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May 27, 2012

Every month, new scientific discoveries blur the line of differences between man and animals. Now we know that not only dolphins but cows and rats also empathize, love and grieve. Yet animal cruelty is still legal for farm animals.


Many animals are known to grieve; elephants, chimpanzees, dolphins, sea lions and even magpies. Gana, a captive gorilla, clearly grieved the loss of her infant and the image of her carrying her dead baby was shown around the world. Jane Goodall tells the story in her book, Through a Window of Flint, of a young chimpanzee who died from sadness soon after his mother, Flo. “Flint became increasingly lethargic, refused food and, with his immune system thus weakened, fell sick,” she wrote.

Marc Bekoff describes in the Newscientist, a magpie ritual he witnessed a few years ago in Boulder, Colorado. “A magpie was lying dead on the side of the road, probably hit by a car, with four others standing around it. One after the other, two of them approached the corpse, gently pecked at it and stepped back. One of the birds flew off, brought back some grass and laid it by the corpse. Another did the same. Then all four stood vigil for a few seconds before flying away one by one.”


The sweetest kiss ever

Holly Cheever tells the incredible story of a dairy cow hiding one of her calves after giving birth to twins. It was her fifth birth; she knew that her babies were going to be taken away. Think for a moment of the intelligence and care this mothering cow displayed. She first remembered the pain of losing her child, and then she formulated a plan to keep one of them. The most amazing part of this story is that instead of hiding both calves, which would have aroused the farmer’s suspicion, she gave one away.

Though, it does not mean that animals experience feelings the same way than we do. The Australian sea lions in the video seem deeply in love, happy and excited, they give each other the sweetest kiss ever. Though, they certainly not experience love the same way than we do as males may keep harems of around 4 to 6 females.


Watch: Empathy: Human or Animal 

According to the free dictionary, “empathy is the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings”. We should probably update this definition, as not only people, but chickens also feel for one another.

Studies published in the Journal of Science in December 2011 have shown that rats and chickens display empathy. According to Inabal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety and Peggy Mason at the University of Chicago; untrained laboratory rats will free companions rather than selfishly feast on chocolate. “When liberating a cage mate, was pitted against chocolate contained within a second restrainer, rats opened both restrainers and typically shared the chocolate”.

Those studies reveal that humans and nonhumans are inherently compassionate. “When we act without empathy we are acting against our biological inheritance … If humans would listen and act on their biological inheritance more often, we’d be better off,” says Peggy Mason. This should make us think twice about the way we treat laboratory rats or farm animals.

Cruelty on farms animals is not happening just in America.


Some critics would call those observations, anthropomorphism, which is the attribution of human behavior to animals, and argue it is not real science. Though, Allan and Bekoff explain that by using human terms to illustrate animals’ emotions, humans make the animals’ worlds accessible to themselves. “Emotions serve as a “social glue” to bond individuals with one another and to catalyze and regulate their social encounters”. Charles Darwin himself advocates that differences among species are in degree rather than kind.

Research from the University of Toronto shows that morality and empathy are not some kind of higher reasoning created by humans but survival instincts. It could simply be the result of evolution determining that morality and compassion are beneficial to the survival of species. What about empathy toward different species?

For the ones still not convinced that animals feel, here is “real science”. A recent study by Patrick Hof and Estel Van Der Gucht of the Mount Sinal School of Medicine in New York found specialised neurons, called spindle cells linked, in humans, to emotion, speech, social skills empathy and ‘gut’ intuition, in the brains of humpback, fin, killer and sperm whales. In fact, whales were found to have three times as many of these cells proportionally as humans do. Since our brains work in the same way as animals’, it makes sense for similar things to be happening.

Humans now know, that cows and chickens feel, at least in the same way as dogs and cats. We pride ourselves on being a species with higher moral senses. Yet, farm animals have been excluded from the animal cruelty laws that protect dogs and cats so that they can be exploited for human consumption. I guess, suffering in the name of profit has become socially acceptable in our society.


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Posted: May 27, 2012 6:33pm
May 19, 2012

Independent researchers link pesticides to the death of billions of bees around the world while corporations like Bayer and Monsanto – producers of insecticides – exercise a disturbing degree of control over the evaluation of toxicity in their products.

What is happening?

Albert Einstein famously once said, “If honey bees become extinct, human society will follow in four years”. Indeed, bees pollinate about 80% of all plant species and at least one third of food crops. Food stuffs including apples, pears, tangerines, peaches, soybeans, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, carrots, broccoli and avocados all depend on pollination from bees.

Already in Sichuan, China, pear trees have had to be pollinated by hand after bees were wiped out by habitat loss linked to unsustainable agricultural practices.

In countries dependent on bee pollination, it is estimated that between 30% and 90% of honeybee colonies have disappeared since 2006. The same scenario occurs each time: the bees leave the nest and simply never come back.

Why is it happening?

Scientists do not know the exact cause of this epidemic; some say it could be parasites – particularly the varroa mite  as well as viruses or funguses. However, many scientists believe the most likely reason for declining bee populations is the unchecked use of pesticides and genetically modified crops. The crisis is now officially known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CDD), whereby bee health is compromised, ultimately making them more susceptible to diseases.

According to a pair of new independent studies recently published in the Journal of Science, new evidence has directly linked pesticides with the decline of bee populations. Scientists believe that a type of insecticide known as Neonicotinoid– which was introduced in the 1990s by Bayer and is one of the most widely used crop pesticides in the world – is affecting the central nervous systems of bees. With annual sales of $1.941 billion, the neonicotinoids have became one of the fasted growing and prosperous products currently on the market. This pesticide appears to kill bees’ homing instincts, limits their ability to gather food and critically, find their way back to the hive.

Following responses from France and Germany, in 2009 the Italian Agriculture Ministry suspended the use of pesticides classed as nicotine-based neonicotinoids. This ban has led to the restoration of bee populations in Italy. “Bee hives have not suffered depopulation and mortality coinciding with maize sowing this year. Beekeepers from Northern Italy and all over the country are unanimous in recognizing the suspension of neonicotinoid- and fipronil-coated maize seeds,” Moreno Greatti from the University of Udine reported to the The European Research Center.

Trailer for “Nicotine Bees” documentary explaining cause for Colony Collapse Disorder.

Further research has indicated that CDD in bees is triggered not only by pesticides but also by GMO high-fructose corn syrup produced by Monsanto. Click here to read the full report.

Who is responsible?

In 2003, pharmaceuticals manufacturer Bayer developed a new pesticide called Clothianidin which falls under the family of the Neonicotinoid.  A leaked document from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was obtained recently by Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, and publicised by the Pesticide Action Network. The document details how Bayer performed inadequate testing on the pesticide and why the EPA accepted the results. This resulted in the pesticide being released for use despite proof that it would not harm bee populations and in fact, in contradiction with its own researcher’s results. See EPA leaked document.

In April 2012, Poland banned Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds. In addition to being linked to a plethora of health problems, Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki said that the pollen originating from this GM strain may actually be devastating already dwindling bee populations. 

Notably, Monsanto – one of the world largest producers of genetically modified food – quietly purchased a research company called Beelogics in September 2011, whose mission it was combat the extinction of bees. Monsanto has insisted it will use Beeologic’s research to improve the bees’ situation. However, given that it was named the ‘Worst Company 2011’ by the Natural Society, it is difficult to believe that Monsanto will put the bees before his products.

Monsanto ‘quietly’ acquired Beelogics because there is no trace of this information in the mainstream media. If you find any newspapers or TV channels that talk about Monsanto buying Beelogics please let me know.

The world according to Monsanto

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Posted: May 19, 2012 12:38am
Apr 24, 2012

Only about 20 species of the 250 000 edible plants in the world are commonly eaten in the developing world (Mitchell, 1999, pp24). The number of Australian native foods is incredible and most of them are unique to Australia so why planting the fragile European spinach when you can grow its water savvy and heat resistant Australian sister, the Warrigal green? Bush foods or ‘bush tuckers‘ are a long list of well behaved edible native fruits, vegetables, herbs and nuts that are delicious, nutritious, water saving and environmentally friendly.

Bush foods are part of Australian culture and history and are essential for Australia’s ecosystem. In the wild, native plants and wildlife have formed a perfect partnership where food and shelter are exchanged for seeds distribution and pest control. Some bush foods are endangered due to the destruction of their native habitats for cultivation. Kris Kupsch, owner of the Botanic Garden Nursery in New South Wales says, “The two NSW davidson plums are listed as endangered under legislation”. Planting bush tuckers help to ensure their survival and animals that depend from them. 

The Balaangala at the Gap is a beautiful garden that aims not only to educate and promote bush foods but also to connect aboriginals and non-aboriginal’s people and share history and ideas. The garden looks like a piece of wilderness, a piece of bush after the rain but definitely not a conventional veggie garden.  A painted wooden board at the entry acknowledges the custodians of this part of the country, the Yuggera and the Turrabul people. On the left is the “tea time spot”, the most important place of the garden says Melinda Serico, an Indigenous Australian from the Gubbi Gubbi people that volunteer at the garden. A cute little corner of grass surrounded by trees on the left and pavements carved with messages and drawings on the other side. “The tea time spot” is fully furnished with a coffee table in the middle and rocks and stumps around to sit. A Mac pie appears and perch on one of the rocks, Melinda salutes the bird, “Her name is Maggie”. She lives here”. The shapes and textures of those plants look almost scary. Armed with spikes or indented leaves, they seem to protect wonders.  As you come closer those weird looking scrubs bear beautiful berries and flowers. All kind of berries lie around, the wombat, the quinine or the midyim berries, all edible. On the right of the tea spot, across the garden is an odd looking tree with a rough trunk and thick grasses on the top looking like a bad haircut. Melinda says, “It is a grass tree, a special tree”. Aboriginals used it to build tools using the spiky sticks of its hair and the strong glue of its trunk.  Behind, a little path of dead leafs reveals a huge and luscious spiky bush bearing lots of red fruits. “It is a native raspberry, our favourite one because we always get a good feed out of it,” says Melinda. On each sides of the track grows a native ginger, a peanut tree, a native apricot and even a native grape, all bush tuckers. They may sound familiar but they taste or look different. A little further, a sandpaper tree, Melinda’s favourite because it is a good source of potassium. “With my liver problem I have to have a lot of potassium”, she says. Apart from producing a delicious fruit, it has medicinal and practical uses. The rough leaves and the bark are a treatment for flue, fevers, warts and diarrhoea and were even used to build ropes and nets. The vegetation shrinks; the track stop and we can smell the sweet and spicy aroma of a cinnamon myrtle and then the sharp and fresh sent of a lemon myrtle. What an experience for the senses! This garden looks, smells, sounds and feels unique. You don’t expect edible fruits or even vegetables growing in this rocky place. Yet, an amazing variety of food and flowers grows here and beautiful butterflies and birds made that garden their home.

Bush foods are everywhere around you

Bush foods are probably already in your garden and around your neighbourhood. Melinda says, “We would be walking through town, stopping and picking berries off the Lilly Pillies and people would be looking saying, that’s poisonous! No it’s not we’d say”. Indigenous Australians have lived for more than 40,000 years by harvesting bush tuckers directly from the wild. There are more than 5,000 different species but most Australians would struggle to name one. Louise Brennan, a teacher, built a native garden in Bald Hill School, Queensland to explain to children during history class that if the first settlers had taken the time to listen to the Aborigines, they wouldn’tt have starved to death. Last year flood devastated the garden and it is just starting up again. Brennan says floods and fires are actually essential to certain bush foods. “The soil is more fertile after a flood because of the sediments deposited and there is more moisture in the ground” says Louise. 

Bush foods can be toxic

Bush foods are a little bit like mushrooms, some are toxic and some can only be eaten after cooking or specific preparations. Other plants contain an edible and a poisonous part and others are toxic only in certain seasons. Louise recently found a beautiful ground cover that look like a wild native strawberry growing out of nowhere in her garden. A deep red and juicy fruit that would make anybody salivate but don't judge a book by its cover”, this innocent little wonder might be more like the red apple in Snow White. Louise sent a picture to a herbarium to identify it. “Don’t dare try them, if you dont know what they are,she says. Fortunately it is not poisonous, it is called Potentilla Indica and it is considered a weed, edible though but not very sweet.  “I think it is a pretty plant and I will grow it in a hanging basket,” says Brennan.


Bush tuckers are super food

Research shows that Bush tuckers could be among the healthiest food in the world. Dr Isabel Konczac, leader of the research on the health benefits of bush foods at Food Science Australia identified twelve native Australian fruits that are exceptional sources of antioxidants. “The native Illawarra plum is three times stronger in anti-oxidant activity than our sample of blueberries” says Konczac. She explains in a media release of the CSIRO that plants produce anti-oxidants when exposed to stress due to extreme weather, which enable them to survive. The Northern Territory Department of Health and the University of Sydney analysed the nutrient content of bushfoods and found that they contain high amounts of vitamin C, trace elements, antioxidants and proteins.


The taste of Bush foods

Bush foods are intense in flavour and bring new and unique aromas to all meals but they are sometimes a little bit tricky to process and too intense to eat it whole and raw. Bryant Wells from Tukka restaurant says, “A lot of ingredients are hard to learn how to use because you have to do certain things to them to get the proper flavour out and a lot of the berries are very tart and the spices are earthy and dry”. There are now a lot of spices readily available in supermarkets like the Wattleseeds, which have a coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts flavour or the Mountain pepper, stronger and more aromatic than true pepper. Though, many fruits and berries are sweet and delicious eaten straight out of the trees. My favourite is the native mint, a tiny ground cover with minuscule leaf that taste like a candy. Its sweet peppermint flavour refreshes your mouth just like a bonbon.


Bush tuckers’ garden care

Bush food gardens require less work than ordinary ones but they still need a little pruning and watering. This is especially important when the plants are young; so dont believe in the myth of maintenance-free gardens. However, once plants are established they need little maintenance but respond well to care and attention. “If you leave them they won’t die off but if you want to produce more you have to look after them” says Wells. Water is a scarce resource and native plants conserve and use it in the most efficient way. Brennan says, “We water once when we first plant them, thats it”. The good news is that in the bush food garden, weeding and digging are not needed as native plants die if their roots are disturbed. Dont move dead branches or leaves either, as they will provide shelter for animals and food for seedlings. The only thing you should do is mulching because it retains moisture, stops foreign weeds and provides fertiliser. Choose local plants that are adapted to the soil and climate conditions of you area as they will be easier to grow and will produce more fruit. Dont limit yourself with species that grow in your region. You will grow them in your garden so you can always protect them from frost in cool area and water them more in arid climate.


Lets celebrate and protect Australia’s unique ecosystem. Growing and eating bush tuckers are an effective way to restore native habitat and preserve the animals that depends from it. Please share tips and info on where to find, how, what and where to grow as well as events on native Australian plants.


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Posted: Apr 24, 2012 11:16pm
Apr 24, 2012

Cheap, environmentally friendly and safe cleaning product

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Posted: Apr 24, 2012 11:03pm
Apr 24, 2012

Many of us worry about the situation of the world.  The earth is warming, ice is melting, population is booming, species are disappearing and yet…the magnitude of the task seems almost impossible. Over 40 years the environmental movement have successfully educated the public. No more than a generation ago, most people had no idea what global warming was, and yet…we have failed to empower people to change and reconnect them with nature.

Conservation has always been expressed in economic terms. Hundred of species disappear everyday or up to 90% of the largest fish species have been lost over the past 50 years. I believe that nature needs to be emotionally meaningful to us for environmental change to succeed. We don’t learn love and joy through definitions and numbers we feel them.

We are so disconnect to our natural world. We live in concrete houses and work in offices without windows where the only breezes we feel is artificial. We entertain ourselves with TVs, shopping centres androller coasters and we communicate through mobile phones and Facebook.

How can we act to protect nature if we are not a part of it?

We know that we cannot continue to deforest without irreversible consequences or lose more animals and plants without eventually destroying the ecosystem. We know we cannot continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere or add 19 million people to the world each year without eventually destroying the natural system and resources on which human life depends and yet… our lifestyle and behaviours haven’t change much.

Have we overload people with anxiety and guilt that they don’t know where to start or even if it is worth it?

We are at the edge of an environmental revolution that we want it or not, one that will transform our economic and social system at least as much as the agriculture and industrial revolutions. One that is not optional, but necessary and one that we didn’t choose.

We miss two fundamental foundations for this revolution to succeed, love and hope. We need to love nature, to feel its deterioration rather than learning it, and change will come naturally. You know that fire burn but until you feel its warmth you will touch it again. We need hope for people to believe that restoring the earth is possible and that you’re single action will have tremendous consequences.

This blog is about inspiring green change in people’s life. It is not only a practical guide for sustainable living but a place to emotionally engage with nature.  Visit my blog at

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Posted: Apr 24, 2012 10:41pm


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marine freyne
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tonight, i wrote a poem which mixed in with fairytale,  i liked the fact it read a kind of dark way,  about a shewolf.  metaphorises a darker twist to women who runs with wolves, i guess because in there the blue beard is of course the ...