Episode 230. Evolution & Response

This is the World Organic News for the week ending 7th of  September 2020.

Jon Moore reporting!

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

Way back in episode 144 I delved into the misunderstandings we have to deal with when the word “Evolution” arises. To give a quick summary: There’s a feral pest in Australia called the cane toad. Introduced in the 1930s into the state of Queensland, against the advice of the scientists but in time for an election. The toads were supposed to eat the cane beetles ravaging the sugar industry at the time. The toad, once introduced, avoided the cane beetles and started chewing through native frogs, toads and reptiles. The toads carry a poison on their back, excreted through glands. These toads have spread south into northern NSW, north through Queensland and west into the Northern Territory.

Now things are different in the NT. Not just with cane toads but with the people themselves but that’s a whole other podcast. In the Territory there’s a change in the population profile. Snake populations are now full of small mouthed individuals.  The media says things like: The snakes have evolved smaller mouths so they can’t bite the toads and be poisoned. What actually happened was this: The standard and larger sized individuals in the population died when they bit the toads. Those members of the population with smaller mouths weren’t able to bite the toads so they lived long enough to reproduce other smaller mouthed individuals. Over time the population became dominated by these smaller mouthed individuals. 

Another example of this is the wonder product: Glyphosate!. Regular listeners will spot the derision in that last sentence. So the sales pitch went like this: Grow our Monsanto developed GM corn/soy/cotton which is resistant to glyphosate, in the form of Roundup. Spray the crud out of your paddocks and everything that isn’t the GM crop will be destroyed. They meant weeds but got the soil biology too. Just like the cane toads hitting a new population of snakes, most were wiped out but some, a tiny fraction to begin with, weren’t. Over time these seeds continued to grow and reproduce until we have the horror of glyphosate resistant “weeds”. You will appreciate I’m looking at this from the industrial agriculture point of view. As regenerators we know a weed is just another surface for photosynthesis and a possible fungal connection node underground. 

The latest example of evolution at work is even more troubling. We need to go back about 65 million years to follow the changes going on in this example. One day, a Tuesday I believe, a meteor struck the earth around the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This had well documented effects. All the non-avian dinosaurs bundied off fairly quickly. The avians, that is the birds, and we mammals survived. The earth was a fairly unpleasant place for quite a while. Dark, cold and full of rotting dinosaur flesh and decomposing plant matter.This is the ideal environment for fungi. And fungal infections are very unpleasant. Birds, like mammals, are warm blooded. Our normal body temperatures are such that fungal spores cannot survive in warm blooded animals. The heat kills them off a little below our 37°C or 98.6°F. Now suppose we are entering a geological period of rising ambient temperatures, like we are now. Around the world we are seeing increased incidences of heat waves. This means across a wide geographic area, all of the biosphere is being subjected to a new stress, a change in conditions. This change will favour some individuals in a population and not others.

One Kingdom that seems to have been changing under these conditions is the fungi. Yeasts are single cell fungi. Anyone who’s had a yeast infection will know they aren’t pleasant. Equally, anyone who’s begun a COVID isolation sourdough starter should be amazed at the amount of yeast floating around in the air. On the whole our body temperature deals with the majority of yeast infections. We are just too hot for the yeasts to become established. As the temperature has been pulsing upward with heat waves over the past say, forty years, we have been providing the exact conditions required to select for higher temperature surviving yeasts. These appear to have taken hold in some hospitals around the world. And they are deadly. Even the normal defense of a fever to raise our body temperature and kill these things off isn’t effective. In much the same way that encroaching upon wilderness is releasing new viruses into the human population, ebola, SARS, MERS and SarsCoV2, we are also creating the conditions for fungal based pandemics through our inaction on climate change and loss of biodiversity. 

This alone should be reason enough to take climate change seriously. Disruption to carbon and water cycles should be too but they are a little more abstract. Rampant yeast infections should be something most people can relate to. Given time populations either have sufficient individuals capable of dealing with a new condition in the environment or they go extinct. We are in a self made change in conditions. We can unmake them, if we choose and have the will to effect the change. Now is the time, wherever you are is the place. Start growing your own food. This has so many climate positive effects. It immediately sucks the food mile fossil fuel component out of your meals. It more than likely rips the energy component of fertilizers from that meal too, on the assumption you’ll be growing regeneratively, “no-digly” and with minimal external inputs. Food is our key to starting the process of allowing Nature to reset itself at a safer for humans levels. If not now? When?

And by a happy coincidence there’s a link to a Udemy course in the show notes entitled “Growing a No-Dig Garden” if you’d like some assistance to get you up and gardening. And a big thank you to those who have taken the course, it is quite gratifying to see I am helping. The feedback has been helpful too.

Remember: Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.



Growing a No-Dig Garden on Udemy


Or copy and paste this link:



World Organic News

email: podcast@worldorganicnews.com

episode 144


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *