Shadowlands Fukushima

Shadowlands is a Greenpeace presentation of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the displaced people, and the human cost of a serious nuclear accident and features the work of award-winning photographer Robert Knoth and documentary maker Antoinette de Jong.

“The Fukushima nuclear disaster is having a dramatic impact on the environment and the lives of the people from a wide area around the nuclear plant,” explained Knoth. “We sought to document this through landscape and portrait photography, as well as interviews with people from the affected region – some of whom may never be able to return to their homes. What we found was a profound sense of loss.”

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May 23, 2012

Veganism for Kids

Propaganda, brainwashing and child abuse!” Who knew that children’s books could provoke such charges? My first book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, was internationally well-received, but also caused some controversy—garnering attacks in online parenting forums, animal agriculture trade magazines, and even from Farm Bureau CEOs.

My latest picture book Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action is on the same track…and I do admit, I revel in the public discussion. I have always been interested in the underbelly of things, and each case of opposition to my books provides me the opportunity to study the invisible forces that shape public thinking about children, food, health, and animals. Where do these concerns come from? Why the outcry over a book about veganism and not the USDA’s food pyramid?

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May 23, 2012

Spherovelo Kid’s Bike

The Spherovelo Bicycle is a funky, fun, pre-school first bike for kids (one to three year olds) that is a safe approach to teaching children to ride and comes with removable internal stabilizers.

The Spherovelo is designed by a British company called Early Rider, based in Henley on Thames, England, but has a distinctly west coast style aesthetic.

With a simple design, and using stabilizing balls for first time learners, it can move in any direction, and the stabilizer balls can be removed, so it becomes unstable and the child learner then develops motor skills to balance themselves and keep it upright.

May 19, 2012

Seed Bomb Fashion

New York designers Brooklyn Industries and GreenAid have a new weapon to sow wild plants everywhere with their Seed Bomb Bracelets.

Using eco-friendly twine and three clay/compost beads loaded with wildflowers, when you throw your bracelet onto some urban earthy land, you might just be spreading some happiness along with some wild urban flowers.

May 18, 2012

Vegan Toilet Paper

Most people keep politics out of the bedroom, but how about the bathroom? People For The Ethical Treatment (PETA) have come up with a rather unusual way to grab people’s attention when they are sitting on the toilet. The often controversial animal rights’ organization has created an anti-meat toilet paper designed to raise awareness about the reality of meat production.

“Because of the filthy conditions on factory farms and the fact that slaughterhouse floors and fishing boats are often contaminated with feces, blood, and vomit, a great deal of meat is tainted with dangerous intestinal bacteria by the time it reaches the family dinner table,” explains PETA of their toilet paper.

PETA donates the toilet paper to communities and even government offices that are running low on paper and/or maybe they neglected to adequately budget for toilet paper in their yearly finances.

May 17, 2012

The Rainbow Machine

The Rainbow, a creation by artist and professor Michael Jones McKean, literally bathes The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, in Omaha, Nebraska in a shower of natural color.

In an exhibit entitled The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes Between Forms Project. The human made rainbow illuminates the Bemis Center twice per day for 20 minutes, using rainwater harvested using expertise and hardware provided by Lindsay Corporation and Watertronics. McKean’s work emphasizes “….the placeless, celebratory, seductive and elusive qualities of Mother Nature’s spectacular rainbow”.

The rainbow is created using captured stormwater that is filtered and stored in six above-ground, 10,500 gallon (39,750 liter) water tanks. A 60hp (45kW) pump, powered by renewable energy, pressurizes the water in nine nozzles mounted to the 20,000sq.ft. (1,860sq.m) roof. The rainbow itself, dependent upon the angle of the sun and the weather conditions, can be seen from over 1000ft (330m) away, or from very  close up.

May 17, 2012

Farmhouse Hydro Concert

German artist and designer Heike Bottcher turned an old blue farmhouse into a hydro-driven symphony.

Dubbed the Court of Water, and located on the Dresden’s Kunsthof Passage farm collective, the innovative art installation uses water to turn the building, complete with a series of funnels, pipes and tubes, into a living hydro-powered concert. With no two performances ever the same.

April 12, 2012

Wind Turbine Photos

American artist Ellen Jantzen has created a series of stunning images that move beyond the cliché of documenting the legendary road trip.

 

“Think of all of those Route 66 photos; abandoned gas stations, derelict cars at the side of the road, ordinary “folks” sipping malts through a straw at the local drugstore. American flags everywhere, a few Confederate ones in certain locales. BBQ stands with folks lined up, spilling out onto the street, old movie marquees displaying “Easy Rider”,” explains the artist of her latest work.

Her haunting photos depict the newly evolving American landscape, one dotted with wind turbines and appropriately dubbed Point & Shoot @ 70MPH as Ellen takes her images from a moving car.

“The freeways/Interstates transverse spectacular scenery, much of it void of towns and car dealerships. There are farmhouses and barns, often at quite a distance and cows, but mostly open, native America to be glimpsed between the billboards announcing the next exit’s offerings,” she explains.

Visit: www.point-shoot-70mph.com

April 12, 2012

Baguette Furniture

Is there anything worse than a stale baguette? Only when it ends up in the garbage! Polish designers Gosia and Tomek Rygalik (Studio Rygalik) upcycled old baguettes to create tables dubbed the Bread Experience. The unusual table were made for the Vienna Design Week Laboratory.

In a world where food wastage is so high in many countries, taking a little of that food garbage and upcycling it is a great idea for repurpousing uneaten food.

April 10, 2012

Obese Dog Stairlift

Companion pets are becoming increasingly obese with busy pet owners not taking enough time to ensure their animal companions get enough exercise or eat properly. A new dog stairlift, dubbed the Stair of the Dog 2022, helps transport overweight animals up the stairs so they can sleep with their owners.

So, if you want to indulge your pet (and their extra poundage), buy them the stairlift and, at the touch of a doggie button that perhaps your pet could get to operate themselves, they get an easy ride up and down the stairs.

The UK device, costs around £5,000 (US$7,935 or €6060), and is designed by a UK insurance company in response to the prediction that dog obesity will rise from 33% at present with 52% of UK dogs expected to be dangerously overweight by 2022.

Though, the rise in obesity may not be all inflicted from overindulgent pet owners, with many human studies linking phthalates, found in shampoos, soaps, lotions, paint and pesticides, as well as soft plastics (maybe your doggie friends favorite chew toy) with absorption into the body can act as a endocrine disruptor that interrupts correct function of glands and hormones. So it may not be a surprise to find your pet companion suffering from some of the same household chemical products that are affecting their metabolism too.

While Stair of the Dog 2022 might be a good idea for injured pets, it surely can’t be a great idea for obese ones – more exercise, a natural diet, and not too many snacks nor treats would be a better place to time, energy and money.

Via More Than & Natural News

April 8, 2012

Algae Street Lamps

French biochemist Pierre Calleja has created large-scale algae powered street lamps that can potentially absorb more than one ton of CO2 a year.

Algae lamps can charge up batteries during the day through their photosynthesis process that is driven by the sun and nutrients. This stored power is then used at night to power lights. Calleja’s lamps can also be illuminated artificially, such as in dark underground parking lots, where the algae go to work absorbing all the CO2 emissions from the cars. Above ground or in homes, they use natural daylight.

Maybe a forest of these algae lamps in every city might go a long way to replace all the CO2 absorbing trees that got cut down to make way for urban sprawl.

April 8, 2012

Living Plant Chandeliers

Canada-based design firm Bocci has created these super funky living chandeliers.

Comprised of blown glass, designer Omer Arbel created the ’38 Series’ using a random mixing of forms and shapes, with the addition of different plant species to produce an innovative light sculpture that brings greenery into every room.

April 8, 2012

E-Scape Personal Office

The E-Scape Personal Workspace is US-based architect Michael Jantzen’s creative solution for a lightweight, modular and prefabricated office space that can be reconfigured for added privacy.

The E-Scape modular components are made from sustainably grown wood products, and eco-friendly fabrics. Curved wood support frames are prefabricated into different lengths and shapes. Bolted together, these support frames can form many different shapes and sizes depending on workspace availability and how office colleagues want to interact – privately or via a more open plan design.

Jazzing up today’s boring (beige or grey) open plan offices, is made easy with the innovative E-Scape design, using different colored, textured, and/or patterned fabrics, sewn together and attached to the support frame sections. The fabric can also be woven through the support frames, easily changing the color, texture, pattern, and/or opacity of the structure.

The fabric can also be dyed using eco-friendly products and the entire structure can be easily remodeled and added to, or transported to another location. The versatility of E-Scape will prolong its use in a workspace, recycling office furniture and keeping precious resources out of landfills.

Visit: http://www.michaeljantzen.com/

 

April 6, 2012

The GMO Film Update

As of today, you are most likely eating GMOs, and you probably don’t know it.  As we forge ahead on this film, I keep coming back to a really basic question for us here in North America – how is it possible that we are eating GMOs everyday, but we don’t know about it? Many people don’t even know what a GMO is! (FYI: GMOs are genetically modified organisms.)

GMOs are about industry for industry’s sake. It’s not for us, our health, increased yield, feeding the poor….those are all lies. GMOs exist so chemical companies can sell more chemicals. That’s what this film we are making wants to awaken people to. It’s about crops modified for resistance to chemicals that are made by the same companies that are peddling the GMO seeds.

It’s about big, big money. It’s about us being lied to and experimented on. It’s about massive corporations in bed with the government, and our government betraying its own people to line various corporate pockets.

This film is also about our own ignorance, a society that has fallen asleep in so many ways, distracted by entertainment and endless diversions, to the detriment of our health, happiness, families and future food security. And finally, it’s about our children and how far we will go to protect them, love them, and pass on to them a beautiful, safe, thriving world.

It has been a long hard road making this film, but also very rewarding. We have met so many amazing people along the way, made lifelong friends, and joined a growing community of people, companies, and organizations determined to fight GMOs and big agribusiness, while taking back the land for sustainably grown, organic food.

We pushed ahead with this film on a very tight budget, raising funds as we went, with never quite enough to hire any additional help. It has been a wonderful experience making this film, but an immense amount of work and, at times, also very stressful. We can’t thank all of you enough for helping our Kickstarter Campaign be so successful and trigger other donations, moving all of this along at a time when we really needed it. THANK YOU!

We are happy to announce that a significant piece of the fundraising puzzle has come into place. The amazing Canadian/U.S. company Nature’s Path, has come on board as a major sponsor of the film! We couldn’t think of a better fit as they have been committed to pure organic, non-GMO products from the very beginning. We are proud to have them with us on the journey! We still have more funds to raise to complete the film and are hoping for another major sponsor, as well as a host of smaller sponsorships from organic companies.

For our larger sponsors and all the individuals who have joined with us to make this film, we believe the central question is – “How will we choose to live together on this planet?” It is a question of either exploitation or nurture. Will we suck up all the earth’s resources, poison soil, water, and air with toxic pesticides and herbicides, while industry-bought scientists feed us lab-made food and release genetic mutations into the environment and contaminate the natural world? Or will we stop this madness and commit ourselves to sustainable/regenerative organic agriculture, devoted to the health of society, to nutrition, to family farms and communities?

The stakes are very high, but the choice is ours.

I’ll leave you with a short video clip I recently put together after our trip to the San Francisco area for a series of interviews. This particular piece is from our time with Claire Hope Cummings, author of Uncertain Peril, and a truly amazing and gracious advocate for all that is good, true, and beautiful in this world.

March 21, 2012

Mini Bonsai Sculptures

Japanese artist and illustrator Takanori Aiba, creates incredibly detailed miniature worlds, combining miniature bonsai sculptures with a vivid imagination and dedication to detail.

With a lifelong love of the miniature and detail, and from playing with bonsai and railway models as a child, Aiba created mini-stories set in imaginary worlds which he sculpted as an adult by applying his experience in illustrating 3D mazes and learning about civil construction. Much of his inspiration came from watching ants build their colonies and from Disney fantasy story-telling.

Aiba creates multiple drawings to visualize his sculptures and his technician Kazuya Murakami makes them using clay, plastic, wood, steel, resin and plaster. Each work takes months to a year to make depending on their complexity.

 

March 18, 2012

iPhone Pothole App

In a public relations stunt by a local taxi firm, a car appears to have fallen into a monster-sized pothole in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The PR campaign is to advertise a new Canadian iPhone app called ‘Pothole Season’ where you can find out where all the major potholes might be, so you can avoid them and save damaging your car’s suspension.

It is a well-known fact that the roads in Montreal are riddled with potholes – and some of the real ones could be big enough to damage your car. So this iPhone app may prove to be very popular. You can get to see a Google map of the potholes at Pothole Season.

Most Canadian winters are usually quite severe, and Quebec roads get a severe beating from the snow and ice. So, in the spring, a favorite Canadian pastime is to count how many new potholes have appeared over the winter and are visible when the snow melts.

Visit: http://potholeseason.ca/

Via Paper-Plane

March 18, 2012

The Paper Safe Box

Rob Ives has created a fully functional paper safe which is a great DIY project for you and your kids. You can lock and open the secret drawer with your own private combination that is entered with the small numbered dial.

Ives designs paper animations and you can buy a CD with easy to follow instructions, lots of images to show you what to do and the print patterns for the parts. It costs only £2.50 (US$4, €3), which is great value for lots of eco-friendly entertainment and you also get something useful.

After printing onto thin card, use a sharp art knife (adults only for this) to cut out the card patterns. Using glue to keep the parts together, you can part all the separate parts and then assemble them to make the safe. Afterwards, you could customize it with bright colors and keep your valuables hidden from view.

March 15, 2012

Polar Orbit Satellite

Hopefully there are fewer and fewer people in the industrialized world who are non-believers of anthropogenic (human) induced climate change. Maybe there are some who will never be convinced, especially those who have a vested interest in not believing it, or perhaps they are anti-leftist thinking, or just plainly anti-everything.

If you are one of those – please read the following intently, and if you are a believer then please read knowing that yet more evidence (if we need it) is going to come down the technical pipeline.

Over the last decade or more, NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites have monitored the clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, land and atmosphere, but the latest satellites promise even better information

he NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System), now called Soumi NPOESS, has been monitoring Earth’s environment with keen scientific eyes since its launch in October 2011. The NASA satellite is also supported and used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). Unlikely bed-fellows but beggars can’t be choosers and at least the data is likely to be mostly used for good of the planet (humans, animals, and the environment).

Soumi looks at cloud coverage, oceans health, and Earth’s vegetation coverage, looking for changes and helping climate scientists model our ever-changing world. It will also help improve weather prediction and identify future climate patterns.

The high tech hardware it carries includes an Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (for global temperature and moisture measurements), a Cross-track Infrared Sounder (atmosphere monitoring), and an Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (the hole in Earth’s protective radiation shield that people seem to have forgotten about).

But there is more, it also carries a Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (detecting and monitoring wildfires, ice and land changes) and, if that wasn’t enough already, a Clouds and Earth Radiant Energy System. This last instrument maps thermal radiation and checks on Earth’s energy balance with space, which will show definitively that Earth is absorbing more and more heat energy and warming up globally.

Soumi will measure snowstorms, droughts, floods, hurricanes and dust plumes (that affect climate models and weather predictions), soots, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Monitoring the vegetation will help measure the Earth’s carbon cycle and agricultural processes, helping predict food shortages. The global temperature record of the atmosphere, land and sea surface will be essential to know how quickly the Earth’s climate is changing.

With the existing plethora of earth observation satellites, both US, European and other countries are launching, soon there will be nowhere for scientifically-minded non-believers to hide. The big question then will be once again what to do politically about the hard facts staring people in the face. Procrastinate some more or start changing the way we live.

Trevor Williams is a University of Victoria Mechanical Engineering PhD candidate specializing in renewable energy, power grid modeling and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. He has a bachelors in Aeronautical Engineering, a Masters in Management Science and over 23 years international experience in the space industry, having worked on Earth observation and telecommunications satellites. He is the author of the Eco-Geek blog.

March 15, 2012

Falling Through Time Review

What happens if a hard-driving advertising professional from the year 2012 fell forward seventy years into a green future? That’s the premise of Falling Through Time, the new eco-thriller from novelist Patrica Comroe Frank. Narrated in the first-person voice of the advertising executive, the book leads the reader on the adventures and misadventures of when worlds collide: the day a marketer of mass consumerism meets deep ecology.

After an accident in Alaska, Summer Holbrook, the narrator, wakes to a new world. It’s a rocky awakening for her. The future these urban refugees have carved out of the remote wilderness in California’s Siskiyou Mountains is the polar opposite of the high consumption world she’s left behind. Accustomed to creature comforts and luxury, she despises this new world of greatly reduced population, absent technology, and the return to basics.

Most puzzling of all is who are these mysterious holistic healers, living so harmoniously with nature?  Their post-consumerism way of life results in a culture clash filled with serious—and sometimes humorous—misunderstandings. When Sophia, the village elder, traces the ecological  “house of cards” that led to the environmental collapse, Summer is forced to confront her previous life of brands and the role she played in creating markets for foods and beauty products laced with chemicals, colorings, carcinogens, and genetically modified ingredients.

The book can easily be simply enjoyed as a fast-paced adventure-thriller, but the astute reader soon discovers the book delves deeper and can be considered equal parts Back to the Future meets An Inconvenient Truth—with perhaps, a sprinkling of In Defense of Food.

Falling Through Time is an unusual book as the author dares to “color outside the lines” as she crosses genres of contemporary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and green living. Somehow, Frank weaves it all together, and the reader will cheer for Summer as she undergoes her rejuvenation with help from village characters, including the steward of the forest and the warm bond she forms with a feral dog.

March 15, 2012

The Fibrous Plant Tower

Mimicry is the ultimate form of flattery. The Fibrous Tower from Austrian SOMA Architects, won second place in the Taiwan Tower International Competition by applying biomimicry to their entry and advanced design techniques.

The Austrian architecture firm, with offices in Vienna and Salzburg, modeled their creation on a plant-like, zero-emissions design that responds to its surroundings like a living plant. The building also generates its own electrical power with piezo-electric mechanisms to generate voltage from structural movement plus a building façade-mounted flexible photovoltaic skin, and high efficiency rigid solar panels on flat surfaces. The total available area is an incredible 25,000sq.m (269,000sq.ft) for solar power generation.

The building has a museum, tower lobby, green spaces and a network of paths that intertwine with the building lower levels that mimic tree roots. The towers reach skyward like flower stamens with elevators and public observatories. SOMA Architects used genetic algorithms to optimize the design, evaluating over 2,500,000 design alternatives, before finalizing their concept design and performing a structural analysis.

Visit: http://www.twtower.com.tw/ & http://www.soma-architecture.com/

Via ArchDaily

March 14, 2012

Solar Vineyard Winery

Designed to explore the potentials of a large winery but also function as a solar electric generation power plant, the Solar Vineyard Winery, from designer Michael Jantzen, utilizes  solar electricity produced through a large bank of curved photovoltaic solar cells that are elevated above the winery roof.

The solar electricity powers the entire winery and the excess is sold to the local utility. The cells also shade the structure below, and symbolically refer to giant rows of grape vines planted on a hillside. Shaded space beneath the solar panels is used by visitors for picnics and special events.

Rainwater is also collected off of the curved roof and stored for use in and around the winery. All of the water used at the winery is recycled and is used to water the grape vines.

Most of the utilitarian portion of the Solar Vineyard Winery is placed under the main structure, which references the surrounding rolling hills of the wine country in which the structure is situated. The above ground portion of the winery is used for the retail part of the business, which includes wine tasting and sales, a shop, a cafe, rest rooms, etc.

Large glass windows are recessed into the south side of the structure to shade the interior in the summer, and provide passive solar space heating in the winter. Natural ventilation is used throughout the winery for cooling, along with an extensive system of earth pipes that cool the air as it is drawn into the structure.

“My hope with this design is to demonstrate ways in which alternative energy gathering systems like solar cells, can be integrated into the built environment without appearing to be an afterthought,” explains the designer. “In this case, the solar cells become an integral part of the esthetics of the design in addition to having the potential of producing a large amount of solar electrical energy for many years.”

Visit: www.michaeljantzen.com

March 14, 2012

Mobile Ice Fishing Hut

A single person mobile ice-fishing hut, with cleverly designed walls made from ice, is the latest creation from Norwegian designers Gartnerfulgen Arkitekter.

Using a folding wooden frame and chicken wire, the ice walls allow light while keeping the bitter winter wind out. The ice walls weighs down the structure and helps maintain stability, but breaking the ice walls reduces the hut’s weight and it can then be relocated.

This innovative design idea makes use of natural physics to create a lightweight, mobile and protective shelter.

Visit: Gartnerfulgen Arkitekter

Via TreeHugger

March 13, 2012

Sustainable Metal Work

Creative artist Alex Féthière, uses recycled metals and discarded household products to help fashion his metalworking sculpture art, jewelry and furniture.

Beautiful bracelets, earrings and pendants, light-fittings and furniture, as well as sculptures, including the somewhat scary Murdochtopus, are all made as sustainably as possible, with minimum impact to the environment and using upcycled used materials.

“Castings are poured from reclaimed scrap aluminum in a homemade blast furnace powered entirely by discarded motor or cooking oil, the fires of which are kindled from chopped shipping palettes,” explains the artist.

The aluminum castings are anodized using an acidic bath, absorbing a synthetic sapphire dye and sealed using non-toxic, Earth Safe Finishes’ sealants and epoxies.

Electrolytic etching is done using cotton-swabs soaked in an aqueous solution of sodium carbonate, using a direct current power source for power. Titanium inert (argon) gas welding produces no smoke, and plasma metal cutting uses an ionized gas powered from a household socket and an air compressor, minimizing pollution and emissions.

“When steel is reclaimed, rust removal is done with an electrolytic process in a solution of sodium carbonate and water…the resultant rust soup is greywater safe enough for the lawn,” he explains.

Visit: http://www.alexfethiere.com/

March 13, 2012

The Children’s Fireplace

In Trondheim, Norway, the Children’s Story Telling Fireplace and hut was designed and built by Norwegian Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter architectural design company.

Built in a residential playground, the conical-shaped hut uses recycled construction site material consisting of short wood pieces that were stacked to make the dome and slightly crooked-looking chimney flue.

The design mimics old Norwegian turf and log huts, with a 5.2m x 4.5m  (17ft x 14.7ft) base and a concrete foundation. The dome has 80-layered circles of pine with oak separators creating small gaps between the layers with each layer is stacked at an angle to create the curved dome walls. The gaps provide natural light and airflow for the fireplace.

March 12, 2012

New Purple Strawberries

The Purple Wonder strawberry, from Cornell University horticulturists, recently impressed everyone at the Philadelphia International Flower Show with its color and taste.

Purple Wonder is sweet and aromatic, with outstanding strawberry flavor,” according to Courtney Weber, a small fruits breeder and associate professor of horticulture at Cornell. “But the color is something you won’t be able to find in any grocery store.”

“The color develops all the way through the fruit, which might surprise consumers accustomed to supermarket fruit with color mostly on the surface,” Weber explained. “And letting the fruit ripen on the plant just makes the berries sweeter.”

The Purple Wonder has few runners and so is ideal for pot growing, suiting backyard and city strawberry growers alike.  Apart from looking good and tasting good, they are also full of antioxidants, are insect and disease resistant, and can be grown in most temperature zones across the US. Cornell is going to file a plant patent for the Purple Wonder later this year.

The Philadelphia International Flower Show runs March 4th-11th, 2012, but Cornell has an exclusive licensing agreement with seed company W. Atlee Burpee Co. to sell their Purple Wonder seeds.

March 11, 2012

Chainsaw Powered Bicycle

This is a Russian version of a chainsaw-powered bicycle, though it seems a bit dangerous to leave the chainsaw on the engine – unless you really have to cut your way through the early morning commuter traffic.

Although an innovative design, a chainsaw driven bicycle is definitely not good for the environment, emitting large quantities of carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxide (NO), unburnt fuel and soot particulates.

Via MakeZine & Small Engine Emissions

March 11, 2012

Ayurvedic Retreat Blog

It is now day seven of my Ayurvedic retreat at the Ayurveda Yoga Retreat and Hospital, nestled in hectares of tea plantations in the province of Tamil Nadu in southern India, and I have finally settled in enough to give an update.

The retreat is located north of the city of Canoor, roughly 1800m (5,900ft) above sea level in the famed Nilgiri Hills, boasting roughly twenty-four peaks above 2000m (6,560ft). These hills are part of the Western Ghats, a mountain range on the southwestern edge of the Deccan Plateau. The area is world renowned for its teas.

After a long forty-eight hour journey to get here (yes, I offset and I know it really doesn’t make a difference!), and a gut-churning drive up the mountain (the car, truck, motorcycle, scooter and Tuk-Tuk drivers utilize some indecipherable system of horn honking and light flashing to pass each other on an extremely narrow winding road), I ended up with a lethal case of jet lag and a bit of altitude sickness. However, I did learn that eucalyptus is great for helping with altitude discomfort and thankfully grows in abundance in the area. The jet lag passed and you eventually get used to the roads and wild driving conditions, which are just a little different to the sleepy Canadian island driving I am used to.

Ayurvedic medicine (often described as “the knowledge for long life”) is an ancient form of Indian medicine and coming to an alternative hospital/retreat to deal with your health issues is both a leap of faith and probably one of the best things you could ever do for yourself in terms of attempting to address your health/mind constitution holistically. In fact, the earliest mention of Ayurvedic in literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India (the mid-second millennium BCE), according to Wikipedia.

However, it is important to differentiate between a resort/spa and an Ayurvedic hospital/retreat centre. Here people aren’t getting pedicures, facials and manicures (although some guests do go to town for these services), rather many people are dealing with serious health issues ranging from extreme drug addiction, cancer, obesity, colitis, bulimia, etc. Other guests come to the centre for extreme detoxification or PanchaKarma.

Many people find themselves here when traditional or allopathic forms of medicine are no longer working for them, while others simply seek the intense forms of detoxification and weight loss programs available.

The guests are comprised of people from around the globe and their nationalities are as varied as their ailments. However, the commonality amongst the guests is their openness to change, transformation, desire to be healthy in body and mind, as well as their kindness and support in helping each other through the often uncomfortable treatment or detoxification process. The staff are also fully supportive in ensuring the majority of your needs are taken care of as quickly and gently as possible.

My visit to the centre is comprised of roughly forty-four days of treatment to deal with a number of minor health issues and to experience the deep cleansing of PanchaKarma. Although my health concerns are not as serious in relation to some of the other guests at the centre, they were health issues that I could never seem to get resolved back in Canada utilizing both an excellent traditional medical doctor and two wonderful naturopaths.

After the recommendation of several friends who have had some remarkable results after visiting an Ayurvedic hospital, I was intrigued and convinced enough to fly half-way round the world to try a completely alternative system of medicine to get a health/mind reboot.

For those who are unfamiliar with Ayurvedic medicine, it is based on diagnosing the body and mind’s ailments via a system of analyzing your ‘doshic’ state or type. The three main dosha types are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each body type manifests different behaviors, ailments and imbalances when out of alignment.

It is believed that knowing your personal constitution or dosha will allow you to understand yourself better and, being in balance, create greater harmony between your mind and body. Healing is much more difficult when the overall state of the body and mind are not taken into consideration during the treatment process, as is often the case with traditional western medicine where either the mind or body ailments are treated but rarely are they considered intricately linked.

At the centre where I am staying each person is examined and diagnosed by a medical/Ayurvedic doctor, and this includes an overview of your health history, current problems, physical and pulse examination (The doctor is available six days a week from roughly 9am to 5pm and you can visit him as often as you like!). Your custom treatment plan is then arranged around your dosha and health goals.

The healing process involves a special diet tailored to your condition(s), medication (five times a day) and a wide variety of treatments twice a day ranging from deep tissue massage with medicated coconut oil, enemas or colonic irrigation, steam treatments, rice and/or oil baths, nasal and eye cleansing, to ingesting clarified ghee butter to purge the system.

There are also yoga classes three times a day, plus daily meditations. The entire area is famous for its Nilgiri tea so the mountains are covered with tea plantations that, aside from providing stunning scenery, also offer miles of amazing walks. (Yes, the tea is amazing!)

Temple located in the forest.

So far, I am enjoying the experience as I have started gently with my treatments consisting primarily of deep tissue medicated coconut oil massages (usually accompanied with a lettuce scrub and warm shower) performed in the morning by two masseuses working simultaneously and an afternoon head, neck and back massage also with medicated oils that are tailored to my specific treatment plan. (Women cannot participate in some of the treatments during menstruation).

I must admit I have some trepidation about the coming weeks when my treatments will intensify to include some of the purging and more intense forms of detoxification. Thankfully, I will finish up the remainder of my stay with treatments geared towards rebuilding my system, restoring balance and rejuvenation.

Lastly, many people have asked me what a typical day at the centre is like so here is a sample itinerary:

6am: Medication is delivered to your room

6:30-7:30am: Yoga and meditation

8am: Breakfast

8:30-11:30am: One hour specialized treatment

12:30-1pm: Weight loss yoga

1-2pm: Lunch (more medication)

1:30-4:30pm: A thirty-minute specialized treatment and a visit from the reflexologist (every three days for the reflexologist)

3-4pm: Intermediate yoga

4-4:30pm: Afternoon tea served in the garden

5pm: Medication

5:30-6:30pm: Meditation

7-8pm: Dinner and medication

9-10pm: Medication

Participation in the yoga and meditation is not obligatory, but is encouraged. Meals can be eaten in the dinning room or delivered to your room – depending on how you are feeling.

The only other things of note are the government mandates that the electricity is turned off from 10am to noon and 4-6pm, and the area is teeming with wildlife. Wild monkeys are everywhere (there was a wild monkey invasion at the retreat today when they tried to break into the Ayurvedic garden and the kitchen). Wild elephants live on the mountains and there are numerous beautiful chatty birds in the tea fields and trees.

Visit: http://www.ayurveda.org/

Valerie Williams is a writer living on Salt Spring Island, Canada and is currently on retreat in Canoor, India.

March 11, 2012

Funky Hammock Tent

The Tentsile Hammock Tent is a treehouse-like tent that can be erected even without trees. The Tensile design team and company are based in London.

The Tensile provides maximum space, with the lowest use of material (fire retardant, UV PU and water resistant polyester fabric infill panels), with tensioning wires used to create the unusual inverted three star shape. A two person tent is available, and five or eight person models are planned.

The tent hammock has a covered porch as a suspended seating area, with a double hammock bed and storage space underneath, and the two person one weighs 5-8kg (11-17.6lbs).

The Tentsile offers safe and peaceful slumber from rising water, rocky or uneven ground and predators (bears, cougars and beer pilfering fellow campers perhaps). Using the central ground support and three support arms, the Tentsile would be useful for soggy ground, or bug-infested forest floors, and you would not have to string it up in trees and wonder if the people movement or stormy winds might over-stretch the cable ties.

The Tentsile Hammock Tent.

March 10, 2012

The Mercedes’ F-Cell Car

An “invisible” Mercedes-Benz B-Class (the F-Cell) is being used in an ad campaign to show off the zero-emissions features of their new fuel-cell powered vehicle. The Mercedes-Benz B-class F-Cell will be available in 2014 with a 386km (240 miles) range.

Sheets of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) laid on one side of the Mercedes-Benz F-Cell car are then fed by a camera image from the other side, so that the live feed makes the car appear invisible to people looking at it from the LED side. It looks pretty amazing in the Youtube video.

The advertising campaign is designed to raise awareness of this zero emissions technology being available to the public but also to help increase the number of hydrogen refuelling stations that countries are willing to build. These hydrogen stations are critical to the success of hydrogen-fueled cars of course.

The B-class F-Cell stores hydrogen in its polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell. A fuel cell then converts high-pressure hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2, from the air) into electrical energy and water (H2O). The electrical energy is used to drive a 134hp electric motor and power the car, and the only ‘pollutant’ out of the exhaust is pure water. The entire process can be almost emissions free if the hydrogen is obtained from renewable clean energy.

At startup, the F-Cell uses power from a 1.4-kWh lithium-ion battery array and then the fuel cell motor comes on at 7mph (11.2km/h). It is not the fastest B-class Mercedes Benz, taking around 17seconds to get to 60mph (96km/hr) but it is the cleanest.

Only 70 F-Cells will come to the US, mostly in California and a few in Washington, D.C., and the lease cost is around $800-1000 (€602-753), at least until there are more hydrogen refueling stations available and more F-Cells are manufactured, dropping their price for the public to buy.

March 9, 2012

Kid’s Pedal Power Bus

Dutch school kids get a healthy workout by pedaling themselves to school on a monster bicycle bus made by Netherlands’ company Tolkamp Metaalspecials, who are also the makers of the Beerbike.

Carrying eleven kids (from 4-12years old) and an adult bicycle driver, the School Bicycle Bus gets kids to and from school, and has an electric motor when some extra oomph is needed. The top speed is around 10mph (16km/hr), and it comes with a sound system and weather canvas.

The bus bicycles cost US$15,000 (€11,400) and greatly reduce emission pollutions compared to taking a school bus. The bicycle bus also gives the kids some exercise along the way, walking them up for class in the morning.

Visit: http://www.tolkampmetaalspecials.nl/

Via FastCoExist

March 8, 2012