Friday, August 16, 2019

biotechnology & seeds



Biotechnology


Biotechnology holds the very real promise to feed more people on less land using less water - producing foods that are genetically enriched with vaccines, antibiotics, nutrients, flavours and chemicals. Some of these alterations are for the purpose of harvesting fruits while they are green and hard but will ripen during shipping or storage. They also aim for a uniform size, colour and appearance. Producers also prefer foods with tougher skins that will prevent damage during shipping, reduce moisture loss and prolong shelf life. While potentially reducing food waste, there is the possibility of altered nutritional values and flavours. These foods could give the illusion that they are fresher than they are, but because foods continually lose nutrients upon harvest, the consumer could be fooled into buying a nutritionally compromised product.

Genetically modified (GM) plants can also contain foreign genes from animals, like fish and pigs, (bad news for the vegetarian), or chemicals used to control pests, such as 'Round-up' or BT (genetic material extracted from a soil bacteria: Bacillus Thuringiensis). These crops are developed to support commercial growers that desire the convenience of being able to spray, killing the weeds or pests without harming the crop. Yet, pests and weeds build up a tolerance over time making this an endless cycle, and these aren’t the only dangers. In Thailand, 30% of their bee population died in areas where BT cotton was being tested and in North America BT corn proved toxic to monarch butterflies. Wind also plays an issue; an organic grower can be contaminated and lose his certification as well as his crop sales for the year. There is also the issue of new recombinant compounds. Consider the now infamous case of the GM Brazil nuts that were modified with soybean genes and this resulted in numerous severe allergic reactions.

No matter how you weigh in on this issue, biotechnology is a part of our future. To blindly reject, or accept, the potential of this science is not wise. Already successes have been attained in places like Eastern Kenya where disease-free GM bananas saved people from starvation. Another success for rural India where they created a specially designed sweet potato that offered a population a vital nutrient they were missing in their diet. Yet in order for any hope to be had, a huge genetic bank is necessary.

It is vital to understand that the world is robbed every time we lose a plant species in nature or in agriculture. We have no idea what kind of benefits these plants may have. How do we know if a particular variety may hold our only hope of dealing with acid rain or climate changes? We could lose the cure for cancer without even knowing it. 


Growing crops that your grandparents, or great-grandparents, can remember from their youth can be quite an experience for the whole family. Seeing the exotic array of colours, shapes and flavours on your kitchen table that cannot be found in grocery stores, is a thrill on its own. These are the benefits of growing non-hybrid crops.


You can make a difference, starting right where you are simply by passing on the information and sharing links to events on your social media networks. Choosing open-pollinated varieties when purchasing any garden or flower seed is a way you can support biodiversity. Using organic methods is a way you can preserve the environment from contaminated ground water and poisoned plants. Try saving some seeds and sharing them with friends, and don’t forget to support local fairs, markets and seed exchange events. As a final note, please visit seed saving organization websites (i.e. www.seeds.ca) where you can find a variety of ways to help save seeds from extinction.



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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

quote of the day




Quote of the Day 






"Actually, all education is self-education. 

A teacher is only a guide, 

to point out the way, 

and no school, 

no matter how excellent, 

can give you education. 

What you receive 

is like the outlines in a child’s coloring book. 

You must fill in the colors yourself." 

~ Louis L’Amour




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Monday, August 12, 2019

recommended resources


Recommended Resources



Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (Canada) rescues and provides sanctuary to abandoned, surrendered or abused animals.


Alberta Eco-Trust invests in projects that protect natural systems. 


Alberta Wilderness Association is a conservation group defending wilderness in that province.


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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Reduce Energy Costs


Reducing Energy Costs 

Today's increasing energy costs, shrinking budgets and stagnant wages are a growing concern. For those of us living in the more extreme climates that require extra heating in the winter months or relief from the blazing summer heat, there are tricks that increase comfort and lower the bills. Click to view: Part 1 of this 3-part series.

Any window facing south is an asset during the winter. Make the most of the sun’s free energy and warm up your home by keeping the drapes and blinds fully open when the window receives direct sunlight, closing them when it doesn’t – especially in rooms you don’t use all that often. Washing both sides of the windows just before winter sets in ensures that film and dust do not impede the sun's rays. The opposite is true for summer – whenever a window is exposed to direct sun, it is helpful to close the blinds or curtains. We have used sheets of hot water tank insulation to seal off windows that receive direct sun in rooms we didn’t use much or didn’t use during the day. We also did this for our camper trailer. It is reflective and adds insulation against the terrible heat in the peak of summer.

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It makes no sense to risk fire just so that you can heat up the bottom of a couch or blow the warm air up a curtain and fog up the window potentially causing mould issues - vent deflectors will divert air to where it is needed. Keep furniture and drapes off of heating vents and far away from electric heaters and fans.

If your furnace is more than 5-8 years old you will want it inspected and cleaned every year. Be sure the furnace filters are changed regularly – we have a reusable filter with a couple disposable ones for backup that we use once a month while cleaning the reusable one. Turn the temperature or air conditioner down when you are out of the house, on vacation or asleep. The use of a programmable thermostat makes this feat much easier to accomplish. The ducting should be cleaned every few years to keep the air you breathe clean and to allow the air to flow efficiently. Periodically take the time to remove the vent covers and vacuum where you can easily reach and cleaning the vent covers before replacing. A similar maintenance is needed for electric fans and air conditioning units.
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These are just a few inexpensive ways for you to save some money every year that you live or work in that space. You can feel pride in that you are a conscious and responsible consumer of resources. You will also feel more comfortable in your warm, draft-free environment. To learn more simple changes that can have a big impact on your budget and the health of the planet check out our Trash Talk book series.




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Friday, August 9, 2019

quote of the day




Quote of the Day 









"Well I remember, in my boyish days,

How deep the feeling, when my eye looked forth


On Nature, in her loveliness, and storms.


How my heart gladdened, as the light of spring


Came from the sun, with zephyrs, and with showers,


Waking the earth to beauty, and the woods


To music, and the atmosphere to blow,


Sweetly and calmly, with its breath of balm."



~ James G. Percival




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