Adventures in Myakka

As we got lost on our journey to Myakka , we lost the opportunity to have had an informed guide through our exploring. Myself, and two other students were able to go on a self directed tour through the wonders of Myakka.

During the stressful week of finals, we were able to take a breather and let ourselves become emersed in the beauty of nature. We walked countless flights of stairs to the top of the canopy where we witnessed the inspiration of Myakka. Surrounded by greenery for miles on each end, the candy green grass and fresh air enveloped our senses. We stood in awe of Mother Nature and felt compelled to stay silent in this experience. As we continued moving I was able to catch some sleepy alligators lounging near the river, their intimidating size and menacing expressions steered me away from even peering too close to them. When we eventually shuffled down the stairs I saw a name on each plank. The immense amount of people involved in the preservation of Myakka park inspired me and portrayed the sense of community we have when feeling connected to the earth.

 

This collectivist love for the environment motivated me to us emy own knowledge and resources to aid the preservation of a beautiful community. In my home town in Goa, India my family and I have worked on helping the farmers yield crops sustainably and responsibly. Nowadays they have huge-super market chains to compete against and they often resort to the use of intensive pesticides to yield a substantial amount of crops, thus my family gives financial support to the farmers to continue using organic farming techniques and yet have a platform for them to sell their produce. The introduction of non-indigenous specious into farming can often effect the ecosystem. Hence we have tried to promote the use of indigenous specious.

 

 

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The Wildlife Captivity Debate

Blackfish follows the story of Tilikum a SeaWorld orca, and portrays the impact of captivity on wild animals. Since Tilikum has been in captivity, he has been involved in three deaths. The most recent occurence was the death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer at SeaWorld. Tilikum held the pony tail of the trainer and pulled her down under water until she drown.

The documentary focuses on the impact captivity had on Tilikum’s aggression and the likelihood that Tilikum would not have been as violent if left in the wild. Blackfish displays the story of Tilikum’s life in captivity, which allegedly involved serious harassment at SeaLand of the Pacific. Blackfish disputes SeaWorld’s claims that orca’s live a longer life while in captivity. the documentary emphasizes that it is often the opposite, and orca’s quality of living is much more fulfilling and healthier in the wild.

After watching Blackfish I felt extremely terse about the situation and felt that the captivation of wild life was a heinous activity. However, understanding that film can drastically influence one’s perspective I tried to research into the reasons to why captivation is still an ongoing activity. The argument for the continuing captivity of wildlife claims that it provides protection from predators, medical care and assumed joy for humans and animals. The opposing debate emphasizes that animals are meant to be in the wild and taking them from their habitats creates aggression and shortens their lifespan in comparison to their wildlife counter-parts. This debate however disputes the livelihood of creatures that cannot represent themselves therefore the controversy around the subject is sensitive.

Nepal’s Earthquake may have changed the height of the Everest

Recent research shows that the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal has very likely caused permanent changes in the Earth’s surface, and unbelievably may have changed the height of Mount Everest.

The U.S. Geological Survey is desperately trying to retrieve data from a GPS station near Everest within the next 11 days. This information will help them understand and discover the impact the earthquake had on Everest.

While the USGS try to carry out this trip to retrieve the essential information, Kenneth Hudnut a geophysicist who works with USGS in Pasadena, California and his colleagues have been analyzing satellite and seismology data on the 25th of April’s estimated magnitude 7.8 earthquake, to better understand what happened and help predict how likely future earthquakes may be. Hudnut’s preliminary research indicates that Mount Everest and the surrounding area may have shifted a few centimeters both vertically and horizontally.

James Jackson, a geologist at Cambridge University has found research that mirrors Hudnut’s findings. Jacksons say that the vertical motion of Everest is expected to be less than 10 centimeters as is the horizontal.

Similar findings was found by scientists in Europe. On April 29th it was announced that preliminary satellite data suggests Everest may have actually decreased by about 2.5 cm. Closer to Kathmandu, ground may have uplifted as much as one meter. However the majority of the data is preliminary, therefore there is yet much needed analysis.

By Brian Clark Howard, National Geographic PUBLISHED April 28, 2015. “Did Nepal Earthquake Change Mount Everest’s Height?” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

The science behind why people prefer organic, natural and non-gmo foods

Why is it that it organic food tastes better than gmo products? Is it the genetic make-up of a free range chicken or the leafy textures of organic vegetables?

A study conducted by four universities found that the story behind how the food was cultivated or manufactured influences not only how the consumer feels when buying the food, but also how the food tastes. For instance, intentionally choosing to buy a dozen organic apples enhances the taste of the fruit. The Free University of Brussels, Oxford, the University Institute of Lisbon, and the University of Melbourne found that the labels of “natural,” “organic,” and “locally sourced” are certifications that are becoming more and more popular,regardless of the added costs. For consumers buying and eating foods with ethical back stories provides a sense of “moral satisfaction” and therefore the consumer feels they have done something good for the world.

One of the experiments involved giving cookies to two groups. The first group was briefed on the ethical consciousness of the cookie manufacturer and the second group was briefed on the environmental irresponsibility of the cookie manufacturer. Both groups, however, were fed the cookies. After this the groups were asked to rate the cookies and whether they would chose to buy the cookies again. The first group rated the cookies significantly higher than the second. Why?

The human taste experience and behavior toward food is shaped by our large frontal cortex.. This part of the brain plays a significant role in culminating the senses, especially integrating taste and smell into flavor. This part of the brain also processes abstract information such as the amount paid for the food, the brand and the origin of the food you are consuming. This information means we experience objective sensations that define our experience of the food and often create negative impressions due to contextual information rather than subjective taste and smell. The context of where food came from can improve or degrade the taste. What the study indicates is that moral satisfaction and sensory pleasure is intertwined.

About 90 percent of commodity crops used in the American food supply, including soybeans, sugar beets, and feed corn, are genetically engineered. Though GMO’s have been deemed safe for consumption, there is also a lack of research  into the effect of allergens of GMO foods. Rigorous testing and research has to be done before GMO products are manufactured for public consumption, however there is yet a possibility of allergens being present in the food.

During the 90’s a biotech company began using genetic modification to insert a gene into the Brazil nut. The nut’s gene selected induces the richness of a protein in one essential amino acid. The goal was to create a soybean that was more nutritious and protein rich for animal feed. The brazil nut is known to contain an allergen, therefore the company also tested the product for human reaction, with the thought that the transgenic soybean might accidentally enter the human food supply. Tests showed that humans reacted to the genetically modified nut and therefore the project as stopped.

Because the biotech company was aware of the allergen in advance, they were able to test for it, however GMO foods are often unknown, therefore they can inadvertently have a negative effect on the health of consumers. Now companies like Chipotle are enforcing a non-GMO foods policy and rejecting the use of any artificially genetically modified foods, hopefully campaigns like this will encourage other companies to follow suite.

“Altered Food, GMOs, Genetically Modified Food – National Geographic.”National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 06 May 2015.

Locally Grown Food

In Miami, I am very much used to there being convenient sources of food within a short distance. But as a kid, when I would go to visit my grandmother on the other side of town, we would have to drive through farm country. (Wait what? There are farms? Miami isn’t just what you see in Dexter!) A few of the more common crops you find growing are strawberries, banana trees, baby palm trees, and tomatoes.

During these visits, my parents would also always take me to these small farmers markets. One is called Burrs’ Berry Farm where they grew the most delicious fresh strawberries EVER. The tiny market would sell fresh strawberry shakes, freshly made hot dogs, and delicious vanilla milkshakes.

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Another local Miami farm is called Knaus Berry Farm. This farmers market is a bit more popular than Burrs. In addition to their freshly grown produce, they also had a bakery which is most famously known for their delicious cinnamon buns. You can only buy them a couple months out of the year so people from all over the city go and stock up on them and freeze them for later. My family would always buy a few dozen each year.

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Thinking back, I never really thought about the significance of locally produced food, but some of my fondest memories of my family were spent at those farmers markets eating fresh, delicious food, enjoying each other’s company.

GMO vs Organic

This topic is pretty popular for a couple years already. Everywhere I go i saw things such as: Organic, no GMO etc. And I get annoyed because some foods and item that marked organic is actually not organic at all…Even worse in some case,the box advertised : no sugar. If a drink/food is sugar free and it’s sweet, then the only possible replacement of sugar that cost the company the least is artificial sweetener which is chemical. Which bring more toxic into your body rather than normal sugar. Living in the USA I found that processed food are really popular and almost everyone eat them weekly. My family still keep the habit of eating at home with the food we grow and some other food buy from organic market/farm. Eating processed food can be disgusting sometimes especially if you get used to fresh organic food.
Genetic Modified food is something I think is good with limit use. Over modified anything will never be good. The risk of creating a more resistance plant’s parasite is too large and it can destroy our food devastatingly. I think a little modified to produce more products is enough.

Myakka State Park

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Despite getting a bit lost upon arrival, our class trip to Myakka State Park was enjoyable (although cooler weather would have been appreciated). All while I was there, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Florida Everglades from back home. If you live in south Florida like I do, then you know that you can’t go through lower school without at least several field trips to the everglades with the obligatory airboat ride thrown in. All in all, it was a similar view: swampy areas with tropical birds, and the occasional lazy gator snoozing in the sun. The landscapes were familiar and different at the same time. It was a raw, yet really pretty view. (At least I was able to get some really nice reference photos!)

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Something that stood out to me about Myakka State Park was that it was surprisingly untouched and rural. There was almost nobody there. Even during my many trips to the Everglades, there were always a bunch of other people and activities there (like airboat rides and large guided tours). There was even a gift shop. But Myakka was different. The self exploring aspect was unexpectedly refreshing. The forest walk and the canopy walk were nice as well. I’ve always been a lover of trees and how they look, so walking down the winding path looking up at the trees was a nice experience. The highlight of the trip was definitely the canopy walk. The tower was so high up and the view was beautiful! I enjoyed this field trip very much.

Blackfish Reaction

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I’ll admit right now, as a kid, I loved SeaWorld. I live in Florida, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for me and my family to take a drive up there for a day or two. As a little kid, there was always something magical about it. Seeing the dolphins and whales up close performing amazing tricks, and the friendly park workers. Since my childhood, I haven’t been to SeaWorld at all. And until I watched Blackfish, I still thought of SeaWorld as a wonderful, fun place.

The first time I watched Blackfish was in my Humanities class during my senior year of high school. I remember thinking to myself as I was watching it: “I can’t believe I went there and enjoyed it.” I made a promise to never go there again. The on the job deaths of the trainers bothered me, but what really hit me was when the documentary talked about the conditions that the whales and other large mammals were kept in. And despite my being upset by it, I couldn’t help but be interested at the same time. When they talked about the physical effects of being in a small, contained environment, such as the whale’s top fin slumping over from disuse and from constantly swimming in circles, I was both intrigued and saddened.

All the while I was watching it and feeling bad and also guilty for previously liking the park, I was also thinking to myself “Why are you so surprised? Did you expect this to be something different? Nothing is as happy and wonderful as it seemed as a child.” But regardless of what I thought as a child, I won’t be supporting SeaWorld again by going.

Diet: Childhood vs Now

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The discussion in class about the American diet changing over time to eat more unhealthy helped me to recall my eating habits of when I was younger.I remember a long time ago I used to eat a lot of sweet things and just dislike it because it was so sweet. There are still many friends from Korea who say that certain foods here are just way too sugary for them and that they can’t handle the taste. I know that my brother and my mom tend to dislike food that is “too sweet” as well. For me… It’s hard to find something that crosses the “too sweet” line. In fact, I don’t think I even have that line. Like my dad, I love sweet things like ice cream and candy. It’s still a big problem for me and my mom is the most worried about it. One night she was sitting on the sofa watching an educational documentary. Now, I didn’t know this, and she gestured me to come sit and watch this awesome cool movie with her (or what I thought it was). I got all excited because she never wants to watch things with me. I thought that this would be a really fun movie, but as soon as she pressed play, I got right back up. She made me stay and watch the informative clip about diabetes and the symptoms and health risks that come with the disease. Back then, I wasn’t really sure why she thought I ate so much sugar. Now I realize that my tastebuds have grown accustom to such extreme sugary-ness that I don’t think many things are unbearably sugary anymore. I rarely feel that a certain food is too sweet while I remember when I was younger, I hated lucky charms because it made the inside of my mouth tickle from the sugary marshmallows. I used to prefer vegetables over meat and decline sweet things. I was healthier as a kid than as an adult who cam make decisions on what I eat.

Un-bee-lievable

I’m generally not a friend to insects or bugs. Especially those with wings. And stingers. And even though I know now that honeybees are generally harmless and are very important to our world, you won’t find me spending my free time around a hive. Still, even if I had the guts to kill a bee on my own, I wouldn’t now, knowing how important they are. Wasps can go die though.

The Vanishing of the Bees enlightened me about the global problem of CCD and its connections to pesticide use. When Europe first brought the problem to light through protests, the governments responded with new laws and aids for bee workers. Pesticides were banned, and new pesticides were carefully observed and tested before being put into use. In America, however, pesticides are just put straight into use without testing for the effects first. Any problems that then result from these pesticides then have to be brought to attention through tedious protests and hearings. It’s another example of how America prioritizes business over health. Because who cares if the pesticides are killing the bees, if those pesticides help keep food production up and make money?

CCD is honestly a very scary phenomenon. Sometimes it’s easy to forget how big the world is, until entire planes go missing, and bees disappear into thin air. The world is connected through technology that makes our lives easier, so it’s frustrating that that same technology can’t help us solve these major problems. Or perhaps we do already have the technology to solve these problems, but the system in already in place won’t make room for technology that could have a benefit other than money?