Want to have some fun and waste time and learn all at the same time? Check out these optical illusions.
When I come across these sorts of things, I cannot stop marvelling at the amazing power of the world wide web.
Dr. Mercola summarizes some disconcerting news at mercola.com:
The Environmental Working Group released the report and, based on tests of 10 samples of umbilical-cord blood (a reflection of what the mother passes to the baby via the placenta), found an average of 287 contaminants in the blood, including:
Mercury Fire retardants Pesticides, including DDT and chlordane The Teflon chemical PFOA Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
The actual effects on the babies are not clear, but what is known is that of the 287 contaminants found:
180 cause cancer in humans or animals 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests
If there’s any good news to be had, it’s that the survey prompted several members of Congress to press for legislation that would strengthen controls on chemicals in the environment. This should also serve as a major wake-up call for pregnant women or those expecting to become pregnant, as there’s an urgent need for you to eat as clean a diet as possible.
Ann and I were hiking around Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park (a good 9 mile hike). As we crossed the feeder stream above Jenny Lake, I watched two fly fisherman casting in the beautiful rapids. I was struck by the similarity between a smooth fly cast and a smooth golf swing. Then I realized that they both originated in Scotland.
Records of fishing with a fly go back to Ancient Greece when it was common to catch fish on a hook dressed with red yarn. Modern fly fishing originated in Scotland and was greatly refined in southern England on the River Test and the other ‘chalk streams’ concentrated in Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset and Berkshire (see Southern England Chalk Formation for the geological specifics). The seminal work in the sport is The Compleat Angler written in the mid-1600’s by Izaak Walton, largely about those classic English waters. Source: Wikipedia
Golf is usually regarded as a Scottish invention, as the game was mentioned in two 15th-century laws prohibiting the playing of the game of "gowf". Some scholars, however, suggest that this refers to another game which is much akin to modern field hockey. They point out that a game of putting a small ball in a hole in the ground using golf clubs was played in 17th-century Netherlands. The term golf is believed to have originated from a Germanic word for "club". Many old wives tales state that golf was an acronym for Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.
The first golf club established outside the United Kingdom was the Royal Calcutta in India in 1829. The modern game evolved in the second half of the 19th century in Scotland. The rules of the game and the design of equipment and courses greatly resembled those of today. 1873 saw the establishment of the first North American golf club, Royal Montreal Golf Club in Canada. The major changes in equipment since the 19th century have been better mowers, especially for the greens, better golf ball designs, using rubber and man-made materials since about 1900, and the introduction of the metal shaft beginning in the 1930s. Also in the 1930s the wooden golf tee was invented. In the 1970s the use of metal to replace wood heads began, and shafts made of graphite composite materials were introduced in the 1980s. Source: Wikipedia
Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, a review of a 22-year farming trial study concludes.
David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture, concludes, "Organic farming offers real advantages for such crops as corn and soybeans." Pimentel is the lead author of a study that is published in the July issue of Bioscience (Vol. 55:7) analyzing the environmental, energy and economic costs and benefits of growing soybeans and corn organically versus conventionally. The study is a review of the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial, the longest running comparison of organic vs. conventional farming in the United States.
"Organic farming approaches for these crops not only use an average of 30 percent less fossil energy but also conserve more water in the soil, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality and conserve more biological resources than conventional farming does," Pimentel added.
The study compared a conventional farm that used recommended fertilizer and pesticide applications with an organic animal-based farm (where manure was applied) and an organic legume-based farm (that used a three-year rotation of hairy vetch/corn and rye/soybeans and wheat). The two organic systems received no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Inter-institutional collaboration included Rodale Institute agronomists Paul Hepperly and Rita Seidel, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service research microbiologist David Douds Jr. and University of Maryland agricultural economist James Hanson. The research compared soil fungi activity, crop yields, energy efficiency, costs, organic matter changes over time, nitrogen accumulation and nitrate leaching across organic and conventional agricultural systems.
"First and foremost, we found that corn and soybean yields were the same across the three systems," said Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators.
The fact that organic agriculture systems also absorb and retain significant amounts of carbon in the soil has implications for global warming, Pimentel said, pointing out that soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent, the equivalent of taking about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air.
Among the study’s other findings:
# In the drought years, 1988 to 1998, corn yields in the legume-based system were 22 percent higher than yields in the conventional system.
# The soil nitrogen levels in the organic farming systems increased 8 to 15 percent. Nitrate leaching was about equivalent in the organic and conventional farming systems.
# Organic farming reduced local and regional groundwater pollution by not applying agricultural chemicals.
Pimentel noted that although cash crops cannot be grown as frequently over time on organic farms because of the dependence on cultural practices to supply nutrients and control pests and because labor costs average about 15 percent higher in organic farming systems, the higher prices that organic foods command in the marketplace still make the net economic return per acre either equal to or higher than that of conventionally produced crops.
Organic farming can compete effectively in growing corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and other grains, Pimentel said, but it might not be as favorable for growing such crops as grapes, apples, cherries and potatoes, which have greater pest problems.
The study was funded by the Rodale Institute and included a review of current literature on organic and conventional agriculture comparisons. According to Pimentel, dozens of scientific papers reporting on research from the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial have been published in prestigious refereed journals over the past 20 years.
From Cornell University
Here are three photos of the Tetons (between Jackson, WY, and Yellowstone National Park).
Ann took the photo on the left from the Snake River overlook.
I took the photo in the middle as we were hiking around Jenny Lake.
Ann took the photo on the right as we were leaving the Gros Vendre campground.
(Click on the thumbnails to see photo.)
Tom Peters has called global warming a lousy brand. Dave Roberts in Gristmill pointed out that it is a hard sell- too far away and too nebulous, and to those of us suffering through harsh winters in the middle of the continent, what could be wrong about a little warming? What is wrong with our story?
SG: It doesn’t fit the worldview of the very people you’re trying to reach and influence. Most Americans care about a very very short time horizon, and are easily swayed with group pressure on things like patriotism and faith. (Just try to criticize people for spending time and money in church and you’ll see what I mean.) Global warming is vague and distant.
Acid rain is a much more powerful story. Acid = death and rain is omnipresent and supposedly pure and lifegiving. Put them together and you get something that feels tangible and an emergency.
You need to remember that people evolved to be civilized white collar workers only over the last 200 years. That means that deep within us is a time horizon of a week, the desire to hunt and to feed our family and not die this week. Selling something so far away is antithetical to our genes and it’s just not easy enough.
Spray painting baby seals is far more effective a story that talking about running out of gas in 2020.
Much of America identifies Prius drivers with Leonardo, Susan Sarandon and sniveling leftie treehuggers. Should we put a hybrid on the NASCAR track? How do we change the worldview of the majority of America?
SG: There’s no question that a souped up Prius would reach a certain group, but I don’t think that’s the best way to get Prius adoption. The prius tells a story “you’re smart”. There are a group of people that want their car to tell them that they’re smart, and the prius does this.
I think the way we kill the gas guzzlers is to tell the story: SUV = terrorism, SUV = unpatriotic, SUV = dead soldiers. Careful! It would backfire if the story was interpreted that you should get rid of your SUV If you’re a chicken (these colors don’t run!) Instead, the story needs to be based on a simple fact: if we get rid of all the SUVs, America becomes Oil Independent. Oil Independent is an achievable goal that people on both sides of the aisle should grab.
You admit to filling your shopping cart with organic food while writing that it is probably no better (and a lot more expensive) than conventional produce. But I cannot believe that you would pay more if you knew it was a lie. You believe the story or you would not do it. Are you just being provocative? Like discussing organic lard?
SG: What does “believe” mean? I have faith. I have faith that if everyone did it, we’d be better off. I believe that spending the money is patriotic, not selfish. That I don’t want to be a freerider, that I want to cause change. But I also know that the pricing is exorbitant and unfair and it doesn’t go to the farmers, and that there’s no real research that carrot for carrot, it’s worth much extra. So, I have faith and it makes me feel good. But the scientist and accountant in me has a hard time with it.
I would be interested in your thoughts on “the death of environmentalism” published on Changethis.com.
SG: Another provocative title, and another manifesto about storytelling. I believe that there’s no reason at all why environmentalists should be seen as anti-progress. Honda is a terrific example of this—they make efficient cars because it pays off in lots of ways, not just in clean air.
Americans have always admired thriftiness and efficiency. And that’s environmentalism at what it could be. Don’t be a slob, don’t waste. Do great stuff, but neatly.
Treehugger is about living a green lifestyle- a well designed, comfortable and trendy lifestyle that is easy on the environment and does not include tie-dye shirts or Birkenstocks. Our story is that you can live well and in style while making intelligent choices that reduce our impact on the environment. That a smaller better meal is better than a big burger; that a small, well designed prefab is better than a mcmansion; that a Prius is better than a hummer. Quality is better than Quantity. Less is more. How would you spread that brand?
SG: We need to be a lot less fractious, and need to focus on the emotional actions that matter. Getting a new refrigerator should be an act of national security. Ask ten greens what we should spend our money on next, and they’ll give you ten answers. That’s crazy. We need a priority list. The fundamentalists have one.
For example, if we focused all our energy on selling “don’t eat cow”, it might hit critical mass. And if it did, the side effects would be spectacular.
Everyone is flawed. Almost always, your greatest asset is also your greatest liability. When you add a lot of money into the formula, character flaws that were not very detectable in the early days become very detectable as it grows. You don’t know. My greatest asset is my innocence. It’s also my greatest weakness. I’m easily taken advantage of. I’m easily pushed around. But, on the other side, innocence is like a conduit for good luck. It’s about integrity. I cannot, physiologically, psychologically, or emotionally, be devious, manipulating, to sell something that’s not 100% wonderful, that’s not good for the environment, that’s not good for everyone. Maybe it’s not good for AT&T, but I don’t care about them (laughs).
Good luck flowed through me. I brought the good luck to the business. I did not bring the brains to business. I did not bring the skill. I did not organize the finances, the legal. I could not talk Wall Street. I couldn’t organize the people. I attracted great people. That’s what I attracted. I attracted the resources and the ideas. In terms of "what good am I?" from a hard-core, Wall Street perspective, I was like a spare part. But, one would have to appreciate what I brought to the business, because when I was maneuvered out in the end, and that’s a long story, good luck went away, in both companies. The whole thing collapsed. It was like things happened within weeks of each other.
Just how gullible do the policy-makers think we are to swallow this kind of science?
Trout Unlimited (TU) said that a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries) policy would lead to more controversy and lawsuits, and ultimately diminish the protection and hinder the recovery of Pacific salmon and steelhead.
The policy requires that salmon and steelhead born and reared in hatcheries and then released be considered alongside wild fish born and reared in rivers when weighing the need for ESA protection. Those considerations then become integral in assessing the overall health of a stock, ESA listing decisions, strategies for recovering imperiled stocks and more. Trout Unlimited said today NOAA’s announcement reflects a policy reversal that undermines decades of recovery strategies and actions targeted toward wild fish.
TU said the implications of combining wild and hatchery fish to determine protection levels is wrong-headed, and runs afoul of the judgment of legions of fisheries scientists who have examined the question of wild-versus-hatchery fish management.
"The conclusion of the vast majority of fisheries science’s finest minds who’ve studied this problem is that hatchery fish and wild fish are different animals and must be managed accordingly, especially under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act," said Dr. Jack Williams, senior scientist for Trout Unlimited. "It’s puzzling that NOAA Fisheries would issue a policy that contradicts the advice of its own scientists."
Jeff Curtis of TU pointed out that "the problem is that if you include hatchery fish – which in fact can be a threat to wild fish – in determining which fish qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, then you will always have trouble determining whether and how those hatchery fish will be protected. It is not only bad science, it is also goofy policy."
Under the new policy, for example, fish raised in concrete hatcheries and spawned in white plastic buckets from over 160 hatcheries which swim alongside wild fish will be protected under the ESA.
The David Suzuki Foundation has researched the 10 most effective ways we can help conserve nature and improve our quality of life.
- Reduce home energy use by 10%
- Choose an energy-efficient home & appliances
- Don’t use pesticides
- Eat meat-free meals one day a week
- Buy locally grown and produced food
- Choose a fuel-efficient vehicle
- Walk, bike, carpool or take transit
- Choose a home close to work or school
- Support alternative transportation
- Learn more and share with others
The Challenge is to pick at least three steps and sign up by clicking the button below. It’s an easy and effective way to make a difference.
1. Reduce home energy use by 10%: A more energy-efficient home will lower your utility bills and reduce your impact on the environment. Heating accounts for nearly 60 per cent of energy use in the average Canadian home.
2. Choose an energy-efficient home and appliances: R-2000 homes use 30 per cent less energy than standard homes. Modern appliances save more energy than older ones. New refrigerators, for example, use 40 per cent less energy than models made just 10 years ago.
3. Replace dangerous pesticides with alternatives: Small children and pets are especially vulnerable to the dangers of chemicals.
4. Eat meat-free meals one day a week: The production and processing of grains requires far less water and land than does meat.
5. Buy locally grown and produced food: Buying locally reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants from food transportation. One study estimates that the average meal travels 2400 km (1500 miles) from the field to your table.
6. Choose a fuel-efficient vehicle: A typical SUV uses almost twice the fuel–and releases nearly twice the emissions–of a modern station wagon, although both seat the same number of passengers.
7. Walk, bike, carpool or take transit: Researchers in California found the air we breathe inside our cars can be up to 10 times more polluted than the air outside.
8. Choose a home close to work or school: A convenient place to live reduces the amount you drive, which means you’ll lower your emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. You’ll also have more time to spend on things you care about.
9. Support car-free alternatives: More alternatives to the car mean less pollution, gridlock and urban sprawl.
10. Learn more and share with family and friends: By working together we can inspire our elected leaders to incorporate environmental conservation into public policy. A healthier environment isn’t possible unless we all get involved.
Since 1990, the David Suzuki Foundation has worked to find ways for society to live in balance with the natural world that sustains us. Focusing on four program areas – oceans and sustainable fishing, forests and wild lands, climate change and clean energy, and the web of life – the Foundation uses science and education to promote solutions that help conserve nature.
David T. Suzuki PhD, Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster.
David has received consistently high acclaim for his thirty years of award-winning work in broadcasting, explaining the complexities of science in a compelling, easily understood way. He is well known to millions as the host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s popular science television series, The Nature of Things.
His eight part series, A Planet for the Taking won an award from the United Nations. His eight-part PBS series The Secret of Life was praised internationally, as was his five-part series The Brain for the Discovery Channel. For CBC Radio he founded the long running radio series, Quirks and Quarks and has presented two influential documentary series on the environment, From Naked Ape to Superspecies and It’s a Matter of Survival.
An internationally respected geneticist, David was a full Professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from 1969 until his retirement in 2001. He is professor emeritus with UBC’s Sustainable Development Research Institute. From 1969 to 1972 he was the recipient of the prestigious E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship Award for the "Outstanding Canadian Research Scientist Under the Age of 35".