In Praise of the Placenta

The placenta has been described as the only disposable organ ever made.

Placenta in Action

Previously we wrote that civilization resembles a placenta, because it protects and nurtures life. The placenta is a temporary organ that transfers oxygen and nutrients from mother to child, removes wastes including carbon dioxide, and shields the fetus from the mother’s immune system. The placenta is rich in blood vessels and provides a reservoir of blood for the fetus, delivering blood to it in emergencies.

Civilization is an approximately 10,000-year-old social placenta sustaining us by transferring nutrients to 7 billion people. Healthy civilization includes toilets and green technology, which control and remove environmental wastes including carbon dioxide. Successful civilization protects us from natural calamities and societal collapse. Civilization truly is a two-way conduit between humanity and nature.

A reader responded to the previous post: “This analogy does not hold. The placenta is merely a conduit. Civilization not only sustains but also shapes humanity. The placenta plays no role in shaping a child.”

Recently researchers in Britain and the United States demonstrated that the placenta actually does play an active role in human development. In Scientific American, Claudia Kalb reports that “The placenta does more than nourish offspring in the womb – it actively shapes brain development, … actively protects the fetus and shapes neurological development. … It is the placenta – not the mother – that provides the hormone serotonin to the fetus’s forebrain early in development. … Placental abnormalities could directly influence the risk of developing depression, anxiety and even autism.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fetal-armor

The nearly 4,000 placental mammals currently in existence include dogs, cats, elephants, whales, primates, cattle, horses, rats, sheep and humans. Genetic research suggests that the evolution of the human placenta can be traced back to the earliest multicellular organisms. We bear our young live after nourishing them for varying periods of time in their mother’s uterus. We are Mammalia.

The connection between humanity and the nutritional abundance of our sacred planet is as indispensable as the placental connection between a mother and her child.

Defend Civilization

The placenta has been described as the only disposable organ ever made. Civilization is also disposable. Numerous pathologies can affect the placenta, and numerous pathologies, including terrorism, racism, poverty and war, affect civilization.

A Declaration of Interdependence makes sense for 21st-century humanity. Just as the placenta secretes Neurokonin B to protect the fetus from attack by the mother’s immune system, humanity needs to expand and enrich the conduits of cooperation, protecting civilization from ourselves. If the connection between humanity and civilization fails, our descendants will have no more chance of survival than a fetus disconnected from its placenta.


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