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September 7, 2011

The Cove: Dolphins in Japan

September 6, 2011

As you may have noticed, I have been watching a lot of Netflix documentaries. While I was searching for a new documentary to watch, The Cove kept coming up as a must see.

The Cove is set in Taiji, Japan where there has been substantial business for fishermen through dolphin hunting. At first I was skeptical because in the United States we have commercialized meat and kill cows and pigs at an increasingly alarming rate with a very low quality of life for the animals. I thought that maybe this documentary was only focused on dolphins because they were a more love-able and a human-friendly species. To me I thought, what is really the big difference between the mass killing of cows for consumption in the United States from the mass killing of dolphins in Japan for consumption. Wouldn’t I as an American be a hypocrite to condemn them for these killings if I didn’t also condemn the United States for the production of beef? (I do prefer free-range meat though…)

As an animal lover, I was glad this documentary had the facts to back up their argument. Come to find out, dolphins have such a high level of mercury that their meat is toxic to eat. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the approved amount of mercury in any type of meat is .4 ppm (parts per million). In dolphin meat, the level of mercury is 2000 ppm! Who would eat this meat (?) you may ask.. it seems that not many people want it. In the documentary, the activists talked to Japanese citizens living the the big cities, and they were shocked to hear that people were eating dolphin meat. The activists also visited several different meat markets in Japan and bought all different types of whale meat (dolphin is considered in the whale family) to run tests. What the scientists found was that some expensive healthy whale meat was mislabeled and what they were really buying was dolphin meat. They also found, from two brave Japan council members, that the meat was given away free to the public school system for children to have for lunch.

What’s more worrisome is that eating this meat is like eating toxins. Having too much mercury can result in memory loss, loss of hearing, and loss of sight. The toxins slowly degrade the neurological system and can have dangerous consequences. Japan is no stranger to mercury poisoning either! In the 1950’s a town in Japan by the name of Minamata came down with a lot of sick children who had extreme neurological damage. They soon found out that they had a high level of mercury poisoning from a chemical company that was dumping their waste-water into the local bay. This then caused the shellfish and fish to become tainted with high levels of mercury, which were then consumed by the people. Many of the pregnant women who ate this toxic seafood (and seafood is an integral part to the Japanese diet) would give birth to sick children. They eventually deemed this sickness the Minamata disease, but it is really nothing more than extreme mercury poisoning.

To add insult to injury, the method that the dolphins are being killed is very inhumane and cruel. In the documentary they place hidden cameras to obtain raw footage of the slaughter, and it is very difficult to watch as these mammals are stabbed and speared with no skill.

Dolphins have proven that they are cognitive, creative, and caring mammals. There is no benefit to their captivity and we should put a stop to their needless slaughter.

The French Organic Revolution

September 5, 2011

I am moving to France soon, and because I have been following the green trend in New York City (organic, vegan.. etc) I was curious to see if this trend had also spread to Europe. I did some searching and found a documentary about a small french town, Barjac, whose mayor insisted that the children of the school be fed only organic food.

The statistics in this movie are really informative. In one study the scientists tested the umbilical cord of a baby and found 30 different traces of chemicals. Another statistic was that in males there was a 93% increase in cancer in the last 25 years. They attribute these changes to the increase in the amount of pesticides and herbicides that are used in growing food and also the processed foods that we consume.

Something I found really interesting in the clip above was that during the lecture one of the citizens in the audience asked, rather skeptically, that if there is so much danger with these pesticides and chemicals why has the life expectancy in seniors risen. The answer was that the current generation living longer was born in the 1920’s and 30’s, before pesticides and ionized radiation were prominent. The next generation is thought to have a shorter life expectancy then their parents. This is something that has never happened before…

The film also visits several of the farms in this small town that use pesticides and documents the effects that they have had on the farmers and the community. The farmers have to wear gas masks and gloves while tending to their field due to the dangerous chemicals and many have complications from the chemicals. Not only the farmers are effected but also their children, the most common effect of these pesticides being leukemia.

A great documentary to watch and very informative on the struggle and necessity for ‘clean’ food worldwide.

La vie en rose – Edith Piaf

August 28, 2011

Edith Piaf is comparable to the Judy Garland of France. Her music is legendary and her life is quite a story to tell. I watched the movie La vie en Rose a while ago and her voice is truly captivating.

You might have also heard her song “Non, je ne regrette rien” on the movie Inception. Interesting fact: the actress that plays Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (Marion Cotillard) also plays the wife of Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception.

Édith Piaf, born Édith Giovanna Gassion (December 19, 1915 – October 11, 1963)

C-sections on the rise in the United States compared to other countries

August 28, 2011

Interesting video of why Cesarean Sections (also known as C-sections) are on the rise in the United States compared to other countries. The normal C-section rate is around 7% and is only used in extreme situations. In the U.S. the C-section rate is now around 34% and still on the rise.

I also watched a documentary titled “Pregnant in America” that said many doctors recommend C-sections not because it is best for the mom or baby, but because they are either overly cautious due to fear of being sued for malpractice, or time constraints. When I say time constraints, I mean that usually a vaginal birth is not a fast process, but a c-section can be scheduled and takes about 20 minutes, which allows doctors to get back to their practice and see other patients…

Hmm… I still think I am more inclined to go to a hospital, but it does make you think twice.

What the bottled water industry doesn’t want you to know…

August 28, 2011

“Whiskey is for sipping and water is for fighting.” -Mark Twain

The bottled water industry has turned natural human necessities into products that we purchase for astronomical prices, many times not knowing exactly what we are purchasing or how it will effect our world in the future.

At the FDA there is only one person that overseas all the bottled world industry in the United States… talk about overworked and she also says she has “other responsibilities”.

Public drinking water is tested 300 times a month to ensure the safety of the water. Private drinking water (bottled water) does not go through this rigorous testing. The water companies themselves are the ones that conduct all of the safety tests! Can you imagine a big corporation actually bringing reports to the FDA saying their bottled water contains bacteria or that the plastic is leaching dangerous chemicals?? Neither can I.

PET plastic bottles and BPA water jugs can be dangerous, and studies are starting to show that they have an increased amount of estrogen and can cause reproductive problems. Also, the actual bottles are made from crude oil and 6 million of these bottles are disposed of a day. Where do these bottles go? Only around 20% are actually recycled… a lot have found themselves into our ocean, with an area the size of Texas in the Pacific littered with dangerous plastic. Did you know it takes on average 20 pieces of plastic debris to kill a fish? We will also be consuming these fish and ingesting these dangerous chemicals all over again.

The bottled water industry is marketing at it’s best, but it fails to offer anything different than tap water… and come to find out it may be more dangerous to our health and absolutely more devastating for our environment.

As someone that used to buy bottled water everyday, after seeing the documentary below, Tapped, I look at bottled water as a horrible convenience that is robbing us of a clean environment, making us more dependent on oil, and could be endangering our health.

Lesson for the day: drink tap water!!

Octavio Paz; Poetry on Culture

April 1, 2010

“What sets worlds in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions.

Life is plurality, death is uniformity.

By suppressing differences and peculiarities, by eliminating different civilizations and cultures, progress weakens life and favors death.

The ideal of a single civilization for everyone, implicit in the cult of progress and technique, impoverishes and mutilates us.

Every view of the world that becomes extinct, every culture that disappears, diminishes a possibility of life”

-Octavio Paz (Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, 1914-1998)

Tektonik Dance Craze in France

March 29, 2010

When I took a semester in France 2 years ago, I got the chance to experience the Tektonik, also spelled Tecktonik, trend sweeping Paris first hand. The dance is based in electro/house music, and has been featured in several mainstream videos in France, including Je Vais Vite by Lorie and A Cuase Des Garcons TEPR Remix by Yelle.

Yet Tektonik is not only a dance, but a lifestyle. Parisians that dance Tektonik also seem to have similar styles: spiky almost modern mullet hairstyles and neon-colored tight-fitted clothing.

Check out the videos below to see the dance craze that is not only taking over France, but is expanding internationally.

Mondotek: Alive. Jey Jey is the main dancer in this video and is an expert in the Tektonik dance. He also appears in Lorie’s video: Je Vais Vite.

Another good clip of tektonik:

Gaza’s Male Hairdressers Banned from Cutting Women’s Hair

March 15, 2010

In Gaza, cutting women’s hair has become an issue for male hairdressers. Currently, there are only 5 to 6 male hairdressers in Gaza that cut women’s hair due to the threats they receive and the changes in Hamas policy that bands men from cutting women’s hair. Some believe that these policies were created to appease extremists that see Gaza as being too liberal, but others believe that it is simply complying with tradition.

One women in her 20s even stated: “It’s about Islam and our traditions. Men don’t cut women’s hair. It’s normal here.”

But others, like Hatem al-Ghoul whose livelihood is dependent on cutting hair, see things differently. “If they come and shut me down, I will just be left to sit at home and watch TV like all the other unemployed people with no life.” Al-Ghoul’s also says that his shop has been the target of two attacks: “They came twice in the middle of the night and blew up my salon with small bombs, once in 2007 and once in 2008.”

Yet when the spokesperson for the Hamas interior ministry was questioned about the matter, he was very reluctant to give any details. However he did say: “The Western media is obsessed with stories like this. This is not a big deal here. It’s a social thing. It’s tradition.”

-Hatem al-Ghoul

The Push to Ban Second Hand Goods in Africa

March 14, 2010

In Africa, there is a big debate going on about banning second hand goods. Many aid agencies and personal philanthropists believe that by sending aid and goods to Africa they will be helping the ‘dire’ situation of poverty. Yet it seems to only be perpetuating it.

Bringing second hand goods into Africa is another example of outside countries importing to Africa. With all these cheap imports, industries in Africa are struggling to compete with the low prices and the economy is becoming more and more dependent on outside sources and outside aid.

“Each garment sold prevents an African tailor or dressmaker from selling his or her product so the cycle of poverty continues.” -John Barnet
-Ghana. Second hand computer waste is often sent to Africa categorized as ‘second hand goods’ and ends up being burnt or dumped.