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Month: September 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Finding the Whales

All the creatures on earth have a place in the cycle of life and in the world’s food chain. If one creature’s existence is compromised, every other creature in the environment will feel the impact in a negative way. Whales are one of the largest and majestic creatures on earth, they have long faced threat on top of threat to their mere existence. They are in danger by the whaling industry, dealing with ship strikes, entanglement in nets and fishing gear meant for other fish, global warming, noise pollution, environmental pollution and sonar from ships in their water. Yes “their” water because the ocean is home to all of our fish, our ships are just in their territory for human sake and benefit. Whales mature slowly, the impact of even a single death will have long reaching effects for the future of that species, and thus impacting the environment as a whole.

The Whaling industry is the most direct threat to the future of more than 80 species of whales that are known exist . In previous centuries, the whaling industry was a large source of food products, whale oil, even perfume. All of these products have now either fallen out of favor with consumers or are capable of being synthetically produced. One new and less menacing industry concerning the whale that has emerged is that of whale watching. This is the practice of observing whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. It has become quite popular and many people are becoming aware of the excursion. The threat to whales is not great, except for the disruption of the peaceful existence the whales maintain caused by the tourists. There is the possible ship strike during the whale watching, but ship strikes are now the leading danger to whales. The amount of vessels in our seas and the large size of whales are not a good match. Whales have been threatened by the whaling industry for so long that they are now (especially the blue whale) struggling to regain their numbers which were driven close to the point of extinction.

Technology has a new idea on the menu for helping our sea-worthy friends. The Whale-Spotter App is a new smartphone app that is trying to be developed. It’s a modern, crowd-sourcing approach to an old problem. The Ports of the San Francisco Bay area very busy, more than 7300 large ships head through the Golden Gate each year. Just outside the bay, whales swim along the continental shelf, they do this often because this location has plentiful food supply. Recently this year several dead whales, including an endangered fin whale, have washed ashore in the bay area believed to be killed by ship strikes. At this present time we are able to keep track of where the ships are, but not the whales, sadly threatening their habitat.

The “Whale Spotter” app would allow marine scientists, fisherman and sailors who spot whales to have their location plotted on an interactive map. The maps created can then be used by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Coast Guard officials to recommend different vessel routes. The idea behind the app is to create a network of whale spotters off California’s coast so the marine mammals can be tracked in “real time” as they migrate. The app has a big hurdle because cell phone coverage at sea is spotty at its best, so data may be delayed to a point where it’s not immediately helpful. However, the GPS on phones is being constantly tracked by satellite, so the phone’s location can be tracked. After tests and completion of the app, it will make a difference by bridging a gap in data about whale location.

This idea is exciting and will help make a difference in whale population. As per Leann Kennedy, the biggest threat to the environment is, and always has been, man’s greed and false assumption that every element of nature is available to be used, squandered, and plundered at will. Nature has a way of creating equilibrium to the environment, if left to its own devices.

The Flicker of Light from a Burning Candle

The very first form of light that our eyes were exposed to in the darkness of night was a candle. The definition of a candle is simply a solid block of wax with an embedded wick, which is ignited to provide light, and some heat, it historically was used as a method of time keeping. Candles made from different substances are more likely to be harmful to the environment depending on the source itself. Candles were once made mainly with beeswax or tallow which are generally natural substances. Today the majority of candles are made with paraffin way (a product of petroleum refining). Any product which contains petroleum immediately sets off a red flag with environment safety. For a candle to burn, the wax inside contains a wick, a heat source which is usually a naked flame used to light the wick, which makes a small amount of fuel, the wax. Once vaporized, the fuel mixes with oxygen in the atmosphere thus forming sufficient heat to keep the candle burning. The heat of the flame melts the top of the mass solid fuel, this liquefied fuel moves upward through the wick via capillary action, finally vaporizing to burn with the candle’s flame.

This is the very process that causes soot in the environment, an each little candle combines to create a large amount of damage to the air. The average candle we find in our stores smells nice and is made from many pretty colors. The most common candle is made from paraffin wax. Paraffin wax is cheap and is a byproduct of oil refining and releases a number of carcinogens when we burn them. Some cheaper candles even contain lead in their wicks, this releases toxic fumes when ignited. So now you have toxins in the wax and the lead released into the air. And that pretty smell released contains synthetic fragrances which can throw more soot and possible additional toxins like benzene into our air as well. So while your sitting back enjoying the soft light and pleasant scent from your candle, you are in a sense contributing to increase oil consumption, pollution, and eco disasters. Needless to say health concerns also arise causing us breathing problems and numerous other domino effect health hazards.

There are other forms of wax used for candle making that provide different options. I recently saw homemade beeswax candles that were shaped like a beehive, how cute. I learned from the person selling them who also made them, that they are natural, non-allergenic and smoke free. 100% beeswax candles are carbon neutral due to the carbon dioxide they emit has already been taken from the atmosphere to produce the wax. They didn’t really smell too nice and were quite pricey. They are now also a hot topic due to the declining bee population and colonies. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder across the country. I have written a blog previously regarding this matter further (Sweet as Honey). The next popular type of candle is made of soy wax. These candles are derived from soy wax which is a vegetable wax made from the oil of soybeans. This type of candle can lower soot and pollution, also minimizing added dyes, additives and synthetic fragrances providing the choices are made carefully. Even though you cannot completely eliminate soot from using soy based candles, the good news is that whatever soot is produced by a soy candle will be based on the burning of a natural product rather than a refined hydrocarbon. Also soy candles burn 40% cooler than paraffin based candles, meaning that the candle will burn longer, up to 8 hours per ounce of wax.

Candles are a pleasant experience, such a comfort. We can make eco-friendly choices ant eh light will keep burning friendly for all to see.

Why March Against Monsanto on October 12? I’ll Tell You

By:  Lee Ann  Rush

If you’ve read my blogs over the past few months, you know that I’ve taken quite an interest in what’s going on with the food supply here in the United States, and the ways in which things need to change.  What began with a personal interest in organic gardening and cooking with fresh, local ingredients soon became a fascination with learning about the chemical machinations behind all the processed and scientifically-modified foods we consume, and the toll they are taking on our overall health and well-being as a nation.  From watching Chef Jamie Oliver’s 2009 television series that exposed the outrageously poor eating habits of one Southern town as Oliver attempted, mostly in vain, to change the local citizens’ ways of approaching food, to developing a greater awareness of the dangers of pesticide residues, antibiotics and chemicals fed to livestock, and the science fiction-like proliferation of genetically-modified grains and plants that is doing damage we can’t yet even begin to measure, I became convinced that local, organic and sustainable is truly the way to go.

No, Monsanto isn’t the only chemical company spewing its heavy-handed influence along with its Frankenfoods and toxins around the world.  Sadly, though, the influence of this corporate monster appears to know no bounds; with President Obama’s appointment of former Monsanto Vice President and lobbyist Michael Taylor as Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the FDA in 2012, the die was cast.  Monsanto, who brought us Agent Orange and GMOs, now effectively controls the Food and Drug Administration, the government agency whose role, as quoted from its own mission statement, is as follows:  “…protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, and products that emit radiation.”  What they must have forgotten to add is the part about carrying out these stated duties only so far as they don’t interfere with the business interests of the chemical, pharmaceutical and agribusiness concerns that call all the shots.

On October 12, 2013, the second March Against Monsanto will take place in cities throughout the United States and across the globe.   The March Against Monsanto is both a grassroots movement and a protest against GMOs and the Monsanto Corporation, and was begun in response to the failure of California’s Proposition 37, a November, 2012  ballot initiative that would have mandated the labeling of GMO food products.  The first March Against Monsanto was held on May 25, 2013 and featured approximately 436 marches and rallies in 52 cities around the world, involving hundreds of thousands of protesters.  From Portland, Oregon to Orlando, Florida, supporters carried signs and rallied against the Monsanto Protection Act and in favor of food labeling.  Tami Canal, who began organizing the May rally by creating a Facebook page entitled “March Against Monsanto” last February, has high hopes for October’s event:  “We will continue until Monsanto complies with consumer demand,” she said.  “They are poisoning our children, poisoning our planet.  If we don’t act, who’s going to?”

Please check out the “March Against Monsanto” page on Facebook and support the October 12 March in your local area.  Change will only occur when government officials and corporations understand that the American people are, indeed, a force to be reckoned with.

Time to Pass on the Papayas Again?

 Author:  Lee Ann Rush

Like many other people, I’ve become much more cognizant of the strong connection between diet and health over the last 15 years or so.  I’m happy to say that my newfound awareness has not only gotten me to adopt healthier eating habits, it’s made cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients much more enjoyable for me, and also prompted me to use foods I’d rarely even looked at before.  One of these foods is the papaya, or papaw (which is also the name I called my paternal grandfather when I was little).   A tropical tree melon, the papaya comes in red- and yellow-fleshed varieties and is widely known as a wonder fruit for the plethora of essential vitamins and beneficial enzymes it contains, including the histamine inhibitor bromelain, as well as pro-digestive enzymes and anti-inflammatory properties.

However, there’s a problem with the papayas.  During the early 1990s, much of the Hawaiian papaya crop was decimated by papaya ringspot virus (PRV), a disease that causes premature molting and malformation of the leaves, and drastically reduces the fruit yield.  Fear that the state’s papaya industry would be destroyed if the virus remained unchecked prompted researchers at the University of Hawaii to attempt the development of a papaya cultivar that would prove resistant to PRV.  The quest was successful, and since 1998, genetically-modified papayas have been grown in Hawaii, even in areas where PRV is widespread.  However, GMO papayas have been banned throughout the European Union due to concerns about their health risks.

The FDA, though, has no problem with GMO papayas; not surprising at all given the fact that they’ve all but handed over the job of policy-making in this arena to Monsanto and its ilk.  After all, former Monsanto Vice President and lobbyist Michael Taylor was appointed last year by none other than President Barack Obama (whose First Lady Michelle is, ironically, always shown in the press touting healthy eating habits for children) to the position of Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the FDA!  Taylor is the same person who held the position of U.S. Food Safety Czar during the time when GMO foods were first permitted to enter the American food supply without any testing to determine their safety or lack thereof.   Hasn’t anyone in the administration ever heard of a conflict of interest?  To paraphrase S.D. Wells of, this is akin to handing over the American food supply to the terrorists.  With Taylor, the individual likely responsible for more food-related illnesses and deaths than anyone else in the course of history, at the helm, Monsanto will have carte blanche to feed carcinogenic GMO foods and pesticide-laden produce to all Americans who don’t practice strictly-organic eating habits.  This is not science fiction; sadly, this is today’s America.

On October 12, 2013, a giant March Against Monsanto is planned, with events in cities across the United States and around the world.  I’ll post more about it next time.

Think Salmon Is Healthy? Not All Salmon is Created Equal

By:  Lee Ann Rush

Over the past couple of decades, fish has become an increasingly prominent part of many American’s diets, and not just on Fridays anymore!   Widely touted for its health benefits (high in protein and healthy Omega 3 fats, low in saturated fats, and rich in essential nutrients) and brain-boosting powers, fish, particularly salmon, is now a staple on restaurant menus and in food markets nationwide. However, many are still unaware of the stark difference between farm-raised salmon and wild salmon.  Wild salmon is indeed a healthy choice; not so the farm-raised variety, which has already been banned in Australia and New Zealand.

Wild salmon, designated as both “Alaskan salmon” and “sockeye salmon,” is very lean, with fine white fat marks that are easily visible against its natural bright-red color that occurs courtesy of the salmon’s astaxanthin content.  Astaxanthin is a colorful, lipid-soluble carotenoid compound that occurs naturally in yeast, salmon, trout, shrimp, crayfish, crustaceans, some algae, and some bird feathers.  In contrast, farm-raised salmon, typically labeled “Atlantic salmon,” are fed a diet of grains (some of which are GMO), antibiotics, various pesticides and other chemicals, not all of which have been certified as safe for human consumption; including toxic copper sulfate, which is used to keep the fish nets free of algae! This wholly unnatural diet leaves the farmed salmon an unappetizing gray color, so, to make the fish appear pink, they are fed a synthetic astaxanthin, which is produced from petrochemicals known to be toxic and suspected to cause damage to human eyesight.  Farmed salmon is not red at all, but a pale pink color, and its fat marks are clearly wider than those of wild salmon.  It’s important to remember these distinctions in appearance between wild and farmed salmon because, sadly, most salmon sold in restaurants is farm-raised, despite many claims to the contrary.

An even more compelling reason to avoid farm-raised salmon may be this one, raised by Dr. Anne-Lise Birch Monsen of the University of Bergen, Norway, the country called the “motherland” of salmon farming.  Dr. Monsen has brought to light concerns about the high levels of contaminants in farmed salmon:  “I do not recommend (that) pregnant women, children or young people eat farmed salmon…. The type of contaminants that have been detected in farmed salmon have a negative effect on brain development and (are) associated with autism, ADD/ADHD and reduced IQ.  We also know that they can affect …the body’s immune system and metabolism.”  No thanks, I’ll have the spinach salad – but I sure hope it’s organic!

Still love to eat salmon?  Then please remember this:  Alaska has gone to great lengths to protect the quality and sustainability of its fishing industry. One happy result is that salmon labeled as “Alaskan” cannot be farmed salmon. I’d recommend passing on the rest.

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