Recently I finished reading "The World Without Us", by Alan Weisman. When I started the book I was under the misconception that it was only about what would happen to the world if suddenly and inexplicably all the people just disappeared. I expected the author to take us on a journey into the future describing alternate scenarios of what could happen; which human constructions would survive into the future and which wouldn't.
Heavily researched, this book is so much more than that. Alan Weisman does, in some examples, describe what may happen in the future, but he also goes far back into prehistoric times and suggests how the world's flora and fauna might be different today if people had not been around doing what they were doing during certain periods in the past.
Within recent historic times, reefs swarmed with 800-pound groupers, codfish could be dipped from the sea by lowering baskets, and oysters filtered all the water in Chesapeake Bay every three days.
Also unexpected was the descriptiveness the author uses to bring the book alive. To help make his points about the magnificence of nature when left to her own devices, he uses examples of little known facts about animals and plants that are amazingly fascinating.
For example, when talking about Canada's Northwest Territories, he says this about the musk ox and their pelage (wool) which has nearly led to their extinction:
The chestnut pelage of the musk ox is the warmest organic fiber known, with eight times the insulating factor of sheep's wool. Known in Inuit as qiviut, it renders musk oxen so impervious to cold that they're literally invisible to infrared satellite cameras used to track caribou herds.
Of course it turns out throughout history that in the overwhelming majority of cases, people mostly wrecked nature whenever they got to it. That realization, laid out over and over again with specific examples is a little depressing, especially when the worst environmental destruction ever is happening now.
Later in the book Weisman describes various environmental and other groups who offer suggestions from the bizarre to the original and thought-provoking as to how we humans could potentially get along with our environment and live in harmony and balance with it.
At the end the reader is left with hope that life on earth will continue no matter what humans do. That idea is captured by this thought from Enric Sala, a conservation marine biologist from Barcelona:
I'm so amazed by the ability of life to hang on to anything. Given the opportunity, it goes everywhere. A species as creative and arguably intelligent as our own should somehow find a way to achieve a balance. We have a lot to learn, obviously. But I haven't given up on us.
Recently I read a book about genetically modified (GM) food called "Seeds of Deception" by Jeffrey M. Smith. The following article describes some important ideas from the book. I highly recommend everyone who eats read this book in its entirety.
What is Genetically Modified Food?
All throughout history mankind has intentionally bred plants or animals in order to create desirable traits. Sometimes it worked and other times it didn't.
We know of many cases where it worked very well. For example, there are many breeds of man's best friend - the dog - bred for different functions such as cattle herding, lap-sitting, protection, and breeds notable as good family pets.
Another example would be the many varieties of roses, which have been bred to withstand mildew, or to look or smell a certain way, or to have less thorns and long stems.
When these small-scale and deliberative attempts at modifying the genes of a species through breeding or grafting failed, the resulting animals or plants died or were discarded, the experiment failed, and not much damage to the total gene population of the species, or any other species, occurred as a result.
Genetic mutations can also change species in a natural way, leading to good or bad characteristics within a species. Good mutations are passed down to future generations and bad mutations are not. Nature takes care of the process.
On the other hand, genetically modified food which is created through genetic engineering is a whole new ballgame. It is not an extension of natural breeding. In genetic engineering biologists cut a gene out of one species' DNA, modify it, and insert it into another species' DNA.
And since virtually all organisms have DNA, scientists don't have to limit the source of their genes to members of the same species. They can search anywhere in the plant, animal, bacteria, even human world to find genes with desired traits, or even synthesize genes in the laboratory that don't exist in nature.
When you read the book, you will be amazed at the amount of guesswork involved in genetic engineering, and how pervasive and unpredictable the consequences are. The book cites 21 significant ways in which the process of genetic engineering can go wrong, and in which the intended result of the genetic engineering may not occur.
Unbelievably, most of the time scientists don't even know which, some, or all of these unintended results have occurred or not. The result of all this guess work includes unpredictable changes in DNA, antibiotic resistance, other genes that get 'turned off' and don't work anymore, awakening of sleeping viruses, cancer, immune reactions, allergies, nutrition problems, and many more.
...genetic engineers are not simply changing a specific species. They are tampering with the evolution of all species. "The results will be essentially new organisms, self-perpetuating and hence permanent. Once created they cannot be recalled."
Is GM Food Safe?
The book "Seeds of Deception" describes the truth of what is going on in the GM food industry. It cites numerous examples pointing out that genetically modified food has never been adequately tested.
The book is truly shocking in its portrayal of the extent to which the biotech industry led by Monsanto has been basically forcing its genetically modified products into the food supply. In order to do this they have used faulty and unscientific testing, bribery, theft, distortion or omission of scientific data, threats of lawsuit, and firing of knowledgeable individuals.
Even when FDA scientists were warned about toxins, allergies and new diseases resulting from the food, the scientists were silenced or ignored. Events like this are happening:
- In one case, rats were fed from a GM crop. They developed stomach lesions and seven of the forty died within two weeks. The crop was approved without further testing.
- In another case, the FDA withheld information from the US Congress after a genetically modified food supplement killed nearly a hundred people and disabled thousands more.
Integral to the plan was Monsanto's influence in government, whose role was to promote the technology worldwide and to help get the foods into the marketplace quickly, before resistance could get in the way. A biotech consultant later said, "The hope of the industry is that over time, the market is so flooded that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender."
Wisdom of the Animals
It is well known that animals instinctively know what is good for them. They are very in touch with their biological needs and when left to their own devices they exhibit behaviors that support the health of their bodies.
In "Seeds of Deception" there are many first hand examples related by farmers who tried to feed GM crops to their livestock or who noticed specific food preferences among wild animals on their farms.
...two or three cows were led into a feeding area at a time. The first trough they came to contained fifty pounds of shelled Bt (GM) corn. The cows sniffed it, withdrew, and walked over to the next trough, which contained fifty pounds of natural shelled corn. The cows finished it off. When they were done and released from the pen, the next group came in and did the same thing... the experiment was repeated on six or seven farms in Northwest Iowa, in 1998 and again in 1999. Identical trials with hogs yielded the same results, also for two years in a row.
Some other examples from the book include wild geese who wouldn't eat GM soybeans; squirrels, elk, deer, raccoons and mice who wouldn't eat GM corn; rats who would not eat GM tomatoes unless force fed with gastric tubes; and chickens who died when fed GM maize. When mice were fed a mixture of GM and normal corn and soy they lost weight in statistically significant amounts.
If animals will not eat GM food when given a choice, there is something wrong with the food.
Milk and Genetically Engineered Growth Hormone
One of the significant chapters in the book talks about genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH). It is injected into cows to increase their milk production. rbGH is a drug of questionable safety which was passed by the FDA without adequate testing. It exists in milk sold in the US unless the milk is labelled "organic" or "no rbGH".
Some of the problems that cows experience when injected with rbGH include: birth defects, reproductive disorders, udder infections, higher incidence of foot and leg injuries, metabolic disorders, uterine infections, indigestion, bloat, diarrhea, lesions, shorter lives, increases in the size of their hearts, livers, kidneys, ovaries and adrenal glands, and many other problems. When Monsanto provided this information to the FDA, they dismissed these problems as "harmless physiological shifts".
Besides the obvious nightmare that this causes for the cows, after the rbGH gets injected into the cows it passes along to humans through the cow's milk and meat.
There have not been enough scientific studies done to determine exactly what is happening to people as a result of the use of this growth hormone. Based on what happens to the cows, there is a significant question which should be addressed about the safety of this hormone.
What Should I Eat?
The book continues on with many more examples, studies, cover-ups and media manipulations when it comes to GM food. There has simply not been enough testing done on these products to determine their safety for human consumption. Right now, the guinea pigs for this huge experiment called GM foods are the unknowing public.
And so, the big question for consumers is - what should I eat?
There are a number of relevant websites that will list for you what foods and products to avoid if you want to stay away from GM foods and food additives. A great place to start is the Seeds of Deception web site. They also provide a lot of related information regarding GM foods.
One thing to say for sure, if you live in the US and are eating non-organic food, the chances are 100% that you have eaten GM food and you didn't know it.
If you want to avoid GM food and GM food additives, shop and eat organic whenever and wherever possible, and support organic grocers and manufacturers. By supporting organic producers and distributors, not only will you be eating healthier and safer food, but also you will be putting economic pressure on the food industries to produce better food.
This is a book I got last time I was in Now York. I've really enjoyed it.
The author, Barry Farber, is a self taught linguist who speak 25 languages with different degrees of fluency so you can say he's qualified to talk about the subject.
There are a few reasons to read this book:
- Remove the fear - the author has done it and makes you feel that learning any foreign language is actually easy. He says that anybody can learn a language each year just by using extra time in your daily life.
- Inspiration and motivation - If you needed a kick to your inspiration to be fluent in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian or whichever language, this is it. This book might do it for you.
- A clear and practical method - The author developed a system that works. You can learn on your own using a variety of inexpensive and readily available tools.
- A good guide to world languages - I enjoy the section in which he speaks of the different advantages of each language and particual motivations to learn a specific vernacular.
To me the most appealing thing about this method is that it's not academic based. It's as practical as it gets and encourages you to put into practice what you learn from the very beginning.
Free Your True Self was written by Annie Marquier, the Founder of the Institut du Developpement de la Personne (Institute for Personal Development), based in Quebec.
This book was recommended to me by a wonderful person who helped me understand a lot about myself in the past few months. Once I picked it up after completing YTTC, I could not put it down. Everything was so clear and well written.
As the Institute for Personal Development website summarises it:
"Free Your True Self is a remarkable synthesis of psychology and spirituality, presenting deep and practical knowledge about the fundamental mechanisms of human consciouness. It offers concrete tools allowing the reader to face the challenges of daily life with a deeper understanding, and thus greater mastery and strength."
I read it in French (it is called "La Liberte d'Etre" in its original form), but I was delighted to see that it has recently been published in English, for the non-French-speaking readers of this blog. The English version is in two parts, while the French version is in one volume.
Free Your True Self - Releasing Your Unconscious Defence Patterns (Part 1) presents the five major structures that people may use to function in life and shows how one can liberate oneself from these structures to truly be Oneself. The five structures basically present the five main dynamics of the ego, at the conscious and subconscious levels, which each individual is using at variable degrees, depending on one's history and degree of evolution.
I was amazed to read how true and accurate these descriptions were. The book really helped me to put into words how "stuck" I was in a couple of these structures and what I could do to get "unstuck". One important message is that these structures are present in ourselves, but we are not these structures. The book then goes on to give tips on how to help you transform yourself from these structures... I am already applying some of these tips and looking forward to continuing to do so in my daily life!
Free Your True Self - The Power of the Soul (Part 2) is excellent for those of you who may be trying to reconcile the spiritual (i.e. esoteric or philosophical) and psychological (i.e. rational or "western") aspects of the individual. Again, quoting the website: "Annie Marquier offers a unique integration of spiritual and psychological approaches which, on the one hand, allow us to ground the process of inner work in concrete terms, and on the other hand, make it possible to expand the psychological aspect so that it becomes a far more meaningful window on life".
I could very much relate the teachings of YTTC to this book, as it explains the process of involution and evolution, addresses the physical, astral and causal worlds and the way the mind works (dealing in layman's terms with the concepts of chitta, manas, buddhi, ahamkara, simplified in two broad categories).
I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the history of mankind's consciousness... but I let you find out for yourself as I do not want to spoil the fun of discovery for you! The book then goes on to explain how one can develop a higher consciousness in one's life by getting in tune with the Self, giving some practical tips. There are also some lovely quotes along the way, gathered from a variety of sources and some practical examples.
The very last part of this volume is truly inspiring, showing how freeing your True Self can make life such a wonderful experience.
I highly recommend this book and would love to hear your views on it!
We just added a new category to this blog: Guest Authors. Every so often we will be featuring articles from writer friends to enhance the quality of this blog. If you would like to contribute, please comment to this blog or contact me if you know my info.
This first post is contributed by Radha from Houston, TX. Swami Atma
Change your thoughts and you can change your world.
The Hidden Messages in Water showcases the research of internationally renowned Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto. Dr. Emoto's work was recently brought to world wide attention through the film 'What the Bleep do we (k)now!?'
Using high speed photography, Dr. Emoto found that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them. Music, visual images, words written on paper, and photographs also have an impact on the crystal structure. Water from clear springs and water exposed to loving words show brilliant, complex and colorful snowflake patterns, while polluted water and water exposed to negative thoughts form incomplete patterns with dull colors.
Just think about the significance of this concept. The human body is made up of 70% water and so is the earth. Therefore we can heal the planet and the body with just the use of positive energy. With passion and precision, Dr. Emoto explains his process, explores his findings, and shares his conclusions