Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Medical Science and Petroleum

Besides environmental causes, there are several other good reasons to restrict the consumption of petroleum. My chemistry professor pointed out that most industrial manufacturing processes require the use of petroleum derived products. Most notably of these processes is medical technology. Imagine for a second every medical procedure you have ever had. I'm willing to bet every one involved the use of plastics at least. Take that in combination with the fact that most chemically derived medications require a petroleum product in at least one step of its synthesis.

Petroleum is not the infinite resource we have been lead to believe. It takes millions of years to form and requires specific environmental conditions. You have to have a large amount of biomass buried deep in the ground and exposed to heat and just the right amount of pressure. Too much or too little of these conditions and you will get diamonds, graphite, or other carbon formations. Oil is finite.

While many of the SUPs (single use plastics) and petroleum derived chemicals we currently enjoy can be replaced with less convenient materials, medical technology is a different story. Plastic utensils, water bottles and food containers have been developed that are made form plant cellulose and can be composted. The limited life span of these types of SUPs makes this kind of innovation a perfect fit. But many medical devices and medications require petroleum that cannot be so easily replaced.

What does this have to do with you? Well if you do not and are not planning on having kids, very little. But if you have already contributed to the gene pool, you can safely bet that once petroleum resources have been exhausted, western medicine as we know it will be devastated. Many of the drugs, medical supplies and equipment used for even basic procedures (like syringes or antibiotics) will be much more difficult to come by.

Imagine every plastic product in your life today. Then imagine your great-great grand children not having access to any of it or being forced to pay cost prohibitive prices for access to it. Welcome to the future we are currently on track to create. This is a one to one for your life. Every gallon of gas you save by riding your bike, might just save one more life in the future. Every time you refill a stainless steel water bottle, you might be helping someone years from now get access to a dialysis treatments. Be a hero, don't consume.

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