Monday, November 30, 2009

Soggy Pork In a Supermarket Near You By 2014

Meat produced in a laboratory could reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with real animals. Photo: MARTIN POPE Telegraph

This is not the first time I have mentioned this; and, it probably won’t be the last: I am so glad that I am a vegetarian.

The latest in “disgusting things they want me to put in my body” is soggy pork. Yes, you read that right – soggy pork. Now, doesn’t that sound yummy? I’m guessing it will be renamed before it hits the supermarkets.

What is soggy pork – exactly? You may be sorry you asked. Soggy pork is meat that is grown in a laboratory from a few cells grown in a broth of other animal products.

Telegraph explains:
“The scientists extracted cells from the muscle of a live pig and then put them in a broth of other animal products. The cells then multiplied and created muscle tissue. They believe that it can be turned into something like steak if they can find a way to artificially "exercise" the muscle.”

What is the meat like now? Mark Post, professor of physiology at Eindhoven University, said: "What we have at the moment is rather like wasted muscle tissue. We need to find ways of improving it by training it and stretching it, but we will get there. This product will be good for the environment and will reduce animal suffering. If it feels and tastes like meat, people will buy it. You could take the meat from one animal and create the volume of meat previously provided by a million animals.”

While no one has enough information on the nutritional value of the meat to comment on its potential health risks yet – of which I’m sure there are more risks than benefits – the meat will be marketed in a little under five years.

However, many are pointing to the huge environmental benefits that are expected to be gained. One of the most infamous of the worldwide greenhouse gas emissions is methane. And where does that methane come from? Cows; and, the world has plenty of them. Guesstimates put the amount of the entire world’s methane released by cattle to be about 20% - this is more than all the world’s automobile emissions.

Factory farms like this one may be a thing of the past if soggy pork catches on.

Why are we trying to eliminate the cattle industry if the few cells used come from a pig? The meat may have been grown from a few pork cells; but, it can be made to taste like beef. So, scientists and researchers are looking at this soggy pork as a way to reduce cattle herds worldwide. In addition to being artificially-engineered; now, it will be artificially-flavoured as well. Mmmmm…boy!!

I’m not sure which is more unappetizing – the “grown under laboratory conditions” label or the ability to customize the taste of your artificially-grown meat.

Proponents are pointing to the fact that not only will these methane emissions be spared; but, forests will remain standing instead of being eradicated for ranches. There would be a drastic reduction in the water needed to bring this meat from lab to market. It would almost certainly reduce animal cruelty.

It was supported by animal rights campaigners. A spokesman for Peta said: “As far as we’re concerned, if meat is no longer a piece of a dead animal there’s no ethical objection.”

However, the Vegetarian Society said: “The big question is how could you guarantee you were eating artificial flesh rather than flesh from an animal that had been slaughtered. It would be very difficult to label and identify in a way that people would trust.” Excuse me; but, doesn’t the fact that it’s animal cells brewed in a cauldron with other animal products make it non-vegetarian by very definition.

A survey commissioned by the Food Standards Agency revealed people had concerns about long-term health risks and the environmental impacts that may come with genetically modified products. Not surprising to me, it also showed that shoppers want clear labelling to show if a product has been genetically modified. We have a right to know!! It’s my body; I’ll make the decisions about what is safe for it.

Genetically Modified supporters, while acknowledging the risks associated with “engineered” food, say it benefits the Third World. That’s even more disgusting than the soggy meat.

And just when you thought the “disgusting” bits were all over – there’s one more bit. This project is being funded by the Dutch government and a sausage company and follows on the heels of the creation of artificial fish fillets made from goldfish muscle cells. Filet-o-goldfish anyone?

Via TreeHugger and Telegraph.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Icebergs On Way To New Zealand

This one was spotted off Macquarie Island two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about an iceberg heading to Australia. A part of the Antarctic ice shelf had broken off and was clearly visible from Macquarie Island.

Now it seems that more pieces of the ice shelf have broken off and are floating towards New Zealand. Ships in the southern Pacific Ocean have been warned to be on the lookout for hundreds of massive icebergs.

Scientists have counted over 100 icebergs on the way to New Zealand. According to the BBC, it’s a relatively rare event. The last time a huge flotilla of icebergs amassed was in 2006; but, before that it was in 1931. Would anyone like to try spelling "global warming"?

The icebergs have already floated past Australian territory Macquarie Island

No one seems to feel that there is any real cause for concern at the present time. The icebergs aren’t in any major shipping lanes and there is very little boat traffic in the area. Even though they are headed in the direction of New Zealand, apparently there is very little chance that they will make it that far. Scientists are saying that they believe the segments will break up long before reaching the New Zealand coastline.

These icebergs must be a spectacular sight. Some of them are over 30’ high and 650’ long.

Photo via New Zeal

These icebergs were first discovered by a New Zealand glaciologist after studying satellite photography. He found that the closest iceberg was 160 miles south of New Zealand.

However, the icebergs had been spotted earlier this month off the coast of Australia. It is believed that the icebergs headed to New Zealand are chunks of the Australian icebergs. One chunk is estimated to be double the size of Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium.

A fair number of scientists feel that the icebergs originally broke away from the Ross Sea Ice Shelf in 2000 and have been drifting and slowly breaking down ever since.

The errant iceberg photographed on the run, by MSNBC

Via TreeHugger

Friday, November 27, 2009

Camels Invade Australian Settlement

Camels were first brought to Australia to help explorers travel through the desert Photo: EPA

This is not the first incidence of animals approaching human settlements in search of water. Drought has been a bigger disaster globally than usual this year; and, people are not the only sufferers.

The residents of the small settlement of Kaltukatjara in the Northern Territory settlement, Australia, are under siege. Kaltukatjara is a settlement of indigenous peoples which is sometimes referred to by the European name Docker River.

The drought is driving approximately 6,000 camels to do the desperate – they have invaded the settlement in search of water. Town people have gone indoors and shut the doors against the camels in fear. The animals have trampled fences, smashed through water mains, torn water tanks apart and invaded the airstrip. Now they are trying to force their way into people’s home to drink water from the air-conditioning units, taps or anywhere they can find it.

The local government has decided that the only way to deal with the situation is to round up the camels by helicopter and shoot them. Camels are not native to Australia. They were brought over by early settlers and set loose when they were no longer needed.

Rob Knight, the local government minister, said: "The community of Docker River is under siege by 6,000 marauding, wild camels. This is a very critical situation out there, it's very unusual and it needs urgent action. We don't have the luxury of time because the herd is getting bigger.”

The government is putting up $49,000 Australian (£27,000 or $44,300 USD) to herd them nine miles into the desert where marksmen will “cull” them from the air. The money will also be used to repair the damages that the camels have done.

The camels were brought to Australia in the 1840’s and have flourished ever since. There are over one million of them in the Northern Territory’s red-sand deserts; and, many feel that they are eroding the natural environment.

The Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association has welcomed the move to cull them and chief Luke Bowen says: “This is a plague of biblical proportions laying waste to a sensitive and arid environment. We have to have action; we have to have it now.”

Local shire chief Graham Taylor said: "I think the words 'under siege' are good words because it talks about people being stuck in their homes and looking out and seeing just numbers of camels at your front door.”

Concerns have been raised around the health issues surrounding the bodies of camels killed in the stampedes at water storage areas contaminating the settlement’s water supply.

Glenys Oogjes, executive director of Animals Australia, said the plan to kill camels by helicopter was barbaric and that the community could instead focus on setting up barriers to keep out the camels.

"It's a terrible thing that people react to these events by shooting," she said. "The real concern is the terrible distress and wounding when shot by helicopter. There will be terrible suffering."

Unfortunately, it’s the camels’ amazing ability to survive that may eventually doom it. With few natural predators they have swollen in numbers; and, now compete with sheep and cattle for food. Wild camels are carriers of disease that can spread to the cattlemen’s herds making them wildly unpopular. They are no friend to the local environments either – destroying revegetation projects in the desert communities by ripping up the plants for food.

Via Telegraph

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Aspirin-Like Substance Found in Brazilian Mint Plant

Graciela Rocha with one of her Brazilian mint plants. Photo courtesy: BBC News.

A study published in the journal Acta Horticulturae claims that a cup of Brazilian mint tea has equivalent pain relieving qualities to commercially-available analgesics. Finally, a natural cure for pain without having to cope with the side effects commercially-available analgesics cause.

Hyptis crenata has been prescribed by Brazilian healers for millennia to treat ailments such as headaches, stomach pain, fever and flu. A Newcastle University team has proven scientifically, through a series of tests on mice, that the ancient medicine men were correct.

In order to better understand the correct procedures to use when making and prescribing this tea, the Newcastle researchers went to Brazil to find out how the medicine is traditionally prepared and how much should be consumed.

It was determined that the most common method is to produce a decoction – boil the dried leaves in water for 30 minutes and allow liquid to cool before drinking.

The team found that when the tea was given at a dose prescribed by the healer, it was effective at relieving pain as a synthetic aspirin-style called named Indometacin. Plans are now underway to find out how effective the mint is as a pain reliever for people.

Lead researcher Graciela Rocha said: "Since humans first walked the Earth we have looked to plants to provide a cure for our ailments - in fact it is estimated more than 50,000 plants are used worldwide for medicinal purposes. Besides traditional use, more than half of all prescription drugs are based on a molecule that occurs naturally in a plant. What we have done is to take a plant that is widely used to safely treat pain and scientifically proven that it works as well as some synthetic drugs. Now the next step is to find out how and why the plant works."

Graciela is Brazilian and remembers being given the tea as a cure for every childhood illness. She points out that the taste isn’t what most people would consider to be a minty taste. Apparently, the taste is more sage-like. Sage is a member of the mint family.

Dr Beverly Collett, chair of the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition, said: "Obviously further work needs to be done to identify the molecule involved, but this is interesting research into what may be a new analgesic for the future. The effects of aspirin-like substances have been known since the ancient Greeks recorded the use of the willow bark as a fever fighter. The leaves and bark of the willow tree contain a substance called salicin, a naturally occurring compound similar to acetylsalicylic acid, the chemical name for aspirin."

The research is being presented at the International Symposium on Medicinal and Nutraceutical Plants in New Delhi, India.

Via Cause2 and BBC News

Update on the Tetley Debacle

Photo courtesy: Cause2

This article is reprinted from Green Left Online. The situation with the tea pickers has not changed since I first reported on it. I did a previous blog detailing the inhumane treatment the tea pickers are receiving from Tata (a transnational Indian conglomerate) owns the wildly popular Tetley tea. Who doesn't recognize the Tetley tea elves? Unfortunately, Tetley is not as "employee-friendly" as the elves would have you believe.

Tata, the transnational Indian conglomerate whose wholly-owned subsidiary Tetley makes the world famous Tetley Teas, has taken 6500 people hostage through hunger, said on November 12. These include 1000 tea plantation workers and their families on the Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate in West Bengal, India. The workers have been locked and denied wages for all but two days’ work since early August

Management of the plantation, in which Tata holds the largest ownership share and exercises control, is seeking retaliation for a worker protest in August against its treatment of an eight-months’ pregnant worker who was denied maternity leave, forced to pluck tea, and then denied adequate medical treatment.

Workers want the estate reopened and their wages paid, but reject the suspension of eight workers singled out for protesting vile abuses. They refuse to renounce their right to peacefully protest abusive exploitation.

Visit to send a message to the CEOs of Tata and Tetly in support of the demands of the Nowera Nuddy Estate (Tata Tea) Workers’ Action Committee.

Don't forget to boycott Tetley and hit them where they hurt - their wallets.

Via International News, Green Left Weekly issue #819 25 November 2009.

Did You Know That...

It was necessary to keep a good supply of cannon balls near the cannon on old war ships. But how to prevent them from rolling about the deck was the problem. The storage method devised was to stack them as a square based pyramid, with one ball on top, resting on four, resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem -- how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding/rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate with 16 round indentations, called, for reasons unknown, a Monkey.. But if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make them of brass - hence, Brass Monkeys.

Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled.

Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannon balls would come right off the monkey.

Thus, it was quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. And all this time, folks thought that was just a vulgar expression?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Aftermath of War (con't)

Caution: This blog contains one picture that is very graphic; but, is being used to illustrate the inhumanity of the use of white phosphorus. The US did not admit to using white phosphorus until 2005 - well over one year after the incidences.

New research suggests that birth defect rates in the United States may be highest for women conceiving in the spring and summer. (Credit: iStockphoto/Amanda Rohde)

Theories abound as to what can be the cause of the Fallujah statistics. Possibilities include weapons-related radiation or white phosphorus use, air pollution, psychological stress on the mother, malnutrition, inadequate pre-natal care, unclean drinking water, and any other reason they could come up with.

We know from a 2009 US study published in the medical journal Acta Paediatrica that birth defect rates in the United States were highest for women conceiving in the spring and summer.

With further investigation, the researchers found that this period of increase risk correlated with increased levels of pesticides in surface water across the United States.

White phosphorus is a very controversial weapon.

Wikipedia tells us:
White phosphorus can cause injuries and death in three ways: by burning deep into tissue, by being inhaled as a smoke, and by being ingested. Extensive exposure by burning and ingestion is fatal.
Incandescent particles of WP cast off by a WP weapon's initial explosion can produce extensive, deep second and third degree burns. (See picture below)

Back and shoulder of 15 year-old Ayman al-Najar at the Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. He sustained severe injuries from white phosphorus after Israeli bombing of the village Khoza'a.

One reason why this occurs is the tendency of the element to stick to the skin. Phosphorus burns carry a greater risk of mortality than other forms of burns due to the absorption of phosphorus into the body through the burned area, resulting in liver, heart and kidney damage, and in some cases multiple organ failure. These weapons are particularly dangerous to exposed people because white phosphorus continues to burn unless deprived of oxygen or until it is completely consumed. In some cases, burns are limited to areas of exposed skin because the smaller WP particles do not burn completely through personal clothing before being consumed.

By inhalation of smoke

Burning WP produces a hot, dense, white smoke consisting mostly of phosphorus pentoxide. Most forms of the smoke are not hazardous in the likely concentrations produced by a battlefield smoke shell. Exposure to heavy smoke concentrations of any kind for an extended period (particularly if near the source of emission) does have the potential to cause illness or even death.
WP smoke irritates the eyes, mucous membranes of the nose, and respiratory tract in moderate concentrations, while higher concentrations may produce severe burns. However, no casualties have been recorded from the effects of WP smoke alone in combat operations and there are no confirmed deaths resulting from exposure to phosphorus smoke.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has set an acute inhalation Minimum Risk Level (MRL) for white phosphorus smoke of 0.02 mg/m³, the same as fuel oil fumes. By contrast, the chemical weapon mustard gas is 30 times more potent: 0.0007 mg/m³.

By oral ingestion

The accepted lethal dose when white phosphorus is ingested orally is 1 mg per kg of body weight, although the ingestion of as little as 15 mg has resulted in death. It may also cause liver, heart or kidney damage. There are reports of individuals with a history of oral ingestion who have passed phosphorus-laden stool ("smoking stool syndrome").

Fallujah's frontline doctors are reluctant to draw a direct link with the fighting. They instead cite multiple factors that could be contributors.
"These include air pollution, radiation, chemicals, drug use during pregnancy, malnutrition, or the psychological status of the mother," said Dr Qais. "We simply don't have the answers yet."

Other health officials are also starting to focus on possible reasons, chief among them potential chemical or radiation poisonings. Abnormal clusters of infant tumours have also been repeatedly cited in Basra and Najaf – areas that have in the past also been intense battle zones where modern munitions have been heavily used.

The government's lack of capacity has led Fallujah officials, who have historically been wary of foreign intervention, to ask for help from the international community. "Even in the scientific field, there has been a reluctance to reach out to the exterior countries," said Dr Salah. "But we have passed that point now. I am doing multiple surgeries every day. I have one assistant and I am obliged to do everything myself."

Ways we can help:

1) Write your local government official expressing your outrage and demanding that this type of warfare cease. It is the civilians, the women and children who suffer.

2) Contact Amnesty International for great info.

3) Spread the word - by mouth, by blog, by FaceBook, by whatever means you have - and encourage others to write their governmental officials.

4) Write to human aid agencies such as the Red Cross and the United Nations' Humanitarian Affairs demanding they do something to stop the use of these weapons.

5) Write a letter to your editor.

A video of the horrors of white phosphorus being deployed in the Gaza Strip. However, the horrors are the same where ever white phosphorus is used.

Footage of white phosphorus being used in Fallujah in November, 2004.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Aftermath of War

Photo courtesy: Cause2.

The face of a war that finished several years ago still looms over the people of Iraq. Different areas have been affected differently; but, Fallujah, a city in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, is one of the hardest hit. Located roughly 69 kilometers (43 miles) west of Baghdad on the Euphrates river, Fallujah has experienced a rapid, heart-breaking rise in birth defects in the last few years – ever since the war ended.

The city of Fallujah has opened a state-of-the-art hospital to help with the staggering amount and array of abnormalities the newborns of the city are presenting.

Statistically, the outcome for Fallujah is grim. The March of Dimes estimates that 6% of babies are born with defects globally; while The Guardian reports that 25% of all babies born at one hospital in Fallujah have birth defects.

Dr. Ayman Qais, director of Fallujah General Hospital and senior specialist, confirmed that there are significant increases in neurotube defects, hydrocephalus, tumors and mutations. Neural tube (neurotube) defects are inadequate closures in the brain and/or spinal cord. Specialists have finally been able to compile statistics that confirm birth defects are occurring at a rate 15 times the pre-war rate.

"We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies. Before 2003 [the start of the war] I was seeing sporadic numbers of deformities in babies. Now the frequency of deformities has increased dramatically."

The number of admissions has soared – from one admission a week (a year ago) to two a day now. "Most are in the head and spinal cord, but there are also many deficiencies in lower limbs," he said. "There is also a very marked increase in the number of cases of less than two years [old] with brain tumours. This is now a focus area of multiple tumours."

This from the Guardian: "The anomalies are evident all through Fallujah's newly opened general hospital and in centres for disabled people across the city. On 2 November alone, there were four cases of neurotube defects in the neo-natal ward and several more were in the intensive care ward and an outpatient clinic."

While the hospital, the newborns and their families fight courageously for their survival, the sad truth is that many just don’t make it. Sky News reports: “At one of the cemeteries in Fallujah, undertaker Mahmoud Hummadi said he usually buries four to five bodies of newborns every day and most of them are deformed.”

Those that are lucky enough to make it face lives full of intensive and expensive care.

Next blog: What many feel the cause of the birth defects is and ways we can help stop use of this controversial “weapon”.

This video contains disturbing images; but, is an excellent depiction of the aftermath of the war and the effects it is still having on the people.

This video has disturbing images. Please view with discretion.

The information given with this video is as follows:
Young women in Fallujah in Iraq are terrified of having children because of the increasing number of babies born grotesquely deformed, with no heads, two heads, a single eye in their foreheads, scaly bodies or missing limbs. In addition, young children in Fallujah are now experiencing hideous cancers and leukaemias. These deformities are now well documented and direct contact with doctors in Fallujah report that:

In September 2009, Fallujah General Hospital had 170 new born babies, 24% of whom were dead within the first seven days and a staggering 75% of the dead babies were classified as deformed.

This can be compared with data from the month of August in 2002 where there were 530 new born babies of whom six were dead within the first seven days and only one birth defect was reported.

Doctors in Fallujah have specifically pointed out that not only are they witnessing unprecedented numbers of birth defects but premature births have also considerably increased after 2003. But what is more alarming is that doctors in Fallujah have said, "a significant number of babies that do survive begin to develop severe disabilities at a later stage".

As one of a number of doctors, scientists and those with deep concern for Iraq, Dr Chris Burns-Cox, a British hospital physician, wrote a letter to the Rt. Hon. Clare Short, M.P. asking about this situation. She wrote a letter to the Rt. Hon.Douglas Alexander, M.P. the Secretary of State of the Department for International Development (a post she had held before she resigned on a matter of principle in May 2003 ) asking for clarification of the position of deformed children in Fallujah.

Via Cause2, Sky News and The Guardian

Monday, November 23, 2009

Revealing the Daily Destruction of the World's Rainforests

We're losing upwards of 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest daily, and significantly degrading another 80,000 acres every day on top of that, mostly due to activities such as commercial logging, agriculture, cattle ranching, dam-building and mining. Pictured: a section of Amazon rainforest is cleared by burning. Photo courtesy: Getty Images.

The tropical Amazon rainforest is often referred to as “the lungs of the Earth”; but, the truth is that any forest can lay claim to that title. Forests are crucial for cleaning the air and providing the oxygen so necessary to the survival of nearly every living species on earth. The Rainforest Alliance tells us that deforestation is “responsible for 20 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. That's more than the emissions from trains, planes and automobiles combined.”

However, the tropical rainforest that is being lost today is part of a global calamity; if not one of the leading causes. Every man, woman and child on the face of the planet suffers a loss every time a tree is harvested. The loss is even more significant today than it has ever been.

We have the least amount of tropical rainforest now than at any other time in history; and, have finally reached that tiny margin that keeps us from plunging into global crisis. We have just about reached “the point of no return”; and, we have gone there willingly.

While forests serve many functions, there are two major functions they perform that make them irreplaceable. They regulate the climate patterns of the planet; help reduce the negative effects of climate change; and, help reduce global warming. They are also the world’s largest treasure trove of biodiversity – most specifically plant and animal diversity – being home to approximately 50% of the world’s species.

The experts’ best guess is that we are losing approximately 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest a day; and, are significantly harming and/or degrading an additional 80,000 acres daily. On top of all this, the experts feel that the earth is losing 135 plant, animal and insect species daily due to deforestation of tropical rainforests alone. Or in other words, we are actively choosing to lose 50,000 species a year rather than regulate the logging industry.

Some of those species that are being lost are undiscovered, uncatalogued, totally unknown; and, consequently, the world has no idea what we have lost.

Just one loss is to our pharmaceutical industry. One quarter of all our modern pharmaceuticals are based on rainforest ingredients; but, amazingly less than 1% of the plant species have been tested for possible curative properties. With 25% of our medicines coming from only 1% of the plant species, why aren’t we investigating the other 99%? Have we already eliminated the cure for AIDS as we slashed our way through the forests? Did we burn the last cure for Multiple Sclerosis? Have we planted over the last oasis of the Lou Gehrig’s disease cure?

One of the losses that seems to escape the view of many people is that of the Forest people. Not only are their home ranges being logged forcing them into smaller and less habitable portions of the forest; but, we are losing the knowledge they have gained over the centuries of living on the land. Forest people have been historically using rain forest resources in very sustainable ways. The knowledge gathered has been passed from generation to generation. Why aren't we taking advantage of this wisdom?

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that the overall deforestation rate are 8.5% higher than the 1990’s; but, researchers believe that the loss of the old-growth rainforests, the last bastion of wilderness and diversity, have increased as much as 25% over the 1990s.

Deforestation is rising because activities like commercial logging, agriculture, cattle ranching, dam building, and mining combine to make the new yellow brick road. In this case, instead of leading to home and security, the yellow bricks are gold leading to financial prosperity. In this case financial prosperity will also led to environmental ruin.

An offshoot of the loss and degradation of the land is that local inhabitants, already poor, are impoverished even more as the ability of the land to grow their marginal subsistence crops decreases. In order to cook their meager meals, the people collect fuel wood which further depletes the forest. However, as long as these peasants continue to be ignored and their ranks swell, the forest will continue to suffer.

Unfortunately, there will always be those who remain blind to the facts because looking at the reality is just too overwhelming for them; and, there is always more than one way of looking at data.

I love the next little story that demonstrates how answers appear to be given; but, are not what they seem.

A young man is at a function where he is hopelessly over his head – boring academic function – but, he is a master tap dancer. Approached by a stuffy old gent who inquires whether he has ever read an unknown stuffy old book, our hero remains nonplussed.

He raises an eyebrow inquisitively and asks, “in English…recently? Unfortunately not.”

You can do the same thing data. You can make it look very impressive indeed; while, there is nothing of substance once you get under the surface.

Some place to go for more information and to help if desired.

The Prince's Rainforests Project @

15 Creative Uses For Toothpaste

Photo courtesy of theengagedconsumer.

This article was written by By Zana Faulkner of DivineCaroline.
At, women come together to learn from experts in the fields, of health, sustainability, and culture; to reflect on shared experiences; and to express themselves by writing and publishing stories about anything that matters to them. Here, real women publish like real pros. Together, with our staff writers, they’re discussing all facets of women’s lives from relationships and careers, to travel and healthy living. So come discover, read, learn, laugh and connect at

Toothpaste: it whitens, brightens, deodorizes, removes stains, and restores and protects enamel. But toothpaste’s cleaning capabilities work wonders on many things besides our teeth. The same ingredients that help polish our pearly whites can also soothe some common ailments, make household items sparkle, and even get rid of stains and pungent smells. Try out these fifteen tricks with a white, non-gel toothpaste (unless otherwise noted), and watch that cavity-fighting, breath-freshening tube of wonder work its magic.

1. Relieve irritation from bug bites, sores, and blisters. These skin irritations all tend to weep and, in the case of bug bites, often itch. Apply a drop of toothpaste to a bug bite or insect sting to stop the itching and decrease any swelling. When applied to sores or blisters, it dries them up, thus allowing the wound to heal faster. It’s best when used overnight.

2. Soothe a stinging burn. For minor burns that don’t involve an open wound, toothpaste can deliver temporary cooling relief. Apply it delicately to the affected area immediately after a burn develops; it temporarily relieves the sting and prevents the wound from weeping or opening.

3. Decrease the size of a facial blemish. Want to speed up the healing of a zit? Apply a tiny dot of toothpaste to the affected area at night before bed. Wash it off in the morning.

4. Clean up your fingernails. Our teeth are made of enamel, and toothpaste is good for them, so it stands to reason that toothpaste would also be good for our fingernails. For cleaner, shinier, and stronger nails, simply scrub the underneath and tops of fingernails with a toothbrush and toothpaste.

5. Keep hair in place. Gel toothpastes contain the same water-soluble polymers that many hair gels are made of. If you’re looking to style and hold an extreme hair creation, try gel toothpaste as your go-to product if you’re out of regular hair gel. (This is also a great trick for making baby barrettes stay in place.)

6. Scrub away stinky smells. Garlic, fish, onion, and other pungent foods can permeate the skin cells on our hands. Scrubbing hands and fingertips briefly with toothpaste removes all traces of smelly odors

7. Remove stains. Toothpaste can make tough stains on both clothing and carpets disappear. For clothes, apply toothpaste directly to the stain and rub briskly until the spot is gone, then wash as usual. (Note that using a whitening toothpaste on colors can sometimes bleach the fabric.) For carpet stains, apply toothpaste to the stain and scrub it with an abrasive brush, then rinse immediately.

8. Spruce up dirty shoes. This tactic works great on running shoes or scuffed-up leather shoes. As with carpet stains, apply toothpaste directly to the dirty or scuffed area, then scrub with a brush and wipe clean.

9. Remove crayon stains on painted walls. Rub a damp cloth with toothpaste gently on the marked-up wall and watch the Crayola marks disappear.

10. Make silver jewelry and other silver pieces sparkle. Rub toothpaste onto jewelry and leave overnight. Wipe clean with a soft cloth in the morning. Make diamonds shine by giving them a gentle scrub using a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a little water. Rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of toothpaste. Do not use this method on pearls, as it will damage their finish.

11. Remove scratches on DVDs and CDs. This remedy has been used with mixed success rates, but it seems to work fairly well on shallow scratches and smudges. Apply a thin coating of toothpaste to the disc and rub gently, then rinse clean.

12. Tidy up piano keys before tickling them. Piano keys retain oil from the skin, which then attracts dust and dirt. Clean away grime gently with a damp, lint-free cloth and toothpaste; after rubbing in the toothpaste, wipe the keys clean with a second lint-free cloth.

13. Deodorize baby bottles. If baby bottles develop a sour-milk smell, a good cleaning with some toothpaste and a bottle scrubber will clean away residue and deodorize. Always make sure to rinse well.

14. Remove the burned crust on irons. For those of you who still use an iron, you may find that after time, the plate of the iron develops a burned crust. The silica in toothpaste gently grinds away this rusty-looking layer.

15. Defog goggles. Scuba divers, swimmers, and triathletes may already know about this handy little trick: Rub a small spot of toothpaste into each lens of your goggles, then rinse thoroughly, and voila! There’ll be no need to ever buy expensive defogger gels again. Avoid rubbing too vigorously, though, as the abrasive ingredients in toothpaste could scratch the lenses.

Via Cause2 and DivineCaroline.

Make-It-Yourself Bath Mat

Michelle Kaufmann has alot of green ideas. This is one of them - how to turn your old towels, tea towels and other material into an absorbent bath mat. Check out the video!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Can Any Readers Help?

I got the following info from Craigslist. A greyhound race track is closing down; and, if a home is not found for the 900 greyhounds at the track, they will be euthanized. Please read the ad and spread the word.

"Dairyland Greyhound Racetrack in Kenosha, Wisconsin will be closing on December 31, 2009. 900 Greyhounds need to be adopted or they will be euthanized. Please help get the word out; only 6 weeks to get this done!!!! Contact Joanne Kehoe Operations Director P: 312.559.0887 Or Dairyland Race Track Adoption Center direct at (262) 612-8256 -can anyone help??* Please post this to your facebook status for the day and email to friends and family. Thanks!"

Quotable Quotes...

"When you come to the edge of all the light you know and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly."

- Barbara J. Winter

Did You Know That...

Tablecloths were originally meant to be served as towels with which dinner guests could wipe their hands and faces after eating!

Did You Know That...

The ancient Greeks called our galaxy the Milky Way because they thought it was made from drops of milk from the breasts of the Greek goddess Hera.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Giant Snail Meat to Feed Africa?

Photo courtesy Great Lakes.

African Giant snails – a notoriously invasive species globally – may become the wonder food that helps alleviate malnutrition and feed millions of hungry in Africa. Before everyone recoils and screams “eewww!”, remember that humble French delicacy escargot. A snail is a snail – there’s just a difference in size here.

However, malnutrition and iron deficiency are causing serious health problems and death in countries all across Africa. Those being hit hardest are the elderly and the very young; but, a nutritionist in Nigeria has found a remedy that has the potential to improve their poor diets. Her remedy – African Giant snail pie.

Snail is more nutritious than beef, is far more abundant and tastes great – ask any escargot aficionado.

Ukpong Udofia of the University of Uyo recently completed her research on the nutritional content of the African Giant Snail. The snail is incredibly prevalent in the swamps and forests of Africa. They are also an extremely popular novelty pet in the US,

According to Science Daily:
Snail meat contains protein, fat (mainly polyunsaturated fatty acid), iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, vitamins A, B6, B12, K and folate. It also contains the amino acids arginine and lysine at higher levels than in whole egg. It also contains healthy essential fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic acids. The high-protein, low-fat content of snail meat makes it a healthy alternative food.

With the snail meat being cheaper, more nutritious and easier to obtain, it could drastically reduce malnutrition in many more communities than beef can. Beef has traditionally been the accepted source of protein and iron.

But, will giant snail pie catch on? Udofia conducted a series of taste tests to see if people would actually eat them. The people who participated overwhelmingly preferred the snail pies to beef pies.

Science Daily tells us:
Udofia and her research team baked pies of both varieties and asked young mothers and their children to try the tasty meal. Most of them preferred the taste and texture of the pies baked with the snail Archachatina marginata to those made with beef. The kids and their mothers judged the snail pies to have a better appearance, texture, and flavor.

Udofia believes she has found an important part of the solution in addressing malnutrition across Africa. She believes the snail can be instrumental in fighting iron-deficiency anemia; and, is the ideal solution because of its availability.

She says, “The land snail is a readily available and affordable source of animal protein, inhabits a lot of the green forest and swamps of most developing countries including Nigeria."

Giant snails are easy to cultivate and already efforts to farm them have been successful. They consume far less water and fewer resources than cows and other traditional protein sources making them efficient and affordable to raise.

Short video:

Via TreeHugger and Science Daily.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

World Toilet Day

Photo courtesy: flickr, recubejim's photostream.

World Toilet Day (WTD) – are they kidding? In a word, No! Unfortunately, I am one day late in reporting World Toilet Day. I apologize, friends, because proper sanitation really is an important issue around the world; and, what better way to draw attention to the issue than World Toilet Day. It a definite attention-grabber!!

The WTD website gives us this info: "2.5 billion people worldwide are without access to proper sanitation, which risks their health, strips their dignity, and kills 1.8 million people, mostly children, a year;" and, "Because even the world's wealthiest people still have toilet problems - from unhygienic public toilets to sewage disposal that destroys our waterways."

For those of us who live in countries that allows everyone access to proper sanitation in the form of bathrooms; adequate sewage systems; water processing plants; water for cleansing and cleaning; and everything else that goes into maintaining personal hygiene, we should be grateful. Read on for a sanitation horror story.

This is excerpted from “Disease Rife As More People Squeeze Into Fewer Toilets, via IRIN Mobile.
A visit to a toilet in West Point [a neighborhood in Monrovia, Liberia] costs 2.5 US cents; the young men running the latrines said there were around 500 users a day. The facilities can be smelled 50 metres away, with the floor of each squalid cubicle 15cm deep in soiled newspaper that residents use to wipe their posteriors. Staff use gloved hands to scoop the used paper into a wheelbarrow, which they lug to the nearby river or beach to dump its contents into the water.

"The situation is just getting worse here. There are more people for fewer toilets; people just openly defecate between their houses - conditions are really bad," West Point community activist Darius Nyante told IRIN.

The WTD website gives us these staggering facts:
1. 2.5 billion people worldwide are without access to proper sanitation, which risks their health, strips their dignity, and kills 1.8 million people, mostly children, a year.
2. Diarrheal diseases kill five times as many children in the developing world as HIV/AIDS.
3. That's 5,000 children DYING EVERY SINGLE DAY.
4. Not only that, but the disease kills more children than either malaria or AIDS, stunts growth, and forces millions - adults and children alike - to spend weeks at a time off work or school, which hits both a country's economy and its citizens' chances of a better future.
5. The majority of the illness in the world is caused by fecal matter.
6. Lack of sanitation is the world's biggest cause of infection.
7. One gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs.
8. Safe disposal of children's feces leads to a reduction of nearly 40% in childhood diarrhea.

Visit the World Toilet Day website for great information and a variety of ways you can make a difference.

Via TreeHugger and worldtoiletday

Monday, November 16, 2009

Points to Ponder...

Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time; but, don't point to their bottom when they ask where the bathroom is?

Love Accepts All Things

Love may be deaf, dumb and blind; but, now it apparently does not discriminate based on age either. Last month, a marriage took place in Somalia where there was a 95-year age difference between the bride and the groom. No, that was not a typo - there is a difference in age of 95 years.

The BBC reported the intriguing case of a 112-year-old man and his 17-year-old bride.

The wedding took place in the village of Guriceel in central Somalia, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Ahmed Muhamed Dore now has six wives and 18 children. He said he would like to be a father again with his teenage bride, Safia Abdulleh. Safia is young enough to be her husband's great-great-granddaughter.

"Today God helped me realize my dream," Dore said after the wedding ceremony in the region of Galguduud.

"I didn't force her; but, used my experience to convince her of my love; and, then we agreed to marry," Dore continued. Apparently, Dore has loved her for many years. He stated that he waited for her to grow up before he proposed to her.

Safia's family said their daughter is "happy with her new husband."

Quotable Quotes...

"Age is…wisdom, if one has lived one's life properly."

- Miriam Makeba

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Iceberg Spotted Near Australia

A giant iceberg seen off Macquarie Island halfway between Antarctica and Australia Photo: EPA.

Macquarie Island, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, is a remote, largely uninhabited island forming part of the Australian state of Tasmania. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) maintains a permanent base, the Macquarie Island Station, on the island. The base's residents, the island's only inhabitants, range in numbers from 20 to 40 people throughout the year.

It was the scientific experts stationed on Macquarie Island who were the first to see this gigantic chunk of ice measuring 2,300’ long with an estimated depth of more than 1,000’.

"I've never seen anything like it - we looked out to the horizon and just saw this huge floating island of ice," said fur seal biologist Dean Miller.

Neal Young, an Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist, predicts that the flat-stopped slab could break down even further, causing dozens of smaller icebergs to float freely in the direction of New Zealand causing a possible shipping hazard.

He said, "It's rare to make a sighting like this - it's certainly impressive-looking."

Young went on to say that the iceberg had probably split from a major Antarctic ice shelf approximately nine years ago. He predicts that if global warming continues more of these orphan icebergs could be expected to be seen.

"If the current trends in global warming were to continue I would anticipate seeing more icebergs and the large ice shelves breaking up," he added.

On the flip side of the coin, Professor Jonathan Bamber, from Bristol University, maintains that it is not uncommon for icebergs the size of Wales to break off from the Antarctic; and, this incident should not be attributed to global climate change.

Via Cause2 and Telegraph

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Shark Acting as Midwife?

Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World in Auckland, Australia had a surprise birth several days ago.

When amazed visitors saw one shark bit another shark hard enough to open a large stomach wound enabling four baby sharks to swim out of the injured shark’s uterus, they rushed to tell aquarium staff. The staff members, who didn’t realize the shark was pregnant, were disbelieving at first; but, went to check it out anyway.

The New Zealand Herald reports that when the staff arrived at the tank they found a female shark with a large stomach wound and four baby sharks swimming around. When the staff removed her for surgery, they found four more babies still inside waiting to be born. They were removed and placed with their siblings in the “nursery”.

Aquarist Fiona Davies states the impromptu caesarean section probably saved the babies’ lives. In natural births the babies are born at night. If the babies had been born at night in the enclosure, they probably would have been eaten by the other adult sharks and the stingrays before anyone even knew they were there.

Mother and babes are fine. In fact, mom is healing so well she has been returned to the enclosure. The babes will stay in the nursery until careful watch of the aquarium staff.

Check out the video!

Via Telegraph and Cause2

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boycott Tetley Tea

Tea pickers at work. Photo courtesy Cause2.

This article is taken from the IUF website. They are an organization uniting Food, Farm and Hotel workers world-wide. They are asking for help in shaming Tetley Tea into treating their workers humanely and paying them the wages being withheld from them. At the bottom of the article are a number of ways you can get in contact with Tetley to express your displeasure in addition to a boycott of the tea company.

Photo courtesy IUF.

Tata, the transnational Indian conglomerate whose Tetley Group makes the world famous Tetley teas, has taken 6,500 people hostage through hunger. The hostages are nearly 1,000 tea plantation workers and their families on the Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate in West Bengal, India. Permanently living on the edge of hunger, the workers and their dependants are being pushed to the edge of starvation through an extended lock out which has deprived them of wages for all but two days since the beginning of August. The goal of this collective punishment is to starve the workers into renouncing their elementary human rights, including the right to protest extreme abuse and exploitation.

The hostage-taking began with a first lockout on August 10, when workers protested the abusive treatment of a 22 year-old tea garden worker who was denied maternity leave and forced to continue work as a tea plucker despite being 8 months pregnant. On August 9, Mrs Arti Oraon collapsed in the field and was brought to the hospital, on a tractor normally used for garbage, after the medical officer refused to make an ambulance available (he had proposed she be brought by bicycle). She was initially refused treatment, and only after her co-workers protested did she receive minimal care. Her treatment was inadequate and she had to be taken, in the same garbage tractor, to the local government hospital one hour away.

As news of her treatment spread, some 500 mostly female estate workers gathered in protest at the medical facility, demanding sanctions against the medical officer. Local management promised to meet with the workers, but on August 11 the management, along with the medical officer, left the estate and declared a lockout.

On August 27 an agreement was signed with three trade unions, representing some workers on the estate but not a majority, on reopening the garden. In the agreement, all workers’ wages for the lockout period were withheld. The agreement included a clause that a “domestic inquiry” (an internal, company-controlled investigation) would be conducted. The agreement was written in English, a language few if any of the workers understand.

The garden was reopened the following day, although workers were not informed of the conditions of the reopening. On September 8, management issued letters of suspension and ordered a domestic inquiry against eight workers.

None of the eight workers received a letter of notification. None of the eight had committed any act of violence or were involved in any illegal practice. These eight workers have been targeted because they are active in the garden campaigning for workers’ rights.

At a September 10 meeting, management told the workers that suspension letters had been issued in accordance with the August 27 agreement and that opening the garden depended on compliance with that agreement. In other words: agree to the suspensions or you'll be locked-out again. Workers requested six days to respond to this ultimatum.

The ultimatum was a powerful one: tea garden wages are just 62.50 Indian rupees per day - the equivalent of USD 1.35 daily. One kilogram of the cheapest, poorest quality rice in the local market costs 20% of a worker’s daily wage. Tea workers permanently live on the edge of hunger. The loss of wages for even a few weeks can tip them into starvation.

Although wielding the weapon of hunger - with workers' lives in the balance and the deadline to respond not yet expired - management on September 14 again left the plantation and implemented a lockout. This was the day workers were meant to receive their annual festival bonus, amounting to roughly two months wages. No bonus payments were made. Prior to the lockout, since the beginning of August workers have only received a wage payment amounting to two days work.

Following the closure, workers have sought to communicate with the management, requesting it to reopen the garden. The company has insisted that the garden will not be reopened and wages paid unless all workers accept the September 10 ultimatum to effectively sign off their right to protest abuses.

Tata Tea is a powerful global company; it's wholly owned Tetley Tea is one of the world's biggest-selling tea brands. Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate is owned by Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, a company 49.98% owned by Tata Tea. Tata and Amalgamated share the same office in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. According to the Tata Tea 2009 annual report, Tata Tea Managing Director Percy T. Siganporia earns in a single day roughly 1,000 times the daily wage of a Nowera Nuddy worker – assuming that worker is paid .

Tea from Amalgamated Plantations' tea estates goes into the famous Tetley Tea bags.

Tetley Tea is a member of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), whose standard commits member companies to, among other requirements, ensure that there is no "harsh or inhumane treatment" of plantation workers and that "Workers should be paid at least monthly and should receive their pay on time." The actual conditions on the Nowera Nuddy estate, where workers are being subjected to brutal collective punishment, could not be more remote from this CSR wish list.

Workers at the Nowera Nuddy Tea Estate have formed an Action Committee which has called for the immediate reopening of the garden, the withdrawal of the suspension letters and no recriminations against workers, back payment of wages and rations since 14 September, immediate payment of the annual festival bonus and a management apology to Mrs Arti Oraon.

You can support their struggle – CLICK HERE to tell Tata and Tetley Tea to stop starving workers now! You can also use the features provided on the Tetley Tea website to send the company a message, or use the freephone number provided to give them a call!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Creation of a New Sea

Photo courtesy: © thebigmonkey via flickr.

None of us alive today will live to see the end of this event; but, we are witnessing a miracle of nature - a new sea is forming in the Ethiopian desert. In 2005, in Afar, Ethiopia, a 35-mile long volcanic rift opened in the desert. There was speculation at the time that this might be the beginning of a new ocean; but, the scientific community as a whole felt this was not the case; and, all but, dismissed the idea. It has since been determined that this is indeed the beginning of a new ocean as detailed in the paper written by an international team of scientists which has been published in the Geophysical Research Letters journal.

The rift began opening when Mount Dabbahu erupted for the first time in recorded history. The rift took just three weeks to spread up to 25’ wide in places along a fault line in the Afar desert. This massive chasm is threatening to tear the continent of Africa into two pieces. With the rift heading in the direction of the Red Sea, Erithea, Djibouti and part of Ethiopia could eventually split off from the rest of the continent.

The location of the start of the rift is marked as 'A' in this image from Google Maps.

Rather than opening up in a series of small earthquakes as traditional wisdom would indicate, magma was pushed up in the middle of the rift and the whole thing began "unzipping" in either direction. This suggests that the highly active volcanic boundaries along the edges of tectonic ocean plates may suddenly break apart in large sections, instead of little by little as has been predominantly believed.

On a more human level, this means that populations that live in areas near the rift are in greater danger than previously thought. More damage is done by one major eruption than several more minor ones.

Cindy Ebinger, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester and co-author of the study said, "We know that seafloor ridges are created by similar intrusion of magma into a rift, but we never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this."

The report went on to say that the rift is developing in a way that is "nearly identical to those at the bottom of the world's oceans".

"This work is a breakthrough in our understanding of continental rifting leading to the creation of new ocean basins," says Ken Macdonald, professor emeritus in the Department of Earth Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It should be noted that Professor Macdonald is not affiliated with the research.

"For the first time they demonstrate that activity on one rift segment can trigger a major episode of magma injection and associated deformation on a neighboring segment. Careful study of the 2005 mega-dike intrusion and its aftermath will continue to provide extraordinary opportunities for learning about continental rifts and mid-ocean ridges," Macdonald continues.

"The whole point of this study is to learn whether what is happening in Ethiopia is like what is happening at the bottom of the ocean where it's almost impossible for us to go," says Ebinger. "We knew that if we could establish that, then Ethiopia would essentially be a unique and superb ocean-ridge laboratory for us. Because of the unprecedented cross-border collaboration behind this research, we now know that the answer is yes, it is analogous."

The investigation was led by Atalay Ayele, a professor at the Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. He and his colleagues painstakingly gathered seismic data surrounding the 2005 volcanic eruption that opened the rift to more than 20’ in just a matter of days.

Ayele combined his data from Ethiopia with data from Eritrea collected with the help of Ghebrebrhan Ogubazghi, a professor at the Eritrea Institute of Technology; and, data from Yemen collected with the help of Jamal Sholan of the National Yemen Seismological Observatory Center.

Ayele's reconstruction of events showed that the rift did not open in a series of small earthquakes over an extended period of time as previously thought; but, tore open along its entire 35-mile length in just days.

"We know that seafloor ridges are created by a similar intrusion of magma into a rift, but we never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this," says Ebinger.

Ebinger points out that the areas where the seafloor is spreading are almost always situated under miles of ocean. This makes it nearly impossible to monitor more than a small section of ridge at any one time; so, there is no way for geologists to quantify how much of the ridge may break open and spread at any one time.

"Seafloor ridges are made up of sections, each of which can be hundreds of miles long. Because of this study, we now know that each one of those segments can tear open in a just a few days."

Cindy Ebinger and her team will continue to monitor the rift.

The rift from different angles:

The rift in Afar, Ethiopia (credit University of Rochester).

The rift in Afar, Ethiopia (credit University of Rochester).

Via TreeHugger, University of Rochester News,

Monday, November 9, 2009

How the African Bushmen Can Help Save Us From The Water Shortage

Photo courtesy Amazon.

A new book has come out called Heart of Dryness which discusses how the Bushmen of the Kalahari can teach us what we need to know about how to live in dry climates. This knowledge is something we increasingly need as we slide headlong into a global water crisis. If we don’t do something now, clean drinking water will become the most precious commodity on earth and the scarcest.

Unfortunately, there is much political upheaval in the region and the government is running the Bushmen off their land; and, they are now a culture of vanishing peoples. With them they take all their knowledge and tools that can help people globally cope with the growing scarcity of good, clean, drinkable water.

TreeHugger says:
Only 1% of the world's water can be used for human consumption. Half of the global population will be living in areas of "acute water shortage" by 2030. In India, where water shortages are already being felt, there were over 50 reported acts of violence over water during the month of May alone. And while experts estimate 2.5 gallons per person per day is a sustainable amount to use, the average American consumes 100 gallons per day. And that's just household use, not counting the amount used for agriculture and manufacturing of the goods we consume.

The global water crisis; and, to a lesser extent, the global food shortage is not so much a result of climate change; but, is a result of our misuse, mishandling, and greed. In fact, the developed countries such as the USA, Canada, Europe and others must take the majority of the blame for this wastefulness for using agricultural and manufacturing techniques that are definitely not sustainable.

All of us can think of at least one way we could save water right now. There are many ways to start collecting water for non-drinking uses to avoid using treated water from the tap.

An example of this would be a rain chain. Rain chains are used instead of gutters to direct rain water to the ground – or more preferably, a rain barrel. Rain chains can be used on balconies to save rain water also. This saved water can be used to water plants, water lawns or any number of other uses. Collected rain water is especially beneficial to potted plants that normally do not get rained on. Rain is full of good stuff that is beneficial to plants and potted ones are no exception.

But I digress…

Everybody (and I mean every man, woman, and child on the face of the planet) needs to learn to use water in a more reasonable and responsible manner. Somehow, we must also try to instill the desire to save water even in countries where water is still abundant.

There is a movie out that is a new take on a real survey. The movie is called The Box. The movie basically mirrors the question that was asked of a group of people. The question was:

“If there were no way that anyone would ever find out what you had done, would you press a button that would guarantee you $1 million; but, cause the death of someone you don’t know, somewhere you will never know?”

To my disbelief, the majority answered “yes”. I always found comfort in the thought that if justice were being done, the person whose death they’d cause would be the last person who pressed the button.

This same thinking is responsible for the water shortages today. The majority of people in countries with adequate, even abundant, water don’t want to inconvenience themselves in any way.

As Workman states in an interview posted on Circle of Blue, "I won't glamorize Bushmen, or urge us to imitate them. But their code of conduct works so well, as ours falters, that I question who is really 'backward.' Our so-called "more developed societies" still irrigate deserts, collapse atop depleted aquifers, amputate currents, blend urine and feces with tap water, kill salmon runs with dams, and evaporate more water than we consume. Because of such profligate waste--according to World Economic Forum or Goldman Sachs--we're now hitting a wall, a limit to growth; well, Bushmen have lived with that wall for 30,000 years. Their proven strategies point us toward a softer, alternative approach, and they do so with laughter and dance."

Personally, I’m going to read the book.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Make of This What You Will Unusual activities at the WTC before collapse Video

Greening Cloverleafs

In the loop: a botanical garden inside a highway interchange (inset). Photos via Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden (inset) and the Istanbul Governor's Office.

Some of the most unattractive structures in the world are the massive cloverleaf interchanges built to accommodate the huge demands made by the car-owning public of major metropolitan areas around the world. They are a dead zone of concrete, traffic emissions, noise, and the quiet despair of commuters trying to beat the rush. Until now, there has not been one redeeming feature about them in my mind.

This year, just last week, the Urban Age conference was hosted in Istanbul. The Deutsche Bank issued a challenge to the world by issuing an open call for project entries that “benefit communities and local residents by improving their urban environments.”

They received 87 entries and shortlisted to just 5. The Nezahat Gökyiğit Botanical Garden won the competition by creating botanical gardens inside the urban void that are the loops of busy cloverleaf interchanges.

"Located improbably in the 'urban voids' created by a vast motorway spaghetti-junction on the Asian side of Istanbul, the Ali Nihat Gökyiğit Foundation has created a series of landscaped spaces that provide sanctuary for plants and people in the middle of a dystopian urban setting," the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award jury announced.

"The open spaces have been designed as botanical garden[s] with plant samples from regions across Turkey, providing an educational resource for children of all ages and a place for picnics and informal gatherings for people living in the heart of the congested city."

This 125-acre botanical garden located in Istanbul was planted in 1995 and contains more than 17,000 species of plants. It is the city’s largest replanted green area and a triumph to creative green thinking.

Not only is this space beautiful, it is educational as well. The facility includes a children’s garden where school children are taught how to grow and care for flowers and vegetables; as well as an area that is devoted to drought-tolerant plants and those helpful in combating soil erosion and desertification; and a section for medicinal plants.

Going that extra mile, garden staff compost to create natural organic fertilizer for the soil to avoid using chemically-produced fertilizer. They have planted some selected plant species in raised beds made from old railway cars following their principle of reduce, reuse and recycle. One of the successful educational projects conducted at the facility is a course for young botanical artists who are now teaching other students all over Turkey.

A music program for disadvantaged children took the $100,000 award; but, it is an inspiring example of how blighted urban spaces can be used for environmental and social good.

The co-winner of the first award given by the Deutsche Bank in 2007 turned a former garbage dump beside the sea in Mumbai into a lively, welcoming waterfront public space accessible to everyone.

Let’s demand more green spaces in our communities.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Twenty-Five Foods That Are Toxic To Your Pet

I thought I was aware of all the foods that could harm my precious pets; but, after reading this list, I realize that it's only through the grace of God that I haven't fed my pets something that could harm or kill them.

From now on, it's approved pet only for my babies!! Read on and be surprised!

1.Fatty Meats like Ham - Fatty and greasy meats that people eat like ham or beef can seriously damage a dog’s pancreas and cause pancreatitis. Actually a high fat diet of anything is very bad for dogs and can lead to this serious and costly illness. Most dogs will recover from severe pancreatitis, but other complications can develop like diabetes. Avoid giving your pooch table scraps no matter how sad their eyes may be.

2.Walnuts - Walnuts and their hulls are particularly poisonous to dogs and horses. Even laying on black walnuts can cause respiratory distress, stomach upset and laminitis, or the inability to move around. Dogs are more susceptible to black walnut poisoning after ingesting the hulls or shells of the nut. Dogs poisoned by walnuts will often vomit and have diarrhea.

3.Coffee and Espresso Beans - Coffee and espresso beans, as well as the grounds of both, can have strong side effects on dogs if ingested because of the caffeine in the beans. Dogs can experience excessive hyperactivity, restlessness, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, seizures and tremors. Too much caffeine can also be fatal. If you suspect that your dog has eaten coffee beans or coffee grounds, look for signs of vomiting or diarrhea.

4.Teas and Sodas - Teas and sodas are also bad for dogs because of the caffeine in them. Don’t let your dog eat the tea leaves either.

5.Salt - Salt can seriously dehydrate dogs and cause gastrointestinal irritation. Depending on how much salt a dog ingests, the symptoms may be more or less severe. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, excessive thirst, sluggishness and disorientation.

6.Potato, Tomato and Rhubarb Leaves, Vines and Stems - The leaves, stems and other green parts of these roots and vegetables are highly toxic to most pets including birds. The leaves, stems and vines of these plants contain oxalates, which can harm the digestive, nervous and urinary tract. Symptoms of oxalate toxicity are dilated pupils, heart arrhythmias, irregular heart beat and tremors.

7.Liver - A diet of too much liver can lead to vitamin A toxicity. Liver flavored pet food and treats are fine to give to your furry friends though.

8.Peaches - Peach pits contain small amounts of cyanide that can be toxic to all pets.

9.Pears - Pear cores also contain trace amounts of cyanide. Avoid giving your pets pears, peaches and plums.

10.Plums - Another pit that contains trace amounts of cyanide. These revelations may almost makes you want to give up the fruits yourself, but the cyanide levels contained in plums, peaches and pears are not harmful to humans.

11.Fruit Pits like Cherry Pits or Apricot Pits and Apple Cores - Other fruit pits and cores like the kinds from cherries, apricots and apples also contain cyanide which is harmful to pets of all kinds. The fruit of apples are fine to give to pets, but be sure to core the fruit thoroughly first.

12.Broccoli - In large amounts, broccoli can possibly be bad for pets. Gastrointestinal upset is common in livestock that are fed broccoli in excess of 10 to 25 percent of the animal’s diet. The same could be true for pets like dogs and cats, but since most people do not give their pets a diet consisting of 25 percent broccoli, the same conditions have not been recorded in great detail. Broccoli contains isothiocyanate, the tummy upset culprit. To be on the safe side, don’t give your pets the green stuff.

13.Milk or Dairy Products - Just like humans, pets especially dogs can be lactose intolerant. Some cats and dogs will be able to digest dairy products with no problem, while others will get bad stomach aches. The ability to digest dairy products depends on a person or pet’s ability to produce an enzyme called lactase, which is used in the break down of lactose. Giving your pet a lick of your ice cream cone won’t kill it, but if your pet happens to be lactose intolerant you may be responsible for your pet’s tummy ache later.

14.Tuna - Tuna seems like a natural choice to give your feline friend, but it can be toxic. Feeding a cat too much canned tuna can result in Steatitis or yellow fat disease, a painful inflammatory condition caused by a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids. Feeding your cat excessive amounts of canned or packaged tuna can also lead to mercury poisoning.

15.Onions and Onion Powder - If a dog or cat ingests onions or even onion powder, the animal may develop a condition called Heinz body anemia, a form of hemolytic anemia that destroys red blood cells. Chives should also be avoided. Common signs that your dog has developed Heinz body anemia are pale gums, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, weakness, bloody urine, vomiting and lethargy. This particular type of anemia can also cause kidney damage. Cats are particularly at risk for this illness.

16.Garlic - Garlic should not be given to cats or dogs since it can cause stomach and digestive problems. Garlic can also cause Heinz body anemia, a form of hemolytic anemia that destroys red blood cells. Small amounts of garlic can be given to pets, but is not recommended by the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center.

17.Yeast Dough - Yeast dough can rise in your pet’s stomach and cause major gastrointestinal issues like stomach or intestine ruptures. Fully baked bread is fine to feed pets in small amounts, but should not make up a significant portion of your pet’s diet.

18.Macadamia Nuts - Giving a dog macadamia nuts can make it very ill. Veterinarians are not sure of the cause, but also recommend not giving macadamia nuts to other animals as well. Side effects from ingesting macadamia nuts include drooling, tremors, weakness in the hind legs, vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. With proper care, most dogs make a full recovery within 48 hours according to CBS News.

19.Avocados - Avocados should not be given to any pets since the fruit, its bark and the seed contain Persin. Persin can cause diarrhea and vomiting in dogs, and difficulty breathing, congestion and fluid build-up around the heart in birds and rodents. Cats, goats, cattle, rabbits and horses are also at risk for avocado poisoning.

20.Grapes and Raisins - Grapes and raisins can be fatal if dogs ingest them in large quantities. There is no need to worry if your dog accidentally eats one or two grapes, but veterinary care may be needed if a whole bunch or box of the fruit is missing and your dog is looking guilty. Signs of toxicity include vomiting and diarrhea. Kidney failure can follow if the dog goes untreated over a period of as little as 24 hours according to Michael Richards, DVM.

21.Alcoholic Beverages, Hops used in homemade beer brews and Tobacco - Alcoholic beverages and tobacco can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma and even death the ASPCA reports.
Hops, a type of plant used to brew beer, is toxic to dogs for unknown reasons. Reactions to ingesting hops include panting, high body temperature, seizures and death.

22.Candy and Gum Containing Xylitol - Xylitol, a sweetener used in candies and chewing gum, is extremely toxic to pets especially small pets. According the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, xylitol can cause liver failure and even death in dogs, cats and ferrets in as little as 30 minutes after ingestion from hypoglycemia, a sudden drop in blood sugar levels.

23.Wild Mushrooms - Wild mushrooms can be very toxic to your pets. If your dog or curious cat happens to ingest some mushrooms growing in your yard or elsewhere, take the incident seriously since it’s hard to tell which mushrooms are poisonous and which are harmless. Poisonous mushrooms can cause kidney and liver damage, gastrointestinal problems and neurological trouble. If you suspect your pet has eaten any type of fungus, take it to the veterinarian immediately.

24.Chicken Bones – All bones, not just chicken bones, are bad for your pet dog. Cooked bones have been softened and may splinter off in the dog’s mouth, stomach or digestive tract causing major problems. Chicken bones are a big no-no for dog-owners though since these bones tend to splinter easily.

25.Chocolate - Everyone knows chocolate is toxic to dogs, but often not in what quantities. Chocolate, particularly baking chocolate that contains high amounts of cocoa, can be fatal to dogs depending on how much is ingested. For instance, if a 15 pound dog eats two ounces of baking chocolate it may be enough to cause severe heart, lungs, kidney or central nervous system damage and even death, but if the same dog ate only two ounces of milk chocolate, it will probably only experience some digestive issues according to Talk To the A dog would have to ingest a large amount of white chocolate to experience adverse effects.
The reason that dogs cannot eat chocolate is because of a chemical called theobromide found in cocoa. Signs of theobromide poisoning include restlessness, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, problems walking normally, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rhythm, hyperthermia and coma. In some cases, theobromide can prove fatal for dogs.

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