Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Forest Forms

 Cauliflower Fungus - Sparassis Crispa (edible)

 Cauliflower Fungus - Sparassis Crispa (edible)

Gomphus Kauffmanii

Coral Fungus - Clavaria Formosa (edible)

Boletus - Yellow-pored, blue-staining, showing desiccation cracks in the cap

Boletus - Alpine


Cortinarius Violaceus (edible)

Clavaria Formosa - Coral Fungus (edible)

Clavaria Formosa - Coral Fungus (edible)

Sparissis Crispa - Cauliflower Fungus

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gandhi on Sustainable Development

In a recent NY times Op-Ed entitled Going Green but Getting Nowhere , Gerrot Wagner tries to make the point that individual acts are inconsequential in solving global environmental problems. He suggests that the only route to a sustainable economy is through top-down policy. That's a nice thought, but while we keep waiting, and waiting...... and waiting for policy-makers to do anything regarding the greenhouse gas crisis, maybe a voice from a different era has some insights.

Gandhi helped lead India to independence, but I think if he were alive today he would be trying to save modern civilization from itself. As he presciently argued in chapter six of his 1919 work, the Hind Swaraj, "this [Western] civilization is such that one has only to be patient and it will be self-destroyed." As we heedlessly pollute our own water supplies and destabilize our fragile climate system, his 100-year old words began to take on a prophetic character.

Gandhi saw a lot of flaws in Western civilization. He wrote of men "enslaved by temptation of money and the luxuries that money can buy" who "keep up their energy by intoxication", "can hardly be happy in solitude", and who "require something to eat every two hours." What better description of 21st century America with its chaos of purple energy drinks("energy by intoxication"), maxed out credit cards("enslaved by luxuries"), and furiously buzzing social networks ("hardly happy in solitude")?

We live in a consumer-driven economy. Consumer spending dictates the growth of our economy, and economic policy-makers are desperately trying to get consumers buying again. For example, this article:  "The chief of the U.S. central bank says American consumers have been “exceptionally cautious” in their spending habits in recent months, one reason that the country’s economy is growing at a tepid pace."

One of Gandhi's great fears was that India would become a consumer society, dependent on machine-made imports for its basic goods, and the functioning of its economy (in other words, present-day America). In 1922, he wrote that "[it would be] an economic blunder of the first magnitude... to supply cheap bread through huge bakeries established in the chief centres in India and to destroy the family stove." He argued that "instead of half a dozen cities of India and Great Britain living on the exploitation and the ruin of 700,000 villages of India, the latter will be largely self-contained."

In the quotes above, Gandhi is arguing against centralized production. For Gandhi, localized production is preferable because it grants individuals "economic freedom and equality of all"; it makes one "feel aglow with the possession of power that has lain hidden within himself, and makes him proud of his identity."

Gandhi would look at the proliferation of big-box stores, multi-national corporations, and global commerce and say, Where is the individual's economic freedom? Where is individual self-respect? Where is identity? He would say, bake your own bread, grow your own vegetables, make your own clothes. Gandhi would buy local food, shop at farmer's markets, eschew Target and Wal-Mart.

Returning to Wagner and his claim that the individual has no power to "Go Green", I would say, yes, you are right, the individual has little power. But, what about the community? Gandhi saw an India of 700,000 self-contained, sustainable, villages, a nation thriving with local economies. Why not an America of 700,000 local economies? What better way to subvert the environmental carelessness of profit-minded, global corporations than by spending dollars in one's own community? Jobs shouldn't be created by driving up consumer spending so that Wal-Mart will build more stores. People should create their own jobs by, well, by creating.

A proliferation of local economies does not mean a return to village life. A local economy is a neighborhood of a city that has urban farms, bakeries, breweries, tailors...

More to follow.....

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Yeeeeeast (With Two Time-Lapse Videos!!)

Yeast are
  • single-celled fungi
  • 50% protein
  • asexual; they split into two to reproduce
  • everywhere 

They can 
  • breath oxygen (respire)
  • or, in the absence of oxygen, they can ferment sugars and carbohydrates into ethanol and carbon dioxide. 

Most amazingly, yeast are good at surviving in space.  Why is that? 

To get a better idea of what yeast are all about, I filmed some dry active yeast in warm water over the span of about 5 minutes. Here's the video at 500% speed:

While we're at it, mushrooms like to grow in cool ways too. This video, of pearl oyster mushrooms, occurs over the course of a few days in April 2011: 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cooking With Chicken Mushrooms (Laetiporus sp.)

Following up on my "Reishi Mushrooms Are Awesome" post, here's some Chicken of the Woods!

As soon as I spotted these mushrooms growing out of a tree on the banks of the mighty Queets River in the Quinault Rainforest, I knew a few good meals were forthcoming.

Chicken of the Woods tastes...
  • Meaty
  • Lemony
  • Like chicken
  • Like nothing you've ever tasted before...

L. Sulphureus is also good for you!
  • L. sulphureus showed narrow antibacterial activity against Gram-negative bacteria and strongly inhibited the growth of the Gram-positive bacteria tested. (Turkoglu, 2007)
  • LSL (L. sulphureus lectin) is a novel pore-forming lectin homologous to bacterial toxins. (Tateno, 2003)

Cooking tips:

  • Chicken Mushroom With Peanut Sauce - Saute with oil, garlic, and ginger. You really can't overcook these bad boys. Once cooked well, combine with a vinegary peanut sauce. I mixed up some Bragg's liquid aminos, natural peanut butter, rice vinegar, honey, and sesame oil to make a strong sauce.

  • Mushroom Soup - Simmer in a beer broth with carrots and sweet potatoes to create a hearty soup.

Happy Hunting!!