Magical Winter Light – Comforts Us and Gives Us Strenght

Searching for bright spots in the woods where the pale winter lights dance through the trees and kiss our cheeks not only brings comfort it also gives us strength to face challenges.

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The smell of frost, the sounds of a stream, and the scenery of a frosty winter forest provides relaxation. Natural stimulation brings comfort to our present stress-filled society.

Nature connectedness, where we include nature as part of our identity, includes an understanding of nature and everything it is made up of. If we feel connected to nature, we are more inclined to care about nature and protect the environment.

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This connectedness can be described as containing three parts:

  • how included we feel,
  • how much we care for nature,
  • how committed we are to protect nature.

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It is worrying that fewer and fewer children are connected to nature. Studies in the UK, have found that some adults think that nature is dangerous and dirty.

On my daily walk with my dog, I cruise on a path littered with litter – plastic cups, cans, tins, wraps,  papers, and bottles. Britain is one of the most litter-blighted countries in Europe.

But not only the streets are littered with litter. So is the nearby woods.

Does nobody care?

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How connected to nature does your family feel?

How green is your workplace?

Does your organisation give extra marks for a green approach?

Would your family throw away a bag filled with plastic bags that had been used for shopping once in the bin?

What about your workplace?

Would your organisation or company allow employees to throw away a bag filled with plastic bags?

Would you even notice or care?

And would you do something about it?

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Ice Circles

Ice circles are a rare and beautiful looking

as well as sounding phenomenon.

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The ice circles in the photos are from Sävar in the northern part of Sweden.  The circles look perfect as if they have been made by a ceramist.

If you listen you can hear the sound of the river or the sea flowing continuously. When you are watching the ice circles dance by you can hear very sharp cracks and groans.

The circles are formed when a large piece of ice breaks off creating an effect called “rotational shear” where the current slowly grinds away at the free-floating chunk until it is smoothed into a circle.

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The first video is filmed by Kaylyn Messer in Seattle and in the second video you can hear the sounds of ice. Go here to read Jonna Jinton’s blog.

Giant Iceberg Ready to Break Off

A giant iceberg, with an area equivalent to Trinidad and Tobago, is ready to break off from the Antarctic shelf.

Why should I care?

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Photo:  Iceberg Arctic By AWeith

What can We Learn from Autumn?

The October air is raw and filled with goodbyes.

Goodbye green leaves and warm summer evenings.

Reluctantly I say welcome to spicy scent of colourful leaves and the shy October light.

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The forest is coming to a standstill and animals are preparing for the colder weather.

Autumn is a busy time for many animals as they prepare for winter weather. Some animals such as swallows and martins, warblers,  nightingales, and cuckoos migrate to warmer parts of the world.  Hedgehogs and toads have another approach and they decide that it is better to sleep through the winter.

So maybe the real lesson that autumn teaches us is to let go and to rest to load our batteries for Spring.

Jonna Jinton is an inspiring blogger who lives in Northern Sweden in a village with 11 citizens – what a dream!  Her blog is brimming with beautiful photos and videos. Warmly recommended.

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Compassion for All Living “Conscious?” Creatures

” We must stop ignoring their gaze and closing our heart to their pleas.
We can easily do what they ask – to stop causing them unnecessary pain, suffering, loneliness, sadness, and death, even extinction. “

Mark Bekoff

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Imagine that you are suggesting at a dinner party that bees have feelings and that you are considering ideas to improve their life.

What would the reaction be?

Would people at the party look at you with deep admiration?

Or would they quickly try to change the subject and just stare at you like you were mad?

This is the sort of question that often whizz around in my head but I rarely dare to raise the question. Why? Well, sometimes it feels like it is a too big provocation and people simply are not ready for these kinds of ideas.

So I was delighted when I read the article “Insects may have feelings, so do we need more humane fly spray?” by Peter Singer. He is famous for his book Animal Liberation and he works with bioethics. In the article, he discusses ethical questions related to the way we treat insects.

Scientists are increasingly more willing to draw parallels between mammals and insects. Some of these areas where they have found parallels raise ethical questions about the way we treat insects. For example, the main part of the nervous system of insects operates in a similar way as a mammalian midbrain. The central ganglion in insects may provide them with a most basic form of consciousness. Bees have recently been found to show positive emotion-like states. The term emotion-like state is not necessarily the same as saying that they do indeed feel happy or sad, and the bees may not be conscious. Yet, they could be. For an ethical and moral point of view, the presence or absence of consciousness is crucial. Consciousness opens the room to the ability to suffer.

Laws related to the protection of animals used in research are limited to vertebrates. There is little doubt about the capacity for suffering. But if bees can suffer, should they be included too. What about mosquitoes? Are bees special because of their way of communicating? Honey bees perform an intricate waggle-dance. But so far they are the only insects that have been found to use such a complex way of communicating, so maybe not all insects are conscious.  . .

And of course, being conscious does not necessarily give a living creature the right to life. But at least, it is a good argument to start demanding for a human treatment. Or, what do you think?

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Shape Matters

Shape Matters!

What if we could transform our thinking and use less material and more clever shapes?
What if we could build things of whatever flies around like a spider ?

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Photo Greenstone Girl

All spiders produce silk but not all spiders use it to produce webs. Different spices of web-building spiders spin different patterns. So you can identify the type of spider by looking and the intricate web they spin.

Animals do not spend time trying to create a wonderful material. They use the material that is available and the results are often mindblowing. A spider squirt the liquid silk out of their spinneret glands and this material is in liquid form until it hits the air where it hardens into a sticky substance.  Making the web is energetically costly process that requires a large amount of protein, the silk. A spider-web can use a fly to produce more webs to help them catch more flies. Spiders also eat their own web to reuse some of the energy that was used to spin it. They recycle the silk proteins.

Gecko’s feet are sticky something that has spark several ideas from climbing robots to surgical bandage. Yet, the feet are not sticky because of some special material, rather the shape of the hairs on the feet makes them sticky. The answer is molecular attractions that operate over small distances – van der Waals forces. The tiny hairs help to maximise contact with the surface.

Material is nature is expensive while shape is cheap.

This is a great lesson that humans perhaps should consider more often when designing things and solving problems.

In the video below, an exciting  research project,  ‘Metamaterial Mechanisms’ , at the Hasso Plattner Institute shows a new way that shape is used to create a material that can be used for a range or purposes. Different types of performances based on the shape. Exciting!


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Emblems of Devoted Love is Facing GLobal Extinction – Turtle Doves

How devoted are politicians to saving the bird that has become emblem of devoted love?

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Photo Yuvalr

European turtle doves form strong bonds and the rather small dove with the wedge-shaped tail with a dark centre and white borders and tips is a threatened species. The UK turtle dove population is halving every six years – down 93% since 1994.

In Spring, turtle doves arrive on the Brittish shore after a long migration fromWest Africa.  And often they find that their breeding grounds have been lost to modern farming methods. The birds are struggling to find food to raise their chicks.

In Autumn, the birds are flying to Africa.

Think about what it would feel like if they never returned?

No purring would be heard in the summer.

Do better understand why the numbers are declining so rapidly, six turtle doves are being satellite tracked. Last year, turtle dove named Titan was tracked and this year this project which is a cooperation between RSPB and the Operation Turtle Dove is adding more doves. Sadly Titan’s satellite signal was lost earlier this year. Yet important information about the migratory route and stopover sites were collected.

A picture of the threats that the birds face can help to identify strategies to support local conservation groups. But when you look at the migratory route, it is clear that to save the birds requires more than the engagement of one nation.

Go here to read about how old traditions are creating a problem for robins.

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Image: Operation Turtle Dove

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