And now for something completely different: in a lighter tone, let’s look at what children’s books might be teaching my kids about science and technology.
Start ’em young! Being a parent of little kids I find myself thinking more about how and where our basic assumptions and impressions about life, society, technology, and science come from. I have realised how easily children absorb anything that they read or watch. This is why I have found myself feeling uneasy about certain children’s books, and I end up needing to explain some of the holes in their reasoning to my kids as we read them. For instance… Barbapapa!
Barbapapa is a french series about a shapeshifting blob-family, and it has been translated to thirty languages. I loved these books as a kid, and I still quite enjoy their animated series where they travel the world and meet animals from all continents. Here in Switzerland we have a couple of these books in German, like this one in the picture: Barbapapas in the Winter. Every time I read this one, however, there are a couple of things that bug me. Continue reading
The Swedish Food Agency (Svenska Livsmedelsverket SLV) recently published a report on a many-faceted breakdown of environmental effects in farming per one kilogram of farming product. This report was also discussed in an opinion piece in the Sweden’s largest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter (under the title “Organic farming has never been better for the environment”).
In this SLV’s report the researchers looked at environmental impacts separated into the subtopics of climate, over-fertilization, acidification, eco-toxicity, energy use, and land use. They determined there to be a difference between the two when a study would find more than 10 % variation in the two farming systems’ respective impacts, and when two thirds of the studies considered would be in agreement over the effect. The number inside each cell signifies the number of studies considered. They compared these effects per one kilogram product for nine categories of food product: milk, beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish and seafood, vegetables, and fruits and berries. (Note, category fish and seafood shortened to ‘fish’ and category fruit and berries to ‘fruit’for space reasons in the version I translated and created into the infographic you see below. The table with its numbers and colours was provided as is in the report).
I’m very happy to introduce my first guest writer, as this piece was a collaboration between me and Lee-Ann MacDonald. Lee-Ann is a Canadian mother of two, who has varied experience from studies into fields as diverse as Arts and Holistic Health as well as Nursing and Pharmacology. She is also an active member of science forums Healthy through Science and Alive with Science, where we discovered our shared interest of looking at alternative medicine from a scientific perspective.
Alternative medicine has a very wholesome image
Alternative medicine, Integrative medicine, or as it now brands itself, Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) gets referred to as the gentler, better approach to western medicine and pharmaceuticals, without the side effects or the money gouging. One of the main cries have been, “there needs to be more research because it obviously has merit”, and, “it doesn’t have the funding behind it that Big Pharma does to conduct research”. But is that true?
For a long time I thought there would be no need for me to write about the misconception that vaccines would somehow be connected to autism. This is a point that has been so extensively studied that there is no way the myth could persist. Right? Well, after several requests to include this topic, and coming across online discussion forums referring people to my articles where many still vigorously subscribe to this idea, I decided it was time. If you are in a hurry, here is a graphic summary of some of the main conclusions from the research:
One real problem with monoculture is that it is often used as a strong argument but in a poorly defined way. The influential food journalist Michael Pollan has gone as far as to claim that monoculture is the “real problem”, the “great evil in american agriculture”. Another common worry is that modern biotech crops lead to “more monoculture”. A major problem with these arguments is that monoculture as a concept is very broad. Before we specify which type and degree of monoculture is the issue, we don’t really know what we are talking about. What is monoculture, and what is it not? In this piece I take a look at this ominous method and its role in modern farming.
Some wineries may have been growing nothing but grapes for hundred(s of) years. Are they the crown of all the ills in agriculture? No, but they are extreme examples of monoculture – which does not equal terrible farming. On the other hand, 90 % of modern farming area is actually not practiced as a monoculture year after year, but they routinely rotate crops.