Finite

Update: 2016-11-11
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In a world with limited resources, can we find ways to salvage what's disappearing? Can we innovate our way out of a finite landscape? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about living with less. (Original broadcast date: July 17, 2015).

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

support for this podcast and the following message come from Ministry of Supply launched by MIT engineers they use performance materials to design dress clothes that are stretchy and breathe able to keep you comfortable all day long get fifteen percent off your first purchase at Ministry of Supply dot com slash NPR or in their U S stores there it's guy here just a quick note to let you know that next week we're back with a brand new episode is all about food for now enjoy this one from our archives it's called finite and it's about living with less than a story about I'll ask as well enjoy this is the Head Radio Hour each week groundbreaking had talked at the Ted Technology Entertainment Design Design at Stanford never known that delivered and had conferences around the world gift of the human imagination we had to believe in impossible the true nature of reality beckons just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio the NPR guy rise so like a lot of people back in the late seventies Mark Larkin had a really bad trip the worst experience of my life was taking I asked with a shaman from the Colombian Amazon and in that I witness my Duff the The bark lichen is and no botanist which means he studies plant specifically plants that grow in the Amazon because he's interested in the medicinal power of those plants to heal Michael spent a lot of time communing with the native tribes who use those plans to brew things like E T called Eye Alaska we would describe it is a hallucinogenic term the Indian stall like to call it remedial medicine it's the original medicine most important medicine and medicine used to welcome guests and medicine only the roost guest would refuse and a medicine that Mark was offered that day in the Colombian Amazon and I drank the first cup and I felt pretty good and then a couple hours later they will either say you should drink another cup or do another copper don't drink another cup and recalled he offered to hear as for tonight took it and it just went downhill from there right away right away what do you remember just crying and screaming and wishing I was done the way you feel like I was in my misery and want to be put out of it was terrible we are in pain na na siya I mean all of a so had to experience death I saw myself dive into but painful and horrible and terrible it wasn't like slow boot up the room in there or was it was off and then it got worse I ended up vomiting purple floss Russian Scorpions the mark is not speaking literally and you know the shame and say when you take I was gay you get out of it what you need to and so afterwards I said to the shaman why did you do that to me and is the fate of my culture the fate of my forest to join without if you are new organization I wanted to experience death so you would never forget the point here it's not that shamans have all the answers I O Oscar has all the answers they don't it doesn't the fact is that some of the systems of healing some of these magic plants can do things that we cannot so you've probably heard this before the Amazon is the most bio diverse place on earth full of natural resources with potentially life saving medical applications but its most valuable resource is quite possibly knowledge the secrets that only native tribes know about knowledge that mark lah kan described from the Ted stage four years ago I injured my foot in a climbing accident went to the doctor she gave me few cold ass from narcotic painkillers anti inflammatory is cortisone shots didn't work several months later was in the Northeast Amazon walked into a village shaman said you're limping and never forget that as long as I live in the face and he said Take off your shoe and give your machete walked over to a palm tree and carved off the firm through in the fire applied to my foot through in a pot of water and had me drink the tea the pain disappeared for seven months when it came back I went to see the shaman again to give you the same treatment and I've been short for three years now who would rather be treated by the the I make no mistake Western medicine is the most successful system of healing ever devised but there's a saying in CERN on that I dearly love the rain forests hold answers to questions we have yet to ask but as you all know it's rapidly disappearing here in Brazil in the Amazon around the world the the world is full of finite resources some of them we don't tap into like we should in some way use as if they'll never run out today finite ideas about preserving the dwindling resources on one planet we inhabit and how to make the most of what's left from water under price water we've over exploited that we don't actually regulated we just use too much oil there on radical solutions laughed such is the extent of the climate crisis that we really need to be doing a lot of reading you think of things you might not think about as valuable resources just like with oil is getting more and more difficult to tap into pools of antibiotic effectiveness and had to use just you know what we need one of the things that I see in working with and studying indigenous cultures is the concept of the finite in the concept of gratitude and has been a lot of time thanking the gods of the forest thanking the animals of the forest not taking more than they need Ken has been studying those indigenous cultures in the Amazon since nineteen seventy seven and I've been going many times you're ever since often extended her the good ol' days when I was a graduate student Mark follows tribesmen through the rain forest asking about plants and herbs how they use them speaking their language the tribal languages in which ideal are some informal which is the prominent written language in the Northeast Amazon and trio that second line which Mark speaks trio is spoken by just four thousand people and most of them live and tribes along the border between Brazil and the country of soaring on the strides generally don't keep records and write down what they know about the local plants so Mark Lerner trio in part to help preserve that knowledge that might have otherwise been lost to history knowledge that could contain secrets to new medicines my colleague the late great Warren MacIntyre discover the source link of the Amazon Laguna MacIntyre in the Peruvian Andes was lost on the Peru Brazil border about thirty years ago he was rescued by a group of isolated Indians call the Mets as they beckon for him to fall into the forest which he did there they took a palm leaf baskets there that took out these green monkey trucks and they began licking them turns out they're highly hallucinogenic MacIntyre wrote about this and it was read by the editor of High Times magazine you see the snowball as her friends and all sorts of strange cultures this kid decided he would go down to the Amazon and give it a whirl give it a lick and he did and he wrote my blood pressure went to the rules lost full control my bodily functions passed out in a heap I woke up in a hammock six hours later felt like God for two to the and telling comes for this and said I'm not really into the theological aspects The Green Monkey Frog which this about the change in blood pressure of the snake town chemist who's working on the new treatment for high blood pressure based on Pip touching the skin of the Green Monkey fraud and other scientists are looking at it sure for drug resistant staff orange how ironic if he's isolated Indians and their magic frog proved to be one of the cure the soul years ago pharmaceutical companies would actively look for potential sources of Medicine in places like the Amazon and from that came to Nova came from the Coca plant in South America first anesthesia from two area arrow poison dark Lords from the Amazon to look our team is with these to put Mirage of the doctor's office to dilate her pupils today because technology has made it so much easier to make drugs from synthetic materials pharmaceutical companies aren't that interested and trudging through the rain forests to find new ones which means there could be useful plant and animal species in the rain forest we don't even know about and are working to conserve every species is a genius at something that's why they survive was me who said that it was Leonardo da Vinci doesn't make sense to save all these pieces what I also want to add is it's not just about a utilitarian approach to conservation would say because to cure for cancer looked a bit because it may help us with global warming to see because it's there so if there is all this potential information that the we don't now because every tribes out there with that knowledge that we know exist I do believe there are actually tried it had no contact with the outside world assuming the outside world are guys like you or me anot maybe the next tribe over that they may have traded with because I've never met a member of a lost tribe who was lost because no force far better than we do the un contacted peoples hold the mystical and iconic role in our imagination these are the people who truly live in total harmony with nature why does people isolated they know we exist they know there's an outside world this is a form of resistance they have chosen to remain isolated and I think it is their human right to remain soul but the world is changing the diminishing of the Civil War Club via the outside world is showing up to the north we have illegal gold mining also from the east from Brazil this increased hunting and fishing for commercial purposes we see illegal logging coming from the self and truth is a very nasty business it's called human safaris they will take you in the isolated groups to take their picture course when you give them clothes and you give them tools are also given disease we call these inhuman safaris remember these are pre literature cited the elders are the library's every time a shame and eyes it's as if labor has burned down all the marks as to preserve that knowledge information which could someday lead to new medicines means we almost have to think about that knowledge like a valuable resource that's disappearing fast show better protection of national parks better protection of indigenous lands penalties economic penalties for destroying forests in stupid ways we know all the answers here but the human animal the capital system doesn't always do things the right way the most efficient way the quickest way the Greeks and Romans ran the world for many years and their empires put out for many reasons one which is the Greek and Roman armies don't want their catapult are made with the ship from eight a wooden chariots were made with the weapons are made of wood forest left in Italy or Greece so we consider ourselves here in the West as the heir to that great Greco Roman tradition logical man philosophy thinking science are Mormon and they disappeared we're not making the same mistake so question is In conclusion is what the future holds but think differently let's make a better world if the climate is going to change less of a climb and the changes for the better of the wash let's live on a planet full of luxury and vegetation in which isolated peoples can remain in isolation can maintain that mystery and that knowledge if they so choose let's live in the world where the shamans live in these forests and heal themselves and us with her mystical plants and their shaker trucks actually go the the part I can is the founder of the Amazon Conservation Team his talk is at Ted dot com More on finite resources and the ways to protect them in the moment guy rise and you're listening to the Ted Radio Hour from NPR the aural to he watched with thanks to two of our sponsors who help make this podcast possible first two stamps dot com mailing and shipping can seem like a no win situation trips to the post of hers are time consuming and leasing a postage meter is expensive but there's a better way than stuck on buy and print official US postage for any letter or package using your own computer sign up or stepped on com for a special offer a four week trial plus postage and a digital scale stamps dot com click on the microphone and enter radio our thanks also to one class maker of the new one plus three smartphone featuring powerful specs premium all metal build and dash charge exclusive technology that sets a new benchmark in charge to be a quick half hour charge will give you a full day's worth of battery life in the one plus three won't like you into restrictive carrier contracts get your hands I'm at one plus that it's the Ted Radio Hour from NPR and I rise on the show today finite ideas about the resources we use and how to make the most of what's left I mean think about the great American story write much awake eyes from your show for these coast and think that the land is theirs and they just plow across the continent and use more more just go west young man and will be more resources bye bye says John Foley will hit the Pacific and we had to stop and there isn't anymore we've run out we have run out of Planet in fact fully is an ecologist who runs the California Academy of Sciences and the one thing that I talk about along with folks is that you think about the last fifty years in the last fifty years the human population more than doubled our use of food and water more than tripled their use of fossil fuels more than quadrupled in just fifty years how crazy the reason that in a single lifetime the world has changed more than all of human history combined wow so one and change us as it beats all the others agriculture is probably the biggest thing we've ever done to the planet and the one thing that makes agriculture possible water trees of seventy percent or ninety percent depending how you do the bookkeeping of all the water consumed by people around the world is yours for one thing you're getting crops police is that water and food are connected in a way that is just not sustainable so think about California for example water homes in California the first order the food problem the biggest consumer of water in California right now is alfalfa all in all fell for a loon is using more water than all of the humans in California combined and most of it's being shipped overseas to uses dairy food for cows in the Middle East or in China so we're exporting California water to the Middle East or China to make milk somewhere else and so we've under priced water we've over exploited that we don't actually regulate how people pump groundwater out of the ground you can do that as much as you like we just has too much in fact argues that agriculture is the most powerful force unleashed on the planet since the end of the Ice Age and even though it using up a lot of our land in a time of our water he said saying we should stop throwing food that we have to be smarter about the way the week really here's John on the Ted stage this is a photograph I get to Arizona and when you look at what are the growing here in terms of the growing lettuce in the middle of the desert using water sprayed on top but what's really interesting is this water's going to come from someplace that comes from here the Colorado River you're getting the desert for food were many golf courses in Scottsdale you take your pick all this is a lot of water to Ken were mining and using it to grow food we've literally consumed an entire river for irrigation and if anything were half that Manson agriculture increase into the future a second ago way it's going to get a lot bigger mainly because a growing population or seven billion people today heading towards at least nine more importantly changing diets as the world becomes wealthier as well as more populous are seeing increases in dietary consumption of meat which take a lot more resources than a vegetarian diet us so more people eating more stuff and richer stuff and of course we have to replace oil with other energy sources that will ultimately have to include some kinds of biofuels and bio energy sources to put these together it's really hard to see how are you get to the rest of the century without at least doubling global agricultural production but if we keep doing manual work and have to start like rationing water all around the world like how much people use of it and then trained in how people grow food and how much of the Ghat like a mad next movie essentially like Mad Max my question is that we're headed like if we do nothing is ever going and can we you know do you think that will be able to kind of make that happen you know um it's kind of funny given that this was the time and I'm actually an optimist I guess I'd be some optimism but I have hope Pope's different than optimists and my hope is that we can change the narrative that humans at their best when they're pushed into a corner and really see a problem actually responded magnificently and technology can help I'm a big fan of Jim irrigation I'm a big fan of organic farming methods that tend to hold more moisture in the soil getting rid of lawns getting rid of things that kind of waste water really conspicuously let's tighten up our infrastructure its cover canals so they don't evaporate with the pipes leaks fixed and there lotsa lotsa things like that we continue to talk about this people often tell me Will isn't blank the answer organic food local food demos new trade subsidies new farm bills and yet we have a lot of good ideas here but not any one of these silver bullet effect what I think they are smaller lakes over Buck Shot I love silver buck shot you put it together and you've got something really powerful but we need to put them together so we have to do I think is invent a new kind of aquaculture the plants the best ideas of commercial agriculture the green revolution with the best ideas of organic farming and local food and the best ideas of Environmental Conservation not have them fighting each other but to have them collaborating together but this is hard right need to get people to focus on a problem that's it's like not in their face it doesn't seem so urgent well I think a lot of folks would argue that you are fighting millions of years of evolution as homo sapiens and thousands of years of history as civilized humans that um tells us that we should be out there exploiting resources so we can survive to the next day yeah but if it meant using a little more soil more land or grabbing a few extra animals to eat that was our job we went from us all of human history we were basically insignificant compared to the size of the earth and now suddenly in one generation or so we flipped around now humans are bigger than the earth our appetite for resources is bigger than what the earth can actually provide that's never happened before so we're trying to get as smart as possible in a generation or two and do millions of years of revolution and thousands of years of history room that's really hard but we're getting smarter just as we're also getting dumber flat and I'd like to tip the scales to see how we can make the smarter we now who the can fully he's an ecologist and executive director of the California Academy of Sciences you can see his entire talk at Ted that NPR dot org So on the show today were talking about finite resources and there's a story about something we don't normally think of as a resource that all we heard about it from ramen like manner I and he's an economist who studies the patterns of disease in the story begins in late December nineteen forty in Oxford England and as this policeman who shows up at the infirmary in Oxford and on his day off from work had been scratched by a roost on a pattern to be the policeman was a guy named Albert Alexander and that little scratch had turned into a nasty infection his entire side of this chic is infected and swollen his eyes was so badly infected that they had to take his eyes out this giant abscess on his face remember back in nineteen forty infections were a leading cause of death most of the soldiers in major wars didn't die from being shot they died from infected wounds if someone had an infection from a simple scratch they could just weeded out it was a good chance of dying but it just so happened that at a lab not too far from this particular hospital in Oxford where Albert Alexander wound up researchers working on an experimental new drug which was capable of killing bacteria has been discovered purely by accident a couple of years earlier was made from a type of mold the researchers didn't know if the drug was safe enough to use on a human being it had never been tested in by chance they found out about Albert Alexander and they figure this person is going to die anyway and so why not try out this drug and given this drug the first day already starts looking a little better his appetite returns second day he looks a whole lot that day three even better day for much better fifty it looks like this man may actually live and then they'd run out of penicillin is penicillin the very first antibiotic to the round of penicillin and that what he died Lau but just remember this was such a remarkable experiment to have even worked out because somehow these drug worked in this patient and open up his entire era of medicine everything that we know as modern medicine and really goes back to that particular day when out but Alexander lived because of penicillin and that was the start of the nt about its revolution the fact that you could keep an infection of beef from the body meant that you cannot perform surgeries could perform long surgeries and because that could have transplants you could have a root canal all of these will meet possible by the fact that we have antibiotics basically a miracle drug I mean arguably one of the most effective important medical advancements in human history absolution I went about its completely transformed human life spans over night but the acrobatics revolution is starting to unravel according to the Centers for Disease Control twice as many Americans now die each year from infections that can't be cured with antibiotics than from HIV AIDS and that problem is getting worse in fact even as recently as si fifteen eighteen years ago I don't recall actually knowing AP Sion with that is an infection but what is happening the last ten years as has been a remarkable increase in the actual number of people who are dying or are not able to get better because the carrier has an infection by the middle of this entry more people will die from infections than from cancer if the problem isn't solved it would be like a winding the clock back to nineteen forty the question is have the miracle drug turn into a global health threat for answers we've been over using them in humans and animals and the more we use antibiotics the more opportunities bacteria have developed resistance and in some instances summit about to stop working entirely we use antibiotics in many instances in appropriately reviews them of bombs presumably to keep animals healthy but really to help them get fat to foster receive a few pennies per pound of meat with squandered what is really the crown jewels of modern medicine which is why Runtime says we need to think of antibiotics in a completely different way we need to think of them like we think of oil or water is a resource that needs to be protected from Mom explained his idea from the Ted stage turns out that the something fundamental about antibiotics which may differ from other drugs which is that I misuse antibiotics overuse antibiotics not only am I affected but others are affected as well in the same way as if I choose to drive to take a plane to go somewhere that the costs they impose on others through Global Climate Change go everywhere and I don't miss me take these costs into consideration now that's a problem that similar to another area that we all know about which is a fuel use and energy because energy use multiply its energy as well as leads to a local pollution and climate change and typically in the case of energy that are to ease in which you can deal with the problem one is we can make better use off the oil that we have and that's analogous to making better use of existing antibiotics can do this in a number of ways that we talk about a second but the other option is the drill baby drill option which in the case of antibiotics is is to go find new antibiotics now these are not separate the related because if we invest heavily in new oil wells we reduce the incentives for conservation of oil in the same way that's going to happen for a while it's the reverse is also going to happen which is that if we use out about it appropriately we don't actually have to make the investments in in a new drug development in the amazing thing about all this is that there are no alternative to antibiotics right like in terms of effectiveness and we have to solve this problem we're in big trouble you're absolutely right and this is what St what is me about this problem the only alternatives we have ought to prevent the infection with vaccines infection control what have you but honestly we really don't have a substitute for antibiotics and no one has figured out that say in fifty years from now we won't need antibiotics because we have ex nice ex will appear but right now no one is able to see through to see what the sex really would be we really don't have a subject rant about optics now this is clearly not a game that can be sustained or one that can win by simply innovating to stay ahead and ideas that they can borrow from energy that are helpful in thinking about how we might want to do this in the case of antibiotics as well now if you think about how we do with energy pricing for instance consider missions taxes which means when pausing the costs of pollution on people actually use that energy we might consider doing that for antibiotics as well and perhaps that would make sure that's about it actually get used appropriately and certainly consumer education works very often people overuse out about it without Mr Yeo prescribe too much with us from knowing that they do so and feedback mechanisms have been found to be useful Bulls one energy when you tell someone to be using a lot of energy during peak all the time to cut back and they seem sort of example has been formed even his mind about
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