Overview: It is a scary world and on top of it all we face “The Post-Antibiotic World.” We rely on antibiotics to treat everything from stomach bugs to skin rashes to bronchitis. In fact, we’ve been overusing them, which has produced a new crop of dangerous bacterial infections that can’t be treated by something from the pharmacy. The more we use antibiotics, the more these superbugs build up their resistance. It’s an evolutionary battle, and the humans are losing. The projections are dire: According to some experts, antibiotic-resistant bacteria could kill ten million people a year by 2050, surpassing cancer deaths. With their backs to the wall, scientists are now racing to find new natural sources of anti-bacterial compounds. VICE’s Thomas Morton follows along as they search deep into the jungle and underground for the life-saving drugs so desperately needed.
“Indonesia’s Palm Bomb” – Palm oil is used in almost all of the foods we eat and most of our household products, from packaged bread and cookies to toothpaste and soap. Production of palm oil has surged, as it has become a cheap alternative to trans fats; but as demand increases, growers in Indonesia are pushing farther and farther onto rainforest land, torching the forests as they go. This mass-burning of Indonesian jungles poses a major threat to wildlife, indigenous populations and the global climate. Ben Anderson goes to Indonesia to assess the realities of the palm-oil boom up close.
Expectations: My expectations are simple here. The first report will reaffirm my beliefs that the natural world is a chaotic and competitive one and the second segment will also prove once again that our natural resources are plundered for greedy reasons. Sometimes the ways of the world are pretty cut and dry and this installment of VICE confirms that point, as does this trailer.
Gut Reaction: We begin with The Post-Antibiotic World with world weary traveler and correspondent Thomas Morton. I think my opinion of this segment may take some explaining. I think most viewers watching this piece see it as a medical issue. They see it as antibiotics are no longer effective against the variety of bacteria that have attacked us. I see it the other way around. I see it as the bacterial world besieging us and we are on the defense. I see it not so much as a medical story, but a glimpse into the chaotic and competitive natural world we are a part.
“Superbugs” are just doing their thing. They grow stronger as we grow weaker in warding them off. I think back to my nieces growing up and how their mother would get them prescribed antibiotics at the sign of a sniffle. Now those wonder drugs are becoming less effective. Now new stronger ones are needed to ward off the aggressive species that can take out our own. And spunky Thomas Morton aids in that search. He illustrates quite easily how hard a task that is. It is a three-step process and Morton just shows us what step one is like – finding potential medicinal properties. He leads us to find rare berries on a Malaysian tree and slime molds dripping in a cave. Down the line are the other steps – extensive testing , which we do get a glimpse of here and scrutinized clinical trials which are in the distant future.
Indonesia’s Palm Bomb by correspondent Ben Anderson is the second segment. He is on the front line of the Palm Oil boom at the expense of rainforest. Face it, not everyone shares in the belief that deforestation is a bad thing. Some think, as the superior race on the planet, we have the right to harvest any and all natural resources to make our lives easier. Hell, like we need palm oil or high fructose corn syrup and lot of other crap. It is only short term satisfaction; in the long run without rainforests we will be worse off. It is hard to convince the greedy of that though. They don’t care about the rainforest, where our next dose of antibiotics is to come from, or the displaced orangutans and that just pisses me off.
Ben is more level-headed than I on the matter as he has experts explain the important aspects of the rainforest and the enormous release of carbon when machines cut and burn acres of it at a time. The devastation will cripple us in the long run, in my opinion, but it is something you need to believe for yourself. Frustratingly, doing the impossible and cutting out using products with palm oil in them is next to impossible. It is yet another no-win situation in this world.
In Conclusion: My wrap-up is as simple as my expectations were. First, aggressive bacterial strains are out there. Can we hold them at bay? It is a long arduous task to do so, but there are people out there trying. Secondly, as long as there are those who abuse, and dare I use the word, “rape” our landscape, the harder it will be for the planet to sustain us. Hell, she is already retaliating. And lastly, this was a good installment as we approach Earth Day on April 22.
We give VICE the last word in this week’s Debrief with Thomas Morton followed by a preview of Episode 7.
Next Week: On 04.24 Vice will air the 29th episode of VICE and the seventh one this season at 11:00pm. In the installment we look at Alabama’s Immigration issues and the trail of wasted relief funds in Haiti. Until then – Peace.