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 González, 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. González, 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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Volcano Eruption From 16.5 Million Years Ago That Helped Cool Earth, Explained

[IB Times] Volcanic eruptions have served as cornerstones to evolution on Earth. From aiding the creation of first signs of life on Earth to the extinction of dinosaurs, volcanic eruptions constantly feature as important events in history that altered the course of planetary evolution.
Now researchers at Washington State University have determined that the Pacific Northwest was home to one of the Earth's largest known volcanic eruptions around 16.5 million years ago.
In fact, only two eruptions were larger than the one in the Pacific Northwest: the basalt flood of the Siberian Traps and the Deccan Traps.
These eruptions, a millennia-long spewing of sulfuric gas that blocked out the sun and cooled the planet, also led to large-scale extinction of life on the planet.
"These eruptions did have a global effect on temperatures, but not drastic enough to start killing things, or it did not kill enough of them to affect the fossil record," said John Wolff, a professor in the WSU School of the Environment, in a report by phys.org.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and published in Geology journal. It connects geological and archaeological data from across the world to connect the dots to a major, landscape changing event in our planets’ history.
The team estimated the eruption to have occurred 16.5 million years ago. Vents found in Washington and Northwest Oregon sent the flow of basalt from the eruption all the way from Canada to the Pacific Ocean.
This flow formed the Wapshilla Ridge Member of the Grande Ronde Basalt, a kilometer-thick block familiar to travelers in the Columbia Gorge and most of Eastern Washington. This is the largest basalt flood map plotted till date. Read More

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Wildfires are sweeping through California. Here’s what you need to know

[PBS] Clusters of wildfires continue to rip through Northern California and Anaheim, propelled by powerful winds and dry conditions.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reported Tuesday that 17 fires are currently charring more than 110,000 acres across the region, though some of the smaller fires are up to 50 percent contained. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in eight counties. Fire officials have yet to determine a cause for the fires in Northern California.
The fires began Sunday and grew within a matter of hours, prompting thousands to flee. Some of the largest blazes have burned through through Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties in Northern California. The speed of the blaze took fire officials by surprise, burning through 20,000 acres in 12 hours on Monday night. Further south, residents of Anaheim Hills and Orange County were also forced to evacuate as a brush fire, now 25 percent contained, burned through 7,500 acres and destroyed 24 structures. 
The intensity of the Napa firestorm over a span of a few hours make it one of the worst in the state’s history.
Though the cause of these fires aren’t yet known, research continues to find human activity to blame for a majority of nationwide fires. From leftover campfires to wayward fireworks, it is said that up to 84 percent of fires are human caused.
Officials told media outlets at least 15 people died in the fires and more than 1,500 homes and business have been destroyed.
As of Monday, more than 100 people were also injured by the fires, officials told CNN. Most patients were treated for smoke inhalation. The destroyed businesses include at least two wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties, the Associated Press reported.
Santa Rosa, home to 175,000 people, saw some of the worst damage. Some residents told The New York Times, they “couldn’t even find the street” to their neighborhood once the fire had burnt through the area. Read More

We throw out $31M of food every year. This chef is reclaiming some to feed the poor

[The Globe and Mail] The carrot had one top but two roots.
Normally, such a thing would never wind up on grocery shelves, let alone a commercial kitchen. At best, a "forked" carrot might be trucked to a farm somewhere and used as animal feed. At worst, it would wind up in a landfill to decompose.
But last week in her kitchen near downtown Vancouver, as Chef Karen Barnaby turned the vegetable over in her hands, she only saw potential.
"If you think about all the time that went into making this carrot, getting it right here, into my hand …" she said. She set the gnarled root down on her cutting board to dice.
"From the seed, to the people who planted it and harvested it – to have someone say 'Oh no, sorry, that's a two-pronged carrot, I don't want to use it?'" Her voice trailed off, a bewildered look on her face.
On that day and most days in her kitchen of late, Ms. Barnaby's focus has been on turning similarly unloved vegetables into soup. Specifically, tomato soup.
For the past few months in her role as a chef working with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (GVFB), she's been salvaging tomatoes and other donated ingredients directly from farmers and suppliers – food that would otherwise wind up in landfills. Overripe tomatoes with skin that stretched and split when squeezed. Tomatoes with bruises on them. Pale, anemic-looking ones not likely to ripen. These ingredients will make up her soup.
In the food world, these are sometimes referred to as "below seconds" – still safe and edible, but unacceptable to retailers. In order to understand the scope of what was available, Chef Barnaby's partner on the project, Alexa Pitoulis, went straight to the packing plant lines, where she stood over workers' shoulders, watching as they sorted. Whenever a worker would pluck a bunch of tomatoes to discard, Ms. Pitoulis would lean in to see if they were still usable. Often, the answer was yes.
What she witnessed at the packing plants is part of a much larger problem that affects every segment of the food industry. An estimated $31-billion worth of food – mostly fruit, vegetables and meat – is needlessly thrown out in Canada every year. Globally, about one-third of all food produced goes to waste. And it happens at every level of the food system – the result of everything from inefficient agricultural practices, to retailers' demand for cosmetically "perfect" produce, to consumers who buy in bulk without regard for necessity.
Wasted food has major environmental repercussions. Producing food only to have it wind up in landfill means already limited resources such as land, water and fertilizer have been squandered. And as that food decomposes, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas – about 3.3-billion tonnes of it each year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Read More

Monday, October 09, 2017

Introduction to the UBUNTU Movement by Michael Tellinger

Hurricane Nate Flooding In Beau Rivage, Mississippi, Alabama Captured In Pictures And Videos

[IBI Times] Hurricane Nate made its way to Mississippi Saturday, bringing heavy flooding to certain parts of the state. Photos and videos from inside casinos in Biloxi showed just how much rain inundated the area.
Hurricane Nate made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River Saturday evening, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm brought hazardous conditions along the coast from Alabama to Louisiana
National Geographic photographer and storm chaser Mike Theiss posted pictures and videos from Biloxi’s Golden Nugget casino, showing floodwaters inside the structure reaching almost halfway up the doors. Other photos and videos from the Beau Rivage Casino showed similarly high flooding.
The Beau Rivage Casino and all other Mississippi casinos closed Saturday in preparation for the storm but most reopened Monday afternoon. The Beau Rivage casino invited residents to celebrate the passing of the storm at the establishment this week.
Power outages were reported throughout the coast some 82,000 people in Alabama remained without power Sunday, according to Alabama Media Group.
Hurricane Nate continued on its northward path after sweeping through Mississippi and other regions, though it was downgraded to a tropical storm Sunday was expected to weaken further as it made its way inland. Nate’s winds had decreased to about 20 mph as it circulated through Ohio Monday. Read More

Rare ‘fire devil’ phenomenon is caught on film sending ash and flames spiralling into the night sky as 1,000 firemen battle Portuguese wildfires

[Daily Mail] A rare phenomenon, known as a fire devil, was caught on camera as it sent a vortex of fire and ash spiralling into the night sky as Portugal battled wild fires.
The apocalyptic-looking sight was filmed on Saturday evening by Portuguese broadcaster TVI as 1,000 firefighters battled five wildfires this weekend.
A ‘fire devil’ is a whirl of fire which looks like a tornado and consists of a core of ash and an invisible rotating pocket of air. 
Fire devils are created when a wildfire or firestorm creates its own wind, which then morphs into a vortex of fire.
Portugal has been devastated by fires this year as the country suffered from drought. 
The deadliest fire in Portugal's history killed 64 people in June when it devastated the central region of Pedrogao Grande.
Many died on a road in their cars as they tried to flee the rampant flames.
The Civil Protection Agency stated that 90 percent of the fires this year were either intentionally or accidentally started by people. Learn More

At least 10 dead, 1,500 structures lost in Northern California firestorm, among worst in state's history

[LA Times] At least 10 people have died and at least 1,500 homes, businesses and other structures have been destroyed as more than 14 fires ravaged eight counties throughout Northern California on Monday, authorities said.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office reported seven fire-related deaths late Monday. In addition, two died because of the Atlas fire in Napa County, said a CalFire spokesperson. One person died as result of the Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County.
The vast devastation over just a few hours made this firestorm one of the worst in California history, with Gov. Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency.
Local hospitals were treating those injured while others are unaccounted for, officials said. Additional fatalities were possible as search efforts continued.
One of the raging fires had Santa Rosa under siege Monday morning, with a large swath of the city north of downtown under an evacuation order.
The area of Fountaingrove appeared to be particularly hard hit, with photos showing numerous homes on fire. The Fountaingrove Inn, a Hilton hotel and a high school also burned. Officials said homes were also lost in the community of Kenwood and at a mobile home park off the 101 Freeway.
Coffey Park, a large Santa Rosa subdivision of dozens of homes, was burned to the ground.
“It’s fair to say it’s been destroyed,” Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said of Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood. Read More