Tech & Nature – NOT Mutually Exclusive


Common sense might tell you that technology and nature are mutually exclusive. However, the reality is that with climate change poised to revolutionize where humans farm, technology innovators are poised to revolutionize how we farm. And there are all kinds of ideas out there that are as fascinating as they are practical.

Aquaponics is something the gringa would like to try. I have a small tropical fish aquarium I have experimented with over the past year. I feel ready for a greater challenge.  This method will not only provide me with vegetables, but they will be fertilized by the poop produced by the food fish I will also farm in the same tank. An added plus is that my pint sized vegetable patch and fish farm can be an interesting decorative addition to my pint size apartment. This may be the future of urban farming for apartment dwellers.

Easy DIY aquaponics project:

5 best fish for an aquaponics aquarium garden…

 

If you want to take your urban farming further than an apartment patio garden or indoor aquaponics garden, maybe the FarmBot is for you. If you live in a house with outdoor spaces, the FarmBot, which operates on a track system, can easily manage a backyard farm from beginning to end and provide enough fresh fruits and vegetables for a family of four each growing season. It plants seeds, waters and fertilizes each plant according to its variety needs, weeds the garden, and can be controlled from your smartphone or laptop just like playing a video game. The gringa thinks this sounds fun.

 

For larger scale operations, artificial intelligence is taking over all sorts of chores that were once managed by humans. By using cameras and sensors, technology responds to climate conditions to optimize water usage. There is more to collected data than just evaluating rainfall and soil moisture levels. Plants are analyzed down to individual leaves for health and nutrition needs. Clouds are analyzed to predict potential rainfall which might result in delaying a watering activity that might otherwise have been performed, thus conserving one of Earth’s most precious natural resources. For farmers and gardeners interested in the latest sustainable methods. Some of the biggest retailers of agricultural products are being supplied by growers using this kind of technology: Wal Mart, Aldi and Tesco.

A promising future in agriculture awaits our youth who are interested in robotics, technology and saving the world.

Sources: www.kingsroost.com

gardening-abc.com

prospera.ag

Image Credit:  pinimg.com

 

 

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Can Post Consumerism Solve The Climate Change Problem?


If gross consumerism is feeding the beast of climate change and post-consumerism is the solution, what the heck is post-consumerism exactly? Post-consumerism is a complete paradigm shift of thinking for capitalist consumer cultures. Its approach is to put the well-being of others and the environment before material success. The core value is to be satisfied with what is enough to sustain a life for today rather than mass accumulation of goods that are unnecessary and solely for the purpose of vanity.

Does this mean we would all live in crappy looking homes, wear crappy looking clothes and not bathe regularly? Will we be tilling our backyard gardens and lugging firewood and reading by candlelight with no more Internet? Will we be trading our home-grown tomatoes for a bar of soap from our crafty neighbor? The gringa wants to know the details. It’s all well and good to spout humanitarian “isms” that are noble and high-minded, but, the reality is, if it is too uncomfortable and crappy, spoiled people are just not going to be interested.

Well, first of all post-consumerism is not interested in ridding the world of commercial businesses. It does expect businesses to be held accountable to the highest standards of social, economic, and environmental responsibility. A post-consumer will only engage in trade for goods and services with businesses that operate this way. A post-consumer uses their dollars to hold businesses accountable. The gringa’s on board with that one, however, I would like more options. I would prefer if more businesses operated ethically in the world. Right now it’s kind of expensive for me to live true to a post-consumer standard where shopping is concerned. A $3 Starbucks coffee is a little steep compared to McDonald’s coffee on the 99cent menu.

For post-consumerism to become more affordable, more businesses have to operate ethically creating more competition that will drive down prices. But how can this happen? The same way it always happens in a capitalist system. The market responds to consumer demand.

Consumers underestimate the power of the dollar in bringing about change. We don’t have to miss a few days of work to attend a mass protest demanding corporate accountability. We don’t have to end up losing our jobs after getting arrested and thrown in the slammer for a couple of days at said protest. We simply need to recognize that in a capitalist consumer culture, the dollar is God. It has the Almighty power to make or break a business. And little ol’ you and me wield the power of God in a consumer society. Wield that power wisely and a society can redirect a business culture toward social, economic and environmental responsibility. That is how post-consumerism works. If enough people signal to a market what it is they demand in goods and services, the market will respond because they want your money. A concerted effort of consumers collectively rejecting unethical business goods and services, while at the same time supporting ethical businesses, can change the world.

How to live the powerful life of a post-consumer:

  • Minimize and use less “stuff”
  • Repurpose and re-use as much as possible
  • Shop ethically as much as possible and when you can’t, if possible, shop second hand
  • Embrace and practice any level of self-sufficiency or off-grid lifestyle that you are capable of where you are right now
  • Consider “first-world” luxuries you enjoy and the possibility of living without them or at least opting for energy-efficient models, alternative energy models, etc.
  • Minimize exposure to marketing campaigns
  • Expect to feel uncomfortable and perhaps a bit like a crazy radical when transitioning, embrace it and accept it
  • Reach out and begin to build community around you with your neighbors through projects such as swap meets (surely you have a few neighbors who are crafting away in the seclusion of their homes) or establishing a community garden that can supply everyone’s kitchen and maybe earn the community a bit of change at the local farmer’s market, and don’t forget to bond over some fun with a block party every now and then
  • Begin with the youth by starting up a local children’s book club and help children grow up with a sense of community responsibility fostered by the literature they read

So, how does the gringa measure up? Am I practicing what I preach? I am trying and it is not easy. There are just not as many options available for the goods and services I need. But, I try. A few examples based on the above listed recommendations:

  • Minimizing & Repurposing – We have the furniture that we need for our household (2 beds, 1 sofa, 2 chair dinette, 2 dressers, 2 file cabinets that serve as bedside tables, 2 desks, 1 bookcase). Our luxury furniture is rather minimal (2 TVs with TV tables, decorative entry table, 3 decorative side tables, 1 recliner). We also have furniture that is not necessary but either functional, can be argued to be “emotionally” nurturing, or sentimental (craft table, grandmother’s cedar chest, patio furniture). And then there are the wall decorations which are either family photos, my own art, or things we have picked up on our travels
  • Shop Ethically or Second Hand – We do this faithfully although there are still goods and services that we need and have no viable options, such as getting the oil changed in our car, certain grocery items, etc. I buy almost all of my clothes and furniture second hand.
  • Self-Sufficient/Off-Grid Lifestyle – I have a patio herb and tea garden and a few vegetables. We have no cable TV/Wifi service. We have an antenna to get local news channels on the television and I use a mobile hotspot with my cellphone for Internet on my laptop when I work. I have to budget my online time. We do not use a clothes dryer. I have a laundry line on my back patio. We live where I can walk to my necessities (post office, bank, small grocery) so I only drive one day weekly when I go to the big market and I do all of my other “away” errands on that day. And I make some “stuff” we need like fabric softener. I save all of our vegetable clippings and waste and brew “compost” tea every week for plant fertilizer.
  • “First World” Luxuries – We have an energy efficient washing machine but I really want one that operates when you pedal a stationary bike (one day it shall be mine!). Living in a rental apartment, we have no control over whether or not our refrigerator, stove or dishwasher is energy efficient.
  • Minimize Exposure – This is probably the key to converting to post-consumerism. We simply must accept that marketers and advertisers know their craft and regular folk are no match for their techniques. We quickly become brainwashed into believing we cannot have a happy life unless we have this, that or the other. I do not look at magazines, watch television or go to the mall just to walk around and “look”.
  • Reach Out – I reach out beyond my community in an attempt to build literacy. I participate locally with local reading programs and occasionally stick my big nose into a political demonstration if it’s local and an issue I agree with. I KNOW my neighbors, engage with them regularly and we share over-abundances we have with one another whether it is food, patio plants, or a bulk bag of socks for kids.

Although what the caveman and I do is very little, it is changing our way of thinking. Each time we change a little something, we awaken more. We realize there is much more we can do and are willing to do but transition is slow and gradual. Sometimes something is staring us in the face and it just takes a while to realize because we are so conditioned to accept things the way they are.

For example, I have a netted enclosure on my back patio for my parakeet, finch and dove. Most of the year the gulf coast is the perfect weather for them to enjoy being out of doors in a flight cage. My dove usually lays an egg every now and then. We just realized that we have room for a few more dove and could be enjoying fresh eggs, albeit tiny ones, practically every day. So, change is gradual but in the end, it is still change. And if all people living a gross consumer lifestyle begin the process, the overall impact can be world changing.

The reality is that, although faithful recycling is great, waste is really not the heart of the problem. Accumulation of more and more “stuff” is. Higher demands of certain types of services is another part of the equation. Urban living makes post-consumerism more of a challenge but not impossible.  The gringa is open to radical change and the caveman is resigned to enjoy the ride because his little gringa’s crazy ideas often save him a nickel or two.

Source:  www.postconsumers.com

Image credit: http://www.prrepublika.wordpress.com

The Big Mac Boot


The gringa’s oldest son is doing her proud. Like many millenials, my son has a strong desire to make the world a better place. He has aspirations of doing this by becoming a community organizer and rallying people around important issues of social justice, working together to bring about public awareness and positive change. He has taken his first steps toward achieving his goal by volunteering with a local organization and participated in a press conference.

As a proud and supportive parent, and a bit of a rabble-rouser myself, I simply had to devote a post sharing the good work this organization is doing. Please see their press release below. Links are provided to other media coverage or research documents for your own browsing pleasure!

MEDIA RELEASE

Doctors, dieticians, parents call on Texas Children’s, Ben Taub hospitals to give McDonald’s the boot

Coalition announces campaign to eliminate junk food marketing in hospitals

HOUSTON –Today, as part of coordinated actions in five cities nationwide, doctors from the Baylor College of Medicine, Rice University, and Texas Children’s Hospital joined more than 35 health professionals and community organizations to demand that McDonald’s and other junk food corporations end all marketing inside Texas Children’s and Ben Taub hospitals. The coalition is calling on the CEOs of Texas Children’s Hospital and Harris Health System, which oversees Ben Taub Hospital, to close on-site McDonald’s stores, citing health concerns.

The call comes on the heels of Cleveland Clinic’s decision in August and Allina Health/Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s decision in December to sever ties with the burger giant, due to concerns for their patients’ health. It also amplifies the voices of more than 3,000 health professionals and advocacy organizations like Corporate Accountability International who have called on McDonald’s to stop marketing to kids and 12,000 physicians of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine who have urged hospitals, including Texas Children’s Hospital, to go “fast-food-free.” Increasingly, hospital administrators are equating McDonald’s in hospitals to the tobacco industry’s tactic of selling cigarettes in hospital gift shops decades ago.

“In the midst of an epidemic of diet-related diseases, it makes no sense for kids to be treated on one floor of Ben Taub and Texas Children’s and see a McDonald’s on another—it sends the wrong message,” said Rosalia Guerrero, president of Healthcare for All Texas.

Texas Children’s and Ben Taub hospitals would become the twelfth and thirteenth to sever ties with McDonald’s since 2009, joining the ranks of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Truman Medical Center, Vanderbilt Medical Center, and others.

“I was shocked and disappointed to find McDonald’s in the world’s largest medical center,” said Azeen Anjum, first year Baylor College of Medicine student and member of Choosing Healthy, Eating Fresh (CHEF). “McDonald’s symbolizes the toxic dieta ry climate that contributes to America’s current epidemic of diet-related illness. It should not be allowed to continue damaging health in hospitals that serve our community’s most vulnerable populations.”

Siting stores in hospitals is one of the many ways McDonald’s attempts to “nutriwash” its brand.   Increasingly, health professionals are linking the skyrocketing rates of diet-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes to pervasive junk food marketing. Research from the Institute of Medicine and the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that ending kid-targeted junk food marketing could benefit the health of millions of children.

Dietitians from across Houston also weighed in on the issue.

“We are learning more every day about the roles of preservatives, refined sweeteners, oxidized fats and their role in diabetes, blood pressure, cancer, obesity and more” said Ali Miller, RD, LD, CDE author of Naturally Nourished: Food-as-Medicine for Optimal Health. “As a nutrition expert I am confident in saying processed fast food like McDonald’s has been shown to have harmful deleterious effects not neutral.”

This week, hundreds of people in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Tampa are also calling on McDonald’s and other junk food corporations to end targeted marketing through schools and other institutions. The groups are organizing to support of school boards and hospital administrators to strengthen existing policies and sever ties with junk food corporations.

In the coming months, the Houston coalition will continue to build community support for Ben Taub Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital to prioritize its patients’ health over corporate profits.

 

NASA & The Hub


The gringa often hears folks say things like, “NASA is really doing some amazing things, but it doesn’t seem like much of their technology is really helpful to us regular folks here on Earth.” Well, actually, there are great spin-off benefits to all that amazing space technology.

Consider the new program underway in Australia. An Australian organization, National Resources Management Spatial Hub (NRM Hub, or, more commonly, the Hub), is using satellite images of Earth provided by NASA, and other space agencies, to help them better manage rangeland. As global populations continue to grow, demand rises for meat production. Now, more than ever before, do Australia’s ranchers need every edge they can get to meet this demand by using sustainable methods.

With over eighty percent of Australia classified as rangeland, more commonly known as the “Outback”, Earth observation technology is helping ranchers make better land management decisions. This will help leave a stable environment for future generations. With so much land mass available for grazing in its natural condition, Australia is in a unique position to produce meat for the global community without the need to resort to slash and burn forests to create grazing areas. This is good news for climate change by recognizing one resource to utilize responsibly and reduce deforestation.

Earth observation data also helps Australia’s land managers develop innovative ways to manage their precious water resources. The data also provides an overall, panoramic, “big picture” perspective so that ranchers can determine which grassland areas may be overgrazed. They can then reorganize their grazing plans, moving herds to other areas and promote the health of their rangelands.

The Hub is comprised of over 20 Australian agencies, federal and state, as well as research organizations and industry related organizations. They put to good use the satellite images provided by NASA. The Aqua and Terra satellites provide new images on a 16 day cycle. As images are collected over the years, more knowledge is gained in tracking and understanding climate conditions such as drought. This gives ranchers the information they need to make critical ranching decisions.

Ranchers don’t just want to make money, they also want to maintain healthy land that can pass into the hands of their children who continue the ranching tradition. Many of Australia’s ranches have remained in families for generations. They take great pride not just in producing meat and wool, but also in being environmentally conscious.

The Hub has produced results that have impressed the agricultural community in Australia. It has grown from its original 40 properties to 120 ranches presently. At least another 100 are on a waiting list to join the program. This is the agriculture of the future, farming and ranching as a hi-tech, global community effort.

Similar techniques such as what the Hub uses in Australia are being put into practice in other areas like Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso where satellite data is used to measure potential agricultural output. In South Asia data monitors rice production, the grain upon which the world is most dependent.

After all this scribbling about meat production and such, the gringa is going to have to push herself away from the desk and throw a juicy T-bone on the grill. Ta!

Source & Photo Credit:  www.nasa.gov    www.nrmhub.com.au

 

 

 

Improving The World Has Gone Glam… GEOGlam That Is


Food security in the world is critical to the security of the world in general. When populations become vulnerable due to famine and food shortages, terrible things can happen. Things like wars, massive migrations, malnutrition related disease epidemics, etc. With climate change posing a real threat to the future of food security worldwide, what the heck is being done about this problem?

The international community has come together to go “glam”. No, there is nothing glamorous about hunger. Rather, a group of government leaders, as well as NGO leaders, have formed and call themselves the Group on Earth Observation’s Global Agricultural Monitoring, or, to avoid saying that mouthful, GEOGLAM. They plan to take full advantage of Earth images provided by NASA’s satellites, along with data provided by the space agencies of other nations, to monitor weather and how it will affect the security of crops.

Satellites are not the only hi-tech hardware being put to use. While out in the field, GEOGLAM workers collect data on smartphones and relay it via the internet to GEOGLAM partners. This makes data collection much more efficient and stream lined. No more need to do all that pesky paperwork. The gringa likes that. The gringa likes even better the name for this mobile system of data collection, “MAGIS”. The gringa looks at her smartphone, smiles, and says, “It’s MAGIS!”

Rice is first on the list of crops GEOGLAM monitors. It is the staple grain for not only the largest portion of Earth’s population, but also it’s most vulnerable populations. And it is no easy grain to cultivate. Flood or drought could cause a worldwide starvation catastrophe. Other key crops being monitored are wheat, corn (maize), cotton and sugarcane.

Orbiting satellites provide thermal images of crops that enable GEOGLAM agricultural experts to determine if crop stress is occurring. These hi-tech images can relay such details as moisture and temperature levels of the surface of the land the crop is planted in. This can help create models to protect the viability of critical crops.

Images also provide data that help scientists predict weather patterns. This enables measures to be taken to protect crops in the event of the approach of severe weather. Although it is fine to love your local weatherman who reminds you to take an umbrella with you to work, GEOGLAM’s weathermen are the weathermen that are helping to save the world. The gringa holds them high upon the meteorological pedestal.

GEOGLAM’s eyes in the skies have begun their rice monitoring projects in the nations of Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Java. In the U.S., Arkansas, and agricultural areas such as Sacramento Valley in California, are also being watched because their water resources are rapidly being depleted. Data processed by GEOGLAM is used to create growing season plans as well as help farmers in these areas manage their local resources, primarily the precious resource of water that is used to irrigate the crops.

A visit to GEOGLAM’s website puts a smile on the gringa’s face. There’s nothing the gringa likes more than solutions. The gringa’s a fixer, a problem-solver, a get ‘er done kind of gal. It’s okay to complain but then you’ve got to get off your bum and FIX IT!

GEOGLAM officially launched in Paris, 2011, with the participation of 20 Agricultural Ministers from the world community. This group is setting out to monitor regions that “… are responsible for over 80% of global crop production…”. As data is gathered regarding these areas, GEOGLAM uses proven scientific methods to analyze weather and other evidence to create consensus based models that work toward the most favorable outcome of crop production and yield.

Although many countries have their own agricultural monitoring systems, GEOGLAM aims to lead the way into the global era. This is the future. Nations no longer live as islands but, rather, as part of a world community. Data is shared. Technologies are shared. Standardized methods are being implemented. It is the recognition that one nation’s food security is the concern of every other nation. The gringa loves this philosophy.

Never before has the world needed scientists and agricultural experts like it does today. These are the fields philanthropic, young students should be encouraged to pursue. If your child wants to change the world, encourage them to be a farmer or meteorologist!

 

Sources: www.nasa.gov and  www.geoglam-crop-monitor.org

Photo credit:  www.en.wikipedia.org

 

 

GMO Health Dangers | Institute for Responsible Technology


When the U.S. government is in the back pocket of big corporations who demand returns for their huge investments in biotechnology, Americans need to be aware that GMO’s have been rejected AROUND THE WORLD. Primarily because of the inability to control crop contamination and the biotech companies aggressively sue for patent infringement against small farmers, particularly “organic” farmers, which often results in the financial ruin of small farmers. Also, unable to contain GMO crop contamination, local ecosystems battle with contamination like an invasive weed takeover.

The U.S. market is the only large market these companies can make money with their products and they want to subversively cram them down consumers throats. Consumers must exercise their power. Consumers must inform their grocers they will definitely purchase as many “certified non-GMO” products the stores will stock. If consumers don’t take a stand now, big money biotech companies will eventually, through aggressive lawsuits and the power of their wealth, put out of business the nation’s small, local and organic farmers and virtually control all U.S. agriculture. 

For the cautious and ethical consumer, also consider the health questions that should cause consumers to boycott GMO foods. Please read the following article published by the Institute for Responsible Technology:

GMO Health Dangers | Institute for Responsible Technology.

Genetically modified foods…
Are they safe?

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) doesn’t think so. The Academy reported that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods.

Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.

gmo danger2

Since then, findings include:

  • Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants
  • Mice eating GM corn for the long term hadfewer, and smaller, babies
  • More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were smaller
  • Testicle cells of mice and rats on GM soy change significantly
  • By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies
  • Rodents fed GM corn and soy showed immune system responses and signs of toxicity
  • Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen
  • Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced
  • The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth, a condition that may lead to cancer.
  • Studies showed organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, changed enzyme levels, etc.

Unlike safety evaluations for drugs, there are no human clinical trials of GM foods. The only published human feeding experiment revealed that the genetic material inserted into GM soy transfers into bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GM foods, we may still have their GM proteins produced continuously inside us. This could mean:

  • If the antibiotic gene inserted into most GM crops were to transfer, it could create super diseases, resistant to antibiotics
  • If the gene that creates Bt-toxin in GM corn were to transfer, it might turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories.

Although no studies have evaluated if antibiotic or Bt-toxin genes transfer, that is one of the key problems. The safety assessments are too superficial to even identify most of the potential dangers from GMOs. See our Health Risks brochure and State of the Sciencereport for more details and citations.

Recent health studies provide growing evidence of harm from GMOs:

GM Corn Damages Liver and Kidneys
Meat Raised on GM Feed is Different
Roundup Could Cause Birth Defects
Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility