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Understanding Human Genetic Variation – NIH Curriculum …

Posted: September 20, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Genetics is the scientific study of inherited variation. Human genetics, then, is the scientific study of inherited human variation.

Why study human genetics? One reason is simply an interest in better understanding ourselves. As a branch of genetics, human genetics concerns itself with what most of us consider to be the most interesting species on earth: Homo sapiens. But our interest in human genetics does not stop at the boundaries of the species, for what we learn about human genetic variation and its sources and transmission inevitably contributes to our understanding of genetics in general, just as the study of variation in other species informs our understanding of our own.

A second reason for studying human genetics is its practical value for human welfare. In this sense, human genetics is more an applied science than a fundamental science. One benefit of studying human genetic variation is the discovery and description of the genetic contribution to many human diseases. This is an increasingly powerful motivation in light of our growing understanding of the contribution that genes make to the development of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. In fact, society has been willing in the past and continues to be willing to pay significant amounts of money for research in this area, primarily because of its perception that such study has enormous potential to improve human health. This perception, and its realization in the discoveries of the past 20 years, have led to a marked increase in the number of people and organizations involved in human genetics.

This second reason for studying human genetics is related to the first. The desire to develop medical practices that can alleviate the suffering associated with human disease has provided strong support to basic research. Many basic biological phenomena have been discovered and described during the course of investigations into particular disease conditions. A classic example is the knowledge about human sex chromosomes that was gained through the study of patients with sex chromosome abnormalities. A more current example is our rapidly increasing understanding of the mechanisms that regulate cell growth and reproduction, understanding that we have gained primarily through a study of genes that, when mutated, increase the risk of cancer.

Likewise, the results of basic research inform and stimulate research into human disease. For example, the development of recombinant DNA techniques () rapidly transformed the study of human genetics, ultimately allowing scientists to study the detailed structure and functions of individual human genes, as well as to manipulate these genes in a variety of previously unimaginable ways.

Recombinant techniques have transformed the study of human genetics.

A third reason for studying human genetics is that it gives us a powerful tool for understanding and describing human evolution. At one time, data from physical anthropology (including information about skin color, body build, and facial traits) were the only source of information available to scholars interested in tracing human evolutionary history. Today, however, researchers have a wealth of genetic data, including molecular data, to call upon in their work.

Two research approaches were historically important in helping investigators understand the biological basis of heredity. The first of these approaches, transmission genetics, involved crossing organisms and studying the offsprings’ traits to develop hypotheses about the mechanisms of inheritance. This work demonstrated that in some organisms at least, heredity seems to follow a few definite and rather simple rules.

The second approach involved using cytologic techniques to study the machinery and processes of cellular reproduction. This approach laid a solid foundation for the more conceptual understanding of inheritance that developed as a result of transmission genetics. By the early 1900s, cytologists had demonstrated that heredity is the consequence of the genetic continuity of cells by cell division, had identified the gametes as the vehicles that transmit genetic information from one generation to another, and had collected strong evidence for the central role of the nucleus and the chromosomes in heredity.

As important as they were, the techniques of transmission genetics and cytology were not enough to help scientists understand human genetic variation at the level of detail that is now possible. The central advantage that today’s molecular techniques offer is that they allow researchers to study DNA directly. Before the development of these techniques, scientists studying human genetic variation were forced to make inferences about molecular differences from the phenotypes produced by mutant genes. Furthermore, because the genes associated with most single-gene disorders are relatively rare, they could be studied in only a small number of families. Many of the traits associated with these genes also are recessive and so could not be detected in people with heterozygous genotypes. Unlike researchers working with other species, human geneticists are restricted by ethical considerations from performing experimental, “at-will” crosses on human subjects. In addition, human generations are on the order of 20 to 40 years, much too slow to be useful in classic breeding experiments. All of these limitations made identifying and studying genes in humans both tedious and slow.

In the last 50 years, however, beginning with the discovery of the structure of DNA and accelerating significantly with the development of recombinant DNA techniques in the mid-1970s, a growing battery of molecular techniques has made direct study of human DNA a reality. Key among these techniques are restriction analysis and molecular recombination, which allow researchers to cut and rejoin DNA molecules in highly specific and predictable ways; amplification techniques, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which make it possible to make unlimited copies of any fragment of DNA; hybridization techniques, such as fluorescence in situ hybridization, which allow scientists to compare DNA samples from different sources and to locate specific base sequences within samples; and the automated sequencing techniques that today are allowing workers to sequence the human genome at an unprecedented rate.

On the immediate horizon are even more powerful techniques, techniques that scientists expect will have a formidable impact on the future of both research and clinical genetics. One such technique, DNA chip technology (also called DNA microarray technology), is a revolutionary new tool designed to identify mutations in genes or survey expression of tens of thousands of genes in one experiment.

In one application of this technology, the chip is designed to detect mutations in a particular gene. The DNA microchip consists of a small glass plate encased in plastic. It is manufactured using a process similar to the process used to make computer microchips. On its surface, it contains synthetic single-stranded DNA sequences identical to that of the normal gene and all possible mutations of that gene. To determine whether an individual possesses a mutation in the gene, a scientist first obtains a sample of DNA from the person’s blood, as well as a sample of DNA that does not contain a mutation in that gene. After denaturing, or separating, the DNA samples into single strands and cutting them into smaller, more manageable fragments, the scientist labels the fragments with fluorescent dyes: the person’s DNA with red dye and the normal DNA with green dye. Both sets of labeled DNA are allowed to hybridize, or bind, to the synthetic DNA on the chip. If the person does not have a mutation in the gene, both DNA samples will hybridize equivalently to the chip and the chip will appear uniformly yellow. However, if the person does possess a mutation, the mutant sequence on the chip will hybridize to the patient’s sample, but not to the normal DNA, causing it (the chip) to appear red in that area. The scientist can then examine this area more closely to confirm that a mutation is present.

DNA microarray technology is also allowing scientists to investigate the activity in different cell types of thousands of genes at the same time, an advance that will help researchers determine the complex functional relationships that exist between individual genes. This type of analysis involves placing small snippets of DNA from hundreds or thousands of genes on a single microscope slide, then allowing fluorescently labeled mRNA molecules from a particular cell type to hybridize to them. By measuring the fluorescence of each spot on the slide, scientists can determine how active various genes are in that cell type. Strong fluorescence indicates that many mRNA molecules hybridized to the gene and, therefore, that the gene is very active in that cell type. Conversely, no fluorescence indicates that none of the cell’s mRNA molecules hybridized to the gene and that the gene is inactive in that cell type.

Although these technologies are still relatively new and are being used primarily for research, scientists expect that one day they will have significant clinical applications. For example, DNA chip technology has the potential to significantly reduce the time and expense involved in genetic testing. This technology or others like it may one day help make it possible to define an individual’s risk of developing many types of hereditary cancer as well as other common disorders, such as heart disease and diabetes. Likewise, scientists may one day be able to classify human cancers based on the patterns of gene activity in the tumor cells and then be able to design treatment strategies that are targeted directly to each specific type of cancer.

Homo sapiens is a relatively young species and has not had as much time to accumulate genetic variation as have the vast majority of species on earth, most of which predate humans by enormous expanses of time. Nonetheless, there is considerable genetic variation in our species. The human genome comprises about 3 109 base pairs of DNA, and the extent of human genetic variation is such that no two humans, save identical twins, ever have been or will be genetically identical. Between any two humans, the amount of genetic variationbiochemical individualityis about .1 percent. This means that about one base pair out of every 1,000 will be different between any two individuals. Any two (diploid) people have about 6 106 base pairs that are different, an important reason for the development of automated procedures to analyze genetic variation.

The most common polymorphisms (or genetic differences) in the human genome are single base-pair differences. Scientists call these differences SNPs, for single-nucleotide polymorphisms. When two different haploid genomes are compared, SNPs occur, on average, about every 1,000 bases. Other types of polymorphismsfor example, differences in copy number, insertions, deletions, duplications, and rearrangementsalso occur, but much less frequently.

Notwithstanding the genetic differences between individuals, all humans have a great deal of their genetic information in common. These similarities help define us as a species. Furthermore, genetic variation around the world is distributed in a rather continuous manner; there are no sharp, discontinuous boundaries between human population groups. In fact, research results consistently demonstrate that about 85 percent of all human genetic variation exists within human populations, whereas about only 15 percent of variation exists between populations (). That is, research reveals that Homo sapiens is one continuously variable, interbreeding species. Ongoing investigation of human genetic variation has even led biologists and physical anthropologists to rethink traditional notions of human racial groups. The amount of genetic variation between these traditional classifications actually falls below the level that taxonomists use to designate subspecies, the taxonomic category for other species that corresponds to the designation of race in Homo sapiens. This finding has caused some biologists to call the validity of race as a biological construct into serious question.

Most variation occurs within populations.

Analysis of human genetic variation also confirms that humans share much of their genetic information with the rest of the natural worldan indication of the relatedness of all life by descent with modification from common ancestors. The highly conserved nature of many genetic regions across considerable evolutionary distance is especially obvious in genes related to development. For example, mutations in the patched gene produce developmental abnormalities in Drosophila, and mutations in the patched homolog in humans produce analogous structural deformities in the developing human embryo.

Geneticists have used the reality of evolutionary conservation to detect genetic variations associated with some cancers. For example, mutations in the genes responsible for repair of DNA mismatches that arise during DNA replication are associated with one form of colon cancer. These mismatched repair genes are conserved in evolutionary history all the way back to the bacterium Escherichia coli, where the genes are designated Mutl and Muts. Geneticists suspected that this form of colon cancer was associated with a failure of mismatch repair, and they used the known sequences from the E. coli genes to probe the human genome for homologous sequences. This work led ultimately to the identification of a gene that is associated with increased risk for colon cancer.

Almost all human genetic variation is relatively insignificant biologically; that is, it has no adaptive significance. Some variation (for example, a neutral mutation) alters the amino acid sequence of the resulting protein but produces no detectable change in its function. Other variation (for example, a silent mutation) does not even change the amino acid sequence. Furthermore, only a small percentage of the DNA sequences in the human genome are coding sequences (sequences that are ultimately translated into protein) or regulatory sequences (sequences that can influence the level, timing, and tissue specificity of gene expression). Differences that occur elsewhere in the DNAin the vast majority of the DNA that has no known functionhave no impact.

Some genetic variation, however, can be positive, providing an advantage in changing environments. The classic example from the high school biology curriculum is the mutation for sickle hemoglobin, which in the heterozygous state provides a selective advantage in areas where malaria is endemic.

More recent examples include mutations in the CCR5 gene that appear to provide protection against AIDS. The CCR5 gene encodes a protein on the surface of human immune cells. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, infects immune cells by binding to this protein and another protein on the surface of those cells. Mutations in the CCR5 gene that alter its level of expression or the structure of the resulting protein can decrease HIV infection. Early research on one genetic variant indicates that it may have risen to high frequency in Northern Europe about 700 years ago, at about the time of the European epidemic of bubonic plague. This finding has led some scientists to hypothesize that the CCR5 mutation may have provided protection against infection by Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague. The fact that HIV and Y. pestis both infect macrophages supports the argument for selective advantage of this genetic variant.

The sickle cell and AIDS/plague stories remind us that the biological significance of genetic variation depends on the environment in which genes are expressed. It also reminds us that differential selection and evolution would not proceed in the absence of genetic variation within a species.

Some genetic variation, of course, is associated with disease, as classic single-gene disorders such as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy remind us. Increasingly, research also is uncovering genetic variations associated with the more common diseases that are among the major causes of sickness and death in developed countriesdiseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disease (manic-depression). Whereas disorders such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington disease result from the effects of mutation in a single gene and are evident in virtually all environments, the more common diseases result from the interaction of multiple genes and environmental variables. Such diseases therefore are termed polygenic and multifactorial. In fact, the vast majority of human traits, diseases or otherwise, are multifactorial.

The genetic distinctions between relatively rare single-gene disorders and the more common multifactorial diseases are significant. Genetic variations that underlie single-gene disorders generally are relatively recent, and they often have a major, detrimental impact, disrupting homeostasis in significant ways. Such disorders also generally exact their toll early in life, often before the end of childhood. In contrast, the genetic variations that underlie common, multifactorial diseases generally are of older origin and have a smaller, more gradual effect on homeostasis. They also generally have their onset in adulthood. The last two characteristics make the ability to detect genetic variations that predispose/increase risk of common diseases especially valuable because people have time to modify their behavior in ways that can reduce the likelihood that the disease will develop, even against a background of genetic predisposition.

As noted earlier, one of the benefits of understanding human genetic variation is its practical value for understanding and promoting health and for understanding and combating disease. We probably cannot overestimate the importance of this benefit. First, as shows, virtually every human disease has a genetic component. In some diseases, such as Huntington disease, Tay-Sachs disease, and cystic fibrosis, this component is very large. In other diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, the genetic component is more modest. In fact, we do not typically think of these diseases as “genetic diseases,” because we inherit not the certainty of developing a disease, but only a predisposition to developing it.

Virtually all human diseases, except perhaps trauma, have a genetic component.

In still other diseases, the genetic component is very small. The crucial point, however, is that it is there. Even infectious diseases, diseases that we have traditionally placed in a completely different category than genetic disorders, have a real, albeit small, genetic component. For example, as the CCR5 example described earlier illustrates, even AIDS is influenced by a person’s genotype. In fact, some people appear to have genetic resistance to HIV infection as a result of carrying a variant of the CCR5 gene.

Second, each of us is at some genetic risk, and therefore can benefit, at least theoretically, from the progress scientists are making in understanding and learning how to respond to these risks. Scientists estimate that each of us carries between 5 and 50 mutations that carry some risk for disease or disability. Some of us may not experience negative consequences from the mutations we carry, either because we do not live long enough for it to happen or because we may not be exposed to the relevant environmental triggers. The reality, however, is that the potential for negative consequences from our genes exists for each of us.

How is modern genetics helping us address the challenge of human disease? As shows, modern genetic analysis of a human disease begins with mapping and cloning the associated gene or genes. Some of the earliest disease genes to be mapped and cloned were the genes associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, retinoblastoma, and cystic fibrosis. More recently, scientists have announced the cloning of genes for breast cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson disease.

Mapping and cloning a gene can lead to strategies that reduce the risk of disease (preventive medicine); guidelines for prescribing drugs based on a person’s genotype (pharmacogenomics); procedures that alter the affected gene (gene therapy); or drugs (more…)

As also shows, mapping and cloning a disease-related gene opens the way for the development of a variety of new health care strategies. At one end of the spectrum are genetic tests intended to identify people at increased risk for the disease and recognize genotypic differences that have implications for effective treatment. At the other end are new drug and gene therapies that specifically target the biochemical mechanisms that underlie the disease symptoms or even replace, manipulate, or supplement nonfunctional genes with functional ones. Indeed, as suggests, we are entering the era of molecular medicine.

Genetic testing is not a new health care strategy. Newborn screening for diseases like PKU has been going on for 30 years in many states. Nevertheless, the remarkable progress scientists are making in mapping and cloning human disease genes brings with it the prospect for the development of more genetic tests in the future. The availability of such tests can have a significant impact on the way the public perceives a particular disease and can also change the pattern of care that people in affected families might seek and receive. For example, the identification of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and the demonstration that particular variants of these genes are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer have paved the way for the development of guidelines and protocols for testing individuals with a family history of these diseases. BRCA1, located on the long arm of chromosome 17, was the first to be isolated, and variants of this gene account for about 50 percent of all inherited breast cancer, or about 5 percent of all breast cancer. Variants of BRCA2, located on the long arm of chromosome 13, appear to account for about 30 to 40 percent of all inherited breast cancer. Variants of these genes also increase slightly the risk for men of developing breast, prostate, or possibly other cancers.

Scientists estimate that hundreds of thousands of women in the United States have 1 of hundreds of significant mutations already detected in the BRCA1 gene. For a woman with a family history of breast cancer, the knowledge that she carries one of the variants of BRCA1 or BRCA2 associated with increased risk can be important information. If she does carry one of these variants, she and her physician can consider several changes in her health care, such as increasing the frequency of physical examinations; introducing mammography at an earlier age; and even having prophylactic mastectomy. In the future, drugs may also be available that decrease the risk of developing breast cancer.

The ability to test for the presence in individuals of particular gene variants is also changing the way drugs are prescribed and developed. A rapidly growing field known as pharmacogenomics focuses on crucial genetic differences that cause drugs to work well in some people and less well, or with dangerous adverse reactions, in others. For example, researchers investigating Alzheimer disease have found that the way patients respond to drug treatment can depend on which of three genetic variants of the ApoE (Apolipoprotein E) gene a person carries. Likewise, some of the variability in children’s responses to therapeutic doses of albuterol, a drug used to treat asthma, was recently linked to genotypic differences in the beta-2-adrenergic receptor. Because beta-2-adrenergic receptor agonists (of which albuterol is one) are the most widely used agents in the treatment of asthma, these results may have profound implications for understanding the genetic factors that determine an individual’s response to asthma therapy.

Experts predict that increasingly in the future, physicians will use genetic tests to match drugs to an individual patient’s body chemistry, so that the safest and most effective drugs and dosages can be prescribed. After identifying the genotypes that determine individual responses to particular drugs, pharmaceutical companies also likely will set out to develop new, highly specific drugs and revive older ones whose effects seemed in the past too unpredictable to be of clinical value.

Knowledge of the molecular structure of disease-related genes also is changing the way researchers approach developing new drugs. A striking example followed the discovery in 1989 of the gene associated with cystic fibrosis (CF). Researchers began to study the function of the normal and defective proteins involved in order to understand the biochemical consequences of the gene’s variant forms and to develop new treatment strategies based on that knowledge. The normal protein, called CFTR for cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, is embedded in the membranes of several cell types in the body, where it serves as a channel, transporting chloride ions out of the cells. In CF patients, depending on the particular mutation the individual carries, the CFTR protein may be reduced or missing from the cell membrane, or may be present but not function properly. In some mutations, synthesis of CFTR protein is interrupted, and the cells produce no CFTR molecules at all.

Although all of the mutations associated with CF impair chloride transport, the consequences for patients with different mutations vary. For example, patients with mutations causing absent or markedly reduced CFTR protein may have more severe disease than patients with mutations in which CFTR is present but has altered function. The different mutations also suggest different treatment strategies. For example, the most common CF-related mutation (called delta F508) leads to the production of protein molecules (called delta F508 CFTR) that are misprocessed and are degraded prematurely before they reach the cell membrane. This finding suggests that drug treatments that would enhance transport of the defective delta F508 protein to the cell membrane or prevent its degradation could yield important benefits for patients with delta F508 CFTR.

Finally, the identification, cloning, and sequencing of a disease-related gene can open the door to the development of strategies for treating the disease using the instructions encoded in the gene itself. Collectively referred to as gene therapy, these strategies typically involve adding a copy of the normal variant of a disease-related gene to a patient’s cells. The most familiar examples of this type of gene therapy are cases in which researchers use a vector to introduce the normal variant of a disease-related gene into a patient’s cells and then return those cells to the patient’s body to provide the function that was missing. This strategy was first used in the early 1990s to introduce the normal allele of the adenosine deaminase (ADA) gene into the body of a little girl who had been born with ADA deficiency. In this disease, an abnormal variant of the ADA gene fails to make adenosine deaminase, a protein that is required for the correct functioning of T-lymphocytes.

Although researchers are continuing to refine this general approach to gene therapy, they also are developing new approaches. For example, scientists hope that one very new strategy, called chimeraplasty, may one day be used to actually correct genetic defects that involve only a single base change. Chimeraplasty uses specially synthesized molecules that base pair with a patient’s DNA and stimulate the cell’s normal DNA repair mechanisms to remove the incorrect base and substitute the correct one. At this point, chimeraplasty is still in early development and the first clinical trials are about to get underway.

Yet another approach to gene therapy involves providing new or altered functions to a cell through the introduction of new genetic information. For example, recent experiments have demonstrated that it is possible, under carefully controlled experimental conditions, to introduce genetic information into cancer cells that will alter their metabolism so that they commit suicide when exposed to a normally innocuous environmental trigger. Researchers are also using similar experiments to investigate the feasibility of introducing genetic changes into cells that will make them immune to infection by HIV. Although this research is currently being done only in nonhuman primates, it may eventually benefit patients infected with HIV.

As indicates, the Human Genome Project (HGP) has significantly accelerated the pace of both the discovery of human genes and the development of new health care strategies based on a knowledge of a gene’s structure and function. The new knowledge and technologies emerging from HGP-related research also are reducing the cost of finding human genes. For example, the search for the gene associated with cystic fibrosis, which ended in 1989, before the inception of the HGP, required more than eight years and $50 million. In contrast, finding a gene associated with a Mendelian disorder now can be accomplished in less than a year at a cost of approximately $100,000.

The last few years of research into human genetic variation also have seen a gradual transition from a primary focus on genes associated with single-gene disorders, which are relatively rare in the human population, to an increasing focus on genes associated with multifactorial diseases. Because these diseases are not rare, we can expect that this work will affect many more people. Understanding the genetic and environmental bases for these multifactorial diseases also will lead to increased testing and the development of new interventions that likely will have an enormous effect on the practice of medicine in the next century.

What are the implications of using our growing knowledge of human genetic variation to improve personal and public health? As noted earlier, the rapid pace of the discovery of genetic factors in disease has improved our ability to predict the risk of disease in asymptomatic individuals. We have learned how to prevent the manifestations of some of these diseases, and we are developing the capacity to treat others.

Yet, much remains unknown about the benefits and risks of building an understanding of human genetic variation at the molecular level. While this information would have the potential to dramatically improve human health, the architects of the HGP realized that it also would raise a number of complex ethical, legal, and social issues. Thus, in 1990 they established the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) program to anticipate and address the ethical, legal, and social issues that arise from human genetic research. This program, perhaps more than any other, has focused public attention, as well as the attention of educators, on the increasing importance of preparing citizens to understand and contribute to the ongoing public dialogue related to advances in genetics.

Ethics is the study of right and wrong, good and bad. It has to do with the actions and character of individuals, families, communities, institutions, and societies. During the last two and one-half millennia, Western philosophy has developed a variety of powerful methods and a reliable set of concepts and technical terms for studying and talking about the ethical life. Generally speaking, we apply the terms “right” and “good” to those actions and qualities that foster the interests of individuals, families, communities, institutions, and society. Here, an “interest” refers to a participant’s share or participation in a situation. The terms “wrong” or “bad” apply to those actions and qualities that impair interests.

Ethical considerations are complex, multifaceted, and raise many questions. Often, there are competing, well-reasoned answers to questions about what is right and wrong, and good and bad, about an individual’s or group’s conduct or actions. Typically, these answers all involve appeals to values. A value is something that has significance or worth in a given situation. One of the exciting events to witness in any discussion in ethics is the varying ways in which the individuals involved assign values to things, persons, and states of affairs. Examples of values that students may appeal to in a discussion about ethics include autonomy, freedom, privacy, sanctity of life, religion, protecting another from harm, promoting another’s good, justice, fairness, relationships, scientific knowledge, and technological progress.

Acknowledging the complex, multifaceted nature of ethical discussions is not to suggest that “anything goes.” Experts generally agree on the following features of ethics. First, ethics is a process of rational inquiry. It involves posing clearly formulated questions and seeking well-reasoned answers to those questions. For example, we can ask questions about an individual’s right to privacy regarding personal genetic information; we also can ask questions about the appropriateness of particular uses of gene therapy. Well-reasoned answers to such questions constitute arguments. Ethical analysis and argument, then, result from successful ethical inquiry.

Second, ethics requires a solid foundation of information and rigorous interpretation of that information. For example, one must have a solid understanding of biology to evaluate the recent decision by the Icelandic government to create a database that will contain extensive genetic and medical information about the country’s citizens. A knowledge of science also is needed to discuss the ethics of genetic screening or of germ-line gene therapy. Ethics is not strictly a theoretical discipline but is concerned in vital ways with practical matters.

Third, discussions of ethical issues often lead to the identification of very different answers to questions about what is right and wrong and good and bad. This is especially true in a society such as our own, which is characterized by a diversity of perspectives and values. Consider, for example, the question of whether adolescents should be tested for late-onset genetic conditions. Genetic testing centers routinely withhold genetic tests for Huntington disease (HD) from asymptomatic patients under the age of 18. The rationale is that the condition expresses itself later in life and, at present, treatment is unavailable. Therefore, there is no immediate, physical health benefit for a minor from a specific diagnosis based on genetic testing. In addition, there is concern about the psychological effects of knowing that later in life one will get a debilitating, life-threatening condition. Teenagers can wait until they are adults to decide what and when they would like to know. In response, some argue that many adolescents and young children do have sufficient autonomy in consent and decision making and may wish to know their future. Others argue that parents should have the right to have their children tested, because parents make many other medical decisions on behalf of their children. This example illustrates how the tools of ethics can bring clarity and rigor to discussions involving values.

One of the goals of this module is to help students see how understanding science can help individuals and society make reasoned decisions about issues related to genetics and health. Activity 5, Making Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty, presents students with a case of a woman who is concerned that she may carry an altered gene that predisposes her to breast and ovarian cancer. The woman is faced with numerous decisions, which students also consider. Thus, the focus of Activity 5 is prudential decision making, which involves the ability to avoid unnecessary risk when it is uncertain whether an event actually will occur. By completing the activity, students understand that uncertainty is often a feature of questions related to genetics and health, because our knowledge of genetics is incomplete and constantly changing. In addition, students see that making decisions about an uncertain future is complex. In simple terms, students have to ask themselves, “How bad is the outcome and how likely is it to occur?” When the issues are weighed, different outcomes are possible, depending on one’s estimate of the incidence of the occurrence and how much burden one attaches to the risk.

Clearly, science as well as ethics play important roles in helping individuals make choices about individual and public health. Science provides evidence that can help us understand and treat human disease, illness, deformity, and dysfunction. And ethics provides a framework for identifying and clarifying values and the choices that flow from these values. But the relationships between scientific information and human choices, and between choices and behaviors, are not straightforward. In other words, human choice allows individuals to choose against sound knowledge, and choice does not require action.

Nevertheless, it is increasingly difficult to deny the claims of science. We are continually presented with great amounts of relevant scientific and medical knowledge that is publicly accessible. As a consequence, we can think about the relationships between knowledge, choice, behavior, and human welfare in the following ways:

One of the goals of this module is to encourage students to think in terms of these relationships, now and as they grow older.

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The following glossary was modified from the glossary on the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Web site, available at http://www.nhgri.nih.gov.

One of the variant forms of a gene at a particular locus, or location, on a chromosome. Different alleles produce variation in inherited characteristics such as hair color or blood type. In an individual, one form of the allele (the dominant one) may be expressed more than another form (the recessive one).

One of 20 different kinds of small molecules that link together in long chains to form proteins. Amino acids are referred to as the “building blocks” of proteins.

Gene on one of the autosomes that, if present, will almost always produce a specific trait or disease. The chance of passing the gene (and therefore the disease) to children is 50-50 in each pregnancy.

Chromosome other than a sex chromosome. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomes.

Two bases that form a “rung of the DNA ladder.” The bases are the “letters” that spell out the genetic code. In DNA, the code letters are A, T, G, and C, which stand for the chemicals adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, respectively. In base pairing, adenine always pairs with thymine, and guanine always pairs with cytosine.

Defect present at birth, whether caused by mutant genes or by prenatal events that are not genetic.

First breast cancer genes to be identified. Mutated forms of these genes are believed to be responsible for about one-half the cases of inherited breast cancer, especially those that occur in younger women, and also to increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer. Both are tumor suppressor genes.

Diseases in which abnormal cells divide and grow unchecked. Cancer can spread from its original site to other parts of the body and can be fatal if not treated adequately.

Gene, located in a chromosome region suspected of being involved in a disease, whose protein product suggests that it could be the disease gene in question.

Mutation that confers immunity to infection by HIV. The mutation alters the structure of a receptor on the surface of macrophages such that HIV cannot enter the cell.

Collection of DNA sequences generated from mRNA sequences. This type of library contains only protein-coding DNA (genes) and does not include any noncoding DNA.

Basic unit of any living organism. It is a small, watery, compartment filled with chemicals and a complete copy of the organism’s genome.

One of the thread like “packages” of genes and other DNA in the nucleus of a cell. Different kinds of organisms have different numbers of chromosomes. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, 46 in all: 44 autosomes and two sex chromosomes. Each parent contributes one chromosome to each pair, so children get one-half of their chromosomes from their mothers and one-half from their fathers.

Process of making copies of a specific piece of DNA, usually a gene. When geneticists speak of cloning, they do not mean the process of making genetically identical copies of an entire organism.

Three bases in a DNA or RNA sequence that specify a single amino acid.

Hereditary disease whose symptoms usually appear shortly after birth. They include faulty digestion, breathing difficulties and respiratory infections due to mucus accumulation, and excessive loss of salt in sweat. In the past, cystic fibrosis was almost always fatal in childhood, but treatment is now so improved that patients commonly live to their 20s and beyond.

Visual appearance of a chromo some when stained and examined under a microscope. Particularly important are visually distinct regions, called light and dark bands, that give each of the chromosomes a unique appearance. This feature allows a person’s chromosomes to be studied in a clinical test known as a karyotype, which allows scientists to look for chromosomal alterations.

Particular kind of mutation: loss of a piece of DNA from a chromosome. Deletion of a gene or part of a gene can lead to a disease or abnormality.

Chemical inside the nucleus of a cell that carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms.

Number of chromosomes in most cells except the gametes. In humans, the diploid number is 46.

Technology that identifies mutations in genes. It uses small glass plates that contain synthetic single-stranded DNA sequences identical to those of a normal gene.

Process by which the DNA double helix unwinds and makes an exact copy of itself.

Determining the exact order of the base pairs in a segment of DNA.

Gene that almost always results in a specific physical characteristic (for example, a disease) even though the patient’s genome possesses only one copy. With a dominant gene, the chance of passing on the gene (and therefore the disease) to children is 50-50 in each pregnancy.

Structural arrangement of DNA, which looks something like an immensely long ladder twisted into a helix, or coil. The sides of the “ladder” are formed by a backbone of sugar and phosphate molecules, and the “rungs” consist of nucleotide bases joined weakly in the middle by hydrogen bonds.

Particular kind of mutation: production of one or more copies of any piece of DNA, including a gene or even an entire chromosome.

Process in which molecules (such as proteins, DNA, or RNA fragments) can be separated according to size and electrical charge by applying an electric current to them. The current forces the molecules through pores in a thin layer of gel, a firm, jellylike substance. The gel can be made so that its pores are just the right dimensions for separating molecules within a specific range of sizes and shapes. Smaller fragments usually travel further than large ones. The process is sometimes called gel electrophoresis.

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New photo from Hubble telescope captures beauty of nearby …

Posted: September 18, 2016 at 8:13 am

This breathtaking new image from the Hubble Space Telescope captures electric-blue wisps of gas and bright stars in the early stages of birth.

ESA/Hubble & NASA

A spectacular new image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope shows bright-blue wisps of glowing gas and hot, sparkling, young stars within a satellite dwarf galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).

The LMC is one of the smallersatellite galaxies that orbit the Milky Way, and its among a collection of galaxies known as the local group. It is one of the closest galaxies to Earth, at about 163,000 light-years away.

5 Photos

Astronomers revisit iconic nebula for a different look from 20 years ago

This dazzling new Hubble image peers into a stellar nursery known as N159, which measures more than 150 light-years across and houses many hot, newborn stars. [Hubble in Pictures: Astronomers Top Picks (Photos)]

These stars are emitting intense ultraviolet light, which causes nearby hydrogen gas to glow, and torrential stellar winds, which are carving out ridges, arcs and filaments from the surrounding material, Hubble researcherssaid in a statementwhen debuting the photo.

Within this stellar nursery lies a butterfly-shaped cosmic cloud known as the Papillon Nebula. The region consists of vast amounts of dense gas that give way to the birth of new stars.

N159 is located south of the Tarantula Nebula, which is designated heic1402 another region known for massive star birth within the LMC. The Tarantula Nebula is located 170,000 light-years from Earth and is believed tohouse hundreds of thousands of stars. Inside the Tarantula Nebula lies an incredibly bright region known as 30 Doradus, which is considered a hotspot for star formation, according to the statement, released jointly by NASA and the European Space Agency.

This beautiful new image, one of many taken by the Hubble telescope, was captured using Hubbles Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Follow Samantha Mathewson@Sam_Ashley13. Follow us@Spacedotcom,FacebookandGoogle+. Original article onSpace.com.

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gambling | Britannica.com

Posted: September 10, 2016 at 5:35 am

Alternate Title: betting

Gambling, the betting or staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, a contest, or an uncertain event whose result may be determined by chance or accident or have an unexpected result by reason of the bettors miscalculation.

The outcomes of gambling games may be determined by chance alone, as in the purely random activity of a tossed pair of dice or of the ball on a roulette wheel, or by physical skill, training, or prowess in athletic contests, or by a combination of strategy and chance. The rules by which gambling games are played sometimes serve to confuse the relationship between the components of the game, which depend on skill and chance, so that some players may be able to manipulate the game to serve their own interests. Thus, knowledge of the game is useful for playing poker or betting on horse racing but is of very little use for purchasing lottery tickets or playing slot machines.

A gambler may participate in the game itself while betting on its outcome (card games, craps), or he may be prevented from any active participation in an event in which he has a stake (professional athletics, lotteries). Some games are dull or nearly meaningless without the accompanying betting activity and are rarely played unless wagering occurs (coin tossing, poker, dice games, lotteries). In other games betting is not intrinsically part of the game, and the association is merely conventional and not necessary to the performance of the game itself (horse racing, football pools). Commercial establishments such as casinos and racetracks may organize gambling when a portion of the money wagered by patrons can be easily acquired by participation as a favoured party in the game, by rental of space, or by withdrawing a portion of the betting pool. Some activities of very large scale (horse racing, lotteries) usually require commercial and professional organizations to present and maintain them efficiently.

A rough estimate of the amount of money legally wagered annually in the world is about $10 trillion (illegal gambling may exceed even this figure). In terms of total turnover, lotteries are the leading form of gambling worldwide. State-licensed or state-operated lotteries expanded rapidly in Europe and the United States during the late 20th century and are widely distributed throughout most of the world. Organized football (soccer) pools can be found in nearly all European countries, several South American countries, Australia, and a few African and Asian countries. Most of these countries also offer either state-organized or state-licensed wagering on other sporting events.

Betting on horse racing is a leading form of gambling in English-speaking countries and in France. It also exists in many other countries. Wherever horse racing is popular, it has usually become a major business, with its own newspapers and other periodicals, extensive statistical services, self-styled experts who sell advice on how to bet, and sophisticated communication networks that furnish information to betting centres, bookmakers and their employees, and workers involved with the care and breeding of horses. The same is true, to a smaller extent, of dog racing. The emergence of satellite broadcasting technology has led to the creation of so-called off-track betting facilities, in which bettors watch live telecasts at locations away from the racetrack.

Casinos or gambling houses have existed at least since the 17th century. In the 20th century they became commonplace and assumed almost a uniform character throughout the world. In Europe and South America they are permitted at many or most holiday resorts but not always in cities. In the United States casinos were for many years legal only in Nevada and New Jersey and, by special license, in Puerto Rico, but most other states now allow casino gambling, and betting facilities operate clandestinely throughout the country, often through corruption of political authorities. Roulette is one of the principal gambling games in casinos throughout France and Monaco and is popular throughout the world. Craps is the principal dice game at most American casinos. Slot and video poker machines are a mainstay of casinos in the United States and Europe and also are found in thousands of private clubs, restaurants, and other establishments; they are also common in Australia. Among the card games played at casinos, baccarat, in its popular form chemin de fer, has remained a principal gambling game in Great Britain and in the continental casinos most often patronized by the English at Deauville, Biarritz, and the Riviera resorts. Faro, at one time the principal gambling game in the United States, has become obsolete. Blackjack is the principal card game in American casinos. The French card game trente et quarante (or rouge et noir) is played at Monte-Carlo and a few other continental casinos. Many other games may also be found in some casinosfor example, sic bo, fan-tan, and pai-gow poker in Asia and local games such as boule, banca francesa, and kalooki in Europe.

At the start of the 21st century, poker exploded in popularity, principally through the high visibility of poker tournaments broadcast on television and the proliferation of Internet playing venues. Another growing form of Internet gambling is the so-called betting exchangesInternet Web sites on which players make wagers with one another, with the Web site taking a small cut of each wager in exchange for organizing and handling the transaction.

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In a wide sense of the word, stock markets may also be considered a form of gambling, albeit one in which skill and knowledge on the part of the bettors play a considerable part. This also goes for insurance; paying the premium on ones life insurance is, in effect, a bet that one will die within a specified time. If one wins (dies), the win is paid out to ones relatives, and if one loses (survives the specified time), the wager (premium) is kept by the insurance company, which acts as a bookmaker and sets the odds (payout ratios) according to actuarial data. These two forms of gambling are considered beneficial to society, the former acquiring venture capital and the latter spreading statistical risks.

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Events or outcomes that are equally probable have an equal chance of occurring in each instance. In games of pure chance, each instance is a completely independent one; that is, each play has the same probability as each of the others of producing a given outcome. Probability statements apply in practice to a long series of events but not to individual ones. The law of large numbers is an expression of the fact that the ratios predicted by probability statements are increasingly accurate as the number of events increases, but the absolute number of outcomes of a particular type departs from expectation with increasing frequency as the number of repetitions increases. It is the ratios that are accurately predictable, not the individual events or precise totals.

The probability of a favourable outcome among all possibilities can be expressed: probability (p) equals the total number of favourable outcomes (f) divided by the total number of possibilities (t), or p=f/t. But this holds only in situations governed by chance alone. In a game of tossing two dice, for example, the total number of possible outcomes is 36 (each of six sides of one die combined with each of six sides of the other), and the number of ways to make, say, a seven is six (made by throwing 1 and 6, 2 and 5, 3 and 4, 4 and 3, 5 and 2, or 6 and 1); therefore, the probability of throwing a seven is 6/36, or 1/6.

In most gambling games it is customary to express the idea of probability in terms of odds against winning. This is simply the ratio of the unfavourable possibilities to the favourable ones. Because the probability of throwing a seven is 1/6, on average one throw in six would be favourable and five would not; the odds against throwing a seven are therefore 5 to 1. The probability of getting heads in a toss of a coin is 1/2; the odds are 1 to 1, called even. Care must be used in interpreting the phrase on average, which applies most accurately to a large number of cases and is not useful in individual instances. A common gamblers fallacy, called the doctrine of the maturity of the chances (or the Monte-Carlo fallacy), falsely assumes that each play in a game of chance is dependent on the others and that a series of outcomes of one sort should be balanced in the short run by the other possibilities. A number of systems have been invented by gamblers largely on the basis of this fallacy; casino operators are happy to encourage the use of such systems and to exploit any gamblers neglect of the strict rules of probability and independent plays. An interesting example of a game where each play is dependent on previous plays, however, is blackjack, where cards already dealt from the dealing shoe affect the composition of the remaining cards; for example, if all of the aces (worth 1 or 11 points) have been dealt, it is no longer possible to achieve a natural (a 21 with two cards). This fact forms the basis for some systems where it is possible to overcome the house advantage.

In some games an advantage may go to the dealer, the banker (the individual who collects and redistributes the stakes), or some other participant. Therefore, not all players have equal chances to win or equal payoffs. This inequality may be corrected by rotating the players among the positions in the game. Commercial gambling operators, however, usually make their profits by regularly occupying an advantaged position as the dealer, or they may charge money for the opportunity to play or subtract a proportion of money from the wagers on each play. In the dice game of crapswhich is among the major casino games offering the gambler the most favourable oddsthe casino returns to winners from 3/5 of 1 percent to 27 percent less than the fair odds, depending on the type of bet made. Depending on the bet, the house advantage (vigorish) for roulette in American casinos varies from about 5.26 to 7.89 percent, and in European casinos it varies from 1.35 to 2.7 percent. The house must always win in the long run. Some casinos also add rules that enhance their profits, especially rules that limit the amounts that may be staked under certain circumstances.

Many gambling games include elements of physical skill or strategy as well as of chance. The game of poker, like most other card games, is a mixture of chance and strategy that also involves a considerable amount of psychology. Betting on horse racing or athletic contests involves the assessment of a contestants physical capacity and the use of other evaluative skills. In order to ensure that chance is allowed to play a major role in determining the outcomes of such games, weights, handicaps, or other correctives may be introduced in certain cases to give the contestants approximately equal opportunities to win, and adjustments may be made in the payoffs so that the probabilities of success and the magnitudes of the payoffs are put in inverse proportion to each other. Pari-mutuel pools in horse-race betting, for example, reflect the chances of various horses to win as anticipated by the players. The individual payoffs are large for those bettors whose winning horses are backed by relatively few bettors and small if the winners are backed by a relatively large proportion of the bettors; the more popular the choice, the lower the individual payoff. The same holds true for betting with bookmakers on athletic contests (illegal in most of the United States but legal in England). Bookmakers ordinarily accept bets on the outcome of what is regarded as an uneven match by requiring the side more likely to win to score more than a simple majority of points; this procedure is known as setting a point spread. In a game of American or Canadian football, for example, the more highly regarded team would have to win by, say, more than 10 points to yield an even payoff to its backers.

Unhappily, these procedures for maintaining the influence of chance can be interfered with; cheating is possible and reasonably easy in most gambling games. Much of the stigma attached to gambling has resulted from the dishonesty of some of its promoters and players, and a large proportion of modern gambling legislation is written to control cheating. More laws have been oriented to efforts by governments to derive tax revenues from gambling than to control cheating, however.

Gambling is one of mankinds oldest activities, as evidenced by writings and equipment found in tombs and other places. It was regulated, which as a rule meant severely curtailed, in the laws of ancient China and Rome as well as in the Jewish Talmud and by Islam and Buddhism, and in ancient Egypt inveterate gamblers could be sentenced to forced labour in the quarries. The origin of gambling is considered to be divinatory: by casting marked sticks and other objects and interpreting the outcome, man sought knowledge of the future and the intentions of the gods. From this it was a very short step to betting on the outcome of the throws. The Bible contains many references to the casting of lots to divide property. One well-known instance is the casting of lots by Roman guards (which in all likelihood meant that they threw knucklebones) for the garment of Jesus during the Crucifixion. This is mentioned in all four of the Gospels and has been used for centuries as a warning example by antigambling crusaders. However, in ancient times casting lots was not considered to be gambling in the modern sense but instead was connected with inevitable destiny, or fate. Anthropologists have also pointed to the fact that gambling is more prevalent in societies where there is a widespread belief in gods and spirits whose benevolence may be sought. The casting of lots, not infrequently dice, has been used in many cultures to dispense justice and point out criminals at trialsin Sweden as late as 1803. The Greek word for justice, dike, comes from a word that means to throw, in the sense of throwing dice.

European history is riddled with edicts, decrees, and encyclicals banning and condemning gambling, which indirectly testify to its popularity in all strata of society. Organized gambling on a larger scale and sanctioned by governments and other authorities in order to raise money began in the 15th century with lotteriesand centuries earlier in China with keno. With the advent of legal gambling houses in the 17th century, mathematicians began to take a serious interest in games with randomizing equipment (such as dice and cards), out of which grew the field of probability theory.

Apart from forerunners in ancient Rome and Greece, organized sanctioned sports betting dates back to the late 18th century. About that time there began a gradual, albeit irregular, shift in the official attitude toward gambling, from considering it a sin to considering it a vice and a human weakness and, finally, to seeing it as a mostly harmless and even entertaining activity. Additionally, the Internet has made many forms of gambling accessible on an unheard-of scale. By the beginning of the 21st century, approximately four out of five people in Western nations gambled at least occasionally. The swelling number of gamblers in the 20th century highlighted the personal and social problem of pathological gambling, in which individuals are unable to control or limit their gambling. During the 1980s and 90s, pathological gambling was recognized by medical authorities in several countries as a cognitive disorder that afflicts slightly more than 1 percent of the population, and various treatment and therapy programs were developed to deal with the problem.

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Bahamas Map / Geography of Bahamas / Map of Bahamas …

Posted: at 5:33 am

Archeologists believe that Taino people from Cuba and the island of Hispaniola migrated into the southern reaches of the Bahamas in the 11th century.

Those first settlers, known as Lucayans, lived across some scattered islands in the Bahamas when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492.

There are a few other claims, as well as unsubstantiated opinions, but it is now widely accepted that Christopher Columbus’s first landfall in this ‘New World’ was on the Bahamian island of San Salvador.

Like most other isolated islands, when the indigenous population had not been exposed to the outside world, diseases carried in by European explorers and their crew (unintentionally) decimated the local population; the same was true here for the Taino Indians.

Over the next century, or so, the Taino population was further decimated, as the islands became a major launching base for the Spanish conquest of the Caribbean, and they took the Taino with them as slaves.

Assorted factions from Europe (mainly from England) attempted to settle these islands in the early 17th century. In 1648, English Puritans established the first permanent European settlement on an island they named Eleuthera.

In 1670, England’s King Charles II literally rented the islands for trading purposes to a group of English nobles that were at the time governing British colonies in North America, such as Maryland, Carolina, and New Jersey.

Over the next half century, these low-lying islands, with many places to hide, became a haven for pirates and lawlessness.

To curb those problems, Britain transformed the Bahamas into a crown colony in 1718, one first governed by Woodes Rogers, an English sea captain and privateer.

During the American War of Independence, the British-controlled Bahamas were a frequent target of American naval forces; in fact, American forces once briefly occupied the capital city of Nassau.

After the new country of America gained its independence in the late 1770s, thousands of disgruntled British loyalists (complete with their slaves) moved to the Bahamas.

Across their remaining colonies, mainly because of pressures applied on the home-front, the British abolished the slave trade in 1807. Soon liberated African slavesdominated the population of the Bahamas.

Through the mid 20th century the British remained in control. Then in 1964, the islands were granted some levels of internal self-governing. Full independence came July 10, 1973.

Since that day the Bahamas have moved forward into prosperity. Today tourism is the major industry, and these stunning islands of gregarious people, beautiful scenery and sunny skies are one of the most popular cruise ship and vacation destinations on the planet. Bahamas which celebrates its national day on July 10th, has a population of 316,182 and gained its independence 1973.

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Happiness – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: September 8, 2016 at 6:31 am

Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.[1] Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.[2] A variety of biological, psychological, economic, religious and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources. Various research groups, including positive psychology and happiness economics are employing the scientific method to research questions about what “happiness” is, and how it might be attained.

The United Nations declared 20 March the International Day of Happiness to recognise the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals.

Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living a good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Happiness in this sense was used to translate the Greek Eudaimonia, and is still used in virtue ethics. There has been a transition over time from emphasis on the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness.[3] Since the turn of the millennium, the human flourishing approach, advanced particularly by Amartya Sen has attracted increasing interest in psychological, especially prominent in the work of Martin Seligman, Ed Diener and Ruut Veenhoven, and international development and medical research in the work of Paul Anand.[citation needed]

A widely discussed political value expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776, written by Thomas Jefferson, is the universal right to “the pursuit of happiness.”[4] This suggests a subjective interpretation but one that nonetheless goes beyond emotions alone.[citation needed]

Happiness is a fuzzy concept and can mean many different things to many people. Part of the challenge of a science of happiness is to identify different concepts of happiness, and where applicable, split them into their components. Related concepts are well-being, quality of life and flourishing. At least one author defines happiness as contentment.[5] Some commentators focus on the difference between the hedonistic tradition of seeking pleasant and avoiding unpleasant experiences, and the eudaimonic tradition of living life in a full and deeply satisfying way.[6]

The 2012 World Happiness Report stated that in subjective well-being measures, the primary distinction is between cognitive life evaluations and emotional reports.[7] Happiness is used in both life evaluation, as in How happy are you with your life as a whole?, and in emotional reports, as in How happy are you now?, and people seem able to use happiness as appropriate in these verbal contexts. Using these measures, the World Happiness Report identifies the countries with the highest levels of happiness.[citation needed]

Since the 1960s, happiness research has been conducted in a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including gerontology, social psychology, clinical and medical research and happiness economics. During the past two decades, however, the field of happiness studies has expanded drastically in terms of scientific publications, and has produced many different views on causes of happiness, and on factors that correlate with happiness,[8] but no validated method has been found to substantially improve long-term happiness in a meaningful way for most people.

Sonja Lyubomirsky concludes in her book The How of Happiness that 50 percent of a given human’s happiness level is genetically determined (based on twin studies), 10 percent is affected by life circumstances and situation, and a remaining 40 percent of happiness is subject to self-control.[citation needed]

The results of the 75-year Grant Study of Harvard undergraduates show a high correlation of loving relationship, especially with parents, with later life wellbeing.[9]

In the 2nd Edition of the Handbook of Emotions (2000), evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby say that happiness comes from “encountering unexpected positive events”. In the 3rd Edition of the Handbook of Emotions (2008), Michael Lewis says “happiness can be elicited by seeing a significant other”. According to Mark Leary, as reported in a November 1995 issue of Psychology Today, “we are happiest when basking in the acceptance and praise of others”. Sara Algoe and Jonathan Haidt say that “happiness” may be the label for a family of related emotional states, such as joy, amusement, satisfaction, gratification, euphoria, and triumph.[10]

It has been argued that money cannot effectively “buy” much happiness unless it is used in certain ways.[11] “Beyond the point at which people have enough to comfortably feed, clothe, and house themselves, having more money – even a lot more money – makes them only a little bit happier.”[according to whom?] A Harvard Business School study found that “spending money on others actually makes us happier than spending it on ourselves”.[12]

Meditation has been found to lead to high activity in the brain’s left prefrontal cortex, which in turn has been found to correlate with happiness.[13]

Psychologist Martin Seligman asserts that happiness is not solely derived from external, momentary pleasures,[14] and provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology’s correlational findings: humans seem happiest when they have

There have also been some studies of how religion relates to happiness. Causal relationships remain unclear, but more religion is seen in happier people. This correlation may be the result of community membership and not necessarily belief in religion itself. Another component may have to do with ritual.[15]

Abraham Harold Maslow, an American professor of psychology, founded humanistic psychology in the 1930s. A visual aid he created to explain his theory, which he called the hierarchy of needs, is a pyramid depicting the levels of human needs, psychological, and physical. When a human being ascends the steps of the pyramid, he reaches self-actualization. Beyond the routine of needs fulfillment, Maslow envisioned moments of extraordinary experience, known as peak experiences, profound moments of love, understanding, happiness, or rapture, during which a person feels more whole, alive, self-sufficient, and yet a part of the world. This is similar to the flow concept of Mihly Cskszentmihlyi.[citation needed]

Self-determination theory relates intrinsic motivation to three needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

Cross-sectional studies worldwide support a relationship between happiness and fruit and vegetable intake. Those eating fruits and vegetables each day have a higher likelihood of being classified as very happy, suggesting a strong and positive correlation between fruit and vegetable consumption and happiness.[16] Whether it be in South Korea,[17] Iran,[18] Chile,[19] USA,[20] or UK,[21] greater fruit and vegetable consumption had a positive association with greater happiness, independent of factors such as smoking, exercise, body mass index, or socio-economic factors.

Religion and happiness have been studied by a number of researchers, and religion features many elements addressing the components of happiness, as identified by positive psychology. Its association with happiness is facilitated in part by the social connections of organized religion,[22] and by the neuropsychological benefits of prayer[23] and belief.

There are a number of mechanisms through which religion may make a person happier, including social contact and support that result from religious pursuits, the mental activity that comes with optimism and volunteering, learned coping strategies that enhance one’s ability to deal with stress, and psychological factors such as “reason for being.” It may also be that religious people engage in behaviors related to good health, such as less substance abuse, since the use of psychotropic substances is sometimes considered abuse.[24][25][26][27][28][29]

The Handbook of Religion and Health describes a survey by Feigelman (1992) that examined happiness in Americans who have given up religion, in which it was found that there was little relationship between religious disaffiliation and unhappiness.[30] A survey by Kosmin & Lachman (1993), also cited in this handbook, indicates that people with no religious affiliation appear to be at greater risk for depressive symptoms than those affiliated with a religion.[31] A review of studies by 147 independent investigators found, “the correlation between religiousness and depressive symptoms was -.096, indicating that greater religiousness is mildly associated with fewer symptoms.”[32]

The Legatum Prosperity Index reflects the repeated finding of research on the science of happiness that there is a positive link between religious engagement and wellbeing: people who report that God is very important in their lives are on average more satisfied with their lives, after accounting for their income, age and other individual characteristics.[33]

Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Centre and the Pew Organisation conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being “very happy” than the least religiously committed people.[34] An analysis of over 200 social studies contends that “high religiousness predicts a lower risk of depression and drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts, and more reports of satisfaction with sex life and a sense of well-being. However, the links between religion and happiness are always very broad in nature, highly reliant on scripture and small sample number. To that extent there is a much larger connection between religion and suffering (Lincoln 1034).”[32] And a review of 498 studies published in peer-reviewed journals concluded that a large majority of them showed a positive correlation between religious commitment and higher levels of perceived well-being and self-esteem and lower levels of hypertension, depression, and clinical delinquency.[35] A meta-analysis of 34 recent studies published between 1990 and 2001 found that religiosity has a salutary relationship with psychological adjustment, being related to less psychological distress, more life satisfaction, and better self-actualization.[36] Finally, a recent systematic review of 850 research papers on the topic concluded that “the majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behaviour, drug/alcohol use/abuse.”[37]

However, there remains strong disagreement among scholars about whether the effects of religious observance, particularly attending church or otherwise belonging to religious groups, is due to the spiritual or the social aspectsi.e. those who attend church or belong to similar religious organizations may well be receiving only the effects of the social connections involved. While these benefits are real enough, they may thus be the same one would gain by joining other, secular groups, clubs, or similar organizations.[38]

Terror management theory maintains that people suffer cognitive dissonance (anxiety) when they are reminded of their inevitable death. Through terror management, individuals are motivated to seek consonant elements symbols which make sense of mortality and death in satisfactory ways (i.e. boosting self-esteem).

Research has found that strong belief in religious or secular meaning systems affords psychological security and hope. It is moderates (e.g. agnostics, slightly religious individuals) who likely suffer the most anxiety from their meaning systems. Religious meaning systems are especially adapted to manage death anxiety because they are unlikely to be disconfirmed (for various reasons), they are all encompassing, and they promise literal immortality.[39][40]

Whether emotional effects are beneficial or adverse seems to vary with the nature of the belief. Belief in a benevolent God is associated with lower incidence of general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion whereas belief in a punitive God is associated with greater symptoms. (An alternative explanation is that people seek out beliefs that fit their psychological and emotional states.)[41]

Citizens of the world’s poorest countries are the most likely to be religious, and researchers suggest this is because of religion’s powerful coping abilities.[42][43] Luke Galen also supports terror management theory as a partial explanation of the above findings. Galen describes evidence (including his own research) that the benefits of religion are due to strong convictions and membership in a social group.[44][45][46]

Happiness forms a central theme of Buddhist teachings.[47] For ultimate freedom from suffering, the Noble Eightfold Path leads its practitioner to Nirvana, a state of everlasting peace. Ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms. More mundane forms of happiness, such as acquiring wealth and maintaining good friendships, are also recognized as worthy goals for lay people (see sukha). Buddhism also encourages the generation of loving kindness and compassion, the desire for the happiness and welfare of all beings.[48][49][unreliable source?]

Happiness or simcha (Hebrew: ) in Judaism is considered an important element in the service of God.[50] The biblical verse “worship The Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs,” (Psalm 100:2) stresses joy in the service of God.[citation needed] A popular teaching by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a 19th-century Chassidic Rabbi, is “Mitzvah Gedolah Le’hiyot Besimcha Tamid,” it is a great mitzvah (commandment) to always be in a state of happiness. When a person is happy they are much more capable of serving God and going about their daily activities than when depressed or upset.[51]

The primary meaning of “happiness” in various European languages involves good fortune, chance or happening. The meaning in Greek philosophy, however, refers primarily to ethics. In Catholicism, the ultimate end of human existence consists in felicity, Latin equivalent to the Greek eudaimonia, or “blessed happiness”, described by the 13th-century philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas as a Beatific Vision of God’s essence in the next life.[52] Human complexities, like reason and cognition, can produce well-being or happiness, but such form is limited and transitory. In temporal life, the contemplation of God, the infinitely Beautiful, is the supreme delight of the will. Beatitudo, or perfect happiness, as complete well-being, is to be attained not in this life, but the next.[53]

While religion is often formalised and community-oriented, spirituality tends to be individually based and not as formalised. In a 2014 study, 320 children, ages 812, in both public and private schools, were given a Spiritual Well-Being Questionnaire assessing the correlation between spirituality and happiness. Spirituality and not religious practices (praying, attending church services) correlated positively with the child’s happiness; the more spiritual the child was, the happier the child was. Spirituality accounted for about 326% of the variance in happiness.[54]

The Chinese Confucian thinker Mencius, who 2300 years ago sought to give advice to the ruthless political leaders of the warring states period, was convinced that the mind played a mediating role between the “lesser self” (the physiological self) and the “greater self” (the moral self) and that getting the priorities right between these two would lead to sage-hood. He argued that if we did not feel satisfaction or pleasure in nourishing one’s “vital force” with “righteous deeds”, that force would shrivel up (Mencius,6A:15 2A:2). More specifically, he mentions the experience of intoxicating joy if one celebrates the practice of the great virtues, especially through music.[55]

Al-Ghazali (10581111) the Muslim Sufi thinker wrote the Alchemy of Happiness, a manual of spiritual instruction throughout the Muslim world and widely practiced today.[citation needed]

The Hindu thinker Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, wrote quite exhaustively on the psychological and ontological roots of bliss.[56]

In the Nicomachean Ethics, written in 350 BCE, Aristotle stated that happiness (also being well and doing well) is the only thing that humans desire for its own sake, unlike riches, honor, health or friendship. He observed that men sought riches, or honor, or health not only for their own sake but also in order to be happy. Note that eudaimonia, the term we translate as “happiness”, is for Aristotle an activity rather than an emotion or a state.[57] Thus understood, the happy life is the good life, that is, a life in which a person fulfills human nature in an excellent way. Specifically, Aristotle argues that the good life is the life of excellent rational activity. He arrives at this claim with the Function Argument. Basically, if it’s right, every living thing has a function, that which it uniquely does. For humans, Aristotle contends, our function is to reason, since it is that alone that we uniquely do. And performing one’s function well, or excellently, is one’s good. Thus, the life of excellent rational activity is the happy life. Aristotle does not leave it that, however. For he argues that there is a second best life for those incapable of excellent rational activity.This second best life is the life of moral virtue.[citation needed]

Many ethicists make arguments for how humans should behave, either individually or collectively, based on the resulting happiness of such behavior. Utilitarians, such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, advocated the greatest happiness principle as a guide for ethical behavior.[citation needed]

Friedrich Nietzsche savagely critiqued the English Utilitarians’ focus on attaining the greatest happiness, stating “Man does not strive for happiness, only the Englishman does.” Nietzsche meant that the making happiness one’s ultimate goal, the aim of one’s existence “makes one contemptible;” Nietzsche instead yearned for a culture that would set higher, more difficult goals than “mere happiness.” Thus Nietzsche introduces the quasi-dystopic figure of the “last man” as a kind of thought experiment against the utilitarians and happiness-seekers; these small, “last men” who seek after only their own pleasure and health, avoiding all danger, exertion, difficulty, challenge, struggle are meant to seem contemptible to Nietzsche’s reader. Nietzsche instead wants us to consider the value of what is difficult, what can only be earned through struggle, difficulty, pain and thus to come to see the affirmative value suffering and unhappiness truly play in creating everything of great worth in life, including all the highest achievements of human culture, not least of all philosophy.[58][59]

According to St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, man’s last end is happiness: “all men agree in desiring the last end, which is happiness.”[60] However, where utilitarians focused on reasoning about consequences as the primary tool for reaching happiness, Aquinas agreed with Aristotle that happiness cannot be reached solely through reasoning about consequences of acts, but also requires a pursuit of good causes for acts, such as habits according to virtue.[61] In turn, which habits and acts that normally lead to happiness is according to Aquinas caused by laws: natural law and divine law. These laws, in turn, were according to Aquinas caused by a first cause, or God.[citation needed]

According to Aquinas, happiness consists in an “operation of the speculative intellect”: “Consequently happiness consists principally in such an operation, viz. in the contemplation of Divine things.” And, “the last end cannot consist in the active life, which pertains to the practical intellect.” So: “Therefore the last and perfect happiness, which we await in the life to come, consists entirely in contemplation. But imperfect happiness, such as can be had here, consists first and principally in contemplation, but secondarily, in an operation of the practical intellect directing human actions and passions.”[62]

Common market health measures such as GDP and GNP have been used as a measure of successful policy. On average richer nations tend to be happier than poorer nations, but this effect seems to diminish with wealth.[63][64] This has been explained by the fact that the dependency is not linear but logarithmic, i.e., the same percentual increase in the GNP produces the same increase in happiness for wealthy countries as for poor countries.[65][66][67][68] Increasingly, academic economists and international economic organisations are arguing for and developing multi-dimensional dashboards which combine subjective and objective indicators to provide a more direct and explicit assessment of human wellbeing. Work by Paul Anand and colleagues helps to highlight the fact that there many different contributors to adult wellbeing, that happiness judgement reflect, in part, the presence of salient constraints, and that fairness, autonomy, community and engagement are key aspects of happiness and wellbeing throughout the life course.

Libertarian think tank Cato Institute claims that economic freedom correlates strongly with happiness[69] preferably within the context of a western mixed economy, with free press and a democracy. According to certain standards, East European countries (ruled by Communist parties) were less happy than Western ones, even less happy than other equally poor countries.[70]

However, much empirical research in the field of happiness economics, such as that by Benjamin Radcliff, professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, supports the contention that (at least in democratic countries) life satisfaction is strongly and positively related to the social democratic model of a generous social safety net, pro-worker labor market regulations, and strong labor unions.[71] Similarly, there is evidence that public policies that reduce poverty and support a strong middle class, such as a higher minimum wage, strongly affects average levels of well-being.[72]

It has been argued that happiness measures could be used not as a replacement for more traditional measures, but as a supplement.[73] According to professor Edward Glaeser, people constantly make choices that decrease their happiness, because they have also more important aims. Therefore, the government should not decrease the alternatives available for the citizen by patronizing them but let the citizen keep a maximal freedom of choice.[74]

It has been argued that happiness at work is one of the driving forces behind positive outcomes at work, rather than just being a resultant product.[75]

Several scales have been used to measure happiness:

The UK began to measure national well being in 2012,[83] following Bhutan which already measured gross national happiness.[citation needed]

A positive relationship has been found between the volume of gray matter in the right precuneus area of the brain and the subject’s subjective happiness score.[84] Interestingly meditation, including mindfulness, based interventions have been found to correlate with a significant gray matter increase within the precuneus.[85][86][87][88][89]

In 2005 a study conducted by Andrew Steptow and Michael Marmot at University College London, found that happiness is related to biological markers that play an important role in health.[90] The researchers aimed to analyze whether there was any association between well-being and three biological markers: heart rate, cortisol levels, and plasma fibrinogen levels. Interestingly, the participants who rated themselves the least happy had cortisol levels that were 48% higher than those who rated themselves as the most happy. The least happy subjects also had a large plasma fibrinogen response to two stress-inducing tasks: the Stroop test, and tracing a star seen in a mirror image. Repeating their studies three years later Steptow and Marmot found that participants who scored high in positive emotion continued to have lower levels of cortisol and fibrinogen, as well as a lower heart rate.[citation needed]

In Happy People Live Longer (2011),[91] Bruno Frey reported that happy people live 14% longer, increasing longevity 7.5 to 10 years and Richard Davidson’s bestseller (2012) The Emotional Life of Your Brain argues that positive emotion and happiness benefit long-term health.[citation needed]

However, in 2015 a study building on earlier research found that happiness has no effect on mortality.[92] “This “basic belief that if you’re happier you’re going to live longer. That’s just not true.”[93] Consistent results are that “apart from good health, happy people were more likely to be older, not smoke, have fewer educational qualifications, do strenuous exercise, live with a partner, do religious or group activities and sleep for eight hours a night.”[93]

Happiness does however seem to have a protective impact on immunity. The tendency to experience positive emotions was associated with greater resistance to colds and flu in interventional studies irrespective of other factors such as smoking, drinking, exercise, and sleep.[94][95]

Despite a large body of positive psychological research into the relationship between happiness and productivity,[96][97][98] happiness at work has traditionally been seen as a potential by-product of positive outcomes at work, rather than a pathway to success in business. However a growing number of scholars, including Boehm and Lyubomirsky, argue that it should be viewed as one of the major sources of positive outcomes in the workplace.[75][99]

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Happiness – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Sustainability – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: September 6, 2016 at 8:14 am

In ecology, sustainability (from sustain and ability) is the property of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture.[1]Sustainability science is the study of sustainable development and environmental science.[2]

Sustainability can also be defined as a socio-ecological process characterized by the pursuit of a common ideal.[3] An ideal is by definition unattainable in a given time/space but endlessly approachable and it is this endless pursuit what builds in sustainability in the process (ibid). Healthy ecosystems and environments are necessary to the survival of humans and other organisms. Ways of reducing negative human impact are environmentally-friendly chemical engineering, environmental resources management and environmental protection. Information is gained from green chemistry, earth science, environmental science and conservation biology. Ecological economics studies the fields of academic research that aim to address human economies and natural ecosystems.

Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism. Ways of living more sustainably can take many forms from reorganizing living conditions (e.g., ecovillages, eco-municipalities and sustainable cities), reappraising economic sectors (permaculture, green building, sustainable agriculture), or work practices (sustainable architecture), using science to develop new technologies (green technologies, renewable energy and sustainable fission and fusion power), or designing systems in a flexible and reversible manner,[4][5] and adjusting individual lifestyles that conserve natural resources.[6]

Despite the increased popularity of the use of the term “sustainability”, the possibility that human societies will achieve environmental sustainability has been, and continues to be, questionedin light of environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, population growth and societies’ pursuit of indefinite economic growth in a closed system.[7][8]

The name sustainability is derived from the Latin sustinere (tenere, to hold; sub, up). Sustain can mean maintain”, “support”, or “endure.[9][10] Since the 1980s sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth and this has resulted in the most widely quoted definition of sustainability as a part of the concept sustainable development, that of the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations on March 20, 1987: sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.[11][12]

The 2005 World Summit on Social Development identified sustainable development goals, such as economic development, social development and environmental protection.[15] This view has been expressed as an illustration using three overlapping ellipses indicating that the three pillars of sustainability are not mutually exclusive and can be mutually reinforcing.[16] In fact, the three pillars are interdependent, and in the long run none can exist without the others.[17] The three pillars have served as a common ground for numerous sustainability standards and certification systems in recent years, in particular in the food industry.[18][19] Standards which today explicitly refer to the triple bottom line include Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and UTZ Certified.[20][21] Some sustainability experts and practitioners have illustrated four pillars of sustainability, or a quadruple bottom line. One such pillar is future generations, which emphasizes the long-term thinking associated with sustainability.[22]

Sustainable development consists of balancing local and global efforts to meet basic human needs without destroying or degrading the natural environment.[23][24][25] The question then becomes how to represent the relationship between those needs and the environment.

A study from 2005 pointed out that environmental justice is as important as is sustainable development.[26] Ecological economist Herman Daly asked, “what use is a sawmill without a forest?”[27] From this perspective, the economy is a subsystem of human society, which is itself a subsystem of the biosphere, and a gain in one sector is a loss from another.[28] This perspective led to the nested circles figure of ‘economics’ inside ‘society’ inside the ‘environment’.

The simple definition that sustainability is something that improves “the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems”,[29] though vague, conveys the idea of sustainability having quantifiable limits. But sustainability is also a call to action, a task in progress or journey and therefore a political process, so some definitions set out common goals and values.[30] The Earth Charter[31] speaks of a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. This suggested a more complex figure of sustainability, which included the importance of the domain of ‘politics’.

More than that, sustainability implies responsible and proactive decision-making and innovation that minimizes negative impact and maintains balance between ecological resilience, economic prosperity, political justice and cultural vibrancy to ensure a desirable planet for all species now and in the future.[32] Specific types of sustainability include, sustainable agriculture, sustainable architecture or ecological economics.[33] Understanding sustainable development is important but without clear targets an unfocused term like “liberty” or “justice”.[34] It has also been described as a “dialogue of values that challenge the sociology of development”.[35]

While the United Nations Millennium Declaration identified principles and treaties on sustainable development, including economic development, social development and environmental protection it continued using three domains: economics, environment and social sustainability. More recently, using a systematic domain model that responds to the debates over the last decade, the Circles of Sustainability approach distinguished four domains of economic, ecological, political and cultural sustainability. This in accord with the United Nations Agenda 21, which specifies culture as the fourth domain of sustainable development.[37] The model is now being used by organizations such as the United Nations Cities Programme.[38] and Metropolis[39]

Integral elements of sustainability are research and innovation activities. A telling example is the European environmental research and innovation policy. It aims at defining and implementing a transformative agenda to greening the economy and the society as a whole so to make them sustainable. Research and innovation in Europe are financially supported by the programme Horizon 2020, which is also open to participation worldwide.[40]

Resiliency in ecology is the capacity of an ecosystem to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic structure and viability. Resilience-thinking evolved from the need to manage interactions between human-constructed systems and natural ecosystems in a sustainable way despite the fact that to policymakers a definition remains elusive. Resilience-thinking addresses how much planetary ecological systems can withstand assault from human disturbances and still deliver the services current and future generations need from them. It is also concerned with commitment from geopolitical policymakers to promote and manage essential planetary ecological resources in order to promote resilience and achieve sustainability of these essential resources for benefit of future generations of life?[41] The resiliency of an ecosystem, and thereby, its sustainability, can be reasonably measured at junctures or events where the combination of naturally occurring regenerative forces (solar energy, water, soil, atmosphere, vegetation, and biomass) interact with the energy released into the ecosystem from disturbances.[42]

A practical view of sustainability is closed systems that maintain processes of productivity indefinitely by replacing resources used by actions of people with resources of equal or greater value by those same people without degrading or endangering natural biotic systems.[43] In this way, sustainability can be concretely measured in human projects if there is a transparent accounting of the resources put back into the ecosystem to replace those displaced. In nature, the accounting occurs naturally through a process of adaptation as an ecosystem returns to viability from an external disturbance. The adaptation is a multi-stage process that begins with the disturbance event (earthquake, volcanic eruption, hurricane, tornado, flood, or thunderstorm), followed by absorption, utilization, or deflection of the energy or energies that the external forces created.[44]

In analysing systems such as urban and national parks, dams, farms and gardens, theme parks, open-pit mines, water catchments, one way to look at the relationship between sustainability and resiliency is to view the former with a long-term vision and resiliency as the capacity of human engineers to respond to immediate environmental events.[45]

The history of sustainability traces human-dominated ecological systems from the earliest civilizations to the present time.[46] This history is characterized by the increased regional success of a particular society, followed by crises that were either resolved, producing sustainability, or not, leading to decline.[47][48]

In early human history, the use of fire and desire for specific foods may have altered the natural composition of plant and animal communities.[49] Between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, agrarian communities emerged which depended largely on their environment and the creation of a “structure of permanence.”[50]

The Western industrial revolution of the 18th to 19th centuries tapped into the vast growth potential of the energy in fossil fuels. Coal was used to power ever more efficient engines and later to generate electricity. Modern sanitation systems and advances in medicine protected large populations from disease.[51] In the mid-20th century, a gathering environmental movement pointed out that there were environmental costs associated with the many material benefits that were now being enjoyed. In the late 20th century, environmental problems became global in scale.[52][53][54][55] The 1973 and 1979 energy crises demonstrated the extent to which the global community had become dependent on non-renewable energy resources.

In the 21st century, there is increasing global awareness of the threat posed by the human greenhouse effect, produced largely by forest clearing and the burning of fossil fuels.[56][57]

The philosophical and analytic framework of sustainability draws on and connects with many different disciplines and fields; in recent years an area that has come to be called sustainability science has emerged.[58]

The United Nations Millennium Declaration identified principles and treaties on sustainable development, including economic development, social development and environmental protection. The Circles of Sustainability approach distinguishes the four domains of economic, ecological, political and cultural sustainability. This in accord with the United Nations Agenda 21, which specifies culture as the fourth domain of sustainable development.[37]

Sustainability is studied and managed over many scales (levels or frames of reference) of time and space and in many contexts of environmental, social and economic organization. The focus ranges from the total carrying capacity (sustainability) of planet Earth to the sustainability of economic sectors, ecosystems, countries, municipalities, neighbourhoods, home gardens, individual lives, individual goods and services[clarification needed], occupations, lifestyles, behaviour patterns and so on. In short, it can entail the full compass of biological and human activity or any part of it.[59] As Daniel Botkin, author and environmentalist, has stated: “We see a landscape that is always in flux, changing over many scales of time and space.”[60]

The sheer size and complexity of the planetary ecosystem has proved problematic for the design of practical measures to reach global sustainability. To shed light on the big picture, explorer and sustainability campaigner Jason Lewis has drawn parallels to other, more tangible closed systems. For example, he likens human existence on Earth isolated as the planet is in space, whereby people cannot be evacuated to relieve population pressure and resources cannot be imported to prevent accelerated depletion of resources to life at sea on a small boat isolated by water.[61] In both cases, he argues, exercising the precautionary principle is a key factor in survival.[62]

A major driver of human impact on Earth systems is the destruction of biophysical resources, and especially, the Earth’s ecosystems. The environmental impact of a community or of humankind as a whole depends both on population and impact per person, which in turn depends in complex ways on what resources are being used, whether or not those resources are renewable, and the scale of the human activity relative to the carrying capacity of the ecosystems involved. Careful resource management can be applied at many scales, from economic sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and industry, to work organizations, the consumption patterns of households and individuals and to the resource demands of individual goods and services.[63][64]

One of the initial attempts to express human impact mathematically was developed in the 1970s and is called the I PAT formula. This formulation attempts to explain human consumption in terms of three components: population numbers, levels of consumption (which it terms “affluence”, although the usage is different), and impact per unit of resource use (which is termed “technology”, because this impact depends on the technology used). The equation is expressed:

Sustainability measurement is a term that denotes the measurements used as the quantitative basis for the informed management of sustainability.[66] The metrics used for the measurement of sustainability (involving the sustainability of environmental, social and economic domains, both individually and in various combinations) are evolving: they include indicators, benchmarks, audits, sustainability standards and certification systems like Fairtrade and Organic, indexes and accounting, as well as assessment, appraisal[67] and other reporting systems. They are applied over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales.[68][69]

Some of the best known and most widely used sustainability measures include corporate sustainability reporting, Triple Bottom Line accounting, World Sustainability Society, Circles of Sustainability, and estimates of the quality of sustainability governance for individual countries using the Environmental Sustainability Index and Environmental Performance Index.

According to the 2008 Revision of the official United Nations population estimates and projections, the world population is projected to reach 7 billion early in 2012, up from the current 6.9 billion (May 2009), to exceed 9 billion people by 2050. Most of the increase will be in developing countries whose population is projected to rise from 5.6 billion in 2009 to 7.9 billion in 2050. This increase will be distributed among the population aged 1559 (1.2 billion) and 60 or over (1.1 billion) because the number of children under age 15 in developing countries is predicted to decrease. In contrast, the population of the more developed regions is expected to undergo only slight increase from 1.23 billion to 1.28 billion, and this would have declined to 1.15 billion but for a projected net migration from developing to developed countries, which is expected to average 2.4 million persons annually from 2009 to 2050.[70] Long-term estimates in 2004 of global population suggest a peak at around 2070 of nine to ten billion people, and then a slow decrease to 8.4 billion by 2100.[71]

Emerging economies like those of China and India aspire to the living standards of the Western world as does the non-industrialized world in general.[72] It is the combination of population increase in the developing world and unsustainable consumption levels in the developed world that poses a stark challenge to sustainability.[73]

At the global scale, scientific data now indicates that humans are living beyond the carrying capacity of planet Earth and that this cannot continue indefinitely. This scientific evidence comes from many sources but is presented in detail in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the planetary boundaries framework.[74] An early detailed examination of global limits was published in the 1972 book Limits to Growth, which has prompted follow-up commentary and analysis.[75] A 2012 review in Nature by 22 international researchers expressed concerns that the Earth may be “approaching a state shift” in its biosphere.[76]

The Ecological footprint measures human consumption in terms of the biologically productive land needed to provide the resources, and absorb the wastes of the average global citizen. In 2008 it required 2.7 global hectares per person, 30% more than the natural biological capacity of 2.1 global hectares (assuming no provision for other organisms).[53] The resulting ecological deficit must be met from unsustainable extra sources and these are obtained in three ways: embedded in the goods and services of world trade; taken from the past (e.g. fossil fuels); or borrowed from the future as unsustainable resource usage (e.g. by over exploiting forests and fisheries).

The figure (right) examines sustainability at the scale of individual countries by contrasting their Ecological Footprint with their UN Human Development Index (a measure of standard of living). The graph shows what is necessary for countries to maintain an acceptable standard of living for their citizens while, at the same time, maintaining sustainable resource use. The general trend is for higher standards of living to become less sustainable. As always, population growth has a marked influence on levels of consumption and the efficiency of resource use.[65][77] The sustainability goal is to raise the global standard of living without increasing the use of resources beyond globally sustainable levels; that is, to not exceed “one planet” consumption. Information generated by reports at the national, regional and city scales confirm the global trend towards societies that are becoming less sustainable over time.[78][79]

Romanian American economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, a progenitor in economics and a paradigm founder of ecological economics, has argued that the carrying capacity of Earth that is, Earth’s capacity to sustain human populations and consumption levels is bound to decrease sometime in the future as Earth’s finite stock of mineral resources is presently being extracted and put to use.[80]:303 Leading ecological economist and steady-state theorist Herman Daly, a student of Georgescu-Roegen, has propounded the same argument.[81]:369371

At a fundamental level energy flow and biogeochemical cycling set an upper limit on the number and mass of organisms in any ecosystem.[82] Human impacts on the Earth are demonstrated in a general way through detrimental changes in the global biogeochemical cycles of chemicals that are critical to life, most notably those of water, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.[83]

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an international synthesis by over 1000 of the world’s leading biological scientists that analyzes the state of the Earths ecosystems and provides summaries and guidelines for decision-makers. It concludes that human activity is having a significant and escalating impact on the biodiversity of world ecosystems, reducing both their resilience and biocapacity. The report refers to natural systems as humanity’s “life-support system”, providing essential “ecosystem services”. The assessment measures 24 ecosystem services concluding that only four have shown improvement over the last 50 years, 15 are in serious decline, and five are in a precarious condition.[84]

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the current harmonized set of seventeen future international development targets.

The Official Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on 25 September 2015 has 92 paragraphs, with the main paragraph (51) outlining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and its associated 169 targets. This included the following seventeen goals:[85]

As of August 2015, there were 169 proposed targets for these goals and 304 proposed indicators to show compliance.[103]

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expired at the end of 2015. The MDGs were established in 2000 following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations. Adopted by the 189 United Nations member states at the time and more than twenty international organizations, these goals were advanced to help achieve the following sustainable development standards by 2015.

According to the data that member countries represented to the United Nations, Cuba was the only nation in the world in 2006 that met the World Wide Fund for Nature’s definition of sustainable development, with an ecological footprint of less than 1.8 hectares per capita, 1.5, and a Human Development Index of over 0.8, 0.855.[104][105]

Healthy ecosystems provide vital goods and services to humans and other organisms. There are two major ways of reducing negative human impact and enhancing ecosystem services and the first of these is environmental management. This direct approach is based largely on information gained from earth science, environmental science and conservation biology. However, this is management at the end of a long series of indirect causal factors that are initiated by human consumption, so a second approach is through demand management of human resource use.

Management of human consumption of resources is an indirect approach based largely on information gained from economics. Herman Daly has suggested three broad criteria for ecological sustainability: renewable resources should provide a sustainable yield (the rate of harvest should not exceed the rate of regeneration); for non-renewable resources there should be equivalent development of renewable substitutes; waste generation should not exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment.[106]

At the global scale and in the broadest sense environmental management involves the oceans, freshwater systems, land and atmosphere, but following the sustainability principle of scale it can be equally applied to any ecosystem from a tropical rainforest to a home garden.[107][108]

At a March 2009 meeting of the Copenhagen Climate Council, 2,500 climate experts from 80 countries issued a keynote statement that there is now “no excuse” for failing to act on global warming and that without strong carbon reduction “abrupt or irreversible” shifts in climate may occur that “will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with”.[109][110] Management of the global atmosphere now involves assessment of all aspects of the carbon cycle to identify opportunities to address human-induced climate change and this has become a major focus of scientific research because of the potential catastrophic effects on biodiversity and human communities (see Energy below).

Other human impacts on the atmosphere include the air pollution in cities, the pollutants including toxic chemicals like nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, volatile organic compounds and airborne particulate matter that produce photochemical smog and acid rain, and the chlorofluorocarbons that degrade the ozone layer. Anthropogenic particulates such as sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere reduce the direct irradiance and reflectance (albedo) of the Earth’s surface. Known as global dimming, the decrease is estimated to have been about 4% between 1960 and 1990 although the trend has subsequently reversed. Global dimming may have disturbed the global water cycle by reducing evaporation and rainfall in some areas. It also creates a cooling effect and this may have partially masked the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming.[111]

Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. Of this, 97.5% is the salty water of the oceans and only 2.5% freshwater, most of which is locked up in the Antarctic ice sheet. The remaining freshwater is found in glaciers, lakes, rivers, wetlands, the soil, aquifers and atmosphere. Due to the water cycle, fresh water supply is continually replenished by precipitation, however there is still a limited amount necessitating management of this resource. Awareness of the global importance of preserving water for ecosystem services has only recently emerged as, during the 20th century, more than half the worlds wetlands have been lost along with their valuable environmental services. Increasing urbanization pollutes clean water supplies and much of the world still does not have access to clean, safe water.[112] Greater emphasis is now being placed on the improved management of blue (harvestable) and green (soil water available for plant use) water, and this applies at all scales of water management.[113]

Ocean circulation patterns have a strong influence on climate and weather and, in turn, the food supply of both humans and other organisms. Scientists have warned of the possibility, under the influence of climate change, of a sudden alteration in circulation patterns of ocean currents that could drastically alter the climate in some regions of the globe.[114] Ten per cent of the world’s population about 600 million people live in low-lying areas vulnerable to sea level rise.

Loss of biodiversity stems largely from the habitat loss and fragmentation produced by the human appropriation of land for development, forestry and agriculture as natural capital is progressively converted to man-made capital. Land use change is fundamental to the operations of the biosphere because alterations in the relative proportions of land dedicated to urbanisation, agriculture, forest, woodland, grassland and pasture have a marked effect on the global water, carbon and nitrogen biogeochemical cycles and this can impact negatively on both natural and human systems.[115] At the local human scale, major sustainability benefits accrue from sustainable parks and gardens and green cities.[116][117]

Since the Neolithic Revolution about 47% of the worlds forests have been lost to human use. Present-day forests occupy about a quarter of the worlds ice-free land with about half of these occurring in the tropics.[118] In temperate and boreal regions forest area is gradually increasing (with the exception of Siberia), but deforestation in the tropics is of major concern.[119]

Food is essential to life. Feeding more than seven billion human bodies takes a heavy toll on the Earths resources. This begins with the appropriation of about 38% of the Earths land surface[120] and about 20% of its net primary productivity.[121] Added to this are the resource-hungry activities of industrial agribusiness everything from the crop need for irrigation water, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to the resource costs of food packaging, transport (now a major part of global trade) and retail. Environmental problems associated with industrial agriculture and agribusiness are now being addressed through such movements as sustainable agriculture, organic farming and more sustainable business practices.[122]

The underlying driver of direct human impacts on the environment is human consumption.[123] This impact is reduced by not only consuming less but by also making the full cycle of production, use and disposal more sustainable. Consumption of goods and services can be analysed and managed at all scales through the chain of consumption, starting with the effects of individual lifestyle choices and spending patterns, through to the resource demands of specific goods and services, the impacts of economic sectors, through national economies to the global economy.[124] Analysis of consumption patterns relates resource use to the environmental, social and economic impacts at the scale or context under investigation. The ideas of embodied resource use (the total resources needed to produce a product or service), resource intensity, and resource productivity are important tools for understanding the impacts of consumption. Key resource categories relating to human needs are food, energy, materials and water.

In 2010, the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), published the first global scientific assessment on the impacts of consumption and production[125] and identified priority actions for developed and developing countries. The study found that the most critical impacts are related to ecosystem health, human health and resource depletion. From a production perspective, it found that fossil-fuel combustion processes, agriculture and fisheries have the most important impacts. Meanwhile, from a final consumption perspective, it found that household consumption related to mobility, shelter, food and energy-using products cause the majority of life-cycle impacts of consumption.

The Sun’s energy, stored by plants (primary producers) during photosynthesis, passes through the food chain to other organisms to ultimately power all living processes. Since the industrial revolution the concentrated energy of the Sun stored in fossilized plants as fossil fuels has been a major driver of technology which, in turn, has been the source of both economic and political power. In 2007 climate scientists of the IPCC concluded that there was at least a 90% probability that atmospheric increase in CO2 was human-induced, mostly as a result of fossil fuel emissions but, to a lesser extent from changes in land use. Stabilizing the worlds climate will require high-income countries to reduce their emissions by 6090% over 2006 levels by 2050 which should hold CO2 levels at 450650ppm from current levels of about 380ppm. Above this level, temperatures could rise by more than 2C to produce catastrophic climate change.[126][127] Reduction of current CO2 levels must be achieved against a background of global population increase and developing countries aspiring to energy-intensive high consumption Western lifestyles.[128]

Reducing greenhouse emissions, is being tackled at all scales, ranging from tracking the passage of carbon through the carbon cycle[129] to the commercialization of renewable energy, developing less carbon-hungry technology and transport systems and attempts by individuals to lead carbon neutral lifestyles by monitoring the fossil fuel use embodied in all the goods and services they use.[130]Engineering of emerging technologies such as carbon-neutral fuel[131][132][133] and energy storage systems such as power to gas, compressed air energy storage,[134][135] and pumped-storage hydroelectricity[136][137][138] are necessary to store power from transient renewable energy sources including emerging renewables such as airborne wind turbines.[139]

Water security and food security are inextricably linked. In the decade 195160 human water withdrawals were four times greater than the previous decade. This rapid increase resulted from scientific and technological developments impacting through the economy especially the increase in irrigated land, growth in industrial and power sectors, and intensive dam construction on all continents. This altered the water cycle of rivers and lakes, affected their water quality and had a significant impact on the global water cycle.[140] Currently towards 35% of human water use is unsustainable, drawing on diminishing aquifers and reducing the flows of major rivers: this percentage is likely to increase if climate change impacts become more severe, populations increase, aquifers become progressively depleted and supplies become polluted and unsanitary.[141] From 1961 to 2001 water demand doubled agricultural use increased by 75%, industrial use by more than 200%, and domestic use more than 400%.[142] In the 1990s it was estimated that humans were using 4050% of the globally available freshwater in the approximate proportion of 70% for agriculture, 22% for industry, and 8% for domestic purposes with total use progressively increasing.[140]

Water efficiency is being improved on a global scale by increased demand management, improved infrastructure, improved water productivity of agriculture, minimising the water intensity (embodied water) of goods and services, addressing shortages in the non-industrialized world, concentrating food production in areas of high productivity, and planning for climate change, such as through flexible system design. A promising direction towards sustainable development is to design systems that are flexible and reversible.[4][5] At the local level, people are becoming more self-sufficient by harvesting rainwater and reducing use of mains water.[113][143]

The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a “sustainable food system”[144][145] as “one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities.”[146] Concerns about the environmental impacts of agribusiness and the stark contrast between the obesity problems of the Western world and the poverty and food insecurity of the developing world have generated a strong movement towards healthy, sustainable eating as a major component of overall ethical consumerism.[147] The environmental effects of different dietary patterns depend on many factors, including the proportion of animal and plant foods consumed and the method of food production.[148][149][150][151] The World Health Organization has published a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health report which was endorsed by the May 2004 World Health Assembly. It recommends the Mediterranean diet which is associated with health and longevity and is low in meat, rich in fruits and vegetables, low in added sugar and limited salt, and low in saturated fatty acids; the traditional source of fat in the Mediterranean is olive oil, rich in monounsaturated fat. The healthy rice-based Japanese diet is also high in carbohydrates and low in fat. Both diets are low in meat and saturated fats and high in legumes and other vegetables; they are associated with a low incidence of ailments and low environmental impact.[152]

At the global level the environmental impact of agribusiness is being addressed through sustainable agriculture and organic farming. At the local level there are various movements working towards local food production, more productive use of urban wastelands and domestic gardens including permaculture, urban horticulture, local food, slow food, sustainable gardening, and organic gardening.[153][154]

Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods.

As global population and affluence has increased, so has the use of various materials increased in volume, diversity and distance transported. Included here are raw materials, minerals, synthetic chemicals (including hazardous substances), manufactured products, food, living organisms and waste.[155] By 2050, humanity could consume an estimated 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year (three times its current amount) unless the economic growth rate is decoupled from the rate of natural resource consumption. Developed countries’ citizens consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita, ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries with resource consumption levels far beyond what is likely sustainable.[156]

Sustainable use of materials has targeted the idea of dematerialization, converting the linear path of materials (extraction, use, disposal in landfill) to a circular material flow that reuses materials as much as possible, much like the cycling and reuse of waste in nature.[157] This approach is supported by product stewardship and the increasing use of material flow analysis at all levels, especially individual countries and the global economy.[158] The use of sustainable biomaterials that come from renewable sources and that can be recycled is preferred to the use on non-renewables from a life cycle standpoint.

Synthetic chemical production has escalated following the stimulus it received during the second World War. Chemical production includes everything from herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to domestic chemicals and hazardous substances.[159] Apart from the build-up of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, chemicals of particular concern include: heavy metals, nuclear waste, chlorofluorocarbons, persistent organic pollutants and all harmful chemicals capable of bioaccumulation. Although most synthetic chemicals are harmless there needs to be rigorous testing of new chemicals, in all countries, for adverse environmental and health effects. International legislation has been established to deal with the global distribution and management of dangerous goods.[160][161] The effects of some chemical agents needed long-term measurements and a lot of legal battles to realize their danger to human health. The classification of the toxic carcinogenic agents is handle by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Every economic activity produces material that can be classified as waste. To reduce waste, industry, business and government are now mimicking nature by turning the waste produced by industrial metabolism into resource. Dematerialization is being encouraged through the ideas of industrial ecology, ecodesign[162] and ecolabelling. In addition to the well-established reduce, reuse and recycle, shoppers are using their purchasing power for ethical consumerism.[64]

The European Union is expected to table by the end of 2015 an ambitious Circular Economy package which is expected to include concrete legislative proposals on waste management, ecodesign and limits on land fills.

On one account, sustainability “concerns the specification of a set of actions to be taken by present persons that will not diminish the prospects of future persons to enjoy levels of consumption, wealth, utility, or welfare comparable to those enjoyed by present persons.”[163] Sustainability interfaces with economics through the social and ecological consequences of economic activity.[27] Sustainability economics represents: “…a broad interpretation of ecological economics where environmental and ecological variables and issues are basic but part of a multidimensional perspective. Social, cultural, health-related and monetary/financial aspects have to be integrated into the analysis.”[164] However, the concept of sustainability is much broader than the concepts of sustained yield of welfare, resources, or profit margins.[165] At present, the average per capita consumption of people in the developing world is sustainable but population numbers are increasing and individuals are aspiring to high-consumption Western lifestyles. The developed world population is only increasing slightly but consumption levels are unsustainable. The challenge for sustainability is to curb and manage Western consumption while raising the standard of living of the developing world without increasing its resource use and environmental impact. This must be done by using strategies and technology that break the link between, on the one hand, economic growth and on the other, environmental damage and resource depletion.[166]

A recent UNEP report proposes a green economy defined as one that improves human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities: it “does not favor one political perspective over another but works to minimize excessive depletion of natural capital”. The report makes three key findings: that greening not only generates increases in wealth, in particular a gain in ecological commons or natural capital, but also (over a period of six years) produces a higher rate of GDP growth; that there is an inextricable link between poverty eradication and better maintenance and conservation of the ecological commons, arising from the benefit flows from natural capital that are received directly by the poor; “in the transition to a green economy, new jobs are created, which in time exceed the losses in brown economy jobs. However, there is a period of job losses in transition, which requires investment in re-skilling and re-educating the workforce.[167]

Several key areas have been targeted for economic analysis and reform: the environmental effects of unconstrained economic growth; the consequences of nature being treated as an economic externality; and the possibility of an economics that takes greater account of the social and environmental consequences of market behavior.[168]

Historically there has been a close correlation between economic growth and environmental degradation: as communities grow, so the environment declines. This trend is clearly demonstrated on graphs of human population numbers, economic growth, and environmental indicators.[169] Unsustainable economic growth has been starkly compared to the malignant growth of a cancer[170] because it eats away at the Earth’s ecosystem services which are its life-support system. There is concern that, unless resource use is checked, modern global civilization will follow the path of ancient civilizations that collapsed through overexploitation of their resource base.[171][172] While conventional economics is concerned largely with economic growth and the efficient allocation of resources, ecological economics has the explicit goal of sustainable scale (rather than continual growth), fair distribution and efficient allocation, in that order.[173][174] The World Business Council for Sustainable Development states that “business cannot succeed in societies that fail”.[175]

In economic and environmental fields, the term decoupling is becoming increasingly used in the context of economic production and environmental quality. When used in this way, it refers to the ability of an economy to grow without incurring corresponding increases in environmental pressure. Ecological economics includes the study of societal metabolism, the throughput of resources that enter and exit the economic system in relation to environmental quality.[174][176] An economy that is able to sustain GDP growth without having a negative impact on the environment is said to be decoupled. Exactly how, if, or to what extent this can be achieved is a subject of much debate. In 2011 the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), warned that by 2050 the human race could be devouring 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year three times its current rate of consumption unless nations can make serious attempts at decoupling.[177] The report noted that citizens of developed countries consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita per annum (ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries). By comparison, the average person in India today consumes four tons per year. Sustainability studies analyse ways to reduce resource intensity (the amount of resource (e.g. water, energy, or materials) needed for the production, consumption and disposal of a unit of good or service) whether this be achieved from improved economic management, product design, or new technology.[178]

There are conflicting views whether improvements in technological efficiency and innovation will enable a complete decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation. On the one hand, it has been claimed repeatedly by efficiency experts that resource use intensity (i.e., energy and materials use per unit GDP) could in principle be reduced by at least four or five-fold, thereby allowing for continued economic growth without increasing resource depletion and associated pollution.[179][180] On the other hand, an extensive historical analysis of technological efficiency improvements has conclusively shown that improvements in the efficiency of the use of energy and materials were almost always outpaced by economic growth, in large part because of the rebound effect (conservation) or Jevons Paradox resulting in a net increase in resource use and associated pollution.[181][182] Furthermore, there are inherent thermodynamic (i.e., second law of thermodynamics) and practical limits to all efficiency improvements. For example, there are certain minimum unavoidable material requirements for growing food, and there are limits to making automobiles, houses, furniture, and other products lighter and thinner without the risk of losing their necessary functions.[183] Since it is both theoretically and practically impossible to increase resource use efficiencies indefinitely, it is equally impossible to have continued and infinite economic growth without a concomitant increase in resource depletion and environmental pollution, i.e., economic growth and resource depletion can be decoupled to some degree over the short run but not the long run. Consequently, long-term sustainability requires the transition to a steady state economy in which total GDP remains more or less constant, as has been advocated for decades by Herman Daly and others in the ecological economics community.

A different proposed solution to partially decouple economic growth from environmental degradation is the restore approach.[184] This approach views “restore” as a fourth component to the common reduce, reuse, recycle motto. Participants in such efforts are encouraged to voluntarily donate towards nature conservation a small fraction of the financial savings they experience through a more frugal use of resources. These financial savings would normally lead to rebound effects, but a theoretical analysis suggests that donating even a small fraction of the experienced savings can potentially more than eliminate rebound effects.[184]

The economic importance of nature is indicated by the use of the expression ecosystem services to highlight the market relevance of an increasingly scarce natural world that can no longer be regarded as both unlimited and free.[185] In general, as a commodity or service becomes more scarce the price increases and this acts as a restraint that encourages frugality, technical innovation and alternative products. However, this only applies when the product or service falls within the market system.[186] As ecosystem services are generally treated as economic externalities they are unpriced and therefore overused and degraded, a situation sometimes referred to as the Tragedy of the Commons.[185]

One approach to this dilemma has been the attempt to “internalize” these “externalities” by using market strategies like ecotaxes and incentives, tradeable permits for carbon, and the encouragement of payment for ecosystem services. Community currencies associated with Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS), a gift economy and Time Banking have also been promoted as a way of supporting local economies and the environment.[187][188]Green economics is another market-based attempt to address issues of equity and the environment.[189] The global recession and a range of associated government policies are likely to bring the biggest annual fall in the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in 40 years.[190]

Treating the environment as an externality may generate short-term profit at the expense of sustainability.[191]Sustainable business practices, on the other hand, integrate ecological concerns with social and economic ones (i.e., the triple bottom line).[192][193] Growth that depletes ecosystem services is sometimes termed “uneconomic growth” as it leads to a decline in quality of life.[194][195] Minimizing such growth can provide opportunities for local businesses. For example, industrial waste can be treated as an “economic resource in the wrong place”. The benefits of waste reduction include savings from disposal costs, fewer environmental penalties, and reduced liability insurance. This may lead to increased market share due to an improved public image.[196][197] Energy efficiency can also increase profits by reducing costs.

The idea of sustainability as a business opportunity has led to the formation of organizations such as the Sustainability Consortium of the Society for Organizational Learning, the Sustainable Business Institute, and the World Council for Sustainable Development.[198] The expansion of sustainable business opportunities can contribute to job creation through the introduction of green-collar workers.[199] Research focusing on progressive corporate leaders who have integrated sustainability into commercial strategy has yielded a leadership competency model for sustainability,[200][201] and led to emergence of the concept of “embedded sustainability” defined by its authors Chris Laszlo and Nadya Zhexembayeva as “incorporation of environmental, health, and social value into the core business with no trade-off in price or quality in other words, with no social or green premium.”[202] Laszlo and Zhexembayeva’s research showed that embedded sustainability offers at least seven distinct opportunities for business value creation: a) better risk-management, b) increased efficiency through reduced waste and resource use, c) better product differentiation, d) new market entrances, e) enhanced brand and reputation, f) greater opportunity to influence industry standards, and g) greater opportunity for radical innovation.[203] 2014 research further suggested that innovation driven by resource depletion can result in fundamental advantages for company products and services, as well as the company strategy as a whole, when right principles of innovation are applied.[204]

One school of thought, often labeled ecosocialism or ecological Marxism, asserts that the capitalist economic system is fundamentally incompatible with the ecological and social requirements of sustainability.[205] This theory rests on the premises that:

Thus, according to this analysis:

By this logic, market-based solutions to ecological crises (ecological economics, environmental economics, green economy) are rejected as technical tweaks that do not confront capitalisms structural failures.[214][215] Low-risk technology/science-based solutions such as solar power, sustainable agriculture, and increases in energy efficiency are seen as necessary but insufficient.[216] High-risk technological solutions such as nuclear power and climate engineering are entirely rejected.[217] Attempts made by businesses to greenwash their practices are regarded as false advertising, and it is pointed out that implementation of renewable technology (such as Walmarts proposition to supply their electricity with solar power) has the effect opposite of reductions in resource consumption, viz. further economic growth.[218]Sustainable business models and the triple bottom line are viewed as morally praiseworthy but ignorant to the tendency in capitalism for the distribution of wealth to become increasingly unequal and socially unstable/unsustainable.[209][219] Ecosocialists claim that the general unwillingness of capitalists to tolerateand capitalist governments to implementconstraints on maximum profit (such as ecotaxes or preservation and conservation measures) renders environmental reforms incapable of facilitating large-scale change: History teaches us that although capitalism has at times responded to environmental movements . . . at a certain point, at which the systems underlying accumulation drive is affected, its resistance to environmental demands stiffens.[220] They also note that, up until the event of total ecological collapse, destruction caused by natural disasters generally causes an increase in economic growth and accumulation; thus, capitalists have no foreseeable motivation to reduce the probability of disasters (i.e. convert to sustainable/ecological production).[221]

Ecosocialists advocate for the revolutionary succession of capitalism by ecosocialisman egalitarian economic/political/social structure designed to harmonize human society with non-human ecology and to fulfill human needsas the only sufficient solution to the present-day ecological crisis, and hence the only path towards sustainability.[222] Sustainability is viewed not as a domain exclusive to scientists, environmental activists, and business leaders but as a holistic project that must involve the whole of humanity redefining its place in Nature: What every environmentalist needs to know . . . is that capitalism is not the solution but the problem, and that if humanity is going to survive this crisis, it will do so because it has exercised its capacity for human freedom, through social struggle, in order to create a whole new worldin coevolution with the planet.[223]

Sustainability issues are generally expressed in scientific and environmental terms, as well as in ethical terms of stewardship, but implementing change is a social challenge that entails, among other things, international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism.[224] “The relationship between human rights and human development, corporate power and environmental justice, global poverty and citizen action, suggest that responsible global citizenship is an inescapable element of what may at first glance seem to be simply matters of personal consumer and moral choice.”[225]

Social disruptions like war, crime and corruption divert resources from areas of greatest human need, damage the capacity of societies to plan for the future, and generally threaten human well-being and the environment.[225] Broad-based strategies for more sustainable social systems include: improved education and the political empowerment of women, especially in developing countries; greater regard for social justice, notably equity between rich and poor both within and between countries; and intergenerational equity.[73] Depletion of natural resources including fresh water[226] increases the likelihood of resource wars.[227] This aspect of sustainability has been referred to as environmental security and creates a clear need for global environmental agreements to manage resources such as aquifers and rivers which span political boundaries, and to protect shared global systems including oceans and the atmosphere.[228]

A major hurdle to achieve sustainability is the alleviation of poverty. It has been widely acknowledged that poverty is one source of environmental degradation. Such acknowledgment has been made by the Brundtland Commission report Our Common Future[229] and the Millennium Development Goals.[230] There is a growing realization in national governments and multilateral institutions that it is impossible to separate economic development issues from environment issues: according to the Brundtland report, poverty is a major cause and effect of global environmental problems. It is therefore futile to attempt to deal with environmental problems without a broader perspective that encompasses the factors underlying world poverty and international inequality.[231] Individuals living in poverty tend to rely heavily on their local ecosystem as a source for basic needs (such as nutrition and medicine) and general well-being.[232] As population growth continues to increase, increasing pressure is being placed on the local ecosystem to provide these basic essentials. According to the UN Population Fund, high fertility and poverty have been strongly correlated, and the worlds poorest countries also have the highest fertility and population growth rates.[233] The word sustainability is also used widely by western country development agencies and international charities to focus their poverty alleviation efforts in ways that can be sustained by the local populace and its environment. For example, teaching water treatment to the poor by boiling their water with charcoal, would not generally be considered a sustainable strategy, whereas using PET solar water disinfection would be. Also, sustainable best practices can involve the recycling of materials, such as the use of recycled plastics for lumber where deforestation has devastated a country’s timber base. Another example of sustainable practices in poverty alleviation is the use of exported recycled materials from developed to developing countries, such as Bridges to Prosperity’s use of wire rope from shipping container gantry cranes to act as the structural wire rope for footbridges that cross rivers in poor rural areas in Asia and Africa.

According to Murray Bookchin, the idea that humans must dominate nature is common in hierarchical societies. Bookchin contends that capitalism and market relationships, if unchecked, have the capacity to reduce the planet to a mere resource to be exploited. Nature is thus treated as a commodity: The plundering of the human spirit by the market place is paralleled by the plundering of the earth by capital.[234]Social ecology, founded by Bookchin, is based on the conviction that nearly all of humanity’s present ecological problems originate in, indeed are mere symptoms of, dysfunctional social arrangements. Whereas most authors proceed as if our ecological problems can be fixed by implementing recommendations which stem from physical, biological, economic etc., studies, Bookchin’s claim is that these problems can only be resolved by understanding the underlying social processes and intervening in those processes by applying the concepts and methods of the social sciences.[235]

A pure capitalist approach has also been criticized in Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change to mitigation the effects of global warming in this excerpt …

the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen.[236][237]

Deep ecology is a movement founded by Arne Naess that establishes principles for the well-being of all life on Earth and the richness and diversity of life forms. The movement advocates, among other things, a substantial decrease in human population and consumption along with the reduction of human interference with the nonhuman world. To achieve this, deep ecologists advocate policies for basic economic, technological, and ideological structures that will improve the quality of life rather than the standard of living. Those who subscribe to these principles are obliged to make the necessary change happen.[238] The concept of a billion-year Sustainocene has been developed to initiate policy consideration of an earth where human structures power and fuel the needs of that species (for example through artificial photosynthesis) allowing Rights of Nature.[239]

1. Reduce dependence upon fossil fuels, underground metals, and minerals 2. Reduce dependence upon synthetic chemicals and other unnatural substances 3. Reduce encroachment upon nature 4. Meet human needs fairly & efficiently[240]

One approach to sustainable living, exemplified by small-scale urban transition towns and rural ecovillages, seeks to create self-reliant communities based on principles of simple living, which maximize self-sufficiency particularly in food production. These principles, on a broader scale, underpin the concept of a bioregional economy.[241] These approaches often utilize commons based knowledge sharing of open source appropriate technology.[242]

Other approaches, loosely based around New Urbanism, are successfully reducing environmental impacts by altering the built environment to create and preserve sustainable cities which support sustainable transport. Residents in compact urban neighborhoods drive fewer miles, and have significantly lower environmental impacts across a range of measures, compared with those living in sprawling suburbs.[243] In sustainable architecture the recent movement of New Classical Architecture promotes a sustainable approach towards construction, that appreciates and develops smart growth, architectural tradition and classical design.[244][245] This in contrast to modernist and globally uniform architecture, as well as opposing solitary housing estates and suburban sprawl.[246] Both trends started in the 1980s. The concept of Circular flow land use management has also been introduced in Europe to promote sustainable land use patterns that strive for compact cities and a reduction of greenfield land take by urban sprawl.

Large scale social movements can influence both community choices and the built environment. Eco-municipalities may be one such movement.[247] Eco-municipalities take a systems approach, based on sustainability principles. The eco-municipality movement is participatory, involving community members in a bottom-up approach. In Sweden, more than 70 cities and towns25 per cent of all municipalities in the countryhave adopted a common set of “Sustainability Principles” and implemented these systematically throughout their municipal operations. There are now twelve eco-municipalities in the United States and the American Planning Association has adopted sustainability objectives based on the same principles.[240]

There is a wealth of advice available to individuals wishing to reduce their personal and social impact on the environment through small, inexpensive and easily achievable steps.[248][249] But the transition required to reduce global human consumption to within sustainable limits involves much larger changes, at all levels and contexts of society.[250] The United Nations has recognised the central role of education, and have declared a decade of education for sustainable development, 20052014, which aims to “challenge us all to adopt new behaviours and practices to secure our future”.[251] The Worldwide Fund for Nature proposes a strategy for sustainability that goes beyond education to tackle underlying individualistic and materialistic societal values head-on and strengthen people’s connections with the natural world.[252]

Application of social sustainability requires stakeholders to look at human and labor rights, prevention of human trafficking, and other human rights risks.[253] These issues should be considered in production and procurement of various worldwide commodities. The international community has identified many industries whose practices have been known to violate social sustainability, and many of these industries have organizations in place that aid in verifying the social sustainability of products and services.[254] The Equator Principles (financial industry), Fair Wear Foundation (garments), and Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition are examples of such organizations and initiatives. Resources are also available for verifying the life-cycle of products and the producer or vendor level, such as Green Seal for cleaning products, NSF-140 for carpet production, and even labeling of Organic food in the United States.[255]

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Sustainability – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Oceania ecozone – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: August 30, 2016 at 11:08 pm

The Oceania ecozone is one of the World Wildlife Fund-WWF ecozones, and is unique in not including any continental land mass. It is the smallest in land area of the WWF ecozones.

This ecozone includes the islands of the Pacific Ocean in: Micronesia, the Fijian Islands, the Hawaiian islands, and Polynesia (with the exception of New Zealand).

New Zealand, Australia, and most of Melanesia including New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia are included within the Australasia ecozone.

Oceania is geologically the youngest ecozone. While other ecozones include old continental land masses or fragments of continents, Oceania is composed mostly of volcanic high islands and coral atolls that arose from the sea in geologically recent times, many of them in the Pleistocene. They were created either by hotspot volcanism, or as island arcs pushed upward by the collision and subduction of tectonic plates. The islands range from tiny islets, sea stacks and coral atolls to large mountainous islands, like Hawaii and Fiji.

The climate of Oceania’s islands is tropical or subtropical, and range from humid to seasonally dry. Wetter parts of the islands are covered by Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, while the drier parts of the islands, including the leeward sides of the islands and many of the low coral islands, are covered by Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests and Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. Hawaii’s high volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, are home to some rare tropical Montane grasslands and shrublands.

Since the islands of Oceania were never connected by land to a continent, the flora and fauna of the islands originally reached them from across the ocean (though at the height of the last ice age sea levels were much lower than today and many current seamounts were islands, so some now isolated islands were once less isolated). Once they reached the islands, the ancestors of Oceania’s present flora and fauna adapted to life on the islands.

Larger islands with diverse ecological niches encouraged floral and faunal adaptive radiation, whereby multiple species evolved from a common ancestor, each species adapted to a different ecological niche; the various species of Hawaiian honeycreepers (Family Drepanididae) are a classic example. Other adaptations to island ecologies include gigantism, dwarfism, and among birds, loss of flight. Oceania has a number of endemic species; Hawaii in particular is considered a global ‘center of endemism’, with its forest ecoregions having one of the highest percentages of endemic plants in the world.

Land plants disperse by several different means. Many plants, mostly ferns and mosses but also some flowering plants, disperse on the wind, relying on tiny spores or feathery seeds that can remain airborne over long distances notably Metrosideros trees from New Zealand spread on the wind across Oceania. Other plants, notably coconut palms and mangroves, produce seeds that can float in salt water over long distances, eventually washing up on distant beaches, and thus Cocos trees are ubiquitous across Oceania. Birds are also an important means of dispersal; some plants produce sticky seeds that are carried on the feet or feathers of birds, and many plants produce fruits with seeds that can pass through the digestive tracts of birds. Pandanus trees are fairly ubiquitous across Oceania.

Botanists generally agree that much of the flora of Oceania is derived from the Malesian Flora of the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia, the Philippines, and New Guinea, with some plants from Australasia and a few from the Americas, particularly in Hawaii. Easter Island has some plants from South America such as the totora reed.

Dispersal across the ocean is difficult for most land animals, and Oceania has relatively few indigenous land animals compared to other ecozones. Certain types of animals that are ecologically important on the continental ecozones, like large land predators and grazing mammals, were entirely absent from the islands of Oceania until humans brought them. Birds are relatively common, including many seabirds and some species of land birds whose ancestors may have been blown out to sea by storms. Some birds evolved into flightless species after their ancestors arrived, including several species of rails. A number of islands have indigenous lizards, including geckoes and skinks, whose ancestors probably arrived on floating rafts of vegetation washed out to sea by storms. With the exception of bats, which live on most of the island groups, there are few if any indigenous mammal species in Oceania.

Many animal and plant species have been introduced by humans in two main waves.

Malayo-Polynesian settlers brought pigs, dogs, chickens and polynesian rats to many islands; and had spread across the whole of Oceania by 1200 CE. From the seventeenth century onwards European settlers brought other animals, including cats, cattle, horses, small Asian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), sheep, goats, and the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). These and other introduced species, in addition to overhunting and deforestation, have dramatically altered the ecology of many of Oceania’s islands, pushing many species to extinction or near-extinction, or confining them to small islets uninhabited by humans.

The absence of predator species caused many bird species to become ‘naive’, losing the instinct to flee from predators, and to lay their eggs on the ground, which makes them vulnerable to introduced predators like cats, dogs, mongooses, and rats. The arrival of humans on these island groups often resulted in disruption of the indigenous ecosystems and waves of species extinctions (see Holocene extinction event). Easter Island, the easternmost island in Polynesia, shows evidence of a human-caused ecosystem collapse several hundred years ago, which contributed (along with slave raiding and European diseases) to a 99% decline in the human population of the island. The island, once lushly forested, is now mostly windswept grasslands. More recently, Guam’s native bird and lizard species were decimated by the introduction of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) in the 1940s.

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Oceania ecozone – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Religion and Nihilism – The African Perspective Magazine

Posted: August 29, 2016 at 7:34 am

I was going through some of my school notes today and i came across the following lecture notes id taken from a class on religion and illusions when i was still a student. Hence, I figured I introduce you guys to this very interesting topic as most of what we are tought regarding religion in the mainstream media is usually all but the same. Hope you enjoy it and find it interesting. Dont hesitate to leave your opinion at the end.

Nihilism as a philosophy seemed pass by the 1980s. Few talked about it in literature expect to declare it a dead issue. Literally, in the materialist sense, nihilism refers to a truism: from nothing, nothing comes. However, from a philosophical viewpoint, moral nihilism took on a similar connotation. One literally believed in nothing, which is somewhat of an oxymoron since to believe in nothing is to believe in something. A corner was turned in the history of nihilism once 9/11 became a reality. After this major event, religious and social science scholars began to ask whether violence could be attributed tonihilistic thinkingin other words, whether we had lost our way morally by believing in nothing, by rejecting traditional moral foundations. It was feared that an anything goes mentality and a lack of absolute moral foundations could lead to further acts of violence, as the goals forwarded by life-affirmation were being thwarted by the destructive ends of so-called violent nihilists. This position is, however, argumentative.

Extreme beliefs in values such as nationalism, patriotism, statism, secularism, or religion can also lead to violence, as one becomes unsettled by beliefs contrary to the reigning orthodoxy and strikes out violently to protect communal values. Therefore, believing in something can also lead to violence and suffering. To put the argument to rest, its not about whether one believes in something or nothing but howabsolutistthe position is; its the rigidity of values that causes pain and suffering, what Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen calls the illusion of singularity.Since 9/11, nihilism has become a favourite target to criticize and marginalize, yet its history and complexity actually lead to a more nuanced argument. Perhaps we should be looking at ways nihilism complements Western belief systemseven Christian doctrinerather than fear its implementation in ethical and moral discussions.

Brief History of Nihilism To understand why some forms of nihilism are still problematic, it is important to ask how it was used historically and for what motive. Nihilism was first thought synonymous with having no authentic values, no real ends, that ones whole existence is pure nothingness.In its earliest European roots, nihilism was initially used to label groups or ideas asinferior, especially if they were deemed threatening to establishedcommunal ideals. Nihilism as alabelwas its first function.

Nihilism initially functioned as apejorative labeland a term of abuse against modern trends that threatened to destroy either Christian hegemonic principles or tradition in general.During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, modernization in France meant that power shifted from the traditional feudal nobility to a central government filled with well-trained bourgeois professionals. Fearing a loss of influence, the nobility made a claim: If power shifted to responsible government, the nobility claimed that such centralization would lead to death and destructionin other words, anarchy and nothingness. Those upsetting the status quo were deemed nihilistic, a derogatory label requiring no serious burden of proof.Such labelling, however, worked both ways. The old world or tradition was deemed valueless by advocates of modernization and change who viewed the status quo as valueless; whereas, traditionalists pictured a new world, or new life form, as destructive and meaningless in its pursuit of a flawed transformation. Potential changes in power or ideology created a climate of fear, so the importance of defining ones opponent as nihilisticas nothing of valuewas as politically astute as it was reactionary. Those embracing the function of nihilism as a label are attempting to avoid scrutiny of their own values while the values of the opposition are literally annihilated.

Since those advocating communal values may feel threatened by new ideologies, it becomes imperative for the dominant power to present its political, metaphysical, or religious beliefs as eternal, universal, and objective. Typically, traditionalists have a stake in their own normative positions. This is because [t]he absoluteness of [ones] form of life makes [one]feel safe and at home. This means that [perfectionists]have a great interest in the maintenance of their form of life and its absoluteness.The existence of alternative beliefs and values, as well as a demand for intersubjective dialogue, is both a challenge and a threat to the traditionalist because [i]t shows people that their own form of life is not as absolute as they thought it was, and this makes them feel uncertain. . . . However, if one labels the Other as nihilistic without ever entering into a dialogue, one may become myopic, dismissing the relative value of other life forms one chooses not to see. This means that one cant see what they [other cultural groups]are doing, and why they are doing it, why they may be successful . . . Therefore, one misses the dynamics of cultural change.

Through the effect of labelling, the religious-oriented could claim that nihilists, and thus atheists by affiliation, would not feel bound by moral norms, and as a result would lose the sense that life has meaning and therefore tend toward despair and suicide.death of God. Christians argued that if there is no divine lawmaker, moral law would become interpretative, contested, and situational. The end result: [E]ach man will tend to become a law unto himself. If God does not exist to choose for the individual, the individual will assume the former prerogative of God and choose for himself. It was this kind of thinking that led perfectionists to assume that any challenge to the Absolute automatically meant moral indifference, moral relativism, and moral chaos. Put simply,nihilists were the enemy.

Nihilists were accused of rejecting ultimate values, embracing instead an all values are equal mentalitybasically, anything goes. And like Islam today, nihilists would become easy scapegoats.

Late 19th 20th Century;Nietzsche and the Death of God

Friedrich Nietzsche is still the most prestigious theorist of nihilism. Influenced by Christianitys dominant orthodoxy in the nineteenth century, Nietzsche believed that the Christian religion was nihilism incarnate. Since Christian theology involved a metaphysical reversal of temporal reality and a belief in God that came from nothing, the Christian God became the deification of nothingness, the will to nothingness pronounced holy. Nietzsche claimed that Christian metaphysics became an impediment to life-affirmation. Nietzsche explains: If one shifts the centre of gravity of life out of life into the Beyondinto nothingnessone has deprived life of its centre of gravity . . . So to live that there is no longer any meaning in living:that now becomes the meaning of life.What Nietzsche rejected more was the belief that one could create a totalizing system to explain all truths. In other words, he repudiated any religion or dogma that attempted to show how the entire body of knowledge [could]be derived from a small set of fundamental, self-evident propositions(i.e., stewardship). Nietzsche felt that we do not have the slightest right to posit a beyond or an it-self of things that is divine or the embodiment of morality.

Without God as a foundation for absolute values, all absolute values are deemed suspect (hence the birth of postmodernism). For Nietzsche, this literally meant that the belief in the Christian god ha[d]become unworthy of belief.This transition from the highest values to the death of God was not going to be a quick one; in fact, the comfort provided by an absolute divinity could potentially sustain its existence for millennia. Nietzsche elaborates: God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.And wewe still have to vanquish his shadow too.

We are left then with a dilemma: Either we abandon our reverences for the highest values and subsist, or we maintain our dependency on absolutes at the cost of our own non-absolutist reality. For Nietzsche, the second option was pure nothingness: So we can abolish either our reverences or ourselves. The latter constitutes nihilism. All one is left with are contested, situational value judgements, and these are resolved in the human arena.

One can still embrace pessimism, believing that without some form of an absolute, our existence in this world will take a turn for the worse. To avoid the trappings of pessimism and passivity, Nietzsche sought a solution to such nihilistic despair through the re-evaluation of the dominant, life-negating values. This makes Nietzsche an perspectivism a philosophy of resolution in the form of life-affirmation. It moves past despair toward a transformative stage in which new values are posited to replace the old table of values. As Reginster acknowledges, one should regard the affirmation of life as Nietzsches defining philosophical achievement. What this implies is a substantive demand to live according to a constant re-evaluation of values. By taking full responsibility for this task, humankind engages in the eternal recurrence, a recurrence of life-affirming values based on acceptance of becoming and the impermanence of values. Value formation is both fluid and cyclical.

Late-20th Century 21st Century;The Pessimism of the Post-9/11 Era

Since the events of September 11, 2001, nihilism has returned with a vengeance to scholarly literature; however, it is being discussed in almost exclusively negative terms. The labelling origin of nihilism has taken on new life in a context of suicide bombings, Islamophobia, and neoconservative rhetoric. For instance, Canadian Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff described different shades of negative nihilismtragic, cynical, and fanaticalin his bookThe Lesser Evil.Tragic nihilism begins from a foundation of noble, political intentions, but eventually this ethic of restraint spirals toward violence as the only end(i.e., Vietnam). Two sides of an armed struggle may begin with high ideals and place limitations on their means to achieve viable political goals, but such noble ends eventually become lost in all the carnage. Agents of a democratic state may find themselves driven by the horror of terror to torture, to assassinate, to kill innocent civilians, all in the name of rights and democracy. As Ignateiff states, they slip from the lesser evil [legitimate use of force]to the greater [violence as an end in itself].

However,cynical nihilism is even more narcissistic. In this case, violence does not begin as a means to noble goals. Instead, [i]t is used, from the beginning, in the service of cynical or self-serving [ends]. The term denotes narcissistic prejudice because it justifies the commission of violence for the sake of personal aggrandizement, immortality, fame, or power rather than as a means to a genuinely political end, like revolution [for social justice]or the liberation of a people.Cynical nihilists were never threatened in any legitimate way. Their own vanity, ego, greed, or need to control others drove them to commit violence against innocent civilians (e.g., Saddam Hussein in Kuwait or Bush in Iraq).

Finally,fanatical nihilism does not suffer from a belief in nothing. In actuality, this type of nihilism is dangerous because one believes in too much. What fanatical nihilism does involve is a form of conviction so intense, a devotion so blind, that it becomes impossible to see that violence necessarily betrays the ends that conviction seeks to achieve. The fanatical use of ideology to justify atrocity negates any consideration of the human cost of such fundamentalism. As a result, nihilism becomes willed indifference to the human agents sacrificed on the alter of principle. . . . Here nihilism is not a belief in nothing at all; it is, rather, the belief that nothing about particular groups of human beings matters enough to require minimizing harm to them.Fanatical nihilism is also important to understand because many of the justifications are religious. States Ignatieff:

From a human rights standpoint, the claim that such inhumanity can be divinely inspired is a piece of nihilism, an inhuman devaluation of the respect owed to all persons, and moreover a piece of hubris, since, by definition, human beings have no access to divine intentions, whatever they may be.

Positive Nihilism In the twenty-first century, humankind is searching for a philosophy to counter destructive, non-pragmatic forms of nihilism. As a middle path,positive nihilism accentuates life-affirmation through a widening of dialogue. Positively stated: [The Philosopher] . . ., having rejected the currently dominant values, must raise other values, by virtue of which life and the universe cannot only be justified but also become endearing and valuable. Rejecting any unworkable table of values, humankind now erects another table with a new ranking of values and new ideals of humanity, society, and state.Positive nihilismin both its rejection of absolute truths and its acceptance of contextual truthsis life-affirming since small-t truths are the best mere mortals can hope to accomplish. Human beings can reach for higher truths; they just do not have the totalizing knowledge required for Absolute Truth. In other words, we are not God, but we are still attempting to be God on a good day. We still need valuesin other words, we are not moral nihilists or absolutistsbut we realize that the human condition is malleable. Values come and go, and we have to be ready to bend them in the right direction in the moment moral courage requires it.

Nihilism does not have to be a dangerous or negative philosophy; it can be a philosophy of freedom. Basically, the entire purpose of positive nihilism is to transform values that no longer work and replace them with values that do. By aiding in a process that finds meaningful values through negotiation,positive nihilism prevents the exclusionary effect of perfectionism, the deceit of nihilistic labelling, as well as the senseless violence of fanatical nihilism. It is at this point that nihilism can enter its life-affirming stage and become a compliment to pluralism, multiculturalism, and the roots of religion, those being love, charity, and compassion.

Source; Professor Stuart Chambers.

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Religion and Nihilism – The African Perspective Magazine

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Seychelles | history – geography | Britannica.com

Posted: August 27, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Alternate Title: Republic of Seychelles

Seychelles

National anthem of Seychelles

Seychelles, island republic in the western Indian Ocean, comprising about 115 islands. The islands are home to lush tropical vegetation, beautiful beaches, and a wide variety of marine life. Situated between latitudes 4 and 11 S and longitudes 46 and 56 E, the major islands of Seychelles are located about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) east of Kenya and about 700 miles (1,100 km) northeast of Madagascar. The capital, Victoria, is situated on the island of Mah.

Seychelles, one of the worlds smallest countries, is composed of two main island groups: the Mah group of more than 40 central, mountainous granitic islands and a second group of more than 70 outer, flat, coralline islands. The islands of the Mah group are rocky and typically have a narrow coastal strip and a central range of hills. The overall aspect of those islands, with their lush tropical vegetation, is that of high hanging gardens overlooking silver-white beaches and clear lagoons. The highest point in Seychelles, Morne Seychellois (2,969 feet [905 metres]), situated on Mah, is located within this mountainous island group. The coralline islands, rising only a few feet above sea level, are flat with elevated coral reefs at different stages of formation. These islands are largely waterless, and very few have a resident population.

The climate is tropical oceanic, with little temperature variation during the year. Daily temperatures rise to the mid-80s F (low 30s C) in the afternoon and fall to the low 70s F (low 20s C) at night. Precipitation levels vary greatly from island to island; on Mah, annual precipitation ranges from 90 inches (2,300 mm) at sea level to 140 inches (3,560 mm) on the mountain slopes. Humidity is persistently high but is ameliorated somewhat in locations windward of the prevailing southeast trade winds.

Of the roughly 200 plant species found in Seychelles, some 80 are unique to the islands, including screw pines (see pandanus), several varieties of jellyfish trees, latanier palms, the bois rouge, the bois de fer, Wrights gardenia, and the most famous, the coco de mer. The coco de merwhich is found on only two islandsproduces a fruit that is one of the largest and heaviest known and is valued by a number of Asian cultures for believed aphrodisiac, medicinal, mystic, and other properties. The Seychellois government closely monitors the quantity and status of the trees, and, although commerce is regulated to prevent overharvesting, poaching is a concern.

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Wildlife includes a remarkably diverse array of marine life, including more than 900 identified species of fish; green sea turtles and giant tortoises also inhabit the islands. Endemic species include birds such as Seychelles bulbuls and cave-dwelling Seychelles swiftlets; several species of local tree frogs, snails, and wormlike caecilians; Seychelles wolf snakes and house snakes; tiger chameleons; and others. Endemic mammals are few; both fruit bats (Pteropus seychellensis) and Seychelles sheath-tailed bats (Coleura seychellensis) are endemic to the islands. Indian mynahs, barn owls, and tenrecs (small shrewlike or hedgehoglike mammals introduced from Madagascar) are also found.

Considerable efforts have been made to preserve the islands marked biodiversity. Seychelles government has established several nature preserves and marine parks, including the Aldabra Islands and Valle de Mai National Park, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Aldabra Islands, a large atoll, are the site of a preserve inhabited by tens of thousands of giant tortoises, the worlds oldest living creatures, which government conservation efforts have helped rescue from the brink of extinction. Valle de Mai National Park is the only place where all six of the palm species endemic to Seychelles, including the coco de mer, may be found together. Cousin Island is home to a sanctuary for land birds, many endemic to the islands, including the Seychelles sunbird (a type of hummingbird) and the Seychelles brush warbler. The nearby Cousine Island is part private resort and part nature preserve, noted for its sea turtles, giant tortoises, and assorted land birds. Bird Island is the breeding ground for millions of terns, turtle doves, shearwaters, frigate birds, and other seabirds that flock there each year.

The original French colonists on the previously uninhabited islands, along with their black slaves, were joined in the 19th century by deportees from France. Asians from China, India, and Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) arrived later in smaller numbers. Widespread intermarriage has resulted in a population of mixed descent.

Creole, also called Seselwa, is the mother tongue of most Seychellois. Under the constitution, Creole, English, and French are recognized as national languages.

More than four-fifths of the population are Roman Catholics. There are also Anglicans, Christians of other denominations, Hindus, and Muslims.

More than four-fifths of the population live on Mah, many of them in the capital city, Victoria. The birth and death rates, as well as the annual population growth rate, are below the global average. Some one-fourth of the population are younger than age 15, and about one-half are under age 30. Life expectancy for both men and women is significantly higher than the global average.

Seychelles has a mixed, developing economy that is heavily dependent upon the service sector in general and the tourism industry in particular. Despite continued visible trade deficits, the economy has experienced steady growth. The gross domestic product (GDP) is growing more rapidly than the population. The gross national income (GNI) per capita is significantly higher than those found in most nearby continental African countries.

Agriculture accounts for only a fraction of the GDP and employs an equally modest proportion of the workforce. Arable land is limited and the soil is generally poorand the country remains dependent upon imported foodstuffsbut copra (from coconuts), cinnamon bark, vanilla, tea, limes, and essential oils are exported. Seychelles has a modern fishing industry that supplies both domestic and foreign markets; canned tuna is a particularly important product. The extraction of guano for export is also an established economic activity.

The countrys growing manufacturing sectorwhich has expanded to account for almost one-sixth of the total GDPis composed largely of food-processing plants; production of alcoholic beverages and of soft drinks is particularly significant. Animal feed, paint, and other goods are also produced.

Seychelles sizable trade deficit is offset by income from the tourism industry and from aid and investment. Although the countrys relative prosperity has not made it a preferred aid recipient, it does receive assistance from the World Bank, the European Union, the African Development Bank, and a variety of contributing countries, and aid obtained per capita is relatively high. The Central Bank of Seychelles, located in Victoria, issues the official currency, the Seychelles rupee.

Seychelles main imports are petroleum products, machinery, and foodstuffs. Canned tuna, copra, frozen fish, and cinnamon are the most important exports, together with the reexport of petroleum products. Significant trade partners include France, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Germany.

The service sector accounts for nearly four-fifths of the GDP and employs the largest proportion of the workforce, almost three-fourths of all labourers. After the opening of an international airport on Mah in 1971, the tourism industry grew rapidly, and at the beginning of the 21st century it provided almost one-fourth of the total GDP. Each year Seychelles draws thousands of tourists, many attracted by the islands magnificent venues for scuba diving, surfing, windsurfing, fishing, swimming, and sunbathing. The warm southeasterly trade winds offer ideal conditions for sailing, and the waters around Mah and the other islands are afloat with small boats.

The majority of Seychelles roadways are paved, most of which are on the islands of Mah and Praslin; there are no railroads. Ferry services operate between the islandsfor example, linking Victoria with destinations that include Praslin and La Digue. Air service is centred on Seychelles International Airport, located near Victoria on Mah, and the smaller airports and airstrips found on several islands. Seychelles has air connections with a number of foreign cities and direct flights to major centres that include London, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, and Bangkok. Scheduled domestic flights, provided by Air Seychelles, chiefly offer service between Mah and Praslin, although chartered flights elsewhere are also available. The tsunami that reached Seychelles in 2004 damaged portions of the transportation infrastructure, including the road linking Victoria with the international airport.

Telecommunications infrastructure in Seychelles is quite developed. The country has a high rate of cellular telephone useamong the highest in sub-Saharan Africaand, at the beginning of the 21st century, the use of personal computers in Seychelles was several times the average for the region.

Under the 1993 constitution, Seychelles is a republic. The head of state and government is the president, who is directly elected by popular vote and may hold office for up to three consecutive five-year terms. Members of the National Assembly serve five-year terms. A majority of the available National Assembly seats are filled by direct election; a smaller portion are distributed on a proportional basis to those parties that win a minimum of one-tenth of the vote. The president appoints a Council of Ministers, which acts as an advisory body. The country is divided into more than 20 administrative divisions.

The Seychellois judiciary includes a Court of Appeal, a Supreme Court, and Magistrates Courts; the Constitutional Court is a branch of the Supreme Court.

Suffrage is universal; Seychellois are eligible to vote at age 17. Women participate actively in the government of the country and have held numerous posts, including positions in the cabinet and a proportion of seats in the National Assembly.

The Peoples Party (formerly the Seychelles Peoples Progressive Front) was the sole legal party from 1978 until 1991. It is still the countrys primary political party, but other parties are also active in Seychellois politics, including the New Democratic Party (formerly the Seychelles Democratic Party), the Seychelles National Party, and the Seychelles Movement for Democracy.

Seychelles defense forces are made up of an army, a coast guard (including naval and airborne wings), and a national guard. There is no conscription; military service is voluntary, and individuals are generally eligible at age 18 (although younger individuals may serve with parental consent).

In general, homes play a highly visible part in maintaining traditional Seychellois life. Many old colonial houses are well preserved, although corrugated iron roofs have generally replaced the indigenous palm thatch. Groups tend to gather on the verandahs of their houses, which are generally recognized as social centres.

The basis of the school system is a free, compulsory, 10-year public school education. Education standards have risen steadily, and nearly all children of primary-school age attend school. The countrys first university, the University of Seychelles, began accepting students in 2009. The literacy rate in Seychelles is significantly higher than the regional and global averages for both men and women.

Seychellois culture has been shaped by a combination of European, African, and Asian influences. The main European influence is French, recognizable in Seselwa, the Creole language that is the lingua franca of the islands, and in Seychellois food and religion; the French introduced Roman Catholicism, the religion of the majority of the islanders. African influence is revealed in local music and dance as well as in Seselwa. Asian elements are evident in the islands cuisine but are particularly dominant in business and trade.

Holidays observed in Seychelles include Liberation Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the 1977 coup, on June 5; National Day, June 18; Independence Day, June 29; the Feast of the Assumption, August 15; All Saints Day, November 1; the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8; and Christmas, December 25.

Because of the exorbitant expense of the large and lavish wedding receptions that are part of Seychellois tradition, many couples never marry; instead, they may choose to live en mnage, achieving a de facto union by cohabitating without marriage. There is little or no social stigma related to living en mnage, and the arrangement is recognized by the couples family and friends. The instance of couples living en mnage increases particularly among lower income groups.

Dance plays an important role in Seychellois society. Both the sga and the moutya, two of the most famous dances performed in Seychelles, mirror traditional African customs. The sensual dances blend religion and social relations, two elements central to African life. The complicated and compelling dance movements were traditionally carried out under moonlight to the beat of African drums. Dances were once regular events in village halls, but these have largely died out in recent years; now dances take place in modern nightclubs.

Seychellois enjoy participating in and watching several team sports. The national stadium, located in Victoria, offers a year-round program of events. Mens and womens volleyball are popular, and several Seychellois players and referees participate at the international level. Football (soccer) is also a favourite, and Seychellois teams frequently travel to East Africa and India to play in exhibition matches and tournaments. The Seychelles national Olympic committee was established in 1979 and was recognized that year by the International Olympic Committee. The country made its official Olympic debut at the 1980 Moscow Games, but its first Olympic athlete was Henri Dauban de Silhouette, who competed for Great Britain in the javelin throw at the 1924 Paris Games.

Much of the countrys radio, television, and print media is under government control. There are several independent publications, including Seychelles Weekly and Vizyon.

The islands were known by traders from the Persian Gulf centuries ago, but the first recorded landing on the uninhabited Seychelles was made in 1609 by an expedition of the British East India Company. The archipelago was explored by the Frenchman Lazare Picault in 1742 and 1744 and was formally annexed to France in 1756. The archipelago was named Schelles, later changed by the British to Seychelles. War between France and Britain led to the surrender of the archipelago to the British in 1810, and it was formally ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. The abolition of slavery in the 1830s deprived the islands European colonists of their labour force and compelled them to switch from raising cotton and grains to cultivating less-labour-intensive crops such as coconut, vanilla, and cinnamon. In 1903 Seychellesuntil that time administered as a dependency of Mauritiusbecame a separate British crown colony. A Legislative Council with elected members was introduced in 1948.

In 1963 the United States leased an area on the main island, Mah, and built an air force satellite tracking station there; this brought regular air travel to Seychelles for the first time, in the form of a weekly seaplane shuttle that operated from Mombasa, Kenya.

In 1970 Seychelles obtained a new constitution, universal adult suffrage, and a governing council with an elected majority. Self-government was granted in 1975 and independence in 1976, within the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1975 a coalition government was formed with James R. Mancham as president and France-Albert Ren as prime minister. In 1977, while Mancham was abroad, Ren became president in a coup dtat led by the Seychelles Peoples United Party (later restyled the Seychelles Peoples Progressive Front [SPPF], from 2009 the Peoples Party [Parti Lepep]).

In 1979 a new constitution transformed Seychelles into a one-party socialist state, with Rens SPPF designated the only legal party. This change was not popular with many Seychellois, and during the 1980s there were several coup attempts. Faced with mounting pressure from the countrys primary sources of foreign aid, Rens administration began moving toward more democratic rule in the early 1990s, with the return of multiparty politics and the promulgation of a new constitution. The country also gradually abandoned its socialist economy and began to follow market-based economic strategies by privatizing most parastatal companies, encouraging foreign investment, and focusing efforts on marketing Seychelles as an offshore business and financial hub. As Seychelles entered the 21st century, the SPPF continued to dominate the political scene. After the return of multiparty elections, Ren was reelected three times before eventually resigning in April 2004 to allow Vice Pres. James Michel to succeed him as president.

In late 2004 some of the islands were hit by a tsunami, which severely damaged the environment and the countrys economy. The economy was an important topic in the campaigning leading up to the presidential election of 2006, in which Michel emerged with a narrow victory to win his first elected term. He was reelected in 2011. One of Michels ongoing concerns was piracy in the Indian Ocean, which had surged since 2009 and threatened the countrys fishing and tourism industries. To that end, the Seychellois government worked with several other countries and international organizations to curb the illegal activity.

In October 2015 Michel called for an early presidential election, rather than wait until it was due in 2016. Michel was standing for his third term, again representing the Peoples Party. The election was held December 35, 2015. For the first time since the return of multiparty politics in 1993, the Peoples Partys candidate did not win outright in the first round of voting. Michel garnered 47.76 percent of the vote; his nearest challenger was Wavel Ramkalawan of the Seychelles National Party (SNP), who took 33.93 percent. Ramkalawan was an Anglican priest who was the leader of the SNP and had run for president in previous elections. The runoff election was held December 1618. On December 19 Michel was declared the winner by a very narrow margin, taking 50.15 percent of the vote, with only 193 votes between him and Ramkalawan. Michel was quickly sworn in the next day for his third term. Ramkalawan voiced allegations of voting irregularities and asked for a recount.

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Seychelles | history – geography | Britannica.com

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Alternative Medicine | Glaucoma Research Foundation

Posted: August 21, 2016 at 11:12 am

Alternative medicine may be defined as non-standard, unconventional treatments for glaucoma.

Use of alternative medicine continues to increase, although it must be noted that some of these treatment alternatives have no proven clinical effect.

Regular exercise and relaxation techniques can be beneficial for lowering eye pressure and may have a positive impact on your overall health and other glaucoma risk factors including high blood pressure.

Always talk to your doctor before starting any alternative therapies.

Proponents of homeopathic medicine believe that symptoms represent the bodys attack against disease, and that substances which induce the symptoms of a particular disease or diseases can help the body ward off illness.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not tested homeopathic remedies for safety or effectiveness. There is no guarantee that they contain consistent ingredients, or that dosage recommendations are accurate. It would be a mistake to use homeopathic remedies and dismiss valid therapies, delaying proven treatment for serious conditions.

Holistic medicine is a system of health care designed to assist individuals in harmonizing mind, body, and spirit. Some of the more popular therapies include good nutrition, physical exercise, and self-regulation techniques including meditation, biofeedback and relaxation training. While holistic treatments can be part of a good physical regimen, there is no proof of their usefulness in glaucoma therapy.

No conclusive studies prove a connection between specific foods and glaucoma, but it is reasonable to assume that what you eat and drink and your general health have an effect on the disease.

Some studies have shown that significant caffeine intake over a short time can slightly elevate intraocular eye pressure (IOP) for one to three hours. However, other studies indicate that caffeine has no meaningful impact on IOP. To be safe, people with glaucoma are advised to limit their caffeine intake to moderate levels.

Studies have also shown that as many as 80% of people with glaucoma who consume an entire quart of water over the course of twenty minutes experience elevated IOP, as compared to only 20% of people who dont have glaucoma. Since many commercial diet programs stress the importance of drinking at least eight glasses of water each day, to be safe, people with glaucoma are encouraged to consume water in small amounts throughout the day.

The ideal way to ensure a proper supply of essential vitamins and minerals is by eating a balanced diet. If you are concerned about your own diet, you may want to consult with your doctor about taking a mulitvitamin or multimineral nutritional supplement.

Some of the vitamins and minerals important to the eye include zinc and copper, antioxidant vitamins C, E, and A (as beta carotene), and selenium, an antioxidant mineral.

An extract of the European blueberry, bilberry is available through the mail and in some health food stores. It is most often advertised as an antioxidant eye health supplement that advocates claim can protect and strengthen the capillary walls of the eyes, and thus is especially effective in protecting against glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration. There is some data indicating that bilberry may improve night vision and recovery time from glare, but there is no evidence that it is effective in the treatment or prevention of glaucoma.

There is some evidence suggesting that regular exercise can reduce eye pressure on its own, and can also have a positive impact on other glaucoma risk factors including diabetes and high blood pressure.

In a recent study, people with glaucoma who exercised regularly for three months reduced their IOPs an average of 20%. These people rode stationary bikes 4 times per week for 40 minutes. Measurable improvements in eye pressure and physical conditioning were seen at the end of three months. These beneficial effects were maintained by continuing to exercise at least three times per week; lowered IOP was lost if exercise was stopped for more than two weeks.

In an ongoing study, glaucoma patients who walked briskly 4 times per week for 40 minutes were able to lower their IOP enough to eliminate the need for beta blockers. Final results are not available, but there is hope that glaucoma patients with extremely high IOP who maintain an exercise schedule and continue beta-blocker therapy could significantly reduce their IOP.

Regular exercise may be a useful addition to the prevention of visual loss from glaucoma, but only your eye doctor can assess the effects of exercise on your eye pressure. Some forms of glaucoma (such as closed-angle) are not responsive to the effects of exercise, and other forms of glaucoma (for example, pigmentary glaucoma) may actually develop a temporary increase in IOP after vigorous exercise. And remember — exercise cannot replace medications or doctor visits!

The long-term effects of repeatedly assuming a head-down or inverted position on the optic nerve head (the nerve that carries visual images to the brain) have not been adequately demonstrated, but due to the potential for increased IOP, people with glaucoma should be careful about these kinds of exercises.

Glaucoma patients should let their doctors know if yoga shoulder and headstands or any other recreational body inversion exercises that result in head-down or inverted postures over extended periods of time are part of their exercise routines.

The results of studies regarding changes in IOP following relaxation and biofeedback sessions have generated some optimism in controlling selected cases of open-angle glaucoma, but further research is needed.

However, findings that reduced blood pressure and heart rate can be achieved with relaxation and biofeedback techniques show promise that non-medicinal and non-surgical techniques may be effective methods of treating and controlling open-angle glaucoma.

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Alternative Medicine | Glaucoma Research Foundation

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