Biologist, Conservationist, & Portlander. My passion lives in Africa.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The importance of biodiversity hitting home.

10:16 PM Posted by Tara Easter No comments
Have you noticed all those gluten free menu items in the grocery store lately? No, this isn't some new diet craze. It's to cater the ever increasing list of people with food allergies. It's not just gluten, it's wheat, soy, nuts, grass, trees. I even developed an allergy in high school that I still haven't quite figured out, but it's banned most raw vegetable and fruits from being my healthy afternoon snack.

Last year, my roommate and best friend came home with some awful news. Her previously misdiagnosed condition of irritable bowel syndrome turned out to be a whole host of allergies that were upsetting her digestion. The list was so ridiculous, she had no idea what she could eat, especially being a college student with limited time and money. I've seen more and more cases like hers, and I wondered if allergies have just been misdiagnosed for other things all along, or if they were truly becoming more and more of a problem. 

So here it is, a start to answering this question. Check out this article about the research being done by NC State's very own Rob Dunn


"What can be said with certainty is that, as we have become more urban and as we have transformed the world, we have also become experts at replacing habitats filled with many species with habitats populated by just a few. We plant inert cement where forests once grew. We clean and scrub our houses with antibiotic wipes. We overuse antibiotics to clean out pathogens in our bodies. We overuse antimicrobials to clean everything else. One can now even buy underpants preloaded with chemicals that clean away the bacteria below the belt.
The word “clean” seems wholesome, but what it usually means is kill. We kill some species and favor others. We once cleaned the predators and snakes from around our homes. Now that the snakes and predators are gone, we clean what is invisible. As we do, we kill the life most susceptible to our weapons. In their place grows a more depauperate and resistant wildness—nature despite us, not for us—a jungle of potentially dangerous weeds. We are reducing diversity in our daily lives, even on our bodies, in exactly the same way that we are reducing it in the world. We manage our own flesh as we manage the earth."
Of course, this is not to say that this is the cause of every autoimmune case, but it's certainly interesting. 
We've all heard the threats: Climate change, coral reefs, the rainforest... the loss of biodiversity has been red flagged for decades as a danger we cannot ignore for multiple reasons. But humans, as intelligent as we are, are really kind of dumb. We don't view our health, the earth's health, in a long term manner. We want what we want and we want it now. Immediate fixes, not long term solutions. So I'm happy about this study. And I HOPE that it starts to hit home, and more people start paying attention to nature of all kinds, not only the most glamorous. 


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