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The Kitchen Sink / Why Gardening Makes You Happy and Cures Depression
« on: September 01, 2012, 04:27:13 AM »
I thought this was a really fascinating article, and explains why I am happiest in my garden, usually barefooted and getting my hands into dirt without gloves.

Why Gardening Makes You Happy and Cures Depression

Written by Robyn Francis   
While mental health experts warn about depression as a global epidemic, other researchers are discovering ways we trigger our natural production of happy chemicals that keep depression at bay, with surprising results. All you need to do is get your fingers dirty and harvest your own food.

In recent years I’ve come across two completely independent bits of research that identified key environmental triggers for two important chemicals that boost our immune system and keep us happy - serotonin and dopamine. What fascinated me as a permaculturist and gardener were that the environmental triggers happen in the garden when you handle the soil and harvest your crops.
Getting down and dirty is the best ‘upper’ – Serotonin
Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system. Lack of serotonin in the brain causes depression.
Ironically, in the face of our hyper-hygienic, germicidal, protective clothing, obsessive health-and-safety society, there's been a lot of interesting research emerging in recent years regarding how good dirt is for us, and dirt-deficiency in childhood is implicated in contributing to quite a spectrum of illnesses including allergies, asthma and mental disorders.
At least now I have a new insight into why I compulsively garden without gloves and have always loved the feeling of getting my bare hands into the dirt and compost heap.
Harvest 'High' - Dopamine
Another interesting bit of research relates to the release of dopamine in the brain when we harvest products from the garden. The researchers hypothesise that this response evolved over nearly 200,000 years of hunter gathering, that when food was found (gathered or hunted) a flush of dopamine released in the reward centre of brain triggered a state of bliss or mild euphoria. The dopamine release can be triggered by sight (seeing a fruit or berry) and smell as well as by the action of actually plucking the fruit.
The contemporary transference of this brain function and dopamine high has now been recognised as the biological process at play in consumers addiction or compulsive shopping disorder. Of course the big retail corporations are using the findings to increase sales by provoking dopamine triggers in their environments and advertising.
I have often remarked on the great joy I feel when I forage in the garden, especially when I discover and harvest the ‘first of the season’, the first luscious strawberry to ripen or emergence of the first tender asparagus shoot. (and yes, the photo is my hand plucking a deliciously sweet strawberry in my garden) I have also often wondered why I had a degree of inherent immunity to the retail-therapy urges that afflict some of my friends and acquaintances. Maybe as a long-term gardener I’ve been getting a constant base-load dopamine high which has reduced the need to seek other ways to appease this primal instinct. Though, I must admit with the benefit of hindsight, I now have another perspective on my occasional ‘shopping sprees’ at local markets buying plants for the garden.
Of course dopamine responses are triggered by many other things and is linked with addictive and impulsive behaviour. I suppose the trick is to rewire our brains to crave the dopamine hit from the garden and other more sustainable pursuits and activities. As a comment on PlanetDrum stated, “all addiction pathways are the same no matter what the chemical. As long as you feel rewarded you reinforce the behavior to get the reward.”
So in other words it all comes down to the fact that we can’t change our craving nature but we CAN change the nature of what we crave.
Strengthening the Case for Organic
Glyphosate residues deplete your Serotonin and Dopamine levels
Of course, for all of the above to work effectively and maintain those happy levels of serotonin and dopamine, there’s another prerequisite according to another interesting bit of research I found.  It appears it will all work much better with organic soil and crops that haven’t been contaminated with Roundup or Glyphosate-based herbicides. This proviso also extends to what you eat, so ideally you’ll avoid consuming non-organic foods that have been grown in farmland using glyphosates.
A recent study in 2008 discovered that glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup, depletes serotonin and dopamine levels in mammals.  Contrary to Monsanto claims, glyphosate and other Roundup ingredients do perpetuate in the environment, in soil, water, plants and in the cells and organs of animals.  One study found glyphosate residues in cotton fabric made from Roundup-ready GM cotton can absorb into the skin and into our nervous and circulatory systems.
No wonder there’s so much depression around, and stress, and all the addictions and compulsive disorders in the pursuit of feeling good. I think back on when I moved to Sydney in 1984 for a few years and was contacting community centres in the inner west to see if there was interest in permaculture or gardening classes. A very terse social worker snapped at me “listen dear, we don’t need gardening classes, we need stress therapy classes”, and promptly hung up on me with a resounding “Huh!” when I replied that gardening was the best stress therapy I knew.
So enjoy the garden, fresh organic food and make sure you have fun playing in the dirt on a regular basis.
Robyn Francis 2010
Robyn Francis is an international permaculture designer, educator, writer and pioneer based at Djanbung Gardens, Nimbin Northern NSW. She is principal of Permaculture College Australia.
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Here’s some interesting sites and extracts for further info and reading
Glyphosate Report PDF An in-depth and comprehensive report of independent research on impacts and effects of Glyphosate and Roundup published by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, Nov 2009
Soil Bacteria Work In Similar Way To Antidepressants
UK scientists suggest that a type of friendly bacteria found in soil may affect the brain in a similar way to antidepressants. Their findings are published in the early online edition of the journal Neuroscience.
Soil bacteria can boost immune system

Harmless bug works as well as antidepressant drugs, study suggests
EXTRACT:  Exposure to friendly soil bacteria could improve mood by boosting the immune system just as effectively as antidepressant drugs, a new study suggests.
The researchers suspect, however, that the microbes are affecting the brain indirectly by causing immune cells to release chemicals called cytokines. “We know that some of these cytokines can activate the nerves that relay signals from the body to the brain,” Lowry said in a telephone interview.
The stimulated nerves cause certain neurons in the brain to release a chemical called serotonin into the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain known to be involved in mood regulation, among other things.
Scientists think the lack of serotonin in the brain is thought to cause depression in people.
Previous studies have linked early childhood exposure to bacteria to protection against allergies and asthma in adulthood. The new finding take this idea, called the “hygiene hypothesis,” a step further, and suggests bacteria-exposure not only boosts our immune systems, but alters our vulnerability to conditions such as depression as well.
“These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health,” Lowry said. “They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”
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“Selfish behaviors are reward driven and innate, wired deeply into the survival mechanisms of the primitive brain, and when consistently reinforced, they will run away to greed, with its associated craving for money, food, or power. On the other hand, the self restraint and the empathy for others that are so important in fostering physical and mental health are learned behaviors – largely functions of the new human cortex and thus culturally dependent. These social behaviors are fragile and learned by imitations much as we learn language". Dr. Peter Whybrow - "American Mania"
Some interesting insights and food for thought…
Status and Curiosity – On the Origins of Oil Addiction by Nate Hagens
The various layers and mechanisms of our brain were built on top of each other, via millions and millions of iterations, keeping intact what 'worked' and adding on what changes and mutations helped the pre-human, pre-mammal organism incrementally advance. … We are, all of us, descended from the best of the best at surviving and procreating, which in the environment of privation and danger where we endured the most 'iterations' of our evolution, meant acquiring necessary resources, achieving status, and possessing brains finely tuned to natural dangers and opportunities. In our modern environment, it is the combination of pursuit of social status and the plethora of fun, exciting/novel activities that underlies our large appetite for oil.
research tells us that drugs of abuse activate the brain’s mesolimbic dopamine reward system, the neural network that regulates our ability to feel pleasure and be motivated for “more”. When we have a great experience… our brain experiences a surge in the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine. We feel positively charged, warm, ‘in the zone’ and happy. After a while, the dopamine gets flushed out of our system and returns to it's baseline level. We go about our lives, looking forward to the next pleasurable experience.
Hagens also muses that “There is anecdotal evidence that the typical american diet high in processed starches and sugar robs us of our baseline serotonin - the zen master of brain neurotransmitters. Lack of serotonin makes us more susceptible to cravings/behavioural changes and throws the reward machinery out of whack. Food we buy/eat is available at stores and restaurants because a)it is profitable b)it is convenient and c)it tastes good. I suspect that future changes in diet towards more vegetables and less processed food might improve our collective addictions/impulsivity.

The Kitchen Sink / Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto
« on: August 05, 2012, 08:30:37 PM »
A small sample from the Dark Mountain Manifesto.  It's time to write a new story.  Anything else falls short of the mark. 

Read the full text at the Dark Mountain website.

It is, it seems, our civilisation’s turn to experience the inrush of the savage and the unseen; our turn to be brought up short by contact with untamed reality. There is a fall coming. We live in an age in which familiar restraints are being kicked away, and foundations snatched from under us. After a quarter century of complacency, in which we were invited to believe in bubbles that would never burst, prices that would never fall, the end of history, the crude repackaging of the triumphalism of Conrad’s Victorian twilight — Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis. Now a familiar human story is being played out. It is the story of an empire corroding from within. It is the story of a people who believed, for a long time, that their actions did not have consequences. It is the story of how that people will cope with the crumbling of their own myth. It is our story.
This time, the crumbling empire is the unassailable global economy, and the brave new world of consumer democracy being forged worldwide in its name. Upon the indestructibility of this edifice we have pinned the hopes of this latest phase of our civilisation. Now, its failure and fallibility exposed, the world’s elites are scrabbling frantically to buoy up an economic machine which, for decades, they told us needed little restraint, for restraint would be its undoing. Uncountable sums of money are being funnelled upwards in order to prevent an uncontrolled explosion. The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.
Increasingly, people are restless. The engineers group themselves into competing teams, but neither side seems to know what to do, and neither seems much different from the other. Around the world, discontent can be heard. The extremists are grinding their knives and moving in as the machine’s coughing and stuttering exposes the inadequacies of the political oligarchies who claimed to have everything in hand. Old gods are rearing their heads, and old answers: revolution, war, ethnic strife. Politics as we have known it totters, like the machine it was built to sustain. In its place could easily arise something more elemental, with a dark heart.
As the financial wizards lose their powers of levitation, as the politicians and economists struggle to conjure new explanations, it starts to dawn on us that behind the curtain, at the heart of the Emerald City, sits not the benign and omnipotent invisible hand we had been promised, but something else entirely. Something responsible for what Marx, writing not so long before Conrad, cast as the ‘everlasting uncertainty and anguish’ of the ‘bourgeois epoch’; a time in which ‘all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.’ Draw back the curtain, follow the tireless motion of cogs and wheels back to its source, and you will find the engine driving our civilisation: the myth of progress.

This is a moment to ask deep questions and to ask them urgently. All around us, shifts are under way which suggest that our whole way of living is already passing into history. It is time to look for new paths and new stories, ones that can lead us through the end of the world as we know it and out the other side. We suspect that by questioning the foundations of civilisation, the myth of human centrality, our imagined isolation, we may find the beginning of such paths.

Environment / Hope in the Age of Collapse
« on: August 05, 2012, 08:15:57 PM »
Some might call it giving up, I call it getting on with it.  It's why I can't, and won't, support the various energy alternatives which are still based in industrialism and civilisation.  Sorry to those who do, I applaud your passion, but directing efforts toward more of the same isn't for me.

Environment / A World Without Coral Reefs
« on: August 01, 2012, 04:32:00 AM »
Well here goes another ecosystem.  I wonder what goes next? 

The article doesn't go into the blowback and knock on affects in detail, and concludes with a throwaway line suggesting geo-engineering as a solution.  In other words, status quo reactionary technological solutions that in reality are the very problem they seek to resolve.  It's just another kick the can tactic, like solving massive debt by increasing it further, that doesn't ask the hard questions that might get to the root of the problem. 

Technology and civilization can't be at fault here could it?

The Kitchen Sink / God's Special Little Creature
« on: July 25, 2012, 06:21:40 AM »
The world is full of Eddie Barzoon's

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I've always felt the many attempts to paint a picture in which we are not all responsible for our situation, whether in the form of the OWS 99% vs 1%, Illuminati (or Oligarchy, or Elite, etc) vs sheople, or even an epic battle of good vs evil, to be unsatisfactory in their effort to explain our predicament.  In my opinion there has to be some element common to humankind that keeps us on the path to destruction.  In other words, we're all part of the problem and in order to correct course there must be a significant change worldwide at the level of the individual. 

Is it possible that a fundamental aspect of what it means to be homo sapiens is at the root of our problem, and if so, what are the implications for finding a way out? Or whether it's even probable that we will find it, and then act on it?  If the VCP holds true, is our involvement in the predicament really something to be ashamed of since what we've done is in our very nature?  William Catton has expressed the same sentiment in arguing that no one group is responsible for our predicament.  Catton says, "the conversion of a marvelous carrying capacity surplus into a competition-aggravating and crash-inflicting deficit was a matter of fate."  And while I don't suggest we absolve the criminal banksters and corrupt politicians of their crimes, or that we discard efforts to affect change, I find a lot of the blaming others and ourselves that's going on is really detrimental, if not to our collective health, at least to our individual well-being.

This question, and the conclusions that may be drawn by answering it, is exhaustively researched by Craig Dilworth in his timely and important book (which I'm still reading) Too Smart for our Own Good: The Ecological Predicament of Humankind."  The book is described as follows:

We are destroying our natural environment at a constantly increasing pace, and in so doing undermining the preconditions of our own existence. Why is this so? This book reveals that our ecologically disruptive behavior is in fact rooted in our very nature as a species.
Drawing on evolution theory, biology, anthropology, archaeology, economics, environmental science and history, this book explains the ecological predicament of humankind by placing it in the context of the first scientific theory of our species' development, taking over where Darwin left off.
The theory presented is applied in detail to the whole of our seven-million-year history. Due to its comprehensiveness, and in part thanks to its extensive glossary and index, this book can function as a compact encyclopedia covering the whole development of Homo sapiens. It would also suit a variety of courses in the life and social sciences. Most importantly, Too Smart makes evident the very core of the paradigm to which our species must shift if it is to survive.
Anyone concerned about the future of humankind should read this ground-breaking work.

This book:
• Provides the first and only theory of humankind's development
• Explains that economic and political (military) power have their respective biological bases in individual vs. group territoriality
• Provides the first classification of human instincts: into the survival, sexual and social instincts
• Provides the most inclusive characterization of different kinds of population check yet presented
• Explains the importance of the anthropological, archaeological and economic findings of the past 50 years to understanding humankind's development
• Clarifies the preconditions for human life on earth
• Predicts what will happen to us in the near future

Dilworth goes into excruciating detail to answer the question "why," through analysis of the biological and evolutionary underpinnings of our species, and is therefore, beyond the scope of this post.  However, Dilworth's basic premise is based on a principle he calls the "Vicious Circle Principle" (or VCP for short), which can be expressed as the following:

The vicious circle principle (VCP) is both easy to understand and in keeping not only with modern science but also with common sense. Briefly put, it says that in the case of humans the experience of need, resulting e.g. from changed environmental conditions, sometimes leads to technological innovation, which becomes widely employed, allowing more to be taken from the environment, thereby promoting population growth, which leads back to a situation of need. Or, seeing as it is a matter of a circle, it could for example be expressed as: increasing population size leads to technological innovation, which allows more to be taken from the environment, thereby promoting further population growth; or as: technological innovation allows more to be taken from the environment, the increase promoting population growth, which in turn creates a demand for further technological innovation.

My intention in starting this thread is twofold.  First, to introduce the book to those unfamiliar with it, as I believe it to be mandatory reading for collapseniks. Second, to discuss the ideas Dilworth presents given the relevance to recent discussions on the Diner.  Unfortunately Dilworth comes to the depressing conclusion that humankind is headed straight for the evolutionary dustbin, despite the efforts of the few who are attempting to avert such a result, because we're dealing with a fundamental trait of humanity unlikely to change any time soon.  My opinion has been that we must evolve or perish, an opinion that appears to be supported by Dilworth's theory.  The middle section of the book is very academic and far from light reading which serves as a scientific basis for the conclusions drawn, but the first and final chapter (too dumb to change) is where most of the ideas are presented that will interest the Diners.

What I find most fascinating about the VCP is that it provides an explanation that goes beyond Nationalism, cultural values, religions and the rise and fall of empires, because the theory is overarching in it's scope.  Even if the US Empire collapses and doesn't manage to take the rest of the world down with it, the VCP will still remain as the root cause of our problem.

Dilworth gives a brief explanation of his work.

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Craig Dilworth Discusses ''Too Smart for our own Good''

Some quotes to get things started:

According to Daly, the appeals of growth are that it is the basis of national power and that it is an excuse for not sharing as a means of combating poverty.  It offers - in conflict with the entropy principle - the prospect of more for all with sacrifice by none.

...goods and services that cannot be bought or sold are valueless from the point of view of neoclassical economics.

An attitude to life which seeks fulfilment in the single-minded pursuit of wealth - in short, materialism - does not fit into this world, because it contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.

All that is needed, they say, are larger research and development budgets, greater offerings to the Technological Priesthood who gave us the Green Revolution, Nuclear Power, and Space Travel.  That these technological saviors have created more problems than they have solved is conveniently overlooked.  The mythology of technological omnipotence is by itself very strong, but when backed by class interests in avoiding the radical policies required by the steady state, it becomes a full-fledged idolatry.  As long as we remain trapped by the ideology of competitive growth, there is no solution. ... The value of growth is rigidly held in first place, and we are trapped into a system of increasing environmental disruption and gross injustices by our inability to reorder values.

Economic growth, so long as it is based on a non-renewable surplus, erodes that surplus at a faster rate than would occur otherwise, shortening the time to its eventual disappearance.  And if the surplus is of renewables, economic growth will tend to convert them into non-renewables: their being drawn into the economic system to a constantly increasing degree will mean their being used at a successively higher rate until that rate exceeds their ability to reproduce themselves.

As Schumacher also says, the economic growth of the industrial era could just as well be seen as a measure of the rate at which we are consuming geological capital, while counting it as income.

So the fact that our situation is terribly threatening has been known to decision makers for more than 30 years, and this quite independently of an awareness of the operation of the vicious circle principle.  What an understanding of the VCP adds is a realisation both of how we have come to this pass, as well as why we in fact have made no serious attempt to remedy the situation despite our being aware of it. ... According to the VCP the individual territorial instincts of the powerful override whatever other instincts they may have as support the well-being of the species, and it is they who determine the course taken.  And, it seems to me, there's not much we can do about it.  The revealing of the nature of the situation, such as is attempted in this book, is not going to make any noticeable difference.

The Kitchen Sink / Who is Lyndon LaRouche?
« on: July 10, 2012, 06:43:40 AM »
I just came across this guy while browsing YouTube.  I'm not sure what to make of it.  Seems like a big ol pot of propaganda gumbo with possible hints of a North American Union seasoned with fear of thermonuclear war despite the video liner notes protestations that he's anti-NWO.

Anyone know this guy and have any opinions?

The Kitchen Sink / Should Humans Breed?
« on: July 09, 2012, 09:25:18 PM »
In the face of massive population overshoot, I'm seemingly inundated by friends on Facebook and other media posting pictures of their babies.  I can't help but cringe every time.  Surely no one believes we have a human population SHORTAGE, so then why bring more people into this mess?  Knowing this, is it selfish to have children?  I've been told it's selfish not to, because I only care about my own enjoyment and don't want kids to take away my ME time.  Of course this argument is ridiculous because that's not the reason I've chosen not to have children.  I recognise the massive responsibility entailed in bringing another human into this world and providing them with their material needs and teaching them how to live in balance with the Earth and being responsible for their own health.  Most people can't even get this last one right.  You just have to look at what people allow their kids to eat to know they've failed one of the basic fundamentals of child rearing.

All of the above almost make me want to have children just so I can show others how it's done.  Of course I realise how self-righteous that sounds, but I'm just annoyed at people who have children for their own satisfaction, so they can have the 'experience' of having kids, without putting in the MASSIVE effort it requires to be a good parent.

Just another reason I have little remaining faith in humanity.

Doomsteading / Wild Food Plants of Australia
« on: July 08, 2012, 02:49:16 AM »
This thread will be used to document my investigations into Wild Food Plants of Australia.

I will report on my findings in the field including photos, descriptions of the specimens, habitat, and their uses.

The primary reference used for this work will be the Australian Nature Fieldguide "Wild Food Plants of Australia" by Tim Low.

The Kitchen Sink / Questions for Stoneleigh/Foss
« on: April 23, 2012, 11:04:07 PM »
I'm going to see Nicole Foss present at our local Transition group tonight.

If anyone has specific questions/criticisms they would like me to raise with Nicole, submit them here.  Sorry about the late notice but hopefully we'll get a couple good suggestions.

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