Losing Your Mind, Fossil Fuel Smog

*Today, most of civilization exists within congested smoggy cities. Fossil fuel air pollution, including filthy diesel fumes loaded with fine particles of nitric oxide and nitrogen oxide, are quickly crippling, dogs, bees and man.

About two decades ago in Mexico City, my colleagues began investigating an increasing number of howling frightened dogs that grew disoriented and incapable of recognizing their owners.

They examined the dog’s brains and found them coated with the protein amyloid beta, or, plaque, linked with Alzheimer’s disease. The dogs, they concluded after further experiments, had lost their minds from breathing the exhaust fumes of fossil fuel combustion.

Fossil Fuel Pollution - Bees
Bees pollinate most of the 80,000 species of trees on Earth. Image credit: Reese Halter

About a decade later, my colleagues in the U.K. noticed that both bumble and honeybees were in distress. These incomparable brainy creatures couldn’t effectively pollinate flowers in cities. They were unable to smell the floral fragrances.

Were the plants and trees sick?

Had the plants reduced their floral scents?

Smog-filled diesel fumes, the same poisons that caused Alzheimer’s in dogs, were highly prevalent in U.K. urban environments masking the scent of the flowers from the bees.

A worker honeybee’s head has two antennae packed with 3,000 sensory organs. Their ability to distinguish more than 170 odors is legendary and vital for smelling nectar (which they dehydrate into honey, their food), pollen (their only source of protein for young developing brains), water, trees resins (for making glue and medicines) and alert pheromones, or, hormones.

Increasing fossil fuel air pollution in cities has horrid ramifications. Urban trees provide the lion’s share of nectar and pollen for beehives to succeed. Bees pollinate 75 percent of the food crops. 800 million people from around the globe depend upon the bees in order to grow their daily food within cities.

Fossil Fuel Pollution - Mature Tree in front of Home
A glorious mature tree adds 15 percent onto the value of a home. Image credit: Alexa Welch Edlund/Times-Dispatch

Mature trees in cities are priceless. They absorb as much as 24 percent of fossil fuel air pollution by trapping them on their leaves and bark. Mature trees cast invaluable shade and reduce the urban heat island effect during increasing and intensifying heatwaves by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fossil Fuel Pollution - Apple Trees
An apple tree yields 15-20 bushels of fruit in a season, an important source of food your family, the birds and other wildlife. Image credit: Reese Halter

Urban mature trees are vital for their partners and our brethren, the animals. Mature trees save cities millions of dollars each year in storm-water runoff damage by absorbing vast amounts of moisture. In addition, trees  provide us with more than one of every three breaths of life sustaining oxygen.

Across America, there’s an even more drastic loss: mature trees. Each year, an area of 175,000 acres within U.S. cities containing 36 million mature trees has perished. From 2009 to 2014 alone, we lost 180 million ancient urban trees. Elsewhere, the world’s biggest trees also died. Horrendous.

No trees. No life.

Mature trees in cities are priceless. They absorb as much as 24 percent of fossil fuel air pollution”

Fossil Fuel Pollution - Urban Forest
One acre of an urban forest provides enough oxygen for 18 people. Image credit: Reese Halter

Burning fossil fuels has infused 300 zettajoules into the oceans, or, the equivalent heat of detonating one Hiroshima-style atomic bomb every minute for 75 straight years. The oceans drive the climate. Quite simply fossil fuels have destroyed Earth’s habitable climate. The occurrence of heatwaves (on land and under the sea), droughtsinsect epidemicscrop failures, firestorms, and more slower moving cyclones, hurricanes and torrential rainfalls are all irrefutably accelerating.

Fossil Fuel Pollution - pollinated flowers
Springtime bee-pollinated flowers in southern California. Image credit: Reese Halter

How’s your sense of smell? Chances are that, if you live in a city, it’s not so good.

This much we do know: toxic fossil fuel air pollution is 36 times finer than a grain of sand. What you involuntarily inhale through your nose goes directly to your brain.

Fossil fuel smog kills specialized brain cells called neurons. It also inflames the brain’s sentinel cells known as microglia. Chronic brain inflammation over-stimulates microglia, which in turn, attack neurons rather than protect them.

Those afflicted with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases exhibit highly active microglia in regions of the brain that have lost most of the neurons. Incidentally, loss of smell is a precursor to both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

It is not only middle-aged or elderly that’s at risk from poisonous fossil fuel smog in cities. 99.5 percent of 203 autopsies from Mexico City, ages ranging from 11 months to 40 years old, possessed the telltales of Alzheimer’s disease in their brainstems from breathing fossil fuel air pollution. Frightening.

All urban dwellers are a risk of losing their minds from breathing air, their birthright. Horrible.

Fossil Fuel Pollution - Deepwater Horizon disaster
BPs Deepwater Horizon disaster gushed 4.5 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico along with 2 million additional gallons of pernicious Corexit oil dispersant, which poisoned millions of sea creatures. Charlie Riedel/AP

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) latest annual report projects that the world oil production will soar to an all time new record over the next five years. 100 million barrels a day is forecasted to reach 112 barrels a day in the coming decade(s). This is planetary suicide!

Already, 9.9 million new cases of Alzheimer’s are being added each year, or, one new case every 3.2 seconds. To deliberately accelerate this hideous disease is insanity.

In order to survive the following is requisite:

  • Reduce fossil fuel emissions now.
  • End annual fossil fuel subsidies of $5.3 trillion immediately.
  • End burning all biofuels which, by the way, release at least 13 percent more climate-destroying greenhouse gases than combusting coal.
  • Globally deploy solar thermal concentrated farms generating supercritical steam with lithium-ion battery energy storage facilities.
  • Protect all fresh water supplies on the planet by banning water-poisoning fracking.
  • No new coalmines.
  • Ban seismic surveying in the oceans for more climate-destroying fossil fuels that kill sea life.
  • Protect all remaining ancient forests, the greatest carbon dioxide warehouse, from chainsaws and poachers.
  • Go vegan.
  • Consume less.

Now we must prevent Kurt Vonnegut’s Requiem from ringing true.


The crucified planet Earth,
should it find a voice
and a sense of irony,
might now well say
of our abuse of it,

“Forgive them, Father,

They know not what they do.”

The irony would be

That we know what

We are doing.

When the last living thing

Has died on account of us,

how poetical it would be
if Earth could say,

in a voice floating up


from the floor

of the Grand Canyon,

“It is done.”

People did not like it here.

Fossil Fuel Pollution - Redwood Tree
Spend 15 minutes daily next to a mature tree and breathe its powerful phytoncides, or, medicines. Image credit: Jason Halter





Dr. Reese Halter

Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.

Dr Reese Halter’s latest book is
Love! Nature

Tweet @RelentlessReese



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