpox caused death and sufferings to the natives. To the novel’s principal character, the Reverend Hale, it was a manifestation of God’s wrath on the sinful and the non-converts. While this incident helped him in his mission, the end proved that the English missionary was wrong - that God is not a God of vengeance. 


Whole settlements in the New World just perished to indigenous diseases that were unknown in their countries of origin. Scientists explain that these pioneers lacked the natural immunity to the diseases, in the same manner that diseases introduced into the Old World killed many people similarly because they did not have the natural resistance. This is the basis why for many years until recently, the World Health Organization and many countries required the vaccination of travelers against certain diseases as a requirement in obtaining passports and visas.

These are of course incidents that we can dismiss as force majeure or historical events, which our faith and culture may accept. But what about in the case of war when man is pitted against man, nation against nation?

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By the year 2000, the human race reached a sort of historical landmark, when for the first time in human evolution the number of adults with excess weight surpassed the number of those who were underweight. Excess adiposity/body weight is now widely recognized as one of today's leading health threats in most countries around the world and as a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension).  Benjamin CaballeroThe Global Epidemic of Obesity: An Overview –, American Journal of Epidemiology
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Man’s Inhumanity to Man

How different it is to think about war. Since biblical times war has always been associated with inhumanity – man’s inhumanity to man. It is the antithesis of culture, of civilization, the very institution that is supposed to eliminate this treat to society. Ironically war has plagued every civilization, and many a great civilization has been the center of human conflict like the epicenter of an earthquake. According to the historian Gibbon twelve great civilizations that include the Greek and Roman civilizations fell because of war. They never recovered again.


History is not replete of the fact that the more civilized societies have been the cause of the loss of peace, if not the whole destruction of the less civilized ones. The great Spanish conquistadores forever destroyed the great civilizations of the Aztecs and the Mayas, in the same way that the pioneers in the West forever destroyed the American Indians.


Early Biological Warfare


Carthage a thriving agricultural and trading center during the times of the Roman became swamp and subsequently into desert that we know today. How did this happen? The invading Romans drew saltwater into land flooding settlements and fertile lands, thus finally putting to end the powerful enemy.


How The West Was Won, is a story of the destruction of the American Indian civilization which had been flourishing for many centuries. The natives fought fiercely at the European invaders and defended their “nation” for years. But the pioneers knew exactly the key to their victory over the powerful Indian tribes - to annihilate the buffaloes, millions of them that roamed the Great Plains or what is known as the prairies. Because buffaloes provided the Indians their basic needs from food to shelter, famine ensued and the great American Indian civilization was ultimately reduced into marginal settlements. Buffalo Bill is reported to have killed more than three hundred buffaloes in a single day for which he earned his name and “reputation.”


What if China’s threat to send one million Chinese to fight and die in Vietnam had come true? I heard of this story during the Chinese-Vietnam conflict that preceded the Vietnam war. Should such unthinkable strategy happen, the task of burying the dead alone, more so in controlling pestilence, would certainly render the enemy country defenseless and economically bankrupt. On the part of the triumphant country it shall have somehow reduced pressure on its burgeoning population and rid the misfits. Many believe that war is a purification process of a society. Definitely it is not. The Germans lost thousands of scientists in World War II. Many soldiers who died in the Vietnam War were among the finest  of the youth of their time in their respective countries.


But man has not had lessons enough. And war in its most ugly form using chemicals, biological agents, nuclear and ultramodern tools, is with us and it is all over the world now. For nuclear arsenals alone, the world’s total stockpile has the capacity to kill three times the whole population of the world. The world is witness to the recent wars in Iraq, Bosnia and Macedonia, Uganda and Angola and Afghanistan. It is happening with the Tamil Guerillas in Sri Lanka, along the Pakistan-Indian border, the Basques guerillas, the IRA in Northern Ireland, and other parts of the world. It is happening in our home ground with the Abu Sayaf and the NDF-NPA. War has many faces indeed.


War Without Borders


Something unexpected and different happened. On September 11, 2005 year the World Trade Center, a 110-storey twin-tower was erased from the skyscraper map in matters of minutes shortly after two planes commandeered by terrorists smashed into the superstructure signaling the vulnerability of our present system of capitalism. It challenged the economic powers of the world, particularly America.


The world woke up into a new age hitherto unpredicted - the age of Terrorism and the birth of a new nation without political boundary, but an invisible organizational network with its tentacles reaching global proportion.


This time intrusion into the enemy’s territory or defining the place of battle does not follow the conventional rules anymore. In fact there are no specific rules when we refer to the modus operandi of terrorists. Scenarios of war have thus changed after the September 11 attack.


This paper concentrates on the tools of biological warfare. Here are some of them.


First there is anthrax, the most serious and the first to hit the headlines after the bombing of the World Trade Center. It leads a dozen of similarly devastating epidemics of biological warfare potential.


Second, there is an attempt to revive bubonic plague that killed one-third of the world’s population in the Middle Ages. It was the Japanese who experimented in the making of bubonic flea bombs intended to spread the plague in major USA cities. The project was to breed the fleas which harbor the plague bacteria in its body, then scatter these to infest rats and other animals in the target area where they in turn multiply and transmit the pathogen to the residents. The bomb was successfully tested in China with hundreds of Chinese succumbing to the bubonic plague bacteria. Preparations were then made to attack the US. But the US had decided to drop the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bubonic flea bombs were never used. Japan hastily removed all the evidences of its evil experiment even before its surrender to the US.


Third, the threat of influenza which killed several millions at the first part of the twentieth century in the US and many parts of the globe has caused alarm as early as the 1980s after discovering a new strain of virus, a hybrid of the chicken and human influenza viruses. Based on the ratio of victims with the population in the first epidemic, scientists are looking at the possibility that some 60 to 100 million people could die of the new influenza virus strain should it strike in our times. In spite of utmost precaution to stave off the epidemic, scientists believe that we are not yet off the hook.


Biological warfare intends to use germs with historical epidemic background. Here is an outline of the basic facts about these most important potential epidemic diseases.


Anthrax


Photomicrograph of a Gram stain of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, the cause of the anthrax disease. Wikipedia 


• Also known as malignant pustule, malignant edema or woodsorters’ disease

• Most common in South America, Australia, Africa and Russia


• Highly infectious disease of animals, occurring especially in cattle, sheep and other ruminants, horses and mules as well.


• Transmitted to humans through contact with any part of the inside or outside of the animal carrying the infectious agent


• Caused by Bacillus anthracis whose spores which are resistant to disinfectants and heat, may remain infectious even after 15 years in soil. Grazing animals can accumulate spores contained in the droppings of infected animals


• Humans acquire the disease through cut or wound of the skin, by eating infected meat, or by breathing in the spores contained in the dust emanating from the sick animal’s hide or hair


• Skin infection characterized by severe itching and appearance of boil, usually on the arm, face and neck. The inflamed area grows into an ulcer called a malignant pustule, which eventually bursts and produced a black scab. Fever, nausea and swelling of the lymph glands are accompanying symptoms


• Internal anthrax acquired through inhalation results in acute pneumonia. When infected meat is ingested symptoms of acute gastroenteritis occur


• Anthrax is effectively treated with antibiotics. Immunization against the disease has been made possible through the use of vaccine. Effective livestock management is key to the control in the spread of the disease.


Bubonic Plague


Signs of Bubonic Plague - swelling of lymph nodes in groin, armpit, and other parts of the body; flea (Xenopsylla chopis) carrier of the pathogen Yersina pestis, a bacterium. Rat carries the flea, flea carries the bacterium - to man.

o Known as the Black Death in the Middle Ages which ravaged Europe and Asia

o In some places as many as two-thirds of the entire population died


o So-called from the blackening spots which broke out from the skin during the course of the disease


o Characteristic symptoms are fever and swelling of the lymph nodes mainly the groin and armpit


o It is caused by the plague bacillus (Pasteurella pestis) which is transmitted from sick rats (Rattus rattus norvigicus) to humans by flea bites (Xenopsylola chopis)


Small pox

Smallpox is an infectious disease caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names ... Rinderpest 

• Highly contagious, often fatal that once ravaged mankind in epidemics. Just one infected person could cause the virus to radiate from a family to a neighborhood to a city in a matter of months.


• Smallpox cannot be treated effectively once symptoms begin. 30 percent of those infected will die.


• WHO declared the eradicated of smallpox in 1980. Routine immunization for protection against the disease was stopped as early as 1971.


• First signs: chills and high fever, severe headache and backache, followed by rash which eventually covers the entire body and turns into pus-filled blisters


• The blisters in turn dry up to form scabs which very often leave pockmarks.


• The disease may be accompanied by vomiting, convulsion and diarrhea Complications include other skin infections such as boils and abscesses, ear infections, pneumonia and heart failure


• Disease is not transmitted by animals


• Disease has been eliminated through world wide vaccination programs, although a mild form still exist in Ethiopia


• The disease has been largely eliminated by extermination of rats. Antibiotics such as oxytetracycline, streptomycin and chloramphenicol are effective in its treatment


Other Potential Bio-Warfare Organisms


There are many organisms that can be used in biological warfare. A terrorist attack aimed at crops and livestock would be less dramatic but might cause more disruption in the long run.


Potato Blight – also called late blight, a worldwide serious disease of potato and tomato in cool humid countries caused by a fungus, Phyhtopthora infestans In Ireland 30 percent of the population starved to death, died of typhoid fever that followed - or emigrated during the period 1845 to 1860. Tomato blight caused by the same fungus destroyed 50 percent of the crop in Eastern US in 1946.

Rust Fungi - There are species of Puccinia affecting ceraeals and among them which is Puccinia graminis tritici consists of 200 such races to which wheat varieties are differentially susceptible. Although rust fungi are host specific and can only complete their life cycle in the presence of alternate host such as barberry in wheat rust, the potential fore biological warfare is great to consider that cereals comprise the staple of the mankind. The narrowing down of varieties for commercial cultivation exposes greater danger of rust diseases to spread out into epidemics.


Salmonella - In 1984 a cult in Oregon set off a wave of food poisonings. Gastroenteritis caused by natural contamination and careless food handling afflicts millions and results in 5000 deaths each year. Salmonella is a large group of rod shaped bacteria that invade the gastrointestinal tract, among them typhoid and paratyphoid germs.


Antibiotics are recommended to combat Salmonella infection. A recent incident happened in Rizal when hundreds of children who ate spoiled spaghetti were hospitalized. The religious group, which sponsored the feeding program, admitted fault to the incident. A similar case also happened two years ago. The owner of seven-eleven apologized for the incident and paid the victims.


Foot-and-Mouth Disease – The disease affects hoof animals from hogs to cattle. Its natural occurrence is worldwide and we have our own season in the Philippines that is during summer. Although the pathogen is not transmitted from animals to humans, losses incurred are usually heavy with the infected animal economically worthless.


Like in the case of mad cow disease, and chicken flu that affects humans, the infected animals are destroyed to prevent infection. Quarantine and an extreme sanitation program are the best defense in curbing the spread of the disease.


Mad Cow Disease – It is called bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE that has been determined in 1996 to infect humans in the form of a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). Eighty people in Britain have died of CJD and there is no data to show how many more will die because there are initial signs of acquiring the disease are not clear and that the gestation period of the virus before it reaches the brain is up to 15 years. It originated in Britain crippling the country’s giant cattle industry, then spread to the European and now it has reached Japan threatening some 4.6 million cows.


 Early symptoms of mad cow disease is that the animal cannot get up; areas where mad cow disease associated with CJD. 

Other biological warfare agents include potato beetles, which Britain suspected the Germans for dropping small cardboard bombs filled with the beetle pest on English potato fields. In the 1980s Tamil militants threatened to target Sri Lankan tea and rubber plantations with plant pathogens.

HIV-AIDS – So far 17 million have died and at least 25 million may follow. The heart of the epidemic is at the lower quadrant of Africa. AIDS is anti-Darwinian – it is society’s fittest who die, not the frailest, thus leaving the children and old behind. But recently more and more children become victims. There are 3.7 million children who have died of AIDS and AIDS has orphaned 12 million children.


An estimated 8.8 million adults in Africa are infected with HIV/AIDS and in the seven countries in Africa 1 out of 5 is living with HIV and 3.8 millions Africans are infected every year. There are 36 million adults and children in the world living with HIV/AIDS. Bioterrorism may be eyeing at the spread of the disease in the industrialized countries through the blood donation and immunization channels, other means notwithstanding.


Ebola – It is a highly virulent disease caused by a virus that originated in Africa infecting human and primates. Much of the information about the disease is a mystery but one thing sure is that it is almost one hundred percent fatal once a person gets the virus.


Contact of any kind, and even only through inhalation, the virus can be acquired in no time. One incident showed a member of a religious congregation who had been treating ebola patients suddenly died. Ignoring warnings other members attended her funeral. One of them got the virus and died later.


African Giant Snail (Achatina fulica) – brought by the Japanese to the Philippine during WW II. Pest of garden and field crops. Damage can lead to crop loss and consequently starvation. The pest persists to this day but seldom develops into epidemic proportion. The introduced Golden Kuhol thought to provide livelihood on the farm became a major pest affecting more than 50 percent of our lowland ricefields.


Protection Guidelines


Here are guidelines to protect yourself.


1. Keep distance from possible sources of biochemical materials such as spores of the deadly anthrax. Be wary of suspicious parcels.


2. Get help from authorities to get rid of suspicious looking materials. Curiosity kills the cat.


3. Be familiar with the locations of Bomb Shelters. Such shelters are found in big cities like New York, Tokyo and Tel Aviv. We do not have one in Manila, but there are places and buildings you can find temporary shelter in case of attack.


4. Don’t loiter in centralized air-conditioned places like malls. Avoid crowds and busy streets if you can.


5. Early symptoms should be treated immediately by a doctor. Anthrax for example has flu-like symptoms.


6. Keep resistance high all the time. Good rest, balanced diet, regular exercise are key to resistance against diseases.


7. Don’t be a victim of psychological war. Terrorism thrives on it. We have yet to coin a word for biochemical phobia.


8. Like Boy Scouts, remember “Always be Prepared” – for your own protection. Equally important be prepared always to help other people.


On September 11 (9/11) many people thought Third World War had started. Well, the big wars we know started small. In our modern world an all out war is likely to employ all kinds of warfare – chemical and biological – and worst is the use of nuclear weapons. There are no defined borders and everyone is a potential victim. It will be difficult to detect the enemy and the tools of war he will use. The “morning after” exposes further destruction. Nuclear weapons have long years of half-life. It means radioactive materials will continue to kill, to make people sick. Even to this day, there are people in Japan where the atomic bombs were dropped 45 years dying due to radioactive fallout.


This is also true with bacterial spores. They have the capacity to re-infect and cause a second or third wave of epidemic. Even after the white flag is raised, still many people continue to get sick and die – physically and psychologically. In many cases it is beyond medicine to cure – or science to explain.


In early 1960s I was part of a extension training program at UPLB, then UP College of Agriculture, in promoting modern agriculture to farmers. Among the farm chemicals I handled were herbicides. By coincidence the US was developing a chemical called Orange Agent that I found out later was to be used in Vietnam. While this chemical can maim or cause death, its  intended use is as a defoliant, the same principle in chemical weed control. By spraying the chemical trees lose their leaves, in fact their entire crowns. When this happens a jungle would easily catch fire and in no time spreads out flushing the Vietcong guerillas from their hideouts.


It was my first encounter with biological warfare. The memory does not only linger, it has remained fresh. ~

A Never Ending Story

A story about a boy warrior destined to save the crumbling world of Fantasia, an imaginary world beyond.
Dr Abe V Rotor
 Living with Nature School on Blog [avrotor.blogspot.com]

Boy hero Atreyu, and Artex, in the movie,The Never Ending Story, Warner Bros 1984 

Retirement is a stage in life when we withdraw from the battlefield, so to speak, and recount the good old days on a rocking chair. It is likely the last stage in life when we look back into the past rather than gaze over the horizon. And for the present, we become mere spectators and no longer actors of the drama which Shakespeare beautifully expressed - The world's a stage, everyone has a role to play.

But this is not true today, not after 1989 when the world reached a turning point and a sudden 
leap of mankind, borrowing the American astronauts' greeting to the earth people upon stepping on the surface of the moon. The first reference affirms there is meaning of man's life (we all have a role to play), while the second reference is a challenge to man's future (post-modernism and space age).

The Cold War ended after 45 years, liberating nations and people from the polarized clutches of the two superpowers, satellite and cyberspace communications have virtually wired the whole earth, and world travel became a 24-hour circumnavigation. Ideologies found a common path of understanding, so with religious beliefs through ecumenism. Globalization became a universal aim and goal.

Retirement is indeed difficult to define where boundaries which used to divide the world politically, culturally, economically, and the like, are dissolving into a homogeneous global village, many believe to be the new world order. More so, when "matter does not age, and age does not matter," delightfully speaking. 

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Welcome home! Chorused my three children the day I announced my decision to retire under the government’s early retirement plan.

I realized I have not been truly home with my family. A feeling of guilt crept in but I knew from the start how to amend for my deficiency.

While adjusting to a new life I was not accustomed to, I could not help but look back into the kind of world I left behind.

The price of rice continued to rise. As an anchor against inflation, any increase in the price of this staple signals the spiraling of prices of other commodities. Many food items in the last ten years have become luxury to the masses. Low productivity was blame to force majeure rather than the lack of clear cut and firm policies. Investment was not only unprecedentedly low, it favored industry, bypassing agriculture. Peace and order problems were spreading out fast with poverty in both urban and rural areas. We were falling to the bottom of the economic ladder in Asia and the Pacific region.

This is the drama that unfolded before me, now a spectator. I was once part of this drama. I played important roles in the field and on the desk, in the private sector and in the government for twenty long years. I was part of the economic miracle in the sixties and seventies. I was part of the modernization of the agriculture program. The last two decades the country has demonstrated leadership in agro-industrial development, and scientific and technological break-throughs. But we failed to keep up with the pace of development of neighboring countries and the free world.

On the vantage point of a private life I was soon to lead, I began to doubt if my work for many years had any significance at all. Did I make a difference?

It is now one month from the day I packed up for home. The sea in summer is ideal for fishing With my books that make a small library, reading and writing once again are occupying my time. Marlo and Carlo are asking me when the next camping on Mt. Makiling will be. Chris Ann begs to be part of an on-the-spot painting session for children. My family has never been so happy and secure.

One evening the whole family viewed 
The Never Ending Story, a fantasy for children. It is about a boy warrior destined to save the crumbling world of Fantasia, an imaginary world beyond. During his adventure, the hero encountered a fierce animal.

‘’If you come any closer, I will rip you into threads, “roared the animal.

‘’Who are you?’’ asked the startled boy.

‘’I am the wolf. And you, whoever you are, will have the honor to be my last victim.’’

‘’I will not die easily. I am a warrior.’’

‘’Brave warrior, then fight the 
nothing.’’

‘’But I can’t. I can’t. fight on the boundary of Fantasia.’’

The wolf laughed.

‘’What’s funny about that?’’

‘’Fantasia has no boundary.’’

‘’That’s not true. You are lying.’’

‘’Foolish boy’ don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It is a world of human fantasy. Every part,every creature of it is a piece of the dream and hope of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundary.’’

‘’Why is Fantasia dying then?’’The boy is perplexed.

‘’Because people have come to lose their hopes and forget their dreams. So 
nothing goes stronger.’’

‘’What is the 
Nothing?’’

‘’It is the emptiness that is left. It is despair that is destroying this world, and I have been trying to help it,’’ the wolf f hollered.

‘’But why?’ demanded the boy.

‘’Because people who have no hope are easy to control. And whoever has the control has the power!’’

An earthquake shook the cave and rocks began to fall. When the dust settled, the two were face to face in combat, the boy holding a digger, and the wolf showing its fangs, snarling.

‘’Who are you really?’’ the boy intoned.

‘’I am the servant of the power behind Nothing . I was sent to kill the only one who can stop the Nothing. I lost him in the swamp of sadness. His name is Atreyu.

‘’If I were to die anyway, I would rather die fighting! Come on wolf, I am Atreyu.’’

The wolf lunged at the boy. Quickly the boy aimed his dagger at the beast’s heart and found its mark.

The death of the beast was the end of Atreyu’s travail. He save d Fantasia.

Today, in our real world, the wolf is no different enemy. It perpetuates on human weakness and preys upon the weak. It thrives on helplessness and despair, indifference and inaction, war and persecution. It looms around human miseries.

The confrontation of the warrior and the beast lives in fantasy, and many of us are relieved by that thought that it is not true - it is only a story. But now and then, the imagery is just too vivid to be just fantasy.

In the days that followed, I found myself once again engrossed with work, this time as professor in a university.

I believed I have not really retired. ~


Years after ...

Author as professor, UST Graduate School, with public school teachers taking refresher course; as organizer and instructor, Summer Art Workshop for Children
Author with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) on environmental conservationas author, with co-authors during a International Book Fair; as conference speaker; and as family man.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Third Planetary Evolution: The Noosphere

Towards Global Collective Consciousness
Guest Editorial
Greater Lagro Gazette 
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The attack on the World Trade Center on the morning on September 11, 2001 (9/11) caused intense, excruciating painful surge of grief and anger and sadness to millions and millions all over the world via media, albeit personal experience at the site in NY, instantly forming a global collective consciousness, a sheathe of mental energy that actually altered the operation of computers,* thus ushering the birth of a third evolution of our planet – The Noosphere.   
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Collective consciousness is not new. It is traced to the binding force of our basic unit of society, the family, expanding to that in a tribe, community, onto the national level. Thus we have the term nationalism to which the citizens, bound by commonalities in language, customs, beliefs, laws, ideology and other factors, unite and pledge their allegiance with pride and respect. 
Noosphere in acrylic by the author

Today with cyber communication, social media, modern transport, breakthroughs in science and technology and growth of megacities, collective consciousness is evolving and inevitably expanding into a global scale.  It is visualized as a planetary sphere of mind, a mental sheathe of the earth. It is the third evolutionary event that our planet earth is undergoing.  It is called noosphere – the unity of all minds and its thinking layer, in the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1926).

Prior to this, the first planetary evolution resulted in the stabilization of our fiery and tumultuous planet to form the geosphere which later began to support life becoming a global ecological system millions of years later - the biosphere, which is our living world today. This time we are entering into a new evolution – that of the human mind: noosphere.  
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Collective consciousness (sometimes collective conscience) is a fundamental sociological concept that refers to the set of shared beliefs, ideas, attitudes, and knowledge that are common to a social group or society. (Concept developed by Emile Durheim,  1894)
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The Computer and Social Media

With scientific breakthrough in communication, we are virtually just a call away from one another wherever we are at any given time. Worldwide we watch the same programs on TV and the Internet, celebrate common festivities, adapt standard curricula in school, ride cars, and build houses of common make and design. 

We keep abreast with the stock market, the same way with follow sports, fashion, and tourism. We shop on e-commerce, enroll in e-learning, preside over meeting via teleconference. The whole world is wired, so to speak.  We live in a very modern world indeed.  The gap of consciousness separating individuals is fast dissolving, and that between kids and grownup is narrowing down. In fact, in the world of computers the millennials are far ahead. “Students teach teachers” maybe an exaggeration but this is true with electronic devices and use of social media. This is a scenario to illustrate our expanding and converging collective consciousness in our postmodern era.  
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*Princeton University researchers have been trying to measure the hypothetical giant humanity-encompassing hive mind, by tracking the effect of events on a network of computers around the world. – Patrick J Kiger (9/11 and Global Consciousness)
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Collective Effervescence

But the earliest proof of collective consciousness is traced to aboriginal societies that practiced religion in its earliest and purest form by periodically gathering to eat, dance, cry, intoxicate, whip themselves to delirium, and the like.  Such state of collective consciousness and ecstasy brings material-spiritual and ideal-spiritual experiences to individual and social well-being. The effect is called  collective effervescence.
Ati-atihan festival in Aklan

Similarly we experience universal joy and merriment in Christmas, New Year, Valentine, and in lesser celebrations like Thanksgiving, Independence, and in local and family affairs. In fact collective consciousness strengthens our religious faith, sense of nationalism, stimulates our creativity, our compassion for one another, or simply takes us to fantasy as a coping mechanism from the harsh realities of life.   

However, what we wish from collective consciousness is the making of an ideal society - a society that is peaceful and harmonious, progressive and sustainable. It is a kind of collective consciousness we wish to create reminiscent of Plato’s Republic, though elusive, has been the dream of humankind.

Collective Consciousness and History

Theories have been put forward since the time of the Greeks and the Romans, whose adage “the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome” attests to that dream of an ideal society. Ironically, their civilizations declined and fell obscure in the Dark Ages. The term alone implies the dark period of human society which lasted for more than a millennium. Collective consciousness that bound the two civilizations, the Greco-Roman, was shattered and later its fragments were gathered and adapted by warring kingdoms or fiefs.

It was in the Renaissance Period starting in the 15th century that our world found a new beginning – the revival of collective consciousness, a prototype of the old Greco-Roman values, ranging from religion and the humanities to politics and socio-economics.   It flourished quickly in its place of origin, Florence, and swept across Europe onto the opposite side of the globe.  The age of colonization carried out this social reform to different parts of the world, including the Philippines.  The birth of new nations which joined other nations including former masters, ultimately after WWI, formed the United Nations which is the world’s umbrella of cooperation and peace.    

Again our collective consciousness was divided by the Cold War which separated the world into two ideologies – capitalism and socialism.  The world stood still in fear of a possible Armageddon.  Fortunately the Cold War ended in 1989 with the reunification of divided countries like Germany and Vietnam, and th dissolution of USSR. Collective consciousness began to take shape under a freer global system of politics and economics, and in fact, with the development of modern communication and transportation, the world shrunk into a “global village.” Globalization had begun.    

Jungian Collective Unconscious

As a background, collective consciousness has a counterpart - collective unconscious which has genetic roots the psychologist Carl Jung termed as archetypes.   It is some kind of “inherited psychic materials,” that link each and every one of us as a species on one hand, and we today with our ancestors in the past, on the other. According to Jung’s theory, though each of us appears to function independently, in actuality we are all trapped into the same global mind. 

These archetypes or instincts are hunger, sexuality, activity, reflection and creativity, in the order of increasing abstraction.  This laid down the three-tier ladder of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, from primordial to spiritual forms. These constitute the so-called Jungian concept of Collective Unconscious that governs our collective behavior that subordinates our own, guided and guarded by the norms of our society he termed as synchronicity.  Archetypes are therefore the genetic link of our species and the components of our rationality as Homo sapiens.

The importance and value of being aware of the collective unconscious is visualized this way: “Myriad invisible hands hold your hands and direct them.  When you rise in anger, a great grandfather froths at your mouth, when you make love, an ancestral caveman growls with lust; when you sleep, tombs open in your memory till your skull brims with ghosts.”  (Carl Jung: A Living Myth - Collective Intelligence yields Collective Action

The Jungian concept of collective unconscious places utmost importance in the preservation of our tradition, beliefs, myths and other ethnic values, though they may be lacking in scientific evidences.  For all we know, the awareness of our connection with our forebears that make us realize the vital role of such genetic inheritance. Which leads us to realize with awe and respect to our ancestors who lived happier and more fulfilled lives than we do in our postmodern era.
 
Transcendental Meditation

This leads us to the spiritual side of collective consciousness - transcendental meditation and its correlation to world peace.  

“Transcendental Meditation program, or the group practice of the TM-Sidhi program by a sufficient group raised the level of coherence in collective consciousness, thus providing a stable basis for a lasting world peace. Increases in societal coherence have been operationally defined as  decreases in armed conflicts, crimes, traffic fatalities, fires, suicides, hospital admissions, notifiable diseases, infant mortality, divorce, alcohol consumption, cigarette consumption, unemployment, and pollution; and increases in international cooperation, stock market indices, leading and coincident economic indicators, and GNP.” (Maharishi's Program to Create World Peace: Theory and Research David W. Orme-Johnson and Michael C. Dillbeck Maharishi International University, 2016 Fairfield, Iowa, U.S.A.)
The Noosphere

What are the challenges of the new evolution – The Noosphere?

First, collective consciousness through meditation can release us of fear, anxiety, anger and tension, and help bring peace of mind vital to the attainment of world peace and order.

Second, collective consciousness offers an avenue to resolve divided loyalties and faiths, incompatible ideologies, race discriminations, border conflicts, particularly our present growing problem of terrorism. 

Third, collective consciousness, in order to attain global significance and integrity must exert cumulative power to unite, amalgamate existing and new consciousness, and revitalize waning unity and cooperation of social groups, cultures, and nations, through education, mass media and organizational strategies.  

Fourth, collective consciousness must be strengthened and guided towards greater regional cooperation such as ASEAN, EU, APEC, and more assertive global summits and conferences, like Climate Change, the United Nations notwithstanding, all geared towards world peace and unity.

Fifth, collective consciousness, on the compassionate, benevolent and humanistic side, must be cognizant of the lessons set by history and great leaders in the past and present from Aristotle, Christ, Gandhi, Lincoln, Paul, Teresa, Mandela, to our own Jose Rizal, and other great men and women.

Outlook

Lofty indeed is the potential power of the envisioned noosphere in shaping humanity in the future with one-mind, one-heart, one-psyche at the expense of losing much of our rich diversity of  intellect, behavior and emotions, and spirituality, physical attributes and health considerations notwithstanding. 

Savants are divided.  Rationality will make us seek and preserve freedom in many and unimaginable forms and means, retaining our connectivity with the past and the future, and our environment through collective DNA carried on through evolution, and from generation to generation. We belong to this genetic pool. We are natives of Planet Earth.

Personally as a biologist we are heading toward the sunset of our own species.  By the way, all species without exemption follow a normal curve of emergence-plateau-decline and finally extinction, in favor of other species under the law of succession (seres) and pattern of the web of life. We may seem to have reached the plateau of our species.  This is dangerous.  A Damocles Sword hangs above us, forged by our superior intellect.  What with the possibility of global nuclear war, unabated wastes generation resulting in progressive autotoxicity or genocide.  By manipulating the plantilla of life through genetic engineering, we destroy homeostasis or the balance of nature. We have altered the composition of the earth as modern alchemists.  In short we are destroying paradise the second time around.  The noosphere could be our saving grace, or at least it gives us respite to examine and amend our wasteful and evil ways in the guise of The Good Life.

To the futuristic minds, man shall be leaving the earth and live in another planet, perhaps a million years from now. By then I believe Homo sapiens shall be no longer  us. ~

Prepared by Dr Abe V Rotor
For the Greater Lagro Gazette 2017