Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    "I Believe"

    Is blind faith a virtue?  Many nonbelievers struggle with attempts to understand why wholehearted acceptance of irrational thought is considered by many of the "faithful" to be praiseworthy.  Certainly, blind faith is the path of least resistance.  Inquiry and thought require energy, while unquestioning acceptance demands little effort (beyond dealing with a smattering of cognitive dissonance every now and then).  Blind faith also provides a certainty that is difficult to attain from other sources.  This certainty can be empowering, for better or for worse.

    Some of these sentiments are echoed in this song from the Broadway hit musical "The Book of Mormon."  Enjoy "I Believe."

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Meeting Follow-Up: Dr. James Elser on Phosphorus

    What can we do about phosphorus and food's future?

    The 15th element in the periodic table is not something that comes to mind for most people when they reflect on causes of global food crises of the past. Overpopulation, climate change, crop disease, and soil erosion are more likely to deemed as the instigators of disaster scenarios.

    However, phosphorus is essential for every living thing on this planet and, according to estimates, the world's phosphorous -- needed for fertilizing plants -- will peak within half a century.
     Thus opened  David Despain's review of this week's HSGP speaker, Dr. James Elser, on "Phosphorus, Food, & Our Future."  Please direct your browser to Despain's blog, Evolving Health, to continue reading!

    If you were unable to attend the presentation, here is video of a similar talk given by Elser at the Arizona Science Center, last year:

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    HSGP Meeting: "Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future"

    This Sunday, July 10, the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix will host a presentation by Dr. James Elser, an Arizona State University Regents' Professor in Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Science.  Dr. Elser will be speaking on the necessity of phosphorus for agriculture worldwide. In a 2010 article on the Foreign Policy magazine website entitled "Peak Phosphorus," Elser described the bleak future of food production if phosphorus consumption continues at its current pace.  Phosphorus is an important component of fertilizer, being used by plant life for DNA construction and the creation of cell membranes, yet it is not a renewable resource.  Much of the phosphorus currently being used in fertilizers is mined from ancient mineral deposits that are dangerously close to running out.  Some estimates place the depletion of the world's major phosphorus sources 30-40 years into the future.  That is a bit too close for comfort.  Although we are all familiar with the scarcity of oil, we have far more reason to be concerned about the scarcity of phosphorus, as it has no substitutes. 

    If steps are not taken to curb the depletion of phosphorus, we can expect to see food prices sky-rocket as countries like Morocco hike up the price-tag on phosphorus exports.  Thankfully, there are ways to make supplies last.  Many of these consist of modifying the highly wasteful practices of the agricultural industry.  For example, controlling the erosion of crop fields would maintain phosphorus levels in soil, reducing the need to re-apply. 

    Please join us on Sunday at the Humanist Community Center in Mesa to learn more about "Phosphorus, Food, and Our Future."  More information on the HSGP can be found at our website,

    Elser, J. J. & White, S. (2010). Peak phosphorus. Foreign Policy Magazine online, 4/22. [link]