All connected through our right brain

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Left/Right Brain by Mercedes

Left/Right Brain by Mercedes- Benz

I would like to share a video that changed the way I see the world as well as my place within it.  It is not directly link to the environment but it is a great lesson that reconnects us to everything in the universe. It explains not only how much we are connected but also how important it is for human’s well being to feel connected. 

Neuro-anatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had a massive stroke, the left side of her brain, stopped working and she had the opportunity to study it from within. She explains how our brain works and how it connects us to the world and to one another. When her left-brain shut down she found “nirvana”.  “I felt enormous and expansive, I felt one with all the energies there was and it was beautiful there”.  She came to the conclusion that society would be a better place if we all choose to step into the right hemisphere of our brain.

Your left-brain is what makes you an individual, separated from the rest, with all your knowledge, experience and personality. The right hemisphere of your brain is a totally different place, where you are, “an energy being connected to the energy all around” you.  “We are brother and sister on this planet, here to make the world a better place and in this moment, we are perfect, we are all and we are beautiful”.

Her experience opens up the doors of a world filled with love, compassion and peace. It is a wake up call for this individualistic and objective society to nurture our creativity, emotions and most importantly the present moment.

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight on TED

 

 

First ever long-term study shows that GM food is a poison to human health.

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GM Corn

GM corn by Contemplative imaging

For two years, a group of French researchers have secretly monitored the health of 200 rats fed with Monsanto’s NK603 GM corn. The result is a disaster: there are six times more death in the group of rats fed GM food than in the control group.  

WHO DID THE STUDY

This underground experiment was conducted by a professor of Molecular Biology, Gilles-Eric Séralini and its team, at the university of Caen in France. Professor Séralini is an expert on the effects of agricultural GM technologies, pesticides and various pollutants on health.

The Swiss Foundation Charles Léopold Mayer and two giants of the food retail industry, Auchan and Carrefour financed the study. Since the mad cow disease, they want to protect themselves from any new food scandal.

AN ILLEGAL EXPERIMENT

Researchers were extremely cautious to keep this study secret by fears of sabotage from multinational agricultural companies. They have banned all phone conversations, encrypted emails and even launched a decoy study. The former French Minister of the Environment, Corinne Lepage said, Monsanto prohibits the use of its seeds for research purposes so it is very hard to do independent studies.

THE EXPERIMENT

It is the first long-term experiment recording a lifetime intake of GM in rats. Professor Séralini said, “After less than a year of genetically modified maize menus, it was a slaughter among our rats, which I had not imagined the magnitude.” The research studied three groups of rats, one was fed with Monsanto’s NK 603 GM corn treated with monsanto’s roundup herbicide, the second ate untreated GM corn and the last one was only fed low doses of herbicides. All groups of rats were hit by a multitude of serious diseases on the 13th month of the experiment.

Seeds’ corporations are only bind to research the effects of their products for 3 months. This two years study shows that tumours only appear during the 4th month, which is about 40 years in human’s life. GM food has only been around for 20 years, which explain why we can’t yet notice its effects on human health.

Séralini study explained:

CONCLUSION OF THE STUDY

– Rats fed with GM corn trigger 2 or 3 times more tumours than rats fed only the herbicide.

– Rats fed with GM corn develop tumours faster (20 months earlier for males and 3 months for females)

– Products should be tested 2 years on rats before being marketed

GM IN YOUR PLATE

If you think that you don’t eat GM food because it is labelled in your country, think again. In Australia, some products with GM ingredients are sold without labels because of in the labeling laws. Processed food such as, cooking oils and chocolates may contain highly refined, unlabelled GM ingredients. If farms animals were fed GM grains, then the milk, the meat and the eggs will contain trace of GM organisms. Most surprisingly, restaurants and bakeries don’t need to label their food if they cook with GM ingredients.

For a better labelling in Australia sign this online petition.

CRITICS

While we wait for a counter expertise, this study faces a lot of critics. Some experts argue that the sample of 200 rats is too small and others point out that the type of rats used, “Sprague-Dawley” develop tumours easily.

Go here for more critics

EUROPE TAKE THE STORY VERY SERIOUSLY

European governments are taking this study very seriously. The three ministers, Marisol Touraine (Health), Delphine Batho (Environment) and Stéphane Le Foll (Agriculture), said that the study of the séralini team deserves all our attention. “This study seems to confirm the insufficient toxicological studies required by Community legislation to authorize marketing of GM products ” said the three ministers in a joint declaration.

“Can’t See the Forest for the Trees”

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The philosophical question at the heart of environmental change

The Mussel Gatherer

The Mussel Gatherer

Karl Marx once wrote that: “All production is appropriation of nature on the part of the individual.” Marx believed that production was the basis of human nature—in fact, he believed that production was the very thing that made us human beings. If we think about this from an environmental perspective, it becomes deeply troubling. For what Marx suggests is that the very definition of a human being, living within a society, is an individual that appropriates nature. As he goes on to say: “man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material reactions between himself and nature…in order to appropriate nature’s productions in a form adapted to his wants…It requires productive activity to give life to man.” Thus, according to Marx, dominating and manipulating nature to satisfy our own wants is what makes us human beings. Unlike all other forms of life in the world, we are not vulnerable to our environment, for we have manipulated nature in such a way that we are able to control our environment.

Through appropriating basic materials (wood, iron, carbon) we have built houses so that we can protect ourselves from the elements and manage our environment (in effect, we build houses using nature’s materials in order to separate and protect ourselves from nature). Through appropriating fossil fuels we have produced vehicles that transport us from one environment to another in a short amount of time. Through appropriating water and naturally-occuring flora, we have seized control of the amount of food that we produce, and also the kinds of food that we produce. Through appropriating and controlling animals, we have produced transport, food, money and entertainment. These are just a few examples of how our lives as human beings are defined/created by our appropriation of nature.

Many people, including Marx, consider the way we interact with nature to be an unchangeable fact. For these people, controlling and manipulating nature is the very basis of being human—otherwise we would be vulnerable like wild animals. What separates us from the animals is the fact that we have the capacity to control nature; whereas animals are controlled by nature.

This is the reason why many environmentalists focus upon making the way we live more sustainable—rather than changing the way we live. Our reluctance to give up or criticise our way of life can be tied to a reluctance to be vulnerable or connected, once again, to the environment. For example, we focus upon improving the efficiency of our cars, rather than making it unnecessary to use cars. We focus upon recycling packaging, rather than making packaging unnecessary. We focus upon lessening the impact of farming cattle, rather than eating kangaroo. We focus upon building more sustainable family-houses and office-buildings, rather than creating more modest and communal living arrangements. In effect, we focus upon improving our environmentally-detrimental practices; rather than questioning and changing those practices. Why do we insist on doing this? Because the prospect of being reliant upon nature’s cycles—that is, no longer having complete control over what we eat, when we eat it, what we do, where we go, and how fast we get there—is not compatible with western capitalist lifestyle. Being connected and vulnerable to nature would completely revolutionize human consciousness and being.

What most people don’t realise (or are too scared to confront) is that environmental change will not be the result of scientific advancements in efficiency. What is really required, first and foremost, is a philosophical revolution. Environmental change is not a call for human beings to ‘greenify’ their mastery over nature; it is a call for them to relinquish their mastery and reconnect, physically and emotionally, with their environment. Instead of denying our place in nature, instead of using nature to separate ourselves from nature, we must be with nature, we must benefit with her rather than benefitting from her. Instead of improving the ways in which we appropriate nature, we must give up the very concept of appropriation.

And if human beings are defined by their appropriation of nature, then perhaps we will have to stop being human beings.

Science shows that animals feel, yet animal cruelty is still legal

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Australian sea lions by Marine Freyne

Australian sea lions by Marine Freyne

Every month, new scientific discoveries blur the line of differences between man and animals. Now we know that not only dolphins but cows and rats also empathize, love and grieve. Yet animal cruelty is still legal for farm animals.

Grief

Many animals are known to grieve; elephants, chimpanzees, dolphins, sea lions and even magpies. Gana, a captive gorilla, clearly grieved the loss of her infant and the image of her carrying her dead baby was shown around the world. Jane Goodall tells the story in her book, Through a Window of Flint, of a young chimpanzee who died from sadness soon after his mother, Flo. “Flint became increasingly lethargic, refused food and, with his immune system thus weakened, fell sick,” she wrote.

Marc Bekoff describes in the Newscientist, a magpie ritual he witnessed a few years ago in Boulder, Colorado. “A magpie was lying dead on the side of the road, probably hit by a car, with four others standing around it. One after the other, two of them approached the corpse, gently pecked at it and stepped back. One of the birds flew off, brought back some grass and laid it by the corpse. Another did the same. Then all four stood vigil for a few seconds before flying away one by one.”

Love

The sweetest kiss ever

Holly Cheever tells the incredible story of a dairy cow hiding one of her calves after giving birth to twins. It was her fifth birth; she knew that her babies were going to be taken away. Think for a moment of the intelligence and care this mothering cow displayed. She first remembered the pain of losing her child, and then she formulated a plan to keep one of them. The most amazing part of this story is that instead of hiding both calves, which would have aroused the farmer’s suspicion, she gave one away.

Though, it does not mean that animals experience feelings the same way than we do. The Australian sea lions in the video seem deeply in love, happy and excited, they give each other the sweetest kiss ever. Though, they certainly not experience love the same way than we do as males may keep harems of around 4 to 6 females.

Empathy

Watch: Empathy: Human or Animal 

According to the free dictionary, “empathy is the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings”. We should probably update this definition, as not only people, but chickens also feel for one another.

Studies published in the Journal of Science in December 2011 have shown that rats and chickens display empathy. According to Inabal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety and Peggy Mason at the University of Chicago; untrained laboratory rats will free companions rather than selfishly feast on chocolate. “When liberating a cage mate, was pitted against chocolate contained within a second restrainer, rats opened both restrainers and typically shared the chocolate”.

Those studies reveal that humans and nonhumans are inherently compassionate. “When we act without empathy we are acting against our biological inheritance … If humans would listen and act on their biological inheritance more often, we’d be better off,” says Peggy Mason. This should make us think twice about the way we treat laboratory rats or farm animals.

Cruelty on farms animals is not happening just in America.


Anthropomorphism

Some critics would call those observations, anthropomorphism, which is the attribution of human behavior to animals, and argue it is not real science. Though, Allan and Bekoff explain that by using human terms to illustrate animals’ emotions, humans make the animals’ worlds accessible to themselves. “Emotions serve as a “social glue” to bond individuals with one another and to catalyze and regulate their social encounters”. Charles Darwin himself advocates that differences among species are in degree rather than kind.

Research from the University of Toronto shows that morality and empathy are not some kind of higher reasoning created by humans but survival instincts. It could simply be the result of evolution determining that morality and compassion are beneficial to the survival of species. What about empathy toward different species?

For the ones still not convinced that animals feel, here is “real science”. A recent study by Patrick Hof and Estel Van Der Gucht of the Mount Sinal School of Medicine in New York found specialised neurons, called spindle cells linked, in humans, to emotion, speech, social skills empathy and ‘gut’ intuition, in the brains of humpback, fin, killer and sperm whales. In fact, whales were found to have three times as many of these cells proportionally as humans do. Since our brains work in the same way as animals’, it makes sense for similar things to be happening.

Humans now know, that cows and chickens feel, at least in the same way as dogs and cats. We pride ourselves on being a species with higher moral senses. Yet, farm animals have been excluded from the animal cruelty laws that protect dogs and cats so that they can be exploited for human consumption. I guess, suffering in the name of profit has become socially acceptable in our society.

Bees are dying while biotechnology corporations get richer

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Independent researchers link pesticides to the death of billions of bees around the world while corporations like Bayer and Monsanto – producers of insecticides – exercise a disturbing degree of control over the evaluation of toxicity in their products.

Bee at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens by Paul Stein

Bee at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens by Paul Stein

What is happening?

Albert Einstein famously once said, “If honey bees become extinct, human society will follow in four years”. Indeed, bees pollinate about 80% of all plant species and at least one third of food crops. Food stuffs including apples, pears, tangerines, peaches, soybeans, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, carrots, broccoli and avocados all depend on pollination from bees.

Already in Sichuan, China, pear trees have had to be pollinated by hand after bees were wiped out by habitat loss linked to unsustainable agricultural practices.

In countries dependent on bee pollination, it is estimated that between 30% and 90% of honeybee colonies have disappeared since 2006. The same scenario occurs each time: the bees leave the nest and simply never come back.

Why is it happening?

Scientists do not know the exact cause of this epidemic; some say it could be parasites – particularly the varroa mite as well as viruses or funguses. However, many scientists believe the most likely reason for declining bee populations is the unchecked use of pesticides and genetically modified crops. The crisis is now officially known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CDD), whereby bee health is compromised, ultimately making them more susceptible to diseases.

According to a pair of new independent studies recently published in the Journal of Science, new evidence has directly linked pesticides with the decline of bee populations. Scientists believe that a type of insecticide known as Neonicotinoid – which was introduced in the 1990s by Bayer and is one of the most widely used crop pesticides in the world – is affecting the central nervous systems of bees. With annual sales of $1.941 billion, the neonicotinoids have became one of the fasted growing and prosperous products currently on the market. This pesticide appears to kill bees’ homing instincts, limits their ability to gather food and critically, find their way back to the hive.

Following responses from France and Germany, in 2009 the Italian Agriculture Ministry suspended the use of pesticides classed as nicotine-based neonicotinoids. This ban has led to the restoration of bee populations in Italy. “Bee hives have not suffered depopulation and mortality coinciding with maize sowing this year. Beekeepers from Northern Italy and all over the country are unanimous in recognizing the suspension of neonicotinoid- and fipronil-coated maize seeds,” Moreno Greatti from the University of Udine reported to the The European Research Center.

Trailer for “Nicotine Bees” documentary explaining cause for Colony Collapse Disorder.

Further research has indicated that CDD in bees is triggered not only by pesticides but also by GMO high-fructose corn syrup produced by Monsanto. Click here to read the full report.

Who is responsible?

In 2003, pharmaceuticals manufacturer Bayer developed a new pesticide called Clothianidin which falls under the family of the Neonicotinoid.  A leaked document from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was obtained recently by Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, and publicised by the Pesticide Action Network. The document details how Bayer performed inadequate testing on the pesticide and why the EPA accepted the results. This resulted in the pesticide being released for use despite proof that it would not harm bee populations and in fact, in contradiction with its own researcher’s results. See EPA leaked document.

In April 2012, Poland banned Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds. In addition to being linked to a plethora of health problems, Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki said that the pollen originating from this GM strain may actually be devastating already dwindling bee populations. 

Notably, Monsanto – one of the world largest producers of genetically modified food – quietly purchased a research company called Beelogics in September 2011, whose mission it was combat the extinction of bees. Monsanto has insisted it will use Beeologic’s research to improve the bees’ situation. However, given that it was named the ‘Worst Company 2011’ by the Natural Society, it is difficult to believe that Monsanto will put the bees before his products.

Monsanto ‘quietly’ acquired Beelogics because there is no trace of this information in the mainstream media. If you find any newspapers or TV channels that talk about Monsanto buying Beelogics please let me know.

The world according to Monsanto


Australian native food

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Bush foods or ‘bush tuckers‘ are a long list of well behaved edible native fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts that are delicious, nutritious, water saving and environmentally friendly.

bush tomato by blundershot

bush tomato by blundershot

Bush foods are part of Australian culture and history and are essential for Australia’s ecosystem. In the wild, native plants and wildlife have formed a perfect partnership where food and shelter are exchanged for seeds distribution and pest control. Some bush foods are endangered, Kris Kupsch owner of the Botanic Garden Nursery in New South Wales says, “The two NSW davidson plums are listed as endangered under legislation”. Planting bush tuckers help to ensure their survival and animals that depend from them.

Experience

The Balaangala at the Gap is a beautiful garden that aims not only to educate and promote bushfoods but also to connect people and share stories and ideas. The garden looks like a piece of wilderness or the bush after the rain but not like a conventional veggie garden.  A painted wooden board at the entry acknowledges the custodians of this part of the country, the Yuggera and the Turrabul people.

On the left is the “tea time spot”, the most important place of the garden says Melinda Serico, an Indigenous Australian from the Gubbi Gubbi people. It is an island of grass surrounded by trees on the left and pavements carved with messages on the right. “The tea time spot” is fully furnished with a coffee table in the middle and rocks and stumps all around. A Mac pie appears and perch on one of the rocks, Melinda salutes the bird, “Her name is Maggie”. She lives here”.

Around the garden, the shapes and textures of the plants look almost scary. Armed with spikes or indented leaves, they must protect wonders.  As you come closer those weird looking scrubs bear beautiful berries and flowers. All kind of berries lie around, the wombat, the quinine and the midyim berries, all edible. On the right of the tea spot, across the garden is an odd looking tree with a rough trunk and thick grasses on the top looking like a bad haircut. Melinda says, “It is a grass tree, a special tree”. Aboriginals used it to build tools using the spiky sticks of its hair and the strong glue of its trunk.

Behind, a little path of dead leaves reveals a huge and luscious spiky bush bearing lots of red fruits. “It is a native raspberry, our favourite one because we always get a good feed out of it,” says Melinda. On the sides of the track is a native ginger, a peanut tree, a native apricot and even a native grape, all bush tuckers. They may sound familiar but they taste or look different. A little further, a sandpaper tree, Melinda’s favourite because it is a good source of potassium. “With my liver problem I have to have a lot of potassium”, she says. Apart from producing a delicious fruit, it has medicinal and practical uses. The rough leaves and the bark are a treatment for flue, fevers, warts and diarrhoea and were even used to build ropes and nets.

The vegetation shrinks; the track stop and the wind brings the sweet and spicy smell of a cinnamon myrtle and then the sharp and fresh sent of a lemon myrtle. What an experience for the senses! This garden looks smells, sounds and feels unique. You don’t expect edible fruits or even vegetables growing in this rocky place. Yet, an amazing variety of food and flowers grows here and beautiful birds and butterflies made that garden their home.

Bush foods are probably already in your garden and around your neighbourhood. Melinda says, “We would be walking through town, stopping and picking berries off the Lilly Pillies and people would be looking saying, that’s poisonous! No it’s not we’d say”. Indigenous Australians have lived for more than 40,000 years by harvesting bush tuckers directly from the wild. There are more than 5,000 different species but most Australians would struggle to name one.

Louise Brennan, a teacher, built a native garden in Bald Hill School, Queensland to explain to children during history class that if the first settlers had taken the time to listen to the Aborigines, they wouldn’t’t have starved to death. Last year flood devastated the garden and it is just starting up again. Brennan says floods and fires are actually essential to certain bush foods. “The soil is more fertile after a flood because of the sediments deposited and there is more moisture in the ground” says Louise.

Eat

Research shows that Bush tuckers could be among the healthiest food in the world. Dr Isabel Konczac, leader of the research on the health benefits of bush foods at Food ScienceAustraliaidentified twelve native Australian fruits that are exceptional sources of antioxidants. “The native Illawarra plum is three times stronger in anti-oxidant activity than our sample of blueberries” says Konczac. She explains in a media release of the CSIRO that plants produce anti-oxidants when exposed to stress due to extreme weather, which enable them to survive. The Northern Territory Department of Health and theUniversityofSydneyanalysed the nutrient content of bush foods and found that they contain high amounts of vitamin C, trace elements, antioxidants and proteins.

Bush foods are intense in flavour and bring new and unique aromas to all meals but they are sometimes a little bit tricky to process and too intense to eat it whole and raw. Bryant Wells from Tukka restaurant says, “A lot of ingredients are hard to learn how to use because you have to do certain things to them to get the proper flavour out and a lot of the berries are very tart and the spices are earthy and dry”. There are now a lot of spices readily available in supermarkets like the Wattleseeds, which have a coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts flavour or the Mountain pepper, stronger and more aromatic than true pepper. Though, many fruits and berries are sweet and delicious eaten straight out of the trees. My favourite is the native mint, a tiny ground cover with minuscule leaf that tastes like a candy. Its sweet peppermint flavour refreshes your mouth just like a bonbon.

Though, Bush foods can be toxic. Some should only be eaten after cooking or specific preparations and others are toxic only in certain seasons. Louise recently found a beautiful ground cover that look like a wild native strawberry growing out of nowhere in her garden. A deep red and juicy fruit that would make anybody salivate but “don’t judge a book by its cover”, this innocent little wonder might be more like the red apple in Snow White. Louise sent a picture to a herbarium to identify it. “Don’t dare try them, if you don’t know what they are,” she says. Fortunately it is not poisonous, it is called Potentilla Indica and it is considered a weed, edible though but not very sweet.  “I think it is a pretty plant and I will grow it in a hanging basket,” says Brennan.

Grow

Bush food gardens require less work than ordinary ones but they still need a little pruning and watering. This is especially important when the plants are young; so don’t believe in the myth of maintenance-free gardens. However, once plants are established they need little maintenance but respond well to care and attention. “If you leave them they won’t die off but if you want to produce more you have to look after them” says Wells. Water is a scarce resource and native plants conserve and use it in the most efficient way. Brennan says, “We water once when we first plant them, that’s it”. The good news is that in the bush food garden, weeding and digging are not needed as native plants die if their roots are disturbed. Don’t move dead branches or leaves either, as they will provide shelter for animals and food for seedlings. The only thing you should do is mulching because it retains moisture, stops foreign weeds and provides fertiliser. Choose local plants that are adapted to the soil and climate conditions of you area as they will be easier to grow and will produce more fruit. Don’t limit yourself with species that grow in your region. You will grow them in your garden so you can always protect them from frost in cool area and water them more in arid climate.

Let’s celebrate and protect Australia’s unique ecosystem. Growing and eating bush tuckers are an effective way to restore native habitat and preserve the animals that depends from it. Please share tips and info on where to find, how, what to grow as well as events on native Australian plants.

References

Mitchell, R., ‘Why we should commercialise and cultivate native plants’.