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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Earth Is Warming? Adjust The Thermostat

As the heads of humanity suffer, struggle, and try to churn something out of the mud that is the policy debate of climate change, the scientific world is thinking ahead to measures that are bold, daring, and drastic.

From the 8-10-09 edition of the New York Times

"For perhaps $100 million, climate engineers could begin field tests within five years, says Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Dr. Caldeira is a member of a climate-engineering study group that met last year at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics under the leadership of Steven E. Koonin, who has since become the under secretary for science at the United States Department of Energy. The group has just issued a report, published by the Novim research organization, analyzing the use of aerosol particles to reflect shortwave solar radiation back into space.

These particles could be lofted into the stratosphere to reproduce the effects of sulfate aerosols from volcanic eruptions like that of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, which was followed by a global cooling of nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit. Just as occurred after that eruption, the effects would wane as the particles fell back to Earth. Keeping the planet cooled steadily (at least until carbon emissions declined) might cost $30 billion per year if the particles were fired from military artillery, or $8 billion annually if delivered by aircraft, according to the Novim report.

The idea of even testing such a system scares many people, and some scientists argue that climate-engineering research should remain theoretical. But Dr. Caldeira says that small-scale testing — perhaps an experiment intended to slightly cool the Arctic — could be safer than the alternative.

“The worst-case scenario,” he says, “is one in which you have an untested system that you need to deploy quickly at large scale in a desperate attempt to ward off some sort of climate crisis. It could be much better to start testing soon at small scale and to observe what happens as the system is deployed.” The sooner we start, he reasons, the more delicately we can proceed."

Click here to read more from "The Earth Is Warming? Adjust The Thermostat."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Scandal Within Our Bodies


GMO Scandal: The Long Term Effects of Genetically Modified Food on Humans
Scientific Tests Must Be Approved by Industry First

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cool Roofs

Relying on the centuries-old principle that white objects absorb less heat than dark ones, homeowners like the Waldreps are in the vanguard of a movement embracing “cool roofs” as one of the most affordable weapons against climate change.

Studies show that white roofs reduce air-conditioning costs by 20 percent or more in hot, sunny weather. Lower energy consumption also means fewer of the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

What is more, a white roof can cost as little as 15 percent more than its dark counterpart, depending on the materials used, while slashing electricity bills.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, has proselytized for cool roofs at home and abroad. “Make it white,” he advised a television audience on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” last week.

The scientist Mr. Chu calls his hero, Art Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission who has been campaigning for cool roofs since the 1980s, argues that turning all of the world’s roofs “light” over the next 20 years could save the equivalent of 24 billion metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.

“That is what the whole world emitted last year,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “So, in a sense, it’s like turning off the world for a year.”

For more, click here to read all about how "White Roofs Catch On As Energy Cost Cutters" from the New York Times.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Darwin Is Dead!-Signature In The Cell

From a Scientific History and Philosophical Defense of the Theory of Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer

"Earlier in the 1960s and 1970s, physicists had already begun to reconsider the design hypothesis. Many were impressed by the discovery that the laws and constants of physics are improbably “finely-tuned” to make life possible. As British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle put it, the fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics suggested that a designing intelligence “had monkeyed with physics” for our benefit.

Contemporary scientific interest in the design hypothesis not only predates the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against creationism, but the formal theory of intelligent design is clearly different than creationism in both its method and content. The theory of intelligent design, unlike creationism, is not based upon the Bible. Instead, it is based on observations of nature which the theory attempts to explain based on what we know about the cause and effect structure of the world and the patterns that generally indicate intelligent causes. Intelligent design is an inference from empirical evidence, not a deduction from religious authority.

The propositional content of the theory of intelligent design also differs from that of creationism. Creationism or Creation Science, as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court, defends a particular reading of the book of Genesis in the Bible, typically one that asserts that the God of the Bible created the earth in six literal twenty-four hour periods a few thousand years ago. The theory of intelligent design does not offer an interpretation of the book of Genesis, nor does it posit a theory about the length of the Biblical days of creation or even the age of the earth. Instead, it posits a causal explanation for the observed complexity of life.

But if the theory of intelligent design is not creationism, what is it?

For more, click here to check out Mr. Meyer's website

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, a Cambridge trained philosopher of science is examining and explaining the amazing depth of digital technology found in each and every living cell such as nested coding, digital processing, distributive retrieval and storage systems, and genomic operating systems.

Meyer is developing a more fundamental argument for intelligent design that is based not on a single feature like the bacterial flagellum, but rather on a pervasive feature of all living systems. Alongside matter and energy, Dr. Meyer shows that there is a third fundamental entity in the universe needed for life: information.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

An Amazon Culture Withers as Food Dries Up

"But fish smells are not a problem for the warriors anymore. Deforestation and, some scientists contend, global climate change are making the Amazon region drier and hotter, decimating fish stocks in this area and imperiling the Kamayur√°’s very existence. Like other small indigenous cultures around the world with little money or capacity to move, they are struggling to adapt to the changes.

“Us old monkeys can take the hunger, but the little ones suffer — they’re always asking for fish,” said Kotok, the tribe’s chief, who stood in front of a hut containing the tribe’s sacred flutes on a recent evening. He wore a white T-shirt over the tribe’s traditional dress, which is basically nothing.

Chief Kotok, who like all of the Kamayur√° people goes by only one name, said that men can now fish all night without a bite in streams where fish used to be abundant; they safely swim in lakes previously teeming with piranhas.

Responsible for 3 wives, 24 children and hundreds of other tribe members, he said his once-idyllic existence had turned into a kind of bad dream.

“I’m stressed and anxious — this has all changed so quickly, and life has become very hard,” he said in Portuguese, speaking through an interpreter. “As a chief, I have to have vision and look down the road, but I don’t know what will happen to my children and grandchildren."

Click here to read more about the withering of this Amazon culture from The New York Times.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Darwin Is Dead!-The RNA World (Part 1)

If you would like to contribute to our year-long "celebration" of Darwin's 200th birthday, please send your articles, editorials, or any other creative and informative pieces to

Chemical Evolution: The RNA World (Part I)

By The Late Dr. T.D. Singh (HH Bhakti-Svarup Damodar Maharaja) on 25 Jul 2009

Genetic information flows from DNA, in the nucleus of each cell, to RNA, which carries the information out of the nucleus into the body of the cell and uses the instructions encoded in it to produce proteins (which act as enzymes and also provide the structural framework of cells). However, the duplication of DNA requires numerous enzymes that catalyze those reactions. And enzymes are proteins themselves – the end product of the information coded in DNA. In other words, proteins are required for DNA synthesis and DNA is required for protein synthesis.

How then could the first living cell with DNA-based molecular biology have originated by spontaneous chemical processes on the pre-biotic earth? This has been the chicken and egg problem of life’s evolution from chemicals – Which came first, DNA or the protein molecule?

In the late 1960s, several biologists – including Francis Crick, Carl Woese and Leslie Orgel – suggested that the ancestor molecule was neither DNA nor protein, but RNA. RNA, they suggested, might have catalyzed reactions necessary for replication as well as provided the genetic information necessary to replicate itself. Self-replicating RNA-based systems would have arisen first, and DNA and proteins would have been added later. DNA could have evolved from RNA and, then, being more stable, taken over RNA’s role as the guardian of heredity.

This idea further got support in the early 1980s from the independent discoveries of Thomas Cech and Sidney Altman of a kind of RNA that catalyzes a reaction. These catalytic RNA molecules have subsequently been termed as “ribozymes.” In 1986, Walter Gilbert, in an article in Nature, portrayed the primordial world as “RNA World” where RNA molecules catalyze their own synthesis. Since then, the term “RNA World” has stuck to the general hypothesis – RNA first, DNA and protein later.

Researchers continue to discover new func- tions for existing RNA, illustrating repeatedly how versatile these molecules can be. The recent determination of the structure of the ribosome, showing that it is a ribozyme, gave further support to the belief in the RNA World. However, there are many difficulties and problems in the RNA World.

Leslie Orgel, one of the scientists who first proposed it in the 1960s, himself concedes that researchers who have attempted to illustrate the possibility of spontaneous generation of the chemical elements of RNA itself have had only modest success. Ribose, the sugar that is part of the backbone of the RNA molecule, is difficult to create from hypothetical early earth conditions, except in very small quantities. Stanley Miller and his colleagues have also recently reported “ribose and other sugars have surprisingly short half-lives for decomposition at neutral pH, making it very unlikely that sugars were available as pre-biotic reagents.”

RNA World assumes that in the primordial world, ribonucleotides spontaneously condense into polymers to form RNA molecules and RNA molecules, once formed, would have the catalytic activity to replicate itself, and a population of such self-replicating molecules would arise. However, it is objected that even if RNA could have formed spontaneously, it would have been continuously degraded by spontaneous hydrolysis and other destructive processes operating on the primitive Earth.

Joyce and Orgel point out many detailed problems with these postulates of RNA World. They finally suggest not to accept “the myth of a self-replicating RNA molecule that arose de novo from a soup of random polynucleotides. Not only is such a notion unrealistic in light of our current understanding of pre-biotic chemistry, but it should strain the credulity of even an optimist’s view of RNA’s catalytic potential.”

Similarly, Crick has expressed great doubt about the RNA World. He says, “At present, the gap from the primal ‘soup’ to the first RNA system capable of natural selection looks for- biddingly wide.”

This article is an excerpt from the late Dr. T.D. Singh’s book Life, Matter and Their Interactions.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Happy Cows, Not Happy Meals

From ISKCON News

This Farm is Dedicated to Happy Cows, Not Happy Meals

Post a Comment By Ry Rivard for Charleston Daily Mail (USA) on 30 Jul 2009
Children from Laughlin Memorial Chapel school in Wheeling get a chance to try and direct the ox, Madhava, after William Dove demonstrated the voice commands the ox knows.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On farms across West Virginia, 204,000 beef cattle now await slaughter.

But at the International Society for Cow Protection's 168-acre hillside farm in Marshall County, cattle are treated far differently from those that are headed to slaughterhouses and onto plates.

William Dove and his family keep 22 cows and oxen comfortable for their entire lives and plan to chant the holy names of God to each animal as it dies a natural death at their farm outside of Moundsville.

Dove, a Hare Krishna, founded the cow protection society with his wife, Irene, in 1990.

Visitors to farm and to the society's Web site ( are encouraged to adopt an animal for $420 a year.

Many of the society's 40 or so donors are city folks who cannot take care of cows themselves, Dove said. Each adopter receives dried fruits and vegetables from the garden and a monthly update on their adopted cow or ox.

Just down the road at the New Vrindaban Hare Krishna temple, another cow adoption program attempts save cows from slaughter, though the price for donors is a bit steeper: $3 a day or $1,100 a year to adopt a cow.

Not only are the protected cattle not killed, but the female cows aren't required to breed, nor are they asked to do hard labor. When one is milked, it is done without a machine and without any pinching or pulling, according to care standards followed by the society.

The society's oxen are to be castrated as painlessly as possible and trained in a way that develops "a relationship of love and trust."

"Our whole program is what we call cruelty-free from birth to death," William Dove said.

The Hare Krishna, who worship the Hindu god Krishna, believe that the cow has special status as one of the "seven mothers" of human beings; the other mothers include biological mothers, nurses and the earth.

"All mothers should hold a position of respect, and since one does not kill and eat one's mother, the cow should not be killed and eaten," a brochure from the cow protection society says. Bulls are considered fathers and treated likewise.

Dove said the general public is beginning to understand the "karmic repercussions" of meat eating.

"More and more people are now becoming sensitive to where their food comes from and they are understanding that they don't need to kill to live - that the meat-based diet is such a violent aspect of society that they don't really want to support it," he said.

Dove said the violence done to animals is reflected in society at large - in highway fatalities, in wars, in murders.

Visitors to the farm learn how to train oxen and how to do farm work with them.

"A lot of them already are vegetarians and some of them are vegans who want to have dairy products in their diet but don't want to support the factory farming," he said.

But Dove said some people still don't see the connection between a piece of meat and where it came from. When kids come to the farm, they can hug and pet the cows and "understand where their hamburger is coming from."

"McDonalds wants to the kids to think it's a happy meal," he said. "But if you took the kids to a slaughterhouse, those kids would become vegetarians. 'This is where my Happy Meal comes from?' "

Dove, 63, became a vegetarian as a young man growing up in Hawaii and reading the Bible. He did a lot of open ocean fishing for tunas and marlins. Then he got to thinking.

"I am causing him so much suffering. He is fighting for his life so I can have my tuna fish sandwich," Dove thought. "So I just thought, 'If this is the suffering I am causing, I don't want to do it.' "

Since he began working with cows in 1974, several years after becoming a Hare Krishna, Dove has found the animals have a definite personality.

"They're very loyal to each other," Dove said. "If a cow is sick and not able to get up - sick and dying you might say - they will come and keep that animal company. It's not that they will walk away and abandon her."

On a part of the society's Web site for visitors who want to adopt an animal, the Doves give a little bio of each animal.

One 2-year-old bull calf is a "gentleman, introspective and kind."

Kalki, a 14-year-old Holstein cow, is "upper middle management" in the herd. She also likes apples and pears.

Hindus believe that cows are the top most body that a living entity can have in the animal kingdom. The soul, which Dove described as "small spark," moves from one being to another. A well-treated cow's soul could become a human. But an ill-treated cow's soul could end up worse off in the next life.

In addition to the religious aspect, Dove said it doesn't make sense to kill cows for their meat.

"The amount of food that a cow can give, which is high quality food - milk, cheese, butter - without the violence, far outweighs the amount of decaying flesh (from) a dead cow in a slaughterhouse," Dove said.

Dove settled in West Virginia after a 1995 visit to the New Vrindaban temple near Moundsville. He liked the state. The land was affordable.

He said many of his neighbors also keep cows. But they end up having theirs killed.

Dove said he doesn't appreciate that.

But he gets along with his neighbors. They talk about the Bible, among other things. Dove quotes Genesis, which says "every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat." And he doesn't let differences over meat get in the way.

"Just the fact that they understand what we're doing is beneficial to them," Dove said. "All of our neighbors, they are following their family traditions. I'm not going to set up a barrier and say, 'If you're not a Hare Krishna, we're not going to be friends.' Once those barriers are set up there's no discussing anything."

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Dose of Mercy

From the editorial staff of the New York Times

Farms and Antibiotics

  • Published: July 23, 2009

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70 percent of the antibiotics used in this country are fed to farm animals. These animals do not receive these drugs the way humans do — as discrete short-term doses. Agricultural antibiotics are a regular feed supplement intended to increase growth and lessen the chance of infection in crowded, industrial farms.

These practices are putting both humans and animals increasingly at risk. In an environment where antibiotics are omnipresent, as they are in industrial agriculture, antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases quickly develop, reducing the effectiveness of common drugs like penicillin and tetracycline.

Despite that danger, the Food and Drug Administration had been reluctant to restrict routine agricultural use of antibiotics. The F.D.A.’s principal deputy commissioner, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, signaled a welcome change in direction recently, testifying on behalf of a new bill, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. It would allow veterinarians to prescribe antibiotics to treat individual animals or prevent disease, but it would sharply restrict the routine feeding of antibiotics to farm animals — the practice most closely associated with the development of drug-resistant pathogens.

The legislation is drawing strong opposition from the farm lobby since the restrictions would make it much harder for industrial farms to crowd thousands of animals together in confined, inhumane and unhealthy quarters. But the current practice is dangerously self-defeating: treating more and more animals with less and less effective drugs and in turn creating resistant strains of disease that persist in the soil and water. Congress should stop this now before an entire class of drugs becomes useless.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Food, Faith, and Farming

Food, Faith, & Farming Symposium:

New Vrindaban Takes the Lead

Reported by Chris Fici

To the delight of many devotees living in rural ISKCON communities, the GBC (ISKCON’s administrative authority) recently set guidelines instructing all GBC members to spend 10% of their time boosting farm projects.

Do any GBCs really spend 10% of their time promoting rural projects? Are the guidelines making any measurable change?

The answer is yes -- at least in New Vrindaban, Srila Prabhupada’s first farm community. New Vrindaban is building bridges with neighbors over issues such as locally grown food and an ethical approach to ecology. “We’re finding common ground to express shared spiritual values,” says Bhaktin Rita Gupta.

With the help of Malati dasi, New Vrindaban’s resident GBC, Bhaktin Rita organized the community’s first Food, Faith & Farming symposium. The organization strategy was simple: invite a panel of experts, contact the local news media, provide nice prasadam, and leave plenty of time for socializing and touring New Vrindaban Dhama.

The panel included Whitney Sanford, associate professor at the University of Florida; Balabhadra Dasa from ISCOWP; Navina Shyam Dasa, assistant director of the Montessori School in Alachua, Florida; Madhava Gosh Dasa, a resident organic grower in New Vrindaban; and Danny Swan, director of the East Wheeling Community Gardens project. The panelists debated the need for creating a food system which is environmentally equitable to land, animals and people.

Tapahpunjah Dasa, director of The Small Farm Training Center, moderated the talks and peppered the panel with questions about going from values to practical application. The audience—12 of whom live outside of New Vrindaban—eagerly spoke about growing up on local farms. Everyone present expressed appreciation for a return to simple living.

Thanks to local media exposure -- an article which appeared in the Faith supplement of the Wheeling News Register -- over 30 people attended the symposium. “It was a great networking experience,” explains Bhaktin Rita. “For three hours, people from different religious paths and cultural backgrounds really touched common ground.” The symposium ended just in time for Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s Sunday feast, followed by a hayride up to New Vrindaban’s 6.5-acre organic growing site called “The Garden of Seven Gates.”

“Two more New Vrindaban symposiums are planned for the summer months,” added Bhaktin Rita. “We’re beginning to attract a lot of local people by making Krishna consciousness relevant to their lives.”

Chris Fici is an aspiring monk/writer in New York City. He is the editor for Club 108, the environmental outreach program from New Vrindaban, West Virginia.

Monday, August 3, 2009

India Widens Climate Rift With The West

The struggle to create a worldwide policy of positive momentum to tackle our collective environmental crisis took a sharp turn towards the tense in recent weeks.

Click here to read from the Financial Times about India's reluctance to join the global community in committing to shared standards of environmental responsibility, as she also shares her doubts about alarming findings on the fragile status of Himalayan glaciers in her own backyards.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The August Vedic Village Update

The latest update from our friends at the Vedic Village at MISCOWP (The Michigan Society for Cow Protection)

Dear Friends of Vedic Village,

I hope you are having a wonderful summer. Things are going very well with our educational farm project, Vedic Village. The weather has helped the 40 varieties of vegetables in our four acres of gardens flourish. We have entered our 8th week of community-supported agriculture, providing over 55 families with a weekly share of our blessed harvests. People are pleased with the quality and quantity of fresh organic produce that they are receiving.

In order to truly succeed, however, we need your help and support. The gardens need care. For instance, there are 2,000 tomato plants that need to be staked up; we need to prepare garden beds for succession seeding; plants need to be fertilized; the deer fence needs to be completed; and the list goes on and on. Please, if you can, come to Vedic Village and donate some of your time and talents.

You are welcome to come to the farm anytime during the week and on weekends, from 9am to 7pm. Please call me (313 434-5121) to let me know you are coming so we can plan accordingly.

We also need financial assistance. The deer fence is half done. We still need to purchase 40 ten foot 2X4's, 6 ten foot 4X4's, enough wire to stretch around 5 acres six times, and hardware to build the gates. All this will cost around $600.

Please contribute what you can and whatever you give will be greatly appreciated. And remember that whatever you give can be tax exempt, because we are a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. Please make out your checks to MISCOWP (The Michigan Society for Cow Protection), and mail them to Tom Milano, 313 Newport Street, Detroit, MI 48215.

When you come to the farm, please park your car on the side of the street near the gardens. Bring your own water and we will provide the rest. We have straw hats and all kinds of garden tools and equipment. And make sure you have enough time to relax and enjoy the exquisite beauty of this farm and the far reaching agricultural landscapes

I hope this meets you happy and well. We look forward to seeing you soon...

With warm regards, Tom / Adiraja dasa