Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Book: The Bridge at the Edge of the World

New Book Recommendation:
The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability - by James Gustave Speth, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

Excerpts: Seeing an “emerging environmental tragedy of unprecedented proportions,” Speth says the book’s aim is to describe a non-socialist alternative to capitalism. That alternative includes moving to a post-growth society and environmentally honest prices, curbing consumerism with a new ethic of sufficiency, rolling back growing corporate control of American political life, and addressing the enormous economic insecurity of the average person.
“My point of departure is the momentous environmental challenge we face,” Speth says. “But today’s environmental reality is linked powerfully with other realities, including growing social inequality and neglect and the erosion of democratic governance and popular control.” Speth examines how these seemingly separate areas of public concern are intertwined and calls upon citizens to mobilize spiritual and political resources for transformative change on all three fronts.

Enter here to listen to the author as he speaks about the challenges we face today and how real transformative change can come about.

More about the book at:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Consume Less!

I was wondering what photo to use in this post of mine when I chanced upon the photo below: an outdoor toilet or 'jamban' in Pulau Ubin.

'How appropriate!' - I thought - abstract but absolutely dramatic! It brings to bear the 'shit-house' of a dwelling place we have built for ourselves through consumeristic wanton-ness and consequential waste in an otherwise sustainable earth.

To be true, our 'jamban' may be small (considering how insignificant the human species is in the scheme of earthly life), but our self-destructive hunger for more leaves no corner of the earth unfouled. And this is exactly what modern society tells us to do day-in-day-out: it tells us to CONSUME more and more, BUY more and more!

The following short film by Leo Murray and an essay by James Gustave Speth - 'Environmental Failure: A Case for a new Green Politics' - tell us what we CAN and MUST do. Simply put, we are being called to revolutionary actions beyond our personal footprint-watch.

Short Film: Wake Up, Freak Out - then Get a Grip

James Gustave Speth: 'Environmental Failure: A Case for a new Green Politics'

Here's an excerpt from the short film (written by Leo Murray):

"There is no great mystery about what we need to do to reduce emissions in line with the science; we simply need to consume less.
But that is out of the question in a society which is founded on the ever-increasing consumption of materials and energy.
Nobody has all of the answers; but we do know that this is not the only way to live, and given that it is almost certainly going to kill us all, we had better start looking urgently at some of the alternatives. It is now very clear that in order to actually win the fight against climate change, making big changes to the way we each live our own lives is not going to be enough; we’re also going to have to actively confront powerful vested interests who will stop at nothing to prevent the changes we need from taking place. We have to be more than just consumers.
These are extraordinary times. Preventing runaway global warming is the single most important task in all of human history – and it has fallen to us to do it. If we don’t, then everything else we work to achieve in our lives will be destroyed, or become meaningless. Those who came before us didn't know about this problem, and those who come after will be powerless to do anything about it. But for us, there's still time! We'd better get a move on though."

CONSUMING LESS - it is the only way to go.

Read also New Scientist: Endless Growth is Folly


Joe Lai

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Sundew Has Grown!

My sundew has grown! It has caught its first insect! I am so proud : )

Take a close look. See how the red stalks rising from the leaf surface bear droplets of mucilage that hold the insect. The photo below shows how the stimulus of the contact makes adjacent stalks bend toward the insect, tying it down more securely. These same glands that secrete mucilage then exude digestive enzymes and later resorb the digested products as nutrition for the sundew.

Recently, I conducted a special leaf workshop called 'Leaves You Captive' for 25 homeschool kids. We learned what is a leaf and why a leaf is so important to the plant. We learned through many examples the great diversity of leaf forms and functions. A leaf can be very special - like the sundew, for example. In the wild, the leaf can make a difference to the survival of the plant. Besides helping to receive sunlight and produce sugar-food for the plant through photosynthesis, a leaf can help a plant to do all sort of marvellous things - to climb, to hold water, to provide food and home to symbiotic animal-friends, to attract pollinators to the flowers, to float, to protect the plant from predators, to trap insects, and yes, to help the plant reproduce vegetatively too!

John (above) is one of the homeschool kids who attended my workshop. He likes to share his learning experience with all his friends. [Thanks John! I am glad you enjoyed the workshop.] This is what he wrote:

What Uncle Joe showed us:
Uncle Joe showed us a plant called “Doodle”(Sounds like noodle; and looks like yellow noodles).He also showed us a type of fern that can make a silvery white mark on things. It is called Silver Fern.

What we did:
We went for a treasure hunt and I found the following plants: Sea Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, Barrel Cactus, Bromelid, Kalanchoe, Sundew, Dischidia and Pitcher Plant.

Leaves can be oval shape, heart shape, round shape, sword shape, fan shape, oblong shape, spoon shape, toothed, feathery and lobed. The Pitcher Plant (also called monkey cup) and the Sundew are CARNIVOROUS!! Under the dead leaves of the Bird’s Nest Fern, there may be BATS.

What I saw and how I feel:
I saw a water skater, a LARGE SPIDER and a strange insect. I feel very happy because I learned a lot of things and I saw lots of INSECTS.

Other Information: 1) Leaf Workshop 'Leaves You Captive' 2) How to pot sundew and venus fly-trap from culture.