Today was a little bit rough. The first half of the day was spent in a perpetual and nagging flow of stress and anxiety. The second half of the day was spent attempting to break that flow with books and Netflix. I feel drained and a little bit defeated, but want to see this week through with the intention I set out which was to write everyday about a topic that takes me away from the numbness of everyday life. Maybe something that inspires a sense of wonder, or something I want to learn more about, or maybe just something that I’ve been thinking about lately.
After a day like today, I started to think about how I would just like to hibernate for a bit. Just stay at home, read books, watch Netflix, not deal with life for awhile. There’s a light rain outside, my windows are wide open and the cool, post-storm air is coming in. I sit and listen to the sound of the rain and the passing cars as I read one of the multiple books I’m currently devouring. My home is cozy and comfortable, I have everything I need here. Why bother going anywhere else?
As this train of thought was sounding more and more appealing, I decided to learn a little but more about actual hibernation, the way the pros in nature do it. Many animals actually hibernate for the winter, but the most well known, and possibly the most fascinating, are black bears. Bears let themselves become fat throughout the summer and fall, and once winter hits, they do not eat, drink, or create waste for the entirety of the several months they are sleeping. While their normal heartbeat during non-hibernation might be between 40 and 50 beats per minute, while they are hibernating, it can slow to as few as 8 beats per minute. They even have a cool genetic feature which allows female bears to time the birth of their cubs. A fertilized egg that is ready to move to the uterine wall and begin developing into a fetus waits for a specific cue from the mother’s body. And if the mother has not gained enough fat to sustain a pregnancy by the time she moves to her den for hibernation, the egg will spontaneously abort.
Additionally, black bears to not suffer from any of the ailments that inactivity causes for humans, like obesity. Their kidneys stop functioning during hibernation, but they do not go into kidney failure. Their bodies are designed for this long sleep. Mother Nature is endlessly beautiful and fascinating.
And of course, as human beings, we cannot just marvel at the fact that these miracles in nature are taking place. We have to understand why, and how. This curiosity is a uniquely human and marvelous trait, and also probably why we have evolved this far. We have the tools and resources to look at the world around us and wonder: why? how? And answering these questions is what allows us to continually adapt. However, the inevitable next step in our line of questioning is: how do I take that for myself? how can I adapt that for my own use?
This, we tranquilize “teenage” bears in the wild to take blood and tissue samples. Scientists are looking for ways to modify the genetic singularity of the black bear for human use, so that we might treat diabetes or cure obesity, preserve transplant organs for longer amounts of time, or even put our astronauts into hibernation during their long space travels.
These all sound like positive changes and advancements to our race, and this kind of scientific and technological growth is how we’ve arrived to today, and how we will continue to evolve and adapt. But where is the line? How far is too far when it comes to genetic manipulation? Where do ethics come into play?
These questions are also not new, and I have a sneaking suspicion they may be the basis for another one of my blog entries this week…..
P.S. Sorry if any of you were lured here by Disney and were thus disappointed upon reading. 😛