Surferbird News-Links, 16th Edition

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Welcome to the 16th edition of Surferbird News-Links. Some of today's highlights include making a rag rug from textile scraps, eco-friendly gold, nuances of alcohol consumption, breastfeeding benefits, troubled chili peppers and coffee, autism, probiotics, the TPP, and more.

Oh, and let's not forget today's earworm. Scroll on down to discover today's musical treat!

Surferbird News-Links, a weekly summary from across the web

An eco-friendly craft project - rag rugs

Are you looking for a craft project to enjoy over the upcoming cooler months? I've been looking at rag rugs made from old T-shirt yarn and/or yarn made from flannel sheets.

Take a look at the tutorial on this website. The advantage to using sheets verses T-shirts is that they yield longer strips of fabric - decreasing the labor involved in joining so many smaller T-shirt strips. And because sometimes two tutorials are better than one, I also like this option.

Alternately, here's a no-sew braided rug made from old T-shirts.

I have to confess I haven't tried these projects - at least not yet. However, I do look forward to giving one of them a go. Have you ever made rag rugs out of old T-shirts or sheets? I would love to hear your story!

News from my wood

I've been working hard on an eco-friendly bookstore post, which should be ready within the next couple of weeks. It's so heartening to learn about bookstores that care about both the planet and its people. I look forward to sharing this information with you soon! Because of all the research involved, I'm not sure the Surferbird will be around next Saturday - just giving you a heads up in case she decides to take some R and R.

News-Links

Environment

Merging industry with the natural world (theatlantic.com) - What if we could sort our waste into technical nutrients and biological nutrients without downcycling or having the technical waste end up in landfills? This article in The Atlantic describes what I hope will be the Next Industrial Revolution - one that doesn't need environmental regulations because of exquisite design that supports equity, economy, and ecology.

Reduce, reuse, recycle hasn't worked out so well.

Let me explain. Currently, under our eco-effenciency guidelines, consumers and manufacturers encourage the concept of reduce, reuse, and recycle, which doesn't work out in the end. At the moment, most plastics aren't recyclable. If communities do recycle plastics, they become park benches or flower pots, which eventually end up in landfills - leaching toxic chemicals into the environment. But what if the plastic in your phone could become a computer case? What if your office chair could be composted? The phone would be considered a technical nutrient - the computer chair, a biological nutrient.

Even small amounts of pollutants matter.

Something else to consider is that although reducing emissions has achieved positive outcomes, it's still not enough. An estimated 100,000 people die every year from even the tiniest amounts of pollutants. Particles from your synthetic office chair rub off as you fidget at your desk. Then, they're inhaled or swallowed.  Some data suggests that our skin wasn't meant to have constant contact with synthetic clothing - even clothes made from recycled water bottles. And children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to all of these pollutants.

Even though I've covered more details than I originally planned, there's much more to learn from reading the article. Those leading and supporting the idea of the Next Industrial Revolution include people in business, commerce, education, humanities, politics, science, and engineering. Also, take a look at Paul Hawken's website. He's published numerous books on the responsibility businesses have to work with nature instead of against it. I'm ready to sign on the dotted line. :)

Green spaces

The ecology of roundabouts(psmag.com) - Who new that roundabouts, if planned correctly, could provide a rich source of biodiversity and assist conservation efforts? When you think about it, few people step foot in roundabouts - providing natural protection for plants and insects. And then, there's the psychological benefit, also. This is an excellent example of small spaces making a difference in the quality of our environment.

English village carbon neutral(positive.news/) - The village of Ashton Hayes decided to act locally by aiming to be the first carbon neutral village in England. As far as they were concerned, waiting for political leaders to take action wasn't an option. Additionally, they've captured the attention of other towns around the globe. This is a fine example of people working together - casting personal and political beliefs aside to help solve the challenges of climate change. For more information, check out their website, here.

Mining

A follow up on gold mining(smithsonianmag.com) - I wrote about a tragic situation in last week's edition of Surferbird News-Links regarding a gold mine operation forcibly and illegally attempting to take over farmland in Peru. In truth, I feel I strayed from the focus of this blog by doing so. It's as if I took you down into the mine and left you there without ever mentioning the environmental impacts of gold mining, nor did I provide you with solutions.

So, I'm following up with an article on the environmental controversies surrounding gold for you to explore. Some feel it can be mined responsibly. Others do not. For information on retailers and current actions underway to stop mining operations, check out the No Dirty Gold website. Also, take a look at three companies that deal in recycled and vintage gold -  Brilliant Earth, Leber Jeweler Inc., and Toby Pomeroy.

As far as gold and investments are concerned, it's telling that I'll have to get back to you on that one. The search term is it ethical to invest in gold turned up articles more related to gold and the economy. This is where I'll leave you for now, but hopefully I've provided information and not just tragedy - like last week.

Climate change

CO2 levels exceeded and stayed at 400 parts per million (grist.org) - This is a milestone, but no one will be celebrating. And it's doubtful CO2 will return to prior levels in our lifetime.

Green technology

The first offshore wind energy farm in the U.S. (grist.org) Located off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, this wind farm will be ready to power homes before the end of 2016.

Wind energy prices expected to decrease (ensia.com) - Larger turbines with wider rotors will increase the efficiency of wind power. Although onshore wind power will continue to be the least expensive, offshore wind power will become cheaper as this technology advances.

Farming

TPP (foodtank.com) - Have you been wondering what all the hoopla is over the TPP? It seems to be the antithesis of what the Paris Agreement aims to achieve. I learned a lot from reading this piece, and I'm even more against the TPP than I was before - if that's possible. According to the article, the TPP supports industrial agriculture and big seed companies, limiting farmers' abilities to share protected seeds. It moves us further away from agroecology, which is a giant step away from solving climate change and maintaining food security.

Food

Climate change and coffee (nytimes.com) - It's true. Climate change is already affecting coffee - such a persnickety plant. A combination of unpredictable weather patterns and warmer temperatures increases the risk of disease. Creating a gene bank, cataloging different varieties, and continued evaluation of newly developed beans are three methods that will help farmers adapt.

What can we do? An article in the Specialty Coffee Chronicle stresses the importance of creating consumer demand for sustainably grown coffee. As temperatures rise, farmers must grow coffee at higher altitudes near fragile forests. By purchasing sustainably grown coffee, consumers help protect these fragile, biodiverse lands.

For additional information on coffee and climate change, here's an excellent article in The Guardian, which emphasizes the effects climate change will have on coffee farmers and suggests implementing further strategies.

Troubled chili peppers from New Mexico (grist.org) - Well, chili peppers, like coffee, are persnickety. You guessed it - climate change.

The homogenization of wheat flour (theatlantic.com) - Roller mills - which prioritize less nutrient dense white flour - have replaced flour mills in the U.S. Even if you're gluten-free, wheat-free, or grain-free, I think you'll appreciate this short read that includes a video about the history of flour milling in the U.S. We've strayed so far from our roots in regards to food processing.

Health

An excellent short video - it explains the relationship between the brain and the gut microbiome. Thanks to my 13-year-old son for sharing this - how would I write these Suferbird News-Links without his input?

Probiotic Experiments (theatlantic.com) - And since we're on the subject of gut bacteria, do we know which probiotics actually take hold in the gut? Some strains seem to permanently colonize the gut better than others. Read about this fascinating research project regarding the efficacy of probiotics and their relationship with prebiotic foods. It will make you think twice before relying upon the long term success of just any old probiotic. I look forward to future advancements in this field of study.

Breastfeeding benefits mothers, also. (sciencedaily.com)  - This is huge, really. A new study emphasizes the importance of breastfeeding for both moms and babies. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the incidence of breast cancer, pre-menopausal ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart attacks. For babies, the list of reduced disease incidence was even longer. Length of breastfeeding time matters, though. It's recommended that moms breastfeed "for a total of one year and exclusively for six months."

Water

What you need to know about chromium-6 in tap water (ewg.org) - Last week, a report came out, which noted potentially unsafe levels of Chromium-6 in the drinking water of 75 percent of U.S. communities. You can read all about the report in the link above. But what might be even more useful to you is the interactive map, which provides information on chromium-6 levels in communities across the lower 48 states. For information on filtration systems that filter out chromium-6, see here. The Environmental Working Group also has a Frequently Asked Questions page.

I found an additional website that offers excellent suggestions on how to protect yourself and family members from chromium-6 in drinking water. Please note that bottled water isn't recommended in lieu of an adequate filtration system. Also, Brita and Pur filters don't protect consumers from chromium-6. It looks like our household will need to make a change.

Mental Health

Meditation verses detention (niume.com) - These kids are lucky. They get to meditate instead of vegetating in detention. This elementary school in Baltimore has a Mindful Moment Room along with an after school yoga/meditation program. Take a look at the instructional video. Just think about the potential for building lifelong habits - not to mention the more positive approach to discipline.

The story of a young person's stroke - balancing work and life (nytimes.com) - The young man in the story was twenty-six when he had a stroke. The good news is that he recovered and created boundaries and a schedule that allowed him to live more fully. I like how he doesn't take the change everything about your life approach. It's an important reminder to take care. No one is invincible - not even twenty-six-year-old young men.

Autism and pursuing alternative treatments (theatlantic.com) - As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I appreciated this article immensely. Parents will go to great lengths to find help for their children - even when it involves falling down rabbit holes. But it's tricky discerning the difference between folly and legitimate treatment plans, indeed. Our son is high functioning, so I haven't felt the need to chase too many rabbits. Mostly, we've experimented with diet.

The author of this article compassionately explores some of the treatments available and the risks that parents will take in pursuit of help. In the end, though, acceptance brought a certain amount of peace for at least one of the families. And some of the treatments they pursued are being researched today as legitimate options - our good old friend, probiotics. This is a long read, but worth it for those who share their lives with a partner, child, or friend on the autism spectrum.

Science and Technology

The health nuances of alcohol (sciencedaily.com) - A new study discovered that even moderate alcohol consumption may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation. However, alcohol may also reduce the risk of having a heart attack. So, don't panic. I guess we're all going to die of something. I don't consume alcohol, so where does that leave me?

And while we're on the subject of alcohol, an additional study compared the biochemical effects of alcohol to fast acting anti-depressants. Many have suspected for quite some time that depressed individuals use alcohol as a form of self-medication. Although scientists need to conduct additional studies, the biochemical mechanism for this has now been demonstrated.

Ants addicted to morphine (nytimes.com) - In this study, about two thirds of ants exposed to morphine preferred the drug over sugar. These are the first nonmammals to exhibit drug addictive behavior. Take a look at the study for more details.

A new theory on fructose and the mechanisms behind the development of type 2 diabetes (sciencedaily.com) - Current theory on the development of type 2 diabetes focuses on defects in insulin signaling. But this new study, which focuses on excessive sugar intake - specifically fructose - suggests that the mechanism involved in type 2 diabetes development involves a protein in the liver. When excessive fructose in consumed, this protein triggers a process where the liver continues to produce glucose, even in the presence of adequate amounts of insulin. The article also covers interesting new data on the connection between fatty liver disease, diabetes, and heart attack risks.

Earworm

So, we come to that special place in Surferbird News-Links - the Earworm. I kept thinking about the New Industrial Revolution and how goods travel in a circle without generating waste. Also, let's not forget about the circular, eco-friendly rag rugs. As I stood at the sink doing dishes, contemplating all of this, "The Circle Game" by Joni Mitchell, played in my head. Make the most of your circle game.  Laura