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Showing posts from May, 2013

The Problem with Manhattan's Green Roofs

Green Roofs. They're gorgeous, and they can actively help to combat global warming.  They're a good thing. In 2007, NYC's Mayor Bloomberg launched PlaNYC.  The goal was to green up the city and make it more environmentally sustainable.  It has been extraordinarily successful: "In just four years we’ve built hundreds of acres of new parkland while improving our existing parks. We’ve created or preserved more than 64,000 units of housing. We’ve built whole new neighborhoods with access to transit. We’ve provided New Yorkers with more transportation options. We’ve enacted the most ambitious laws of any city in the country to make existing buildings more energy-efficient.   And we’ve reduced our greenhouse gas emissions 13% below 2005 levels. Over 97% of the 127 initiatives in PlaNYC were launched within one-year of its release and almost two-thirds of its 2009 milestones were achieved or mostly achieved." (source) There is one slight problem, howev

Trash-to-Energy: A Progressive Idea from Arizona

It's not often that you'll see me singing praises to Arizona. From Sheriff Joe to the rejection of Chicano Studies courses, I spend more time cringing and even yelling about what the state does than anything else. (No offense to any of you reading this that are from Arizona... I have friends there, so I know that not everyone follows that mentality.) You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that one city within the state of Arizona was doing something progressive and important .  Something that makes me smile. What am I talking about? Trash-to-energy. Abengoa, an engineering company based in Spain, is looking to build a trash-to-energy plant in Glendale, AZ.  "Chicago-based power company Vieste Energy will own the planned factory, and Abengoa will build it and run it for 30 years. Construction will take 20 months, and create 50 jobs, says Abengoa. When fully built, the factory is supposed to be able to gasify 180,000 tons of garbage per year, produce

What's On Your Plate? An Eco-system's Destruction, Perhaps.

We've all heard about how the fish on our plates may not be the fish we think they are. To be honest, this didn't concern me much.  The Cajun salmon spread that I enjoy on my crackers is actually pollock?  No worries.  It still tastes good, so who really cares?  Well, my mind has just been changed. Significantly. See, I just finished watching the trailer for a documentary from New Zealand called The Last Ocean , directed by Peter Young: Wow, right? Ok, so what exactly did you just see a teaser for? Well, in a nutshell, you're seeing the process of an eco-system's quiet destruction.  It's that simple.  How can destruction be quiet, you ask? Because people don't know about it.   Heck, most people don't even know that the Ross Sea even exists .  Don't be embarrassed if you're one of those people.  The fact of the matter is that most of us have never heard about it.  Why would we?  It's just a small section of sea off the coast o

Decrease Stress Through Food (No, I Don't Mean Ice Cream and Chocolate)

Well, maybe a little chocolate...  but only because the secret to eternal happiness is trapped inside a single piece of chocolate that's hiding in one container within one country somewhere in the world, and the only way you'll ever know the answer is to consume chocolate in hopes of finding that one piece.   Really. We all know that eating well and exercising regularly is great for our health. We also know that exercise produces endorphins, and in the wise words of Elle Woods from Legally Blond: It's all so very simple. But! We've all heard the the phrase, "You are what you eat." Can diet effect mood?   The answer on a very basic level is, of course, yes. The worse your health is, the worse you feel, physically.  If you're feeling sick or tired, your mood will obviously not be at its best.  This is obvious. But what about specific foods?  Is it possibl e to decrease stress through incorporating specific foods into your diet?

There are Green Oscars?

Did you know that something called the "Green Oscars" exists? I didn't. Well, it turns out that the Green Oscars have been around since 1994.  That's almost 20 years. I felt pretty bad about not knowing it existed.  I mean... I write about this stuff!  I should know this, right? But I didn't. And if I didn't realize there was something called the Green Oscars, then maybe you didn't, either.  At least, that's what I'm telling myself.  It makes me feel better, so let's go with it. What are the Green Oscars, you ask? Well, it turns out that "Green Oscars" is actually more of a nickname for the Whitley Awards .  I'm not off the hook yet, though, because I have never heard of them , either.  Oops. The Whitley Fund is an organization registered in the UK that offers awards and grants to conservationists.  Not just any conservationists, though.  They have to be pretty awesome. It's pretty huge, too, considering

Eat Your Potatoes!!! White Vegetables Are Important, Too.

Don't judge a vegetable by its color! At least, that's what a round table discussion from Purdue says.  White vegetables like potatoes, it turns out, are just as important as their pretty green, orange and red counterparts. That's right.  Those potatoes that people seem to think are bad for you due to their high starch content, are actually nutritional powerhouses.  No, really! The supplemental article published in Advances in Nutrition, White Vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients: Purdue Round Table Executive Summary , points out that white vegetables include important nutrients that the average American tends to fall short on, such as magnesium, fiber, and potassium, to name a few. Not to mention protein.   As it turns out, "Potato biological value, depending on the cultivar, is between 90 and 100 and very similar to the biological value of a whole egg at 100 and higher than soybeans (84) and legumes (73). Thus, th

Leonardo DiCaprio's 11th Hour Charity Auction

I've never been a very big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor.   A little too 'cute' for me... The first five years or so after he started catching people's attention with Titanic , I rolled my eyes whenever somebody got excited about a movie he starred in.  "Big deal,"   I thought.   "It's just another movie in which everyone gushes about his cuteness,  and blah, blah, blah..." His roles became more interesting to me around 2002, when he showed up in Gangs of New York .  Unfortunately, it was hard for me to shake the "cuteness" of his character in Titanic.  So I've never been a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor . Leonardo DiCaprio the philanthropist , on the other hand, is another story.   The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is where he truly shines.  Take, for instance, his latest charity art auction at Christie's in New York, where he was able to raise $33.3 million!!! Dang.  Most of us don&#

Earl: A Sexy, Solar Powered Android Device

I'm in love with yet another piece of technology.   Oh, la la!!! It was designed for the type of person that gets dirty, climbs mountains, swims through rough currents, and wrestles antelopes in muddy swamps infested with man-eating alligators that are over 30 feet long! Well, ok.  Maybe that's not quite what it was designed for... but it's still pretty cool! Earl .   ::commence swooning:: Earl is tough and rugged.  Earl enjoys spending large amounts of time in the sun.  Earl is gorgeous. No, I'm not talking about the person this device was designed for, nor am I talking about a mountain man from a Harlequin novel.  I'm talking about an Android device. THE android device for back-country outdoorsy geeks like me.  And like you, too, perhaps.  So let me tell you about this sexy device that everybody should be swooning over. Earl is a renaissance man.   It's a fantistic combination of GPS, weather alert system, and two-way radio.  It also h

Water trapped in Rock? Get Ready for a Stream of Discoveries!

  Water we talking about? We're talking about water trapped within rock that was discovered by some gold miners in Canada.  Really, really old water.  Water that may have microorganisms within it that evolved separately from everything on the surface. Geochemistry ROCKS! Ok, enough with the puns...  you get my point.  This is so awesome!!! Here's the thing:   There has been water found within rocks that has been trapped for tens of millions of years.  That's nothing new.  This water, however, is really exciting.  See, it's older.  A lot older.  A team of geochemists visited Timmins, Ontario and made some interesting findings.  "To date the water, the team used three lines of evidence, all based on the relative abundances of various isotopes of noble gases present in the water. The authors determined that the fluid could not have contacted Earth's atmosphere — and so been at the planet's surface — for at least 1 billion years, and possi

Nature and ART: What the Environment Does For Our Minds

A fter writing about how the natural environment is beneficial toward creativity, I went on a very focused mission toward finding out more about what nature can do for the brain.  I mean, everyone reading this knows that nature has a profound effect on people, but generalized knowledge and focused knowledge are at totally opposite ends of the spectrum.  I wanted something that would grip me.  Something that would make me say, "ooooOOOOOOOoo!" and "Ah!!!" And so...  I did.  I found it. It's called ART. No, really.  That's what it's called.  I swear. No, not that kind of ART. ART stands for Attention Restoration Theory.  What does that mean, then? Attention Restoration Theory is exactly what it sounds like.   It's the theory that nature has the ability to restore the mind.  It can increase focus, relaxation, positive thoughts, etc.  It's not just something talked about in alternative healing circles.  It has actually been

Nature and the Brain: Creativity

To quote directly from the book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder , by Richard Louv, "Nature inspires creativity in a child by demanding visualization and the full use of the senses. Given a chance, a child will bring the confusion of the world to the woods, wash it in the creek, turn it over to see what lives on the unseen side of that confusion." I agree, and I think it goes a lot further than just children. Going off and spending time away from the structured, fast paced rigidity of the city can make a person feel more alive.  As you look through the trees ahead of you, the imagination takes over. Sometimes that can be scary.  You begin to realize how small you are.  You see that the world is so much bigger than you dreamed, and you know nothing about what you'll find if you go farther inside that forest.  You realize that if you get lost you may never again be found. At other times, that same group of trees makes

Happy Mother's Day From the Insect World!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mothers out there! Today's post is a super-short one, since Mother's Day is the one day that I get to sit back, read a book, and watch everybody else do everything for me. Ahahahaha!    I made a funny! Seriously, though... I hear that if you believe something with all your heart, you can make it happen.  I, therefore, am going to spend the day believing that my husband and daughter love cleaning the house, cooking, and folding laundry. Cross your fingers for me! Of course, I don't want to leave you with nothing, so here's an interesting tidbit for you from the insect world: Unlike most bugs, the European earwig is a pretty fantastic mother.    Really, she is! From the moment that she builds a nest and lays her eggs, she watches over her young.  If her clutch is disturbed, she'll scoop them up move them to a new location, keeping them safe from harm.  She actively protects them, and even chews their food and

More Mind-Blowing Robots Based on Nature

Have you ever noticed how similar things (topics, events, etc.) all seem to fall into your lap at the same time?  Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it's bad, and sometimes it's just really freaking mind-blowing. I like the mind-blowing ones the best, personally. Well, yesterday we discussed robotic insects , which really make me nervous.  I recognize their beauty, as well as their coolness, but I can't shake the worries about the future that race through my mind. So, naturally... More animalistic robots showed up on my monitor when I turned on the computer again, later.  How'd that happen?  Well, I have an NPR gadget on my desktop.  On that desktop, the words Wildlife That Isn't Wild and Isn't Alive caught my attention.  Well, rather, those words screamed for my attention at almost the same mind numbing levels as used by the ultra awesome super villian known as the Silver Banshee. It's a good thing NPR uses it's powers for good,

Robotic Insects for Pollination?

The other day a friend brought some new technology to my attention.  He sent me a link to an article in Truthdig, entitled, Here's What a 'Bee Drone' Will Look Like .  Huh? I had to look into this, of course. It was actually a very short piece.  It mentioned a coin sized robot with the ability to fly.  This robot was developed at Harvard.School of Engineering and Applied Science.  There was also a short (1:42) video attached to the piece. There was one thing in particular within the piece that caught my eye.  It mentions that The Guardian mused that scientists were imagining pollination or even military surveillance being accomplished by these tiny robotic bees. This isn't a civil rights blog, so I'm not touching on the surveillance part.  I'll let your imaginations do the work for you.  Instead, I want to focus on the pollination part. It scared the heck out of me. Now, understand that I've found absolutely nothing that points to any of

A Lesson on Life from the Plants: Reach!

It warmed up. Then it snowed . Again, it warmed up, and again... it snowed . Now it's warm again.   Truly, it's enough to make anyone's head spin.  That's what happened to mine.  Well, ok... my head spins when just about anything halfway interesting happens, But this time was different.  We had gone through several large differences in weather at a time when things should just be warming up.  I therefore took advantage of the warming period yesterday, and took a walk. The cold weather can be horribly frustrating, but if you allow yourself a brief walk you notice that even immediately after a major snowfall, nature strives to get back into balance.  At least, that's what the hostas planted last spring told me as they thrust from the soil, awakening from their dormancy. The tiny plants barely poked through the topsoil, green and strong. I know... they're tiny.  Don't worry, though!  They'll grow! The tiger lilies were reaching to

Glyphosate: Gateway to Disease?

A few days ago, I began seeing a link to a study floating from wall to wall, particularly amongst pro-organic groups.  The study, published in Entropy, which is an open access journal,  was about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The study is entitled Glyphosate's Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases , and is authored by Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff. Translation of Title For Those of Us That Don't Speak BioChem  Glyphosate's Ability to Keep Our Bodies from Eliminating  Drugs and Toxins Well, that's my translation, anyway, and if you look up what exactly Cytochrome P450 is, you can understand why I came to that conclusion. We all know that herbicide and pesticide chemical residue remains on the fruits and vegetables we buy at the grocery store.  This, along with bacteria is the reason we wash our produce before consuming it. Bu

Yard Sale Fiasco

Garage and yard sales are an excellent source of extra money, as well as a great way to ensure items around your home get a second life. Unfortunately, sometimes they don't work out as well as you hope. Last weekend, I had a yard sale.  I placed signs at intersections, complete with huge arrows pointing in the direction of the sale, yet I ended up with a grand profit of 18 dollars and a sunburn. Yep.  That's how horribly my 2 day yard sale turned out.  As you can imagine, I was crushed. I examined the outcome, and paid close attention to what may have went wrong.  See, the items and their setup were just fine.  Every person that showed up bought something... except for one man, but he was weird (like, really  creepy-guy-is-hoping-I'm-doing-something-wrong weird), so I figure he doesn't count... except that he makes for a really interesting memory. So what went wrong?   Well, the problems had to do with drawing people to the yard sale.  I've create

Winter Storm Achilles: Damage Via Snow

  Achilles. That's the winter storm that is hitting the Midwest, right now. The plan today was to tell you about how excited I was because I managed to successfully overwinter my daughter's strawberry garden . Yay for Super-me!!! Unfortunately, last night Mother Nature decided to plop a wee bit of snow on top of them. Ok... maybe a lot. Fortunately, I had a heads-up, and so I was able to take most of my plants back inside.  The cucumbers, tomatillos, and strawberries were a bit too large to bring inside, though, so I just covered them and hoped for the best.  We'll see how that goes. The snow was pretty thick and heavy.  This means that yet again I had a yard full of dead, fallen branches.  This time, though, there were more of them. Yet again, there were branches covering the treacherous trail up the hill, But this time there were several that had fallen from the huge maple at the front corner of the driveway... and an entire pussy wil