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How do you measure time?

28 Oct

There’s an inflection on the ‘you’ in that question. Is it by the watch on your wrist, your smartphone or a computerclock? Imagine if you would mark your local time by

“the movement of toads and the fluttering of moths, by the scent of oranges and coconut, by bear births, eagle marriages, and salmon deaths”.

That is a breathtaking sensual assault; distilled from the writings of Jay Griffiths on her experiences among peoples native to perhaps wilder and remoter regions of our world – and – described by Lewis H. Lapham in his article Captain Clock in Lapham’s Quarterly current issue TIME (Vol. 7, Nr. 4, fall 2014).

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Blue Morpho butterfly (Morpho peleides) Image credit: Ricardo Jimenez

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caterpillar of the Blue Morpho – Image credit: Ingmar Gerckens

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caterpillar of the Atlas moth – Image credit: John Horstmann

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Atlas moth (Attacus atlas) – Image credit: Andrew Cooper

 More fabulous butterflies and moths pre- and post-pupate here

Maybe also take a meander by The Dark Mountain Project here and read the 8 Principles of Uncivilisation here.

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Nudging towards sustainable palm oil

15 Jul

Nutella has it, so do many, many biscuits, snacks, breads, cakes, confectionery fillings, ice cream, processed cheeses, and more. And that’s just the food applications of palm oil. It’s also a typical ingredient in the production of soaps, detergents, pharmaceutical products, cosmetics and more. The Big Ecological Issue is the grand scale of the plantations necessary to produce all this palm oil for global consumption and the concomitant destruction of wild habitats. You can read up more in dossiers and campaigns run by the major NGOs such as WWF, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and also the Orangutan Project and on the Say No To Palm Oil site.

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Publicity and pressure around this issue have given rise to a roundtable on more responsible palm oil production, the RSPO, though the issue stays highly controversial. There is now a small supply of alternatively produced palm oil, which is used, for example, by the manufacturer of the soap we are presenting in today’s entry: Sustain. Whereas yesterday’s soap showed you melting glaciers and icebergs, today’s soap shows and tells you about the critically endangered animals you help save by using it – clean hands + cleaner conscience?sustain-06_klein05_01_11_sustain6_klein

Sustain is a soap made with 100% sustainable palm oil. Simon and the Treasure Studio in Harrogate, UK, developed three characters based on redlisted animals (Bornean orangutan, Malayan Tiger, Papuan Monitor Lizard). Copywriter Chris Miller created some lovely copy that gave each animal real personality and also highlighted their plight. More beautiful soaps in more beautiful packaging here.

Stadtgärtnern

5 Mar

“Der Garten ist der letzte Luxus unserer Tage, denn er fordert das, was in unserer Gesellschaft am seltensten und kostbarsten geworden ist: Zeit, Zuwendung und Raum.

Er ist Stellvertreter der Natur, in dem wir Geist, Wissen und Handwerk wieder gebrauchen in sorgsamen Umgang mit der Welt in ihrem Mikrokosmos, dem Garten.”

Dieter Kienast – Die Poetik des Gartens: Über Chaos und Ordnung in der Landschaftsarchitektur (Buch)

Danke für den Hinweis an Martina Hasewinkel, Convivienleiterin Slow Food Bielefeld/OWL

On the value of gardens

5 Mar

“The garden is the last luxury of our days, because it demands what has become most rare and most precious in our society: time, care and space.

It is a representative of nature, in which we use mind, knowledge and craft again, in headful dealing with the world in its microcosm, the garden.”

Freely translated from Dieter Kienast’s book: Die Poetik des Gartens: Über Chaos und Ordnung in der Landschaftsarchitektur

Thanks to an owl for sharing the find (^v^) Martina Hasewinkel, convivium host Slow Food Bielefeld/OWL

Does a pig have the right to play?

28 Nov

Last Friday we took the second half of our B.Sc. students (Course: Nutrition Ecology) on an excursion to a local commercial pig farm with about 2.000 swine. The course is built around a value chain approach to the food system and thus includes a ‘chapter’ on food production where we look at typical and alternative production forms. The piggies we saw had an outside stall area in addition to the inside stall. The outside stall had  playthings: a chain with a piece of wood on which the piggies can chew, which they like to do.project-buta-tot-zo-ver_001-540x405_klein

That pigs like to play is not new. Thus you can find many shops with hog toys such as this one. As a matter of fact there is a Dutch research project on this: Playing with Pigs. The project is an outcome of research on “Ethical room for manoeuvre in livestock farming”, a collaboration between the Utrecht School of the Arts, Wageningen University and Wageningen UR Livestock Research. Within the project, a game which allows interaction between pigs and people was developed; see it in a clip on vimeo here. The researchers say one of the things they’ve discovered is how much pigs like to play with light.

playingwithpigs_kleinNot just pigs like to play. Many animals have been observed, photographed and filmed at play – within their own and across species borders. I still have an old National Geographic edition with the title story Animals at Play.

23594676[1]One of the animals-at-play featured was a crow that was photographed lying on its back and sliding down a snow-covered incline, only to get up and repeat the process. This has been filmed and featured again and again, and many other stories too, such as here as well as this whole entry on tail-pulling by mischievous crows on Jenn(ifer Campbell-Smith)’s lovely Corvid blog here.

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Does a cow have the right to be happy?

25 Nov

oj98DYP_kleinAnthropomorphising or not, I say the cow in this photo is happy. What do you think?

We offer an advanced organic food and agriculture course to our Sustainability Masters students. Part of it deals with the issue of animal welfare, or better:  animal wellbeing. The organic way has always had as one criteria ethical / humane husbandry. Indeed, there is a fair body of research into species-appropriate treatment of livestock. It fascinates me to imagine some people in lab coats pondering the questions of what makes a pig’s life a happy one, how does a chicken lead a natural life, and, what constitutes quality of life for a cow?

Naturalists

21 Jan

“The naturalists I know
have brown arms and green thumbs,
and butterflies roost in their beards.
[…] and when they sneeze
they pollinate peaches and plums.”

First stanza from the poem “Naturalists” by Chris Mann, South African poet, playwright and performing singer-songwriter.