Talking Until We’re Blue in the Face About Climate Change and Carbon Dioxide

The science of climate change has been explained many times to many people. Some people understand it, and some people don’t. Many people that don’t fully understand the process that unfolds with too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere understand that the scientists who study climate change know the process step-by-step. The scientists study it, tell us what will happen if the problem isn’t cared for, and suggest possible solutions.

But there are other people who do not fully understand the chain of events that happens when too much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere who think that because they don’t understand it, it doesn’t exist and that the climate scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.

I would like to detail another complicated reaction. One that happens when too much carbon dioxide builds up, not in the atmosphere, but in the human body. There are scientists that study this, tell us what will happen if the problem isn’t cared for, and suggest possible solutions.

Every person that denies the events that occur as a result of too much CO2 in the external environment needs to think about what they would do if too much CO2 built up in their own internal environment.

Here goes:

In living organisms, including our own human bodies, there is a system called homeostasis. This system exists to make sure each element in your body stays balanced with all the other elements. It ensures that your body, as it exists, remains in a constant state that is compatible with life. When one element is thrown out of whack, we have compensatory mechanisms that gear up to balance this out. Our bodies are amazing machines when it comes to homeostasis.

But what happens when our homeostatic mechanisms are overwhelmed?

Let’s look at carbon dioxide, for example. We all know that too much of this gas is not good for our bodies. And most of us have the scientific knowledge to understand that we breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide. We breath it out because it is not a useful gas for us.

Normally, we can balance the intake of oxygen and output of carbon dioxide even if we are faced with a little bit of extra carbon dioxide in our bodies. This happens by way of our bodies’ remarkable mechanisms of homeostasis.

But before we get into our bodies’ homeostatic mechanisms when it comes to carbon dioxide, there is one fact that needs to be understood: CARBON DIOXIDE IS AN ACID. So too much carbon dioxide in your body acidifies your internal environment. This is not good. And our bodies do what they can to expel this potential poison.

The first thing that our bodies do to get rid of extra carbon dioxide is to speed up respiration. That is, we start breathing faster to blow off the extra CO2. Unfortunately, this is where some people run into trouble.

What happens if we are unable to expel carbon dioxide through respiration (breathing)?

First of all, you may think this is an uncommon problem. After all, everyone you see around you is breathing. But there are certain subsets of people who are not always efficient at the oxygen/ carbon dioxide gas exchange. Like people with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, or sleep apnea.

Many people suffering from these conditions have difficulty exhaling due to swollen and constricted airways as well as excessive mucus production. One can hear this difficulty exhaling as the sound of an expiratory wheeze when listening through a stethoscope.

Those in the health profession may observe other subtle symptoms in long-time sufferers. They sometimes refer to these types of patients as blue bloaters. Blue, because their lips may appear blue from cyanosis (bluish color of the mucus membranes and extremities due to lack of oxygen in the blood). Bloaters, because these patients often appear bloated or stocky because they are holding onto extra, unusable gases.

If you took a blood sample from an artery of one of these chronic patients, you would see that the partial pressure of carbon dioxide is way higher than it should be. That is to say, there is an increase in amount of CO2 in the blood that is being pumped AWAY from the heart to be used by the rest of the body. Additionally, the partial pressure of oxygen in the blood decreases, because the carbon dioxide is saturating the blood. The body is not getting the fuel it needs to function. Furthermore, the body is using the little oxygen it has to power itself and creating more CO2 as a byproduct of metabolism.

This leads to something called respiratory acidosis (carbon dioxide combines with water to form carbonic acid, H2CO3) and can ultimately be measured as a drop in the pH of the blood. The body tries to fix this in two ways:

  1. It tries to balance the extra acid by producing more base (in the form of bicarbonate).
  2. It tries to excrete the extra acid via the kidneys (meaning that your body tries to pee out the carbonic acid and hold on to the bicarbonate).

After the body maxes out the effectiveness of these two methods of maintaining acid/base balance, it may move on to another compensatory mechanism: increased erythropoiesis. That is to say, it will increase the number of circulating red blood cells. These extra red blood cells, the body thinks, will help more oxygen circulate through the blood. It makes sense because oxygen attaches itself to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells as if it was riding on a trolley through San Francisco. It travels to where it needs to go, then hops off to power a muscle somewhere.

Unfortunately, too many red blood cells can be produced. When this happens, it is called polycythemia. Simply stated, too many red blood cells can clog up your blood vessels, leading to impaired circulation and even stroke.

Another thing your body does when faced with decreased oxygen supply is to cut off circulation to parts of your lungs. This increases the blood pressure in your lungs, which increases the amount of effort the right side of your heart needs to exert to push the blood through your lungs, which can then lead to right-sided heart failure.

On top of all that, increased levels of CO2 in your blood causes headaches, confusion, sleepiness, and increased intracranial pressure (in and around your brain).

Scientists who have studied this know what’s going on and know how to make it better. They’re called physicians. I’m sure that if you had any of these symptoms, you would trust the experts with your care.

There are other scientists who study what happens to the earth on a larger scale if too much carbon dioxide builds up in our external environment. They’re called climate scientists.

Think about it.


A Secular Easter for the Restivus

It it always important to remember that not everyone celebrates the same holidays in the same ways. There is always someone out there that does something different. And different is ok. Teaching our children this as we celebrate our holidays is an integral way to move us toward a more tolerant and accepting society. This post is how our family celebrated Easter this year, starting with learning about the history of this holiday.

Before the Christian religion co-opted Easter as its own holiday, the Anglo-Saxons celebrated the goddess of fertility and spring, Eostre. The symbolism surrounding modern-day Easter can easily be explained by exploring how the Anglo-Saxons celebrated: Eostre’s earthly symbol was the rabbit and, quite obviously, eggs are symbols of fertility.

As I reflect on this, I cannot help but notice the switch from celebrating a woman for her life-giving power to celebrating something quite the opposite. In any event, our family set out to commemorate Eostre, do some science, and enjoy a lovely spring day.

First, we started a little science experiment to make an egg that bounces. The experiment is still in progress. But we did the first step:

  1. Place egg in bowl and cover with vinegar.
  2. Wait 3 days for the completion of a chemical reaction between the calcium carbonate of the eggshell and the acetic acid in the vinegar. (You can see some bubbles of carbon dioxide forming on the egg below.)

We’ll see if it works.


Next, we dyed eggs experimenting with natural materials. The materials we chose were beets, purple sweet potatoes, spinach, and turmeric.


To make the dye, we placed a generous amount of each into their own pot of boiling water along with 2 tablespoons of vinegar and simmered for 30 minutes.


After straining the natural materials from the dye mixtures, we let them cool for a bit before placing the already hard-boiled eggs in them to soak up the dye. Natural dyes are not as intense as the dyes from the store, but they are beautiful.


And you get mashed purple sweet potatoes!


We finished up our family secular Easter for the Restivus with mud puddles and shooting hoops. Fun!

UPDATE: After 4 days, we removed our eggs from the vinegar and, sure enough, they bounced!

My son shot this video as he instructed his sister to bounce it higher.

She didn’t, so he bounced his higher. This is what happened:


Termination of the EPA – Issue of State Sovereignty?

In this free-for-all we call American Democracy in the year 2017, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a bill on Feb. 3, 2017 titled H.R. 861 – To Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.


Though the abolition of the EPA sounds like an evil scheme to get rid of any federal oversight in order to rape and pillage the American landscape in an attempt to extract its great riches, rest assured, it is. But, it has been cleverly disguised a states’ rights issue.

Consider the following:

NEWS REPORTER: We’re standing here in Pensacola, FL where there has just been a major pipeline burst, spilling at least 300,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico which is washing up on the shores of Louisiana. I’m here with oil-industry tycoon and head of the Florida Department of Environmental Oversight, Mr. Old White Guy in a Suit.


NEWS REPORTER: Sir, can you tell me how you plan to clean up the spill?

MR. OLD WHITE GUY IN A SUIT: The what? Oh, that. That’s just the cost of doing business, you know. We have such things built into our business plan, so we’re not losing any more money than we would have expected. Thanks for your concern. We’ll be just fine.

NEWS REPORTER: Wait. I thought you were the head of the Florida Department of Environmental Oversight.

MR. OLD WHITE GUY IN A SUIT: Oh, yes. About that. We’ll clean up the best we can within the borders of Florida. You know, we’re only a state organization and we have limited funds and resources, and very few scientists here to monitor how we’re doing. (Chuckles.)

NEWS REPORTER: What about the oil that’s washing up on the Louisiana shoreline?

MR. OLD WHITE GUY IN A SUIT: Well, that is the responsibility of the Louisiana Bureau of Environmental Control. We have nothing do to with it.

The above scenario is fictional, but it is one that could be very real in the near future.

According to Rep. Gaetz, the EPA has “exceeded their original mission substantially under both Republican and Democratic presidents and violated the sovereignty of the states. I think we need to start fresh.” (Italics mine.)

The sovereignty of the states, eh? I’m sorry, but I’m always suspicious of someone who presents their issue as a states’ rights issue. So were James Madison (see Federalist Papers No. 10 and No. 45), and Abraham Lincoln. (See here for an interesting discussion of states’ rights and racism.)

So what’s going on?

Well, Congressman Gaetz represents Florida’s 1st Congressional District. This includes Pensacola, where there happens to be an oil refinery run by TransMontaigne Product Services LLP (a wholly-owned subsidiary of NGL Energy Partners LC). I’m sure TransMontaigne would be quite obliged to Rep. Gaetz for getting rid of those pesky EPA rules and regulations that protect the environment.

Additionally, Gaetz received a campaign contribution from a super PAC called North Florida Neighbors that received a $100,000 donation from Harness Oil & Gas, Inc, which is owned by the daughter of Lester Smith, who owns Smith Energy Company. Smith Energy Company has oil-drilling leases throughout the state of Texas. I’m sure this company wouldn’t mind branching out into Florida.

Coincidentally, Lester Smith (of the aforementioned Smith Energy Company) and his wife own property in Florida’s 1st Congressional District (which Gaetz represents).

Matt Gaetz money North Florida Neighbors

One way or another, I think it’s safe to say that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is beholden the oil and gas industry. And this is why he’s attempting to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.

N.B.: Gaetz is not alone in sponsoring the bill to terminate the EPA. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Steven Palazzo (R-MS) are also sponsoring the bill.

Did I miss something? Get something really right or really wrong? Tell me about it. Leave your comments below.

Book Review (Gr 1-3): The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and our National Parks

With the National Park Service being in the news lately for finding a way to tweet around President Trump’s recent gag order, and with Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) House Bill 621 (H.R.621), the recently introduced bill to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal lands, it was hard for me not to review the book: The Camping Trip That Changed America: Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, and our National Parks by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein.

If you click on a recommended book link and purchase, I will get a percentage as an Amazon Affiliate.

Aimed for 1st-3rd graders, this book tells the story of what, in 1903, inspired Theodore Roosevelt to protect America’s wilderness. The narrative starts off with Roosevelt in his favorite chair enjoying a book about adventures in the California mountains by naturalist John Muir. Roosevelt is surprised, at the end of the book, when Muir makes a plea to the government to help save wilderness.

Roosevelt is not only surprised, but also puzzled by this plea. So he pens a letter to Muir and asks to join him on a camping trip in Yosemite.

On the camping trip, the men enjoy the majesty and freedom of the outdoors. Muir tells Roosevelt tales of his adventures. Muir also relays the ecological history of the U.S., starting with the seas that covered the soil, through volcanos and glaciers, to the natural environment that gives us the diversity of wildlife we have today (or back in 1903).

Roosevelt sleeps the first night on “forty thick wool blankets” and Muir sleeps on a bed of twigs. By the end of the camping trip, Roosevelt also sleeps on a bed of twigs. Both men wake up exhilarated one morning after being blanketed by a spring snow storm. “Bully!” Roosevelt says to this.

Unfortunately, as Muir explains, industry is coming to take over the land in the name of profit, leaving little left for future citizens and natural inhabitants of the U.S. to enjoy. Roosevelt will not have this and enacts legislation that protects these lands forever.

This book is a great way to introduce young children to an issue of significance today. It’s a personal story of two men enjoying the great outdoors, reveling in its beauty and its importance, and doing their best to protect it from this:

Badlands tweet NPS oil

Have you and your family visited any National Parks lately?

What do you think of the bill to sell off federal lands?

Comment below.

Please like and share.


Achieving Goals – A Journey of 1000 Miles

Spider web

The gorgeous, creepy creature that weaved the beautiful web in the picture had to start somewhere. But where? And how? How does a spider start weaving its web? I guess, as they say, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step… or something like that.

The beautiful waterfall, Waterfall Glen

One of the goals we have in mind for the future is to hike the Grand Canyon from bottom to top, with the kids. Granted, this will have to take place sometime in the future (and it may never take place at all). But, as stated above, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step. And sometimes that one step is just a thought, an idea, a future goal, something to work toward.

A journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.

Enjoying the view

Well, our journey today took us on a 4-mile hike at Waterfall Glen in the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. And nowhere did the kids learn the lesson that a journey of 1,000 miles (or hiking one more mile back to the car after hiking 3 miles on little 6-year-old legs) begins with one step, then another step, and then another.
Until you reach your goal (which, in this case, was either the parking lot, or the ice cream I promised them to keep them hiking).

I see these little victories, these little tweaks in attitude, as major life lessons.

In any event, in order to keep her spirits up, my little girl started making up songs that went: “Every step you take gets you closer to your goal….” My son, after telling me he couldn’t take another step, took another and another. Then smiled proudly to himself after we reached the car when I reminded him how he thought he couldn’t do it, but in actuality he could.

Waterfall Glen
The last 1/2 mile of a 4-mile hike.

I see these little victories, these little tweaks in attitude, as major life lessons. Lessons that could be applied to completing algebra homework, perfecting pirouettes, or even writing a blog post! Each little increment gets you a little closer to where you need to be. Each difficult task requires effort. And in order to reach each big goal, you need only conquer one small and manageable goal, then another, then another.

One step at a time. One foot after another. That’s how to start. That’s how to succeed. That’s how to reach goals. Whether you have eight legs or only two.