I'm not a hippie but…

I own a terrarium


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Top Five Children’s Books with Meaning

I recently expelled a human from my vagina and ever since then parenting has just gotten better and better!

As my baby grows older, she’s beginning to more closely resemble a person, as opposed to the squishy-wet-soft-sweet-potato-faced creature that first arrived.

No longer does she struggle with the simplest task, like holding one’s head up for oneself or correctly loading the dishwasher (seriously, pull your weight).

She has also begun to exhibit an interest in the world around her, which is both exciting and terrifying.

As my baby enters this next stage in her development, I’m acutely aware that she’s transforming into a little knowledge sponge, soaking up information and coming to little baby conclusions. She’s learning. And it’s my job to control that flow of information so she learns good things and doesn’t turn out to be an arsehole.

As a passionate reader and writer, I’ve decided to ‘pass the buck’ somewhat and place a great deal of that onus on books.

Books are truly incredible sources of information and, in my opinion, an unbeatable tool in helping to shape thoughts and instill values in our impressionable little people.

So without further crapping on, here are my TOP FIVE CHILDREN’S BOOKS WITH MEANING, designed to offer both you and your little one a beautifully bonding reading experience whilst planting a happy little message in their baby brains!

5. I Like Myself  – by Karen Beaumont

Whilst the message behind this book may hit you in the face with all the subtlety of a Nicky Minaj music video, I promise it’s not so obvious to the little people. They are so new that, bless their hearts, they haven’t yet had the chance to feel inadequate in the face of a crushing societal pressure to look or act a certain way. Read them this book and pray they never have to!

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4. The Pied Piper of Hamelin – by Russell Brand

Okay, this one is perhaps not for everyone. The meaning in this book comes courtesy of Russell Brand’s thinly-veiled political agenda, whilst the language and illustrations drip with a coarse, Roald Dahl-esque savageness. However, if you and your child can handle something a bit rougher than the average children’s story, this is a magically dynamic storybook with a good heart.

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3. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes – by Mem Fox

A simply beautiful little poem by the talented Mem Fox (author of arguably Australia’s favourite children’s book, Possum Magic). This lovely little story introduces a plethora of babies from all walks of life and teaches your baby how different other’s lives can be, whilst gently reminding what we have in common.

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2. Goodnight Yoga – by Mariam Gates

I absolutely love this concept! Sadly, many parents find that bedtime is not a lovely bonding experience built on a foundation of love, calming cuddles, butterflies and rainbows, etc. For many parents, bedtime is war.

In theory, incorporating this book into your nightly routine has the potential to calm your child’s body and mind before bedtime. Goodnight Yoga is an interactive bedtime story giving your child a bedtime game which actually calms them! Genius parenting trickery!

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1. Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda – by Lauren Alderfer

My top pick is a simple story about mindfulness and being ‘in the moment’. The beautifully childlike, fluid illustrations serve to enhance the calm clarity of mind this story is encouraging. I love the message in this story because if a child can learn to calm themselves and master the art of mindfulness, they’re likely to save themselves so much unnecessary stress and heartache in the future.

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Today I swapped poo for food… and it just made sense.

Friday 6th November marks a historic day for me. Today I swapped poo for food… and it just made sense.

Recently a fantastic Facebook group has popped up servicing my local region, and I truly can’t believe something like this hasn’t existed until now.

BarterEconomy Canberra offers members a platform to exchange goods and services, exclaiming:

“This group is for backyard growers and makers who want to exchange their excess produce with other growers and makers.”

The rules? No money can change hands.

“Is it the middle of tomato season and your knee deep in tomatoes? Swap them for someone who has too many jalapenos! Got backyard chooks and sick of eating omelettes five days a week? Swap some of those excess eggs for a jar of home made pickles!”

I’m immediately drawn to this concept in the same way I am the Amish lifestyle (…but it’s so much easier to join this Facebook group than the Amish community). This is how shit used to be done before some total arsehat went and invented money!

Back in the day everyone had a job contributing something to society and would exchange their offerings for those of another in order to procure goods and services.

Then money came along and turned the world all topsy-turvy and make-no-sensey and now you can become one of the world’s most powerful people simply by making a poor quality sex tape. Back in the day all that sex tape would have fetched was a handful of tomatoes and some goat’s cheese at most!

These days we all still have ‘jobs’, but many of them seem kind of unnecessary to the running of an efficient society, and everyone earns this ‘money’ crap in random amounts which seldom seem to correspond to their tangible contribution to the community.

The beauty of a barter economy is we all just contribute something we think is needed, then swap it for things we need ourselves. Everyone wins and nobody ends up a rich twat!

It’s a beautiful system of organic supply and demand which encourages community participation and engagement, basic cooperation and a shared sense of responsibility. In this disconnected world we live in, a barter economy reengages people with people!

One of the things my little hobby farm produces (without much effort from me, I must say) is alpaca poo. They do it often, they do it for free and they even do it in neat little piles.

Today I swapped two piles of poo for 2kgs of broadbeans, handfuls of parsley, a bucket of blackberries and a redcurrant bush.

Let me just repeat that – In a barter economy, I am able to use piles of shit to feed my family. 

… Proving once and for all that money ain’t shit!

Because a world where you can use poo in place of money is a world I want to live in.

Because a world where you can use poo in place of money is a world I want to live in.

Fresh (and free) broadbeans and parsley - Om nom nom!

Fresh (and free) broadbeans and parsley – Om nom nom!


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Our plastic ocean: World’s longest floating structure offers a solution

The world’s longest floating structure is set to be deployed in 2016 with its inventor estimating it could have the world’s oceans spick-and-span in just five years.

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At a span of 2000 metres, Boyan’s brainchild is the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean.

The inventor is 20 year-old Boyan Slat, founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, a highly innovative organisation with a rather self-explanatory name.

cubic-metre-diagramThe technology is expected to be deployed in Q2-2016 off the coast of Tsushima, an island between Japan and South Korea with such a prominent plastic problem that an estimated one cubic meter of pollution per person is washed up each year.

The device will float about for at least two years being a good citizen and catching plastic pollution before arriving on the shores of Tsushima Island. Given their current predicament, one might envision the poor residents of Tsushima Island greeting the approaching haul of plastic by throwing their hands up in exasperation, exclaiming ‘Just what we need! More bloody plastic! What did you bring that here for??!’. But in fact, they’re taking a much more positive approach and are busying themselves in a scientific lab investigating whether the resultant plastic can be used as an alternative energy source. Because logic.

The scale of the plastic problem

When we see images of plastic bags, bottles and rubbish floating listlessly through our oceans, it’s easy (and tempting) to grab the pitchforks and form a hippie lynch mob (an oxymoron if ever I saw one). However, some would argue that plastic is not the enemy; Appropriate disposal is.

Plastics can actually reduce our carbon footprint. They provide improved insulation, lighter packaging and are recyclable. However, when not disposed of correctly they are a poisonous, non-degradable, never-ending blight on the earth.

The United Nations Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.

This plastic material and other floating waste tends to become concentrated in certain areas thanks to oceanic currents, creating gyres or ‘garbage patches’. There are an estimated five gyres in our ocean, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which occupies an area twice the size of Texas.

Will this floating thingo work? 

Slat’s invention consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms. Using these booms rather than nets, the design works with nature and allows the ocean to move through it; eliminating the issue of by-catches (the death of wildlife) and allowing sea creatures to swim under the booms unaffected.

theoceancleanupcom

This clean-up concept is definitely a worthwhile one. Nothing that improves the quality of our oceans while leaving behind no pollution, debris or other evidence of its existence behind can be a bad idea. Sadly though, this device does fall short of a miracle cure for our plastic ocean.

Gyres or ‘garbage patches’, for example, are not great big floating mountains made of fully-intact plastic debris just clinging together and quietly waiting to be collected. Unfortunately, much of the debris in these areas consists of microplastics (degraded from larger plastic items) suspended throughout the water. These tiny pieces of plastic permeate the water at every level, rather than floating innocently on top like a pool cover.

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Captain Moore, posing with a water sample taken from the Great Garbage Patch. Source: Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

So, all is lost…?  

Of course not! I would never write such a pessimistic blog. I’m not a hippie, but I’m NOT an emo!

We should welcome this new technology with open arms (and not just because it’s Guiness World Record breaking in length). Young Boyan has provided us with a legitimately ground-breaking device for purging large areas of plastic waste, allowing us to remove the problem, perhaps not at its source, but at a crucial point before the debris breaks down into a new, trickier format that we’re as yet unable to grapple with.

Technological development in the field of environmental conservation needs to be celebrated far and wide for what it is: Life-saving.

Many more innovative solutions are necessary for both waste reduction and waste management if we are to continue living our lives without killing the world around us.

 

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Eco-Friendly Building Materials for Your Home

Building a new home? If the Three Little Pigs taught us nothing else, they taught us to research our building materials… And that was before climate change!

The Earthling's Handbook

This is a guest post from the staff of Modernize.com, a site for home ideas and inspiration.  The Earthling’s Handbook is not affiliated with any of the businesses whose products are linked here, and the editors of The Earthling’s Handbook have not used any of these products in our own home–but we strongly encourage recycling and thinking green when you improve your home!

By Jane Blanchard

new home construction Image via Flickr

When you’re passionate about improving the environment, everything you do should be sustainable. If you’re in the market to build a new home or make improvements on an existing one, there are lots of different materials that you can use that are eco-friendly. Whether you plan on adding a new recycled rubber roof to an existing home or using recycled steel within your new construction, these materials are great places to begin when looking for eco-friendly building material options.

Recycled…

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Our resilient ozone: When science spoke and we listened

In the 1980’s scientists discovered the devastating effect we were having on our ozone layer. By using various chemicals in manufacturing, and particularly in aerosols, we were inadvertently chipping away at our precious shield from the worst of the sun’s damaging radiation. Wasting no time, these savvy scientists educated us as to the importance of the ozone layer and warned us that its existence was threatened if we did not act.

Put aside for a minute the hilarious image of an 80’s scientist; yes, they existed. It wasn’t all crimped hair and leg warmers, some people were off being intelligent and learning things! Thank God for these serious souls too, because without them we likely would have happily continued to spray away our entire protective coating.

Fortunately, we didn’t continue living in ignorance. We were alerted to our unwittingly destructive behaviour and could therefore make the necessary changes in order to save our skins (literally).

And what a good news story we have today!

We are now seeing the direct benefits of our action as NASA reports the hole in the ozone layer is closing. What’s more, if our resilient ozone continues to repair itself at this rate the hole could be entirely gone by the end of the 21st century. Oh happy day!

Having successfully saved the day, it’s not surprising that those blessed scientists believe the triumph of this swift issue-to-action model should inform our future approach to environmental action.

Everyone except Tony Abbott would likely agree there is a blindingly obvious comparison to the pressing environmental issues (or ‘incoming environmental catastrophes’ for the scientists among us) we have today.

As part of the team that confirmed our ozone layer depletion problem three decades ago, Jon Shanklin of the British Antarctic Survey was quick to point out this comparison, as he warned that the world isn’t treating this issue with the same seriousness.

“Yes, an international treaty was established fairly quickly to deal with the ozone hole, but really the main point about its discovery was that it shows how incredibly rapidly we can produce major changes to our atmosphere and how long it takes for nature to recover from them … Clearly, we still do not understand the full consequences of what we did then because we are still inflicting major changes on the atmosphere. Then it was chlorofluorocarbons; today it is greenhouse gases.”

The moral of this story is clear. Science spoke, we listened and we are now reaping the real-time rewards of our action.

Now if only we could learn from our successes, lest we need to learn from our mistakes.

ozone


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Top 5 Takeaways: The Iroquois Nation

In our search for more sustainable practices and a new collective mindset, it can only be helpful to cast our eyes around at how other countries and cultures manage themselves (and their environment).

Today, we take a quick look at the intensely interesting beliefs and practices of the Iroquois Nation; an indigenous northeast Native American confederacy, more commonly known as “Six Nations” (the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora nations).

1. Farming smarter, not harder

The main crops of the Iroquois are corn, beans and squash. I know what you’re thinking – Thanks a bunch, that is about as intensely interesting as a dead fish.

What IS cool is the strategic manner they grow their crops! First, the corn stalks grow, providing a structure for the bean plants to climb, while the squash grows underneath. This system inhibits weeds and keeps the soil moist under the shade of the broad leaves. Using this dream team combination (known as ‘the three sisters’), the soil remains fertile for decades.

Using nature to get the most out of nature – Pretty clever, huh?

2. Creating a cultural mixed bag

Now you can’t tell me this one isn’t interesting!

A simple wikipedia search tells us: ‘The Iroquois have absorbed many other peoples into their cultures…’  

Yay! How lovely! What a stand up bunch! 

‘…as a result of warfare….’ 

Wait, what? 

‘…and by offering shelter to displaced nations…’ 

Oh, yay again! I think.

According to Iroquois traditions, the dead could be symbolically replaced through captives taken during raids known as ‘mourning wars’. Captives were then adopted by grieving families to be raised and educated as one of their own. This bizarre tradition meant the Iroquois Nation consisted largely of naturalised members of other cultures.

Not too sure about that assimilation process, but it’s definitely a, uh… novel way to ensure a rich and culturally diverse society. Ahem. Moving right along…

3. It’s a her-archy

The Iroquois run under a matriarchal system of ownership and governance. Clan Mothers are held in the highest regard and are therefore charged with appointing and dismissing leaders as they see fit.

No person is entitled to ‘own’ land, however it is believed that the Creator appointed women as stewards of the land.

Women hold the property, livestock and farmed land, and hereditary leadership pass through their lines. At marriage, the newlyweds live with the wife’s family and a woman choosing to divorce is able to ask her crappy husband to leave and take his possessions with him, whilst the children stay with Mum.

The chief of a clan can be removed at anytime by that clan’s women elders. The ex-chief’s sister is then in charge of nominating a new chief.

The Iroquois were also well-known by both American and European settlers as a strong, well-organised and politically influential mob… #justsayin

4. Accepting the good with the bad

Detail on the creation beliefs of the Iroquois are hard to come by, however one such story revolves around the first person to walk the earth known as Aientsik or ‘Skywoman’, whose daughter (immaculate conception – a central theme to creationism!) gave birth to twins: Tawiskaron, who created vicious animals and disease, and Okwiraseh, who created game animals and all that is pure and beautiful. 

Saraydar (1990) suggests the Iroquois did not see the twins as polar opposites but understood their relationship to be more complex, noting “Perfection is not to be found in gods or humans or the worlds they inhabit.”

5. Thinking ahead

The Iroquois are credited with the ‘Seventh Generation’ principle, referring to the concept that the current generation must live sustainably and all decisions should be made in the best interests of the seventh generation into the future (roughly 140 years ahead).

The first written mention of this principle concept dates back to around 1500 AD. Imagine if the entire world had been operating under this mindset ever since…


“The thickness of your skin shall be seven spans — which is to say that you shall be proof against anger, offensive actions and criticism.   Your heart shall be filled with peace and good will and your mind filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people of the Confederacy.  With endless patience you shall carry out your duty and your firmness shall be tempered with tenderness for your people.  Neither anger nor fury shall find lodgement in your mind and all your words and actions shall be marked with calm deliberation.  In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.”

– The Constitution of the Iroquois Nation (The Great Binding Law)


This article is part of a new series where we investigate key beliefs and practices of other societies and see how they balance themselves with their environment.