Apr 3, 2011
The San Diego Sentinel
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Greenpeace reports mutated sea life.
Richard Corrigan (AP)
In a scathing report released on Friday, senior environmental scientist for Greenpeace International, Marc Tremblay, reported that, in a population census of common sea creatures, from algae to large fish, off the coast of California, over 90% were showing deleterious effects of mutation caused by radiation damage.
He stated that, over the short-term, much of these changes would result in a vast mortality effect, as well as, long-term to permanent ecosystem changes. Moreover, where breeding was not halted entirely due to genomic damage, unpredictable speciation events could occur and lead to the appearance of animal species with entirely new mechanisms for survival.
“It is not our intention to be alarmist,” stated Mr. Tremblay in response to reporter questions, “however, since the initial incident in Japan, we have witness a number of significant radiation releases into the Pacific. Acting in waves, there is no reason to expect that these will not have effects on the populations of our seas but there are no means to predict what those effects might be.”
“We don't know – and we can't know – what we will be up against.”
EPA officials, while confirming that they are in possession of the Greenpeace report and having it 'under study', refused comment, saying only that it would be 'premature to edify these unconfirmed assertions'.
Marc Tremblay, in a statement released to Associated Press, stated that the census had been undertaken using a standard capture/release sampling strategy which is 'exceptionally robust and statistically valid'.
On Friday, a new leak of radioactive seawater was reported at the Fukushima nuclear facility. Japanese officials state that they have no way to accurately measure the amount of water that has escaped: it can only be estimated indirectly on the basis of the rising radiation levels in the offshore waters.
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“I don't recognise you anymore.”
In another situation, thought Stan Bennett, there would be a story in that statement. It was, he considered, one of the encapsulating phrases that indicate a dire turn in a relationship or, more likely, its end. One of the others was: 'I feel like I don't know you'.
Stan was aware of the inevitability of change in a relationship and, where it not for the sound of his wife, Leslie, sobbing softly in the living room, he felt that he was of a sufficiently positive mind-set to embrace change, work with it and always seek ways to accommodate it. He and his wife were, in fact, very much in love. That she was so miserable only caused his heart to reel with emotional pain.
The changes had come in the weeks and months after the terrible disaster in Japan. Stan was aware that, having viewed the terrible images which came out of that country – the misery, death and destruction – there was no way for a sensitive, even modestly empathetic, human being not to be affected. The numbers of the lost and those whose lives and families had been destroyed left the mind boggling and grappling for security. Stan remembered his own shock as, the previous year, the numbers of the displaced by the flooding in Pakistan had grown into the tens of millions – a human tragedy of unparalleled scope.
Nevertheless, he and Leslie had clung together for mutual support and, as they were inclined to do community work anyway, they had redoubled their efforts and, in their own small way – such that any single person or a couple can do – tried to relieve the hardship of people far away. This time it was different.
“I don't recognise you anymore.”
The first indication of real trouble – aside from initial reports that had largely been ignored - had come when an enormous fish, apparently killed by a ship's propeller, had washed up on a beach south of Los Angeles. That it was a fish, there could be no doubt because it had gills. What it also had were stout, robust limbs in the place of pectoral and pelvic fins. The presence of a dorsal fin and muscular tail allowed it the luxury of swimming as well as walking.
The immediate response of the scientific community had been a restrained call of 'hoax' despite the detailed photographs that circulated on the internet. A San Diego zoo veterinarian was called in to autopsy the strange creature. He later affirmed, in an article in Science, that the thing also possessed small, air-sacs behind its gills which afforded it 'the limited and, probably very restricted, possibility of breathing on land'.
It was the alga, however, that became a problem both to Leslie and Stan. It had been identified and published in Nature only weeks before. However, by then, the panic was already widespread. The scientist, Christopher Rubert, dubbed the thing 'Cytophagus rubertii, sp.', thus, immortalising his own name but the fact had no prophylaxis against his own death, only a week after the publication of the article. In it, C. rubertii was described succinctly, aside from the genetic analyses to demonstrate the species distinction, as 'algiform, non-photosynthetic, carnivorous, adenosine scavenger'. The implications to the public, as well as, pets and livestock were already evident, with an infection rate of 95% and no known means of control.
DNA, it seems, is made of four molecules only; adenosine, guanine, cytosine and thymine: it is the genetic code for all life, from mice to humans to oak trees. Without adenosine, scavenged by the alga, the molecule collapses into a useless mass, unable to replicate, grow new cells or new creatures of the same type. It was discovered that C. rubertii used an enzymic attack on the cell wall not unlike a virus but, in this case, causing immediate cellular lysis (bursting). After lysis, the nucleus of the cell was attacked and the adenosine scavenged from the DNA molecule. As an interesting side note, it was also discovered that, since red blood cells contain no nucleus and consequently no adenosine, C. rubertii worked surgically around all organism circulation leaving it intact while the remainder of the creature was, quite simply, digested.
“I don't recognise you anymore,” reaffirmed Stan Bennett, staring at his reflection in the bathroom mirror.
Where, formerly, he knew the face of a middle-aged man in the mirror, now, there was only the neatly and efficiently – bloodlessly – digested remains of a face where the arteries and veins continued to bulge with the pressure contained within. Slowly, and with fingers grown clumsy and feeble due to loss of muscle, he began to wrap the gauze over his face to conceal what he had become.