In the beginning of 2014 we broadcast a program on whether or not we are living in The Matrix. In July we discussed superbugs, from which tens of thousands of people are dying. In October we discussed whether or not we are already living in a new epoch; called the Anthropocene due to our devastation of the environment. Then in November we reported on the apparently historical climate change deal between China and the US signed at the G20 summit, and followed this up with a programme on how governments, despite their great proclamations about cutting fossil in fact subsidise fossil fuel exploration to the tune of $98 billion a year.
Taking part in these excerpts from our programmes were: Dr. Mario Livio from The Johns Hopkins University, Brian McKenna – Senior analyst at the University of Glasgow, Daryl Seager – an executive and Lifestyle Coach based in Moscow (‘Are We Living In The Matrix’), Lance Price at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Lucy Kenyon, an English public health worker (Programme on Superbugs), Dr. Colin Waters from the British Geographical Society (‘Are We In the Anthropocene’), Ethan Zindler from Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance, (‘G20 Climate Deal’), and Sheily Whitley, Overseas Development Agency (‘Fossil Fuel Subsidies’).
What impact would finding out that we are living in The Matrix have on religion?
Brian McKenna: Awful, shall we say, because I wouldn’t want a Jihad on me or a crusade, or whatever. A rogue relation, but I think this would be quite difficult for the churches to deal with, I think, very much. For anyone of religious nature to say they are not real, would be like – I am not special anymore, so what is the point of religion? That is my feeling.
That’s an interesting point! But then, on the other hand, you know, in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. Isn’t that saying in the other way that the whole thing is a virtual reality?
Brian McKenna: Yes, I suppose it is, but I don’t know. I mean, if the world is just a computer simulation run by our descendents, some proof you get there.
If there is this master program thing going on that has been programmed by people or other beings, if you like God, yes? But who programmed God?
Dr Mario Livio: At the end of the day, if you are a religious person, there is nothing preventing you from asking the question – okay, but what is it, that determined that universe should have these or those symmetries, or these or those laws of nature? And that’s the place where a very religious person would assign to something like a deity. This is not different. I mean, you know, if you say that everything is being programmed by somebody, it is the same as saying that the things we call the laws of nature have been designed by some deity. So, I don’t think that in that sense there is a huge difference.
What diseases are doctors talking about when they talk about drug-resistant infections?
Lance Price: We are talking about anything from what used to be simple staph infections – skin and soft tissue infections – to urinary tract infections that can progress to kidney infections and blood infections. We are talking about tuberculosis. A gamete of different bacterial infections, that were once readily treatable with antibiotics, are now resistant to those drugs.
How serious is this problem? Is it being exaggerated, perhaps, by the drug companies who would like some more money to research some new drugs?
Dr. Cloakie: I don’t think it is being exaggerated by the drug companies. The drug companies, if anything, are not keeping up with producing new antibiotics. There’s been a real lack of investment in this area. They are trying to make a little bit of a demand. But, no, it is increasingly apparent that, if you look at many bacterial diseases in Britain, such as pseudomonas – a common respiratory tract bacterial infection, you can see that the proportion of these bacteria that are evolving resistance to antibiotics is increasing. So, it is a serious problem in the UK, as well as worldwide.
But we don’t actually have people in the UK dying yet, do we?
Lucy Kenyon: I would say that we do. Certainly, when I used to work on intensive care unit back in the 1990’es, we were seeing patients who were dying in intensive care, because they had drug resistant infections.
Lance Price: Thousands of people are dying in the UK of drug resistant infections. Have you heard of MRSA — Methasone Resistant Staph Aureus? That’s the superbug. That’s a drug resistant bacterial infection which is very common in the UK, and even more common in the US.
And what is the situation there?
Lance Price: Because of antibiotic overuse, again, both in human medicine and in food animal production, we have lots of drug resistant infections every year in the US. It is estimated that 11 000 Americans die just of one superbug, this MethasoneResistant Staph Aureus.
What are the signs that we are living in The Anthropocene?
Dr Colin Waters: First of all, we are going towards the mid-20th century change to represent basically the Anthropocene. That’s not a university group or the working group even, but there is a consensus moving towards that direction. And so, you look at the middle of the 20th century. A lot of things started happening that we didn’t have before, or at least a smaller signature beforehand.
If you just took things like the physical nature of the sediments that we are creating, the human-made deposits, if you look at plastic – hardly present before mid-20th century, it has now become almost universal. We are producing it at such huge volumes, that it is present not only within our landfill sites, it is distributed across the countryside, but also even in the oceans as well. So, that is a new signature you didn’t have before the middle of the 20th century.
Things like concrete is another one. Before the mid-20th century concrete was being used on a very small scale, but now it is the building material choice. So, you find huge amounts of concrete within the built environment, but then, of course, as the cities are being reconstructed, the foundations of a lot of the buildings are then composed of concrete. So, these are the physical deposits.
But there is also just the volume of materials being moved around and the capabilities of the equipment that we have now. You can extract huge amounts of mineral resources, you can then move those around the planet much more extensively. It went to point now that on average every person on the planet is responsible for at least 22 tons of material being extracted, just for the minerals and there is the spoil that is associated with them.
So, huge amounts! I mean, it is significantly more material being moved around the planet now by mankind, than by all the rivers on the planet. That means that we are one of the major, if not the major geological force. We consider ourselves to be a geological force on the planet.