Friday, January 31, 2014


CONTINUING with Professor Cherry's lecture:
















Thursday, January 30, 2014

ANIMAL Eating....the Ethics #1

In our society today the raising, and killing, of animals, to fill our appetite, is not as clean and simple as we would like to think or believe  -  Keith Hunt


by  Michael Pollan - from his book "Omnivore's  Dilemma"

Eating meat has become morally problematic, at least for people who take the trouble to think about it. Vegetarianism is more popular than it has ever been, and animal rights, the fringiest of fringe movements until just a few years ago, is rapidly finding its way into the cultural mainstream. I'm not completely sure why this should be happening now, given that humans have been eating animals for tens of thousands of years without too much ethical heartburn. Certainly there have been dissenters over the years—Ovid, St. Francis, Tolstoy, and Gandhi come to mind. But the general consensus has always been that humans were indeed omnivores and, whatever spiritual or moral dilemmas the killing and eating of animals posed, our various cultural traditions (everything from the rituals governing slaughter to saying grace before the meal) resolved them for us well enough. For the most part our culture has been telling us for millennia that animals were both good to eat and good to think.
In recent years medical researchers have raised questions about the good to eat part, while philosophers like Singer and organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have given us new reasons to doubt meat is good to think—that is, good for our souls or our moral self-regard. Hunting is in particularly bad odor these days, even among people who still eat meat; apparently it's the fact of killing that these people most object to (as if a steak could be gotten any other way), or perhaps it's the taking pleasure in killing an animal that is the trouble. It may be that as a civilization we're groping toward a higher plane of consciousness. It may be that our moral enlightenment has advanced to the point where the practice of eating animals—like our former practices of keeping slaves or treating women as inferior beings—can now be seen for the barbarity it is, a relic of an ignorant past that very soon will fill us with shame......

Whatever the cause, the effect is an unusual amount of cultural confusion on the subject of animals. For at the same time many of us seem eager to extend the circle of our moral consideration to other species, in our factory farms we're inflicting more suffering on more animals than at any time in history. One by one science is dismantling our claims to uniqueness as a species, discovering that such things as culture, tool making, language, and even possibly self-consciousness are not, as we used to think, the exclusive properties of Homo sapiens. And yet most of the animals we eat lead lives organized very much in the spirit of Descartes, who famously claimed that animals were mere machines, incapable of thought or feeling. .....A few years ago the English writer John Berger wrote an essay called "Why Look at Animals?" in which he suggested that the loss of everyday contact between ourselves and animals—and specifically the loss of eye contact—has left us deeply confused about the terms of our relationship to other species. That eye contact, always slighdy uncanny, had brought the vivid daily reminder that animals were both crucially like and unlike us; in their eyes we glimpsed something unmistakably familiar (pain, fear, courage) but also something irretrievably other (?!). Upon this paradox people built a relationship in which they felt they could both honor and eat animals without looking away. But that accommodation has pretty much broken down; nowadays it seems we either look away or become vegetarians. For my own part, neither option seemed especially appetizing; certainly looking away was now com pletely off the table. Which might explain how it was I found myself attempting to read Peter Singer in a steakhouse.

This is not something I'd recommend if you're determined to continue eating meat. Animal Liberation, comprised of equal parts philosophical argument and journalistic description, is one of those rare books that demands you either defend the way you live or change it. Because Singer is so skilled in argument, for many readers it is easier to change. .Animal Liberation has converted coundess thousands to vegetarianism, and it didn't take me long to see why: within a few pages he had succeeded in throwing me and my meat eating, not to mention my hunting plans, on the defensive.

Singer's argument is disarmingly simple and, provided you accept its premises, difficult to refute. Take the premise of equality among people, which most of us readily accept. Yet what do we really mean by it? After all, people are not, as a matter of fact, equal at all—some are smarter than others, handsomer, more gifted, whatever. "Equality is a moral idea," Singer points out, "not an assertion of fact." The moral idea is that everyone's interests ought to receive equal consideration, regardless of "what they are like or what abilities they have." Fair enough; many philosophers have gone this far. But few have then taken the next logical step. "If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entide one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit non-humans for the same purpose?"

This is the nub of Singer's argument, and right away, here on page six, I began scribbling objections in the margin. But humans differ from animals in morally significant ways. Yes they do, Singer readily acknowledges, which is why we shouldn't treat pigs and children alike. Equal consideration of interests is not the same as equal treatment, he points out; children have an interest in being educated, pigs in rooting around in the dirt. But where their interests are the same, the principle of equality demands they receive the same consideration. And the one all-important interest humans share with pigs, as with all sentient creatures, is an interest in avoiding pain.

Here Singer quotes a famous passage from Jeremy Bentham, the: eighteenth-century utilitarian philosopher. Bentham is writing in 1789, after the French had freed their black slaves and granted them fundamental rights, but before the British or Americans had acted. "The day may come," Bentham wrote, "when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights." Bentham then asks what characteristics entide any being to moral consideration. "Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps the faculty of discourse?" Bentham asks. "But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversational animal, than an infant."
"The question is not Can they reason? Or Can they talk? But Can they suffer?"

Bentham here is playing a powerful card philosophers call the "argument from marginal cases," or AMC for short. It goes like this: There are humans—infants, the severely retarded, the demented—whose mental function does not rise to the level of a chimpanzee. Even though these people cannot reciprocate our moral attentions (obey the golden rule, etc.) we nevertheless include them in the circle of our moral consideration. So on what basis do we exclude the chimpanzee?

Because he's a chimp, I furiously scribble in the margin, and they're human beings! For Singer that's not good enough. To exclude the chimp from moral consideration simply because he's not human is no different than excluding the slave simply because he's not white. In the same way we'd call that exclusion "racist" the animal rightist contends it is "speciesist" to discriminate against the chimpanzee solely because he's not human. But the differences between blacks and whites are trivial compared to the differences between my son and the chimp. Singer asks us to imagine a hypothetical society that discriminates on the basis of something nontrivial— intelligence, say. If that scheme offends our sense of equality, as it surely does, then why is the fact that animals lack this or that human characteristic any more just as a basis for discrimination? Either we do not owe any justice to the severely retarded, he concludes, or we do owe it to animals with higher capabilities.
This is where I put down my fork. If I believe in equality, and equality is based on interests rather than characteristics, then either I have to take the steer's interest into account or accept that I'm a speciesist.
For the time being, I decided, I'll plead guilty as charged. I finished my steak.

But Singer had planted a troubling notion, and in the days afterward it grew and grew, watered by the other animal rights thinkers I began reading: the philosophers Tom Regan and James Rachels, the legal theorist Steven M. Wise, writers like Joy Williams and Matthew Scully. I didn't think I minded being called a speciesist, but could it be, as these writers suggest, we will someday come to regard speciesism as an evil comparable to that of racism? Is it possible that history will someday judge us as harshly as it judges the Germans who went about their lives in the shadow of Treblinka? The South African novelist J. M. Coetzee posed precisely that question in a lecture at Princeton not long ago; he answered it in the affirmative. If the animal rightists are right, then "a crime of stupendous proportions" (in Coetzee's words) is going on all around us every day, just beneath our notice.



Tuesday, January 28, 2014

OBAMA...State of the Union address






















Monday, January 27, 2014

GOOD NEWS....a man and his dog!







MUSHROOMS and FUNGI....NOT created for Human FOOD #2

Continuing with Michael  Pollan's  investigation  into  Mushrooms  and  Fungi

I put that knowledge to good use the following week, when I returned to the oak tree near my house and found beneath it a gold rush of chanterelles. I hadn't thought to bring a bag, and there were more chanterelles than I could carry, so I made a carrier of my T-shirt, folding it up in front of me like a basket, and then filled it with the big, mud-encrusted mushrooms. I drew looks from passers-by—looks of envy, I decided, though at the time I was so excited I may have gotten that wrong. So now I have a spot and, just like Jean-Pierre's, it's right here in town. (Please don't ask me where it is; I don't want to have to kill you.)

Once the rains stopped in April the chanterelles were done for the year, and there wouldn't be another important mushroom to hunt until the morels came up in May. I used the time before then to read about mushrooms and talk to mycologists, hoping to answer some of the questions I had collected about fungi, a life form I was beginning to regard as deeply mysterious. What made mushrooms mushroom when and where they did? Why do chanterelles associate with oaks and morels with pines? Why under this tree and not that one? How long do they live? Why do some mushrooms manufacture deadly toxins, not to mention powerful hallucinogens and a range of delicious flavors? I brought the gardener's perspective to these plantlike objects, but of course they're not plants, and plant knowledge is all but useless in understanding fungi, which are in fact more closely related to animals than they are to plants.

As it happens the answers to most of my questions about mushrooms, even the most straightforward ones, are elusive. Indeed, it is humbling to realize just how little we know about this, the third kingdom of life on earth. The books I consulted brimmed with confessions of their ignorance: "it is not known why this should be" . . . "the number of genders among fungi is as yet undetermined" . . . "the exact mechanisms by which this phenomenon occurs are not entirely understood at this time" . . . "the fundamental chemistry responsible for the vivid hallucinations was a mystery then, and remains so today" . . . "it is not certain whether the morel is a saprophytic or a mycorrhizal species, or perhaps it is both, a changeling" . . . and so on, through thousands of pages of the mycological literature. When I went to visit David Arora, the renowned mycologist whose doorstop of a field guide, Mushrooms Demystified, is the West Coast mushroomer's bible, I asked him what he considered the big open questions in his field. Without a moment's hesitation he named two: "Why here and not there? Why now and not then?"

In other words, we don't know the most basic things about mushrooms.

Part of the problem is simply that fungi are very difficult to observe. What we call a mushroom is only the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger and essentially invisible organism that lives most of its life underground. The mushroom is the "fruiting body" of a subterranean network of microscopic hyphae, improbably long rootlike cells that thread themselves through the soil like neurons. Bunched like cables, the hyphae form webs of (still microscopic) mycelium. Mycologists can't dig up a mushroom like a plant to study its structure because its mycelium is too tiny and delicate to tease from the soil without disintegrating. Hard as it may be to see a mushroom—the most visible and tangible part!—to see the whole organism of which it is merely a component may simply be impossible. Fungi also lack the comprehensible syntax of plants, the orderly and visible chronology of seed and vegetative growth, flower, fruit, and seed again. The fungi surely have a syntax of their own, but we don't know all its rules, especially the ones that govern the creation of a mushroom, which can take three years or  thirty, depending. On what? We don't really know. All of which makes mushrooms seem autochthonous, arising seemingly from nowhere, seemingly without cause.

Fungi, lacking chlorophyll, differ from plants in that they can't manufacture food energy from the sun. Like animals, they feed on organic matter made by plants, or by plant eaters. Most of the fungi we eat obtain their energy by one of two means: saprophytically, by decomposing dead vegetable matter, and mycorrhizally, by associating with the roots of living plants. Among the saprophytes, many of which can be cultivated by inoculating a suitable mass of dead organic matter (logs, manure, grain) with their spores, are the common white button mushrooms, shiitakes, cremini, Portobellos, and oyster mushrooms. Most of the choicest wild mushrooms are impossible to cultivate, or nearly so, since they need living and often very old trees in order to grow, and can take several decades to fruit. The mycelium can grow more or less indefinitely, in some cases for centuries, without necessarily fruiting. A single fungus recently found in Michigan covers an area of forty acres underground and is thought to be a few centuries old. So inoculating old oaks or pines is no guarantee of harvesting future mushrooms, at least not on a human time scale. Presumably, these fungi live and die on an arboreal time scale.

Mycorrhizal fungi have coevolved with trees, with whom they've worked out a mutually beneficial relationship in which they trade the products of their very different metabolisms. If the special genius of plants is photosynthesis, the ability of chlorophyll to transform sunlight and water and soil minerals into carbohydrates, the special genius of fungi is the ability to break down organic molecules and minerals into simple molecules and atoms through the action of their powerful enzymes. The hyphae surround or penetrate the plant's roots, providing them with a steady diet of elements in exchange for a drop of simple sugars that the plant synthesizes in its leaves. The network of hyphae vasdy extends the effective reach and surface area of a plant's root system, and while trees can survive without their fungal associates, they seldom thrive. It is thought that the fungi may also protect their plant hosts from bacterial and fungal diseases.

The talent of fungi for decomposing and recycling organic matter is what makes them indispensable, not only to trees but to all life on earth. If the soil is the earth's stomach, fungi supply its digestive enzymes—literally. Without fungi to break things down, the earth would long ago have suffocated beneath a blanket of organic matter created by plants; the dead would pile up without end, the carbon cycle would cease to function, and living things would run out of things to eat. We tend to train our attention and science on life and growth, but of course death and decomposition are no less important to nature's operations, and the fungi are the undisputed rulers of this realm.

That the fungi are so steeped in death might account for much of their mystery and our mycophobia. They stand on the threshold between the living and the dead, breaking the dead down into food for the living, a process on which no one likes to dwell. Cemeteries are usually good places to hunt for mushrooms. (Mexicans call mushrooms came de los muertos—"flesh of the dead.") The fact that mushrooms can themselves be direct agents of death doesn't exacdy shine their reputation, either. Just why they should produce such potent toxins isn't well understood; many mycologists assume the toxins are defenses, but others point out that if poisoning the animals that eat you is such a good survival strategy, then why aren't all mushrooms poisonous by now? Some of their toxins may simply be fungal tools for doing what fungi do: breaking down complicated organic compounds. What the deadly amanita does to a human liver is, in effect, to digest it from within.

The evolutionary reason many mushrooms produce powerful hallucinogens is even more mysterious, though it probably has nothing to do with creating hallucinations in human brains. As the word intoxication implies, substances that poison the body sometimes can change consciousness, too. This might explain why mycophiles think civilians make far too much of the dangers of mushrooms, which they see as occupying a continuum from the deadly to the really interesting. The dose makes the poison, as they say, and the same mushroom toxins that can kill can also, in smaller doses, produce astonishing mental effects, ranging from the ecstatic to the horrific. No doubt the mind-altering properties of many common mushrooms, known to people for thousands of years, have nourished the cult of mystery surrounding the fungal kingdom, in this case feeding both mycophobia and mycophilia alike.

Andrew Weil points out an interesting paradox about mushrooms: It's difficult to reconcile the extraordinary energies of these organisms with the fact that they contain relatively little of the kind of energy that scientists usually measure: calories. Because they don't supply many calories, nutritionists don't regard mushrooms as an important source of nutrition. (They do provide some minerals and vitamins, as well as a few essential amino acids, which are what give some species their meaty flavor.) But calories are simply units of solar energy that have been captured and stored by green plants and, as Weil points out, "mushrooms have little to do with the sun." They emerge at night and wither in the light of day. Their energies are of an entirely different order from those of plants, and their energies are prodigious and strange. Consider:

There are fungi like the shaggy mane (Coprinus comatus) that can push their soft fleshy tissue through asphalt. Inky caps (Coprinus atramentarius) can mushroom in a matter of hours and then, over the course of a day, dissolve themselves into a puddle of blackish ink. Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) can digest a pile of petrochemical sludge in a fortnight, transforming the toxic waste into edible protein. (This alchemy makes more sense when you recall that what saprophytic mushrooms have evolved to do is break down complex organic molecules, which is precisely what petrochemicals are.) Jack o'lanterns (Omphalotus olivascens) can glow in the dark, emitting an eerie blue bioluminescence for reasons unknown. The psilocybes can alter the texture of human consciousness and inspire visions; Amanita muscaria can derange the mind. And of course there are the handful of fungi that can kill.

We don't have the scientific tools to measure or even account for these fungi's unusual powers. Weil speculates that their energies derive from the moon rather than the sun, that mushrooms contain, instead of calories of solar origin, prodigious amounts of lunar energy.

Okay, it is hard, I agree, to avoid the conclusion that some of the people who write about mushrooms have themselves partaken, perhaps immoderately, of the mind-altering kinds. Their reverence for their subject runs so deep that they will pursue it wherever it leads, even if that means occasionally leaping the fence of current scientific understanding. In the case of mushrooms, that's not a very tall or sturdy fence. A powerful and compelling strain of mysticism runs like branching ; mycelia through the mycological literature, where I encountered one j incredible speculation after another: that the mycelia of fungi are liter- j ally neurons, together comprising an organ of terrestrial intelligence and communication (Paul Stamets); that the ingestion of hallucinogenic mushrooms by the higher primates spurred the rapid evolution of the human brain (Terence McKenna); that the hallucinogenic mushrooms ingested by early man inspired the shamanic visions that led to the birth of religion (Gordon Wasson); that the ritual ingestion of a hallucinogenic fungus—called ergot—by Greek thinkers (including Plato) at Eleusis is responsible for some of the greatest achievements of Greek culture, including Platonic philosophy (Wasson again); that wild mushrooms in the diet, by nourishing the human unconscious with lunar energy, "stimulate imagination and intuition" (Andrew Weil).

I'm not prepared to discount any of these speculations just because they're not provable by our science. Mushrooms are mysterious. Who's to say the day won't come when science will be able to measure the fungi's exotic energies, perhaps even calculate our minimum daily requirement of lunar calories?





Keith Hunt

Sunday, January 26, 2014

MUSHROOMS and FUNGI....NOT created for Human FOOD #1

MUSHROOMS AND FUNGI.....not Created for Human Food #1

I  have  known  the  truth  about  mushrooms and fungi not being created by God for human food  for  decades,  but  I've  had  to  wait  for  decades  to  finally  have  someone  write  the  technicalities  of  it,  in  simple  to  understand  language  -  Michael  Pollan  has  done  just  that.  When  you  finish  reading  this  two-part  study,  some  simple  logic  common  sense  should  tell  you  that  mushrooms  and  fungi,  were  never  given  by  the  Creator  for  us  to  eat  -  Keith Hunt


by  Michael Pollan from his book "Omnivore's Dilemma"( 2006)

.......I hadn't actually thought about the gardener's worldview in this light till I'd spent some time mushroom hunting, which proposes a whole other way of being in nature. Hunting for mushrooms is an operation that superficially resembles harvesting—you're looking around in nature for the ready-to-eat—yet you quickly discover that the two activities could hardly be more different. For starters, mushrooms are usually hunted in an unfamiliar place where you stand a very good chance of getting lost, particularly since you are looking down at the ground so determinedly the whole time. Getting lost just isn't much of a problem in the garden. (Which is why gardeners looking to create that experience plant mazes.) And whereas in your garden the ready-to-eat tomato beckons to you, flashing red from out of the undifferentiated green, mushrooms definitely hide. Picking and eating the wrong ones could get you killed, too, something not easily done in the garden. No, gratifying human needs and desires is just not what mushrooms are about. Mushrooms, you soon discover, are wild things in every way, beings pursuing their own agenda quite apart from ours. Which is why "hunting," rather than harvesting, is the mycophile's preferred term of art.

It was a Sunday morning in late January when I got the call from Angelo.
"The chanterelles are up," he announced.
"How do you know? Have you been out looking?"
"No, not yet. But it's been three weeks since the big rains." We'd had a torrential week between the holidays. "They're up now, I'm sure of that. We should go tomorrow."
At the time I barely knew Angelo (we had yet to go pig hunting), which made his invitation to come mushrooming with him all the more generous. Mushroom hunters are famously protective of their "spots," and a good chanterelle spot is a precious personal possession (though not quite as precious as a good porcini spot). Before Angelo agreed to take me I'd asked a slew of acquaintances I knew to be my-cophiles if I might accompany them. (The Bay Area is home to many such people, probably because mushroom hunting marries the region's two guiding obsessions: eating and the outdoors.) I was always careful to solemnly swear to protect the location of their spots. For some people you could see at once that this was an entirely outrageous request, tantamount to asking if I might borrow their credit card for the afternoon. Others reacted more calmly, yet always cagily Angelo's friend Jean-Pierre is reputed to have good chanterelle spots right within the Berkeley city limits, but he repeatedly found polite ways to deflect my entreaties into the distant future. Several mushroom hunters responded to my request with the same joke: "Sure, you can come mushroom hunting with me, but I must tell you that immediately afterward I will have to kill you." What you fully expect to follow such a jokey warning (a warning I always parried with an offer to wear a blindfold coming and going) is some sort of conditional invitation, but it never arrives. Without ever exactly saying no, the mushroom hunter will defdy beg off or change the subject. I thought maybe the problem was that I was a writer, somebody who might do something as crazy as publish the location of a favorite spot, so I emphasized that a journalist would sooner go to jail than reveal a secret from a confidential source. This swayed precisely no one. I was beginning to think it was hopeless, that I was going to have to learn to hunt mushrooms from books—a dubious, not to mention dangerous, proposition. And then Angelo called.

Though I probably shouldn't overstate Angelo's generosity. The place he took me mushrooming was on private and gated land owned by an old friend of his, so it wasn't as though he was giving away the family jewels. The property was a vineyard outside of Glen Ellen, with several hundred untended acres of oak chaparral stretching to the northeast toward St. Helena. As soon as you stepped out of the manicured vineyard the land relaxed into gently rolling savanna, with broad sloping passages of grass, verdant after the winter rains, punctuated by shady groves of live oak and bay laurel.

The chanterelle is a mycorrhizal species, which means it lives in association with the roots of plants—oak trees, in the chanterelle's case, and usually oak trees of a venerable age. Though there must have been hundreds of promisingly ancient oaks here, Angelo, who had been hunting chanterelles on the property for years, seemed to be on a first name basis with every one of them. "That one there is a producer," he'd tell me, pointing across the meadow with his forked walking stick to an unremarkable tree. "But the one next to it, I never once found a mushroom there."

I cut my own walking stick from an oak branch and set off across the meadow to hunt beneath the tree Angelo had declared a good producer. He had instructed me to use the stick to turn over the leaf litter wherever it seemed uplifted. The stick also would carry spores from one tree to another, Angelo explained; evidently he regarded himself as something of a bumblebee to the chanterelles, transporting their genes from tree to tree. (In general mushroom hunters view their role in nature as benign.) I looked around my tree for a few minutes, walking a stooped circle under its drip line, flicking the leaf litter here and there with my stick, but I saw nothing. Eventually Angelo came over and pointed to a spot no more than a yard from where I stood. I looked, I stared, but still saw nothing but a chaotic field of tan leaves and tangled branches. Angelo got down on his knees and brushed the leaves and soil away to reveal a bright squash-colored trumpet the size of his fist. He cut it at the base with a knife and handed it to me; the mushroom was unexpectedly heavy, and cool to the touch.

How in the world had he spotted it? The mushroom hadn't even peeked up from the leaf litter yet. Apparently you had to study the leaves for subtle signs of hydraulic lift from below, and then look at the ground sideways, because the fat gold shafts of the chanterelles often reveal themselves before their tops break through the leaves. Yet when Angelo pointed to another spot under the same tree, a spot where he had obviously seen another mushroom, I was still blind. Not until he had shuffled the leaves with the tip of his stick did the golden nugget of fungus flash at me. I became convinced that Angelo had some other sense working for him besides sight, that he must be smelling the chanterelles before looking down to see them.

But that's apparendy how it goes with hunting mushrooms: You have to get your eyes on, as hunters will sometimes put it. And after following Angelo around for a while, I did begin to get my eyes on, a little, though at first, oddly enough, this would only happen when I was in Angelo's presence, working the same oak tree. Other novices talk about this phenomenon, and I suspect it's a little like the trick of the counting horse, who is not really doing arithmetic, as it appears, but is merely picking up subtle clues in the body language of its trainer. Wherever Angelo lingered, wherever the beams of his gaze raked the ground with particular intensity, I would look and occasionally would see. I was the horse who could count, the man who could find a chanterelle using someone else's eyes.

But before the morning was out I'd begun to find a few chanterelles on my own. I began to understand what it meant to have my eyes on, and the chanterelles started to pop out of the landscape, one and then another, almost as though they were beckoning to me. So had I stumbled on a particularly good spot or had I learned at last how to see them? Nature or nurture? There was no way of telling, though I did have the eerie experience of resurveying the very same patch of ground and finding a Siamese pair of chanterelles, bright as double egg yolks, in a spot where a moment before I could swear there had been nothing but the tan carpet of leaves. Either they had just popped up or visual perception is a lot more variable, and psychological, than we think. It is certainly ruled by expectation, because whenever I was convinced I was in a good spot the mushrooms were more likely to appear. "Seeing is believing" has it backward when it comes to hunting mushrooms; in this case, believing is seeing. My ability to see mushrooms seemed to function less like a window than a tool, a constructed and wielded thing.

After spotting a couple of nice ones I developed a measure of confidence that ultimately proved to be unfounded. Based on my still modest scores I worked out a snap theory of the Good Spot, which involved the optimal springiness of the soil and the distance from the trunk, but the theory didn't hold up. After a brief run of luck I prompdy went blind again—and failed to find another mushroom all day. I would say there were no more mushrooms left to find, except that Angelo was still finding them under canopies I had supposedly exhausted; not a lot— we were a few days early, he decided—but enough to fill a grocery bag.
I had managed to find a total of five, which doesn't sound like much except that several of them weighed close to a pound each. My five chanterelles were tremendous, beautiful things I couldn't wait to taste.
And that night I did. I washed off the dirt, patted them dry, and then sliced the chanterelles into creamy white slabs. They smelled faintly of apricots, and I knew at once that this was the same mushroom I had found near my house, the one I had been afraid to taste. The squashy hue matched, and these had the same shallow gills, ridges really, running up the stalk, which flared out to meet the gently in-folded cap like a stout golden vase. I sauteed the chanterelles as Angelo had recommended, first in a dry frying pan to sweat out their water, which was copious, and then with butter and shallots. The mushrooms were delicious in a subde way that could easily be overwhelmed or overlooked. They had a delicate flavor, fruity with a hint of pepper, and a firm but silky texture.
You might reasonably ask if, eating my wild mushrooms, I felt the least bit concerned about waking up dead. Did I harbor any lingering doubts that these mushrooms were really chanterelles—edible delicacies and not some deadly poison Angelo had mistaken for chanterelles? An understandable question, yet oddly enough, in view of my myco-phobic predilections, it was no longer an issue. Oh, maybe I felt the vaguest shadow of a doubt as I lifted the first forkful, but it was easily brushed aside. I trusted Angelo implicitly, and besides, these mushrooms smelled and tasted right.

At dinner that night we joked about mushroom poisoning, recalling the time Judith had stumbled upon a prodigious patch of morels while biking with her friend Christopher in Connecticut. She came home with a trash bag half full of them, an astounding haul. But I could not bring myself to serve the mushrooms until we could get some kind of confirmation that these were indeed morels and not, say, the "false morels" that the field guides warned against. But how to be sure? I couldn't quite trust the books, or at least my reading of them. The solution to the dilemma seemed obvious, if perhaps a little heartless. I proposed to Judith we put the morels in the refrigerator overnight, and then give Christopher a call in the morning. Assuming he was sufficiently alive to answer his phone, he would undoubtedly mention whether he'd eaten the morels the previous night, and we would then know ours were safe to eat. I saw no reason to mention his role as an experimental human subject.

Well, that's one way of dealing with the omnivore's dilemma. Wild mushrooms in general throw that dilemma into particularly sharp relief, since they confront us simultaneously with some of the edible world's greatest rewards and gravest risks. Arguably, mushroom eating poses the starkest case of the omnivore's dilemma, which could explain why people hold such strong feelings, pro or con, on the subject of wild mushrooms. As mycologists are fond of pointing out, you can divide most people, and even whole cultures, into mycophiles and mycophobes. Anglo-Americans are notoriously mycophobic, while Europeans and Russians tend to be passionate mycophiles, or so mush-roomers will tell you. But I suspect most of us harbor both impulses in varying proportions, approaching the wild mushroom with a heightened sense of the omnivore's basic tension as we struggle to balance our adventurousness in eating against a protective fear, our neophilia against our neophobia.

As the case of mushrooms suggests the omnivore's dilemma often comes down to a question of identification—to knowing exactly what it is you are preparing to eat. From the moment Angelo handed me that first mushroom, what is and is not a chanterelle suddenly seemed as plain to me as sunshine. I knew right then that the next time I found a chanterelle, anywhere, I would recognize it and not hesitate to eat it. Which is peculiar, when you consider that in the case of the chanterelle I found in my neighborhood, a half dozen authoritative field guides by credentialed mycologists had failed to convince me beyond a reasonable doubt of something I now was willing to bet my life on, based on the say-so of one Sicilian guy with no mycological training whatsoever. How could that be?

In deciding whether or not to ingest a new food, the omnivore will happily follow the lead of a fellow omnivore who has eaten the same food and lived to talk about it. This is one advantage we have over the rat, which has no way of sharing with other rats the results of his digestive experiments with novel foodstuffs. For the individual human, his community and culture successfully mediate the omnivore's dilemma, telling him what other people have safely eaten in the past as well as how they ate it. Just imagine if we had to decide every such edibility question on our own; only the bravest or most foolish of us would ever eat a mushroom. The social contract is a great boon to omnivores in general, and to mushroom eaters in particular.

The field guides contain our culture's accumulated wisdom on the subject of mushrooms. Curiously, though, the process of imparting and absorbing this life-and-death information works much better in person than it does on paper, whether through writing or even photography. Andrew Weil discusses this phenomenon in a wonderful series of essays on mushrooms he's collected in a volume called The Marriage of the Sun and Moon. "One learns most mushrooms in only one way: through people who know them. It is terribly difficult to do it from books, pictures, or written descriptions."
I wonder if books fail us here because the teaching transaction— This one is good to eat, that one not—is so fundamental, even primordial, that we're instinctively reluctant to trust it to any communication medium save the oldest: that is, direct personal testimony from, to put it blundy, survivors. After all, precisely what is meant by "this one," the myriad qualities embedded in that modest little pronoun, can be conveyed only imperfecdy in words and pictures. Our ability to identify plants and fungi with confidence, which after all is one of the most critical tools of our survival, involves far more sensory information than can ever be printed on a page; it is, truly, a form of "body knowledge" not easily reduced or conveyed over a distance........"



Saturday, January 25, 2014
























The IMPORTANCE of BEES!!! Dr. Mercola

Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?

January 25, 2014 | 

By Dr. Mercola
Honey bees are responsible for producing one-third of your fresh fruits and vegetables, but they're disappearing at a startling rate.
Since the mid-2000s, honey bees all around the world, including the US, have been dying in unprecedented numbers—many hives literally disappearing without a trace—in a mysterious phenomenon dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us?,1 created by Taggart Siegel, takes us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive. This engaging and ultimately uplifting film weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists, and philosophers from around the world including Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk, and Vandana Shiva. Together they reveal both the problems and solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature.
It also explores the ancient relationship between man and bees—a relationship that, historically, was considered nothing less than sacred. Returning to life in balance with nature is the ultimate solution, and when it comes to bees, it's something we'll have to do lest we risk perishing right along with them.
Some 130 different kinds of crops require honeybees to transport pollen between flowers, prompting fertilization and jump-starting the production of seed and fruit. As they buzz around in flight, the bee's hair develops static electricity.
When a bee lands on a flower, this static charge attracts pollen to the bee like a magnet. Honey bees from one hive can visit more than 100,000 flowers in a single day. Without honey bees, farmers would have to resort to pollinating their crops by hand, which is no quick and easy task...

Honey Bees Are Crucial for Our Environment and Survival

In an interview with The Press, a daily newspaper in New Zealand, Taggart Siegel revealed the inspiration behind the film:2
"I had no idea about the importance of honeybees until I read an article in 2007 that bees were not only so crucial to our environment, but that they were dying out on a mass scale...
The article had a quote attributed to Einstein which scared me enough to get me to pick up my camera and dedicate the next three years of my life to this film. The quote read, 'If bees die out, man will only have four years of life left on Earth.' Even though this quote has been since disputed, it had a lasting effect on me, and the truth is that bees are so vital to our planet that we can't afford to lose them."
Despite the somber topic, Queen of the Sun is not a downer by any means. On the contrary, it's filled with the heart of eclectic and passionate characters that inspire hope and gratitude for these most important of agricultural workers.
For example, there's historian Yvon Achard, who recites poetry to his bees and tickles them with his mustache, and Sara Mapelli, who once danced with 12,000 bees on her body (she's the bee-covered woman shown on the DVD cover).

What's Killing the Bees?

The collapse of bee colonies is probably multifactorial, rather than a response to one individual type of toxic assault. That said, certain pesticides called neonicotinoids have been identified as having a particularly devastating impact on bee health and survival.
Bee colonies began disappearing in the US shortly after the EPA allowed these new insecticides on the market. Even the EPA itself admits that "pesticide poisoning" is a likely cause of CCD. Two prominent examples, imidacloprid and clothianidin, are used as seed treatments in hundreds of crops, and virtually all of today's genetically engineered Bt corn is treated with neonicotinoids.
One of the observed effects of these insecticides is weakening of the bee's immune system. Forager bees bring pesticide-laden pollen back to the hive, where it's consumed by all of the bees. About six months later, their immune systems fail, and they end up contracting secondary infections from parasites, mites, viruses, fungi, and bacteria.
Monoculture—the practice of growing of just one type of crop on a massive scale—is another major contributing factor, as there is no such thing as monoculture in nature. In the past, farms were highly diversified, with all sorts of animals and vegetation cohabiting on the land. Today, fields of corn and soy stretch for hundreds of miles.
As it turns out, pests thrive in monoculture, so massive quantities of pesticides are required to keep them in check. Monoculture also cuts down on the variety of nutrition the bees get. In some areas, bees simply cannot survive due to lack of food.
While experts are still trying to understand the complexities involved in CCD, they do agree about one thing: if we allow this to continue, our global food supply is at risk... And, as stated in the film:
"Colony collapse disorder is the bill we're getting for all the things we've done to the bees. You could call it colony collapse disorder of the human being too."

Reclaiming the Sacred Relationship with Bees

As stated in the film, the solution to this pervasive and downright life threatening problem lies in renewing a culture that operates in balance with nature. As stated by the filmmaker:3
"In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, a scientist, philosopher and social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse. His prediction has come true with Colony Collapse Disorder where bees are disappearing in mass numbers from their hives with no clear explanation.
...On a pilgrimage around the world, 10,000 years of beekeeping is unveiled, highlighting how our historic and sacred relationship with bees has been lost due to highly mechanized industrial practices."
Supporting organic beekeepers is one way you can help turn the tide and increase the number of healthy bee colonies, which are so crucial to our food supply. Organic beekeepers take a far different approach to beekeeping than large migratory operations. They have fewer hives, and they don't truck their bees around for pollination. They also don't feed their bees the sugar syrups and artificial pollen substitutes typically used in large-scale commercial bee operations. As stated by Michael Pollan, "Nothing is more viscerally offensive than feeding the creators of honey high-fructose corn syrup."

What You Can Do to Help Protect the Bees

Queen of the Sun has a section on their website4 devoted to things you can do to help protect our honey bees. Here are some suggestions for actions you can take:
  • Support organic farmers and shop at local farmer's markets as often as possible. You can "vote with your fork" three times a day.
  • Cut the use of toxic chemicals in your house and on your lawn, and use organic pest control.
  • Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a garden. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide good honey bee habitats. It's also recommended to keep a small basin of fresh water in your garden or backyard, as bees actually do get thirsty!
  • Become an amateur beekeeper. Having a hive in your garden requires only about an hour of your time per week, benefits your local ecosystem, and you can enjoy your own honey!  As Queen of the Sun shows, many city dwellers are becoming adept smalltime beekeepers.
For educators, there's a free PDF,5 written by Waldorf teacher Lauren Johnson, which you can download and use as your curriculum. It also contains a guide to creating your own urban beehive tour. You can also host a screening of Queen of the Sun. For more details and instructions, please see the Queen of the Sun website.6 There you can also sign up for their newsletter for timely updates. If you are interested in more information about bee preservation, the following organizations are a good place to start.
  • Pesticide Action Network Bee Campaign7
  • The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees8
  • American Beekeeping Federation9
  • Help the Honey Bees10