My genetics and chemistry teachers in school would ambush us with this combined lecture on selenium. I attended Humboldt State University as a pre-med student in the mid nineties for a stretch before I returned and finished my interdisciplinary degree. The selenium lecture started off in Organic chemistry where we were taken through the exact sort of dimerization that forms when selenium is absent from a key cellular process. In genetics we are taken further later that same day, and our teacher explained to us in great detail how the absence of selenium in the soil of a huge landmass of China is actually responsible for the emergence year after year of new flu strains which emerge from that same region of China.
We depend on our teachers to ambush us with new ideas.
Early on I was interested in the idea that the gene has motility, fluidity and some ability to sort things around. The immutable gene, as steady and intractable as a keypunch card sequence never set right with me. The early epigenetic research caught my eye especially because it was done by a woman ; Barbara McClintock. By the time the first decade of the 21st century was closing we knew that our own diversity was at stake when malnutrition strikes. This brings a new dimension to war, when you consider that even the grandchild of a woman who suffered malnutrition will still have epoigenetic issues because the genome has been partially stripped of a formerly unrecognized mechanism of expression. The good news is of course that by providing nutrition is may also be possible to repair this Damage.
All of this is on my mind today because of the news from DCAR. Guembe may be dead. DCAR is struggling to keep its moral center against a possible genocide. Its strange that the same parts of Africa that we originally got most of our drought resistant strains from is barely able to provide for itself. The inability for world leaders to establish peaceful progress in that part of the world is explosively coming to light again.
Famine affects us all in a very concrete physical way. There is no reason we should tolerate it because it is a danger to the genetic health and diversity of our species. This is not even considering the potential impact of th epigenome on other species.
The race to find a way to create feeding stations and sustainable solutions for refugees continues. In his broadcast Vinay makes a really good point about resources and survival. he points out that establishing enclaves with sufficient food is not enough. You need to be able to maintain and improve on heavy machinery, you need the involvement of higher institutions and agencies that can help to create real progress. You need to be able to put in a well head.
When my dad had the well dug on this piece of property it was an amazing sight. It looked like a small building or industrial structure had been raised on site. This metal tower was erected to drive down the drill shaft from. We were lucky and found four gallons per minute about two hundred feet down. This is the sort of thing that is possible when a society is working all together. Without connection, without our ability to raise each other up, we have nothing.