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Climate Catastrophe- California Snowy Mountain has no snow and Farm Land has No Water

Arthur Hubbard, Ph.D.

Chemistry and hiking might seem like a strange combination of passions! However, my science background has made me aware of the fundamental scientific reasons why we should be working to prevent climate change. And, my lifetime of hiking has shown me that climate change is in fact an everyday reality.

We all know that climate scientists have been observing for many years the telltale symptoms of climate change, including sea level increases, increasing acidity of the oceans, increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, increasing average temperatures, disappearance of glaciers and polar sea ice, extinction of plants and animals, extremes of weather, cloud cover, rainfall, snowfall, and violent storms. A glance at “climate change” in Wikipedia, for example, guides us to an abundance of scientific data on this subject.

My personal perspective comes from regular hiking and backpacking during the past 50 years in the mountains of California. For instance, the “Sierra Nevada” mountains form the backbone of California, running north from Los Angeles across California, into Oregon where they are known as the Cascade Range, to merge with the Rocky Mountains, and on northward through western Canada and Alaska, all the way to the Bering Sea. Included are the two highest points in the US, namely California’s Mount Whitney, and Alaska’s Mount Denali. “Sierra Nevada” is Spanish for “snowy range.” Nowadays, not so much! My photos from 50 years ago remind me that when hiking in the Sierras, even in summer, in the past one had to cope with snowfields, as well as powerful snowstorms and hailstorms. Now, the mountain peaks are often without snowfields, and the glaciers are mostly gone. Even “Glacier National Park” in Montana is largely devoid of glaciers. The magnificent trout have mostly disappeared from the Sierra lakes, rivers and streams, even in remote locations. Reservoirs that were enormous a few decades ago are now frequently empty. The snowy “garden of Eden” experience of the Sierras is changing into something much warmer and drier. Of course there are weather variations from day to day, and from year to year, yet, on average, in general, the boots-on-the-ground feeling that I get nowadays is definitely bleak!

Hiking can be delightful, of course, but what makes the mountain snows so massively important is that snow melt is vital to agriculture. The way this works is that the winter snows are nature’s way of storing enormous quantities of pure water, shaded from the sun by trees and tall mountains, for use during the hot, sunny growing season, many months later. In other words, snowfall equals food! All of the myriad edible products from farming and ranching ultimately descend from mountain snowfall. Mountain snow is a source of water for later use in much the same way as rainwater that is stored in reservoirs.

Final Autumn- Climate Catastrophe And Its Spiritual Dimensions – Part 3

Summary of Climate Catastrophe

Global Warming / Climate Change / Climate Crisis / Climate Catastrophe is real, is largely due to humans’ burning of fossil fuels, and is occurring at a more rapid pace than scientists previously thought. It is affecting many if not all aspects of the lives of lower and higher animals and plants, including humans. We can expect to see unprecedented record heat waves, storms, encroachment on coastal areas by a rapidly rising sea level, rivers drying up, mass extinctions of species, spread of infectious diseases, and widespread food shortages. These effects will cause increased loss of property and life. Life as we know it will not be the same in as few as two generations. It is already changing now.

Different governments are taking different approaches to dealing with Climate Catastrophe. Originally some were in favor of mitigation, i.e. making our infrastructure less polluting. Some feel it is already too late for that because the earth is such a large and complex system that it would not react immediately to changes. Even if we could stop emissions of excess CO2 today, it would take the earth many years to normalize.

Now it is more common to see plans for adaptation rather than mitigation. This is a more pessimistic approach which assumes that humanity will not be able to stop Climate Catastrophe. Some large coastal cities are planning to erect giant sea walls to keep the rising ocean at bay. Others may need to move inland to higher elevations. Still others, such as the Maldives island nation, may be lost forever and will have to relocate to a higher area.

There is talk of geo-engineering. Some people believe that engineering solutions on a regional or global scale such as intentional introduction of smoke in the stratosphere to block some of the heat (and light) from the sun may be the answer. Unfortunately such largescale engineering projects cannot be fully tested in the laboratory before they are built, and their success may not be assured. The cost would also be ve ry great. Geo-engineering also provides little or no incentive for people to change their behaviors.

Governments are typically reactionary. They wait until something has become a crisis before acting. Governments also tend to perpetuate the status quo, especially when it is to the benefit of the current military-industrial complex. We can expect governments to proceed with business as usual until there is no other choice. And by then it will be much too late.

This liturgy of the current and expected effects of Climate Catastrophe has been rather impersonal. But the most important point, one which overshadows all the others, is if humanity destroys its own and only habitat this would be the greatest moral outrage in history. We cannot destroy other life without destroying ourselves and vice versa because all life is interrelated. We need the earth, but the earth does not need us. One could make a strong case that the planet would be better off without Homo sapiens. Humanity is acting as if the sapiens has disappeared from Homo.

The scenarios described in this article are not just speculation. Some of them are already happening. If we can’t depend on governments to react in time, then what is left? The answer is obvious – major changes in personal lifestyles that we as individuals have the power to make. There is strength in numbers. We as individuals have the power to change the world if we work together. The remainder of this article will discuss how we can change our lives to heal the earth and save ourselves.

 

What Does Climate Catastrophe Mean for Us? What Can We Do?

It is difficult to be motivated to change our practices because of Climate Catastrophe if it has not directly affected us yet. Most of us living in urban areas don’t see its effects because we are not directly in touch with nature. But some rural areas, especially the Arctic and sub-Equatorial Africa, have been so changed that the effects are already obvious and devastating. Entire towns in the Arctic are debating whether or not to relocate because the warming has melted the permafrost where their houses are built. Rotting carcasses of livestock dot the lifeless and cracked landscape in Africa where water has run out. For the people living in these places, Climate Catastrophe is ever so real.

But for the rest of us, we need to take actions now that will benefit the whole of humanity in the future. And the sooner, the better. Most importantly, each of us can gladly adopt changes in our own lives as part of our spiritual practice. Helping to mitigate or even reverse Climate Change can bring each of us in closer communion with ourselves, the earth and ultimately the Cosmos.

Most recommendations you will see in other reviews will be the same. These include the “Three R’s”: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Popularized by the US Environmental Protection Agency, these are directed toward reducing pollution from material goods. Buy less, use things longer and then dispose of them into recycling waste streams. Certainly these are good practices, but they are only the beginning and are not comprehensive by any means.

Perhaps the greatest impact we can have in our practice is by changing the way we eat. Keeping in mind how much water is required to produce meat vs. fruits and vegetables, we can have a major impact on water sustainability by consuming less or even no meat. According to National Geographic, a vegan saves approximately 600 gallons of water a day compared with a meat-eating person (http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/water-conservation-tips/).

We can be more mindful of how we use energy and work to conserve it. Take public transportation where it is available. More demand will produce better public transport and transportation-oriented development, where housing, offices and retail are built with access to public transportation in mind. This is already the case in many highly urbanized areas where people do not own automobiles.

If you are a city planner, you can create complete streets in which retail, housing, offices, trees and attractive public gathering places increase the appeal of urban living for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike. Cities are more energy-efficient than suburbs but often are less desirable as places to live because of pollution and crowding. These undesirable factors can be overcome to some extent by good design. As of 2007 more than half the world’s population lived in urban areas, and it is becoming more urbanized every day.

We can all help by planting trees if we have space to grow them. Trees and other vegetation remove air pollutants, release oxygen, and sequester CO2. They are one of the most valuable resources for reversing Climate Catastrophe. The rainforests are disappearing such an alarming rate that they will have disappeared completely by 2060 (www.rainforest.org). Rainforests are also a rich source of biodiversity. Biodiversity is important because it provides resilience against sudden or gradual environmental changes. And preserving biodiversity is important for ethical reasons because all living creatures, sentient or not, are important for nature’s balance.

We can still have trees even in a highly urban environment. In fact, the more urban the location, the more important it is to have trees and vegetation. Even high-rise buildings can have trees. One remarkable example of a creative way to provide access to trees and vegetation is the Bosco Verticale (Vertical Woods) in Milan, Italy. This award-winning design by Stefano Boeri and associates is different from many radical ideas in that it has actually been built. Figure 9 shows how it looks today. The façades of the twin towers incorporate 730 trees, 5,000 shrubs, and 11,000 perennials and groundcover of approximately fifty species, equivalent to a hectare of woodland. One example of its brilliant design is the use of deciduous trees which shade the interiors in the hottest months of the year and then provide access to sunlight and passive heating during the winter.

Bosco Verticale is just one example of how nature can be brought to urban dwellers to replace what has been lost. To carry the idea even farther, some people are using edible landscaping. We can’t all live in a luxury condominium like Bosco Verticale, but many of us have some space which can be used for growing plants, especially food. Vertical gardens require a minimum of space and can be surprisingly productive. They are also good projects for children and families to do together.

Growing some of our own food is a good way to keep us in touch with where our food comes from. It is also important to grow the food in a healthy way, in balance with nature. This is what organic farming does. Among other things, organic farming uses only natural materials such as compost and animal waste for fertilizer. It also encourages crop rotation to prevent depletion of nutrients in the soil. And it avoids the use of pesticides. Pesticides are weakening many species important for our plant including honeybees. Honeybees are suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder worldwide. Bees are necessary for many agricultural crops. Without honeybees, the agriculture industry itself would collapse.

If you want to grow some of your own food, we encourage you to adopt organic farming practices. The yields will be just as great, and the food will be better for you and the planet. The United Nations concluded in a recent report that small-scale organic farming is the only way to feed the world (http://www.technologywater.com/post/69995394390/unreport-says-small-scale-organic-farming-only).

If you are a farmer, you may be able to adopt micro-irrigation (drip irrigation) to use much less water. Figure 10 shows one on-line micro-irrigation design where water is delivered precisely to the plants that need it, thus saving up to 70 percent of the water needed to grow fruits and closely-spaced crops (www.kotharipipes.co.in). If you are an agricultural planner, please encourage farmers to use micro-irrigation. It can make a big difference in water consumption. Typically agriculture is the largest consumer of water worldwide; hence any improvements in water consumption for agricultural purposes on a global scale would have a large impact.

Agriculture does not have to be rural. Indeed, the more we can work together to bring agriculture to towns and cities, the more people will benefit from locally grown food. The town of Todmorden in West Yorkshire, UK uses edible landscaping in the village (http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk). All food is freely available to anyone who wants it. Figure 11 shows sweet corn and leafy greens growing on the sidewalk outside the police station! Now similar Incredible Edible Towns are cropping up all over the world, including Hong Kong (https://vimeo.com/36838823).

These practices are part of adopting a sustainable lifestyle. But how can personal sustainability be compatible with economic sustainability? Clearly the world cannot continue to measure economic health by consumption of goods manufactured from nonrenewable resources.

One idea is to adopt universal standards for manufactured goods, much like electrical standards. Such standards would allow electronic equipment, automobiles, major appliances and other goods to be made in modules. When someone wants to upgrade their cellular phone, they could slide out the old module and slide in a new one. Such a modular approach would also help to reduce electronic waste, the fastest-growing waste stream worldwide. If you are a manufacturing engineer, perhaps you can persuade your company to adopt modular manufacturing.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by all this bad news of Climate Catastrophe. It is simple to say, “I’m just one person; how can I make a difference?” Just remember, the earth is a collection of 7.3 billion people who are all “just one person”. If we could find a way to get all 7.3 billion people to work together to save the earth from Climate Catastrophe, how wonderful that would be. Governments can develop international treaties and policies, but those will not be enough. It will take large-scale individual action to make a real sustainable difference.

Such action will undoubtedly involve social media, and specifically cell-phone applications. Even in developing countries the vast majority of people have cell phones. We don’t need a new technology to save us; it is already here. Cell phone applications and social media can bring people together who are working on common problems to develop solutions.

To start the ball rolling, I have created a Facebook site called Healing the Earth, Saving Ourselves (http://www.facebook.com/HealingEarthSavingOurselves?fref=ts). It is based on the idea that the earth is dying before our very eyes, but if humanity could set aside its religious, political and other differences and work together to reverse Climate Catastrophe, it would save itself in doing so. I encourage you to join this site; it is a good source of information on innovative ideas for sustainable living.

This is what it all boils down to. We all drink the same water. We all breathe the same air. We all eat food grown on the same earth. These simple yet profound truths transcend any individual differences we might have. So let us use these truths to be the basis of how we can work together. And in so doing, humanity will be transformed into HumanKind. It will discover through practice that kindness, respect and compassion are the key to saving ourselves.

As you think about how you can incorporate these ideas into your own personal spiritual practice, here are some suggestions to help you on your way:

  • Always live mindfully. Being in the present moment will keep you connected to the rest of the planet and your inner being. Be aware of how you as an individual depend on so many other things and people for your existence, and be grateful for this every day.
  • Tread gently on the earth, literally and metaphorically, being respectful of all life on it both sentient and non-sentient. Who are we to know that any life form may be non-sentient? It is best to treat all life with compassion and respect as if it were sentient. Live intentionally in a way to minimize or even eliminate trash and garbage. Make compost from your waste if you have the space. Encourage your government to have curbside recycling of paper, metal, plastic, glass and compostables.
  • Practice lovingkindness in your meditations and in your life. Reflect on your love for all life on earth and for all other beings on earth. Bless those in your immediate existence who make your life possible, from the food you eat to the people in your family and the house you live in. Then bless those who made your family, your food and your house possible. Feel your blessing and your love for all things spread to the ends of the earth.
  • Visualize a world where all humanKind works together through mutual compassion and respect to help each other and to heal the world, a world which itself has the fundamental right not to be violated by the people who depend on it for their very existence.

 

Conclusions

In conclusion, this review has shown some of the more salient effects of Climate Catastrophe. All these effects – Global Warming, melting of glacial ice, rising sea level, more frequent and intense storms, droughts, food shortages, mega-fires, and others – will change life as we know it. And there are undoubtedly other effects not so obvious happening now and in the future. The known effects are occurring much more rapidly than previously thought. What’s more, it is not clear at this point if all species critical to our own survival will survive. If that occurs, the very future of humanity is at stake.

Because the earth reacts slowly to changes in its energy input, it is absolutely critical that these changes occur as soon as possible. The major countries of the world now realize this and have submitted climate action plans to the UN International Climate Change Committee in preparation for negotiating a global treaty in Paris this December.

The broad policies outlined in these countries’ plans cannot be implemented without programs and people. Governments will translate the policies into programs such as quotas on burning fossil fuels that may enforce involuntary compliance. Beyond this, there is much that we as individuals can do voluntarily.

 

References for Further Reading

  • Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 21st Session (COP21/CMP11) “Paris 2015” November 30th to December 11th. http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en Accessed 18 August 2015.
  • Fifty Ways to Help: http://www.50waystohelp.com/ Accessed 18 August 2015.
  • Pope Francis: Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ of the Holy Father Francis on the Care of Our Common Home. Vatican City: 24 May 2015. Connect to website. Accessed 25 June 2015.
  • Hansen, J., Sato, M., Hearty, P., Ruedy, R., Kelley, M., Masson-Delmotte, V., Russell, G., Tselioudis, G., Cao, J., Rignot, E., Velicogna, I., Kandiano, E., von Schuckmann, K., Kharecha, P., Legrande, A. N., Bauer, M., and Lo, K.-W. 2015. Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C Global Warming is highly dangerous, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 15, 20059-20179, doi:10.5194/ acpd-15-20059-2015.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): Fifth Assessment Report. Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2013 The Physical Science Basis: Climate Change 2014 Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Climate Change 2014 Mitigation of Climate Change.
  • Klein, Naomi: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014.
  • Kolbert, Elizabeth: The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Macmillan Picador, 2015. 
  • Mekonnen, M.M. and Hoekstra, A.Y. 2010. The green, blue and grey water footprint of farm animals and animal products, Value of Water Research Report Series No. 48, UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands, p 28.

 

Biography

Betty J Dabney, PhD has worked in industry, government and consulting. She has been on the faculties of Texas A&M University Health Sciences Center School of Rural Public Health and the University of Maryland School of Public Health, where she was founding Acting Chair of the Maryland Institute of Applied Environmental Health. Since retirement she has taught health planning at The University of Texas at San Antonio and has also been involved in sustainability issues involving water. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with two very spoiled dogs and one cat.

Final Autumn- Climate Catastrophe And Its Spiritual Dimensions – Part 2

  • Air

The primary effect of the increasing CO2 levels is increasing global temperature in different media as discussed above. Scientists most commonly use surface air temperature and surface ocean temperature, however. The surface ocean temperature is discussed under “Water”.

With respect to surface air temperature, 2015 is on track to be the hottest year on record. Thirteen of the past fifteen years were each the hottest on record at the time according to Climate Central, and the odds of that happening randomly without the influence of Climate Change were 1 in 27 million (www.climatecentral.org, accessed 20 August 2015).

Disequilibrium at a global scale produced by increasing temperature also causes disequilibrium with respect to air currents. In addition, there is more thermal energy in the oceans and air. More water can evaporate, and the warmer air can hold more water. Hence one can expect storms, hurricanes and typhoons, tornadoes, and acute weather events such as rain, hail and snow to be more intense and more frequent. Already we are seeing an increase in severe tornadoes in the US, and the winter of 2014-2015 saw record-breaking snowfall in the Northeastern US. As of August 2015 two major typhoons have threatened Taiwan this year, and recently for the first time there were three typhoons present in the Pacific Ocean simultaneously.

Thus we can say with some confidence that there will be increasing loss of life and property from major weather events. Many of the major cities are located in coastal areas and would be especially vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons (See section on Water below).

In addition to these acute weather events, Global Warming can cause higher levels of ozone pollution. The formation of ozone from nitrogen oxides and particulates is temperature-dependent; hence we can expect more episodes of unhealthy levels of smog as the average air temperature rises. In some areas of India and China, the air pollution is already lifethreatening. Approximately 4,000 people die every day in China from its air pollution according to one recent estimate by Robert Rohde at the University of California Berkeley. In countries that have air pollution standards for different pollutants, ozone is the most frequently exceeded. Ozone is a severe respiratory irritant and can make heart disease, asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases worse. Whether or not it can cause these conditions is an open question. Ozone can occur in pockets that travel large distances. Some of the ozone pollution has traveled across the Pacific Ocean from China to the US.

  • Fire

High temperatures combined with drought and wind greatly increase the risk of fire. Climate Catastrophe is bringing more fires of larger size and intensity. “Mega-fires”, such as the ones in Greece in the summer of 2007, are too large to be controlled by current fire-fighting resources.

As with the acute weather events described above, one can predict greater loss of life and property from fire as a result of Climate Catastrophe. Normally fire can have a cleansing effect, but vegetation already weakened by prior environmental insults would be less viable and would have more difficulty recovering from fire. Hence we predict the damage from fires will be more extensive and longer-lasting with Climate Catastrophe. Mega-fires may be so extensive that they reduce the availability of wood for lumber, paper and other wood products.

  • Water

The amount of water on earth is constant. By far the vast majority of earth’s water is sea water. Only 3% is fresh water, but most of this (68%) has been tied up in polar ice. Another 30% of the fresh water is in underground aquifers. The remainder, only about 0.3% of the fresh water (or 0.009% of the total water), is available as surface water for consumption. Figure 4 shows these relationships.

All the water on earth is inter-connected through the Hydrologic Cycle shown in a simplified diagram in Figure 5. Precipitation in the form of rain or snow falls to the surface and will ultimately run off into lakes, streams and rivers through their respective watersheds. As the earth warms snow and ice melt, producing further runoff. Surface water eventually flows to estuaries and oceans to merge with sea water. The salinity of oceans has been constant because the hydrologic cycle has been in equilibrium. However, warming temperatures are changing this equilibrium to favor melting of polar ice, runoff of glaciers, and dilution of sea water.

Climate catastrophe is already producing many effects on both fresh and salt water at a global scale. Changes in weather and climate patterns are occurring with increasing ocean temperatures. While some areas are experiencing more frequent storms, others suffer from severe drought. The El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) of surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean will become more intense. Indeed, the El Niño occurring now in 2015 may be the most intense on record. El Niño can produce excess rain in some areas of the world and deficiencies of rain in others. Figure 6 shows the predicted pattern of El Niño for September – November 2015, visible as the intense red equatorial band in the Pacific Ocean. Some parts of El Niño are predicted to warm by as much as 3o C this year.

With such an active El Niño, some areas will experience a major excess of rain. California, which was in danger of running out of water earlier in 2015, is predicted to have floods and landslides this autumn and winter. El Niño will exacerbate the extremes of acute weather events from Climate Catastrophe, and Climate Catastrophe will exacerbate El Niño. El Niño oscillates with La Niña, where the Pacific Equatorial region is cooler than the surrounding ocean. With Climate Catastrophe we can expect to see more frequent and stronger El Niños and less frequent and/or milder La Niñas.

One of the main effects of Climate Catastrophe is the rise in sea level. This is due to two causes: melting of polar ice and expansion of the volume of the sea water with warming.

The sea level is rising ten times faster than previously thought. According to NOAA and shown in Figure 7, it has risen on average two inches since 1993. Dr. James Hansen, formerly the chief scientist at NASA, believes sea level may rise as much as several meters in the next 50 years because of melting Arctic ice (Hansen et al, 2015). This will be a crisis for the major coastal cities, who must decide how to deal with it.

According to the United Nations Oceans Atlas, approximately 44 percent of the world’s populationlives within 150 kilometers of the sea coast (www.oceansatlas.org) and 40 percent lives within 100 kilometers (http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/es/papers/Coastal_Zone_Pop_Method.pdf)

Readers of this Journal will be especially interested to know that most of Singapore is at an elevation of 15 meters or less (49 feet). In Kuala Lumpur the average is 21.95 m (72.0 ft). While Taiwan is very mountainous, 90 percent of the population lives at 15 meters or lower in the gently sloping western plain. It is not unrealistic that sea level may impinge on these locations in the next two generations. Much of the populated areas of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Taiwan will be under water.

Interestingly, the sea level is not rising at the same rate uniformly all over the earth. Figure 8 shows the deviation in sea level as of 2013. The highest levels were at Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. This deviation may itself vary with time, and whether or not these locations will remain the most elevated is to be determined. It is due to complex factors including interaction of ocean currents with land masses as well as local variations in ocean temperatures. The rapid rise in sea level could be devastating for those locations with the largest deviation and where the population is concentrated near the coast.

Another important effect on water from Climate Catastrophe is the acidification of the oceans. Carbon dioxide can react with water to form carbonic acid. Higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are causing higher concentrations of carbonic acid to form in the oceans. Although it is a weak acid, it is strong enough to dissolve the calciferous exoskeletons of many marine organisms including coral. Thus we are witnessing the death of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the natural wonders of the earth.

Equally important is the effect on some benthics. Benthics are a family of small microscopic animals that are at the bottom of the marine food chain. Destruction of benthics would affect all marine animal life, from the smallest fish to the great whales. This could create a critical shortage of seafood, which comprises an important part of the diet of people living in coastal areas.

The effects of Climate Catastrophe on water are not limited to the oceans. Rivers are drying up all over the world, a result of less glacial and rain runoff in their watersheds combined with high rates of withdrawal for various uses. Some areas are already being affected in their ability to irrigate crops with river water, notably rice farming. Rice is a dietary staple for billions of people in the world whose lack would have far-reaching implications. According to the National Geographic Society, rivers which are already suffering major impacts are the Colorado in the US, Indus in Pakistan, Amu Darya in Central Asia, Syr Darya in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Rio Grande in US and Mexico, the Yellow River in China, the Teesta in Sikkim, and the Murray in Australia. Many of these rivers are a lifeline in their countries.

Final Autumn- Climate Catastrophe And Its Spiritual Dimensions – Part 1

Betty J Dabney, Ph.D.

Introduction

The following scenario and characters are fictional, but similar events could happen where you live:

October 26, 2065 dawned just like any other day for Wang Liu-Wen. He awoke in his small apartment on the fifth floor of a prestigious building in a coastal city by the sea. His wife, Shia-Wei, was still asleep at his side but was beginning to stir.

Liu-Wen considered himself lucky to be in this building. While it didn’t have the panoramic view of those higher in the mountains, it did have the convenience of being right on the harbor. This saved him at least half an hour in his morning and evening commute in his luxury automobile to his job as a supervisor in a software company. He could have taken mass transit, but that would not be fitting for a man of his prestige.

Slowly Liu-Wen got out of bed and reminded Shia-Wei of their dinner party that night. She had ordered special food for it, as well as fresh flowers to decorate their dining room.

Liu-Wen dressed quickly, for there was an important meeting at work with several international vicepresidents who had flown in for the occasion. They could have had a virtual meeting on-line, but these executives liked to fly to Hong Kong for the food and night life.

Always at the cutting edge of technology, Lie-Wen started his car remotely as he drank the last sip of tea and programmed it to drive itself from the parking place in the garage to the front door of the building. The car was waiting for him by the time he arrived downstairs.

Driving along the harbor to his office, Liu-Wen noticed something strange. There was a small leak in the retaining wall that had been built around the harbor to offset the rising sea level. He could see the water trickling down from one spot in the middle of the wall. Many other cities had taken this approach of walling themselves off from the ocean rather than move inland: New York, London, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. The engineers assured them it would be less expensive than moving and re-building the cities inland at higher elevations.

Quickly checking his portable data center on his wrist for real-time sea level in Hong Kong, he saw something alarming: over the past week the sea level had begun to rise even faster than its usual one centimeter per year. Something was happening that had not been anticipated. He looked at the data for other locations in the world; whatever was happening here was also going on in other parts of the world. He was gripped with a fear that scientists had been warning: it was as if all the polar ice had reached a tipping point and melted at once, in the space of a few days.

He looked at the real-time satellite image of Greenland and saw no ice, no snow. Moving his view to the Alps, then the Himalayas, he saw a similar picture: all the snow cover and glaciers were gone. All of them.

“It will be alright,” thought Liu-Wen. “We will have time to react. It won’t take long to build another level on the sea wall.”

The meeting went well, but Liu-Wen kept thinking about what he had seen. He tried to persuade his colleagues to turn the loss of ice and rising sea level into a new business opportunity. At the end of the meeting, Shia-Wei called.

“There is no food, Liu-Wen.”

Liu-Wen was incredulous. “What do you mean, no food?”

“The droughts in China and South America caused crop failures and the grocery cannot get the food we ordered for our dinner party. I checked with other stores in the on-line inventory – it’s the same everywhere. What are we going to do?”

Liu-Wen couldn’t answer. Instead, he stared at the wall of his office and realized that the predictions of the past fifty years were coming true. Then, as he drove home past the sea wall it collapsed. The water came and swept him away.

And, unbeknownst to Liu-Wen, at that moment the last polar bear died.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If Rachel Carson were alive today, fifty-three years after the publication of her seminal book Silent Spring, she might have written this as an introduction to its sequel. Now instead of mass extinction of birds all life on earth is in peril. The mass of humanity on the earth and its never-ending greed for consumption of material goods made from non-renewable resources has exceeded the capacity of the earth to support the life on it.

“Final Autumn” is the new Silent Spring. Each of us has a moral obligation to understand what is happening to the earth and to take personal action to prevent this apocalypse from becoming reality. In this article you will learn about the current and predicted effects of Climate Change around the world and how our reaction can be part of a spiritual practice. Whether they affect you directly or not at the present, it is just a matter of time before they might. We cannot continue with “Business as Usual” or the earth will not be able to support life as we know it within two generations, about fifty years.

What Is Climate Change?

Climate Change, which was formerly called Global Warming, is the unprecedented increase in the earth’s temperature that has been occurring since the Industrial Revolution over the past 100 years or so. While weather refers to acute (short-term) atmospheric events that occur over a period of days to months, climate is measured in decades.

Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project lists ten key indicators of Climate Change:

  • Increasing air temperatures over land;
  • Increasing air temperatures over oceans;
  • Decreasing Arctic sea ice;
  • Melting glaciers;
  • Rising sea levels;
  • Increasing humidity;
  • Increasing ocean heat content;
  • Increasing sea surface temperatures;
  • Decreasing snow cover;
  • Increasing temperature in the lower atmosphere.

What is causing this unprecedented warming of the earth? As shown in Figure 1, there has been a close association with concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and the surface temperature of the earth for the entire historical record of 400,000 years. Recently both have risen dramatically, and most of this increase can be attributed to burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas). Indeed, the correlation between CO2 and global temperature for the entire historical record is remarkable. Other gases such as methane and oxides of nitrogen (the latter also products of fossil fuel combustion) can contribute as well, but the greatest contributor is CO2.

Carbon dioxide occurs naturally and normally in the atmosphere. Our bodies and all animals produce it with every breath from the metabolism of our food. Plants use it in a reverse pathway called photosynthesis to convert CO2 into organic carbon-based compounds. Thus plants and animals complement each other in their needs and exist in a beautiful mutually beneficial relationship. But when the concentration of CO2 becomes too high the equilibrium is thrown off. Indeed, at very high concentrations (above ca. 10% or 100,000 ppm), CO2 is an asphyxiant and can cause death by displacing oxygen.

In May 2014 the concentration of atmospheric CO2 reached an all-time high of 400 parts per million (ppm), and it is still climbing steadily. There is some agreement that 350 ppm is the highest level that will not cause irreversible harm. We are already past that point, and the CO2 is now rising exponentially – that is to say the rate of increase itself is increasing. This concentration has never occurred in the historical record of 400,000 years determined from analyzing CO2 concentrations in trapped air bubbles of very old Antarctic ice. Indeed, climatologists have gone back to the drawing board to develop new models because the rate of change is ten times faster than previously thought. Ten times faster. 

How do these gases make the earth heat up? They act as blankets in the earth’s atmosphere and trap the heat radiated by the earth. Figure 2 shows this in a simplified way.

At the present time 99 percent of climate scientists agree that the rise in global temperature is real and is anthropogenic (man-made). They believe if the temperature rises more than 2o C from where it was in 1970 and/or if the CO2 is higher than 350 ppm, the earth is in danger of reaching a “tipping point” where the changes may be irreversible. The historic upcoming 21th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11 “Paris 2015” November 30th to December 11th has set a goal for the 193 member countries. It is to reduce global CO2 emissions by at least 60% below 2010 levels by 2050. However, some scientists (including this one) feel this goal is too little, too late.

In spite of the overwhelming evidence for Climate Change, there is still a great deal of resistance to change on the part of both governments and individuals. They just don’t seem to grasp that life as we know it hangs in the balance. We need a new terminology to describe what is occurring with Climate Change. Scientists have recently begun to use the term Climate Crisis, but that may not sufficiently convey the urgency of the situation. Therefore I propose the name Climate Catastrophe to describe what is happening around the earth now as a result of anthropogenic activity. Viewing the situation as a catastrophe in the present rather than a vague goal many years off may be enough to motivate many people to change their behavior and make a difference.

 

What Are the Effects of Climate Catastrophe and Why Should We Be Worried?

 Within the space of two generations (ca. 50 years), Climate Catastrophe will affect every aspect of life as we know it. In some cases it already has. For the sake of simplicity, we will discuss these effects on the classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

  • Earth

There will be dramatic changes in the food supply. Partly because the practice of monoculture has led to depletion of nutrients in the soil, partly because the inexorable creep of warmth toward the more temperate latitudes will require traditional crops either to adapt to heat or grow in higher latitudes/altitudes. Not all crops will be able to adapt. We will see total crop failures and severe famine with increasing frequency and perhaps extinctions of some crops altogether. Severe drought (see discussion under “Water”) will become commonplace.

As food shortages develop in the local and global markets, there will be increasing competition for the limited supply. A joint US-British Task Force on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience recently concluded that global food shortages will be three times more likely because of Climate Change. Events that were previously occurring once a century are now predicted to occur every 30 years. Food riots and armed conflicts over food will occur. As in every situation of limited resources, prices will skyrocket and the poor will be left behind, perhaps to the point of not being able to buy, find, or grow enough food to survive. As food becomes more and more scarce, more and more people will become marginalized and more famines will occur.

Humanity will need to change the way it eats and become vegetarian or even vegan, because of the great quantities of water required to raise meat in comparison to vegetables, and water is in critical shortage (See Section on “Water” below). Figure 3 shows some examples of the cost in water of different kinds of foods. It is evident that all foods from animals require more water kilogram-for-kilogram than plant-based foods. This is simply because animals grown for food traditionally eat plant-based diets but must further convert the plants into meat and fat.

It would be more efficient if people eliminated the animals and ate plants directly.

Perhaps a more pertinent comparison would be the amount of water required to produce different foods normalized to total caloric value, protein and fat. In Table 1 we can see that animal-based foods still require more water than most plant-based diets, with beef being the highest consumer of all. Exceptions are fruits and nuts, which are less efficient than beef for using water to make protein but are still more efficient for overall calories. Vegetables in general require only one-fourth to one-seventh as much water per gram of protein, the most critical component because protein deficiency is the most common type of malnutrition worldwide. Thus a worldwide food catastrophe will be part of Climate Catastrophe. Indeed, some parts of the world are already affected.

In its never-ending demand for more material goods and an unhealthy Western diet that accompanies economic development, people are destroying habitats at an unprecedented rate. Rain forests are cleared to make room for raising beef cattle and palm oil plantations, and are no longer available to sequester CO2. Palm oil plantations threaten the survival of endangered orangutans. Oil-producing plants are the most efficient at trapping CO2 because oil has twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrate or protein. Oil-producing plants would be more valuable to the planet if they were allowed to grow unmolested to suck up CO2.

Besides extinction of some crops, there will be mass extinctions of wildlife in those species that cannot adapt to warming or find new habitats. This socalled “Sixth Great Extinction” has been described by Elizabeth Kolbert in her book The Sixth Extinction, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Non- Fiction in the US. While species extinctions and emergence of new species are constantly occurring, the earth is entering an era where the rate of extinctions may be 100 – 1,000 times higher than usual. Scientists are concerned about the Sixth Extinction because it is largely anthropogenic.

While the actual number of species is not known, one study estimated that 75 percent of vertebrates could be extinct within several lifetimes, and several thousand are becoming extinct every day. Some scientists have named this the Anthropocene geological era because the effects of humankind on species and topology are so large that they will alter the paleontological and geological records. Climate Catastrophe with its droughts, heat waves and storms makes species extinction worse, and Climate Catastrophe will occur faster with destruction of vegetation no longer available to sequester CO2.

We will also see different global distributions of diseases as the earth warms. Tropical diseases will creep toward formerly temperate climates and cover larger areas. New heat-resistant strains of infectious agents will appear as part of their adaptation and evolution. This is already evident for some diseases. For example, highly infectious bacterium Vibrio vulnificus from shellfish has been reported in more northerly areas for the first time. Harmful algae blooms (red tides) from massive infestations of algae will also become more frequent in higher latitudes in coastal areas.

Once begun, Climate Catastrophe and ecological destruction feed on each other like a dragon eating its tail. Because everything is connected and interdependent, when we deliberately destroy life of any kind we will ultimately destroy ourselves.

Wireless Means Radiation

Arthur Firstenberg

From Japan, friends write me saying people suddenly stopped being social about five years ago. They stay home and don’t want to be physically active. In Sweden, prescriptions for sleeping pills for young women doubled between 1994 and 1996, and prescriptions for anti-depressants increased 40%. In these and other countries, something happened in the mid to late 1990s that disrupted the social fabric and had a large impact on public health. What was it?

Here in the United States the wireless revolution arrived with major fanfare in the fall of 1996. The Federal Communications Commission had auctioned off huge amounts of radio spectrum, and large corporations invested billions of dollars in equipment and infrastructure in time for the gift-giving season in two dozen major cities. The result today is similar to what is occurring almost everywhere in the world: towers and antennas sprouting like wildflowers from fields, forests, and electronic rooftops gardens; and mobile phones glued to the ears of some one billion people worldwide. And not just mobile phones: radio waves, supposedly as safe as water, are being used to transmit data, connect computers, connect cordless home phones, collect tolls, monitor traffic, track railway cars, open garage doors, lock and unlock cars, turn on and off television sets, transmit to hearing aids in theatres, power new kinds of light bulbs, monitor environmental conditions, forecast the weather, etc., etc. , etc. Thousands of satellites broadcasting from space make this type of pollution impossible to escape.

Like fish in the sea, most people do not notice the radio waves we are swimming in because we never leave them. And yet, one scientist recently remarked that if Neil Armstrong had taken a mobile phone to the moon in 1968, it would have been the single most powerful source of microwave radiation impacting the earth at that time from space, next to the Sun. The amount of microwaves our planet swims in today far surpasses the output of the sun. Clearly we have completely altered our electromagnetic environment in an incredibly short amount of time, without regard to consequences. This pollution takes the form of radio waves of a great range of frequencies and wavelengths, from extra low frequency (ELF) waves to high frequency waves to microwaves all the way up to infrared radiation and coherent visible light (lasers).

The consequences are noticeable in a number of ways.

First, human sensitivity to electricity and radiation is not uniform. Despite widespread denial that electromagnetic radiation (EMR) cause disease, large numbers of people in dozens of countries are suffering so terribly that they are no longer keeping silent about it. At 1998 statewide survey by the California Department of Health Services found that 3.3% of the population surveyed said they were “allergic or very sensitive to getting near electrical appliances, computers or power lines” Extrapolating to the entire United States, this means that about 9 million people react so severely to EMR that they cannot be convinced otherwise by experts, doctors, and friends.

The social stigma that always comes when one admits to being electrically sensitive is so great that the true extent of this health problem is likely to be much larger. Among the thousands of electrically sensitive people I have heard from during the past five years, the experience of rejection is always the same. Friends and family members abandon them, their spouses often leave them, and their doctors advise psychiatric help. In the 1998 California survey, 53% of these people were unemployed or unable to work, and 38% had incomes below $15,000. The authors found, however, that these people were not much more likely than average to believe that electromagnetic fields (EMF) are a health risk. Perception of risk did not, therefore, explain the prevalence of this problem.

Some organizations and support groups for electrically sensitive people are the Cellular Phone Taskforce (USA); Foreningen for El-och Bildskarmsskadade (FEB) (Sweden); El-og Billedskaermsskadede i Danmark (EBD) (Denmark); Association Europeenne d’Aide aux Victimes des Champs Electromagnetiques (AVICEM) (France); Teslabel Coordination (Belgium); Suomen Sahl Koyliherkkien Tuki Ry (SSYHTRY)(Finland); Arbeitskreis fur Elektrosensible e.V. (Germany); Circuit ( England); Irish Electromagnetic Radiation Victims Network (Ireland); Gauss Network (Japan); and the Electromagnetic Radiation Awareness Network (Australia).

Symptoms of exposure commonly include insomnia, headaches, dizziness, nausea, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, irritability, flue-like illness, fatigue, weakness, pressure or pain in the chest, pressure behind the eyes, swollen throat, thirst, dry lips or mouth, seating, fever, muscle spasms, tremors , pain in the legs or the soles of the feet, testicular or pelvic pain, joint pains, nosebleeds, digestive problems, skin rash, ringing in the ears and impaired sense of smell.

A second indication about what is occurring comes from mortality statistics. The proponents of wireless technology claim there is no problem because life expectancy is still rising. Nevertheless, it can be shown that new sources of EMR are already having temporary effects on mortality that mimic disease epidemics. For example, in 1999 I published my analysis of statistics which were provided me by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It showed that the beginning of digital cellular phone service in dozens of cities during 1996 or 1997 was accompanied by a 10-25% rise in total mortality lasting approximately 2-3 months. The increase in mortality began, in each case, within a day or two of the beginning of cell phone service.

A third indication of a problem is the recent rise in the incidence of certain diseases that are predicted, from the medical literature, to occur as a result of exposure to EMR. The greatest store of information about radio wave sickness was accumulated beginning in the 1950s in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe by studying workers exposed to radio waves on the job. Excellent research on the health effects of radio waves was also done in the U.S. during the same period of time by a number of scientists, notable Dr. Milton Zaret, an ophthalmologist, and Dr. Allan Frey, a biologist. Dr. Frey was the first to discover a phenomenon, now well recognised, called microwave hearing — the sensation of sound caused directly by low energy microwave radiation.

In the 1990s several well publicised epidemiological studies showed similar health effects caused to the population living near: a short wave radio tower at Schwarzenburg, Switserland; a long wave radio tower at Konstantynow, Poland and an early warning radar station at Skrunda, Latvia. There have also been an increasing number of medical reports of similar health problems among users of mobile phones.

The diseases that are now rising, worldwide, that are to be expected from exposure to radio wave, include asthma; hypertension; “tinnitis” (which is often not tinnitis but the hearing of electricity or radio waves); sleep disorders; depression; memory loss; chronic fatigue; and multiple sclerosis. Flu-like symptoms are also increasing and too readily being attributed to new viruses without looking for the likely environmental causes. There is also some indication that the incidence of cerebral haemorrhage, especially in young people, is beginning to increase again in many parts of the world. This may be related to the leakage of the small capillaries in the brain(a breakdown of the so-called “blood-brain barrier”) that many researchers have found occurs upon exposure to even extremely low levels of radio frequency radiation.

A fourth indication of a problem comes from observations of animals by farmers, veterinarians, wildlife biologists, and birdwatchers. It has been known since the 1920s that homing pigeons become disoriented by novel radio frequency fields, and those who are still racing pigeons today will tell you that it is becoming more difficult to keep their birds healthy. They also lose more birds during races than they used to. Disoriented pigeons are found thousands of miles from home or become lost and are never found.

The same disorientation is probably responsible for an increasing number of wild birds killed by radio towers. Some, no doubt, are attracted to the lights on top, or crash inadvertently into the nearly-invisible guy wires. But there have also been incidents of thousands of birds at once flying full force into the ground near a radio tower, and other reports, as yet unexplained, of massive numbers of birds simply falling out of the sky, in several cases carpeting a major highway. Attempts to explain the special sensitivity of birds to microwave radiation led one Canadian research team led by Dr. J. Bigu Del Blanco, in 1973, to postulate that feathers function as radio antennas and amplify the incoming signals. In careful experiments they found that bird feathers do indeed make fine microwave receiving aerials.

Dairy farmers have also been yelling about the effects of radio and mobile phone towers on their animals. This has been well documented both in Europe and the USA. The most obvious, and expensive, effect is a decline in milk production – the same effect that alerted so many farmers to the older, but similar, stray voltage problem from electric power distribution systems. Cows are also experiencing still births, spontaneous abortions, birth deformities, behaviour problems, and sudden declines in health without other explanation. In some cases the whole herd or individual animals have regained their health immediately upon removal to a remote location away from the radio tower.

According to Dr. Robert O. Becker, author of The Body Electric (Morrow, 1985) and a pioneer in the field of bioelectromagnetics, electromagnetic pollution is the greatest threat to our environment, greater even than global warming.

The complete failure of society to deal with, or even recognize, this threat, has a long history – going back at least two centuries to the debate between Volta and Galvani about the existence of what the latter called “animal electricity”. It was not until the early 1900s, however, that it was firmly established among mainstream scientists that electricity and the life force must be two separate things, and that the one cannot have any effect upon the other. It has, in fact, been necessary to deny any effect in order to build up the modern technological web which is so intimately dependent on an ever-growing supply of artificially-produced electricity. This has not been without consequences to health from the very beginning, but until five or six years ago we have (for the most part) been getting away with it. Now a threshold has been crossed.

The goal of wireless technology is that people never be out of touch with one another, no matter where they go. But this means the irradiation of every square inch of the earth’s surface, both sea and land, which is absolutely unprecedented.

For the survival of life on our planet, this must stop.

There are various measures one may take, at home, to minimize one’s personal exposure to EMFs, and to protect oneself against their effects. For example, fermented live foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso, are said to be protective against all forms of ionising and non-ionizing radiation. Dissolving natural clay in one’s bath water seems to help. Some say this increases the conductivity of the water and helps to discharge the body. A variety of ways to try to shield one’s home or one’s body – special paint, clothing, pendants, etc. – are on the market, but none are completely effective, and some do more harm than good. A simple hygienic measure which should be taught in all schools is to unplug appliances, especially televisions and computers, whey they are not in use.

But the most important thing to do is to never use any wireless devises in one’s home or at work and for our common benefit and future – to educate others to do the same.

Biographical information
Arthur Firstenberg is the founder and president of the Cellular Phone Taskforce, the editor of its publication No Place to Hide and the author of Microwaving our Planet: the Environmental Impact of the Wireless Revolution (Cellular Phone Taskforce, 1997). He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in 1971 with a B.A. in Mathematics and Physics, and went to medical school at the University of California, Irvine from 1978 to 1982. Injury by X-ray overdose cut short medical career. It also led him to study the health effects of electromagnetic radiation for the past 20 years.

He is also a certified practitioner of the Feldenkrais and Rubenfeld Synergy Methods of Healing.

Aug 2001

The Danger of Mobile Phones (Part I)

Rachel Tseng

When I was back in Taiwan visiting friends and relatives, what struck me most was: almost everyone in Taiwan (except children) has a mobile phone; some of them even own two or three phones. Even though mobile phones are not a necessity to juveniles and teenagers, some parents still give their children mobile phones, as a way of showing their love. Wherever you go, people are seen talking on the phone. It was a shock to me. I returned to a small town in the United States, and noticed that there were more and more people using mobile phones. Under the sales promotion of businesses, (where the price of a mobile phone is sometimes cheaper than ordinary phones), the number of mobile phone users escalated very rapidly.

While the public indulges in the convenience and entertainment brought by this new technology, very few people are aware of the enormous amount of electromagnetic waves that emit from cellular transmission base stations, TV, microwave ovens, radio waves, radar, satellite – which are going through our bodies. Do you know the effects of all these combined, intensified radiation? If radiation can change the DNA structure, causing abrupt changes in living organisms, and further affecting the next generation, who knows when these impacts will surface, and how it will affect the children and teenagers? Nowadays, people carry mobile phones close to them. Can you imagine that as you use the mobile phone, you are actually transmitting electromagnetic waves into your brain?! (Electromagnetic wave radiation scatters in the range of 0 to 3000 GHz. In general, electromagnetic waves stand for both electromagnetic waves and microwaves, where microwave is the highest frequency of electromagnetic waves.)

For many years, many well-respected scientists over the world have explicitly told us of the possible harm caused by electromagnetic wave radiation. Dr. Stanislaw Szmigielski, a Professor of Pathology from the Department of Health and Pathology at the Warsaw Military Institute, conducted a 15-year research and found that Poland’s military officials who were exposed to electromagnetic wave radiation of “acceptable safety limit” experienced incidence of cancer two times that of ordinary people, and leukaemia, lymphoma, and chromosome damage incidence of 6 to 8 times that of ordinary people.

In 1987, Dr. Terry L. Thomas conducted various studies on American workers who were exposed to electromagnetic wave radiation. The conclusion was: their brain tumors grew significantly, with the risk level associated positively with the duration of exposure. Soma-Sarkar, a scientist from Delhi Atomic, Nuclear and Related Science Organizations and who was well-known worldwide for his research in radiation, did an experiment exposing rats to microwaves that were set to the standard level generally considered safe. The results showed that radiation caused serious genetic alterations of the DNA strands and can lead to cancer.

Dr. Henry Kues from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory exposed the eyes of primate animals to pulse-microwaves (before- thermal effect) which are similar to the microwaves from mobile phones. The results showed signs of “irreversible damage.” Sometimes medicine for glaucoma can cause damage to eyes and Dr. Kues discovered that the harm from pulse-microwaves is stronger than that from this drug. Due to Dr. Kues’ study, the standard radiation exposure level set by the Applied Science Research Center is more than 100 times safer than that in the U.S.

Dr. Henry Lai and Dr. Narenda Singh, colleagues of Dr. Kues, showed from their experiment that laboratory rats that were exposed to pulse-microwaves for two hours experienced breakages in DNA in the brain, which is generally considered a warning sign of cancer. Dr. Lai stated, “We are probably exposed to the same or even higher levels (mobile phones, for example) of radiation. It took only 2 hours to have an effect on animals, and yet we are using mobile phones intermittently. This test result will definitely serve as a warning to mobile phone users.

Micael Repacholi (an Australian), the director of the World Health Organization Electromagnetic Field Research Project, made a statement based on his research report: “The thermal effect from mobile phone radiation is significantly correlated with cancer.” He also discovered that a long-term exposure to pulse-electromagnetic waves greatly increases laboratory rats’ chances of getting lymphoma, and also speeds up the growth of this disease.

Dr. Bruce Hocking, an ex-medical science director at Telstra, Australia’s state telephone corporation, conducted a study on a group of mobile phone users and found that the use of mobile phones may cause headache, dizziness, upset stomach and blurred vision. Dr. Hocking strongly called on setting limits on mobile phone advertisements and recommended children not to use this device.

Mobile Phone Enterprise Research Organizations discovered that mobile phones interfere with the functioning of pacemaker. The organization further warned those with pacemakers to keep mobile phones away from their chest. Studies also discovered that mobile phones can interfere with the operation of hearing-aids and medical equipment. As a result, Netherlands’ National Health Investigation Association set a regulation in 1994 that all mobile phones must be switched off upon entering the hospital area.

Other studies throughout the world have also reported that the incidence of lymphoma, skin cancer, breast cancer and brain tumor increases with the exposure to pulsed electromagnetic/microwave radiation. Recently, there has been a tremendous increase in the sources of electromagnetic waves and the degree of public exposure to the radiation, yet we have not heard of any reports on the potential harm from electromagnetic waves despite all these existing unequivocal information. This censorship of information is due to the powerful and influential profit-making organizations, using their wealth, power and business collusion, have blocked the circulation of these vital information. On the surface they appear to be sponsoring academic research, but secretly they use different ways to manipulate news. Many scientists are forced not to remain silent due to the pressure of research grant sponsorship. All these problems are to do with money. Under the temptation of millions of dollars of profits, these enterprises have emitted radiation into the environment and yet asserting against their conscience that mobile phones are safe to use.

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2002 Feb Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore

The Danger Of Mobile Phones (Part II)

Rachel Tseng

Mobile phone manufacturers and telecommunication companies generally allay the fears of consumers by telling them that the electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from mobile phones falls within the safety limits set by the US government. However, Dr W. Ross Adey, an outstanding doctor who has investigated EMF radiation over the past 30 years, does not think so. He points out that a flaw in the US standards is that it relies entirely on thermal effects on the body’s cells. Many research reports indicate that EMF radiation causes bodily harm even before thermal effects are felt. Furthermore, the safety limits set by England, Japan, Germany, and Russia are even more stringent than those set by the US. The safety limit set by the World Health Organization is five times more stringent than that set in the US.

I sometimes shudder when I see parents allowing their children to play with or listen to mobile phones. This is because research has shown that EMF radiation has a bigger effect on living beings that are smaller built. If we use the mobile phone, there is greater impact on the smaller organs within the body (e.g., the ovary); the impact on children is five times that on adults. Nowadays, I even try to avoid people on the streets who are using mobile phones. This is because the harmful radiation of mobile phones extends within a radius of 100 yards. Of course, in a congested country like Taiwan, there is no question of being able to avoid the mobile phone.

The future looks even more bleak. To provide seamless service to customers, telecommunication companies have plans to set up 150,000 new mobile phone base stations and antennas before the year 2000. A New York Times report has called these antennas the Devil’s Antenna because they are ubiquitously appearing everywhere and there is no place to hide. Every year, telecommunication companies pay several thousands of dollars to the owners of these buildings where the base stations are installed. However, the occupants of these buildings become the most direct victims. The New York Times report also describes how these stations are cleverly camouflaged to hide their original appearances—as church spires or even as trees! This serves to allay people’s aesthetic and health concerns. However, my concern is that this makes the base stations so much more difficult to avoid since they are so well concealed.

This is indeed the tragedy of the modern times. Humans are not the only victims. Biologists and environmentalists are gradually realizing that electromagnetic radiation have ill effects on animals as well.

In her article “No place to hide”, Alice Beougher mentioned the following: She discovered that not long after a base station was installed within 200 meters of her backyard, wild rabbits, moles, wild deer, ducks, and many birds

(that were in abundance just several months ago) disappeared from the backyard. A group of brown foxes that were nesting near her house became weak, their fur dropped, and they either left or died. The dog that she reared fell ill, and was put to sleep four years later when it developed a very high fever that would not go away and all its fur fell off.

A pigeon-racing group complained that after the installation of a nearby base station, the incidence of lost pigeons significantly increased. In a 200 miles, 1500 out of 1800 pigeons did not return. In another 350 miles race, 1000 out of 1200 pigeons disappeared during the race. Observers noted that, nowadays, pigeons require more time to return to their original dwelling place. Many wild bird species have also disappeared from their natural habitats. Wild geese that used to fly in systematic patterns now flew haphazardly.

According to Jim Cox, a biologist in the Florida Freshwater committee, the installation of a base station can lead to the deaths of 2500 birds within a year. There are at least six telecommunication companies competing in the US, and each needs to install base stations within four to five kilometres of each other. This suggests that within the US, millions of birds may be sacrificed each year. Soon, the poor birds will have no other places to fly to.

The US poultry industry has also experienced large number of inexplicable animal deaths. Some animals die before they reach the age for slaughtering, leading to huge losses for the proprietors. Even the fresh carcasses of these animals have a putrid smell and cannot be sold. Farms across the country report news of high death rates among cows. A farmer, who decided to close his business, took X-rays of his cows just before they died. What was strange was that the cow, which had gone without food, had a stomach full of food! It seems that many inexplicable details have been covered up, and environmental groups suspect that these are related to electromagnetic radiation.

Plants can also be harmed by electromagnetic radiation. A report by Dahlbergs indicate that the leaves of fruit trees that are located near base stations look as if they had been burned. These trees slowly die during summer, and their fruits premature drop in July. Trees that are directly facing these base stations are most severely affected.

There are so many innocent victims around, but the cause is the work of smart humans who crave for convenience at all expenses.

After reading so much information on the harmful effects of EMF radiation, I began to wonder how we could arouse people’s attention to this problem? After enjoying so much convenience, how do we pluck up our determination and say “no” to the mobile phone? Can businesses act with conscience, and not require their employees to carry mobile phones with them? This is a global environmental pollution problem, and one that involves the health of the individual, the family, and all sentient beings. We are all live in the same earth. Without a strong tide of reaction against the proliferation of mobile phones, our current and next generations will be harmed. You have a responsibility and call of duty to stop this pollution.

References:
www.lessemf.com

Warning:
The electricity around you may be hazardous to your health – How to protect yourself from electromagnetic fields. Simon & Shuster, 1998.

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2002 May Issue
Translated by Lapis Lazuli Light Singapore

Strategies for Green Consumption

As smart shoppers, we know how to meticulously work on our budget to maximise income and minimise expenditure. If we can bring our ideas into our spending habit, allowing our money to speak for our ideas, then the beautiful world we desire will be here much sooner.

For your reference, the following are list of 20 practical methods suggested by Co-op America and the relevant web sites for further information. All changes come from tiny bits of small changes, any changes you make may be a key influence, so please do not underestimate your capability.

1. Simplify your lifestyle, lessen your desire:
Take another closer look at your lifestyle; recapture the centre of your life–good interpersonal relationships, a meaningful job, a healthy earth…

If you are able to simplify your lifestyle, lessen your desires, only buy necessity goods, you will not overspend your budget and there may even be savings for old days. Moreover, there is no need to work overtime to meet spending habit that goes out of control. There will be more time to attend to important matters, and more time to spend with loved ones. If we know how to conserve energy, it is guaranteed that everyone has enough to eat and the future generations will also get to enjoy.

Our heart will be filled with more joy by living such a simple life with few possessions.

www.realmoney.org

2. Exchanging Goods and Swapping Necessities:
This brings us back to ancient times where there was no currency exchange but everyone exchanged what was needed. For instance, your neighbour would help you with gardening and you would help him look after his children in return. We can also set up a mutual-help group in the neighbourhood, exchange websites, regional co-op, and exchange with others any excess stuff or things that are no longer needed or tools that are rarely used. You can also exchange your skills and services such as house repair and maintenance; teach computer, music and arts classes, baby sitting, take care of pets, etc. You may also consider a meal sharing arrangement and take turn cooking for one another (of course on the premise that you all share a common concept on diet type).

Think about this, you have to pay income tax on the money you earn, and in using the income earned to buy goods, you have to pay for GST; this means that you are being ripped off twice, and the income taxes paid may not be spent in a way that suits your idea. The exchange method not only helps saving money and taxes (please note: it is saving taxes but not evading taxes!), it also helps enhancing interpersonal communication and neighbourhood friendship and also makes full use of commodities and minimizes wastes.

3. Minimise Wastes, Reuse and Recycle:
To minimize wastes, we must first avoid buying things that we do not need or buying too much. In buying a new product, allow a period of 7 to28 days of observation period, ask whether the product is actually needed, or is it possible to borrow or rent or exchange, or can a used product be bought instead?

Before anything is thrown away, consider any other possible uses. It is best if things can be reused, given away or exchanged. Kitchen wastes may be used as compost, rubbish may be classified; those that have chemical poisons or pollutants such as computer parts, batteries, ink cartridge of a printer, light bulbs, paint, machine oil, styrofoam, plastic bags, etc., all need to be disposed of with special arrangement or make a request that the manufacturers recycle (manufacturers that are conscientious and are environmental friendly shall assume the responsibility to recycle, this can also be a criteria for consumers in shopping for a product.)

May everyone make an effort to build a cleaner world and conserve resources for the future generations!

www.earth911.org
www.eiae.org
www.realmoney.org/articles/recycling.htm

4. Purchase Green Products
As long as we transfer 10% of our daily consumption (of course the more the better) to green enterprise by purchasing green products, this change is enough to form a large amount of funds in reforming the society, this reforming force is strong and shall not be ignored. For individuals, this change can be easily carried out.

First, choose a product that you frequently buy, for example, clothing or food, then promise yourself that you will shop and purchase from green and ethical organisations, eventually do the same for other consumption. Also, consider making your purchase order together with your friends to enjoy a lower cost as well as cut down on packaging wastes.

www.greenpages.org

5. Purchase Fair-Trade Certified Goods:
Everyone wishes to buy the best quality and largest amount of goods at the least possible cost; however, if the low cost comes from ripping off or inhuman treatment on the workers, we probably will not be able to truly enjoy the products since everything more or less carries and delivers a message from the manufacturer.

In developing countries, fair-trade implies whether the people can send their children to school, whether they get to consume clean food and water, and whether they will have daily necessities which we take for granted. Buying fair-trade certified products enables farmers, craftsman and workers to earn an income that commensurate to their labour contribution and gives them power to make their own decisions so that they can continually engage in their communities and sustain their living environment.

In the U.S., fair-trade certification currently aims at coffee, cocoa, chocolate, handicrafts and other products imported from developing countries: the certification holds an objective standard and procedure for certification. Fair-trade certification not only has financial influence, but it also invests in the framework that improves the well-being of human race – every dollar spent on fair-trade certified products helps maintain balance in the universe and assists the poor to walk out of poverty.

Besides buying fair-trade certified products, we can also disseminate this message to our friends and relatives and also encourage businesses to carry fair-trade certified products.

www.greenpages.org

6. Purchase Organic and Local Food:
Not only that organic food does not contain chemical pesticide residues, it also contains more natural and complete micro-minerals, has delicious taste, is good for health and protects the environment from pollution. More importantly, organic food farmers have more respect for land and soil and have deeper affection for nature, thus the food they grow naturally has higher energy.

It would be best if you can grow your own organic food; however, if you face time or space limit, consider joining community organic gardening and agriculture programme. Try to get seasonal and local crops; this will lower the resource expenses incurred in the transporting process and save packaging wastes. Buy food from the farmers’ market and the local co-ops, participate in community support agriculture programme, support green restaurant, consume within the community to ensure a market support for the local organic farmers. Other than that, also support the organic certification standard, understand the meaning of signs, safeguard consumers and green enterprises, ensure that the money is actually used for supporting best farming, avoid organic certification standard being manipulated and played down by commercialized large agriculture organisation.

www.ota.com
www.ccof.org

7. Know the Companies that Receive Your Consumption Support:
If the environment is important to you, please support and be involved in environmentally friendly companies, purchase their products and boycott those companies that generate pollution to the environment. If peace is important to you, you naturally would exclude companies that invest in or manufacture weapons from your consumption basket. Allow every penny you spend to speak up for your beliefs.

Given that mergers and acquisitions of companies are frequent, sometimes some small companies belong to certain large corporations, so consumers ought to be careful and do some research to identify them. The following website analyses over 400 companies that have contributed to the societal-environmental protection, compares the actual operations of different companies in a given industry, and indicates the subordinate companies of each brand name. The website also enables you to direct your issues of concerns to different companies by email

www.responsibleshopper.org

8. Stop Sweatshop and Child Labour
Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you: sweatshop and child labour need not exist at all. We wish that everyone in the world has shelter and has enough food. May all children have the opportunity to go to school; these are also the goals of fair-trade certification.

We can start from changing our spending habit, look for brands with fair-trade certification, request that shops or manufacturers indicate product source, make a request to schools, groups and organisation to be buy fair-trade certified products so as to stop sweatshop and child labour.

9. Careful Use of Wooden Products
Forests are the source of oxygen, the home to many animals and also a good place for leisure activities for us. Unfortunately 46%of the forest on earth has been eliminated, so it is critical to protect the forests. Use recycled papers, cut down on the volume of paper usage, set the printer to double-sided printing, use shopping bags made of cloth instead of paper, reuse paper products(for instance, the back side of a photocopied paper may be used as sketch paper),recycle all papers, boxes, newspapers, etc., remove your name from the consumer mailing list to minimize junk mails, request that the magazines you subscribe to use recycled paper, otherwise consider reading from the web or join-order with others; reduce usage on wooden products, purchase wooden products produced from forests with Continuous Management Plan(presently there is one lumber certification unit: Forest Stewardship Council Certified Lumber).

www.woodwise.org
www.ecopaperaction.org

10. Select Products with No Toxic or with Low Toxicity
Being surrounded by hundreds and thousands of toxic chemical products, increasingly more people suffer from allergy, headache, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and other chemical-allergic symptoms. Children are the ones who get affected the most; this is obvious from the common children illnesses such as asthma, cancer, hyperactivity, delayed development and other serious health problems.

Choose to use nontoxic or low-toxic products, for example, toxic-free paint, construction materials, household cleaning products, personal health care products, and so on. Avoid external use of products that are unsafe for ingestion. Many symptoms will improve significantly.

Reference Books:

  • “Creating A Healthy Household by Lynn Marie Bower, the Healthy Home Institute 2000.
  • “Better Basics for the Home” by Annie Berthold-Bond, Three Rivers Press 1999.
  • “Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan, Pocket, 1997.
  • “Nontoxic, Natural & Earthwise” by Debra Lynn Dadd, Putnam, 1990.

11. Select Green Energy Resource:
Depending on the region of your residency, try to adopt green energy from wind power, water power, geothermal energy, solar energy, and other energy that can be reused. In the U.S., many states provide preferential tax law or subsidies in order to encourage household install solar-energy, wind power generators which also help save electricity and expenditure on electronic equipment purchase.

Using energy-saving light bulbs, turning off lights after use, operating air-conditioners effectively, drying clothes using sun light instead of dryer, using solar-energy oven for cooking, etc are all actions and commitment to supporting green energy resource.

www.eere.energy.gov/greenpower

12. Reconsider Means of Transport:
Transportation consumes 28% of energy. If it is possible to move closer to school or office and walk or cycle to school or to work, and commit to not using automobile for at least one day per week, then the problems of increasingly severe air pollution and traffic jam will eventually improve.

Furthermore, consider buying green powered automobiles (electric cars, natural-fuel car), take public transport or go for car pool, or even consider car sharing(that is, several people sharing the use of one car; in the U.S., a membership system is generally adopted, the members would make an advanced booking on the time of use according to their need, and they pay for the hours used)which will help save money and reduce the cost to society and the environment.

www.carpoolconnect.com
www.carsharing.net
www.zipcar.com

13. Improve the Community:
Turn off the TV; spend time gathering with friends and relatives, organizing community activities such as floatparade, picnic, street meeting, story-telling, concert, photographic exhibition, movie exhibition, etc. Gather the strength of the community, display the history and characteristics of the community and increase the sense of identity with the community.

www.tvturnoff.org

14. Socially Responsible Investments:
Apply your ideas and values on investments, analyse your current investment portfolio, exclude the companies that do not fit your ideas and values, hire a financial consultant who has experience in “social responsible investment” for assistance.

Many socially responsible green enterprises have been operating and performing well and investors are impressed in all aspects. After I found out such type of investment, I immediately transferred my investment funds to socially responsible green enterprises. For over a year, I am happy with their performance; profit from socially responsible investments enhances satisfaction.

There are always risks involved in all investments, please carefully analyse the company’s financial report, investment plan reports, and so on before making an investment decision. Do not handle your hard-earned money casually, and do not blame others later (do not hold me accountable if you lose money, but I don ” t mind if you wish to share your profit).

www.socialinvest.org

15. Invest in Neighbourhood Community:
Make deposits in a community bank or a credit union; choose those banks that invest funds in assisting community development, providing housing loans to low-income households, and helping the development of small enterprises so as to generate job opportunities. Although the interests and services you receive from banks are more or less the same, the way your money is invested makes a big difference; you may even directly enjoy the benefits from community development.

www.communityinvest.org

16. Participate in Shareholder’s Action
Make wise use of your rights as a shareholder; participate in the strategic decision voting, drawing the company’s operations to fit closer to your ideas.

17. Generous Donation
Due to recession, donations have shrunk tremendously, many charity organisations are lacking funds and are unable to strive for their goals. After experiencing the shocks of 921 Earthquake, severe earthquake, the September11 terrorists ” attacks, SARS, bird flu and other natural and man-made disasters, we shall feel more deeply for the impermanence of life and shall understand that it is even more important for us to generously make donations according to our own financial standing.

What goes around comes around; this is the simple law of universe on maintaining the balance of the universe. We can think of the money we donated as a deposit into the large bank of the universe. There is no need to worry about the bankruptcy of this bank, and there is no need to use an ATM card. When we are in need, the money will naturally return to us (perhaps in a different form), there is no investment that is more profitable than this one. Holding such mentality, we may feel even happier in donating.

18. Peace Promotion
Promoting peace is not a slogan, but a goal that each of us can strive to achieve in our daily lives. Perhaps stopping war between nations is beyond our reach, but we can start from promoting community peace. Holding seminars allows for people who are not familiar with one another to develop a mutual and peaceful communication channel through the discussion of daily affairs; this will improve the understanding of community members, eliminate racial and religious hatred. More importantly, educate ourselves and our children to emphasize peace, learn to listen patiently and acquire skills to resolve conflicts.

www.worldyouth.org

19. Make Good Use of Your Voices:
Write to the relevant organisations regarding issues of your concern, make an appeal at the municipal meeting, or make a phone call to a member of parliament; all these are possible ways to voice your opinion.

20. Educating Others
Widely spread the concept of green consumption that focuses on social responsibility environmental protection and continuous development so that more people will approve to this and take supporting actions. Exchanging information and sharing experience with one another, the ideal outcome will soon be realized since the united will of the masses is like a fortress.

www.coopamerica.org

The applicability of the above strategies for green consumption actions may differ from country to country and region to region. This article presents a brief introduction to the situation in the U.S. as a reference for readers from different areas. For more information on the details of the strategies, please visit the relevant websites.

It does not matter whether these20 strategies are a new concept and inspiration or a platitude for you, what is important is that you start your green consumption plans with the strategies that are applicable to you.

End note:
Special thanks to my best friend Jia Qi [transliteration] for her assistance in gathering and sorting the information.

Extracted from Lapis Lazuli Light Magazine 2004 May Issue
Translated by Yih Pin Tang

Knowing Our Soil All Over Again

Zhou Miao Fei
Translated by Yan En

Most people live in the cities nowadays. Many have never touched the soil or waded across a stream in their whole lives. We used to have a closer relationship with soil in the past. In the modern times, our feet are cut off from soil by different types of materials, and we educate our kids to stay away from soil, thinking that it is dirty with germs.

But our survival depends on soil. Animals, including humans, need to rely on plants for survival. And plants need sunlight, air, water and soil. Soil dictates the quality of plant growth. If the soil has sufficient nutrients, we will obtain rich nutrients. If the soil is polluted, the plants will be polluted, and the humans who eat the plants will also be polluted.

At present, we often talk about the horror of pesticides. Consuming organic foods has become a trend. Learning to grow veggies and fruits has also become a talking point. The priority of organic farming/gardening is to first grow healthy soil. All organic gardeners know that if one takes good care of the soil, the plants will grow well. Healthy soil benefits animals and humans. Therefore treat your soil well. So how do we take care of the soil? First we have to learn about soil and then cultivate good and healthy soil.

Ideal Soil
An ideal soil is a world of rich organisms and balanced ecology. It is rich with humus, in dark brown color, light, crumbly, and easy to work with. It can retain moisture and yet drain away excess liquid. It is also aerating. It is brimming with active micro-fauna, micro-flora and earthworms. The ideal world of soil is active, lively and ever changing.

Structure of Soil
Soil is a mixture of rock elements, water, air and organic matter. On average it is 45% rock elements, 25% air, 25% water and 5% organic matter. The more organic matter it contains, the more fertile the soil is. The content of organic matter in our modern day soil is probably not even 1%. Thus adding organic matter regularly is the most essential job in caring for the soil. A good veggie bed should have 30cm layer of top soil, which is rich in organic matter and microorganisms. The ratio of the rock elements is moderate with sufficient aeration.

Soil Quality
This refers to the combination of coarse and fine rock elements in the soil, from coarse sand to silt to clay. The ideal ratio is 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. Rock elements absorb moisture which contains soluble nutrients. The gap among the elements is for aeration. If the gap is too big like between coarse sand granules, then the soil can’t retain moisture and nutrients. If the gap is too small like in clay, then the root can’t extend and breathe.

Rub the soil with your fingers and you’ll roughly know the quality: the coarse granules that feel like beach sand are sand, the smooth one is clay. Mix soil with water and roll it into a longish shape: soil with high content of clay can be rolled without scattering; soil with high content of sand can’t be rolled into a longish shape as it will scatter. The ratio of soil elements in general falls between these two. Different spots in the garden may have different quality. Do the soil test a few more times and you’ll find out the different ratio.

A simple soil test that you can do at home: prepare a tall container, fill it with 7 portions of water and add 3 portions of soil (dig apart the top soil, take the soil from the top to the lower layer. Check soil from different spots separately). Cover the container and shake the container until the soil is mixed evenly. Keep it aside for some time. The granules in the water will separate due to different sizes. The fine granules settle in the bottom, moving up are sand, silt, clay, and then water. The surface may even have half-decomposed twigs and leaves. Looking at the proportion of the different layers, you will know your soil ratio. It is very difficult to change soil quality, but we can add organic matter to improve the soil structure.

Soil Structure
The way soil elements bind together is called soil structure. Brush aside the debris on the surface of soil. Retrieve a handful of wet soil, you will see how soil elements bind together: a well-structured soil has a moderate ratio of sand, silt and clay, mixed with organic matter and they form light and fluffy lumps.

Air in the Soil
Healthy soil needs air. Plant roots breathe within the soil. The microorganisms inside the soil also need to breathe. Certain special bacteria in the soil can transform nitrogen in the air into a form that can be utilized by the plants. So there should be moderate gap among soil elements to allow for aeration.

Soil Moisture
Good quality soil can retain the moisture needed for plant growth, as well as soluble nutrients, while draining away excess liquid. Most plants like soil with good drainage.

The composition of soil may be different in different spots. The effect of drainage is different too. You can observe the drainage effect at home after a heavy downpour. If your soil has more sand, the liquid will drain too fast, and the plants will often wither and appear droopy. If small puddles are formed after a downpour, or the ground remains muddy for several days, then it means that drainage is poor. The microorganisms inside the soil cannot survive; roots soaked in the water will turn pale and rot; leaves will fall and the plants will lack vitality.

Organic Matter
The remains of fauna and flora that are breaking down in the soil contain important plant nutrients. The stabilized organic matter after the decomposition is humus. The dark brown color of good quality soil comes from the humus. They are like a sponge that can retain moisture and nutrients for the plant roots to absorb. They can also bind the rock elements and turn the soil soft, crumbly and fertile. A humid climate and rich microorganisms in the soil can break down organic matter, thus accumulating more humus. A dry and hot climate with little plants and too much tillage will decrease the humus in the soil. The climate in Taiwan is warm and humid with rich varieties of plants. But most of the soil lack organic matter and microorganisms, so there is almost no humus.

Living Organisms in the Soil
There are bacteria, fungus, actinomyctes, ants, beetles, centipedes, spiders, etc. in the soil. The more diverse group of organisms there are in the soil, the healthier the soil is. Earthworms are the most important indicator. They burrow in the soil along with various tiny organisms, letting moisture and air reach the plant roots. Excretions from earthworms are the easiest nutrients to be absorbed by the plants. The microorganisms in the soil can break down organic matter, transforming them into a type that the plants can absorb. Soil is the home to these tiny living beings. They go through the cycle of birth, growth, seeking food, breeding, and death. They rely on soil to obtain food and shelter. When they die, they become the nutrients in the soil.

Soil Nutrients
The nutrients in the soil are continuously lost through rain, over watering, natural decomposition, or being absorbed by plants. Plants are like us, they need their daily meals. To feed your plants, first give your soil sufficient nutrients. Once the soil has organic matter, only then will the living organisms breed and gradually reach a balanced state. It takes at least 6 months to a year to establish the ecological equilibrium. If you have just started growing plants organically, and you think that the soil is lacking nutrients, you may first use organic fertilizer while cultivating the habit of supplementing your soil with organic matter. Organic farming certification unit and environmental groups have information on qualified manufacturers. You can buy mixed compost, animal manure compost and so on. The municipal environmental protection authority, Taiwan Environmental Protection Union and so on also sells compost made of kitchen scraps. Mix the compost in the soil a few weeks before you start planting. During the planting period, add the nutrients once every few weeks.

Soil pH
The nutrients in the soil are absorbed by the plants when they are mostly neutral in pH value. For example, when acidic, nitrogen and sulphur can’t be absorbed; when alkaline, iron and magnesium can’t be absorbed. Plants have their pH preference. Most vegetables like neutral to slightly acidic soil. Organic soil is between neutral and slightly acidic, thus does not need adjustment. Simply sprinkle rock dust once a year. Rock dust can neutralize acidic soil and helps bind rock elements.

How to Increase Soil Fertility and Productivity?

1. Mulch with Organic Matter
All organic gardeners have a good habit – any green organic waste that they come across is returned back to the land. Green wastes come from the kitchen (fruit peels, veggie scraps, tea leaves, material from flower arrangement, etc.), garden, balcony (plant cuttings, old plants, etc.), lanes, roadsides (fallen leaves, etc.). As long as they are plants, they all contain nutrients from the earth, and they should be returned back to the earth. We can continuously and directly put the green stuff on the ground as mulch to cover the soil.

Empty fields, under huge trees, safety island, etc. – places that do not need a great deal of nutrients can be mulched with tree barks, coconut husks, sawdust. These are organic matters that break down slowly. They can protect the soil from wind, sun, and rain, prevent evaporation, enrich microorganisms in the soil, release nutrients after decomposing, and improve soil structure.

2. Use Home-made Organic Fertilizer
We can also turn green wastes into compost through fermentation and then apply it in the soil. There is a huge amount of kitchen scraps created by each family daily. These are good ingredients for making compost. When you start to make compost, you can buy zymophyte, or bring back a few handfuls of fertile soil from the forest or mountain streams. You can also get some compost from your friends who are organic gardeners. Sprinkle some culture at each layer of the compost. This will speed up the process. If you don’t have any existing culture, with patience, population of zymophyte will gradually form in the compost.

Fresh ingredients especially fruit peels and so on will attract fruit flies and other insects during the initial stage of breaking down and fermentation. They are not harmful to humans. They will disappear at the later stage of composting. To prevent fruit flies and insects, use more soil to cover the compost.

3. Making a Simple Compost
Prepare a big flower pot and some soil to make compost on your home balcony. Put a layer of soil, a layer of green wastes, a layer of soil, a layer of green wastes and so on. Sprinkle some water to maintain moisture. All the fine laborers in the soil (the rich microorganisms) will naturally break down the green wastes into organic fertilizer. Green wastes from our home are mostly high in nitrogen and moisture. They break down fast and with the high temperature in the summer, they will be done in just two weeks. When the breaking down process starts, the liquid will be drained out. If the pot you use has no drainage holes, you need to turn the soil for aeration. When there is too much moisture, anaerobic bacteria will grow and foul smell will appear when the organic matter is being broken down. Simply add some soil to absorb the moisture and turn the soil to aerate it. The foul smell will disappear a few days later.

If you have a lot of ingredients, use a big container with drainage holes. Layer the ingredients as mentioned above. Keep for a few months. Sprinkle some water once in a while. Turning the soil is not necessary. But if you turn the soil it will speed up the process.

4. Making High Temperature Compost

  • Collect all the organic materials: grass clippings, fallen leaves, kitchen scraps, straw, etc. Finer pieces will break down faster. You can use a leaves grinder or a mower to chop up the materials. Wooden blocks, twigs, newspapers should be chopped up too. Avoid using oil, meat, bones. These will attract cats, rats, dogs and so on, and will slow down the decomposition. Also avoid manure of pet animals and humans, and materials that have been treated with pesticides or herbicides. Find a spot near your veggie farm, pile up the materials on the spot directly or in a container.
  • Make a 1-meter fence with wire mesh or untreated wood. This looks neat and can deter cats and dogs. Or buy a ready made compost bin or a turning compost bin.

 

  • You need to collect materials that can be piled up to 1 cubic meter. If the pile is too small, it won’t be able to reach 60-70°C. Use a pitch fork to pile up the materials layer by layer: equal amount of carbon material (brown color, woody material such as sawdust, straw, newspapers, etc.) and equal amount of nitrogen material (green color, moist grass clippings, kitchen scraps, weeds, cow manure or horse manure, etc.). Too much carbon material will not generate the high temperature needed, and decomposition will be slow; too much nitrogen material will give off foul smell. When you’re doing the layering, add a few handfuls of soil in between to supplement microorganisms. You may also supplement minerals that are lacking. If there is a sick plant, place it in the middle. Only the heat in the middle can kill the germs.
  • Maintain moisture of the pile, but not wet. For high temperature compost, the bacteria need moisture and oxygen to grow. If the materials are too dry during the layering, sprinkle some water at each layer. Cover the top layer with water-proof canvas to maintain moisture. Too wet or too dry will affect the speed of decomposition.
  • The bacteria that break down the organic matter need water and oxygen in order to function. The simplest way is to use a pitch fork to turn the pile. Remove the outer layer and pile it on a new spot next to the original pile. Now the outer layer becomes the inner pile. Continue to move the layer so that the inner layer of the original pile becomes the outer layer of the new pile. Loosen up the materials. When it is too dry, sprinkle some water. Aeration speeds up the activity of mircoorganisms and raises the compost temperature. Check the temperature. When it’s too low, turn the pile. Do not let temperature exceed 70°C. Too high a temperature will kill the bacteria. If the pile heats up too much, let it sit for a few days or sprinkle some water to lower the temperature. A high temperature compost will be ready in two to six weeks. By this time the temperature would have stabilized, and you won’t be able to recognize the original materials. The pile will become dark brown, soft and fluffy. It smells like moist forest soil.

5. How to Use Compost

  • Raise seedlings: Use a 1cm-holed sieve to sieve out the bigger chunks. Use the compost by itself or mixed with earthworm compost or other potting mix.
  • Veggie garden: Every year spread compost on garden soil surface 2.5cm-5cm. For soil lacking in nutrients, you may first spread some organic fertilizer and then compost. You may loosen the soil and mix in the compost evenly or spread it on the surface as mulch.
  • Compost tea: Compost can be made into liquid fertilizer and used on saplings or fully grown plants. It can be used throughout the year. Put 1 liter of compost in a cloth bag and hang the bag in 4.5 liter of water for several days. Dilute when used on saplings. Use as it is for fully grown plants.
  • Source of bacteria: Compost contains rich bacteria culture for fermentation. It can speed up the decomposition of organic matter and balance the ecology of microorganisms in the soil. After some time when the soil has been spread with compost, you may directly put green wastes on the soil surface. Covered with straw for aesthetic view. The microorganisms and bacteria in the soil will quickly break down the stuff.

 

6. Growing Groundcovers
Landscaping, safety island, roadside empty ground, etc. – can be planted with perennial, short ground-covering plants to protect the soil. They can beautify the view, reduce dust and retain moisture in the soil.

Sometimes the soil is temporarily left unused. We can grow flowers as living mulch while beautifying the surrounding at the same time. What’s even better is that these flowers will absorb the nutrients in the soil to prevent nutrient loss. When you want to switch to another type of plant, just slash the flower plants, chop them up and use them as mulch material or put them in the compost bin.

7. Growing Green Manure
When the soil needs a lot of nutrients during the planting period, you can grow green manure plants such as grains to improve the soil. Two to three months before planting the actual crop, sow the seeds of the green manure crop. Just before they start to flower, slash them and turn them in the soil. After they break down and decompose, they will increase the organic matter and nutrients in the soil. During the fallow period, use the green manure as living mulch to prevent soil erosion.

The best green manure and living mulch plants are legumes. They collaborate with the beneficial bacteria in the soil to turn nitrogen in the air into a form that can be utilized by the plants to increase soil fertility. Sunflowers are gorgeous, fast-growing, and a good green manure. Grow them for two months. When they flower, slash and turn them in the soil. Three weeks later you may grow your crops. Besides increasing soil fertility and organic matter, the hollow stalks of sunflowers increase aeration in the soil.

Once we know the characteristics of soil and the methods to care for soil, we will then understand that only organic farming can cultivate dynamic soil. I keep a small garden at the various places that I have stayed. Initially the garden soil is poor with serious pest problem. I buy fully fermented mixed animal manures as fertilizer (cow, goat, horse, poultry, etc.). Then I start to grow various plants. Meanwhile I collect kitchen scraps and plant clippings to make compost, and I continuously spread the compost in the garden. After a year, the garden would gradually become self-sustainable. Just a garden of several square meters, it is filled with papayas, guavas, passion fruits, Madeira vine, banana shrub, and all sorts of flowering and ornamental plants. On the ground is African Touch-me-not that self-propagates and flowers throughout the year. All my visitors are amazed by the vitality of my garden.

Once a balanced ecology of soil is established, I don’t have to buy fertilizers anymore. I put the kitchen scraps directly beneath the mulch material. They break down and vanish within a few days. The soil becomes more and more fertile; various beneficial insects happily take up residency, e.g. earthworms, bees, mantis, eumeces, etc. – they keep the harmful pests to minimal. I have only one secrete: feed the soil with organic matter!

Soil is our root. I still remember when I followed my father to the river in the outskirts several decades ago. The soil by the river was dark and fertile. When we dug apart the soil, many earthworms in the soil frantically scurried away. Nowadays, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is taken for granted. Everyone can buy them, everyone can use them. It seems like everyone only knows how to use chemical synthetics. But our soil is becoming more and more barren. It becomes acidic and losses the nutrients. Even the weeds do not grow. It is worrying: In the near future, will our beautiful island gradually undergo desertification? Will there be any more life left in the soil? Will the spring become silent?

Original article is published in May&Aug 2006 issue of Lapis Lazuli Light magazine (Taiwan)

Pampering Our Earth

Zhou Miao Fei
Translated by Yan En

Spring is here! The Melbourne in early October sees shining sun for one moment and drizzling rain the next, and several gusts of wind in between. The locals proudly say, “We have four seasons in a day.” That shows the changeable nature of the weather in Melbourne. Whether it is humor or arrogance, it is because of the clear seasonal distinction that Melbourne has a wide variety of flowers and plants. During springtime, narcissus, cherry blossom, wisteria, photinia, azalea, and countless other flowers are blooming every where. All the bare woods from the winter are now budding with new green shoots. In Taiwan, it is the end of the hot summer moving into autumn.

Having spent many years in New Zealand and Australia, I enjoy natural sceneries the most. I always hope that Taiwan would have such a clean and beautiful environment as well. I often think: In Taiwan it is like springtime throughout the year with a rich ecology. Why not establish it as a garden island? Through detailed observation, I realize that in New Zealand and Australia, the preservation of soil and water is already deeply rooted in the minds of the people. It has become a part of the people’s lives. They will not expose the soil bare and let it get beaten up by the sun and rain. They will mulch the soil surface with thick organic materials to protect the soil and to conserve water. They also plant drought tolerant plants to beautify the environment and to purify the air. Mulching the soil is simple and cheap with numerous benefits. It is a must in gardening and organic farming. Taiwan has started to promote permaculture and encourage sustainability. Can we implement mulching – this method of loving and protecting our earth, and promote it as part of the practices of environmental protection?

Every time I go back to Taiwan, I would pay attention to the ecological environment. I notice that all the soil in the city is left bare and naked under the trees, in the parks, schools and public areas. The soil quality is barren and infertile with little plants that are barely alive. Once the traffic passes by, the dust whirls up and fills the air. What a frightening sight! If you have time, take a trowel to a park, dig in one of the corners. You’ll find that there is no dark brown, soft, fertile soil and there is not much microorganism in the soil. All is quiet and dead, only yellow soil and rocks. I suppose most people don’t know that soil is alive. The fauna, flora and microorganisms in the soil nourish all the living beings on earth. We pack the produce from the soil in bags and bury them in the ground. We don’t return the nutrients back to the earth. We are slowly killing our soil, gradually depriving it of its life force.

To restore soil’s vitality, mulching is one of the fundamental solutions. Mulching is simply to protect the soil by covering the soil with thick organic materials – under the trees, in the gardens, empty fields, even our flower pots at home – cover the soil around the plants. What benefits does it bring?

First of all, mulching the soil can reduce evaporation from 10% up to 50%, therefore reducing water wastage. Mulching can also prevent heat or cold impact, thus protecting the plant roots from damage by extremely cold or hot temperature. Mulching can cut off wind and rain to protect the soil from losing its elements, and to prevent the raindrops from hitting the soil and pressing the soil into a hardened layer. It helps the water to flow evenly into the soil and reach the roots.

Some time after you have mulched the soil, the decomposed organic matter such as leaves and saw dust will enrich the soil with nutrients. The soil will be more aerating with better water penetration. It increases the growth of tiny living beings in the soil such as earthworms and microorganisms. They in turn will further break down organic materials, turning them into nutrients that can be absorbed by the plants. Eventually even hard and solid clay can become loose and soft soil of good quality.

Therefore organic mulch can provide loose soil and complete nutrients. The plants will be healthy with less disease. The produce will be more nutritious and delicious. As the mulch can prevent the splashing of rainwater, it will reduce direct contact of the microorganisms in the soil with the veggie leaves and fruits, thus reducing spotting and rotting. The plants will be in better form.

Mulch can also suppress weed growth. Even if there are weeds growing, they can be easily plucked out. Since mulch can suppress weeds, it can reduce the use of herbicides. Pesticides are not needed too as the plants are healthy. This is beneficial for our health as we can avoid ingesting toxic food leading to poisoning by toxic chemicals. It is also beneficial for the environment as it prevents groundwater contamination.

Everyone can make use of the organic materials from home, garden and surrounding environment as mulch materials, thus reducing garbage and benefit the environment. Schools, parks, safety island, and roadsides – these are places where you can mulch to beautify the surroundings and reduce dust, turning the area into a clean and beautiful city.

Now that we know so many benefits of mulching, then what are the materials? They can be simply categorized as non-organic materials and organic materials.

Non-organic materials include black plastic bags, tar paper, aluminum foil, rocks, sand, etc. They can suppress weeds, prevent evaporation, insulate, and beautify the garden. But they cannot break down green wastes.

Organic materials refer to plants that have once lived – whether fresh, dried or decomposed.

Slightly water the leaves and let them decompose naturally. Few months later they will turn into fertile soil rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Mixed loosely with grass clippings and manure compost – this is the best mulching material.

Weeds, plants that have passed their flowering season, all sorts of garden green wastes can be chopped up and used as mulch. It’s even better to mix with finely chopped twigs and branches. If you know any veggie seller, you can ask for green wastes such as cabbages, cauliflowers, carrot leaves, etc. There are lots of mandarin peels during the winter. Dry them on the balcony and use as mulch, or mixed directly with soil. They will become compost few months later – rich mulch materials.

Animal manure should be decomposed fully and then mixed with other materials, e.g. saw dust and leaves.

Straw, wheat-straw, sugarcane stalks are excellent mulch materials. They break down slowly and release the nutrients gradually – very suitable for plants. Their loose characteristic allows air and water to reach the plants, and they block off the wind and sun. They protect the plants from root rot and other fungus diseases.

Coconut husks and wood chips compressed into small blocks preserve moisture, and are aesthetic and long-lasting. The growing medium for aquatic grass, seaweed, and mushrooms are excellent mulch materials. Pine leaves and pine tree barks are very beautiful. They are suitable for plants preferring acidity, e.g. azalea, camellia, photinia, and strawberry. Comfrey is an amazing plant. It is rich in potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium and vitamin B12. When used as mulch, it is an excellent food for plants.

Besides the dried or decomposed materials mentioned above, grow some small flowers or grass among the plants. This helps beautify the surroundings and the tiny plants are an excellent protection for soil as living mulch. They prevent the wind and sun, and conserve water. Their roots loosen the soil. When they decompose they fertilize the soil. They provide a sanctuary for the tiny living beings in the soil. After their flowering season, they can be slashed and chopped up for mulching; nothing is wasted.

After talking so much about the benefits of mulching and mulch materials, one more thing is lacking – the spirit of experimenting. You can start collecting materials from your surroundings. Return the nutrients from the soil back to the earth. Perhaps you only have a few pots of plants at home. You may mulch the soil around the plant or grow some tiny flowering plants to cover the soil. If you have a small plot of land, use some straw or sugarcane pulp as mulch. Grow some tiny flowers and grass in between the plants. If they get too dense, slash and use them as mulch again. You will find that your soil becomes more and more fertile, and the plants are stronger and happier. If you have a big plot of land, apply the same principles mentioned above. But I’m sure you will know more than I do. So please tell me your secrets. Enough talk, let’s get moving and pamper our soil together – let’s build a more beautiful world for our next generation!

Original article is published in Nov 2005 issue of Lapis Lazuli Light magazine (Taiwan)