jueves, 31 de enero de 2013


By Salvatore Scimino
January 31, 2013

Children enjoying a toad (Rhinella marina, formerly Bufo marinus). Photo: Milagros S. Trullén


Humans are naturally curious about their surroundings. As children they easily become fascinated by animals and are drawn towards them like magnets attract irong filings. 

We are born wired not only for culture, defined as "learnt behaviour", but also for a lively interaction with the universe. 

With the right guidance as children, we have a wonderful potential. But crooked economic interests dominated by greedy and selfish evil people soon get in our way and push and shape us as consuming machines. 

They throw us into a vast sea of stupid desires and we wander without a compass, along the way many get drowned, sickened or die filled with emptiness in their hearts. How sad!!

More than ever we need to nurture and quicken the flame of Biophilia in our hearts. And we learn the first lessons at home. How lucky were those who had wise, patient and loving parents when they were children (Video 1)!!

                                                         Video 1. A child plays with a cat.

The image of a child playing with a cat will make some people squimish, scream or complain that it is not good for any child´s health to come into contact with cats or by that matter with any animals. 

And as a matter of fact, nowadays there many parents who overprotect their kids so much that their parenting behaviour could be very easily classified as some  sort of child abuse. In some cases this overprotection parenting is actually a form of child terrorism.

There is nothing wrong for a child to play with a cat, unless the feline is unhealthy. The infant has more to gain than lose, she/he learns to love animals, learns the importance to connect with nature.

What we should be really worried about it is our exposure to toxic organic substances that are found in every piece of composite furniture and foams we have and use at home (Fig. 1). Children´s products are stuffed with harmful chemicals (Table 1). Our modern homes are really mountains of dangerous chemicals to our health. As someone said: "We live in a toxic chemical stew".

Figure 1. Child´s exposure to fire retardants.Source: PR Watch

TCEP and TDCPP (chlorinated Tris). Source: BebePURE

A great variety of toxic chemical substances are added to plastic products, textiles, wires and cables, electronics, home insulation, and polyurethane foams during manufacture as flame retardants in case there is a fire in our homes. 

Amongst these chemicals we have the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), which are added to plastics (5-30%). There different types of PBDEs, this depends upon the number of bromine atoms each carries. Around 40.000 tonnes of PBDEs are produced annualy (Darnerud et al., 2001).

The wear and tear of the furniture and other products with PBDEs in their composition produce particulate matter that contaminate the indoor air (Fig. 2), our food and drinks. Pets suffer from exposure to these toxic substances, causing thyroid disorder and cancer.

Figure 2. Flame retardant (PBDEs) concentration in household dust. Source: Green Science Policy Institute.

PBDEs are also released into the environment polluting water, soil and the atmosphere. These chemicals are genotoxic and teratogenic and can affect the thyroid gland of humans and animals. They can cause cancer as well.

Our favourite sofas and couches also have halogenated flame retardants (HFRs) which are very harmful for our health and our pets (Fig. 3). 

Figure 3. Halogenated flame reatrdant chemicals. Source: Green Scence Policy Institute.

HFRs, a category to which belong PBDEs as well, contain chlorine or bromine atoms bonded to carbons. These substances bio-accumulate in our bodies, found even in mother´s milk, and have been shown to cause endocrine, thyroid, neurological reproductive and developmental disorders including birth defects, learning disorders, hyperactivity and decreased fertility in animal studies.  

Our squandering way of living via the tonnes of garbage we dump in the landfills has introduced these toxic chemicals into the food chain, aquatic and soil ecosystems. HFRs are also present in wildlife. They always turn up in blood analyses and have been linked to fertility and hormonal disorders in humans. Children exposed to HFRs show learning disability and perform poorly in IQ tests.
Thus, it does not make sense that we worry about our children coming into contact with animals because of our fear that they might get sick and at the same time we deprive them of establishing connection with Nature when we do not even bother about all of the substances that they are exposed everyday at home simply by sitting on a sofa which contains harmful chemicals such as halogenated flame retardants.

Happy are indeed the children who had parents who allowed them to grew up in close contact with animals and plants, in other words the children´s Biophilia was estimulated at a very early age (Fig. 3)!

Figure 3. Happy children with an armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)Photo: Milagros S. Trullén

We have just started walking on the 21st century and we continue trampling Mother Nature with not much concern for the future. Of course there is a lot of talk about the environment. But it just empty talk

It is obvious that we have to change our course or Nature will force us to change it. We should all pay attention to what Henry David Thoreau said: "Simplify, simplify". We live too high. We must learn to be instead of having. We need a new paradigm: Little is beautiful.

Homo sapiens brags a lot about being an intelligent species but in the long run he really is an insapiens creature when it comes to ecological intelligence.  By the same token, what right does he have to call himself sapiens when he behaves quite insapiens?

Earth is sick because man has a sick way of approaching Nature. He considers it an object to be exploited, contaminated and destroyed up just for profits (Video 2). This is quite stupid!

                                                  Video 2. Man the destroyer!

Now is the time to teach and truly connect our children with Mother Nature. We must teach our children to be Biophilic with the whole Biosphere. We must learn to love and respect spaceship Earth now. Tomorrow may be too late!


Darnerud O., Eriksen G. S., Johannesson T., Larsen P. B. & Viluksela M. (2001). Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers: Occurrence, Dietary Exposure, and Toxicology. Environ. Health Perspect., 109 (Suppl.1): 49-68.

Dufton P. (2003). Flame retardants for Plastics. Market Report. Rapra Technology Limited, Shropshire, UK. 440 p.

EFRA (2009). Flame retardants for Changing Society. Cefic, Brussels, Belgium. 42 p.

Friends of the Earth (2008). Killer Couches: Protecting Infants & Children from Toxic Exposure. 16 p.

Weil E. D. & Levchik S. V. (2009). Flame Retardants for Plastics and Textiles. Practical Applications. Hanser Publishers, Munich, Germany. 359 p.

Wilson E. O. (1984). Biophilia. The human bond with other species. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, USA. 160 p. 

miércoles, 30 de enero de 2013


By Gundhramns Hammer
January 30, 2013

Source: flickriver


Green cities. A very good objective to have in mind and pursue and we should all pich it in one way or another to achieve this goal.

Nowadays a lot of wildlife species are finding that surviving in cities is much easier. Cities are becoming centres of biodiversity and it is our responsibility to protect these species and do our best so we can live in harmony with them. We all have a lot to gain. 

There are a lot of nature lovers who enjoy supplementing the diet of wild birds  during the tough days of cold weather. Providing with food these birds help them survive through the Winter and have a better chance of reproducing when Spring comes. In Jaca at the foot of the Pyrenees (Huesca, Spain) there is a family who spends a few hundred euros monthly from October to March feeding the local avian fauna and keep record of each species that comes to the "Avian Restaurant". This year these naturalists caught in video a few Red Kites (Milvus milvus) diving to catch food in the garden (Video 1). It is a wonderful sight!! 

                             Video 1. Red Kites (Milvus milvus) diving for food in Jaca, Spain.

Food supplementation during cold weather spells or Winter is important considering that some species such as the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) (Video 2) are on the decline thoughout Europe.

  Video 2. House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) eating bread crums and maize in a garden in Jaca, Spain.

Moreover, their importance become more crucial since any urban species of animal or plant has a very important role to play: They are Bioindicators of the Environment´s health, in short they are "Sentinels of everyone´s health" (National Research Council, 1991).

Nature heals and soothes our psychology and can keep us healthy as well. Recent research has shown that people who live within 200 metres from a green park are healthier than others who are surrounded by concrete only, for contact with nature when taking a walk on a green trail helps them release and remove the stress of everyday life in societies in perpetual motion.  

This is not surprising when we consider that humans have lived in close contact with nature for thousands of years before getting cramped in concrete jungles.

Furthermore, medical investigations have shown that patients who have windows where they can see trees heal faster and use less analgesics than those who have windows facing brick walls (Ulrich, 1984). So there is still an echo of our natural past buried in our subconsciousness that given the chance finds its way to the surface to make our life more meaningful and psychologically rewarding. 

Unfortunately, modern man seems to have acquire a taste for synthetic foods, asphalt and cement. Instead of smelling lillies and fresh grass he prefers to fill up his lungs with car fumes and smoke of burt automovile tires in his cities. The result? He is not fully happy neither is he healthy. On the contrary he is besieged by countles ailments new and old.

It is been said that this transition from a natural environment to an artificial one like cities is perhaps at the root of all of his disorders and maladies.

So, why no take the time to enjoy and marvel at the birds or any species of animal or plant that are found in gardens and parks to reestablish the ancient connection we all carry deep within ourselves? 

Good thoughts and wonderful natural views work wonders on us if we let them permeate our hearts.

So, why not be gentle and loving to those species that come to live with us in our unnatural concrete jungles and help us reconnect with Mother Nature? 

The following documentary (Video 3) takes us to London, one of the greenest cities in Europe.

                                                  Video 3. The unnatural history of London.

If we study the parish records in the British Isles during the last two millenia we will realise that a lot of people have been quite busy destroying wildlife and collecting rewards handed out by the government to get rid of some species that were considered vermin or dangerous, thus there are no more wolves on these islands. 

But at the same time there were always people who fought hard to defend the animals´ rights. In the end we have a British society that has learnt to tilt the balance towards the positive side, for the benefit of wildlife, be it urban or otherwise.  

They still have a lot of work to do, especially those people who shoot birds just for the pleasure of blasting them in the air with their shot guns and thus killing them or those who are into fox chasing. These are things that have no place in a world we brag about so very often by calling ourselves "human" or being "humane"

Nevertheless, British people as a general rule are fond of wildlife and are nature lovers and this is a good way to go indeed. 

In the long run we all must strive to reconcile with Mother Nature if we want to survive as a species. Thus, biophilic and green cities are a new fashion with a lot of sense.  

Furthermore, if every city had its own space to achieve true self-sufficiency, be really green, it would be much better indeed. A goal that makes even more sense.


Many thanks to Mrs. Milagros S. Trullen for her willingness to record bird videos at her garden in Jaca (Spain), her "Avian Restaurant", for different species of birds during the current Winter 2012-2013. 


Altman I. & Wohlwill J. F. (Eds.) (1983). Human Behavior and the Natural Environment. Plenum Press, New York, NY, USA. 346 p.

Beatley T. (Ed.) (2012). Green Cities of Europe. Island Press, Washington, D.C., USA. 234 p.

Bechtel R. B. & Churchman A. (Eds.) (20029. Handbook of Environmental Psychology. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY, USA. 722 p.

Clayton S. & Opotow S. (Eds.) (2003). Identity and the Natural Environment. The Psychological Significance of Nature. The MIT Press, Cmbridge, MA, USA. 353 p. 

Dasgupta P. (2001). Human Well-Being and the Natural Environment. Oxford University Press Inc., New York, NY, USA. 305 p.

Desonie D. (2008). Humans and the Natural Environment: The Future of Our Planet. Chelsea House, New York, NY, USA. 210 p.

de Vries S., Verheij R. A., Groenewegen P. P. & Spreeuwenberg P. (2003). Natural environments - healthy environments? An exploratory analysis of the relationship between greenspace and health. Environ. Plann., 35 (nr): 1717-1731.

National Research Council (1991). Animals as Sentinels of Environmental Health Hazards. National Academy Press, Wshington, D.C., USA. 160 p. 

Park R. E., Burgess E. W. & Mckenzie R. D. (1967). The City. Suggestions for Investigation of Human Behavior in the Urban Environment. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, USA. 239 p. 

Smith J. A. (2010). From nest building to life-history patterns: Does food supplentation influence reproductive behaviour of birds? Ph.D. Thesis, The University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. 244 p. 

Ulrich R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224 (4647): 420-421.

Ulrich R. S. (2002). Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals. Paper for conference, Plants for People, International Exhibition Floriade, 2002, 10 p.

Vincent K. E. (2005). Investigating the causes of the decline of the urban House Sparrow Passer Domesticus population in Britain. Ph.D. Thesis, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK. 302 p.

lunes, 28 de enero de 2013


By Gunhramns Hammer
January 7, 2013 

                                        Synthia. Source: The World Vision Portal Forum

DNA sequencing and biotechnology are big business. It is the new deal between scientists and industry in the 21st century and it is a Pandora´s Box as well.  Man (Homo insapiens) is playing god and this is a very dangerous game. It is not wise to fool Mother Nature.

On June 13th, 2007, British petroleum made a long-termed research and development deal and an undisclosed equity investment into a company named "Synthetics Genomics Incorporated" (SGI)along with the genetics expert Dr. J. Craig Venter as one of the co-founders, a company based in Rockville (Maryland, USA).

This company intends to commercialise genomic driven technologies and solutions and register patents of genetically engineered microorganisms derived from its research program. Genomics, a branch of genetics that studies the entire DNA sequence of an organism´s genome (complete set of DNA found within a single cell of an organism) has become the centre of attention of big corporations like BP, Monsanto, Syngenta, just to mention a few.

What BP does is to drill into underground petroleum reservoirs, then brings up microorganisms that inhabit the crude oil and next takes them to the laboratory where the bacteria and viruses are cultured to determine their taxonomic rank, followed by the study and analysis of the DNA sequences of each microbe

The goal is to create transgenic microbes capable of improving the recovery rates of gas and oil out of the oil reservoir, which means more profits for the company. This process is called Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery (MEOR).

These laboratory transgenic microbes are injected into the oil reservoirs and the well is capped. Once inside the microorganisms multiply and produce growth products which put pressure within the reservoir and at the same time modify the rheology of the oil so it flows easier when open again and aid extract any residual oil left after secondary recovery is exhausted.

The problem with this technology (MEOR) is that nobody knows what could happen if these GM microbes ever get released into the environment. Considering that these transgenic microorganisms are designed to eat petroleum, a carbon compound, there is the potential danger of undergoing mutations and possibly changing into new microorganisms which could endanger any carbon-based form of life on Earth.

Thus, the Pandora´s Box could be already open. And there are people who are already suspecting the worse. They say that these GM are already attacking some crops in some parts of the world, including the United States. Furthermore, some experts have even suggested that the recent Gulf disaster happened because the genetically enhanced micoorganisms caused too much pressure inside the capped oil well and eventually made it blow up giving rise to the largest accidental marine oil spill (Deep Horizon) in the history of the petroleum industry.

Could this be one of the reasons why some governments are carrying out massive programs of releasing heavy metals such cadmium, aluminium and other chemicals high up in the atmosphere in what has come to be known as "chemtrails" with the hope of keeping these GM microbes at bay, besides creating atmospheric resonance tunnels for radio waves?

Scientists are good at creating novel products and now redesigning the genetic makeup of some living organisms (trouts, salmon, tilapia, mice, pigs, etc.) just for "science advancement" or for the "benefit of humankind", as for instance coming up with new crop varieties (maize, beans, cassaba, rice, etc.) that could resist insect pests or cope with drought better.

The idea of GM crops and DNA technology as sold to the public by a bought press by telling us that these technologies are quite beneficial "to feed more people in the future, for human population will double up in the next 50 years" is doubtful. We already produce plenty of food (4 billions tonnes), enough to feed 14 million people, according to some experts, the problem being that food is not fairly distributed and that rich nations throw away into the garbage  dumps up to 30-50% of their annual production (Video 1).

                                      Video 1. Half of world food production is wasted.

And when it comes to predicting the potential dangers of their inventions scientists are quite blind. We already have enough inventions to worry about as to have another one: MEOR microorganisms that might end up devouring all carbon-based living organisms on the planet. 

It is high time we pay close attention to any science maniacs hidden in laboratories paid by corporations whose interest is only profits without any consideration for environmental impacts or how the health of animals, plants and humans is affected. 

The public´s scientific ignorance in an age of information and disinformation saturation serves well as a spring board to bypass any society´s watch mechanisms and is one of the main reasons why we end up paying the price and carrying the load of the big corporation mistakes. 

The taxpayers flip the bill in the end. We must keep on the look out and protest filling up the streets if necessary before and not after we have been screwed up. 

It is our duty to hand in a healthy Earth to future generations and if we remain passive and scientific ingnorant that will not be possible. 

We must keep in mind that if any technology does not truly benefit Mother Earth as a whole, that endangers the well-being and functioning of the Biosphere and therefore compromises its future, then it is not worth it. And if so, it should be totally stopped. The future is in our hands.

Let us take a look at what BP is up to in a sequence flow below and at the bottom there is a series of four videos "Gulf Blue Plague" (Videos 2-5) we hope you watch:                                                       

                                                                   BRITISH PETROLEUM
Source: Futuro Verde
                                                                 BP INVESTMENT
Source: Vector Clip Art
                                                  SYNTHETIC GENOMICS INCORPORATED
Source: Next Gen Seek
                                               GENETIC ENGINEERING & BIOTECHNOLOGY
Source: GEN
                                                                     GM MICROBES                                                                                             
Source: Master Resource
                                             MICROBIAL ENHANCED OIL RECOVERY (MEOR)                                                
Source: Gulf Energy

                                                      Videos 2-5. The Gulf Blue Plague.


Donaldson E. C., Chilingarian G. V. & Yen T. F. (Eds.) (1989). Microbial enhanced oil recovery. Developments in Petroleum Science 22. Elsevier Science Publishers B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands. 227 P.