Environmental Tips: Do You Know About Microfibers?

I often post short videos which showcase interesting inventions designed to tackle an environmental problem. This time, I want to post a video about a few tips that you can do in order to cut down on a form of pollution that is not spoken about very much, and that is microfibers.

You may recall the issue with microbeads found in certain soaps, which pass through water filters and end up in the stomachs of fish and other sea life, which was found to be so damaging that some countries have now banned them. However, another form of pollution which works in a very similar way, and on a much larger scale, are microfibers.

It turns out that, every time you wash an item of clothing, anywhere from hundreds to thousands of microfibers are shed from that clothing and enter into the water supply. Much like microbeads they are small, so up to 40% of them make it into the water supply. Also like microbeads their small size means that they are consumed by wildlife and, while the amount you produce on your own may not seem like much, the accumulated effect of a world full of washing machines is devastating. One research group estimated that “microfibers make up 85% of human-made debris on shorelines around the world”.

Just think about that for a second. With all of those horrid pictures we’ve seen of shorelines littered with plastic bags and garbage, they pale in comparison to the amount of microplastic crap we’ve dumped in our oceans.

The real difference is we don’t see microplastic pollution with the naked eye. It doesn’t make for horrifying pictures, and as such, very few have even heard about it.

So, what are we supposed to do about it? Stop washing our clothes? Hardly. That intro was the downer part, but there are little things that you can do in order to mitigate your contribution to microfiber pollution.

I’m going to look into those filters for my washing machine. I think that is probably one of the most effective ways of cutting down on this kind of pollution.

And who knows! Maybe, if more and more people make a stink about this, we might actually be able to get regulations on how washing machines are produced, or how synthetic clothes are made. If we don’t spread the news, however, that will never happen.

How Was Your Stuff-Your-Face-With-Chocolate Week?

Those of you who live in a Christian-majority country will be fully aware that last week was Easter. Despite the fact that it is a religious holiday I still enjoy celebrating it, mostly because I interpret it as a holiday that is all about cooking and eating awesome food, especially anything with chocolate in it.

So, these are the highlights of the past week, with an actual point of discussion at the end. For the tl;dr, go ahead and skip to the last part below the fold.

This year, Catholic and Orthodox Easter fell on the same day, and half of the people who came over for Easter were raised Orthodox, so I decided to incorporate some Orthodox food  and traditions into the meal. I found an excellent recipe for Cozonac, a traditional Romanian Easter sweetbread, on a food blog, and I was very proud of myself when I managed to make it with no tunnels or failures in rising. We also played what I call “the egg game”, which involves everyone picking a colored hard boiled egg. They then are supposed to say “Christ has risen” (though we left out that part) in whichever language they happen to speak, then bonk the two eggs together. One will crack and the other will not, so eventually one egg emerges victorious. We also made leg of lamb, sweet potatoes, baby potatoes, asparagus and brownies. We stuffed our faces and got drunk on red wine.

I came over all giddy as, at the tender age of 29, I bought my first ever motorized vehicle: a 50cc Honda scooter to get my butt to work. I am embarrassingly proud of myself.

For Stuff Your Face With Chocolate Week, my mother also came to visit. Regular readers of this blog will know that her visits can be… well… contentious, at times. However we were doing very well. She was only here one week, and we managed to make it all the way to the end of it without a single fight.

We almost, almost made it.

At 11pm on the night before her departure, my mother insisted that I watch a 51 minute-long “scientific” documentary which she found immensely interesting, involving a Nobel Prize winner, Luc Montagnier. I had never heard of him, but knowing her love for anything woo I tried every which way to avoid it. She fixated, insisted, and so I finally caved and brought it up on my phone.

If woo makes you upset, read no further.

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The UK Starts to Push Back

Parental consent is a legal gray area, one that different countries tackle in different ways. How much legal authority can a parent have over their child’s life? Where do the wishes of a parent end and the rights of a child independently of their parent’s wishes begin?

Generally speaking, parental consent is supposed to end when harm begins. As straightforward as that sounds it is actually anything but, and different countries allow different levels of leeway before the courts step in and determine that a parent cannot make a certain decision for their child. For example many countries allow parents to decide to physically discipline their children while others, like Sweden, do not allow any form of corporal punishment. Some countries allow parents to refuse certain kinds of medical treatment on behalf of their children based on their personal or religious beliefs, while others do not.

A few days ago, a UK court set a legal precedent by ordering a mother to vaccinate her two sons after determining that her concerns were not reasonable.

We all know that certain children cannot be vaccinated for a variety of legitimate medical reasons. Children who are severely immunocompromised, for example, or children who have an allergy to a component of the vaccine. Her concerns were not based on a suspicion of any real medical diagnosis, however. She was refusing to vaccinate her children on the basis that they are vegan, toxin-free, and that their strong immune systems would inherently protect them against all those nasty diseases anyway.

I am so very, very glad that the judge came to this decision.

As happy as I am that these two boys will receive proper preventative care, it must be said that their father was a strong defender of their health in this case. He brought the case forward, he testified that she was over-protective, paranoid and mistrustful of conventional medicine, and he fought for their ability to be vaccinated from the beginning. With a parent on either side of this issue, I am sure that it was much easier for the courts to come to the right decision in this case. But what about children who have the misfortune of being born to two paranoid, overprotective and mistrustful parents? Who will stick up for their right to access to health care? While I love this step in the right direction, the battle for the protection of children’s health is far from over.

I understand that legal intervention into how a parent raises their children must be expanded with extreme caution. A country which nitpicks your parenting choices, or a state-imposed “correct” way to raise your kids is a country that no one wants to live in. However, it is also important to remember that children are people, not property. They may be too young to make certain decisions for themselves, but they are human beings nonetheless, and as such they should have certain rights and protections under the law. Personally, I think that access to lifesaving  health care should be one of those things that every person, regardless of their age, should have a legal right to.

I am curious to see how this story progresses, and if a test case involving both parents refusing to vaccinate their children will come up. Let’s see if the UK courts take a stand on behalf of all children.

 

Awesomesauce

And I mean that both literally and figuratively. Well, I can only assume that what I am seeing is also awesome sauce… I’ll let the video explain.

 

 

I love every part of this video. It combines innovation, a project aimed at helping people and bettering their lives, and what looks like some excellent food all rolled into one. How could I possibly not love it?

Too bad I’m not going to LA when I visit the States this summer, or I would definitely be giving them a call for an order.

 

Bad Science: Say That Twice, With A Straight Face

Some bad science writers just make it too easy.

The other day, I come across an article that someone posted on Facebook. It was entitled Science Finally Confirms That People Absorb Energy From Others!

Of course you do not have to be a scientist to know that is complete bullshit. Oh dear, I thought, this is one of those rabbit holes that I cannot resist falling into. What new study has been twisted and perverted to fit this narrative today, I wonder? Will they name the scientist that “made the discovery”? Will they just give the name of an institute, and I’ll have to comb through their publications to find the culprit? Or perhaps is the aforementioned “science” performed by just some quack in a yurt in Arizona somewhere?

Where is this article going to fall on my 1-10 Bad Science Bullshit-o-Meter? So, I clicked on it. Of course I did.

If you don’t want to click on it I get it, so let me just quote the first two lines, because that’s the absolute best part.

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I Need This In My Life

When I was younger and visited the States, there was a lot of junk food that I found fascinating. In the beginning I liked most of it as it was so novel, but then over the years I started losing my taste for almost all of it as my taste buds matured and I started to dislike the fake flavor of most of those junky foods. One thing however, which I will always love and adore them for inventing is cookie dough ice cream.

Raw American cookie dough is one of the most delicious things I have ever encountered in my entire life. While it is really bad for you to eat a lot of real raw cookie dough, to this day I have to admit that licking the bowl whenever I make cookies is the single best part of the entire process. That’s why, when I saw this video, I couldn’t help but share it here.

 

 

This is pure food porn for me, so much so that my brain does not want to admit to itself that it exists beyond the realm of fantasy. This is something I really need in my life.

Cookie dough is, I think, my ultimate guilty pleasure, the one I’m most embarrassed to admit to but one that I will never stop loving. Do you have any that you find hard to admit, but can’t kick?

Healthy Sunday Cooking With Crys: Tortini di Verdure

While Italians are not exactly known for their vegetarian dishes, they do eat a lot of vegetables compared to many other cultures. Because of this, you can come across dishes that are vegetarian by accident.

I tend to prefer these “accidentally” vegetarian or vegan recipes to ones that I will often see on veggie/vegan blogs, simply because they are not designed to imitate non-vegetarian dishes. I don’t want to eat a vegan steak, because it is never going to taste anywhere near as good as a real steak, and distantly reminding me of real steak on my plate just makes me frustrated and craving for the real thing. Dishes that happen to be vegetarian or vegan, on the other hand (like those vegan cookies I’ve told you about), were designed to be perfectly delicious all on their own, rather than pale imitations of something else, so I find them much more appealing for it.

Today, I’ll be giving you two tortino recipes, which is literally translated to “small cake”. However this is something of a bad translation, as cake implies flour. When we say tortino, we really mean something in the shape of a cake, but they often more closely resemble souffle, or flan.

Tortino recipes can be either salty or sweet, but today I’m going to talk about two recipes that are salty, and made with vegetables. These make filling and low- calorie snacks, but also good and different appetizers for vegetarian guests (neither of these are vegan though, vegan tortini are coming in another post).

Here, I’ll give you the recipe for a zucchini tortino, and for a cauliflower one.

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Sunday Cooking With Crys: Lamb Korma

It’s the season of lamb, so I decided to make a great korma recipe that I came across and modified over the years. It’s a recipe I enjoy also making for others because, while you can still taste the lamb nicely, the spices and sauce also mitigate the gamey flavor that lamb can have, so it’s great for guests who do not particularly like that flavor.

While I have modified it to make it a little less fatty though no less flavorful, one thing I strongly suggest against is messing with the spice combination. There is an art to combining spices in Indian cooking, one that I have not get managed to learn, so that the spices come together and taste like something different, and more, than their individual components.

So, having said that, here is my recipe for lamb korma.

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This Week In Zoology: What Causes Irukandji Syndrome?

For decades, a mysterious illness cropped up in the Australian summer months. People would fall prey to Nature’s Cruciatus Curse, an indescribable pain, a feeling like you are burning from the inside out and, at times, a conviction that you’re going to die that is so strong that you beg those around you to just kill you. This syndrome would last anywhere between 12 hours and 3 days, and then it would pass. While Irukandji syndrome was very rarely fatal, it was still scary enough that no one much wanted to have to go through it.

This mystery persisted until the 1960s, when physician and toxinocologist Jack Barnes told the world that this devastating syndrome was caused by the sting of a tiny, barely noticeable jellyfish.

1200px-Irukandji-jellyfish-queensland-australia

 

As you can imagine, this was a tough sell. How do you convince the country and the world that this incredibly painful day from Hell could come from a little creature that you barely even notice when it stings you? So, how do you prove this far-fetched theory?

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Kids Who Die For Ignorance

There has been another deadly outbreak of a preventable disease in Europe. This time, it is the measles which is spreading rapidly across Romania, and so far, 17 children have died.

Romania has seen nearly 2,000 cases of measles since February 2016, World Health Organization data shows.

The country’s vaccination rate is 86 per cent, well below the 95 per cent recommended for “herd immunity” against infectious disease.

Romania’s measles outbreak has killed 17 children there, none of whom were vaccinated.

Romania’s vaccination rate has fallen sharply over the last decade, driven in part by a vocal anti-vaccination movement there. The country now has Europe’s highest measles infection rate, and its fifth-lowest vaccination rate.

These stories are becoming more and more frequent, and I cannot stand it when another one comes out. When people spew this anti-vaccination nonsense on social media, I can’t let it go. I will engage that person and explain why they are wrong, and how their beliefs are destroying lives. It is not the same as when someone posts a quote from Mother Teresa, or a belief that nature is sacred and spiritual or what have you. Those are personal, relatively benign opinions. The anti-vaxx movement, on the other hand, is one of the most dangerous campaigns of misinformation in existence.

If you’re not yet convinced, the article goes on to explain how Europe’s protection against preventable disease is falling rapidly.

Of 32 European countries that have had measles cases since February 2016, 22 had measles vaccination rates below 95 per cent.

In January, 84 per cent of Europe’s measles cases happened in seven countries, all of which had vaccination rates under 95 per cent.

About 10 per cent of children with measles get ear infections, which can lead to hearing loss, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns. About five per cent will get pneumonia, and one in 1,000 will die.

When I talk about these stories, I usually get two main questions.

  1. Why do you bother engaging with anti-vaxx people? Don’t you know that you will never convince them?
  2. Why do you keep bringing these stories up? Aren’t you preaching to the choir? We all agree here that vaccinations are important.

So, let me answer those questions.

  1. I engage with people who post anti-vaxx beliefs on social media because allowing this misinformation to go unchallenged is precisely what has gotten us into this mess. While I understand that someone firm in their beliefs is very unlikely to change their mind, perhaps people who are on the fence and see the post will be less persuaded to become an anti-vaxxer if they see a reasonable exchange, rather than a one-sided pile of bad science and lies. Also, even if it is extremely hard to change someone’s firm belief, they are endangering innocent children with their ignorance, and so I have to at least try.
  2. I bring these stories up for one simple reason. A study was conducted on people who were “skeptical” of vaccine safety. This study, and many others, found that reiterating the science behind why anti-vaxx is bullshit did nothing to change their beliefs, if anything it made things worse. The only thing that made the slightest impact was to show them how bad these diseases can be. In other words, reminding people of the real risks of not vaccinating their children is the only thing that has a hope of bringing those numbers of vaccinations back up.

So, please, share this story. You don’t need to share this post, but share that article, and every other article that you come across which talks about the children that are getting sick and dying because of this nonsense. Maybe, just maybe, you know a new parent who is being swayed by the anti-vaxx argument, and that parent might see those images of those sick kids and think better of it.

It is important to remember that not everyone is iron clad in their convictions, nor is anyone born convinced of anything. You can persuade people if you share information before they become absolutely convinced of falsehoods. You could save a life.