March 29, 2010

The concept of lawns is a weird thing.  I thought the author made an interesting point when he commented on the fact that grasses can tolerate a variety of environments, tempertures, and conditions.  Grass will sprout up just about anywhere.  However, this is a problem that some homeowners have and it results in them hiring lawn care providers to manicure their lawns.  People can’t handle the random patches of grass between the cracks in their sidewalk or the yellow dandilions that sometimes pop up.  In most cases lawns would do just fine on their own (granted a few inpurites might be noticable every now and then) but for some people it is a competition to see who can have the greenist, cleanest, prettiest yard.  Ridiculous.

Another concept that Robbins talks about is the harmfulness of lawn chemicals.  Clearly, there is a risk in adding chemical components to anything natural.  We’ve seen this problem in food, water, and now lawns.  Chemical additives are so common that the argument isn’t whether or not to add them to the soil, but now it’s which chemical is the least harmful? which one won’t have the longest effect?  This is probably not a healthy discussion to be having.  Really, it has to do with choosing the lesser of two evils.  Aren’t humans supposed to be the smartest animals on the planet? Shouldn’t we know that if we have the option of no hazardous side affects to choose that one instead? 

This book made me wonder if it’s only Americans who care about the appearance of their lawn or if this mentality is world wide.  I did a little searching on google and found websites for lawn care in Australia, Europe, and even Asia.  So, apparently this is not strictly an American concept, although we do have a tendency of taking things to the EXTREME!

Mutant-All-Black Penguin Found

March 29, 2010

National Geographic Traveler contributor Andrew Evans recently spotted and filmed an all-black king penguin—a very rare mutant—on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia.

There’s a little video about it.


March 28, 2010

Very interesting book! It covered more aspects of lawn care than I expected that it would.

I went to relay for life Friday night, and as I was reading the section about all the health affects associated with different chemicals, I couldn’t help but think “no wonder we are all dying of cancer.”  When the author was going into detail about tracing chemical residues, and how they were found in house dust, I got really grossed out. I was always aware of  run-of, and residues on vegetables and what not, but there was something more disturbing about the thought of chemicals just chilling in house dust…

The most interesting point in the book for me was when it was talking about the neighbors and their responses to some of the questions involving their lawn care practices. It is odd that they won’t let their kids go play on the lawn after a treatment, but they seem to deny that there is any real harm to the environment.

I feel that since it is mostly the highly educated people that practice intensive lawn care management, that it should be possible to institute an education program in order to stop these practices — although I’m sure big companies like Scotts would go crazy if that started to happen. I never thought about all of the economic problems that these companies were having.  In fact, the description of the lawn care companies problems reminded me a lot about the pharmaceutical companies and their efforts to keep up with expiring patents and what not.

As far as my experience with lawn care:

As a teenager, I was responsible for mowing our grass along with two neighbors grass (I got paid for the neighbors’ grass 🙂 ).  I really enjoyed doing the and work and I can admit that I experienced a sense of pride over it.  It was important for me to make sure that the mow lines were straight and that I didn’t miss any tufts. I remember comparing my handy work to that of the other neighbors.  I guess, thinking back on it, the drive to have a nice lawn really was sort of a contest between neighbors.

During my sophomore year in high school, my family moved to a new house down the street.  The lawn was really low and tended to get very boggy when it rained. My father ordered several truck loads of filling soil and started to level out the lawn. I remember how meticulous he was over the way the grass sloped. He would say to me “do you see the way this section is slopping?” I would nod having no idea what he was talking about. Then he would say something like “I’m going to have to rework this”. And he would. He spend the whole summer just playing with the new dirt in the yard and imagining what it would look like when it was planted. Now, he and my step-mother are consistently watering and patrolling for weeds. As the botanist of the family, I consistently get questions like “What is this?” “Can I rake this out yet?” “why is this dying”. An I am also always correcting their watering habits: “stop watering in the middle of the day!”

While my family isn’t really in to using chemicals, my father spot treats on occasion and I have even caught my step mother manually pulling out some of the more nasty “weeds”.

As an intern at Cleveland Botanical Gardens and Holden Arboretum, I was also exposed to the crazy world of lawn people. On one hand, Cleveland Botanical Gardens was more intensive but used more organic types of fertilizers. On a few occasions I was sent out with some round up to take care of unwanted plants. Interestingly, we always transferred some round-up to an unmarked container so that the visitors couldn’t really tell what I was doing.  On another note, Cleveland Botanical Garden was doing research on no mow grasses. One of the workers has planted his back yard full of this stuff. Apparently, the local law enforcement officers where harassing him about it.  However, after learning what it was, they had several surveyors come out and take pictures in order to promote this no mow option.

Well, I think I have written a book here, but I find the topic to be very interesting and I have had a lot of experience dealing with lawns in many different forms. It should be a fun discussion!

Good morning! Whats for Breakfast?

March 24, 2010

Breakfast of Biodiversity’s content is nothing to be questioned. The point of the book was great and did open my eyes to issues I did not know of prior to reading this book. I was totally unaware of how terrible the agriculture and industry of bananas was. Luckily I don’t like to eat bananas. Unfortunately I love to drink coffee, and I drink it way too often. Before reading this book I had known Bananas/chiquita banana were terrible, but I did not know exactly why.

Other than learning why I should not like something I already didn’t like this book did not really hit the spot for me. Reading Breakfast of Biodiversity was not as bad as reading Nature, but I did find it really hard to get into. I would read a few pages and not remember what I had read because it just was not interesting to me. I realize the subject is very important, but with so many facts passing my eyes it was very hard to remember half of them.

One part of the book I really like was the portion about land ownership. The system seemed so messed up that reading about it was very fun for me. From my understanding, as long as someone declares residence on a particular portion of land after someone dies it is theirs? After the gringo left his farm due to drug charges and then the following 2 people died in interesting circumstances there were hoards of people living on that particular farm. This just seemed really crazy unorganized to me, which made it very interesting.

Breakfast of Biodiversity

March 24, 2010

Charlie and I split the book up into two parts, he did the first part and I did the second part. It seemed like an interesting read and easy read as well, but I found it got very boring in the second part of the book.

My part consisted of more of the economical side of things in a rain forest. This is where the book got more boring for me. I much would have liked to read about the banana’s. The book says that IMF and The World Bank and their methods. They believe that the World Bank and the IMF are both corrupted and heavy influenced by large corporations. They mention that the countries in the Global South owe the World Bank over 180 billion U.S. dollars even thought the World Bank is trying to reduce poverty. But the poverty levels are worse now than when they actually started.

Two things that I found that was interesting were:

17% of the world’s population is using 70% of the worlds energy resources.

That leaves about 30% of the available energy for the other 83% of the world

The authors point out that if past events are any indication, this 83% will eventually lay claim to an equal share of the energy and will eventually fight for their rights.

Costa Rican Policy-

  • Buying up and protecting large tracts of land
  • Passing legislation protecting these lands
  • Securing large sums of project money from foreigners
  • Mounting a large public relations campaign and promoting eco-tourism?

Author’s policy-

  • Banana companies must be regulated and expansion must be curbed

-These companies should no longer be allowed to employ workers for 89 days and then release them, just so they don’t have to pay them social security benefits

-Working conditions must be improved and job security must be implemented

  • Provide support for the locals

-Providing aid to the locals to make their farming operations as easy as possible

-These farmers cannot compete with the big banana companies

  • The local people should benefit equally from the eco-tourism industry

-Jobs should be provided for local people rather than cheap labor from across the border

All in all it was an informative book which I kind of liked at some points and disliked at others. But I believe everyone should read and understand what is happening to the rainforests.


March 24, 2010

The sound engineering firm Griffiths, Gibbons and Ramsay productions have created a mailable record player.  It is a portable, zero energy record player that plays “A town that found its sound,” with the help of a pencil.

The Cove

March 24, 2010

The Cove is a movie that I have not seen yet, but has won numerous awards including the latest Academy Awards for Best Documentary. This is a movie that I really want to see, and I think it brings life to a subject that very few people especially Americans are aware of, namely dolphin haunting. Check out the movies website and a clip of the trailer.