Tags: food security, GMO, organic, seed patent
Recently I saw the film Seed: The Untold Story. While I was familiar with the presented issues, I wasn’t aware of just how extensive they were.
For example, did you know that 94% of seed diversity was lost in the last century? Some countries have made it illegal to collect heritage seeds, saying they need to “maintain the quality” (monopoly) of commercial stocks. And yet history has repeatedly shown us the hazards of widespread use of the same crop. Mono-crops can be compromised or wiped out by easily spread disease.
A more recent development is seed patents. Make a few small changes and you can own the seed stock. Farmers are not allowed to collect seeds or the seeds produce only one crop, obliging them to buy seeds again every year. Those seeds are often dependent on chemical sprays and again encourage mono-crops.
Thousands of farmers in India were convinced to borrow to buy seed they formerly harvested themselves. They got a crop they couldn’t renew and often failed, bankrupting them and causing over 250,000 suicides.
Thousands of small seed companies have been bought up by chemical companies which now control 2/3 of the global market. In other words, our food supply has become very dependent on international chemical corporations. The same ones who are patenting seeds.
The “small changes” that allow patenting seeds often take the form of genetic modification. Unlike our long history of culturing plant qualities through selective breeding, Genetically Modified (GMO) foods have directly altered DNA, often by adding features from other species. They’ve added fish DNA into tomatoes, for example. Those foods are then put on the market, untested. Some crops like corn and soy are almost all GMO, both of which are widely used in packaged food.
Scientific research is beginning to show correlations between GMO food consumption, cancer, and other health issues. Our dinner tables have become a laboratory for testing GMO. Unlike the also present pesticide residues, GMO cannot be washed off.
As pollination doesn’t recognize farm boundaries, nearby fields get contaminated. The seed owners can successfully sue farmers for using patented plants they didn’t plant. And the supply of non-GMO seeds gets further compromised, again moving towards mono-crops.
Yet the film is not dominated by a doomsday message. They also cover solutions and highlight people who are saving seed diversity for future generations. And happily, governments are slowly legislating GMO labeling so consumers can make informed choices.
Western Canada has a well-developed seed-sharing community.
Tags: forest science, tree network
My father was a forest scientist, professor, and conservationist with an expertise in tree disease. While I didn’t follow in his footsteps, I’ve maintained a love of the forest.
Forest science has evolved considerably in recent years in ways that many people are unaware of.
The Hidden Life of Trees is the best-selling book by forester Peter Wohlleben. Here, the author, Dr. Suzanne Simard, and Dr Teresa Smhayetsk talk about how trees support each other, including other species, but know friends and family.
(from a longer DVD Intelligent Trees)
Dr. Suzanne Simard is a western Canadian forest scientist who explains in a TED talk how trees communicate. This includes an underground network for transporting signals and sharing nutrients.
And here the author Wohlleben is interviewed, also mentioning the “wood wide web” and wheat “talking” at about 220 Hz.
And if you’ve not seen it, The Man Who Planted Trees. An old favorite.
For some years, I’ve been watching the work of self-taught physicist Nassim Haramein. He’s given many seminars on his ideas and released video of them, including the 6-hour Beyond the Event Horizon. Many people have studied how to explain his ideas and more recently they’ve launched an on-line “academy” to take it further. He’s also shown up in various works like the film Thrive.
Some of his ideas have been wildly speculative, like the grave of Jesus or the meaning of a comet. But the unfolding physics has been quite fascinating. As with Einstein and Buckminster Fuller, the physics is driven by his experiences.
While my physics isn’t strong enough to test his work, he has been working with several traditional physicists and has had his work published – peer-review is the key screening for science.
His model proposes a solution for Unified Field Theory but it comes out of left field, dropping the standard model of 4 forces into 2 and placing a black hole inside every proton. Key also is reintroducing spin into Einstein’s Field equations (also related to that black hole) and a universal scaling law. The results of his formulas are more accurate than the Standard model.
Meanwhile, he’s been working on a film to bring the ideas to a larger audience. In the summer of 2014, I saw clips at the Vancouver production studio of the in-progress work. Some of the film was also shot in Vancouver and Whistler. The project ended up being the most successful Indigogo fund-raising campaign and first into a new Vimeo distribution product.
While the film talks about his work and how it developed, Nassim stays very general on science, focusing more on the broader ideas and the potential impact they could have on our world-view.
He talks about how we’ve been looking at matter to define space but it’s actually space that defines matter. At about the halfway point, he explores how important an information feedback mechanism is for the universe. This is the source of the self-organizing systems that surround us. Without it, form would never have arisen in the first place let alone evolved over billions of years. However, he goes on to suggest that the feedback mechanism is what makes space conscious and able to learn about itself. This is a subtle form of materialism.
I would suggest space arises in self-referral consciousness, so consciousness defines space. Awareness automatically creates a feedback mechanism by being aware of what arises in space (itself). In other words, consciousness provides a built-in feedback mechanism that is present in space and in matter.
As we mature as people, we notice progressively more subtle layers of our own nature. That awareness brings a more alert feedback mechanism which is self-enhancing.
But I fully agree that the universe is one massive feedback mechanism.
The film is full of gorgeous graphics although much of it is artist expression rather than an accurate illustration of the dynamics.
At several points, they come back to the importance of our attention.
“Nothing would be the same if we weren’t there. We’re actually participating in this incredible, complex, will-works of nature. [the] communication of all the things in it is occurring through this imprint that we leave on the structure of space-time as we go along, as we interpret what we see and how we feel. So we have a responsibility in our interpretations, in our feelings, in our behaviors, in what we are feeding the universe.”
— Nassim Haramein
The film does touch on the importance of spin, forces, and the universality of black holes as I mentioned prior. But I was disappointed they skimmed over it and didn’t display a model of the dual torus and the inner dynamics that create the 2 fundamental forces – attractive and repulsive. It’s also absent any test results.
By comparison, here’s a TEDx talk he did with a little more of the science.
“Many people think technology alone holds the key to creating a better future for humanity. But there is more to it than that. It is the consciousness with which we create and wield that technology that will significantly impact our world.”
— Patrick Stewart, narrator
Primarily, the film talks about the broader ideas and possible consequences of vacuum energy devices and a new world-view of being intimately connected. We could say a film of vision rather than application.
Tags: digestive health, probiotics
All disease begins in the gut.
An average-sized human body comprises over 37 trillion cells. Most of them specialize and work in groups, like as skin, muscle or organ, for the common good. Our digestive system breaks food down into proteins and nutrients that cells need to function and communicate. However, good digestion requires the support of a wide range of microbes that live in our gut. They estimate there is 10x more microbes living in our gut than cells in the body.
“‘Gut health’ is a term increasingly used in the medical literature and by the food industry. It covers multiple positive aspects of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, such as the effective digestion and absorption of food, the absence of GI illness, normal and stable intestinal microbiota, effective immune status and a state of well-being.”
— research paper
Our gut has turned out to have more neurons that our brain, leading to the term “gut brain”. The gut is also a central part of our immune system.
The microbes help us and we support them. But if some of them get carried away and overpopulate, we need to bring them back into balance.
For example, if we have too much sugar (including low quality carbs) in our diet, microbes like yeast (candida) become excessive. The yeast signals a demand for more sugar and we crave it. But anything in excess overwhelms the other microbes and throws the gut balance off. What we need to properly digest other foods is reduced.
This is chronic for some people. Too far out of balance and GI issues migrate to other parts of the body causing skin problems (thrush, age spots, rashes, adult acne), yeast infections, bloating, food and chemical sensitivities, bad breath, chronic fatigue, allergies, reduced immune function, stubborn gut fat, reduced serotonin (happiness), and so forth. Every piece of research I looked at had still more that could be added to this list.
This process can lead to the gut barrier being compromised, leaking particles into the blood stream and on into places they don’t belong. Known as “leaky gut”, this leads to increased infections, inflammatory problems, metabolic disorders and intestinal diseases. Research suggests gut imbalance can have a key role in autoimmune diseases.
Our modern diet has a few foods said to cause the most trouble with gut health.
1 – azodicarbonamide – an additive to whiten flour that is banned in the EU and other places but legal in N. America. It’s widely used in fast food buns.
2 – diet soda – the artificial sweeteners. Yeast loves all sweeteners.
3 – coffee – due to its acidity. Even worse with added sugar, especially found in fancy coffees.
4 – alcohol – kills friendly microbes
You may recognize some of these from the cancer risk list too.
A lean chicken burger and diet soda isn’t as healthy as you might think. More so if this is your regular diet.
Another thing to mess with gut health is antibiotics. They are very useful for bringing problem microbes under control but do this by cutting a wide swath. It’s thus important to restore our microbiome after taking antibiotics. NSAIDs like aspirin and Advil can also cause trouble.
“The effect of ciprofloxacin [an antibiotic] on the gut microbiota was profound and rapid, with a loss of diversity and a shift in community composition occurring within 3–4 d[oses] of drug initiation. By 1 wk after the end of each course, communities began to return to their initial state, but the return was often incomplete.”
— research paper
If we restore gut balance, the many symptoms subside. However, starving the sugar-loving yeast can take several months. Even if we fast for a few days and break the sugar craving, until gut balance is restored, there will be a much greater tendency to “fall off the wagon” on diets, etc.
To restore gut health, you need sources of healthy microbes like:
2) fermented veggies like Sauerkraut or Kimchi
3) probiotic supplements
Probiotic yogurt is a popular solution these days but commercial yogurt is usually pasteurized for longevity, killing the microbes. Most also have added sugar.
Ironically, if you have a yeast issue, fermented foods like sauerkraut may cause more bloating. They become more suitable after some balance is restored for maintaining balance.
Thus, a supplement is a good idea to restore gut health. You want one with billions of microbes and a number of strains. Somewhat like a good multivitamin.
(Unless you have a specific issue like Crohn’s that is better served by very specific strains.)
My local health food store recommended a more expensive one with more strains and numbers for post-antibiotics but a regular one for general restoration.
These probiotic supplements don’t last for more than a couple of weeks in the gut but they “elbow out” the bad guys and give the chance for beneficial microbes to get reestablished.
When you begin a supplement, it’s common to notice quick changes with digestion and elimination. Even with a colicky baby for a supplementing nursing mother.
Foods recommended to feed your gut flora (called prebiotic) included whole oranges, bananas, artichokes, yams, lentils and garlic. Overall, you want a diet emphasizing whole foods with a plant base for optimum health.
Tags: conservation, humpback whales, kermode bear, pacific northwest, spirit bear, whales
The Great Bear Rainforest is a temperate rain forest along the NW coast of North America on the Pacific Ocean. It runs from the Discovery Islands (across from Campbell River*, BC) up to the Alaskan panhandle border. Much of it is mountainous and intersected by fiords. (a map)
First named by environmental groups, a large section became protected earlier this year (years after an agreement was reached) with other areas under some protection. Most old growth forest within is now protected.
A ban on the trophy hunting of bears was also negotiated, but a changed government brought the hunt back. Ironic they allow bear hunting in a place with this name.
A rather creative solution has been to buy area hunting rights and manage them as if they were being used for hunting. But instead, they’re used for eco-tourism – the bears are shot with cameras instead of guns. They even have to go through all the motions and procedures to behave like hunters: firearms handling, hunting licenses, and so forth. It’s rather ridiculous they have to go to such lengths to protect a single species of wildlife. The first videos below describe more.
The area is also highlighted due to an attempt to build an oil pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the coast, dramatically increasing tanker traffic on a stormy, complex coast. Many remember the Exxon Valdez spill in the area. But tar sands oil is worse and much harder to clean up.
It’s a remarkable area, rich with wildlife. But it’s also remote. The most likely way you’d see it is on a cruise ship to Alaska while it travels up the coast. The area includes the world’s largest population of Spirit bears, also called kermode. A series of short videos have been produced speaking about the area and some healthy approaches to sustaining it.
1 – Raincoast’s Fight
2 – Banning The Trophy Hunt
3 – The Spirit Bear (Kermode or white)
4 – Revival of the Humpback Whales
5 – The Marine Detective
* about a half hours drive north of me. I live on the more moderate and populated SW coast on sheltered waters.
Tags: light pollution, Space, stars
We’ve developed the bad habit of leaving the lights on all night. On streets, on porches and in yards, on stores and in offices. A world that never sleeps and never sees the Milky Way.
“Stargazing is extinct in cities like New York City and London, but it’s also endangered in places all over the world because of urbanization. We rounded up the most incredible places to see the night sky, and a few places that need to be preserved.”
The Weather Channel has set up images from various low light locations around the world that are ideal for watching the night sky. Does the night sky above you look like this? Best is on New Moon nights, so they offer a calendar too.
Light pollution ruins star gazing but also restful sleep, natural rhythms and thus health. Blackout curtains can help but then you can’t wake with the sun. Motion detectors can make a big difference on your property.
Tags: discovery, Einstein, revolution
A couple of years ago, I wrote a short bit about gravity waves. It’s the last prediction of Einstein’s General Relativity that hadn’t been directly experimentally verified – after 100 years. Last fall, a major 3 year upgrade was completed on the Ligo detectors in Louisiana and in Washington state. Just after they where turned back on, they detected a merger of 2 black holes that happened long ago and far away.
That event released more energy than 1 billion, trillion suns – that’s more than we have in the known universe. So the event made waves in space-time. Such an event is expected about once every 10,000 years, so it was fortuitous timing.
After rigorous verification, that discovery has been officially announced and the last prediction is experimentally verified.
The upgraded equipment can also detect other sources of gravity waves. This opens a new window on the universe. We can now explore the universe not just with light waves (electromagnetic spectrum) but with gravity waves.
Here Brian Greene reviews the discovery:
For more background, you may enjoy these:
Rumour of the discovery and more detail on gravity waves.
Tags: diet, food, plant-based, vegan
Eating based on beliefs or special diets that are not designed for your specific body can have unintended consequences. Variety is what makes food interesting and ensures we get the diversity of nutrients required.
Readers of this blog know I did a series on the CHIP program. This included some of the science for shifting to a more plant-based diet, minimizing cancer risk, and overall self care. The program was originally designed for heart patients but was expanded to the whole population.
I quite liked the approach as it looked at how and what we eat, fitness, emotional health, and more. CHIP recommends a primarily plant-based diet but suggests you move in that direction rather than mandating anything.
The weakness however is not differentiating recommendations by body type. For myself I’ve found Ayurveda adds some useful extras. For a start, they begin with your body type and make dietary recommendations accordingly. They recognize that not all of us will respond to the same vegetables or other foods in the same way. Each of us needs a certain emphasis or balance of food types.
Ayurveda favours a vegetarian diet that includes dairy, but they allow for the full range and can recommend some occasional fish or white meat. They have a food as medicine approach. Dairy is also prepared in specific ways. Clarified butter, soft cheeses, and boiled milk, for example.
Ideally, we begin with initial recommendations and then experiment. Pay attention to how foods make you feel afterwards. But be very careful where sugar is involved. Sugar confuses the bodies intelligence so it messes up the signals and creates craving. Also, you may find dietary needs change with age and life, so we may need to tune up choices periodically.
But if we can learn to take the bodies lead in our eating choices rather than some dietary rules or beliefs, we’ll do much better and enjoy life more.
Science is beginning to catch on to this. Programs are being developed (as yet far too expensive) that make science-based diet and exercise recommendations that are specific to your body. By combining DNA, blood, and other tests, we’ll soon be offered more personalized recommendations.
Meantime, enjoy the experiment.
Tags: Cowspiracy, diet, global warming, meat production, plant-based
I’ve written several articles on this blog on the CHIP program and the many health benefits of shifting to a more plant-based diet – including reduced cancer risks. Recently, the World Health Organization announced that processed meats are carcinogenic and red meat probably also is. This is based on hundreds of studies.
A friend recommended the film Cowspiracy, a surprising documentary about the meat industry. Not only is excess meat a health issue but it’s also the number one cause of global warming. Simply because of volume, cows and their processing produce well over twice the greenhouses gases than all forms of transportation. Really?
“Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”
Goodland, R Anhang, J. “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change were pigs, chickens and cows?”
“Livestock is responsible for 65% of all human-related emissions of nitrous oxide – a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years.”
“Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options.” 2006.
“Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2e limit by 2030, all from raising animals.”
Oppenlander, Richard A.
“Agriculture is responsible for 80-90% of US water consumption.”
US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, 2013. 54% is for growing feed crops.
Conservatively, 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef. Eating a single hamburger will negate any individual efforts you can make to conserve water.
“Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.”
World Bank, 2003
“Today, humans and the animals that we raise as food make up 98% of the zoomass.” (animal biomass on earth)
Vaclav Smil, Harvesting the Biosphere, 2011
“We are currently growing enough food to feed 10 billion people.” But half of it goes to feed animals, even in countries with starving children.
Meat production is the largest cause of deforestation, water consumption, ocean pollution, and desertification. A third of the planet is now desert. And yet the film-maker found that most environmental organizations refused to talk about it. His primary funder suddenly backed out over the “controversy”.
Turns out it’s illegal in the US to speak against the meat production industry. There is now an “Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act”. In other words, speaking about this in the US can be considered a terrorist act. In South America, people are shot for protesting against agribusiness.
Yet – on a given land area, we can produce 15x the protein with plants rather than animals.
“A person who follows a vegan diet produces the equivalent of 50% less carbon dioxide, uses 1/11th oil, 1/13th water, and 1/18th land compared to a meat-lover.” Just with diet.
A little more effective than a low-flow shower head, biking to work, and turning out a few lights. And if we’re actually serious about addressing climate change, we need to address the elephant in the room…
Tags: orbits, planets, spiral, sun
You may have seen those animations of the planets circling the sun. Maybe even one of those mechanical devices illustrating it. However, this leaves us with the erroneous impression that the sun is standing still.
As I noted on Quite Enough, “the sun is moving at about 810,000 kph. The earth is not orbiting, it’s spiralling through space, following the sun. We’re not only matching the suns speed to keep up, but spinning and going around as well. So we’re going even faster…” We also never return to the same point in space in our annual orbit.
I saw a decent animation of the process but it had the plane of the ecliptic (planetary orbits) perpendicular to the sun’s movement, which is incorrect. This one is more accurate. However, it’s also worth noting that the sun is not moving in a straight line either. We’re moving relative to other area stars, and orbiting the galaxy which is moving with our galactic cluster, and so forth.