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NASA Says Antarctica Is Gaining More Ice Than It’s Losing & Here’s Why It’s Confusing

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According to a new study that was recently published by NASA, Antarctica is actually gaining more ice than it has lost. NASA made the announcement after their satellites examined the heights of the region’s ice sheet, and the findings are contradicting the claim (with more than decades of research behind it) that Antarctica has been losing ice and that this loss is and has contributed to a rising global sea level.

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 The paper is titled “Mass gains of the Antarctic ice sheet exceed losses,” and was published in the Journal of Glaciology last Friday. (source)

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The authors of the study, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Maryland and Sigma Space Corporation, analyzed satellite data showing that Antarctica has actually gained 112 billion tons of ice annually from 1992 to 2001 and it’s been increasing ever since.

Again, these findings are completely contradicting previous research that’s been conducted by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which suggests that Antarctica’s ice sheets are melting and causing the sea level rise, thus contributing to global climate change.

According to Jay Zwally, lead author of the paper and NASA glaciologist:

“The good news is that Antarctica is not currently contributing to sea level rise, but is taking 0.23 millimeters per year away…But this is also bad news…if the 0.27 millimeters per year of sea level rise attributed to Antarctica in the IPCC report is not really coming from Antarctica, there must be some other contribution to sea level rise that is not accounted for.”  (source)

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Many scientists (not all) believe that certain parts of Antarctica, like the peninsula and parts of Western Antarctica are losing ice, and that the rate of ice lost is increasing. On the eastern part of the continent, however, there have been ice gains, and that includes part of the interior as well. Scientists are now pointing to the fact that these gains are far greater than the losses we’ve been seeing in the rest of the region. As a result, the net gain  would, again, mean that Antarctica is actually not contributing to see level rise, which begs the question in the quote above, where else could it be coming from? This means that scientists are underestimating the impact from other sources of sea level rise, like the heating of the oceans or the melting that’s occurring in Greenland perhaps?

With that being said, Zwally also mentioned that:

“If the losses of the Antarctic Peninsula and parts of West Antarctica continue to increase at the same rate they’ve been increasing for the last two decades, the losses will catch up with the long-term gain in East Antarctica in 20 or 30 years—I don’t think there will be enough snowfall increase to offset these losses.” (source)

The paper did mention some limitations, for example, the difficulties associated with measuring the height of ice in Antarctica, new technology is needed to perform the task better. According to RT news, the US space agency is currently developing a new satellite that’s more capable of accurately measuring long-term changes in ice in Antarctica.

It’s also interesting to note that Arctic ice extent (we are constantly hearing about the melting of ice in the Arctic) makes up only 10 percent of the world’s total ice extent. When it comes to the ice extent of Antarctica (ice examined in this study), this makes up for 90 percent of the world’s ice extent. Three years ago, Data from the university of Illinois Polar Research Group showed that Antarctic sea ice extent reached an all time high. It was the second largest extent logged at any time dating back to 1979, when record keeping first began.  (source)(source)(source)

Possible explanations for the rise in ice extent include what’s known as the Polar Vortex. A study published in the Journal of Climate by Jinlun Zhang, a University of Washington scientist reports that:

“The polar vortex that swirls around the South Pole is not just stronger than it was when satellite records began in the 1970s, it has more convergence, meaning it shoves the sea ice together to cause ridging. Stronger winds also drive ice faster, which leads to still more deformation and ridging. This creates thicker, longer-lasting ice, while exposing surrounding water and thin ice to the blistering cold winds that cause more ice growth.” (source)

Other explanations include that the recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer may be slowing and delaying Antarctic warming and ice melt. Studies out of NASA have suggested that the oceans are warming and that this is melting the ice from underneath, therefore we can’t see it yet. Several possible explanations have been hypothesized but no one has really figured out why this is happening.

Other Factors To Consider About Climate Change

Climate change is indeed happening, and in my opinion there is absolutely no doubt about that. Sure, human impact has destroyed our environment at a rapid pace, and our actions have no doubt influenced our ecosystem, atmosphere and beyond in harmful ways that we are probably not even aware of yet. Given that, it’s important to remember that we know very little about Earth’s climate. We have to look beyond human impact and factor in natural cycles, and other factors when we are pondering the catalysts for climate change. With that being said, the time for us to move on from our archaic ways of generating energy for example are long overdue. These, and several other factors, are indeed contributing to the destruction of our planet.

One of these factors is the sun:

“The fluctuations in the solar cycle impacts earth’s global temperature, which becomes slightly hotter during solar maximums and cooler during solar minimums” – Thomas Woods, University of Colorado in Boulder (source)

Scientists have learned that about 1,361 watts per square meter of solar energy reaches Earth’s outermost atmosphere during the sun’s quietest periods. But when the sun is active, 1.3 watts per square meter more energy reaches Earth. This measurement is extremely important to climate models that are trying to access Earth based forces on climate change.

Massive bodies flying in and around our solar system also have an effect on the whether of all the planets in our solar system. It’s well documented that solar activity has a direct effect on weather here on Earth, and that comet activity has a direct effect on solar weather. (source)(source)(source)

Research results presented at the 2012 Fall American Geophysical Union illustrated that comets help highlight the intensely dynamic environment of the sun’s atmosphere. As a result they have a direct effect on the weather of all the planets in our solar system, and the Earth’s own magnetic field. (source)

Union Of Concerned Scientists  outlines that over the time-scale of millions of years the change in solar intensity is a critical influence on climate, however:

“Changes in solar heating rate over the last century cannot account for the magnitude and distribution of the rise in global mean temperature during that time period and there is no convincing evidence for significant indirect influences on our climate due to twentieth century changes in solar output.” (source)

Who Is Suggesting That Humans Are Not Contributing To Climate Change?

The past few years have been quite controversial when it comes to the topic of climate change. Although it’s rare to find those who say climate change isn’t happening, it’s not rare to find credible scientists suggesting that the human impact on global climate change isn’t as big as it’s ‘marketed’ to be. The climate is changing, no doubt about that, but is human impact really the leading cause of global climate change? And with the study highlighted in this article, it just adds more confusion to the topic.

Hundreds of world renowned scientists believe there is some shady business going on. For example, Professor Lennart Bengtsson, a Swedish climatologist, former director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg and winner of the 51st IMO Prize of the World Meteorological Organization for his pioneering work in numerical weather prediction, and four of the world’s top climate scientists recently had their research rejected for suggesting that the climate might be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than had been claimed by the IPCC.

According to him:

“The problem we have now in the scientific community is that some scientists are mixing up their scientific role with that of climate activist. It is an indication of how science is gradually being influenced by political views. I am worried about the gradual influence of political views on science. Policy decisions need to be based on solid fact. The reality hasn’t been keeping up with the computer models.” (source)

Bengtsson is one of many examples. Not long ago, NASA was blasted by approximately 50 of their own personnel regarding their global warming stance. (source)(source)

There is also more interesting research like the fairly recent report by Principia Scientific International’s (PSI) Martin Mlynczak alongside NASA tracked infrared emissions from the Earth’s upper atmosphere during and following a solar storm last March. They found that the vast majority of energy released from the sun during this coronal mass ejection was reflected back up into space rather than deposited into Earth’s lower atmosphere.  The result of this was an overall cooling effect because carbon dioxide and nitric oxide (greenhouse gases) were reflecting heat energy rather than absorbing it. This study suggests carbon dioxide is in fact cooling the atmosphere.(source)

There is also what’s known as the Vostok data, this refers to an ice core sample that was obtained by drilling down into the ice above Lake Vostok to a depth of 3623m. The graph built from the Vostok ice core data shows us the relationship between CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperature. The Vostok data showed that CO2 increases lag behind temperature increases by about 800 years. According to this study, CO2 may not the cause of our current increased temperatures.

All of the science on both sides has led to a ‘people bashing people’ campaign. One in which those who say the human impact on climate change is not as big as we thought are conspiracy theorists, and those who say human impact is the number one cause of climate change are also conspiracy theorists, one being false and used to promote a specific agenda.

International Business Times points out that the effects of climate change are irreversible. Sea levels have been rising at a greater rate year after year, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates they could rise by another meter or more by the end of this century. As National Geographicshowed us in 2013, sea levels would rise by 216 feet if all the land ice on the planet were to melt. This would dramatically reshape the continents and drown many of the world’s major cities.

Here is a video they published showing what the earth would look like if all the ice melted.

Personally, after looking at all of the data I’ve looked at, it’s clear to me that we are going through, and have been going through drastic climate change, and there is a lot of data that shows without a doubt that the climate change is real. As far as the level of impact humans have had on it, and whether greenhouse gases do contribute to climate change as much as the mainstream thinks they do, I’m still confused, and my next point just adds to my confusion.

I’d like to make it clear, again, that I am not denying climate change, and the way we are doing things here on our planet is clearly destroying our environment and our atmosphere, which does (I believe) have an effect on climate. How large that affect is, again, I’m not so sure, but as far as destroying our environment and polluting our world (which also contributes to climate change), it’s time to implement the solutions we’ve had for years and go above and beyond all the Red Tape that prevents us from implementing them.

Why Has Everybody Been Talking About Climate Change Without Mentioning This?

If all of this research has been evaluating human impact on global climate change, why is nobody creating awareness about factory farming? Did you know that in 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report stating that the livestock business generates more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transportation combined? Did you know that 51 percent (or more) of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture? (source) (source)(source)(source)

You can find out more about this from an article we titled “Disturbing Aerial Photos Show What Killing Billions of Animals For Meat Is Doing To The Environment.”

If you’re concerned about the climate, focusing on your eating habits is one of the biggest ways you can help.

Credit: Thanks to Deborah Zabarenko from Reuters for the picture.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

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Texas & Mississippi Both Lift Mask Mandates & Some Business Restrictions

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CE Staff Writer 4 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Texas and Mississippi have both lifted many COVID-19 restrictions, including the removal of mandated face masks. Some restrictions will come off by March 10th, others starting tomorrow.

  • Reflect On:

    Regardless of what we think the causes are for why case numbers rise or drop, why are we seeing only a small handful of people given a chance to speak while other credible individuals are sidelined and ridiculed for having a different perspective?

Before you begin...

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This will feel like good news to many, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has just lifted many of the Covid-19 restrictions in his state. Businesses will be allowed to operate at 100% capacity starting March 10th, and citizens will no longer be required to wear face masks.

The news was given during a speech to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce on March 2nd, letting small businesses and community leaders know that a path towards rebuilding their livelihood is being paved.

The governor also added these words with regards to still abiding by certain safety practices instilled since COVID began:

Following Texas’ announcement, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said he plans to end the state’s mask mandate and end all COVID related business restrictions as well. The Governor feels that improved case and hospitalization numbers are a sign that things are ready to return to normal.

Mississippi Governor Reeves feels his latest order “will be one of my last executive orders regarding Covid-19.” The new order replaced the current restrictions with much milder ones that are considered to now be recommendations starting on march 3. There will still be a rule limiting indoor arenas to 50-percent capacity, as well as restrictions on K-12 schools.

Governor Reeves does still remind people that maintaining proper social distancing and other basic safety guidelines is a good idea.

Are we about to see a wave of more states opening up? Might this spread to other countries around the world? We shall see. But the sort of openness and enthusiasm seen by the Governors of Texas and Mississippi is not shared by all, and other health officials feel now is not the time to consider easing restrictions.

Both governor’s stand in stark contrast to that of President Joe Biden, who believes the idea of masks is crucial in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Biden also expects all Americans will remain obedient and in support of masks until at least 2022 and plans to have enough Covid-19 vaccines to vaccinate every citizen the around May of 2021.

Why Have Case Counts Dropped?

Answering this questions is very difficult, and this has been the issue with COVID since the start. If you take an honest look at multiple sources, you will see that no one can agree on why anything is happening the way it is. Further to that, open inquiry and proper scientific dialogue is not allowed nor happening. We’ve seen the greatest crisis in collective sense-making I can recall.

Are cases dropping because the WHO updated their instructions for medical professionals in determine what a ‘positive’ result from a PCR test is? A move that would inevitably remove thousands upon thousands of false positives?

Is it because of masks? Some believe so, while other papers show they have no effect. (Additional resource)

Is it because of the lockdowns? Again, some believe they are effective, while other studies show a completely opposite perspective.

You will hear arguments stated assertively from many different camps, but the truth is, no one really knows all that firmly why cases dropped, and to some extent this is normal in a new and developing scientific story.

But all that aside, one thing we do know is that anyone who disagrees with the way COVID is being handled is not allowed to have a platform to speak. What does that tell us? You decide.

Click here to check out a recent podcast interview with Charles Eisenstein where we spoke about the current sensemaking crisis with COVID as well as how it’s affecting our everyday culture.

Click here for more of our COVID-19 coverage.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

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Alternative News

Two Leading Swedish Health Experts Explain That COVID Lockdowns Have Killed Millions of People

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CE Staff Writer 10 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Professor Anna-Mia Ekström and Professor Stefan Swartling Peterson have gone through the data from UNICEF and UNAIDS, and came to the conclusion that least as many people have died as a result of the restrictions to fight covid as have died of covid.

  • Reflect On:

    Why are scientists who publish data and share their research and opinions that go against the mainstream narrative censored, ridiculed, ignored and never given any air time on mainstream media networks? Are they in the majority?

Before you begin...

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“Over the course of this pandemic I have often wished that Hans Rosling was still alive. For those who are unaware, he was a medical doctor and a professor at Karolinska Institutet who had a particular interest in global health and development. In 2012, Time magazine declared him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. During the last few months of his life, in 2017, he wrote an excellent book called “Factfulness”, that summed up most of his thinking, and described how many of the things people “know” about the world are completely wrong. Hans Rosling is something of a hero of mine, and if he was still alive, I’m sure he would have contributed to bringing some sanity to the current situation. With his global influence, I think people would have listened….Two of Hans Rosling’s former colleagues at Karolinska Instituet, professor Anna-Mia Ekström and professor Stefan Swartling Peterson, have gone through the data from UNICEF and UNAIDS, and come to the conclusion that at least as many people have died as a result of the restrictions to fight covid as have died of covid directly.”

The quote above comes from Sebastian Rushworth, a medical doctor in Sweden. Reading his recent blog post, I came across the fact that, as you can see above, two of Hans Rosling’s former colleagues at Karolinska Instituet, professor Anna-Mia Elkström and professor Stefan Swartling Peterson, have gone through the data from UNICEF and UNAIDS, and come to the conclusion that least as many people have died as a result of the restrictions to fight COVID as have died of COVID directly. I verified this using multiple sources, and it’s true, these professors did in fact come to this conclusion, and there are many sources expressing this. They have been interviewed about their findings on SVT, the Swedish public broadcaster. If you speak Swedish, you can watch a documentary that discusses their conclusions here. (source)(source)

Before we go any further, I’d like to mention that lockdowns may have in fact killed more people already given the fact that we know deaths being marked as “COVID” deaths, in many cases are not actually a result of COVID. For example, Ontario public health clearly states that deaths will be marked as COVID deaths whether or not it’s clear if COVID was the cause or contributed to the death.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health stated the following during the first wave of the pandemic,

If you were in hospice and had already been given a few weeks to live and then you were also found to have COVID, that would be counted as a COVID death, despite if you died of a clear alternative cause it’s still listed as a COVID death. So, everyone who is listed as a COVID death that doesn’t mean that was the cause of the death, but they had COVID at the time of death.

Professor Anna-Mia Elkström and professor Stefan Swartling Peterson haven’t been the only ones to express concerns.  The consequences of lockdowns are many, and we are choosing this approach for a virus with a 99.95 percent survival rate for people under the age of 70, and a 95 percent survival rate for people over the age of 70. That said, we do know that the primary reason is to avoid hospital systems from becoming overburdened by apparent COVID cases.

Lockdown harms were pondered early on in the pandemic, a report published in the British Medical Journal titled Covid-19: “Staggering number” of extra deaths in community is not explained by covid-19″  has suggested that quarantine measures in the United Kingdom as a result of the new coronavirus may have already killed more UK seniors than the coronavirus has during the months of April and May .

Bhattacharya, MD, PhD wrote an article  for The Hill titled “Facts, not fear, will stop the pandemic.” In it he points out a number of facts regarding the implications of lockdown measures, which also include that fact that:

Internationally, the lockdowns have placed 130 million people on the brink of starvation, 80 million children at risk for diphtheria, measles and polio, and 1.8 million patients at risk of death from tuberculosis. The lockdowns in developed countries have devastated the poor in poor countries. The World Economic Forum estimates that the lockdowns will cause an additional 150 million people to fall into extreme poverty, 125 times as many people as have died from COVID.

Let’s not forget about the mental/psychological consequences of lockdowns as well, along with the economic factors.

Furthermore, many scientific publications have shown that lockdowns have no impact on the spread of the virus. For example, a study published by four medical professors from Stanford University has failed to find evidence supporting the use of what they call “Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions” (NPIs) like lockdowns, social-distancing, business closures and stay at home orders. According to the study, these measures have not been sufficient and are not sufficient to stop the spread of COVID and therefore are not necessary to combat the spread of the virus.

A group of doctors and scientists published an essay for the American Institute for Economic Research explaining and presenting the data as to why they believe lockdowns are not only harmful, but useless to combat COVID. In the essay they present a multitude of studies supporting the same conclusions found in the Stanford study cited above. You can read that here.

Another issue with the pandemic is the problem of false positives. A number of reputable sources, including many public health officials have raised concerns about the potential of false positives, especially when testing asymptomatic people. Many of these people, and based on my research the majority of them, will actually be “false positives.” Meaning they don’t have the virus, and/or are not capable of transmitting it to others. Of course, Facebook fact checkers and others argue otherwise, and herein lies another challenge. With fact checking comes censorship of differing opinions, and thus many are not hearing about these other perspectives because they are being shut out. Should we not be allowed to explore other credible perspectives?

You can find read more about that (PCR testing and false positives) and access sources for that claim, here.

The Censorship of Science

What’s plagued scientists who share the type of information shared above is the censorship they experience. For example, a  letter to the editor published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled “Open Schools, Covid-19, and Child and Teacher Morbidity in Sweden” expressed that:

“Despite Sweden’s having kept schools and preschools open, we found a low incidence of severe Covid-19 among schoolchildren and children of preschool age during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic…No child with Covid-19 died…Among the 1,951,905 million children who were 1 to 16 years of age, 15 children had Covid-19, MIS-C, or both conditions and were admitted to an ICU, which is equal to 1 child in 130,000.”

According to a recent article published in the British Medical Journal:

“The Swedish government has said that it will strengthen laws on academic freedom after a leading Swedish academic announced that he was quitting his work on COVID-19 because of an onslaught of intimidating comments from people who disagreed or disliked his research findings.”

The leading Swedish academic is the one who published the paper referenced above.

Below is a tweet from Professor Jay Bhattacharya, a medical professor from Stanford who is also referenced earlier in the article.

At the end of the day, what does it say about our world when so many scientists, credible information, and data is censored? What does it say when only one side of the coin is emphasized and pushed by our governments and mainstream media while the other side is ridiculed, ignored, unacknowledged and, when it does manage to gain traction and reach the masses, it’s labelled as a “conspiracy theory?”

Below is a tweet from Martin Kulldorff, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard University. Along with Bhattacharya and Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology and one of the world’s foremost infectious disease experts, the Great Barrington Declaration started.

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s the fact that open and transparent scientific debate should be encouraged, not shut down and censored. I’ve said it many times before, it’s odd how someone like Dr. Anthony Fauci can achieve instant virality through mainstream media yet tens of thousands of experts in the field never see the light of day.

Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science. – Dr. Kamran Abbasi, executive editor of the prestigious British Medical Journal, editor of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, and a consultant editor for PLOS Medicine. He is editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine and JRSM Open. Taken from his published a piece in the BMJ, titled “Covid-19: politicisation, “corruption,” and suppression of science.”

Even If We Weren’t In A Lockdown, We Should Still Be Questioning Our “Normal.

“This is an important question at the moment, and we are seeing it in everything from alternative media to mainstream media. As we saw with Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, even politicians are warning their citizens that what you see happening now will be the ‘new normal’ to some extent. What do they mean by this? Should we want things to go back to how they were prior to this pandemic? Do we have a future of even more restrictions in sight?

From my perspective, I don’t want things to go back to ‘normal’. Why do I say this? Because I ask myself the question: was life prior to, and even during this pandemic, truly allowing humanity to thrive? Was it anywhere even close to what humanity is capable of? Or is it a society and world designed out of programming that has convinced us to accept basic survival as being how we should live… as normal?

This can be a question for everyone no matter where you live on this planet. Whether the weekly rat race is reality or whether having to worry about whether you will get your next meal is your reality, is this truly how we want to live and what humanity is capable of?

If not, then how can we shift the conversation to begin exploring how we might change the way we live in our society?

Read more here.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

Continue Reading

Awareness

How Does Anesthesia Work? We Still Don’t Know: What Happens When Someone Goes “Under”?

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14 minute read

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

When patients ask anesthesiologists what we charge for putting them to sleep, we often say we do it for free. We only bill them for the waking up part.

This isn’t just a way of deflecting a question, it also serves as a gentle reminder to both parties regarding the importance of “coming to.” If we couldn’t regain consciousness, what would be the point in having the surgery in the first place? Nobody wants to experience pain and fear if it can be avoided. If the only way to avoid the pain of an operation is to temporarily be rendered unconscious, most people will readily and willingly consent to that, as long as we can return to our natural state of being alert and interactive with the world around us. We are awake and aware and that–rather than any particular conception of health–is our most precious gift.

How does Anesthesia work ?

From an Anesthesiologist’s point of view, we really shouldn’t charge for putting someone to sleep. It’s too easy. With today’s medications, putting someone to sleep, or in more correct terms, inducing general anesthesia, is straightforward. Two hundred milligrams of this and fifty milligrams of that and voilà: you have a completely unconscious patient who is incapable of even breathing independently. The medications we administer at induction are similar to the lethal injections executioners use. Unlike executioners, we then intervene to reestablish their breathing and compensate for any large changes in blood pressure and the patient thereby survives until consciousness miraculously returns sometime later.

In addition, those in my field have to contend with the reality that we really don’t know what we are doing. More precisely, we have very little if any understanding of how anesthetic gases render a person unconscious. After 17 years of practicing Anesthesiology, I still find the whole process nothing short of pure magic. You see, the exact mechanism of how these agents work is, at present, unknown. Once you understand how a trick works, the magic disappears. With regard to inhaled anesthetic agents, magic abounds. 

Take ether, for example. In 1846 a dentist named William T.G. Morton used ether to allow Dr. Henry J. Bigelow to partially remove a tumor from the neck of a 24-year-old patient safely with no outward signs of pain. The surgery took place at Massachusetts General Hospital in front of dozens of physicians. When the patient regained consciousness with no recollection of the event it is said that many of the surgeons in attendance, their careers spent hardening themselves to the agonizing screams of their patients while operating without modern anesthesia, wept openly after witnessing this feat. At the time, no one knew how ether worked. We still don’t. Over the last 173 years, dozens of different anesthetic gases have been developed and they all have three basic things in common: they are inhaled, they are all very, very tiny molecules by biological standards, and we don’t know how any of them work.

Why we still don’t know…

If you have never closely considered how our bodies do what they do (move, breathe, grow, pee, reproduce, etc.), the answers may be astounding. It is obvious that the energy required to power biological systems comes from food and air. But how do they use them to do everything? How does it all get coordinated?

These are the fundamental questions that have been asked for millennia, by ancient shamans and modern pharmaceutical companies alike. It turns out that the answers are different depending on what sort of perspective and tools we begin with. In the West, our predecessors in medicine were anatomists. Armed with scalpels, the human form was first subdivided into organ systems. Our knives and eyes improved with the development of microtomes and microscopes giving rise to the field of Histology (the study of tissue). Our path of relentless deconstruction eventually gave rise to Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. This is where Western medicine stands today. We define “understanding” as a complete description of how the very molecules that comprise our bodies interact with one another. This method and model has served us well. We have designed powerful antibiotics, identified neurotransmitters, and mapped our own genome. Why then have we not been able to figure out how a gas like ether works? The answer is two-fold.

First, although we have been able to demonstrate some of the biological processes and structures that are altered by an inhaled anesthetic gas, we cannot pinpoint which ones are responsible for altering levels of awareness because inhaled anesthetic agents affect so many seemingly unrelated things at the same time. It is impossible to identify which are directly related to the “awake” state. It is also entirely possible that all of them are, and if that were the case consciousness would be the single most complex function attributed to a living organism by a very large margin.

The second difficulty we have is even more unwieldy and requires some contemplation. As explained above, western medicine has not been able to isolate which molecular interaction is responsible for anesthetics’ effect on our awareness. It is therefore reasonable to approach the puzzle from the opposite side and ask instead, “Where is the source of our awareness in our bodies?” and go from there.

We do know that certain neurological pathways in the brain are active in awake patients, but if we attribute consciousness to those pathways then we are necessarily identifying them as the “things” that are awake. To find the source of their “awakeness” we must then examine them more closely. With the tools we have and the paradigm we have chosen we will inevitably find more molecules interacting with other molecules. When you go looking for molecules that is all you will find. Our paradigm has dictated what the answer would be like if we ever found one. Does it seem plausible to think we will find an “awareness molecule” and attribute our vivid, multisensorial experience to the presence of it? If such a molecule existed, how would our deconstructive approach ever explain why that molecule was the source of our awareness?  Can consciousness ever be represented materially?

A more sensible model would be to consider the activity of these structures in the brains of conscious individuals as evidence of consciousness, not the cause of it.  To me it is apparent that, unless we expand our search beyond the material plane, we are not going to find consciousness or be able to understand how anesthetic gases work. Until then I know I am nothing more than a wand-waver in the operating room. And that is being generous. The magician is the anesthetic gas itself, which has, up to this point, never let us in on the secret.

What happens when someone goes “under”?

The mechanistic nature of our model is well suited to most biological processes. However, with regard to consciousness, the model not only lends little understanding of what is happening, it also gives rise to a paradigm that is widely and tightly held, but in actuality cannot be applied to the full breadth of human experience. We commonly believe that a properly functioning physical body is required for us to be aware. Although this may seem initially incontrovertible, upon closer examination it becomes quite clear that this belief is actually an assumption that has massive implications. To be more precise, how do we know that consciousness does not continue uninterrupted and only animate our physical bodies intermittently rather than the other way around, where the body intermittently gives rise to the awake state? At first, this hypothesis may seem absurd, irrelevant and unprovable. I assure you that if you spent a day in an operating room, this idea is not only possible, it is far more likely to be true than the converse.

Let us first consider how we measure anesthetic depth in the operating room. We continually measure the amount of agent that is circulating in a patient’s system, but as described earlier, there is no measurable “conscious” molecule that can be found. We must assess the behavior of our patients to make that determination. Do they reply to verbal commands? Do they require a tap on the shoulder or a painful stimulus to respond? Do they respond verbally or do they merely shudder or fling an arm into the air? Perhaps they do not even move when the very fibers of their body are literally being dissected.

There are many situations when a person will interact normally for a period of time while under the influence of a sedative with amnestic properties, and then have absolutely no recollection of that period of time. As far as they know, that period of time never existed. They had no idea that they were lying on an operating room table for 45 minutes talking about their recent vacation while their surgeon performed a minor procedure on their wrist, for example. Sometime later, they found themselves in the recovery room when, to their profound disbelief, they noticed a neatly placed surgical dressing on their hand. More than once I have been told that a patient had asked that the dressing be removed so that they could see the stitches with their own eyes.

How should we characterize their level of consciousness during the operation? By our own standards they were completely awake. However, because they have no memory of being awake during the experience, they would recount it more or less the same way a patient who was rendered completely unresponsive would. This phenomenon is common and easily reproducible. Moreover, it invites us to consider the possibility that awareness continually exists without interruption, but we are not always able to access our experiences retrospectively

During some procedures where a surgeon is operating very close to the spinal cord, we often infuse a combination of anesthetic drugs that render the patient unconscious but allow all of the neural pathways between the brain and the body to continue to function normally so that they can be monitored for their integrity. In other words, the physiology required to feel or move remains intact, yet the patient apparently has no experience of any stimuli, surgical or otherwise during the operation. How are we to reconcile the fact that we have a patient with a functioning body and no ability to experience it? Who exactly is the patient in this situation?

What can Near Death Experiences (NDEs) tell us?

If we broadened our examination of the human experience to consider more extreme situations, another wrinkle appears in the paradigm. There are numerous accounts of people who have experienced periods of awareness whilst their bodies have been rendered insentient by anesthetics and/or severe trauma. Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are all characterized by lucid awareness that remains continuous during a period of time while outside observers assume the person is unconscious or dead. Very often patients who have experienced an NDE in the operating room can accurately recount what was said and done by people attending to them during their period of lifelessness. They are also able to describe the event from the perspective as an observer to their own body, often viewing it from above.

Interestingly, people describe their NDEs in a universally positive way. “Survival” was an option that they were free to choose. Death of their body could be clearly seen as a transcending event in their continuing awareness and not as the termination of their existence. Very often the rest of their lives are profoundly transformed by the experience. No longer living with the fear of mortality, life subsequently opens up into a more vibrant and meaningful experience that can be cherished far more deeply than was possible prior to their brush with death. Those who have had an NDE would have no problem adopting the idea that their awareness exists independently of their body, functioning or not. Fear and anxiety would still probably arise in their life from time to time, but it is the rest of us who carry the seemingly inescapable load of a belief system that ties our existence to a body that will perish.

What happens when we wake up from Anesthesia?

The waking up part is no less magical. When the anesthetic gas is eliminated from the body, consciousness returns on its own. Waking someone up simply requires enough space and time for it to occur spontaneously. There is no reversal agent available to speed the return of consciousness. I can only wait. In fact, the waiting period is directly related to the amount of time the patient has been exposed to the anesthetic. At some point the patient will open their eyes when a threshold has been crossed. Depending on how long the patient has been “asleep,” complete elimination of the agent from the body may not happen until a long while after the patient has “woke.” 

By the time I leave a patient in the care of our recovery room nurses, I am confident that they are safely on a path to their baseline state of awareness. Getting back to a normal state of awareness may take hours or even days. In some cases, patients may never get their wits back completely. Neurocognitive testing has demonstrated that repeated exposure to general anesthesia can sometimes have long-lasting or even irreversible effects on the awake state. It may occur for everyone. Perhaps it is a matter of how closely we look.

Interestingly, it is well known that the longterm effects of anesthetic exposure are more profound in individuals who have already demonstrated elements of cognitive decline in their daily life. Indeed, this population of patients requires significantly less anesthetic to reach the same depth of unconsciousness during an operation. This poses an intriguing question: Is our understanding of being awake also too simplistic? Is there a continuum of “awakeness” in everyday life just as there is one of unconsciousness when anesthetized? If so, how would we measure it?

Does our limited understanding of awareness keep us “asleep”?

Modern psychiatry has been rigorous in defining and categorizing dysfunction. Although there has been recent interest in pushing our understanding of what may be interpreted as a “super-functioning” psyche, western systems are still in their infancy with regard to this idea. In eastern schools of thought, however, this concept has been central for centuries.

In some schools of Eastern philosophy, the idea of attaining a super-functioning awake state is seen as something that also occurs spontaneously when intention and practice are oriented correctly. Ancient yogic teachings specifically describe super abilities, or Siddhis, that are attained through dedicated practice. These Siddhis include fantastical abilities like levitation, telekinesis, dematerialization, remote-viewing and others. The most advanced abilities, interestingly, are those that allow an individual to remain continuously in a state of joy and fearlessness. If such a state were attainable it would clearly be incompatible with the kind of absolute psychological identification most of us have with our mortal bodies. It may be of no surprise that Eastern medicine also subscribes to an entirely different perspective of the body and uses different tools to examine it.

Certainly fear has served our ancestors well, helping us to avoid snakes and lions, but how much fear is necessary these days? Could fear be the barrier that separates us from our highest potential in the awake state just as an anesthetic gas prevents us from waking in the operating room? It is not possible to remain fearless while continuing to identify with a body that is prone to disease and death. Even if one were to drop the assumption that the source of our existence is a finite body, how long would it take to be free from the effects of a lifetime of fearful thinking before any changes that reflect a shift in this paradigm manifest? As long as we leave this model unchallenged we may be missing what it means to be truly awake.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

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