Krishna Consciousness & Ecological Awareness

Urban Agriculture and Green Roofs
May 31, 2007, 6:58 pm
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Posted at Food for Thought

I am currently in the midst of creating an online documentary about a group called the Urban Orchard, a community-based urban agriculture project in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs.

The Urban Orchard was initially formed to allow people with backyard fruit trees to get together with others in their local area and swap surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste. So someone with a plum tree, for example, could swap their excess plums for some other fruit that they didn’t have – apricots, say, or lemons or figs. Quickly, though, the project expanded to include vegetables, herbs, seeds and plants, and even home-made jams. Members now meet once a week at the CERES market in Brunswick East, where they swap produce, as well as gardening advice, recipes and general neighbourly chit-chat.

As well as the simple pleasures of being able to grow and share one’s own food, the program has a myriad of beneficial outcomes: it reduces food miles and environmental impacts associated with food production and transportation; it supports biodiversity through seed saving and sharing; it encourages the consumption of healthy, seasonal produce; and it strengthens local community networks.

It has been a fascinating process to visit and interview members of the group. Their gardens range from the modest to the awe inspiring – it’s amazing to see how productive a small urban backyard can actually be.

But it is inevitable that as cities grow, the space for gardening will shrink. Like most Australian cities, Melbourne’s long-term urban planning vision involves increased subdivision and the development of higher density housing in existing suburbs, to counter the negative environmental and social impacts of urban sprawl.

Will this trend towards increased densification reduce the ability to produce food in the city? Take a look at the satellite-view of Melbourne on Google Maps and you’ll soon see a vast under-utilised area that could be turned into productive green space – the city’s rooftops.

Check out the Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities blog to learn more about green roofs and urban rooftop ‘micro-farming’. The benefits and possibilities seem endless, and extend far beyond urban agriculture:

“Green roofs can provide a wide range of public and private benefits, including significantly reduced fossil energy use, reduced peak runoff of roofwater, aesthetically pleasing cityscapes, longer roof life, and reduce ‘heat island effects’ of cities.”
– Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities

There is some innovative research and development in this area going on in Queensland at the moment, including a CQU study looking at the production of ‘roof-food’ using urban organic waste. Read about it at the Urban Agriculture Network blog.

Also, have a look at this post on Dwellblog for some awesome photos of green roofs in the US and Europe. And more inspiring pics here, at Urban Agriculture online.

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Water, Water Everywhere…
May 29, 2007, 7:42 pm
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By Bhakta Chris, Life Comes From Life

Last Tuesday night, at a jam-packed program at the Astanga Yoga Studio and Sri Ganesh Temple in Manhattan, His Holiness Radhanath Swami spoke about the need to clean the pollution from the ecology of our hearts,so that we will be able to clean the pollution from the ecology of our surrounding natural environment.

Maharaja gave a startling, personal example, in which he related that during a recent visit to the Himalayan Mountains, the same mountains he had wandered through thirty-five years ago in search of the Truth, he noticed that the formerly pure-white snow-capped peaks had become stained gray and black from the immense air pollution spewing from India’s major cities.

He then related a very sobering bit of news he had heard from one of his scientist associates, in which because of this pollution and its resultant climatic alterations, there is every chance that two of India’s biggest and most sacred rivers, the Ganges and the Yamuna, may dry up by 2050.

The fact is that the body of this planet and our own physical and emotional bodies are on the verge of chaotic collapse. Who can chant Hare Krsna in the streets of Manhattan when the streets of Manhattan have been swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean?

My first reaction, being a prideful rascal, was one of dare I say pleasure to hear one of the most spiritual personalities alive on this planet using the plight of our earthly environment to forcibly get across his point of the drastic need for a immediate re-spiritualization of the planet.

As I try to become more absorbed on this path of devotion to Krsna, to rid myself of my lusty attachment to all that is material, I cannot shake the plain truth that unless we as devotees move more towards the forefront of the worldwide movement for sustainability, we will be losing a grand portion of our ability to spread the rays of the benediction moon that is this sankirtana movement.

What must we do within our institution of ISKCON to make these environmental issues a priority in our outreach? What can we do as individual devotees and as individual temples to help make these issues a priority? At New Vrindaban, even though we live in a vegetarian community and are trying to systematically protect a number of cows, we struggle to convince the majority of the community to not use wasteful styrofoam, and previous composting and recycling programs have been lost in a haze of inefficiency and indifference. It is a very uphill battle.

Radhanath Swami said that the waters of the Ganges are always completely pure, but when mixed with polluted elements, the waters appear to be unclean. We must remember that the Ganga water, like the nature of the soul, is never contaminated.

Like the filtering of this water, we must begin by filtering out all polluted elements within our selves so that we can face the challenges of this world with positive, forward-thinking consciousness. True action begins within ourselves, but we must begin now, and move quickly, because it may already be too late.

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Hey Bigfoot…
May 22, 2007, 7:53 pm
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What is your ecological footprint? Take the quiz.

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Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?
May 20, 2007, 8:15 pm
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By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross, The Independent

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world’s harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world – the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon – which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe – was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees’ navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive’s inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London’s biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.

Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: “There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK.”

The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world’s crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, “man would have only four years of life left”.

No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks.

German research has long shown that bees’ behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a “hint” to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: “I am convinced the possibility is real.”

The case against handsets

Evidence of dangers to people from mobile phones is increasing. But proof is still lacking, largely because many of the biggest perils, such as cancer, take decades to show up.

Most research on cancer has so far proved inconclusive. But an official Finnish study found that people who used the phones for more than 10 years were 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side as they held the handset.

Equally alarming, blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today’s teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.

Studies in India and the US have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts. And, more prosaically, doctors have identified the condition of “text thumb”, a form of RSI from constant texting.

Professor Sir William Stewart, who has headed two official inquiries, warned that children under eight should not use mobiles and made a series of safety recommendations, largely ignored by ministers.

See Video: Bumble Bees & Killer Cell Phones

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National Vegetarian Week May 21st- 27th
May 20, 2007, 1:14 pm
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The fifteenth National Vegetarian Week, sponsored by Cauldron Foods, aims to celebrate vegetarianism in its broadest sense and prompt media discussion on the topics of vegetarian food, health benefits, lifestyle and commitment.

The range of veggie food stuffs and products just keeps on growing, provision for vegetarians when dining out is getting better and better and people are taking much more of an interest in the food that they eat and how it is produced. As a result vegetarianism today is no longer seen as something cranky or hippy, but instead, very much part of the mainstream. Go into any supermarket in the UK and you will find aisle upon aisle stacked full of delicious veggie food products.

As well as an increasingly huge range of exotic fruit and vegetables on display, almost all supermarkets now have exclusively vegetarian freezer sections storing vegetarian sausages, bacon, burgers, mince, stir-fry pieces, fillets, pies and other meat alternatives. In fact becoming a vegetarian has never been easier, tastier or more nutritious. So if you’re looking for fresh ideas and some inspiration to take you forward towards a more compassionate lifestyle choice you are already in the right place.

The week’s success relies significantly on the involvement of businesses, community groups, vegetarian groups, organisations and individuals so we’re asking YOU to get involved!

Why is it green to go veggie?

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Chocolate Unsuitable for Vegetarians
May 19, 2007, 1:29 pm
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By Hugh Muir
The Guardian

A Mars bar

Perhaps there was a sense that the major battles facing Britain’s vegetarians had been won. Veterans recall the fight for better labelling along with the quest for menu choices that didn’t begin and end with ambiguous lentil bake.

Yesterday, 200 years after the Reverend William Cowherd first publicly advanced the principle of abstinence from flesh-eating, senior figures in the vegetarian movement found themselves rallying the troops for one more skirmish.

On May 1, Masterfoods began using animal products in famous chocolate bars such as the Mars Bar, Bounty, Snickers, Twix and Milky Way. The taint also affects Maltesers and Minstrels, which have traces of whey – a product of cheesemaking which itself involves the use of rennet, a chemical from calves’ stomachs. The recipe change also applies to the popular ice cream versions of the confectionery bars.

It means that for the diligent vegetarian, the products are all out of bounds.

The move has been strongly condemned by the Vegetarian Society which has urged its members to pressure Masterfoods to think again.

To help the company reach this period of reflection, the society has posted the number for Masterfoods’ customer services department on its website. Members pining for their favourite chocolate bars are being advised to ring the multinational and “express your concern”.

A spokesman for the Vegetarian Society said: “For some incomprehensible reason they are using animal products when all these items have previously been produced using vegetarian alternatives. There are about 3 million vegetarians in the UK which is a significant part of the UK market. It is very disappointing that Masterfoods products are no longer vegetarian friendly. We hope the company will reconsider this move.”

There is no sign of an early retreat but Paul Goalby, corporate affairs manager for Masterfoods, said the company at least deserved credit for being honest.

“Since changing the sourcing of our ingredients we are no longer able to ensure our chocolate will be animal rennet-free and so we made the principled decision to admit it was not guaranteed to be vegetarian,” he said.

“If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable but a less strict vegetarian should enjoy our chocolate.”

He told the Grocer magazine that products with a “best-before” date up to October 1 are still suitable for vegetarians. The company is also offering a refund to those who cannot eat animal rennet on bars that have a later best-before date.

The vegetarian with a sweet tooth has long lived a perilous life. Many boiled sweets and mints contain gelatine. Boiled confectionery and other popular sweets can contain the colouring cochineal, which is made from insects.

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Shambu Speaks
May 17, 2007, 2:15 am
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Shambo the Bull. You can add your signature to the petition at

I went to hospital this morning for what should be my final blood test of this current illness. While I was breaking my fast with a home made cheese and pickle sandwich, a young medical student came up to my table and asked if he could speak with me.

“I saw your hair at the back” he began, “and was wondering – are you a Hindu?”

“Yes I am,” I replied, smiling, “a white one”. He laughed, sat down, and continued, “Its just that I thought you might be from that Hindu temple in Wales that’s been in the news recently. I’m heading up a campaign at my university to gather signatures to protect their sacred bull.”

He referred to the Community of the Many Names of God, a Tamil Shaivite temple which, up in the Welsh Hills, has been in the British national news recently because of their valiant attempts to protect Shambo, one of their bulls, threatened with slaughter by local government officials because of his being diagnosed as having TB.

I expressed my gratitude to him for his campaign, giving the reason that protecting bulls, cows, and other innocent creatures was the foundation of Dharma. I explained that some of my colleagues were giving assistance to the campaign for Shambo, and then asked him more about his life at university. He ran the students Hindu Society, he said, but was more interested in the spiritual aspects of Hinduism than the cultural. “I was raised by parents who were strict Hindus” he continued, “but it wasn’t until quite recently, when I travelled in India for some months, that I felt really connected. I took a vow of brahmacarya while I was there.”

I raised my eyebrows and complimented him. “That’s the best possible thing you could have done for your spiritual life. It will give you great determination and the necessary power for spiritual growth.”

He seemed a little taken aback that an Englishman – albeit Hindu – should have demonstrated such enthusiasm for his undertaking and replied: “You really think so? Do you know something about brahmacarya?” When I replied that I had also been a brahmacari monk for eight years and looked upon that period of my life as my happiest time, he leaned forward and listened intently.

“But any vow (vrata) you undertake – especially for spiritual development – must be supported by a group of friends who are also on the same path,” I began. “Keeping to such vows without supportive sadhu-sangha is quite difficult.” He nodded his head and agreed that his fellow medical students could not understand his enthusiasm for the spiritual life. And for taking the vows of a monk while everyone was partying around him.

“That’s because spiritual life is all about discovering the transcendent reality above all the labels of this world,” I continued. “Everyone around you projects their mental labels and logos onto you according to how they see the world, how you fit into their world and what they passionately want from you. If you are not strong in your own identity and your spiritual goals, you can end up taking on those projected labels. You’ll believe yourself to be the sum total of everything other people tell you that you are, rather than who you actually are.”

Unfortunately, its even more acute for animals,” I went on, “On one living being we project the label ‘pet’ and upon another we project the label ‘food.’ Both four-legged creatures with fur and a face, but one is the object of our affections while the other is the object of our knives. Nobody would dream of killing a pet dog, but killing a cow or bull – or paying someone else to – is done without a thought.”

Then, somewhat conspiratorially, I also leaned further forward and said, “You know, even the term Hindu and Hinduism is a label given by others”. He nodded in agreement. “What we are all interested in, every believer of every ‘ism’, is reaching the spiritual level where all the artificial designations disappear and we understand the essential unity of all life.”

I invited him to come to Bhaktivedanta Manor, which, as it turned out, he’d only remotely heard of, coming from the north, and I gave him some website addresses to visit through which he could connect with more students on the spiritual path. “Nothing happens by accident does it?” he said as we shook hands. “Nothing at all” I replied.

I had another similarly uplifting conversation with the nurse/counsellor stationed at the Cancer Backup office. I’d first chatted with her before my operation and she wanted to know how I was adjusting to the next chapter of life. That was cue for another spiritual discussion. We talked feelings and emotions and the spiritual side of marriage, and I also invited her to come to the temple.

I had no sooner turned the corner into the corridor when I saw a devotee I had not seen for some years. He was old in years now and a little unwell, and I was glad to sit with him and his wife and offer them some positive scriptural thoughts for the weeks ahead.

Then to round off an enlivening day I returned home to discover that the Back to Prabhupada editors had not only given me a whole two pages in their magazine, in which they’d featured one of my blogs, but they’d also given me a large yellow by-line on the front cover as well. I shall have to reciprocate their recognition of me in another piece, on another day…

Article taken from:

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