Another summer season brings with it wildfires throughout the state of California. The annual tragedies have become so normal that they have become an expected aspect of the year, a specter that looms over all until it inevitably arrives. As drought, climate change, and human negligence continue to contribute to the many wildfires throughout the West Coast, some of our natural friends in the animal kingdom are stepping in to do their part.
Creekbed of Placer County
A creekbed in Placer County was located in a floodplain. Having dried out completely, ecologists were open and honest about what they were facing. They needed to either spend big money on bringing in heavy machinery to develop and cultivate a healthy habitat or they had to let the beavers step in to do the job. As it turns out, rejuvenation with nature works best when you work alongside the animal kingdom.
After enduring decades of erasure due to heavy agricultural use, the dried-out creekbed located in Placer County had become something of a local hotspot for fear that a wildfire would take hold. Thankfully, the beavers worked faster than anyone could have expected. After being brought in, the beavers went to work creating dams and building them all over the area. Pretty soon, the creek bed was back to retaining water.
The Doty Ravine Project
Lynette Batt is a Conservation Director for the Placer Land Trust. The Placer Land Trust does work in and around the Doty Ravine Preserve. Batt said of the work that the beavers did, “It was insane! It was awesome!” She went on to describe how the beavers helped to convert the dry grassland into something truly unique, diverse, and thriving with life. Now brimming with wetland plants, willow trees, and meandering streams, the place looks alive all over again.
The Doty Ravine Project would end up costing close to $60,000 rather than the initial million dollar estimate. The money went largely toward preparing the site for use by the beavers, a project that has been echoed with support by the Fish and Wildlife Program. Damion Ciotti is a restoration biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and his initial estimates of the beaver’s work required more than ten years to get the area thriving and alive again. To Ciotti’s surprise, the efforts moved along quite nicely, finishing restoration in just under three years.
Due to the success of the Doty Ravine Project, restoration ecologists like Ciotti are continuing to work with beavers in a number of areas around the nation. Currently, Ciotti is working on projects located in Plumas County as well as Tehama County. Ciotti goes on to suggest that there could be several dozen more projects of smaller sizes throughout the state of California in the near future.
Medieval Troupe Forms a “Local 181”
The royal performers who work for the Medieval Times are famous for a number of things, among them their time-specific acting. Located in Lyndhurst, NJ, the acting group has decided to notch another historic title to their name, the first royal performers in the region to unionize. 2 out 3 performers decided that a combined representation for their working rights made more sense than not, and by majority vote the unionization passed. The official representation will be provided by the American Guild of Variety Artists.
Noting their new representation moniker, the Medieval Times Performers United, the majority are celebrating their win. By decision, the group will negotiate for all 42 workers involved, pushing for better pay, benefits and labor-related advantages. That said, the representation’s strategy is not just about compensation; ideally, the overall goal is to make working for the Medieval Times attractive and enjoyable for all as a career.
Part of the drive for better pay has been a long-standing issue involving required live stunts. Because the acting and show involves actions that present a potential risk for the actors, one of the arguments for better pay has been that the current $20/hour pay rate doesn’t reflect the risks the actors have to take in their parts. Secondly, risks have been repeatedly experienced with the guests during feeding. Actor-workers have been physically harassed and grabbed while serving food, and guests have gotten rowdy with their dinnerware, scaring the animals involved in the show as well.
One of the knight actors, Zaire Wood, sums up the job in a response. They show up to put on the entertainment and, if a guest gets out of line, that’s part of the job to help control the situation appropriately and as needed. However, doing so puts the actors at risk to harm on a regular basis.
Interestingly, the New Jersey location is not the only one for the company. It has entertainment operations in at least nine different other cities spread out between Canada and the U.S. While Medieval Times management didn’t respond publicly to the press, it did send out an internal blast to workers not to perceive the union vote as a sudden “improvement” or a “win.” Obviously, that messaging approach didn’t win over affected employees. The company CEO, Perico Montaner, characterized the vote as simply hiring a representative to do all the talking to management about what the employees might want in a bargained contract. Management committed to the negotiation process, but no one should interpret that as a guarantee that anything asked for was going to be provided. Management’s messaging was also focused on a negative perspective, expecting negotiations to drag on without deadlines and any common ground.
Regardless of Medieval Time’s company wishes, the New Jersey union was ratified and registered with the National Labor Relations Board. And for the actors, now begins a new chapter in how their careers will be shaped going forward.
Humanity Isn’t All That Bad – 5 Things In Life That Are Getting Better
Given the volume of bad news online today, on TV, or streaming, it’s not surprising that many people feel modern humanity is going down the drain and in a slow, painful spiral of degradation. Overpopulation, novel pandemics, war, crime, irresponsible government, callous capitalism and more are dished out daily through multiple channels. No surprise, folks either turn off the news or resign themselves to enjoying the last few days before the apocalypse arrives and things go all to hell.
Fortunately, however, there are a few things that are going alright and improving humanity’s plight, irrespective of how goofed up everything seems to be according to the 24/7 media. The fact is, much of what gets reported in the news involves momentary blips, which also don’t take into account time-based trends of much larger social shifts.
Health is Up
First off, overall general health for everyone potentially continues to improve. In comparison with the rest of recorded history, humanity is at its highest level of mortality, lowest levels of famine and poverty, and more children are living than ever before. In comparison, the average family had a dozen children in the colonial U.S. because most of them died before age 5. Today, the third decade of the 21st century is producing medical solutions that have actually pushed up how long people live for, on average worldwide.
Having a Child Born is Safer
Believe it or not, up until the 1970s, having a child was a life or death risk. While there are still over 300,000 women who die in childbirth as of 2015, that is an incredibly smaller number than what was happening in the first half of the 20th century. Even earlier was worse. For example, in the year 1800, the average loss of a woman to childbirth was one out of every hundred women in Scandinavian Europe. It was worse elsewhere. A big leap forward happened when hospitals began requiring sanitization and extreme hygiene in the medical environment. The second big leap happened when pre-birth medical care became its own discipline, gaining critical attention from doctors.
Poverty is Shrinking
If one looked at the TV, he or she could be forgiven for thinking that only the U.S. and Europe have people living above the poverty line. In reality, a large number of countries have shifted into the middle development stage, improving the lives of millions in the process. Measured statistically, the number of people actually poor by definition to the point of poverty had decreased to 10 percent of the world’s population in 2015. Some 65 years earlier, that figure was 42 percent. Again, the big drivers for this increased personal wealth distribution have been improved healthcare, technology, development, and travel. 100 years ago, it was unheard of for most people to leave their town, much less their country. Today, people relocate every five years for opportunity, jobs, relationships, retirement and more. Doing so changes their life situation and provides more ways to succeed versus being stuck in a stagnant old location.
Disease is Less Deadly
While COVID-19 has been a recent exception, overall disease has become less fatal. People still get sick, many seriously, but the mortality of disease has fallen as well. Access to pharmaceuticals has made a huge difference, expanding the reach of medicine exponentially.
So yes, news on the TV is 99 percent bad most times, but in the big picture, humanity is actually succeeding and growing.
Yosemite Trees Survive Killer Fire…For Now
For anyone who’s been paying attention to the fires on the West Coast of the U.S., the last few years have seen a significant increase in the number of wildfires as well as their size and damage resulting from the related flames. One particular fire made itself quite prominent given the direction it burned, ripping through the hills and canyons of central California to threaten the Mariposa Grove located in Yosemite National Park.
The Washburn fire burned like a lot of hot spots, fast and large and destructive. Once it got into Yosemite, folks thought it was going to continue from there. Size-wise, the Washburn was not the biggest fire that year; reaching 4,800 acres by the time it was threatening the Grove, the fire was making crews make choice between the famous trees and the town of Wawona at the south end of the Park. The saving grace, however, was that the wind fueling the fire died off. That allowed firefighters to build their defense lines and stop progress significantly.
Many fires are named after the location where they first started, and the Washburn Fire was no exception. It started right after the 4th of July, next to the Washburn Trail already in Yosemite Park. However, what really got people’s attention was how fast it moved towards Mariposa Grove. Those trees had lasted three millennia, but in a day or so they were going to be charcoal. The lack of humidity was a key factor, so the fire defense got creative by attaching sprinklers to the trees and around them to wet the place down. That wasn’t going to stop the fire though.
Once fires get into tree areas, they burn extremely hot. A typical burning log can reach 1,000 Fahrenheit, much hotter than a grass fire at 400 degrees. Worse, tree fires first rise up and start to crown, with the fires jumping from one tree to the next at the top versus moving on the ground where it can be fought.
The fire defense threw everything at the blaze, including air drops and line raking, as well as backfires and cutting down anything that could build up big flames. Ultimately, the fire lines held this time. However, given extreme fire conditions California continues to see year after year now, it may just be a matter of time before Yosemite is hit again by another flame front.
Canadian Company Heeds Consumer Call For Plastic-free Cucumbers
Conveyor belts piled with newly harvested cucumbers off vines hanging from the glass roof of a neighboring greenhouse were a welcome sight to Dino DiLaudo.
That batch of cucumbers was about to go through a process that would remove millions of tons of one-time-use plastic from the distribution chain.
As a result of customer feedback, Westmoreland Topline Farms has developed a no-plastic cucumber export system.
As of June 2022, the producer in Leamington, Ontario, will be the first to export English cucumbers that aren’t separately plastic packaged throughout Canada.
Instead, Apeel Sciences has created a plant-based solution that is digestible, bland, and enhances the cucumber’s inherent shelf life.
A plant-based, organic product
The new treatment, according to DiLaudo, is both long-term and reduces cost. To prevent oxidation and premature spoilage, he explained that the plastic was dedicated to keeping the cucumber’s respiration controlled.
“We’re eliminating plastic and using an organic, plant-based substance to preserve the cucumbers.”
For nearly 10 years, Apeel Sciences, located in California, has been researching strategies to decrease or eliminate plastics from the production sector.
The company’s New Commodity Vice President, Ravi Jolly, said, “We gained awareness of this problem of plastic being utilized to help with retaining moisture and retain the cucumbers’ freshness.”
“We’re giving consumers a choice, a more environmentally-friendly choice.”
Solutions Based On Consumer Needs
To coincide with the government’s announcement that some single-use plastics, such as straws, takeout containers, supermarket bags, and cutlery, will be banned over the next 18 months, these plastic-free cucumbers reached the shops this week.
According to Deloitte research released in 2019, fewer than 10 percent of the plastic garbage Canadians generate is recycled, which amounts to more than three million tons of plastic packaging being thrown away each year.
According to DiLaudo, “everyone wants to do their share” when it comes to being a good environmental steward.
According to him, the use of plastic packaging for seedless cucumbers has been a big industry issue.
He went on to say that eliminating plastic from just one batch of cucumbers is the same as erasing 100,000 drinking straws from the environment.
Environmental organization the Sierra Club Canada Foundation praised the decision.
As a facilitator for plastics, Lucy Bain noted her dislike for plastic-wrapped fruits in supermarkets. “A lot of times you can’t escape plastic,” she said.
Plastic pollution is a major concern for Canadians. Businesses should take this initiative because consumers wouldn’t want to be pushed to buy plastic things they don’t need, thus it’s fantastic that they are doing so.
She wishes to see a greater effort at the federal level to establish industry requirements and standards for businesses to reduce their reliance on plastic.
For us to be smarter users, the government must implement these guidelines. We shouldn’t have to decide in that regard.”
Cucumbers, according to DiLaudo, were the very first commodity to undergo this procedure at their organization, which is now exploring ways to eliminate plastic wrapping on other food items.
“We’re producing little seedless cucumbers that I believe will be the next best thing,” he remarked.
“It will become a positive thing for everyone if the grade of the cucumber isn’t sacrificed, I believe.”
The Simplest Moments Bring the Most Joy, Studies Show
Everyone has a thing or two that makes us happy and, most times, it’s something simple. A popular media house asked readers to tell them about the little things or moments that bring them happiness.
Happiness researcher and Washington University Assistant Dean Timothy Bono says there is scientific evidence to back up many of the comments.
Our shattered hearts are healed, our spirits are brightened, and we are reminded to stop working so hard by those dogs and cats. As Carmen Martel-Stempel of Chelmsford, Ontario, learned, they can also be terrific travel companions. It was last summer when the couple decided to pack up their truck and head out of town with Gretel, their pet dog.
When we set out, we had no goals or agenda; we just drove off. Even though we weren’t sure how many hotels would accept our puppy, we decided to go ahead and do it anyway!” She went on to say that It was a joy to have this small dog accompany us on our travels across the country for the entire 10 days we were gone.
Bono, a Psychology lecturer as well as a pet owner, says: “Pet owners generally feel a better level of satisfaction, reduced levels of distress, but they often appear to be more attentive and outgoing.”
Mother in Erie, Pennsylvania, Andrea Meyer Dembski, says her 4-year-old child Tyler usually makes her giggle.
The other day, when one of our pets died, he noticed me sobbing and told me, ‘Mom, you can’t be upset. The weeping is just for children, and you are not a baby.'”
Rebekah Heiner, a resident of Newport News, Virginia, recalled the instant she went outside to find her hubby and their 5-year-old child completely covered in leaves. He had gone out to blow leaves but it became play time and it taught Rebekah not to take matters too seriously.
While Bono was unaware of any studies linking childhood experiences with happiness, “if you ask individuals to recall their favorite moments, they will often include events shared with family members,” he said in a statement.
One of the most important indicators of our overall well-being is the quality of our relationships with others.
What’s not to love about taking in the sights of the world? Taking a huge vacation with her mother once a year helps feed 38-year-old Lisa Meneses, of Kansas City, adventurous spirit. They had just returned from a trip to India and Nepal when we spoke to them.
Meneses believes that everyone should experience “the vastness and awe-inspiring beauty of this world.”
Traveling to new areas allows us to “break the boredom of our everyday lives by venturing into unfamiliar cultures, experiencing new delicacies, and exposing one’s self to exploration and discovery that aren’t even parts of our typical activities,” Bono stated.
The length of a trip is not proportional to how happy you will be on it, according to him. According to him, it may be better to have two brief vacations, divided by a few months, than to take a large holiday every year. Both experiences and memories would be there to relive and reflect on for a long time to come.
“We could have a gorgeous day, anticipating a magnificent sunset, and somehow the fog sweeps in,” says Lucy Wilk – so once you can notice it, they’re a pleasure.
The weather in Athens, Illinois, is “a bright and sunny with a light breeze,” says Erica Hostetler.
Walking in nature on a sunny day, according to Bono’s research, can instantly improve one’s attitude.
An oak tree in full splendor, or a budding rose, might provide an oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic, stressful, and frenetic existence. To lift our spirits when we’re feeling low and uninspired, a brisk walk for a few minutes outdoors may be exactly what we need.
A delicious breakfast sandwich or a cup of cereal is the go-to for some people in the mornings.
Having a cup of coffee in the morning is all Donna Fonvergne needs to get going.
The simple joy of drinking coffee was mentioned by a large number of persons. “Feel-good” neurotransmitter dopamine is known to be triggered in the brain when caffeine is consumed, according to Bono’s statement. San Antonio resident Brianna Williamson offers another viewpoint. She describes the scent as “uplifting and reassuring” on its own. When I drink coffee, I am reminded that happiness comes from inside.
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