Tag: Richard Dawkins

The Great Unmentionable by George Monbiot.

A real pleasure and privilege to republish this article from Mr. Monbiot.

For some time now I have subscribed to the articles published by The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia.  From time to time references have been made to PRI articles here on Learning from Dogs.

Recently, I read a PRI essay that had been penned by George Monbiot.  It was called The Great Unmentionable.  It blew me away.  So I took a deep breath and dropped George M. an email asking if I might republish it here.  George was very gracious in giving me such permission.

Mr. George Monbiot.
Mr. George Monbiot.

First some background to George Monbiot for those who are unfamiliar with his work and his writings.  As his website explains:

I had an unhappy time at university, and I now regret having gone to Oxford, even though the zoology course I took – taught, among others, by Richard Dawkins, Bill Hamilton and John Krebs – was excellent. The culture did not suit me, and when I tried to join in I fell flat on my face, sometimes in a drunken stupor. I enjoyed the holidays more: I worked on farms and as a waterkeeper on the River Kennet. I spent much of the last two years planning my escape. There was only one job I wanted, and it did not yet exist: to make investigative environmental programmes for the BBC.

After hammering on its doors for a year, I received a phone call from the head of the BBC’s natural history unit during my final exams. He told me: “you’re so fucking persistent you’ve got the job.” They took me on, in 1985, as a radio producer, to make wildlife programmes. Thanks to a supportive boss, I was soon able to make the programmes I had wanted to produce. We broke some major stories. Our documentary on the sinking of a bulk carrier off the coast of Cork, uncovering evidence that suggested it had been deliberately scuppered, won a Sony award.

Anyway, to the article in question that was published on the Guardian Newspaper’s website, 12th April 2013.


The Great Unmentionable

April 12, 2013

We have offshored both our consumption and our perceptions

By George Monbiot

Every society has topics it does not discuss. These are the issues which challenge its comfortable assumptions. They are the ones that remind us of mortality, which threaten the continuity we anticipate, which expose our various beliefs as irreconcilable.

Among them are the facts which sink the cosy assertion, that (in David Cameron’s words) “there need not be a tension between green and growth.”

At a reception in London recently I met an extremely rich woman, who lives, as most people with similar levels of wealth do, in an almost comically unsustainable fashion: jetting between various homes and resorts in one long turbo-charged holiday. When I told her what I did, she responded, “oh I agree, the environment is so important. I’m crazy about recycling.” But the real problem, she explained, was “people breeding too much”.

I agreed that population is an element of the problem, but argued that consumption is rising much faster and – unlike the growth in the number of people – is showing no signs of levelling off. She found this notion deeply offensive: I mean the notion that human population growth is slowing. When I told her that birth rates are dropping almost everywhere, and that the world is undergoing a slow demographic transition, she disagreed violently: she has seen, on her endless travels, how many children “all those people have”.

As so many in her position do, she was using population as a means of disavowing her own impacts. The issue allowed her to transfer responsibility to other people: people at the opposite end of the economic spectrum. It allowed her to pretend that her shopping and flying and endless refurbishments of multiple homes are not a problem. Recycling and population: these are the amulets people clasp in order not to see the clash between protecting the environment and rising consumption.

In a similar way, we have managed, with the help of a misleading global accounting system, to overlook one of the gravest impacts of our consumption. This too has allowed us to blame foreigners – particularly poorer foreigners – for the problem.

When nations negotiate global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, they are held responsible only for the gases produced within their own borders. Partly as a result of this convention, these tend to be the only ones that countries count. When these “territorial emissions” fall, they congratulate themselves on reducing their carbon footprints. But as markets of all kinds have been globalised, and as manufacturing migrates from rich nations to poorer ones, territorial accounting bears ever less relationship to our real impacts.

While this is an issue which affects all post-industrial countries, it is especially pertinent in the United Kingdom, where the difference between our domestic and international impacts is greater than that of any other major emitter. The last government boasted that this country cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19% between 1990 and 2008. It positioned itself (as the current government does) as a global leader, on course to meet its own targets, and as an example for other nations to follow.

But the cut the UK has celebrated is an artefact of accountancy. When the impact of the goods we buy from other nations is counted, our total greenhouse gases did not fall by 19% between 1990 and 2008. They rose by 20%. This is despite the replacement during that period of many of our coal-fired power stations with natural gas, which produces roughly half as much carbon dioxide for every unit of electricity. When our “consumption emissions”, rather than territorial emissions, are taken into account, our proud record turns into a story of dismal failure.

There are two further impacts of this false accounting. The first is that because many of the goods whose manufacture we commission are now produced in other countries, those places take the blame for our rising consumption. We use China just as we use the population issue: as a means of deflecting responsibility. What’s the point of cutting our own consumption, a thousand voices ask, when China is building a new power station every 10 seconds (or whatever the current rate happens to be)?

But, just as our position is flattered by the way greenhouse gases are counted, China’s is unfairly maligned. A graph published by the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee shows that consumption accounting would reduce China’s emissions by roughly 45%. Many of those power stations and polluting factories have been built to supply our markets, feeding an apparently insatiable demand in the UK, the US and other rich nations for escalating quantities of stuff.


The second thing the accounting convention has hidden from us is consumerism’s contribution to global warming. Because we consider only our territorial emissions, we tend to emphasise the impact of services – heating, lighting and transport for example – while overlooking the impact of goods. Look at the whole picture, however, and you discover (using the Guardian’s carbon calculator) that manufacturing and consumption is responsible for a remarkable 57% of the greenhouse gas production caused by the UK.

Unsurprisingly, hardly anyone wants to talk about this, as the only meaningful response is a reduction in the volume of stuff we consume. And this is where even the most progressive governments’ climate policies collide with everything else they represent. As Mustapha Mond points out in Brave New World, “industrial civilization is only possible when there’s no self-denial. Self-indulgence up to the very limits imposed by hygiene and economics. Otherwise the wheels stop turning”.

The wheels of the current economic system – which depends on perpetual growth for its survival – certainly. The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.

By considering only our territorial emissions, we make the impacts of our escalating consumption disappear in a puff of black smoke: we have offshored the problem, and our perceptions of it.

But at least in a couple of places the conjuring trick is beginning to attract some attention.

On April 16th, the Carbon Omissions site will launch a brilliant animation by Leo Murray, neatly sketching out the problem*. The hope is that by explaining the issue simply and engagingly, his animation will reach a much bigger audience than articles like the one you are reading can achieve.

(*Declaration of interest (unpaid): I did the voiceover).

On April 24th, the Committee on Climate Change (a body that advises the UK government) will publish a report on how consumption emissions are likely to rise, and how government policy should respond to the issue.

I hope this is the beginning of a conversation we have been avoiding for much too long. How many of us are prepared fully to consider the implications?



So very difficult to pick out the sentence that carried the most power, for the essay is powerful from start to end.  But this one did hit me in the face, “The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.

Finally, I can’t resist reminding you, dear reader, of the point made by Prof. Guy McPherson in his book Walking Away from Empire, which I reviewed on March 6th.  particularly in the first paragraph of the first chapter; Reason:

At this late juncture in the era of industry, it seems safe to assume we face one of two futures. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent environmental collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. Industrial humans express these futures as a choice between your money or your life, and tell you that, without money, life isn’t worth living. As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (environmental collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.

Maybe this is why we seem unable to have the conversation because to do so means we have to look at ourselves in the mirror.  Each one of us, you and me, has to address something so deeply personal.  Back to Prof. McPherson and page 177 of his book (my emphasis):

It’s no longer just the living planet we should be concerned about. It’s us. The moral question, then: What are you going to do about it?

For my money, Mr. Monbiot is yet another voice of reason in the wilderness; another voice that deserves to be followed.  I say this because by way of introduction to his philosophy, he opens thus:

My job is to tell people what they don’t want to hear. That is not what I set out to do. I wanted only to cover the subjects I thought were interesting and important. But wherever I turned, I met a brick wall of denial.

Denial is everywhere. I have come to believe that it’s an intrinsic component of our humanity, an essential survival strategy. Unlike other species, we know that we will die. This knowledge could destroy us, were we unable to blot it out. But, unlike other species, we also know how not to know. We employ this unique ability to suppress our knowledge not just of mortality, but of everything we find uncomfortable, until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.

“… until our survival strategy becomes a threat to our survival.”

I sense the growing of this threat to the point where maybe within less than a year the vast majority of open-minded, thinking individuals know the truth of where we are all heading.

Truth never follows a straight line.

A delusion is something that people believe in despite a total lack of evidence.Richard Dawkins.

Yesterday, I started down the road of determining how one gets to the truth of a complex issue.  I called the post Doggedly seeking the truth.  My proposition was effectively saying that just because a person believes in argument ‘a’ or argument ‘b’ that doesn’t of itself make ‘a’ or ‘b’ the truth.

Unwittingly, Martin Lack of the blog Lack of Environment reinforced that point in spades.  He wrote in a comment to yesterday’s post:

The deliberate spreading of misinformation is a fundamental part of the industry-led movement to deny the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption. Alex Rawls is just part of this campaign and I therefore do wish that you would consult me before deciding to help publicise and/or lend credence to such nonsense.

Now I have every sympathy for Martin’s outpourings of feelings; his blog is based on the conviction of his own beliefs. A position of integrity.

But taken literally, Martin’s words, “consult me before deciding to help publicise” mean that he wishes to influence what I choose to write.  Of course he didn’t mean to convey that.

Back to yesterday’s post.  With Dan’s permission, I reproduced the personal email that he sent me with those two articles.  Dan isn’t on the payroll of the Koch brothers or blindly following an “industry-led movement to deny the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption“, he is a thinking human who is yet to be convinced that AGW is as rational a process as, say, gravity!

Humans are not fundamentally rational; we are emotional beings who even in this 21st century have little real understanding of what a human being is. (Must be honest and say that this last sentence is a tickler for a mind-opening video on the nature of human consciousness coming out on Friday.)

So if Dan is not convinced about the effects that mankind is having on Planet Earth, then spare a moment to ponder about the millions of others around the world who are far less capable, even if they had the time and inclination, to adopt a rational, open-minded view of the complexity of AGW.

It gets even more convoluted.  In Professor McPherson’s video that was presented yesterday, this gets said, “If we act as if it’s too late, then we becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy”.  On the face of it, that’s obvious. But on Guy McPherson’s blog Nature Bats Last the video has it’s own post and includes a comment left by Daniel, from which I quote:


There are so many insoluble dilemmas concerning industrial civilization, it’s almost impossible for anyone to attempt to propose a “solution”, or attempt to describe the work that now needs to be done, without becoming a hypocrite.

At this stage, hypocrisy is unavoidable. Beyond the point of overshoot, at least in our culture, all that’s required to be a hypocrite, is to be alive.

I have watched your presentation evolve over the last few months, and with this latest one, something struck me as peculiar. You’ve added this line:

“If we act as if it’s too late, then we becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy”.

Basically, implying that we shouldn’t accept that it’s too late. Yes?

The evidence that now exists, has established an immovable catastrophe, which is now, well outside human agency ( aside from the looming boondoggle of geo-engineering). This is what the evidence shows.  We have effectively already become a self-fulfilling prophesy. The most dire warnings of the last three decades, have now become prophetic. What are eight non-reversible feedbacks if not a physical manifestation of a self-fulfilling prophesy?

To which Guy replies:

Daniel, you’re asking the same questions many others have been asking lately. I’ll try to respond with my next essay, which I’ll complete and post in a couple days.

(I’m pretty sure that next essay is this one: Playing court jester.)

Seems to reinforce the message.  That we really shouldn’t be surprised at the delusions, games and power interplays going on, especially in the corridors of power, so to speak.

Right! Time for me to show my hand!

I am totally convinced that we humans are responsible for the rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and that this accounts for the majority of the abnormal weather events being experienced in so many parts of the planet.

I think I’m right.  Therefore I give more weight to the evidence that supports my view that, guess what, reinforces me thinking I’m right.

Is that scientific?  Of course not!  Science is about producing reproducible outcomes. With, say gravity, that’s a piece of cake.

I’m not a scientist, far from it. Therefore the following statement may be unreliable.  That the problem with producing an uncontroversial, hard-wired proof that man is screwing up (you see, I did say that I wasn’t a scientist) our planet is that we don’t have other planets with which to test the thesis.  When it surely is an uncontroversial, hard-wired proof it will be too late!

Having said all that, tomorrow I will present the best evidence that I can find to support the notion that Dan’s beliefs are wrong.

Back to Casey and that scent:

Now where’s that scent now? Sweeny, help me!
Hang on, let me finish sniffing your bum! Ask Ruby to help, she’s just by the fence.

We can never be as rational as dogs.  But maybe if we learnt to live more in the present, as dogs do so well, the world would be a much simpler and sustainable place.

Last words from Guy McPherson from Playing Court Jester,

On the road, there’s little possibility to develop a lasting relationship. I throw a Molotov cocktail into the conversation, and then I leave the area.

On the road, I describe how we live at the mud hut. I describe the importance of living for today. [my emphasis]

The dreaded ‘A’ word – Alzheimer.

Science may just be starting to make some sense of this cruelest of diseases.

It used be to the dreaded ‘C’ word; cancer.  But now that ‘C’ word has a companion, the dreaded ‘A’ word.  The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease seems to be on a terrible rise.  Indeed, my wife, Jean, lost her late husband to Alzheimer’s disease.  My half-sister back in England is now very ill with the disease.  Just chatting to some people here in Payson a few days ago revealed many who had friends or relations suffering.

So a recent item first seen on the website of The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia really jumped off the ‘page’!  It was an article by George Monbiot entitled The Mind Thieves.  I dropped Mr. Monbiot a quick email requesting permission to republish the article and very promptly received a positive answer.  Thank you, Sir.

So before moving to the article, first a little background on George M.  From his website, one quickly reads,

George Monbiot

I had an unhappy time at university, and I now regret having gone to Oxford, even though the zoology course I took – taught, among others, by Richard Dawkins, Bill Hamilton and John Krebs – was excellent. The culture did not suit me, and when I tried to join in I fell flat on my face, sometimes in a drunken stupor. I enjoyed the holidays more: I worked on farms and as a waterkeeper on the River Kennet. I spent much of the last two years planning my escape. There was only one job I wanted, and it did not yet exist: to make investigative environmental programmes for the BBC.

I’m not going to copy the full ‘About George‘ description but do urge you to pop across to here and read it yourself; George has had, trust me, a fascinating life journey that I suspect is far from over.  This is how that About description closes,

Here are some of the things I love: my family and friends, salt marshes, arguments, chalk streams, Russian literature, kayaking among dolphins, diversity of all kinds, rockpools, heritage apples, woods, fishing, swimming in the sea, gazpacho, sprinting up the pitch in ultimate frisbee, ponds and ditches, growing vegetables, insects, pruning, forgotten corners, fossils, goldfinches, etymology, Bill Hicks, ruins, Shakespeare, landscape history, palaeoecology and Father Ted.

Here are some of the things I try to fight: undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, environmental destruction, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless, undisclosed interests, complacency.

Here is what I fear: other people’s cowardice.

I still see my life as a slightly unhinged adventure whose perpetuation is something of a mystery. I have no idea where it will take me, and no ambitions other than to keep doing what I do. So far it’s been gripping.

The article was first published in the British Guardian newspaper (there’s an online link to it here) as the article mentions below.  But I am republishing, in full thanks to George, the copy that appeared on George’s website on the 10th September last, including the references.


The Mind Thieves

September 10th, 2012

The evidence linking Alzheimer’s disease to the food industry is strong and growing.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 11th September 2012

When you raise the subject of over-eating and obesity, you often see people at their worst. The comment threads discussing these issues reveal a legion of bullies, who appear to delight in other people’s problems.

When alcoholism and drug addiction are discussed, the tone tends to be sympathetic. When obesity is discussed, the conversation is dominated by mockery and blame, though the evidence suggests that it can be driven by similar forms of addiction(1,2,3,4). I suspect that much of this mockery is a coded form of snobbery: the strong association between poor diets and poverty allows people to use this issue as a cipher for something else they want to say, which is less socially acceptable.

But this problem belongs to all of us. Even if you can detach yourself from the suffering caused by diseases arising from bad diets, you will carry the cost, as a growing proportion of the health budget will be used to address them. The cost – measured in both human suffering and money – could be far greater than we imagined. A large body of evidence now suggests that Alzheimer’s is primarily a metabolic disease. Some scientists have gone so far as to rename it. They call it diabetes type 3.

New Scientist carried this story on its cover last week(5): since then I’ve been sitting in the library trying to discover whether it stands up. I’ve now read dozens of papers on the subject, testing my cognitive powers to the limit as I’ve tried to get to grips with brain chemistry. While the story is by no means complete, the evidence so far is compelling.

Around 35 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide(6); current projections, based on the rate at which the population ages, suggest that this will rise to 100 million by 2050(7). But if, as many scientists now believe, it is caused largely by the brain’s impaired response to insulin, the numbers could rise much further. In the US, the percentage of the population with diabetes type 2, which is strongly linked to obesity, has almost trebled in 30 years(8). If Alzheimer’s, or “diabetes type 3”, goes the same way, the potential for human suffering is incalculable.

Insulin is the hormone which prompts the liver, muscles and fat to absorb sugar from the blood. Diabetes 2 is caused by excessive blood glucose, resulting either from a deficiency of insulin produced by the pancreas, or resistance to its signals by the organs which would usually take up the glucose.

The association between Alzheimer’s and diabetes 2 is long-established: type 2 sufferers are two to three times more likely to be struck by this dementia than the general population(9). There are also associations between Alzheimer’s and obesity(10) and Alzheimer’s and metabolic syndrome (a complex of diet-related pathologies)(11).

Researchers first proposed that Alzheimer’s was another form of diabetes in 2005. The authors of the original paper investigated the brains of 54 corpses, 28 of which belonged to people who had died of the disease(12). They found that the levels of both insulin and insulin-like growth factors in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients were sharply reduced by comparison to those in the brains of people who had died of other causes. Levels were lowest in the parts of the brain most affected by the disease.

Their work led them to conclude that insulin and insulin-like growth factor are produced not only in the pancreas but also in the brain. Insulin in the brain has a host of functions: as well as glucose metabolism, it helps to regulate the transmission of signals from one nerve cell to another, and affects their growth, plasticity and survival(13,14).

Experiments conducted since then appear to support the link between diet and dementia(15,16,17,18), and researchers have begun to propose potential mechanisms. In common with all brain chemistry, these tend to be fantastically complex, involving, among other impacts, inflammation, stress caused by oxidation, the accumulation of one kind of brain protein and the transformation of another(19,20,21,22). I would need the next six pages of this paper even to begin to explain them, and would doubtless get it wrong (if you’re interested, please follow the links on my website).

Plenty of research still needs to be done. But if the current indications are correct, Alzheimer’s disease could be another catastrophic impact of the junk food industry, and the worst discovered so far. Our governments, as they are in the face of all our major crises, appear to be incapable of responding.

In this country as in many others, the government’s answer to the multiple disasters caused by the consumption of too much sugar and fat is to call on both companies and consumers to regulate themselves. Before he was replaced by someone even worse, the former health secretary, Andrew Lansley, handed much of the responsibility for improving the nation’s diet to food and drinks companies: a strategy that would work only if they volunteered to abandon much of their business(23,24).

A scarcely-regulated food industry can engineer its products – loading them with fat, salt, sugar and high fructose corn syrup – to bypass the neurological signals which would otherwise prompt people to stop eating(25). It can bombard both adults and children with advertising. It can (as we discovered yesterday) use the freedoms granted to academy schools to sell the chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks now banned from sale in maintained schools(26). It can kill the only effective system (the traffic light label) for informing people how much fat, sugar and salt their food contains. Then it can turn to the government and blame consumers for eating the products it sells. This is class war: a war against the poor fought by the executive class in government and industry.

We cannot yet state unequivocally that poor diet is a leading cause of Alzheimer’s disease, though we can say that the evidence is strong and growing. But if ever there was a case for the precautionary principle, here it is. It’s not as if we lose anything by eating less rubbish. Averting a possible epidemic of this devastating disease means taking on the bullies: those who mock people for their pathologies and those who spread the pathologies by peddling a lethal diet.


1. Caroline Davis et al, 2011. Evidence that ‘food addiction’ is a valid phenotype of obesity. Appetite Vol. 57, pp711–717. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.08.017

2. Paul J. Kenny, November 2011. Common cellular and molecular mechanisms in obesity and drug addiction. Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 12, pp 638-651. doi:10.1038/nrn3105

3. Joseph Frascella et al, 2010. Shared brain vulnerabilities open the way for nonsubstance addictions: Carving addiction
at a new joint? Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 1187, pp294–315. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05420.x

4. Ashley N. Gearhardt et al, 2010. Can food be addictive? Public health and policy implications. Addiction, 106, 1208–1212. ad. d_3301 1208..1212 doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03301.x

5. Bijal Trivedi, 1st September 2012. Eat Your Way to Dementia. New Scientist.

6. Sónia C. Correia et al, 2011. Insulin-resistant brain state: The culprit in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease? Ageing Research Reviews Vol. 10, 264–273. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2011.01.001

7. Fabio Copped`e et al, 2012. Nutrition and Dementia. Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research, Vol. 2012, pp1-3. doi:10.1155/2012/926082

8. See the graph in Bijal Trivedi, 1st September 2012. Eat Your Way to Dementia. New Scientist.

9. Johanna Zemva and Markus Schubert, September 2011. Central Insulin and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Signaling – Implications for Diabetes Associated Dementia. Current Diabetes Reviews, Vol.7, No.5, pp356-366. doi.org/10.2174/157339911797415594

10. Eg Weili Xu et al, 2011. Midlife overweight and obesity increase late life dementia risk: a population-based twin study. Neurology, Vol. 76, no. 18, pp.1568–1574.

11. M. Vanhanen et al, 2006. Association of metabolic syndrome with Alzheimer disease: A population-based study. Neurology, vol. 67, pp.843–847.

12. Eric Steen et al, 2005. Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signaling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease – is this type 3 diabetes?. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Vol. 7, pp.63–80.

13. Konrad Talbot et al, 2012. Demonstrated brain insulin resistance in Alzheimer’s disease patients is associated with IGF-1 resistance, IRS-1 dysregulation, and cognitive decline. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Vol.122, No.4, pp.1316–1338. doi:10.1172/JCI59903.

14. Naoki Yamamoto et al, 2012. Brain insulin resistance accelerates Aβ fibrillogenesis by inducing GM1 ganglioside clustering in the presynaptic membranes. Journal of Neurochemistry, Vol. 121, 619–628. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2012.07668.x

15. Eg:
Wei-Qin Zhao and Matthew Townsend, 2009. Insulin resistance and amyloidogenesis as common molecular foundation for type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, Vol.1792, pp.482–496. doi.org/10.1016/j.bbadis.2008.10.014,

16. Sónia C. Correia et al, 2011. Insulin-resistant brain state: The culprit in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease? Ageing Research Reviews Vol. 10, 264–273. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2011.01.001

17. T. Ohara et al, 2011. Glucose tolerance status and risk of dementia in the community, the Hisayama study. Neurology, Vol. 77, pp.1126–1134.

18. Karen Neumann et al, 2008. Insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease: molecular links & clinical implications. Current Alzheimer Research, Vol.5, no.5, pp438–447.

19. Eg: Lap Ho et al, 2012. Insulin Receptor Expression and Activity in the Brains of Nondiabetic Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease Cases. International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Volume 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/321280

20. Suzanne M. de la Monte, 2012. Contributions of Brain Insulin Resistance and Deficiency in Amyloid-Related Neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s Disease. Drugs, Vol. 72, no.1, pp. 49-66. doi: 10.2165/11597760

21. Ying Liu et al, 2011. Deficient brain insulin signalling pathway in Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Journal of Pathology, Vol. 225, pp.54–62. doi: 0.1002/path.2912

22. Konrad Talbot et al, 2012. Demonstrated brain insulin resistance in Alzheimer’s disease patients is associated with IGF-1 resistance, IRS-1 dysregulation, and cognitive decline. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Vol.122, No.4, pp.1316–1338. doi:10.1172/JCI59903.

23. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/12/government-health-deal-business

24. http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/14/obesity-crisis-doctors-fastfood-deals-ban

25. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/11/why-our-food-is-making-us-fat

26. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/sep/10/junk-food-academy-schools-claims


Don’t know about you but the above is a fine example of investigative reporting.  It deserves the widest circulation because if it is proved that there is a link between diet and Alzheimer’s disease then, once again, it shows how taking personal responsibility for our health has huge implications for us, our families and for society at large.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Three very thought-provoking films

Over the last week we have watched all three 0ne-hour films made by the BBC, aired in 2011,  under the title of the heading of this post, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.  The films are available on the website Top Documentary Films, the direct link is here.  As that website explains,

A series of films about how humans have been colonized by the machines they have built. Although we don’t realize it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers. It claims that computers have failed to liberate us and instead have distorted and simplified our view of the world around us.

1. Love and Power. This is the story of the dream that rose up in the 1990s that computers could create a new kind of stable world. They would bring about a new kind global capitalism free of all risk and without the boom and bust of the past. They would also abolish political power and create a new kind of democracy through the Internet where millions of individuals would be connected as nodes in cybernetic systems – without hierarchy.

2. The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts. This is the story of how our modern scientific idea of nature, the self-regulating ecosystem, is actually a machine fantasy. It has little to do with the real complexity of nature. It is based on cybernetic ideas that were projected on to nature in the 1950s by ambitious scientists. A static machine theory of order that sees humans, and everything else on the planet, as components – cogs – in a system.

3. The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey. This episode looks at why we humans find this machine vision so beguiling. The film argues it is because all political dreams of changing the world for the better seem to have failed – so we have retreated into machine-fantasies that say we have no control over our actions because they excuse our failure.

Adam Curtis is a documentary film maker, whose work includes The Power of Nightmares,The Century of the SelfThe Mayfair SetPandora’s BoxThe Trap and The Living Dead.

As was eluded, the three films are deeply thought-provoking.  There is a ‘taster’ to the first film on YouTube, as below,

Adam Curtis, the film maker, has a blog site under the BBC Blogs umbrella.  The entry on that blog-site by Adam in connection with these films is here, and makes interesting reading.  It also includes a longer trailer than the one from YouTube, above.

Finally, there are comprehensive writings on all three films on the WikiPedia website here.  To give you a taste, here’s what was written about the third film,

The Monkey In The Machine and the Machine in the Monkey

This programme looked into the selfish gene theory which holds that humans are machines controlled by genes which was invented by William Hamilton. Adam Curtis also covered the source of ethnic conflict that was created by Belgian colonialism’s artificial creation of a racial divide and the ensuing slaughter that occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is a source of raw materialfor computers and cell phones.

William Hamilton went to Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while the Second Congo War was raging. He went there to collect Chimpanzee faeces to test his theory that HIV was due to a medical mistake. Unfortunately he caught malaria, for which he took aspirin, which caused a haemorrhage and he died. However his selfish gene theory lived on.

In 1960 Congo had become independent from Belgium, but governance promptly collapsed, and towns became battle grounds as soldiers fought for control of the mines. America and the Belgians organised a coup and the elected leader was assassinated, creating chaos. The Western mining operations were largely unaffected however.

Bill Hamilton was a solitary man, and he saw everything through the lens of Darwin’s theory of evolution. When he wanted to know why some ants and humans gave up their life for others, he went to Waterloo station and stared at humans for hours, and looked for patterns. In 1963 he realised that most of the behaviours of humans was due to genes, and looking at the humans from the genes’ point of view. Humans were machines that were only important for carrying genes, and that it made sense for a gene to sacrifice a human if it meant that another copy of the gene elsewhere would prosper.

In the 1930s Armand Denis made films that told the world about Africa. However, his documentary gave fanciful stories about Rwanda’s Tutsis being a noble ruling elite originally from Egypt, whereas the Hutus were a peasant race. In reality they were racially the same and the Belgian rulers had ruthlessly exploited the myth. But when it came to create independence, liberal Belgians felt guilty, and decided that the Hutus should overthrow the Tutsi rule. This led to a blood bath, as the Tutsis were then seen as aliens and were slaughtered.

So, all in all, this is a great personal recommendation and, it goes without saying, those of you that do watch the films and want to comment, would love to hear from you.