Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Step Inside the Silicon Valley of Agriculture


[National Geographic] How did the Netherlands, a country better known for its tulips, become a leading tomato producer and the top exporter of onions and potatoes? With more than half its land area used for agriculture, the nation is a pioneer in greenhouse horticulture. Dutch farmers are trailbrazing innovative methods that result in producing more food with fewer resources—methods that are increasingly relevant as climate change and more dramatic cycles of drought and flooding wreak havoc on traditional farming, coupled with a global population on target to reach 10 billion by 2050.
The Dutch landscape is home to swaths of greenhouses that minimize gas, electricity, and water usage along with greenhouse gas emissions while maximizing the use of sunlight and recycling nutrients. Further innovation comes in the form of the buildings themselves—construction materials, lighting, and heating and cooling systems.
But not every strategy is necessarily high-tech. Some tap the power of nature. To reduce the use of pesticides, many growers have turned to what’s known as “biocontrol” to protect their crops, using insects, mites, and microscopic worms to feed on damaging pests.
State-of-the-art technology also fuels the business of getting produce and flowers to market. Round-the-clock packaging plants and highly-automated cargo terminals at the port of Rotterdam help maintain the country’s rank as the number two global exporter of food products (by value) behind the United States.
Now the country has added knowledge and technology to its extensive list of exports. The government, universities, research institutes, and private growers and breeders are involved in food systems projects around the world. This export of knowledge also happens on Dutch soil—at university campuses where thousands of international students earn degrees to help address food security issues in their home countries. Read More

A Sequence to Connect to Your Crown Chakra

[Yoga International] The chakras, mystical components of subtle body anatomy, have become so popular as to belie their esoteric origins. The bija (seed) mantras, symbolism, and elemental associations used to express and define these subtle centers are rich sources of inquiry and thematic inspiration for practice. But as a component of the subtle body, the chakras are traditionally thought to be nearly inaccessible except for those with highly developed and nuanced meditative capacities.
In Yoga & Ayurveda David Frawley writes: “The purpose of opening one’s chakras is not to improve one’s capacity in the ordinary domains of human life, but to go beyond our mortal and transient seeking to the immortal essence.” Frawley goes on to remind us that: “According to the yoga system, in the ordinary human state, which is rarely transcended except by sustained spiritual practice, the chakras are closed; that is, they do not truly function. The result of this is not disease, but ignorance.
The ignorance that results from being unable to access these energy centers is self-identification with things that are constantly in flux—our physical bodies, thoughts and opinions, relationships, or even our preferences.
While asana can be a magnificent opportunity to observe our own tendencies toward the erratic mental behavior that accompanies attachment, we yoga practitioners often fixate on “The Pose” as a meaningful end in itself. Thus, we continue to toil in avidya (ignorance).
In their book Yoga Anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews have a beautiful way of putting asana into perspective for a subtle-body-focused practice: An asana, or yoga pose, is a container for an experience. An asana is not an exercise for strengthening or stretching a particular muscle or muscle group, although it might have that effect. It is a form that we inhabit for a moment, a shape that we move into and out of, a place where we might choose to pause in the continuously flowing movement of life. In yoga poses, we experience a cross-section of a never-ending progression of movement and breath, extending infinitely forward and backward in time.
With a chakra-focused asana practice, this notion of an asana being a “container for an experience” is a crucial qualification. While we cannot engage any of the chakras directly through our physical efforts, the yoga tradition holds that we can affect the flow of prana (vital energy) and direct our awareness toward a single, stable point. This focus is one of the ways Patanjali suggests that practitioners attain yoga, the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
While it may not be accurate to say that I can effect change in my root, or muladhara chakra, I can inquire into the quality of earth (the element associated with that chakra) and my relationship to stability, and I can concentrate on the gross (physical) body as a kind of structural sheath for my mind.
The crown chakra, aka sahasrara (the thousand-petaled lotus), is where the masculine and feminine forces, Shiva and Shakti, are said to unite and imbue the meditator with tremendous clarity and awakening.
The crown chakra is described as being just above the crown of the head, beyond the physical body itself.
The way to access any of the chakras is through sushumna nadi, the central channel, along which the chakras are oriented. Sushumna is fed by side channels, called ida (on the left) and pingala (on the right), associated with Shakti and Shiva, respectively. Shiva is associated with the right half of the body and Shakti with the left.
The esoteric dynamic of push and pull, up and down, masculine and feminine, is embodied by each of us in the breath through exhalation (Shiva) and inhalation (Shakti). Read More


‘Death puts a pall on visitors’: California wine country wonders when tourists will return

[Sacramento Bee] The sun was shining, the temperatures were pleasant and, by all rights, the tasting room at Buena Vista Winery should have been packed Sunday.
Instead, California’s oldest winery was surrounded by a phalanx of exhausted, soot-covered firefighters. Wine barrels were dusted in ash, and the fountain in front of the 19th-century stone-and-mortar building was filled with muddy gray water. A nearby oak tree still smoldered, and the hillside was charred to within 20 feet of the winery.
“Doesn’t get much closer,” said Scott Fraser, a weary battalion chief from a Lake Tahoe-area strike team.
After a week of misery and death, Northern California’s devastating wildfires showed signs of easing off Sunday. As winds calmed down, containment grew at most of the major fires and the citywide evacuation order for Calistoga was lifted. More than 25,000 people were allowed to return home across Northern California. The death toll was unchanged at 41 and some evacuation shelters closed down.
“We were able to make considerable progress,” Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
It was also clear, however, that the road to recovery was going to be long and slow. Approximately 75,000 Northern Californians were still displaced, scores of people remained missing and large pockets of Northern California were facing lengthy and painful economic recoveries.
That was particularly true for the tasting rooms, spas and luxury B&Bs that give California’s fabled wine industry its distinctive flavor. Winery owners and innkeepers said they expect to reopen quickly, but they acknowledged that visitors might not be so quick to return.
“That’s the hard part. We’re all ready to get back to normalcy but there may not be a lot of people who will come,” said Erin Stauffer, chief marketing officer at Domaine Carneros, considered one of the most elegant wineries in the region. “We anticipate that.”
Located west of the city of Napa, Domaine Carneros plans to reopen Tuesday.
The wildfires’ timing couldn’t be worse. Fall is prime time for visitors to Napa and Sonoma, where tourism is a $3.2 billion-a-year industry – or about three times the size of the annual wine grape crop. As many as 10 percent of the visitors come from overseas. Read More

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article179039576.html?anf=LOCAL#storylink=cp

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article179039576.html?anf=LOCAL#storylink=cpy

Another Victim of Hurricane Maria: Puerto Rico’s Treasured Rainforest

[New York Times] When you looked up, you could once see nothing but the lush, emerald canopy of tabonuco and sierra palm trees covering El Yunque National Forest.
That was before Hurricane Maria obliterated the only tropical rain forest in the United States forest system. Left behind was a scene so bare that on a recent visit, it was possible to see the concrete skyline of San Juan about 30 miles west — a previously unimaginable sight.
El Yunque, pronounced Jun-kay, has been an enormous source of pride in Puerto Rico and one of the main drivers of the island’s tourism industry. The 28,000-acre forest on the eastern part of the island has over 240 species of trees; 23 of those are found nowhere else. Over 50 bird species live among the forest’s crags and waterfalls.
But sunlight now reaches cavities of the forest that have not felt a ray of light in decades, bringing with it a scorching heat.
“Hurricane Maria was like a shock to the system,” said Grizelle Gonz├ílez, a project leader at the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, part of United States Department of Agriculture. “The whole forest is completely defoliated.”
The hardest hit areas at the top of the forest “might take a century to recover,” Ms. Gonz├ílez, who has worked at El Yunque for 17 years, said.
Tree trunks that still stood were left brown, stripped of their leaves and dark-green mosses. Landslides have scattered the forest with mounds of displaced soil and boulders.
The billions of gallons of water that rain every year on the eight major rivers that originate here supply 20 percent of the drinkable water in Puerto Rico.
“What’s going to happen if the ecosystem has less capacity to capture that water, get it into the streams, and into the municipal water systems?” Sharon Wallace, the forest supervisor for El Yunque, said. Read More