The Five Minute Tornado

The tornadoes disaster that struck the south Tuesday was different. We’ve seen interviews of people after a tornado struck their home, or threw them around. They’ve always been curiously stoic, that they are alive and that’s all that matter. The reporter ends by saying something like “looking at the debris and destruction, it’s amazing no one was killed.” Not so this time.

People were visibly shaken, edgy, overwhelmed. There didn’t seem to be any warning.  An aerial view of a touchdown on Union University campus shows signs of the whirring motion that hit like a blender. The middle of the campus is gone, while the outward spirals of wind blew apart the dorms that were clustered around it. One student got sucked out of a hallway while holding onto a heavy gumball machine. He didn’t have enough time to run inside far enough. Part of the building collapsed on him but he made it. Up to 60 other people didn’t.

The death toll keeps climbing as people look through the debris. I’m tornado phobic. Not so much of the actual funnel but because caught off guard, these storms are deadly. And the chances of being caught off-guard are greater than you think. I found a good website, WeatherEye, that based its info on results of Project Vortex, the world’s largest storm-chasing project. What better info than people that sit in those weird mobile units gathering data at the edge of a huge twister.

It’s always been believed that a tornado takes 20-30 minutes to form, and we have detectors everywhere. Try 5 to 10 minutes, and tornadoes many times come from small weather patterns that develop between weather stations. So what happened Tuesday is something like this. You’re sitting there in Tennessee in February. There are storm predictions. The storm starts.  And out of nowhere drops a funnel cloud. You’re not prepared at all, just hanging onto your breeches. It lasts a few minutes, but your life is changed forever—no mementos, no trophies, no pictures, nothing to wear, no paperwork, no purse, no pets…absolutely stripped.  The teeth of some of the people interviewed were still chattering. I don’t ever want to be surprised like that, not living in a frame house with a 4 ft. crawlspace, along with 2 cats and a parrot. All I visualize is the entire contents of our pole barn whisking around and mowing my house to shreds, while I’m trapped below listening to it.

I’ve got good reason to be afraid. Our weather is getting more and more erratic, and it’s those warm days that don’t want to budge when the cold moves in that cause the problems.  After this week’s tornado fest, everyone should be a little more respectful. You would think by now we would have better predictions.

According to WeatherEye, NASA launched an OTD or Optical Transient Detector satellite in 1995 that was able to view lightening strikes even in the daylight. That satellite passed over a storm and picked up 200 lightening flashes while our sensors on the ground picked up only 9. It also detected plenty of cloud-to-cloud strikes. While they seemed to reach their peak, a tornado touched down. There seems to be a correlation between cloud to cloud lightening activity and the materialization of a tornado. This satellite picked up as much as 20 times more cloud-to-cloud activity than detected on the ground.

That was back in 95, why are we still being surprised by tornadoes like those on Tuesday? It’s 2008. We have a state of the art satellite that can help predict bad weather patterns before they strike, far better than any other before. It’s sitting in a warehouse somewhere. President Bush didn’t allow money for it. He wants to pursue the space station project. The shelved satellite was to replace one that is soon to be obsolete and out of service. In view of the bad weather that we are experiencing, and it’s only going to get worse, I think it would be prudent to urge whoever is the next president to get it launched, and quickly.


Environment Affects Our DNA and Ultimately Our Health

I watched a really interesting Nova presentation on PBS last night about Epigenetics.  It is another reason for us to really nurture and care for the environment we live in. Our code of life seems to be more interactive with our surroundings than we think. All animals and humans have pretty much the same number of genes in our DNA makeup. Because of this, science is stumped by the individuality among humans and animals, especially health.

Watching animal parents (rats) either nurture or ignore their young led to a study of generational DNA makeup relative to psychological environment. We all pretty much know that children of abusive or neglectful parents suffer more depression and psychological problems as adults, but what scientists found was a marker on the DNA of maybe 3 generations of rats down the line denoting the stress from their great, great, great grandparent due to neglect. 

Shortly thereafter, another scientist way up in the Northern part of Sweden was studying a town that maintained great records for hundreds of years not just the genealogy of families but also the weather patterns and harvest records. He found a correspondence in disease and illness with environmental stressors such as drought and famine that affected the harvest.  Illness from poor health due to lack of nutrition is a no-brainer. But it wasn’t just the generation affected that had illness and disease; he found it ran in the family as far as 3 or 4 generations down the line whether they ate well or had a much improved lifestyle. 

Scientists started looking at the DNA markers for disease in people relative to these new findings. It appears these markers are handed down from the paternal side of the family. Memory of environment appears to stamp sperm.  If the individual male suffered stress from death, loss of crops, harsh weather, abusive parents, horrible weather, etc., that stress was transmitted to his sperm and it expressed itself in the form of a markers on their children’s DNA. It is not a genetic mutation. Even though the children are stress free, the markers of their father’s environment were there, passed on.

Environmental stress, both physical and psychological, matters for generations to come no matter how well future generations quality of life improves! The specific markers for individual DNA according to ancestry are what turn on and off the receptors for disease and illness, so lifestyle choices are extremely important for children and grandchildren’s health. This says much about the black community. Blacks suffer from many more diseases than whites. Considering their history of slavery, a horrendous stress for a human being, and this recent revelation, it’s no wonder.

The good thing about all of this is that back in the 70’s there was a form of chemotherapy so toxic it was discontinued. However, it had the ability to erase these DNA stress markers. The chemo has been reduced to like 1/20th of the original and dispensed to patients with diseases that had no cure. The patients had no side effects and their disease went into remission. When their DNA was checked, the markers were gone. This is all experimental at this stage, but I have no doubt the findings. I own an African Grey parrot.  Bird people know that stressors of any type show up on new feathers as small bars. We all share almost identical DNA, rats to humans. What sets us apart as individuals health-wise, are the stress markers of our ancestors. What are we sending to our children, and their children, and their children after that by living in a polluted, hectic world? It doesn’t look good right now as breast cancer and all other types of disease seem to be on a rise again.

The average person breathes in air that is questionable. We bathe, drink, and cook with water that isn’t the purest, full of chlorine and other chemicals for purity. And the food we eat lived in horrific environments of stress where pigs and cows chew on metals bars of their cages out of frustration from a life of constant confinement, a living hell in a CAFO, before we eat it. These animals give birth in these crates. The babies are ripped from the mothers and they in turn live a life of hell as foodstuff. I don’t think its fit to eat, and the people that perpetrate the business are evil. So our environment is ailing to begin with, and then we smoke, drink, overeat, and are getting more and more sedentary, as we watch the instance of disease rise worldwide. According to Epigenetics the correlation is right on the money. We simply must become more responsible keepers of our personal and world environment for the healthy future of humanity.

For more about the program on PBS called “The Ghost in Your Genes” goto:


Hussein’s Death Not News

Other things, any other thing it seems draws our attention too easily away from global warming. Last night and this morning we will hear the details of Saddam Hussein’s death. He was hung for crimes against humanity. Is anyone enlightened by these facts? No, it’s really old news. We’ve witnessed his history over and over. His death is not a big revelation. Yet the entire day will be dedicated to him in the news. Oh wait, I’m watching Tom and Katie’s wedding again on CNN, and Pam and Kid Rock’s divorce. Now that’s important old news.

 “Be Worried, Be Very Worried.” The April 3, 2006 issue of Time Magazine had this on its cover along with a picture of a polar bear standing on a small piece of floating ice. How many people read Time magazine or U.S. News and World Report? We have a great time on You Tube and My Space. We snatch up copies of Star and The Enquirer for entertainment. These are not the actions of people that should be very worried. It’s been 8 months since that cover on Time.  Organizations are now feeding the polar bears who have lost acres of icy hunting ground into open pools of arctic water. The bears are skinny. But then again, we are used to watching people grow skinny without aid, without help, as long as it’s not us.

What should be news today is a 3000 year old shelf of ice in Canada that broke off last night and fell into the sea. The ice mass was equivalent to 11,000 football fields. It was 41 sq miles of ice attached to land. The vibration from this “chipping” off was that of an earthquake. The movement was picked up by earthquake monitors 150 miles away. Global warming is to blame. Scientists say global warming is accelerating faster and faster. Entire ecosystems and some of earth’s most exotic creatures are threatened. It doesn’t even make the headlines of the day.

Shouldn’t we hang someone for crimes against the earth? Or does that mean we would have to take a hard look at ourselves? We’re not worried, very worried, not nearly enough for me. Our number isn’t up yet, but it definitely looks like it’s on its way. Will God help us or is this the turning point where any good Father like a parent lets His children flounder in their mistakes as a lesson? We are like a spoiled and apathetic child that is not prepared for this lesson.


More Extreme Weather

My Christmas message was about God’s emphasis on the earth.  The word “earth” is in the bible almost 700 times. It is IMPORTANT! 

I woke up this morning to news of more horrible weather again. Christmas meant disaster for many people. The message is clear to me that the earth, our environment, is in distress. The distress isn’t some cosmic happening out of our control. We cause the earth’s strain by pollution we’ve failed to control.

We watched as Colorado was hit by the worst storm they’ve had in years. 4000 people were stranded. The fifth busiest airport in the country shut down for 2 days, compliments of El Nino. El Nino’s are more frequent because of global warming.

This morning there was news that 6 tornadoes ripped through Florida. People lost their homes on Christmas due to nature, an El Nino season. No one was injured. There were plenty of warninings. The tornadoes themselves are warnings, don’t you think?

On the other side of the world Taiwan was hit with a 7.2 earthquake that generated a small tsunami. So many more earthquakes are happening, volcanoes too. Volcanoes have recently been associated with global warming. It’s evident that warming air that affects the top layers of water to produce more El Ninos also affects landmasses in adverse ways. Land is affected where it is most vulnerable along fault lines, and volcanic areas. And we already know big events like earthquakes, trigger other horrible events elsewhere. The tsunami from Taiwan’s earthquake is supposed to hit the Philippines soon.

The weather patterns are getting worse, and closer together. These patterns are not a normal course, as some would suggest. Weather patterns are spiking in the extreme. I wanted to see for myself. A couple of years ago, I researched a World Climate Center website for data. I looked for extreme weather events only. I printed out ¼ of a page for 1990. I printed 2 1/2 pages solid by 2001.

We’ve been lucky in Michigan so far. But luck is a gamble and gambling has its place. I don’t think we should gamble our clean air, water, and earth, especially our water. If we lose, we’ll be oh so sorry after the fact. Think green as much as possible. Our current administration  is coming around to recognize global warming and are offering incentives for thinking green at tax return time.

Beginning this year, if you improve your home to be more energy efficient, such as  installing new windows, insulation, new energy star appliances, solar panels, etc., you can deduct as much as $500 from your tax bill.

THE BIGGEST DEDUCTION IS FOR BUYING A HYBRID CAR. Depending on the car, as much as $2600 can be deducted from your tax bill.

Hopefully, 2007 will be a year of increased awareness for the environment by Michigan residents. We’ve been spared bad weather so far. We should give thanks by doing our best to keep it that way.


Better Than Cartoons

I just got through watching Jack Hanna’s Animal Kingdom like I pretty much do every Saturday morning, 7:00 am, channel 7.  Yes I’m a baby boomer but learning about and watching animals is a passion that has no age limit. I found out about Hanna’s program from my 84-year-old mother who wakes up to it every Saturday also.

His program is a great humane education learning tool for children, and endorsed by the National Education Association. Every age group could use a dose of this type of reality.  Unlike other programs, this one connects the dots for people. He flat out tells the audience that mankind is the cause and that we can turn it around. I’ve watched other morning news programs showcase endangered species without specifically pinpointing why they are disappearing. If I have the time, I quickly email them for missing the opportunity to really hit home. Everyone ooo’s and ahhh’s over the critters, but there is rarely any statement made to the audience that mankind either directly or indirectly is the reason for their demise.  Have you ever read why many of these beautiful animals are endangered? Poaching, cutting down their habitat, and changes in weather patterns are the leading causes. Species like the gorilla are being poached out of existence for their hands. That’s right, the whole animal is killed to cut off their hands. Just like the whole elephant is killed to cut off its tusks. And yes our neighbor to the North, Canada, has just begun its annual baby seal-clubbing event.

If you want to help, e-mail or call your MI congressional representatives to support Carl Levin’s Senate Resolution 33 condemning Canada’s seal hunt.

After this past election, if you still think your voice doesn’t make a difference, then I have to ask where have you been? Hopefully with a new congress, we can get back on track as a nation to being a model for conservation and cleaning up our act. Unfortunately many people still think what I’m saying can’t be so. That although the U.S. represents .05 % of the world’s population, we produce 25% of its pollution. And although we probably have the biggest proliferation of animal rights and conservation organizations, (of which I probably belong to half, my latest being the NRDC), our pleas have fallen on deaf ears with the administration of the past 6 years. More on that scorecard tomorrow, because I think it’s important to know where we were, how we’ve back-tracked, and how much we need to catch up before we truly understand the precarious position into which we’ve plunged ourselves and all living things so quickly. You have been wondering that haven’t you? How the environment seemingly got so bad so fast?

Meanwhile, are there any other young bloggers out there that watch Jack Hanna on Saturdays? If you have something you’ve viewed about anything in particular that is endangered let us know what you watched. I try to take in everything I can, but even my mother comes up with documentaries I’ve missed. Trouble is, at 84 she can’t ever seem to remember what station, or what time, or what program she saw it on. And my recall is slowly catching up to hers that’s why this is posted right after watching Hanna’s Animal Adventures.