When you think of a world beneath your feet, you’re probably thinking of Will Ferrell’s mosquito bite in Land of The Lost. But what if I told you the secret sauce which will save us the trouble of rising ocean tides is below your feet right now. And it’s not Chaka. Our “savior” is a …
How would life have been for you if: Your parents could only afford to choose one member among your siblings to enroll in school The school was 10km away and When you get there teachers are unprepared or unable to attend due to the large number of children. It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? However; …
Rethink Your Toothbrush When you take the first steps to living a more eco-friendly lifestyle, it can be overwhelming as your research reveals the true impact we, as a society, are making on the environment. Most of which… isn’t good. A red flag that first arose for me was the fact 8,000,000 metric tons of …
Here in the west, Akon is a celebrity mostly known by his musical hits like “Locked Up,” “Lonely,” “Belly Dancer,” and “Ghetto” to name just a few. But his most amazing noteworthy achievement and legacy, which has not been mentioned much in the mainstream western media, is that through his entrepreneurial endeavors stemming from …
There’s no denying that standing in the garden and picking your first summer tomato gives you a good feeling. Even in an urban environment a small pot of basil on the windowsill can brighten your day. But is there a scientific reason that getting our hands dirty makes us feel good?
In 2007, Christopher Lowry, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Center for Neuroscience at Universtiy of Colorado Boulder, and a team of researchers published an article in Neuroscience that had people wondering if dirt was the new Prozac. The study examined a specific soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, and its potential role in the regulation of emotional behavior. In other words: did the bacteria have antidepressant qualities?
“Soil, especially soil with abundant organic matter, contains saprophytic bacteria, meaning that they live off of dead and decaying organic matter, such as leaves,” says Lowry. “Humans coevolved with these bacteria over millennia and they have been shown to affect the immune system in a way that suppresses inflammation. This means that these bacteria may be helpful in preventing or treating diseases with excess inflammation.”
So what exactly are diseases with “inflammation?”
“This includes conditions like asthma, but also, perhaps, stress-related psychiatric disorders characterized by elevated inflammation, such as major depressive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Lowry.
It’s not so surprising that we may benefit from microorganisms in the soil, given that we need them to live.
The regulation of the immune system is indeed connected to the biodiversity of the natural environment. We benefit from being outdoors and exposed to things like soil and animals, because of the fact that we’re exposed to microorganisms.
“A human is not an individual. We are ecosystems. At least 90% of the cells in a human body are microbes, most of them living in the gut,” says Graham Rook, professor at the Centre for Clinical Microbiology at the University College London. ” These organisms constitute the ‘microbiota,’ and the microbiota should be regarded as an organ, just like your liver or your brain.”
While the organisms that make up that microbiota are inherited – like we inherit genes – there is a proportion of the organisms that come from elsewhere, and that’s where things get interesting.
“An unknown proportion of the organisms that constitute the microbiota come from the environment,” says Rock. “It now seems that the most likely explanation for the health benefits of exposure to farms, dogs in the home, and green space is that the natural environment (including the animals in it) is a resource that provides organisms as we need them.”
Just last year Rook published an article that explored those connections, concluding that the regulation of the immune system is indeed connected to the biodiversity of the natural environment. We benefit from being outdoors and exposed to things like soil and animals, because of the fact that we’re exposed to microorganisms.
The psychological benefit of nature has been well documented. When it comes to being happy or not, many studies show that psychiatric problems are more common in urban than in rural communities. That makes Lowry’s and Rook’s research interesting, as it gives us a better understanding of exactly why being outside, in a garden or on a farm, makes us feel good.
“People usually assume that the health benefits of exposure to green space are due to exercise. In fact two large studies now demonstrate that although exercise is definitely good for you, it does not explain the beneficial effect of green space,” says Rook. “Contact with microbial biodiversity is looking like the most probable explanation for the green space effect.”
So if microorganisms are good for you, how much exposure do you need to have in order to reap the benefits? How many days in the garden do you need to commit to?
That’s what’s still unclear.
“We don’t yet know how much exposure to environmental bacteria (for example, through activities that involve contact with the soil) is enough to confer health benefits,” says Lowry. “It is clear, however, that exposure through breathing or consuming specific types of environmental organisms has the capacity to reduce inflammation and confer health benefits.”
Which means that you now have another reason to go outside and get your hands dirty.
The city of Seattle is suing agrochemical giant Monsanto over the contamination of the Lower Duwamish and city drainage pipes with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The complaint, filed Monday in federal court, alleges that Monsanto knew how toxic PCBs were to humans and the environment, but continued to produce and sell the chemicals for decades anyway. Seattle is now the sixth city to sue Monsanto over PCB contamination, following San Jose, Berkeley, Oakland, San Diego, and Spokane.
“Long after the dangers of PCBs were widely known, Monsanto continued its practice of protecting its business interests at our expense,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement. “The City intends to hold Monsanto accountable for the damage its product wreaked on our environment.”
The Lower Duwamish is now considered a federal Superfund site, ranking as one of the most toxic waterways in the United States. The EPA estimates that the full cleanup of the waterway will cost $342 million.
According to the city, PCBs have been detected in 82 percent of drainage pipe samples and 73 percent of street right-of-way catchment basin samples in Lower Duwamish drainage basins. PCB exposure has been linked to several different different types of cancers, as well as endocrine, reproductive, immune system, and nervous system issues. Exposure is wide-ranging; PCBs have been found in everything from fish to human breast milk.
I’ll be heading to a 10:30 press conference at City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office to learn more. In the meantime, read the complaint here.
Even though this article may have been published a year or two ago, it still speaks to the importance of our need to focus our anti-climate change practices on regenerative agriculture. That is why we will continue to republish this so it can become common knowledge. We understand there may be sympathizers for GMO and monoculture farming – the other side of the story must also be heard. – Valhalla
Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.
That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.
The cover of the report looks like that of a blockbuster documentary or Hollywood movie, and the dramatic nature of the title cannot be understated: The time is now to switch back to our natural farming roots.
The findings on the report seem to echo those of a December 2010 UN Report in many ways, one that essentially said organic and small-scale farming is the answer for “feeding the world,” not GMOs and monocultures.
According to the new UN report, major changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems, with a shift toward local small-scale farmers and food systems recommended.
Diversity of farms, reducing the use of fertilizer and other changes are desperately needed according to the report, which was highlighted in this article from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
The Institute noted that these pending deals are “primarily designed to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy…” rather than the reflect the urgent need for a shift in agriculture described in the new report.
Even global security may be at stake according to the report, as food prices (and food price speculating) continue to rise.
“This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers,” the report concludes.
You can read more about the report from the Institute by visiting their website here.
Some are doing the local organic farming right.
Ugandan engineers have built a solar-powered electric bus that they say is a first of its kind in East Africa and think it will revolutionize the automotive market in the region. The Kayoola, as its called, is a 35-seater that can run for up to 80 kilometers on two power banks that can also be recharged by solar panels installed on the roof of the bus.
Paul Musasizi, chief executive officer of Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), the state-funded company behind the vehicle, says with the potential for solar power in Uganda, it only made sense that engineers started to leverage the energy source for cars.
“The bus is purely electric and our idea is to test the strength of solar energy in enabling people to move,” he told a local newspaper.
The company built the prototype with funds from the Ugandan government. But KMC is hoping to attract investors to the project to start producing the buses for the mass market by 2018 at a retail price of $58,000. Typically, 35-seater buses retail between $35,000 to $50,000.
“As we continue with developing concepts, we are also studying the market,” Doreen Orishaba, one of the engineers in the project, told Uganda’s Observer newspaper. “We want to see that we don’t make vehicles for stocking but for production on orders.”
This is not KMC’s first foray into energy efficient car-making. Last year, the company introduced the Kiira Smack, a petrol-electric hybrid that it said would come into the market by 2018 as well for a $20,000 price. But analysts were doubtful at the time of the project’s commercial viability. The price could prove prohibitive, they argued, in a market that sells an estimated 20,000 cars a year. Additionally, in a part of the world where electricity is not a widely available commodity, electric dependent cars could put undue pressure on national grids.
But by using solar as a power source for the Kayoola, KMC may have found a way to overcome that challenge in this instance.
“Uganda being one of the 13 countries positioned along the equator, gives us about eight hours of significant solar energy that can be harvested,” Musasizi says.
We believe that the Amazon is not for sale, nor is it for expanding a primitive source for fuel. Here is a link where you can join a petition by our good friends at AmazonWatch. – Valhalla mgnt
The report comes as oil pollution forced neighbouring Peru to declare an environmental state of emergency in its northern Amazon rainforest.
Ecuador owed China more than $7 billion – more than a tenth of its GDP – as of last summer.
In 2009 China began loaning Ecuador billions of dollars in exchange for oil shipments. It also helped fund two of the country’s biggest hydroelectric infrastructure projects, and China National Petroleum Corp may soon have a 30 per cent stake in a $10 billion oil refinery in Ecuador.
“My understanding is that this is more of a debt issue – it’s because the Ecuadoreans are so dependent on the Chinese to finance their development that they’re willing to compromise in other areas such as social and environmental regulations,” Adam Zuckerman, environmental and human rights campaigner at California-based NGO Amazon Watch, told the Guardian.
The seven indigenous groups who live on the land are not happy, especially because last year a court ruled that governments must obtain “free, prior, and informed consent” from native groups before approving oil activities on their indigenous land.
“They have not consulted us, and we’re here to tell the big investors that they don’t have our permission to exploit our land,” Narcisa Mashienta, a leader of Ecuador’s Shuar people, said in a report.
Dan Collyns of The Guardian reports that “indigenous people living in the Pastaza river basin near Peru’s border with Ecuador have complained for decades about … pollution,” which has been caused by high levels of petroleum-related compounds in the area. The Argentinian company Pluspetrol has operated oil fields there since 2001.
So you may have heard that since the end of October, a storage well that is operated by SoCal Gas in Aliso Canyon, outside of Los Angeles has been leaking methane. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that so far, 78,000 tons of methane has been released and that number is steadily climbing.
This is bad people. Methane is greenhouse gas that has a global warming potential 86 times greater than that of CO2 on a 20 year time frame. The EDF says that the daily leakage has the same 20-year climate impact as driving 7 million cars a day.
But is this really the worst U.S. environmental disaster since the BP oil spill? What about… livestock?
According to Mother Jones 70,000 pounds of methane is being released every hour which equates to 1.68 million pounds per day.
In the state of California, there are 6.95 million cows. The average cow produces between 250-500 liters of methane every day. The cows residing in California alone are emitting over 193 million pounds of methane every single day.
This means that currently, cattle being raised for meat and dairy are emitting 1,448 times more methane than the Aliso Canyon gas leak!
This methane leak is a terrible disaster that likely won’t be fixed until spring of 2016 and unfortunately is all but out of our hands. So why not help alleviate, or not contribute to even more methane being emitted into our atmosphere, and adopt a vegan diet today?
In March, EcoWatch reported that Costa Rica powered the first 82 days of the year solely with renewable energy. Now that we’re closing in on the end of the year, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) announced that the country ran entirely on renewables for 285 days between Jan. 1 and Dec. 17.
“We close 2015 with 99 percent clean energy!” ICE wrote on Facebook, saying that “the energy produced … in 2015 reaches 98.95 percent with renewable sources as of December 17.”
“We are closing 2015 with renewable electricity milestones that have put us in the global spotlight,” ICE electricity division chief Luis Pacheco told AFP.
The majority of the country’s energy (75 percent) comes from hydropower, thanks to a vast river system and abundant rainfall, and the rest of its renewables come from geothermal, biomass, wind and solar. Despite a very dry year, ICE said it was ahead of its renewable energy targets and Pacheco predicted that 2016 would be an even better year because a new $2.3 billion hydroelectric plant will be coming online.
The country reportedly wants to move away from its dependency on hydropower, though, and harness more of its electricity needs from geothermal and wind. It plans to retire its heavy fuel oil-powered Moin plant in 2017 and wants to move its transportation sector away from fossil fuels. The country has made all this progress, while reducing overall energy costs, which fell by 12 percent this year and the ICE expects costs to keep falling.
“The government has pledged to build an electric train which will be integrated with public buses,” Gabriel Goldschmidt, regional head of infrastructure for Latin America and Caribbean at the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank, told the Huffington Post. “There is also a proposal to start replacing oil-powered cars with electric cars as part of a new bill in congress that aims to offer consumer incentives to lower the prices of these cars. This would have multiple benefits including better air quality.”
Costa Rica’s heavy reliance on hydropower has been criticized by some. Gary Wockner of Save the Colorado argues that hydropower is actually “one of the biggest environmental problemsour planet faces” and a ” false solution” for addressing climate change.
“Hydropower has been called a ‘methane factory’ and ‘methane bomb’ that is just beginning to rear its ugly head as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that have so-far been unaccounted for in climate change discussions and analyses,” Wockner said last month.
Still, the country is among the vanguard of nations around the world moving towards a 100 percent renewable energy future. Several countries have hit impressive benchmarks for renewables in just a few short years. And many places have already made the transition to fossil-fuel-free electricity. Samso in Denmark became the world’s first island to go all in on renewables several years ago. Most recently, Uruguay, three U.S. cities– Burlington, Vermont; Aspen, Colorado; and Greensburg, Kansas-along with Kodiak Island, Alaska, have all made the transition.
San Diego, Vancouver, Las Vegas and other major cities around the world have pledged to go 100 percent renewable. Sweden made headlines earlier this year when it pledged to be among the first countries to go fossil free. Hawaii pledged to do so by 2045-the most ambitious standard set by a U.S. state thus far. Several other islands, including Aruba, Belize, St. Lucia, Grenada, the British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and San Andres and Providencia have pledged to go 100 percent renewable, through the Ten Island Challenge, created by Richard Branson’s climate group the Carbon War Room.
Greenpeace and researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley have laid out plans for every state in the U.S. to adopt 100 percent renewables and a Greenpeace report published in September posits the world can achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Mark Jacobson, one of the researchers from Stanford, said the barriers to 100 percent clean energy are social and political, not technical or economic.
Just last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an interview that “You could take a corner of Utah or Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power.”
And, it looks as if the Paris climate conference earlier this month helped create market certainty in renewables, as fossil fuel stocks tumbled and renewable energy stocks soared. After the landmark Paris agreement was reached, the coal industry’s European lobbying association feared that the deal meant the sector “will be hated and vilified, in the same way that slave traders were once hated and vilified.”
Photo Credit: Brandon Watson
Despite the political controversy surrounding medical marijuana use in the country, research has begun to emerge showing that a component of this plant known as cannabidiol (CBD), and which does not have the controversial psychoactive properties associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may have a wide range of therapeutic applications, including treating conditions that are refractory to conventional drug-based approaches.
One such condition is Parkinson’s disease, to which there is, at present, no effective conventional treatment. In fact, the primary treatment involves dopamine increasing drugs that also increase a neurotoxic metabolite known as with 6-hydroxy-dopamine, and which therefore can actually accelerate the progression of the disease. This is why natural alternatives that are safe, effective, and backed up by scientific evidence, are so needed today. Thankfully, preclinical research on cannabidiol has already revealed some promising results, including two studies in animal models of Parkinson’s disease (PD) assessing its neuroprotective properties:
“In the first one, Lastres-Becker et al. (2005) showed that the administration of CBD counteracted neurodegeneration caused by the injection of 6-hydroxy-dopamine in the medial prosencephalic bundle, an effect that could be related to the modulation of glial cells and to antioxidant effects (Lastres- Becker et al., 2005). In the next year, Garcia-Arencibia et al. (2007) tested many cannabinoid compounds following the lesion of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra with 6-hydroxy-dopamine and found that the acute administration of CBD seemed to have a neuroprotective action; nonetheless, the administration of CBD one week after the lesion had no significant effects (Garcia-Arencibia et al., 2007). This study also pointed to a possible antioxidant effect with the upregulation of mRNA of the enzyme Cu-Zn-superoxide dismutase following the administration of CBD.” 
In addition to these animal studies, the following three human clinical trials have been conducted to evaluate cannabidiol’s neuroprotective effects.
- A 2006 study published in Biological Psychology titled, “Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex N-Acetylaspartate/Total Creatine (NAA/tCr) Loss in Male Recreational Cannabis Users,” investigated the N-acetylaspartate to creatine ratios (NAA/Cr) in the brain of regular cannabis users through magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H1-MRS) to assess the neurotoxic and neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids present in the drug and found a strong positive correlation between CBD and NAA/Cr in the globus pallidus and putamen. According to the study, “the globus pallidum is the region with the highest amount of CB1-receptors in the brain and the target of neurostimulation in patients with Parkinson’s disease, who developed a strong tremor. Our MRSI results support a positive effect of CBD on the putamen/globus pallidum region in cannabis use. Therefore, it may be promising to test a possible influence of the nonpsychotropic CBD in the onset of Parkinson’s disease.”
- A 2009 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology titled, “Cannabidiol for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson’s disease,” assessed the therapeutic use and neuroprotective effect of CBD in PD patients. The open label study was conducted with six patients with PD-related psychosis. They were administered CBD at doses ranging from 150 mg in the first week to 400 mg in the fourth and last week of treatment (doses were adjusted to optimize the clinical response). The study reported significant improvements in psychosis as well as in the total scores of a scale that measures general symptoms of PD (Unified Parkinson’s disease rating scale – UPDRS)
- A 2014 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology titled, “Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: an exploratory double-blind trial,” evaluated the effects of cannabidiol in Parkinson’s disease patients, dividing 21 patients into 3 groups of 7 receiving either placebo, cannabidiol (CBD) 75 mg/day or CBD 300 mg/day. Increases in well-being and quality of life were observed in the 300 mg/day groups versus the placebo groups. The researchers hypothesized that these improvements may have been due to cannabidiol’s “anxiolytic,” “antidepressant,” “anti-psychotic,” and “sedative” properties.
These results, taken together with the results from the animal models of PD, indicate that CBD may provide a drug alternative in PD patients. Additionally, a new study published in Toxicology In Vitro titled,”The neuroprotection of cannabidiol against MPP+-induced toxicity in PC12 cells involves trkA receptors, upregulation of axonal and synaptic proteins, neuritogenesis, and might be relevant to Parkinson’s disease,” makes the case for using cannabidiol in PD even more compelling by helping to illuminate some of the molecular mechanisms beneath its benefits.
The study found that cannabidiol protects against the neurotoxin known as MPP(+), which is widely believed to be responsible for the damage to the dopamine-producing cells in the substania nigra of Parkison’s patients, by preventing neuronal cell death and inducingneuritogenesis (a neuro-regenerative process for repairing damaged neurons). This mechanism was found to be independent of the neural growth factor (NGF) pathway, even though it involves NGF receptors. Cannabidiol was also found to increase the expression of axonal and synaptic proteins. The study concluded that CBD’s neuroprotective properties might be of benefit to Parkinson’s disease patients.
For additional research on how cannabis can contribute to mitigating neurodegenerative diseases read our article, “Marijuana Compound Found Superior To Drugs For Alzheimer’s,” and peruse the cannabis research database on GreenMedInfo.com. Also, for an extensive set of data on natural interventions for Parkinson’s disease, view our database on the topic: Parkinson’s disease research. Finally, peruse an extensive list of foods, spices, and natural substances that have neuritogenic properties here.
 Chagas MH, et al. J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Nov;28(11):1088-98. doi: 10.1177/0269881114550355. Epub 2014 Sep 18. Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: an exploratory double-blind trial.
 Hermann D, Sartorius A, Welzel H, et al. (2007) Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex N-acetylaspartate/total creatine (NAA/tCr) loss in male recreational cannabis users. Biol Psychiatry 61: 1281-1289.
 Zuardi AW, Crippa JA, Hallak JE, et al. (2009) Cannabidiol for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson’s disease. J Psychopharmacol 23:979-983.
About The Author
Sayer Ji is founder of Greenmedinfo.com, on the Board of Governors for the National Health Federation, and Fearless Parent, Steering Committee Member of the Global GMO Free Coalition (GGFC), a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine.
You can attribute this change in market demand to education. You can attribute it to the mass awakening happening around the planet. But either way, you can’t argue with the numbers. Eating organic is no longer ‘fringe’ or something done solely by health-nuts and athletes, hippies, and paranoids. In fact, consumer demand for organic food is seeing double digit growth year over year, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.
Over 20,000 stores now offer organic food products. A report has shown that in 2012, more than $28.4 million was spent on healthful organic food, and that number has grown since the report published such findings. According to Nutrition Business Journal, organic food sales will reach a startling $35 billion this year. For those of us who don’t take our health for granted, this is just the beginning of a food revolution.
We’re eating better in every category of food, too, not just organic apple and oranges. People are boycotting toxic food-producing companies faster than you can say ‘lawsuit’ as they realize we’ve been lied to. People now know that something made in vats with chemical additives or spliced and diced with GMOs is anything but ‘natural.’
We are turning away from companies like Kellogg’s and Pepsi-Co, Coca-Cola, and Kraft to companies that we can actually trust – companies that don’t sell us non-food and call it food.
Or how about putting harmful additives used to make yoga mats in bread, as Subway once did before individuals pressured them to remove azodicarbonamide from their food? We just won’t sit silent anymore. Even beer companies are feeling the pressure to not only disclose toxic ingredients, but to change their ways, and stop using them.
While fresh fruits and vegetables leading the way in organics for the past three decades, and accounting for 43% of U.S. organic food sales in 2012, dairy, bread, packaged foods, snack foods, meat, poultry, seafood, and even condiments are seeing an up-turn in organic sales.
For now, individuals are purchasing their organic foods primarily through conventional and natural food supermarkets and chains, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), but this is also changing as more people turn to food co-ops and even neighbors for fresh, organic food.
We’ve come a long way since the organic food movement’s beginnings. Yes, our grandparents and great-grandparents just grew… food. They didn’t even call it organic, though they often didn’t use pesticides or herbicides, and certainly not petroleum-based or chemical fertilizers.
The modern organic movement began at the same time as industrialized agriculture. It began in Europe around the 1920s, when a group of farmers and consumers sought alternatives to the industrialization of agriculture. In Britain, the organic movement had gathered pace in the 1940’s. Today, people around the world, from the US to Bhutan, are asking for, and even growing organic food.
Indeed, growing our own food is becoming an absolutely essential part of our collective future.
In the same way that petrochemical companies don’t want to see the impending evolution of solar and wind power, Big Ag doesn’t want to accept what is happening with our food consciousness. We know better now, and so we ask for better. Our wallets are truly determining the future food landscape.