Sunday, April 25, 2010

Movie Review: Dirt!

Dirt! is an informative documentary that teaches about the importance of our soil for our very existence. It's a fairly short film, 80 minutes, but the 33 extra minutes of deleted scenes are very ineresting and very worthwhile as well.

Dirt! shows that soil is actually a rich ecosystem of life, not just dead stuff. You will see and understand easily the difference between sustainable and unsustainable agriculture. All in the course of discussing dirt we see illustrated the true interconnection of all life. Various experts convey diverse aspects of the science of soil, the reality of climate change, the necessary remedies to protect the future and the array of other positive effects on societies that these steps will produce. These people include photographers, a mycologist, a wine expert, sustainable farmers in America, France & India, chef Alice Waters, biologists and more.

If you want to understand what is happening to our environment, why we should make change to the way we live, this film illustrates it clearly in a non-political, non-didactic way.

Animation clips make this a family friendly film that simplifies complex information, however, it is an intelligent film that is meant for adults and does not talk down to viewers.

Many more important points are raised, such as the dangers of the globalization of food, the lack of traditional food culture in America, the power of gardening to rehabilitate prisoners and the fact that if just Ethiopia was farmed sustainably, it could feed nearly all of Africa.

Dirt! is an important movie, I sincerely hope that you will watch it, perhaps with your family or friends. When spiritual cultures say that all aspects of nature are alive & have spirit, the Western lens often sees them as "primative", or "savage", but this film shows how ignorant and savage we are to wantonly destroy the ecosystem that provides our food. Fertility cannot come from chemicals, man does not out-smart nature. Chemical fertility leads to soil death & desertification. The only true fertility comes by nature's processes.

Once again, humankind's superiority complex is proven pompous & wrong. We are only part of nature. We are all future dirt.

Some Albert Einstein for you

Quotes by the brilliant man with the big hair. He was a very yogic scientist...

"Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them."

"A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be."

"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree."

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either."

"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions."

"Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death."

"Information is not knowledge."

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."

"Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift."

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."

" Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

"Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding."

"We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive."

Change Yourself- Change Our Culture

"A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people."
Mohandas Gandhi

If we don't like the policy in our nation, or we don't like what's happening in our popular culture, all we have to do is be ourselves & not participate.

Live your beliefs, spend your money as carefully as you spend your votes, and practice being what you admire most in this life.

You will inspire your loved ones and have a positive impact on the world, and on our culture.

Change yourself by practicing a conscious & curious lifestyle, and you will change the world.

Mindfulness is the way to start....

Be peace. Be understanding. Be love. Be informed. Be brave. Be kindness.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Yoga of Sustainability


It is not the case that we can just spend our way out of this environmental crisis. Yoga also contends that seeking fulfilment through grasping, through seeking material accumulation with no practical need is futile, and will cause more emptiness or stress then joy. When we buy that new thing, the joy is often quick to fade into boredom, regret or general disappointment. If we still identify with the falsification that owning material objects is equal to owning more happiness, then we'll then covet, desire and possibly buy, some other non-esential thing, repeating this cycle.

But, we do need to buy things sometimes. Food and cleansing agents, and at certain times, tools, refrigerators or clothing. There are a couple items unique to them which each person needs to feel good about themselves and have a proper sense of wholeness, that are otherwise non-essential. Too many people don't know what these items are for them because they just buy everything they want indescriminately and consider these "creature comforts" essential.

This is the problem. We have a uniquely disposable consumer culture. Never before have we ever ignored or applauded such waste. And never before have we had so many insecure, depressed or anxious people either. The two are correlated- the rise of the capitalist ideal of owning the biggest pile of stuff as a sign of status & the empitiness remaining when the newest object isn't new and exciting. So much in our lives is considered meaningless and disposable that our lives seem a bit less meaningful too. We've learned to get all of our self-worth and joy from objects, others or our external appearance. Since these will never provide lasting joy, they are inevitable sources of dissatisfaction.

So what we need to do is question our consumer habits. We must assess our true need- & what we are really seeking. And if we decide that a purchase is truly warranted, we have a duty to inform ourselves with objective and accurate sources how and where we can obtain that product in a manner that does not support & condone negative environmental, social and ethical issues. If we like it or not, in our country, what we spend our money on is seen as a vote for more of the same. Packaging and labels are not there to help us make informed choices about what we purchase, they exist to compel us to buy. That's it. And its everything the label doesn't say that is usually the most important information.

THE SIN OF OMMISSION: Here is listed some of the most nasty hidden facts. While these are generalizations in each category, they are HIGHLY COMMON & often nearly the rule unless specifically addressed on the packaging.

ANIMAL-TESTING: assume all make-up, beauty products like shampoos, contact lenses & solution, and even cleaning chemicals have been tested on animals, and not nicely. Make sure these products have explicitly been labeled "no animal testing".

CHILD-LABOR: unless your chocolate bares the Fair-Trade certification or specifically addresses it, assume that workers are not fairly compensated for grueling hours of labor and more of these workers are likely to be children then you think.
Also buy Fair-Trade red, black, green or white teas as well.

UNCALLED FOR RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION & UNFAIR PRICES: buy shade-grown coffee, since coffee naturally loves to grow under the rainforest canopy, but is often grown in clear-cut forest areas. It does not make sense. Coffee also can be bought Fair-Trade or organic, both ensuring fair prices & proper environmental resect.

EXPLOITED CRAFTSMEN: buy only fair-trade indigenous art and handicrafts from foreign countries- especially those in Asia, Africa & South America. Make sure these artists were compensated fairly for their hardwork.

SWEAT-SHOPS: assume all clothing & footwear not made in the US, Canada or EU and all manner of objects made in China especially to have been made by underpaid workers in unfair, unsafe factories. Buy American made to vote for more jobs in the US and less outsourcing to foreign countries.

SAVE POUNDS OF CHEMICALS FROM BEING DUMPED ONTO THE EARTH: buy only organic cotton, because cotton is heavily pesticided. Bamboo is an eco-friendly wood alternative, but the process to make it into clooth is chemical & energy intensive. Hemp is a very earth-friendly clothing fiber- not as water hungry as cotton. Organic clothes cost more, but we are used to sweatshop labor prices. Buy sweatshop free hemp or organic cotton or secondhand clothes. Do research before trying new eco-friendly fibers to make sure they are truly friendly.

JET-SETTING PRODUCE & DISAPPEARING FARMS: if your going to buy non-local out-of-season produce, such as Californian organic strawberries in Winter or otherwise non-local produce, such as South African oranges, keep in mind that your produced was either trucked or flown into the area, from possibly 1500, or many more miles away. Truck transport is bad enough for the environment, flying is even worse. Eat local & seasonal produce from your local farmer's market-pay your farmer the money he deserves for his work-instead of him getting 4 cents of the dollar you spend at the grocery store. Support your local farmers.

CAFO MEAT, MILK, AND EGGS: remember that you can assume that all dairy products, eggs and meat at fast-food joints, restaurants and most if not all at your chain grocery stores came from CAFO'S- not your local farm. Always choose local animal products. Know what farm your food came from. If you truly cannot afford local animal products go vegan, eat only home cooking and pack your lunches. You'll be healthier, it's much cheaper and there are numerous recipes online to help you.

TOXIC OUTGASSING: unless you buy specifically zero VOC products or find a green wet-cleaners, assume that paints, plywood, particleboard, wood paneling, carpets/carpet pads, insulation, finishes, solvents, adhesives, air fresheners, dry-cleaned garments, synthetic fabrics, cleaning products, body care products, art & hobby supplies, mothballs, insecticides and aerosol products are putting dangerous volatile organic compounds into the air we breathe. These can make you sick. They are poisonous. Eliminate them or find alternatives.


After considering the above specific situations, here are a few more general guidelines:

DO YOU REALLY NEED IT? Honestly, can you repair or repurpose what you already have or just go without it?

IF YOU REALLY NEED IT, HOW CAN YOU BUY IT WITH THE LEAST NEGATIVE/MOST POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL & SOCIAL IMPACT? Buy it second-hand. Buy locally grown or made. Purchase 100% recycled paper products or use cloth (old clothes make great rags, cloth napkins, cloth diapers, cloth wipes). Buy organic, fair-trade, shade-grown and or biodiverse. Buy in bulk with the least packaging possible. Glass is better than plastic- try & avoid plastics as much as possible. Make as little trash as possible and try & reduce what you have to recycle- lowest total waste.

BUY HIGH QUALITY, TAKE CARE OF WHAT YOU HAVE, DISPOSE OF IT RESPONSIBLY. Buy things that will last, don't buy disposable or poorly made items. Respect what you own and treat it with care, helping it to last. Fix or repurpose broken items. Donate, pass on, share whenever possible. Recycle properly all appliances, electronics, paints, chemicals, batteries and compact flourescent lightbulbs. Never throw these things into the trash.

Applying mindfulness to our consumption will greatly reduce our burden on the planet, save us time and money, prevent stressful clutter, and possibly improve our health and well being. Mindfully making wise purchases can help us to positively impact farmers and artisans all over the world, voting for fair wages & humane standards in factories and fields. We can support local farms & the local economy.

However, to do so, we must walk the talk. The capitalist system never turns a blind-eye to the almighty dollar. Every single dollar we spend counts. Every single one votes for what we want. Like it or not, this is our reality. So we cannot ignore the burden of responsibility. Our dollar can vote for what we believe is right or what we loathe, but the choice is ours when we make EVERY purchase. Put your money where your heart and mouth are. Use your power wisely at all times.

We are surrounded by miracles...

Reading my book or movies reviews may make you wonder if I'm a closet pessimist. I assure you, I am not. The reason that I take such a hard line opinion on matters I see as gravely important is that they effect ALL of us the same. All earthlings, not just humans, but all living creatures, including the earth itself.

All of our lives are truly interconnected. And we all experience the same array of emotions in the course of our life, feelings & experiences are simultaneously personal and universal.

All of life if filled with miracles. From the miracle of pregnancy & birth, to the miracles of wisdom & experience. From the largest mountain to the food we eat to the joy of breathing. From putting away your Winter clothes to the bliss of flip-flops & a warm breeze, and back to the crisp refreshment of the Autumn chill after a parching Summer, bringing a miraculous palette of turning leaves.
From the smile of a stranger to the generous help of a neighbor, from the eyes of a child to the love they spark in us. Miracles come in all forms, like Mom's cooking or the joy of a hot shower, all places, like a random act of kindness at the convenience store or exquisite sunset at the park, and at all times, like the near silent sound of pure snow falling in the middle of the night. Our coffee & chocolate, grown in equitorial lands, touching so many lives before in comes to delight our senses. Our breath is a miracle- sustaining life force & able to alter our mood and body chemistry. All of life is a miracle within a miracle, and each moment brings countless miracles to us.

Indeed, it is remarkable, that all events in history bring us the unfolding of each present moment. This moment is a result of everything I have ever experienced- had one day been different, life would have delivered me to a different present moment reality. The same is true for all of us & each moment. All of the phenomena and potential possibilities of the universe intersected in such a way, to produce infinite present moments experienced from as many points of view as there are beings to experience it. And so, miracles truly abound.

This is what the Buddha taught. He didn't tell us the all life is suffering, that is a poor translation. He said that our nature is to experience disatisfaction. We suffer because we are ignorant to the nature of reality, which is constant change. We suffer because we are not awake, we are living with our eyes closed. Once we pay attention to the details of our reality in each moment, we find the miracle in each moment.

Buddha never promised that we'd never feel pain, sorrow, disappointment or anger. Only that applying mindfulness, we can let these experiences pass by, we can even learn from them, but they need not make us suffer. We can have joy while we are sick. We can have love while we have anger. And we can focus on the positive aspects of our reality instead of dwelling on the negative. Thus, our experience of the world becomes transformed.

As we learned in science class, yoga & the Buddha, who was a yogi, taught that all of life is woven into an interconnected tapestry. Numerous living beings depend on the ecosystems vast array of relationships. It can never come to pass that just one species is affected, because the success of all depends on the success of one. The same is true for humans. Culture lives in the minds of human beings. As the minds of individuals change, society itself changes.

We practice yoga not because people tell us we should, or because its forced upon us, but because it helps us to feel better. I feel like a better, healthier person when I do yoga. When I feel like a better person, I act accordingly in life. Thus, I am a better person because I do yoga. But it is important to realize that it is not the yoga making us better, it is the yoga revealing our natural, healthy state of being. The result is within us, the yoga practice is a tool to reveal it. Awareness, compassion, generosity, strength, poise, and peace are within us as potential states at all times. Yoga waters those seeds & gives them the encouragement to grow. All states are potential within us like seeds, both positive and negative. It is through practice, repetition and mindfulness that we choose whichs seeds to cultivate. That, too, is a beautiful miracle.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Yoga of Sustainability


Beginning in the last chapter, biodiversity was introduced. Biodiversity describes the numerous varieties within each species of plants & animals raised in human agriculture. Each variety has developed over generations of adaptation to climate, varying weather conditions, and resisting pests & diseases. Simutaneously they also were chosen for unique color & taste properties, & these factors actually are nature's way of expressing nutrition. Biodiversity in food plants and farm animals is a result of the on-going process of their evolution.

A large share of what decimates & ravages the Earth is the unstable & impossibly unsustainable globalized food system. One of the most disturbing elements of this food system is that its based mainly on selling farmers patented genetically-modified seeds & suing them into ruin for saving their seeds. Here are presented the basics of what is happening, why its unsustainable and how to do the right thing, but reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver will present a more full view of the problem and solution.

If biodiversity and polyculture are the heroes of sustainable agriculture, then capitalism, genetic-modification & monoculture are the villians. Farmers have always had the responsibility of feeding the people. Farms are ecosystems, including not just food plants & livestock animals but also grass, microorganisms, insects, birds, sun, water, people & abstract concepts to honor the natural functions & needs of animals and ecosystem alike- rotation, diversity, and loops of interconnection large & small.

Each region was served by farmland and families of farmers- respectable earth-workers that learned to care for the land & animals, those that knew the subtleties of coaxing food from the land with resourcefulness & the ability to enrich the land's fertility. This was no mindless skill, the farmer's knowledge & mindfulness needed to be vast to be successful, and so much life depended on this success.

Before the 20th century, all seeds were heirloom, all farm animals heritage- in other words, farmers saved their best tasting, heartiest seeds for next year's planting, & the healthiest heartiest animals bred.

Farming was slowly undermined and taken over by big business. Farms were choked out by big agribusiness megafarms. These small, diverse, sustainable & regionalized family farms were stomped out or, facing bankruptcy, forced to become part of the agribusiness machine. Agribusiness farms want quantity over quality, conformity over taste, and use chemicals, inhumane animal treatment and hormones, among other environmentally & socially devistating tactics to produce more, bigger, fatter, faster, but only of one crop or one animal at once.

Instead of have polyculture, or the growing of several plant & animal varieties, the agribusiness farms focus on monoculture, just one. This fact, teamed with genetically-modified seeds that aren't allowed to adapt naturally to withstand weather, pests & blights anymore, can make these mega-monocultures very open to crop failures.

Still, many farmers have been led to believe that becoming part of this system was the only way to stay in business. In 50 or so years Americans went from knowing the farmers that grew their food to a food system based on a seasonless globalized machine of reallocating food. The people have forgotten how to eat whole, natural, season foods, farmers were becoming slaves to multination corporations that took over more than 75% of our entire food system, and these companies got rich. This is the food represented at your grocery store. This food often travels, on average, 1500 miles from farm to plate. So, if tomatoes are in season in your county, you are still probably finding another state's tomatoes at your local grocery store. This is just just one example of how absurd, unstable, inefficient & unfair our current food system is.

Animals are not raised on farms, but CAFO'S, Confined Animal Feeding Operations. This isn't true for all of the meat, milk & eggs sold in this country, only more than 80%, but this 80% reflects 100% of fast food animal products, and nearly all of the supply found at chain grocery stores nation-wide.

CAFO's keep animals in unnatural conditions, force them to eat antibiotic-laced corn, which is not there natural food, & thus causes them ill health- in the case of cows it causes them lots of pain and increases the instances of deadly E. COLI, deadly to the humans that eat them. CAFO animals, be they chickens, cows, turkeys, or pigs stand (or lay if they are too weak to stand) in the mass of feces from themselves and their prisonmates. These animals live tortured lives, start to finish. They are not healthy and happy.

Although at the grocery store the labels, purposefully deceiving, show happy pastoral scenes, this is not where eggs, meat, milk (and thus cheese & other dairy products) come from. Some terms on labels are regulated, like organic, but some are not, like natural. And even the organic stuff has a decent chance of coming from what is basically an organic CAFO, better than its non-organic counterpart, but not kind enough to the earth or the animal.

Combining the results of all of these factors- monoculture, genetic-modification, CAFO animal products, animal cruelty, deadly E. Coli, and we have a pretty dangerous and unstable system. It also depends on oil so heavily- for proscessing, shipping, and even in growing, that it is an extremely environmentally destructive force all around. And, its also destructive to the public health. White flour products, which so much of the plastic offerings at the grocery store are, laden with corn & soy additives are highly contributing to the epidemic of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Even corn-fed animal products have a negative impact on health where their counterparts from animals fed the natural diet on which they evolved do not.

Yet again, the way to protect our health and the earth's is the same. And in this same way we can strengthen our national food system, our local economy and our bodies. The solution is to choose locally grown food. Shop at farmer's markets and co-operative markets. Only buy milk, meat and eggs from farmers that you know are raising their animals in a humane & old-fashioned way. boycott fast food. Grow a garden of heirloom variety produce. Stop buying processed food.

More details of a localized diet will be shared in the chapter on lifestyle. To protect bioiversity, the earth & your health, eat locally, especially all animal products. You will taste the difference!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Watch Food Inc. ASAP-it'll change your life!

Food Inc. is a powerful hour and a half film. It brings together the authors of Fast Food Nation & The Omnivore's Dilemma. It raises a good point- Americans don't know where their food comes from. Most Americans are so complacent that they don't care to know, but Food Inc. goes far to make sure that you do know where & what you are eating. And the irony is that once you do know where your food comes from, you'll never again want to be a member of the ignorant crowd. Ignorance isn't bliss, in this case its dangerous.

This is an important film, one that you will want to buy and share with your friends & family. Most people usually put viewing this kind of film off. They suspect something's not right with our capitalist convenience-worshipping disposable food system, but they are afraid of change, afraid of the truth. However, you will deeply regret not knowing sooner.

The most important purpose of this film is the imperetive next step. Food Inc. makes a strong & honest case against a corrupted & harmful system. No one can watch this film attentively and feel good about the food on offer at the grocery store or at your chain & fast food restaurant.

The next step is to change the way you eat. If you watch this film & ignore or accept the environmental & social crimes, the depraved animal abuse perpetrated by this multi-billion dollar industry, you are proving them right- right that we are fools to be exploited for their gains. They treat all of us as their fools- the consumer, the worker, the animals & the earth.

We can accept this abuse, & with it the shorter, sicker life we will live because of the unnutritious corn-filled processed schlock we are sold. Or, with a little more planning ahead & mindfulness, we can opt out, we can eat from a different food chain. A clean one, a respectful one, one that nourishes, heals & protects us.

Please shop at farmer's markets, co-ops & locally owned & operated health food stores. Buy animal products (meat, dairy products, milk, & eggs) that come from small, local farms. Boycott fast food & all grocery store animal products. Eat local produce in season or preserve it through freezing & canning. Grow your own produce, join a CSA, go to the farmer's market. Pack your lunch, use a crockpot to make convenient dinners.

Since our capitalist society effectively let's us control it through supply & demand, vote intelligently with every dollar. Although our food system is skewed to make the most natural & nutritious foods more expensive than the harmful & nutritionally useless ones, we each need to fight the good battle of protecting our selves & families from this nutritional abuse. If you truly cannot find or afford local products, go vegan, (Abstain from all animal products). This is a cheap way to eat better. If your food budget is that tight, you shoudn't buy ANY beverages, except for tea bags perhaps. You don't need to buy beverages, just drink water! Each beans of all kinds, whole grains of all kinds, olive oil, all manner of spices & herbs, & as many fresh vegetables as you can afford.

Thankfully, most of us CAN afford to eat only local produce & animal products. Exercise your right & choose to do so. After watching Food Inc. you'll never want to eat any other way again.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Yoga of Sustainability: a simpler, healthier, happier world


There is interconnection among all things in nature, and so, there is similarity in protecting all elements. Protecting the air & water is protecting the land- be mindful not to use, drop or dump batteries, chemicals, electronics, plastics, pharmaceuticals and the like outdoors or elsewhere.

Most of us see dirt as inanimate, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In a teaspoon full of healthy dirt one could find thousands of microorganisms, easily. It is the bacteria present in soil that "fix" nitrogen for the plant's natural fertilization. Adding chemical fertilizers destroys this system & makes the soil naturally barren, dependent on chemical's for its fertility.

Unique to soil is the concept of errosion, the preventing of the washing away of precious topsoil. Whenever you are out enjoying nature, RESIST THE URGE TO REMOVE OR MOVE ROCKS OR TO WALK OUTSIDE OF MARKED NATURE TRAILS. IF WALKING IN AREAS WITHOUT MARKED TRAILS, FOLLOW A WATERWAY OR NATURAL TRAIL. DO NOT PICK WILD PLANTS. In your yard, never spray chemicals on your lawn, even herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. As we've seen, they destroy the ecosystem of the soil, making it more prone to washing away.

Try to landscape your yard with indigenous plants. Importing plants from other climates can actually wreak havoc on ecosystems. Just like introduced animals can multiply unchecked & ravage landscapes, so too can can introduced plants choke out native plants that occupy an important niche in the local ecosystem. TRY LANDSCAPING WITH ONLY INDIGENOUS PLANT VARIETIES: local healing herbs, perreniel herbs, heirloom fruit trees, berry plants and local wetland grasses in pond areas. Working with native plants increases pest & weather-resistence, reduces watering needs & gives you an opportunity to create aesthetically-pleasing habitat for birds, butterflies & mammals. Learn about indigenous plants & local habitats online, or request them at your local nursery.

When growing food plants, choose heirloom variety seeds. These seeds, unlike hybrid or genetically-modified seeds, will adap generation after generation to resist blights, droughts, pests and to adapt to changes in weather. These seeds will develop richer, more complex tastes, more nutrients & more resistence, evolving with every generation. When each plant's growing season is complete you collect the seeds & plant again. Heirloom vegetables are amazingly diverse & hearty. Our current grocery store globalized unnatural & insecure food system tends to cultivate one variety of each food plant, letting the other varieties disappear. Commercial seeds are bred in labs by scientists who manipulate genes, usually concerning themselves with qualities such as conformity of size & shape, and ability to prolong shelf-life. As grocery store tomatoes & red delicious apples show, taste is not as important. Likewise animals are bred for ability to grow bigger, faster and on a diet of corn. Many of these CAFO prisoners never see sunlight & have forgotten how to breed. PROTECT BIODIVERSITY & FOOD SECURITY BY GROWING HEIRLOOM VARIETY PLANTS & BUYING OR RAISING HERITAGE VARIETY LIVESTOCK ANIMALS. IF YOU CAN'T GROW YOUR OWN, PROTECT THE LAND BY BUYING ONLY LOCALLY RAISED ANIMAL PRODUCTS & VEGETABLES AT FARMER'S MARKETS & COOPERATIVES.

Do not cut down mature trees unless they are severly damaged or pose imminent danger. If you are clearing trees to build a home, use those trees to build furniture or floors. Smaller trees can be moved if they are growing too close to ther trees to be able to mature or are growing too close to a foundation. Try to transplant them in early Spring, sooner than you may want to be out there, but at the ideal time for the tree. If you can't transplant a young tree that absolutely cannot stay, cut it down as early as possible. Once trees reach about ten years old they start trapping larger amunts of carbon dioxide, which is released when they die. If an older tree has to be cut down use the wood for a special fire or building project if you can.

When enjoying nature, MAKE SURE TO CARRY-OUT ALL FOOD & TRASH CARRIED IN. DO NOT FEED ANIMALS IN WILD PLACES. It's hard to resist, but don't feed animals in parks (like ducks in Congress Park). This difficult to understand, but feeding animals in wild places makes them learn to prefer & depend on human food sources, forgeting to forage. Also, in the case of ducks, increasingly they may be reticent to migrate, and face Winter starvation. In addition, increasing the population due to the extra food source increases feces, which upsets the land & water balance. Land and water ecosystems are able to process only a certain amount of waste- naturally the amount of foods avaiable will maintain the proper population density of all creatures to support their life & absorb their waste to enrich the environment. Messing with the natural equilibrium harms the animals & the land.

Protecting the land and life it supports by respecting the delicate but deeply interconnected relationships between microorganisms, plants, minerals, animals, insects, sun, air, & water. All of the concepts that sustain healthy air and waterways will apply to protecting the land as well. Use your mindfullness to guide you in respectful interaction as a part of, not apart from, the ecosystems of Earth.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Yoga of Sustainability: a simpler, healthier, happier world


Luckily, America caught on with air protection fairly early on, relatively speaking. Unfortunately G. W. Jr was the most environmentally incompetant president this country has ever seen, and so our Clean Air Act has been weakened. However; we've never had strict enough regulations to help in the most necessary ways. One victory, is that the EPA fought to classify Greenhouse Gases as a threat to the safety of Americans, and thus, obtain the power to regulate them. But, as in all matters, our mindfulness can guide us faster and better than regulations.

In the home, outgassing of toxic, often unnoticed fumes from new paint, carpets & furniture are making people ill. Called "sick building syndrome", this toxicity is dangerous, especially in professional building with no direct air exchange with the outdoors. Do you know that "nice" new carpet smell, new paint job smell, new home smell, new car smell..? That is out-gassing, & so is that smell of plastic, vinyl, and anything similar.

In your home, USE ONLY ZERO OR ULTRA-LOW VOC PAINTS, FINISHES AND WOOD STAINS. Voc's or volatile organic compounds, are just that, volatile. Its worth the extra money to protect your health and the earth.

BUY SECOND-HAND FURNITURE, REUPHOLSTER YOURSELF WITH NATURAL MATERIALS, OR BUY NEW UNFINISHED FURNITURE MADE OF SOLID WOOD OBTAINED FROM CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY PRACTICES. And unless you install all natural, cruelty-free wool or fiber carpeting, (such as hemp, coconut or similar renewable, untreated plant fibers) DON'T INSTALL CARPETS. They trap allegens, dirt and grime anyways. Bamboo or cork floors with ultra-low or zero voc varnish are the way to go.

Whenever you smell that "new product" smell, its most likely harmful. In order to smell something, you are inhaling particles of it, so it can have an impact on your health over time. EVEN SYNTHETIC FRAGRENCES, COLOGNES, PERFUMES & THE FRAGRENCE OF CONVENTIONAL SOAPS & SHAMPOOS, DISH SOAPS & LAUNDRY DETERGENTS, & FABRIC SOFTENER ARE ALL UNHEALTHY FOR YOU AND THE EARTH.

That which you place on your skin is absorbed into your body, so be mindful of what you use. USE 100 PERCENT PURE ESSENTIAL OILS INSTEAD OF PERFUMES OR COLOGNES. You can find recipes online to make your own signature scent.


All natural, certified organic shampoos, conditioners & soaps should be the only kind you use for your body & the precious bodies of your loved ones. Do not trust vague labelling- certified organic is the only proven qualifier of natural quality. Legally, the word natural is meaningless. Beauty products should say specifically that they are not tested on animals and do not contain animal ingredients. Aveda & The Body Shop are leaders in ethically & environmentally responsible products. In addition, they shouldn't contain any petroleum products, phosphates, and should be marked as biodegradable. Many people question the safety of proplene glycol & SLS (sodium laurel or laureth sulfate).

If the perfumes that smell "good" in your bath & beauty products are unhealthy for you & the earth, its not hard to imagine that the noxious smelling home cleaning chemicals are even worse. Take all of these terrible things in to your local tranfer station or call the local DEC office to find out where to take for proper disposal. USE ONLY A COUPLE TRULY NATURAL PRODUCTS TO REPLACE A WHOLE HOUSE FULL OF TOXIC ONES. Replace window cleaner with either white vinegar & water wiped with a clean rag, a dry piece of newspaper, or water with a light touch of soap and a clean rag. YOU CAN USE AN ULTRA-CONCENTRATED ECO-FRIENDLY SOAP, such as Dr. Bronner's or Biokleen as varying strengths TO DO ANYTHING from wash the car, the dishes, the floors, counters, porcelain & appliances to hand washing as well. In fact, Dr. Bronner's can be used on hair & body as well!

Anything you spray into the air gets around, harming those who breathe it, and washing into the water supply as well. PLEASE DO NOT SPRAY YOUR LAWN. PLEASE DON'T USE SPRAY PAINT- YOU CAN USE ZERO VOC PAINT IN A SPRAYER.

Camp fires are a pleasure, but also a privelege. Brush fires are convenient, but not an excuse to burn trash. PLEASE DO NOT BURN PLASTICS, METALS OR PRINTED PACKAGING. IF YOU ARE BURNING BRUSH OR HAVING A BONFIRE, USE NATURAL BRUSH & UNTREATED WOOD. BE RESPONSIBLE & DON'T BURN OFTEN.

BECOME FUEL EFFICIENT and carpool, consolidate errands and walk & drive less. Get an electric scooter if it fits your lifestyle, ride your bike, or take public transportation. These tips will cut down on greenhouse gas pollution. So will working from home (telecommuting) and keeping your vehicle well-maintained. To get the best fuel economy keep your tires properly inflated and DRIVE 55. Its hard to do, but DRIVING THAT TEN mph SLOWER BOOSTS FUEL ECONOMY BY UP TO 20%!

Likewise, A WELL-INSULATED HOME & PROPERLY MAINTAINED HEATING SYSTEM (PROFESSIONALLY CLEANED EACH YEAR) HELPS TO INCREASE HOME ENERGY ECONOMY. Update windows, use recycled paper based Green Fiber insulation, or castor oil based spray foam to keep your home energy efficient, reducing fossil fuel related air pollution.

SUPPORT GREEN ENERGY. Opt for renewable energy through your power provider. It is affordable- on a bill of $200, your charge for green energy will usually be around $20. It's worth protecting the environment! LOOK INTO SOLAR PV PANELS- IN NY, NYSERDA HAS A PROGRAM OF FINANCING & GRANTS TO HELP HOMEOWNERS GO SOLAR!

Being mindful of what you send into the air directly (paints, chemicals, cleaners) and indirectly (via fossil fuel use & purchases-discussed later) is crucial to protecting the air we all breathe.