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Seal poo reveals plastic’s path in the sea : Research Highlights

Almost one-third of the fish and nearly half of the seal-faeces samples contained one to four plastic fibres and fragments. Among the most common was polyethylene, which is found in plastic bags and bottles.


I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations

I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations

I’m stunned by this article. First of all, I had no idea the previous Canadian government destroyed 100 years of Arctic climate data. Secondly, we joke about Trump’s corruption, greedy business mind and being bought off by the Russians and huge corporations (does he think money is all that there is?), and his utter stupidity when tweeting about climate (“It’s freezing where I am so there cannot be global warming”), but this is real. This is systematic, deliberate climate change denial on behalf of big oil and other huge corporations because…money. 

How are we allowing this? How are people becoming so blindly led, so brainwashed, so indignant and angry at the wrong people, at each other, instead of at those who have the power to destroy anything they want and are doing so. These very people are our downfall – of everyone, planet-wide. They deny science and deny fact to protect profit and greed, at all of our expense and at the expense of our precious living planet. 

This scientist has edited his own DNA, and the results are mindblowing – Ideapod

“Dr. Josiah Zayner, a scientist, biohacker, and founder of the biotech company, The Odin, is a member of this futuristic group and the first person known to have edited his own DNA.”

This article clearly overstates the “results” of Zayner’s human experiments on himself for click-bait value, as the results are presently unknown.

After studying Genetics as part of my BSc. Zoology degree, we were asked to write an essay on the ethical implications of the new CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tools (happily, I got a first class mark). Indeed CRISPR raises a host of ethical questions and considerations. CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) was discovered and developed by two scientists in separate universities from naturally occurring gene editing systems within bacteria. The scientists were Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. They saw the simple yet effective method by which bacteria’s immune defence systems literally cut out invading viruses using enzymes, including the Cas-9 enzyme. It cuts viral DNA when encountered and creates CRISPR arrays which allow the bacteria to ‘remember’ the virus. When encountering the virus again (or something similar) the bacteria then use RNA segments from these CRISPR arrays to target the viral DNA and cut it up, rendering it safe.

It is not dissimilar to mammalian immune systems, where proteins (immunoglobulins) are created in response to encountering antigens (foreign bodies), which can then be triggered if encountering the same (or similar) foreign bodies again. The CRISPR-Cas9 system can be likened to the cut, copy and paste tools in editing software – it is exactly what CRISPR does with genetic material. Scientists have worked out a way of utilising this system in the lab to edit genomes. It can cut out, put back and move genes around.

The downside? Research has some way to go before we fully understand what all of our genes do, and how they interact with each other. A gene in one location on a strand of DNA may interact with and affect a gene in another location far away on the same strand. We don’t yet understand all of the complex interactions between genes. We do know that there are usually many dormant genes within a genetic strand, remnants of the evolutionary past of an animal or plant. So if you cut out a gene, how might that affect other genes? If you put one in, will it trigger a dormant gene? In some cases, scientists know exactly how to trigger dormant genes.

It is somewhat reassuring to know that experimentation is primarily limited to somatic cells and that it is uncommon in most countries to carry out genome editing on germline or embryonic cells. There are countries which practice outside of any agreed ethical codes, or any rules are largely unenforceable, so that some scientists may already be carrying out genome editing experiments on embryos and germ cells. However, allowances have already been made for genome editing to be carried out on early embryos in the UK and other countries. What is truly terrifying is that all other animals are at the mercy of our whims in the world of genome editing experimentation.

It is clear that we are fairly radically playing with a puzzle without the benefit of the full picture to work with. Gene editing is still firmly in the experimental stages of its evolution, with some amazing results, and some truly horrifying results which the general public never see or hear about (think cloning labs – they exist and the success rate is very, very low).

This is the stuff of the future, of history, of nightmares and dreams…and of Marvel comic books. Bio hacking meet the world, a world full of unethical, immoral practices and people only too happy to abuse and destroy for short-sighted greed. What could go wrong? Zayner (and others) is literally opening Pandora’s box by making gene editing kits available to anyone who can afford the price of the kit. However, what’s in the box is incredible and has almost unlimited potential for a world where disease is non-existent, where some of the damage we’ve done can be rectified, and where humans might be altered in ways limited only by imagination.

Personally I’m still holding out for those wings, and an echolocation system.

Ocean acidification is deadly threat to marine life, finds eight-year study

I briefly researched acidification in a corals essays I wrote last year (for which I got a first class mark); this study looks in-depth at the impacts of acidification on marine life.

Ocean acidification is deadly threat to marine life, finds eight-year study

Some marine creatures may be more resilient to harsher ocean conditions than expected –

So I’m writing an essay about drivers of coral reef bleaching, and reading about acidification and its effects on marine mammals that secrete calcium carbonate, and this new research pops up. Interesting immediate adaptation to cope with lower pH levels in marine environments; although I’m not sure how long-term (and effective) an adaptation it might be. Similarly, some coral species and their symbionts are more tolerant of some drivers of bleaching than others. Again, in the short-term that helps those species, but it’s not clear how far beyond their normal thresholds for CO2, irradiance, thermal stress and acidification they can survive. And then there’s coral diseases… We are pushing the limits, changing environments and testing tolerance thresholds for so much of the world’s wildlife, and not in a good way.

100s of dolphins tortured in Japan in alarming Facebook Live stream

And so the vile, arrogant brutal atrocities in the cove in Taiji, Japan continue, year after year, while the world remains blissfully ignorant of the evil these men do for six months of every year to migrating cetaceans unfortunate enough to swim past this little cove off the southern peninsula of Japan. Money is made, greed is satiated, murderous killing occurs and the world’s precious wildlife is decimated by Japan. When will this be called out and stopped as the heinous, greedy, short-sighted, violent, cruel and unacceptable activity that it is?

Dolphins escape from Taiji facility in Japan – BBC News

It’s so tragic that these animals are so traumatised and conditioned to rely on handouts for resources that they gain their freedom after someone cut the nets and they don’t know what to do with it. Awful breaking of a wild animal’s autonomous, free spirit.

The Toll of Dolphins Under Siege in Taiji | The Huffington Post

Thanks to Huff Post for sharing the plight of Taiji dolphins with its readers. It’s actually six months of every year that the Japanese fishermen commit these heinous crimes against nature and allow greed and ignorance to rule the town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture. Half of every year they slaughter dolphins. It should be absolutely illegal to do what they do but instead they get rich from selling those they spare from the butcher’s knife to marine amusement parks around the world. 

Don’t visit dolphin shows. Your ticket funds this massacre in Japan every year. Supply and demand; stop demanding dolphins entertain us, they’ll stop taking them for captivity and killing the rest.

Wolf trapping – A diary of moving from East London to Montana

A fascinating read. I will never, ever understand hunters of any kind. Their logic and ethics are utterly skewed. 

But I learn that Jim Posewitz is that uniquely Western American who has made it his life’s work to improve ‘the image of hunting with an emphasis on fair chase ethics’ and has focused ‘on putting hunters at the forefront of our nation’s conservation ethic.’ He’s exactly the sort of person I find impossible to understand. Is it just semantics? When he talks of conservation, does he mean the conservation of a way of life based on when the trapper ruled and the West was won by guys who slept under the stars dreaming of the dead wolves at their feet the next morning? As Rick Bass says about hunters in his book The Ninemile Wolves, ‘there’s nothing harder to stereotype than a “hunter”.’ I would add that this is also true of trappers: they claim to love the wilderness, they call themselves sportsmen, outdoorsmen, and yet they are happy inflicting pain on animals in return for the price of their fur. Most hunters eat their prey, whereas trappers do it for money.”