Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Animal of the Week: Panda

Having visited zoos around Australia, Europe and North America I feel like I have seen a lot of animals. I've seen the common place zoo standards like orang utans and giraffes to animals I hadn't heard of until I saw them such as the okapi and fossa. However there is still one well known animal I am yet to see. It seems this mysterious animal is just as hard to find in the wild. Recently an intrepid group of "seekers" dispatched by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) couldn't find a single animal on a five day campaign. The animal in question, the panda. The good news is panda seekers did find footprints and droppings, summarising that 33 pandas resided in the area. Click here to see the full story.

The panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca meaning black and white cat foot) is a bear native to central-western and south western. While some animals around the world have become really adaptive in their diet and will eat whatever is available, the panda's diet still consists of 99% bamboo. There are about 25 different species they will eat. Unfortunately bamboo is difficult to digest and obtain nutrients. This causes the panda to be slow moving in nature. They will tend to sit in one spot and eat all the bamboo within arms reach before moving again. Due to their diet they also have to defecate up to 40 times a day. In captivity they may receive honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas along with specially prepared feed. Pandas have one more digit than humans, five fingers and a thumb. This thumb is actually a modified sesamoid bone, which helps the giant panda to hold bamboo while eating.

In the wild pandas are generally solitary and territorial animals. They use vocalisations and scent marking to mark their territory. Pandas can climb trees and take shelter in hollow trees and rock crevices. Thus, unlike some other bears they do not hibernate and will more often move up and down the mountain ranges to likable temperature regions throughout the year. Mating happens between March and May when the female comes in to esterous once for a days. Copulation with a male will last for 30 seconds to five minutes and the male will attempt several matings to ensure fertilisation. After 160 days a single cub is born. If twins are born in the wild the mother often will only nurture the strongest and allow the weaker to die. Part of the reason is she is unable to supply milk for two as pandas can't store fat.

Unlike many other endangered animals that are spread around the world to ensure genetic diversity, China keeps a firm grip on pandas in captivity. In the 1970s China would loan pandas to North American and Japanese zoos as a form of diplomacy. However in 1984 this ceased and pandas are now lent out on 10 year loans with a borrowing fee of about $US1 million a year with a provision of any pandas born overseas still belong to China. Since 1998, due to a WWF lawsuit, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service only allows a U.S. zoo to import a panda if the zoo can ensure that the PRC will channel more than half of its loan fee into conservation efforts for the giant panda and its habitat. A 2006 New York Times article outlined the economics of keeping pandas, which costs five times more than that of the next most expensive animal, an elephant.

The panda is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN. Their main threat is habitat destruction, and to a lesser extent poaching. Estimates range between 1,000 and 3,000 still remaining in the wild. Some believe that panda populations are starting to increase. This is largely due to the increase in panda reserves being established. In 2006, there were 40 panda reserves in China, compared to just 13 reserves two decades ago.

Panda Medicine
The panda teaches gentle strength. Although they have the power to attack a human, they rarely do unless they are provoked. You can be strong without flaunting or proving your abilities to the world. If a panda has presented itself before you now is the time to combine your gentleness with strength. Focus on the project with your full attention to avoid problems.

If the panda is bringing you a message about a particular event then know that the early stages will be difficult. When a panda cub is first born it is only three to four ounces, making it's mother nearly a thousand times larger. Initially the mother must help the newborn eat, stay warm and defecate. Life is not easy for a panda in the beginning. This message reflects the beginning of an event or task you have ahead of you. Know though that you can prevail. The panda, although often birthing twins will reject one, leaving it to die. The ability to focus will help you in this event. You too must focus on one path and not get distracted by another less important one.

For those whom panda is a totem, so too is bamboo. Like the panda, bamboo resembles strength but is extremely flexible. It is valued in many Asian countries where it is used for all sorts of things, from being a delicacy to scaffolding. Strength does not have to mean stubbornness. Show flexibility while not breaking from your core principles.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Who has been naughty and who has been nice on Santa's List?

With the population reaching seven billion earlier this year Santa has his work cut out for him determining who had been naughty and who had been nice. I am good friends with Santa (click here to listen to our chat a couple of year's ago on Christmas Eve in iTunes) so he has asked me to help. Each week he has asked me to compile a list of who has been naughty and who has been nice and it would be helpful if you could check it for us twice. Of course I am sure Santa will double check it to see if they really deserve a gift on Christmas.

The Naughty List

1) The Pemberton Poacher - Although Santa knows who it is, the Pemberton Wildlife Association is still looking for and have offered a $1,000 reward for the killer of a 317kg grizzly bear who was found shot to death, with body parts missing, in the Pemberton Meadows area near the turnoff to the Hurley Forest Service Road on 17th November. If you have any information you can contact the B.C. Conservation Officer Service on 1-877-952-7277.

2) Lakshmi N. Mittal of Steel industry giant Arcellor-Mittal, Dr. Hans Engel of chemicals industry leader BASF, Dr. Marius Kloppers of mining giant BHP Billiton, Charles G. Koch of the US energy industry’s Koch and Brian Dames of South Africa’s electric utility Eskom – these five individuals are leaders of giant multinational companies who, along with others, literally spend “the equivalent of the GDP of entire nations to block progress on climate legislation and ensure that fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies continue to give unfair advantage to dirty energy, above the safe, clean renewable energy future the public demands.” as according to Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo and a new report.

3) Vincent de Rivaz, CEO of EDF - The French utility company has been fined €1.5 million for hacking into the computer networks of Greenpeace. Pascal Durieux, EDF's head of nuclear production security in 2006, was handed a three-year sentence with two years suspended and a €10,000 fine (about $13,000) for commissioning the spying.

The Nice List

1) Clement Kwok, The Chief Executive of the Peninsula Hotel Group - The luxurious hotel chain with nine hotels in Asia has taken shark fin soup off all their menus in a bid to help save the depleting numbers of sharks in our oceans. 73 million sharks are currently killed each year for shark fin soup.

Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent
2) Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent - who at a recent talk at the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom on the CSU campus shared his belief that sustainability is currently the world's greatest issue and that corporate partnerships to promote sustainability, such as Coca-Cola's new deal with Coca Cola need to become the norm.

3) Japanese tuna boat captain Kazuhiro Yamazaki - has designed new fishing gear, called the ‘Yamazaki Double-Weight Branchline,’ which causes hooks to sink deeper into the water, out of site of hungry birds. The new invention reduced seabird bycatch by up to 90% without reducing fishing catches. The invention won the World Wildlife Fund’s 2011 International Smart Gear Competition.

4) Zhang Junming, Guan Jianhong, Li Shiheibu and the other members of a group a "panda seeking" team - they spent five days surveying panda habitat in the mountains of southwest China's Sichuan province, looking for traces of the endangered animals. "This place is known as 'China's Bermuda Triangle,' as several people were reported missing here in the 1960s and 1970s," said Zhou Longlin, deputy chief of the reserve's administration. Although they saw no pandas, they found evidence via droppings and foot prints and concluded 33 pandas reside in the area.

How to get on the Nice List

Join WWF's Living Planet Community at http://community.wwf.ca. It's a great way to get a whole bunch of green living tips and get a true measurement on your reduction green house gas emissions. Feel free to join my group Adam Barralet's Bloody Good Things To Do once you've open your account. I'll put in a good word for you with Santa.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Animal of the Week: Okapi

Part giraffe, part zebra, part antelope is what the "spare parts" animal the okapi look s like. Not discovered until 1901 the okapi lives in tropical rainforests of northeast region of Democratic Republic of Congo. At first sight the okapi may look like it is related to the zebra from it's black and white striped rear. However closer inspection shows how it is the only living relative of the giraffe with it's long, blue, prehensile tongue and the male's short, skin-covered horns called ossicones.

If the okapi is a living relative of the giraffe then why are they much shorter, standing at a height of about 5ft compared to a giraffe that can be up to 17-20ft tall? This is simply the result of evolutionary response to living in different habitats. In the rain forests, branches of leaves are lower so the okapi does not require the height, the giraffe does on the African plains.

Okapis are herbivores, eating tree leaves and buds, grass, ferns, fruit, and fungi. Many of the plant species fed upon by the okapi are poisonous to humans. Faeces analysis has also shown that okapis will eat charcoal from trees burnt by lightning strikes.

Finding an okapi is rather difficult to find in the wild. Living in dense rain forest with their water-proof, multi-coloured coat hides them well. They also have strong hearing and will run when they hear humans. Furthermore, they are generally solitary animals, so you are unlikely to find more than one within an area unless it is a mother with young (usually just one) or during breeding times. Males are territorial and will fight off intruders.

Although okapis are not classified as endangered, they are threatened by habitat destruction and poaching. The world population is estimated at 10,000–20,000. The changing politics of central Africa and the continued loss of habitat threaten the beautiful okapi. Fortunately, in 1952, one-fifth of okapi habitat in Africa’s Ituri Forest was set aside as a wildlife reserve. The Okapi Wildlife Reserve, with support from San Diego Zoo Global, other zoos and conservation organizations, and the local people, continues to protect and to support study of this rare and unusual forest dweller.

Okapi Medicine
Okapi medicine is that of silent truth. By listening and not reacting, okapi shows us truth without fear.
Okapi suggests we must learn to remove our self from rigid thinking. Okapi also encourages us to meditate more. It is a time to slip through life unseen and unheard.

Tuning into okapi can also give clairvoyant abilities, for they see both the present and the near future.
The okapi’s black and white stripes are associated with spirit and form, density and light and represent polarity on the earth plane. Those who hold this medicine often carry life lessons relating to polarity.

The okapi expresses the concepts of "being different, uniqueness and individuality". This is one of the okapi's greatest gifts. It can also draw on different energies as needed making.

If the okapi has appeared to you recently, it may be trying to pass on a message related to the above information. It may appear in reality, dreams, pictures, conversations or any other form.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ways to increase your Qi (Chi)

Qi (also called Chi) refers to the life-force or the life energy that flows through all living things. The literal translation of "qi" is breath, air, or gas. The earliest records of the concept of qi are from Chinese philosophy around 5BC. However this is not a concept only found in China. Although given other names it appears around the word as prana in Sanskrit, humours or vital energy in Western concepts, mana in Hawaiian culture and L√ľng in Tibetan Buddhism. It even appears in some form in popular culture such as "The Force" in the movie Star Wars.

Our level of qi depends on our lifestyle habits such as food quality, balance of emotions, physical exercise and so on. If you are low in qi you will few unwell and lethargic. Increase your qi and you will feel more vibrant and energetic. Here are some ways to increase you qi:

- Breathe deeply all day.
- Avoid qi robbing activities such as watching excessive TV, experiencing too many negative emotions, talking too much, and spending too much time in crowded places.
- Meditate.
- Eat a balanced diet of local, organic foods. Qi increasinj foods include lemon juice, brown rice, carrots, chicken, china root, eggs, fish, fox nut, ginseng, green beans, leeks, longan fruit, nutmeg, lamb, lotus seed, oats, onion, pearl barley, potatoes, pumpkin, soybeans, squash, string beans, tofu, turnips, and yams.
_ Stretch your muscles. Yoga is ideal for this.
- Take martial arts or qigong classes.
- See a Chinese medicine practitioner.
- Get decent sleep. Don't eat to close to bed time or drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks. Ideally go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Wear bright colours.
- Listen to uplifting music.
Unclutter your living and working spaces. Follow feng shui principles in these spaces.
- Surround yourself with the inspiring colors of beautiful flowers. A bouquet of flowers has a powerful influence on a person's mindset; they can uplift a less-than-lovely mood and even eliminate stress. In fact, one study showed that people who sat next to an arrangement of colorful flowers were better able to relax during a five-minute typing assignment than those who sat near foliage-only plants.
- Avoid judgment. Grudges and negative feelings only reduce our Qi. If you are holding hard feelings towards someone it is harming you more than them. As Nelson Madella's said, "“When you hold a grudge, it is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”
- Have fun and be spontaneous. Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Great News from Guatemala

Researchers and conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Guatemala Program, WCS’s Bronx Zoo, the National Park Service of Guatemala, and other groups have announced a major conservation victory from Central America. The breeding season for endangered scarlet macaws in the region has been the most successful to date. There have been 29 fledglings this year which higher than the goal of one fledgling for each of the 24 monitored nests.

The program focused on monitoring weak and at-risk chicks, who were removed from nests, hand reared and then returned to foster nests containing other chicks of similar age. Support was provided to the team in Guatemala by the Bronx Zoo’s Department of Ornithology and veterinarians from the Global Health Program.

This is great news for the scarlet macaw considering only 300 are believed to still be alive in the country. The results are also a far improvement from earlier years such as 2003 which only raised one fledgling from 15 monitored nests. “We believe the lessons learned can not only help save the scarlet macaw in Guatemala, but be extended to help other threatened species of parrots and cavity nesters across the globe.” said WCS Conservationist Rony Garcia. This work will continue until organisations are able to work with local government to protect scarlet macaws against the threats of habitat destruction and poaching for the pet trade.

Photo credits: WCS Guatemala Program.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Don't get taken for a ride in NYC

Just like the yellow taxis and the newspaper dispensers on every corner, horse drawn carriages are icons of the New York City streets. However after the events of the past few weeks many organisations including PETA, Rational Animal and NY Class are increasing pressure on the city to take the horses off the streets and put them back where they belong, away from crowded streets, polluted air and cramped conditions.

The news first hit the headlines in late October when a carriage horse named "Charlie" collapsed and died on the street (pictured). The autopsy report indicates that Charlie was not a healthy horse and was suffering from great pain. He specifically had "pronounced chronic ulceration of the stomach and a fractured tooth." Concerns were voiced about how many other horses were in similar conditions.

On October 28, a horse hitched to an empty carriage became spooked and bolted straight into traffic. One witness said that the horse just missed several taxis, then crashed into a curb and fell on his side before running off again, only to become tangled in the broken carriage and harness.

The most recent incident happened during Friday's rush hour when a horse fell down in the middle of the busy street. One person defending the horse's fall said it was due to the change in the weather causing the horse to be more frisky than usual and his leg became caught in the carriage when he bucked. Other witnesses claim the horse collapsed. Regardless of what happened in this incident, the horse was put in an environment where it was not safe.

Celebrities such as Pamela Anderson (click here) and Glee star Lea Michele (see video below) are also prompting NYC to ban horse carriages.  NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg believes that carriage horses should stay on the streets of New York stating, "[they] probably wouldn't be alive if they didn't have a job". New York State Senator Tony Avella has renewed his call to ban the barbaric carriage rides, which are a hazard to horses and to public safety. He is generating support for the Intro. Bill 86, which would replace horse-drawn carriages with eco-friendly (and horse-friendly) classic cars.

You can contact Mayor Bloomberg (click here) and other New York law makers (click here) to share your opinion.

You can also sign the petition at: http://www.ny-class.org/action/petition

To see footage of the horses night stables, please watch the below video:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Animal of the Week: Redback Spider

The Redback spider is part of the widow family of spiders gaining their name from the female who is especially recognisable by a red stripe on her abdomen. Although widows are found around the world, Redback’s are endemic to Australia, found throughout the country. Small populations have been found in the U.K, U.A.E, Japan and New Zealand due probably being introduced by being transported by transport planes or ships.

They are considered one of the most dangerous spiders in Australia due to their neurotoxic venom. However less than 20 deaths have ever been reported, probably because the antivenom is commercially and readily available. Most bites are from females spiders which are larger than the males. Records show that most bites occur in the warmer months of December to April in the late afternoon or evening. As the female rarely leave their web it bites are usually due to someone getting too close to her web or placing their hand in a dark space such as a dark hole or wall cavity. Symptoms of a bite include pain and swelling at the bite site, chest and/or abdominal pain and excessive sweating. If bitten by a Redback, apply an ice pack to the bitten area to relieve pain. Do not apply a pressure bandage as venom movement is slow and pressure worsens pain. Seek medical attention and if possible collect the spider for positive identification.

The female is larger at 1cm, compared to the 3-4mm males. Males do not create a web but rather hang around the edges of a female’s web which is distinctly messy, often holding small, white egg sacks. He will make overtures to see if she is ready, but he must be careful as sometimes she mistakes him as prey. It has been found that in order to occupy the female's attention during mating, the male spider offers her his abdomen by standing on his head and 'somersaulting' his abdomen towards her mouthparts. The female begins to squirt digestive juices onto the male's abdomen while the first palp is inserted. If he is not too weak, he will manage to withdraw, and then insert the second palp. She will continue to 'digest' his abdomen. Most males do not survive this process.

Redback spiders will prey on king crickets, trapdoor spiders, and small lizards that get caught in their web. Their predators are two other species of spider, Daddy-long-legs Spiders and White-tailed Spiders. Redbacks can survive for up to 100 days without food. The average male lives for six to seven months while a female will live for two to three years.

Spider Medicine
Spiders are the weavers of the web of life. One myth involves deer one day asking spider why all the lines in her web looked like symbols. Spider replied that she was creating the first alphabet for humans so they could record and pass on knowledge. Deer rebutted and said humans already have pictures that they draw of their experiences. “Earth’s children are growing more complex and future generations will need to know more,” explained spider. Thus, spider has the ability to see the future and create your destiny.

Spider teaches us to do the same. Set up your life and weave your web to attract what you need. Spider also heeds a warning. Do not get distracted or caught up in the web, otherwise you may become the victim of another’s plan or simply the tangle of the web of life.

The spider’s body is the shape of the ∞ symbol, being made up of a prosoma (head part) and an abdomen. Thus spider also reminds us life offers us an infinite number of choices. Their eight legs also represent the four winds of change and the four directions in the medicine wheel OR the quarters and cross quarters of a magical circle.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Polar Bear update

The plight of Polar Bears and their link to climate change has become common knowledge in recent years. It's an exciting time as people and organisations create various ways to support these beautiful animals. Here are some of the latest updates:

Tracking Polar Bears
You can now follow five female polar bears who have been radio collared in northern Canada. By tracking the movements of polar bears, we can all learn more about how they use their natural habitat and how they are adapting to the changes in sea ice due to the effects of climate change. The five are all females and are accompanied by at least one cub each. The tracker site gives each bear's stats, exactly where they were last located, a map of where they have travelled and the distances they have covered. The page also includes regular updates about the bears on the left. To follow Aurora, Nanukic, Neige, Nita and the wanderer Callista (she gets around) simply go to http://polarbears.wwf.ca/.

7-Eleven Stores join Coca Cola in protecting Polar Bear's Arctic home
In an earlier post (click here) I discussed Coca Cola changing their cans from red to white for the holiday season as well as making donations to the WWF. 7-Eleven is now running a campaign through out there 6,400 stores around the USA. The campaign involves downloading a iPhone app (see www.ArcticHome.com/7-Eleven) where you can challenge friends to snowball fights. You earn point this way, as well as visiting 7-Eleven stores, and go in the running to win an iPad and a trip for two to the Arctic.

The app helps raise funds for WWF's efforts by directing users to www.ArcticHome.com, where they can enter package codes from specially-marked Coca-Cola products to trigger an individual $1 donation. Coca-Cola will match all donations made with a package code by March 15, 2012, up to a total of $1 million.

New IUCN study still predicts decline in polar bear numbers
Although a lot is being done to increase awareness and raise funds a new report from the IUCN predicts a dramatic reduction in polar bear habitats in the next 10-50 years. The IUCN Red List has polar bears listed as vulnerable, as are many other animals around the world, but the polar bear is the first species protected under the Endangered Species Act because it is threatened due to global warming. "Climate change will be one of the major drivers of species extinctions in the 21st century," says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN's Species Survival Commission. In order to save the polar bears we must reduce out reliance on fossil fuels as well as campaign for leaders to make strong decisions on reducing emissions (just like Australia has just done - click here to see WWF Australia update). Other factors include toxic contaminants, shipping, recreational viewing and oil and gas exploration. For further information visit the Polar Bears International site at http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/news/iucn-study-predicts-dramatic-decline-polar-bear-populations

Resources for educating children
If you work with children, Polar Bear International has some great resources to help you educate them about polar bears. You can find posters, videos, quizzes, PowerPoint presentations and more. To see the great selection visit http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/education/educational-tools-and-materials

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Should you eat like a gorilla or a tiger?

While reading the book The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder I was introduced to a new idea. Simply put, it proposed the human digestive system is more like that of an herbivorous gorilla than that of a carnivorous tiger, thus we should be a vegetarian. This makes sense since we are so closely related to gorillas. We share about 95-98% of the same genes, depending on which scientist you talk to. However I wanted to explore this option more.

One of Kimberly Snyder’s points is both humans and gorillas cannot break down uric acid like tigers can. Uric acid is a by-product of digested animal protein and is easily broken down by the body via an enzyme it secretes called uricase. Many other animals from bacteria to mammals produces uricase but humans and other primates do not. Interestingly, humans do have a gene that encourages the production of uricase, but it is non functional which seems to be an early mutation in primate evolution.

Too much uric acid in the body, caused by a high meat diet can cause kidney problems and gout. Researchers have also found statistical links between high uric acid levels and high blood pressure, diabetes and senile dementia. It should be noted that uric acid can be advantageous as an antioxidant in our our bodies but the according to www.ehow.com we produce a lot of uric acid simply from the breakdown of our own cells as part of day to day cell regeneration. Thus, we do not require to eat meat to get uric acid and eating too much meat can increase the amount of uric acid in our systems, leading to health issues

Gorillas and humans have a much longer intestines compared to a tiger in relation to body size. This is a second point Kimberly Snyder uses to support why we should imitate other primate diets. However there is a primary difference of the digestive system between other primates and humans found in the gastrointestinal tract. Other primates are able to break down cellulose. They have large colons and the large intestine is filled with microbes (bacterial) and enzymes for fermenting, detoxifying food, and breaking down cellulose. Humans can break down cellulose a little but not as effectively as our wild friends.

Susan Schenck on www.helium.com says, “when man split off from chimpanzees, he traded an energy-intense digestive tract with the ability to digest cellulose for an energy-intensive brain. The energy used for the brain had to be subtracted from elsewhere, and it came at the expense of the digestive tract”. She also states that DHA found in fatty rich meats was vital to brain evolution in humans.

DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid which although found in meat it is also available in ground flax seeds and flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans, walnuts, wheatgerm, pumpkin seeds, tuna, salmon and eggs. Research has found that we require omega-3 fatty acids along with a balanced intake of omega-6 fatty acids which are found in vegetable oil (sunflower, soybean, corn, sesame, cottonseed, grapeseed, walnut), walnuts, brazilnuts, almonds cashews, seeds (flax, hemp, sunflower, sesame, pine nuts, and pumpkin), shellfish and egg yolks. On the site www.livestrong.com it states, “A diet must be balanced with a ratio in the range of 2:1 to 4:1, Omega-6 to Omega-3. Western diets often contain a ratio of 10:1 to 30:1 and higher. People need to concentrate on eating more Omega-3 foods”.

It seems safe to say that although genetically we are very close to other primates including gorillas and chimpanzees we do require more fatty acids in our diet. However from the lists in the previous paragraph it is evident that there are many available vegetarian or vegan options. We may have evolved by eating meat as a primary source of fatty acids, but we now have the knowledge to substitute meat with other foods offering similar nutrients.

Another interesting argument supporting vegetarianism that I came across was that plant-eating creatures have the longest lifespan. Elephants, horses, and chimpanzees are at the top of the list while lions, tigers, and wolves are about half that. Since humans' lifespans are even are we meant to be herbivorous to live longer? Most scientific studies comparing vegetarians to non-vegetarians found vegetarians only live for about a year or two more on average. Some of this benefit could be attributable to non-dietary lifestyle factors such as the avoidance of smoking and a high socio-economic status.

If you are looking at living longer a great book to read is Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. He has identified areas within the world which has a higher rate of centenarians (people living to 100+y.o.), then finds factors each of these groups, scattered around the world all have in common. Nine common attributes were found. As well as being moderately active, having a good attitude and a healthy social life eating a diet with a “plant slant” is recommended. The book's website www.bluezones.com recommends, “Try to limit it (meat) to a portion the size of a deck of cards and only twice per week. Beans, including fava, black and soy and lentils are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Snacking on nuts–about a handful a day has been associated with and extra 2-3 years of life expectancy.” This evidence supports restricting our meat intake.

As well as examining whether we should be vegetarian from a biological point of view, there are other issues, becoming ever more important to consider. Environmentally there are advantages to becoming vegetarian. WWF Canada states that raising animals for food creates more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Producing one calorie of animal protein requires more than 10 times as much fuel, creating 10 times the greenhouse gas emissions, than one calorie of plant protein. By not eating meat, you can prevent 1360 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. A vegan who does not eat meat, fish or dairy foods, creates 1.3 fewer tonnes of CO2 than a meat eater every year. Furthermore meat production requires far more water usage than producing vegetable, fruits, etc.

In her book Eat Your Heart Out by Felicity Lawrence not only covers eating meat from an global environmental impact but also discusses local communities who have been destroyed by meat production due to contamination from animal excrement from nearby farms and large companies bullying and out competing local farmers. The world’s largest animal rights organisation PETA also encourages us to choose vegetarian to stop the cruel conditions in which animals are raised and slaughtered on many large scale meat farms.

There are very few animals (remembering we are animals) that can live fully with a limited diet. The exceptions are special animals which have very restricted feeding habits. Some examples are the Three-toed Sloth which feeds on only 2 species of tree, Koalas which feed on only a few species of eucalyptus , the Giant Panda which feeds almost exclusively on bamboo; American Anteaters, Aardvarks and Australian Banded Anteaters all of which exist only on ants and termites. Many animals which are classified as herbivores would still ingest some animal protein such as insects on the plants they eat. Our primate relatives do eat some animal protein. Orang utans, gorillas and chimps have all been observed eating insects, eggs and rodents. Some chimpanzees will hunt and eat other monkeys, much to the disappointment of vegetarian Jane Goodall.

It appears that we are not tigers, nor gorillas, but highly evolved and intelligent humans. We have unique dietary requirements which involve a variety of nutrients. Although some of these can be sourced from meats, and have done in the past, these nutrients are available from other, non-meat sources as well. Excessive meat eating has negative impacts on our health and well being, as seen in many Western nations. eating meat also has a negative impact on the environment and people involved in the production and supply of meat. So, should you be a vegetarian for health reasons? It seems to improve your well- being. Also as Nobel-prize winning author Isaac Bashevisy Singer states, "Yes, for the health of the chicken!" and we can probably add for the health of the planet too.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Your chance to influence the way animals are raised

Great news for animals as last spring, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) urged the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to strengthen its proposed animal welfare standards for the National Organic Program. As a result significant improvements have been made in the proposed standards, including increased outdoor space for turkeys and a requirement that pain management be provided for dehorning and disbudding of cattle.

However the AWI is still not 100% happy with the current proposals. Although they have a minimum space requirement for birds, it does not for pigs. The proposal also lack specifications for the type of space e.g. grass cover, shade and shelter. Under this current proposal AWI believes there is little difference between animals raised as organic and those raised under conventional standards.

The Livestock Committee of the NOSB will be meeting at the end of November to vote on the latest version of the proposed regulatory standards for animal welfare and stocking rates and handling, transport, and slaughter (click on the links to read the proposals). The NOSB is taking public comment until the 13th November and the AWI is asking you to assist. Click here to submit your comments. There is also an option to attach documents should you need more space.

For more information on the AWI, please visit www.awionline.org.

Below is more information from AWI about your submission to NOSB.

To assist you, a sample comment is provided below. You may copy and paste our sample, but putting it in your own words will help give your comment more weight – just be sure to stay under the 2,000-character limit. Don’t forget to mention if you are a regular consumer of organic products and/or an organic farmer.

Sample Comment:
I am writing to comment on the Livestock Committee’s animal welfare proposals. While the proposed recommendations are a good start toward creating a comprehensive animal welfare program for organic production, they do not go far enough. For this reason, I support the Livestock Committee’s Minority Opinion, which provides more meaningful standards that address natural behavior, outdoor access, and the environment. More specifically, I believe that:
1. Minimum space allowances for pigs should be incorporated into regulation, just as avian space requirements are included.
2. Space allowances for chickens should be increased from 1-2 sq ft per bird to 5 sq ft per bird.
3. The regulation should include minimum requirements for the quality of outdoor access areas for both pigs and poultry.
4. Routine beak trimming of birds, tail docking of sheep, early weaning of pigs and all forms of forced molting should be specifically prohibited in regulation.
Making these modifications will increase animal welfare and help bring organic standards closer to what consumers expect of the label. Adoption of the Livestock Committee's Minority Opinion is a critical step towards achieving the Committee's goal of making the organic seal a "gold standard" for humane treatment.

To submit your comment via mail, send to:
Ms. Lorraine Coke
National Organic Standards Board
USDA–AMS–NOP
1400 Independence Ave., SW.
Room 2646–S, Mail Stop 0268
Washington, DC 20250–0268
If you’re mailing your comment, identify docket number AMS-NOP-11-0081 on your comment and ensure that it is received by November 13.

Animal of the Week: Grizzly Bear

The grizzly bear is a subspecies of brown bear that generally lives in the uplands of western North America. It is thought to have descended from the Ussuri brown bear that crossed from the Russia to Alaska about 100,000 years ago. The word grizzly refers to their grey hairs within their fur that give them a grizzled look. However in 1815, American naturalist George Ord, mistook this for the word "grisly" and gave the animal the Latin biological name of Ursus arctos horribilis.

Although grizzlies are within the order of Carnivora and have the digestive system of a carnivore their diet is that of an omnivore. Their main prey includes moose, deer, sheep, elk, bison, caribou and even black bears. In coastal areas they will also eat salmon, trout and bass. This higher protein diet tends to make them larger than inland grizzlies. Other parts of their diet are made up of tubers, berries, nuts and grasses. In some areas they will also eat landbugs, ants and bees.

Grizzlies' strongest sense is smell. Some scientists believe grizzlies can smell something up to 29 kilometers (18 miles) away. This can lead to them pursuing carrion or catches of other animals.
An interesting battle for food has been commonly observed between grizzlies and grey wolves. Often a grizzly will sniff out when a pack of grey wolves has caught something like an elk. The grizzly will try and take over the carcus but not without a good flight from the wolves. The wolves will use tactics such as one wolf distracting the grizzly while the others feed. Sometimes the grizzly will come under attck from several wolves. The attack is normally in the form of a few nips from the wolves in the hind legs. To combat this the grizzly will simply sit down and defend itself from all directions.

Gizzlies play a vital role in the ecosystems within which they live. Apart from being an apex predator they also aid germination of some plants. When eating whole fruits they will later excrete the seeds were they have been observed to successfully grow. Spruce trees near salmon populated rivers have also been found to be richer in nitrogen, due to salmon carcasses being carried into the forests by the grizzlies. This acts as a form of fertilizer. Grizzlies foraging also helps to airate soil.

A common myth is that grizzlies, as well as other bears, hybernate. This is not actually true, rather they go into a state of dormancy. In true hibernation, an animals body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing and if disturbed it takes a couple of hours to wake up. Although grizzlies temperature is somewhat lower than normal, it isn't as low as true hibernators. During winter sleep, bears are alert and easily aroused. True hibernators such as ground squirrels, marmots, etc rouse themselves several times during the winter to eliminate body wastes. Bears, on the other hand, do not urinate or defecate during their winter sleep.They will genrally, settle in to their often self-dug dens after the first serious snowfall as it is then safer from other predators. Females will give birth during this time. They generally give birth to between one and four cubs, every three years. At birth, the cubs will weigh about 500g and will survive by cuddling up to their mother and drinking her milk. Their life span in the wild is between 15 and 18 years, in captivity 28-32 years.

Grizzlies used to exist all the way down to Mexico but their range has reduce over the years due to human actions. One popular place for seeing them is within Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately just 600 grizzly bears remaining in Greater Yellowstone and now the federal government is challenging the Greater Yellowstone Coalition's 2009 court victory that put the bears back on the Endangered Species list. Although numbers have increased in recent years, many believe that it is too early to relax the conservation of these magnificent animals. With continued pressure of further development there is a risk that grizzly habitat may become diminished.

Can you imagine travelling to Yellowstone and knowing that there are no grizzly's left. Click here to sign the petition requesting that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar keep grizzly bears on the Endangered List and thus ensuring they are still around for your next visit to the park!                                    

Bear Medicine
In many traditions the bear symbolises healing. To the Ainu people of the northern islands of Japan, the bear was a mountain God. Among Finno-Ugric people the bear was God of Heaven. In India, bears are believed to prevent sickness.

The bear is also known for it's dormancy in winter. It retreats to the dark cave or den to be by itself. This is part of the bear's survival adaptations, giving them strength for the next cycle's warm weather. Resting in winter can help you to be prepared and strong for the next Spring.

If bear has come before you it may be time for you to retreat to your inner cave for a while. Go inward, reflect, rest and relax and heal yourself from the inside out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bananas aren't so good for you....or others

Bananas have become a key part of the Western diet. In fact they are the fourth largest on the list of staple crops in the world as well as being one of the biggest profit makers in supermarkets, making them critical for economic and global food security. Americans eat as many bananas as apples and oranges combined but this has not always been the case. It wasn't until a group of men under the name of United Fruit Company, now known as Chiquita, figured out how to get bananas around the world quickly that they became a viable export from the Caribbean and Latin America. United Fruit Company then invested large amounts of money offering discount coupons, slick advertising campaigns and placing bananas in schoolbooks and on postcards to promote them. Still today bananas are seen as a key source of potassium. However they aren't even in the top ten sources. It worked as today in the US more bananas are eaten than apples and oranges combined.

The production of bananas is not one of the most environmentally friendly. Often rain forests are cleared for plantations and roads/railways to transport the bananas. Large amounts of chemicals are also used to maximise yields. Furthermore, consider the apples that we find at our local markets and stores are usually grown within a few hundred miles as opposed to bananas that are shipped from much greater distances from the tropics. This means bananas have a much larger carbon footprint locally available foods.

When it comes to the stability of bananas, consider they only last for a couple of weeks after being picked unless subjected to specialised refrigeration. Apples on the other hand can stay ripe for a couple of months. Why then is it that bananas are generally cheaper than apples?

Chiquita, along with four other companies — Dole, Del Monte, Fyffes and Pratts, control about 80% of the international banana trade. To keep expenses down it has long been alleged that these companies resort to heavy handed tactics in the countries of production. Often, with assistance from US forces, countries and their governments are bullied to ensure the banana companies get their way. In 1954, United Fruit helped arrange the overthrow of a democratically elected government in Guatemala. When it comes to treatment of workers, the banana companies’ tactics include workers not being given appropriate health care, sometimes being unsafely exposed to hazardous chemicals, paid low wages, child labour being utilised, as well as workers being forbidden the right to congregate. In 1929, Colombian troops shot down banana workers and their families who were gathered in a town square after church.

Banana Link, a UK-based organization campaigning for fairer and sustainable banana trade also points their finger at supermarkets. They say, "Supermarkets are now the only players in the banana chain to consistently make profits from bananas, having dramatically increased their economic power in the banana chain in the last decade. Bananas are the single most profitable item passing through the check-outs in British supermarkets, accounting for 1% of all sales. In the USA, it is estimated that bananas represent 2% of the total turnover of North American grocery retailers." Supermarkets will often force their suppliers to reduce their margins to ensure they can keep making their large profits with margins of between 20-35%.

Overall bananas are not as great as we may believe. Organisations such as Banana Link are working to ensure conditions improve for banana workers and environmental impact is reduced. If you’d like to leave bananas on your shopping list then fair trade bananas are now available and will help support workers. Alternatively you can reduce or eliminate bananas from your diet. Food with more potassium than bananas include sweet potatoes, beet greens, dates, white beans, potatoes, yogurt, tomatoes, raisins, crimini mushrooms, spinach, kale, eggplant and clams.

To find out more check out www.bananalink.org.uk.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Save the Koala...later

Yesterday amidst the excitement of the Melbourne Cup, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that he was postponing his decision on whether the add koalas to the national threatened list. The announcement was due by the end of October, however he has moved the date back to 17 February 2012. I just hope he isn't overwhelmed with Valentine's Day festivities to get distracted again!

Minister Burke says he requires extra time to consider the new information and to seek further advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee in light of new population data recently acquired. However CEO of the Australian Koala Foundation believes that Minister Burke plans to "appease the Victorian Government to not list the koala because it will upset logging interests in that State. It is also interesting to note that the New South Wales State Minister has recently said that 'logging is good for koalas'."

To read the full reaction of the CEO Deborah Tabart OAM visit this page: https://www.savethekoala.com/deborahtabartsdesk.html

Canadians invited to be part of the Living Planet Community

"Every great journey begins with a single step."

A campaign by WWF Canada is encouraging individuals and households to each start taking a great journey in contributing to a better planet by taking small steps in changing their lifestyle. This is a great campaign that compiles all the small adjustments you can make to your life in the areas of household, cars/transportation, food/shopping, recreation & culture, workplace as well as extra areas of our lives. It's not revolutionary for an organisation to give you suggestions on what you can do to improve the well-being of the planet but what is refreshing is so many aspects are covered in one spot. This saves you having to research household savings in one place, water consumption elsewhere, etc. The WWF website lists clearly and simply 61 different steps you can take.

Renters may feel that they are unable to make as much of an impact since they can not going and start insulating their place. However there exists their greater challenge. Try negotiating with your landlord. Ask them to make the changes or offer to make the changes yourself, maybe for a reduced rental payment.

To participate you simply go to http://community.wwf.ca/index.cfm and open an account. You can even use your Facebook account to speed up the process more. Once signed up, you can browse the actions you can take, make pledges on the ones you are committed to do and you get a quantitative measure of how many kilograms of Green House gases you save. Furthermore you can create a group to work together, send people invites and set challenges. You don't even have to live in Canada! If you'd like to join my group, search for "Adam Barralet's Bloody Good Things To Do". I challenge you to save more than me ;)

On top of all the features the factor that impresses me most is how simple the whole process is. I was able to open an account, make 12 pledges, create a group and read some of the information provided all in about 20 minutes. Easy!