nature

Into the Wild: Take Your Yoga Practice Outside

Nichole Golden by Nichole Golden | April 20th, 2014 | No Comments
topic: Green Living | tags: adventure, gaiam, hiking, into the wild, nature, nichole golden, outside, peace of mind, spirit, spiritual, spiritual practice, spirituality, ToeSox Yoga Flip Flops, Yoga, yoga outside

outside yoga

Winter is an interesting time for me — well, more specifically, an interesting time for my feet. I love summer because of the ease of slipping my toes into a pair of flip-flops and floppin’ around unencumbered by shoes. In fact, during cold months I wear winter’s flip-flop equivalent, moccasins; a shoe that is as close to a non-shoe as it gets.

In fact, one of the main reasons that I love teaching yoga as a profession is because I get to be barefoot for a living! There is something so freeing when my toes are unbound from the claustrophobic nature of high heels, tennis shoes, boots, mary janes … you name it! When my toes feel the freedom to roam, I find that my spirit has that same permission.  The sense of adventure that I feel when I am liberated from the shackles of my shoes is only matched by the abundant bliss that I feel when I am out in nature, spontaneously and effortlessly awakened by the wild untamed natural world.

There is one exception to this no-shoe strategy I tend to live by: my hiking boots.  When my feet inhabit these shoes, my sprit soars straight to its inherent wildness. Of course, it isn’t the shoes, per se, that illicit this magnificent response, it is what the shoes represent: trees, trails, birds, bees, sunrises, sunsets, mountains, moose, rivers, rocks … you get the idea. This wildness is as much as state of being as it is a location, in the wild, animate world. When I’m not on my yoga mat, this is certainly where you will find me — winding my way through the wide-open woods.

Which Comes First: The Needs of Endangered Animals or the People Who Live with Them?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | April 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment
topic: Green Living | tags: China, conservation, Eco Travel, Endangered Species Act, endangered speices, environment, gray wolves, human treatment, International Crane Foundation, nature, species extinction, travel, Uganda, wildlife, wildlife poaching, Yellowstone National Park

Mountain gorilla

Wildlife conservation campaigns often focus on the needs of endangered species, asking you to donate money in order to save their habitats, fight poaching of them, stop illegal trade in them or build refuges for them.

But at a recent seminar at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London, Professor Catherine Hill of the city’s Oxford Brookes University suggested that such campaigns may be doomed to fail unless an added, important issue is addressed: the attitudes and feelings of the people who live in the threatened species’ ranges.

According to the results of a recent study conducted by Dr. Hill, residents of communities in Uganda felt that they were being treated as though their lives were worth less than those of the animals that surrounded them.

Can conservation efforts, then, no matter how well intended, ever succeed if the local populace feels that their needs come second?

SeaWorld’s Tilikum: Should Keeping Captive Orcas Be Banned?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | February 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: animal ambassadors, animals, Blackfish, captive wildlife, cetaceans, conservation, Dawn Brancheau, dolphins, endangered-species, environment, health, killer whales, marine creatures, marine environment, nature, ocean, orca, orcas, SeaWorld, Tilikum, travel, whales, wild, wildlife

orca in the wild

Last October, when CNN broadcast the documentary Blackfish, a film that tells the story of the 2010 killing of a SeaWorld trainer by an orca named Tilikum, there was a public outcry against marine parks — such as SeaWorld — that keep cetaceans in captivity. After the movie aired, several veterinarians and the director of the Dolphin Project at the Earth Island Institute in Berkeley, California, Ric O’Barry, stepped forward to state their professional opinions that confining orcas can make them psychotic.

SeaWorld, however, countered that marine parks such as theirs have done great works in conservation and that hundreds of millions of people have come to love and learn about orcas and other marine animals because of their popular shows and exhibits.

But given what we now know about how confinement can influence an animal’s behavior, should cetaceans ever be kept in a captive environment?

Are There Too Many Climate Change Deniers in Congress?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | January 14th, 2014 | 3 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: carbon emissions, climate change, democrat, environment, extinction, global-warming, Greenland, health, icebergs, Industrial Revolution, nature, ocean health, republican, travel, wellness

Recently, while reading the November/December 2013 issue of Sierra, the magazine of the Sierra Club, I came across a graphic that startled me. It depicted two columns, labeled “House” and “Senate.” Under each of those titles were two more columns, showing the number of Democrats and Republicans in each branch of the legislature that are climate change deniers. Under the House section were 200 Democrats; none were listed as climate change deniers. Of the 233 Republicans, 128 deny climate change.

In the Senate, there were 52 Democrats (with two Independents), again with 0 climate change deniers. Of the 46 Republicans, 30 deny that the world is warming.

My goal here is not to cast aspersions on any one party but to look at the big picture. It is possible that we can make strides to protect the planet against the devastating effects caused by rapid climate change if our leadership fails to believe it is real?

What I’m Grateful For: A Yogi’s Perspective

Michelle Finerty by Michelle Finerty | November 27th, 2013 | No Comments
topic: Fitness, Personal Growth, Yoga | tags: arm balances, grateful, gratitude, happiness, love, meditation, nature, thanksgiving, Yoga, yogi

yoga gratitude

Around Thanksgiving, I’m drawn to the subject of gratitude and how to put it into practice on a daily basis. I have to admit, I’m not ready for the typical stress of the holiday season and am on a mission to keep the season as stress-free as possible with a mixture of appreciation for all that I have and awareness of all I can give.

Should Animals on the Brink of Extinction Be Used to Promote Tourism?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | November 25th, 2013 | 9 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: African elephants, animals, Antarctica, at-risk species, Belize, Canada, Churchill, climate change, Eco Travel, ecotourism, Egypt, endangered-species, environment, extinction, extinction tourism, Galápagos Islands, glaciers, global-warming, habitat destruction, Madagascar, Manitoba, natural-habitat-adventures, nature, poaching, polar-bears, rainforest, Tanzania, tourism, tourists, travel, travelers, UNESCO, wildlife, wolves, Yellowstone National Park

Greenland big ice

I have to admit it: last year, my traveling to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to see polar bears in the wild was motivated not only by a 10-year anniversary but by a fear that soon the animals could be gone. I go to see glaciers because I’m afraid we’re losing them. And this coming January, I’m returning to Yellowstone National Park to try to photograph our nation’s wolves before they almost completely disappear in the Lower 48 — again.

You could call me an “extinction tourist.”

I’m far from unique. In fact, today people are traveling in ever-greater numbers to see what they think could quickly vanish from the Earth. While just a few years ago travelers might have endeavored to tick off all seven continents or Africa’s Big Five wildlife species, today there’s a certain “cred” given to those who see the landscapes, animals and plants that are just managing to hang on. And tour providers are tapping into that desire with their marketing messages. “See [fill in your favorite endangered animals] before they’re gone!”

But should tourism companies use threatened species as marketing tools? Given our ability to tune out ads, does that minimize the dire circumstances that these animals and environments are now in and dilute the attention that conservation messages might have been able to muster?

Eating Whale Blubber in Greenland: Politely Partake or Politically Pass Up?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | October 25th, 2013 | 5 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: adventure, alaska, diet, eating locally, Eco Travel, environment, extinction, food, Green Living, Greenland, healthy-eating, International Whaling Commission, Inuit, natural-habitat-adventures, nature, nutrition, Siberia, subsistence hunting, threatened species, travel, whales, whaling, wildlife

Greenland

Throughout human history, the sharing and exchange of local food between people of different cultures has cemented social bonds and sealed agreements. Feasts often brought people from far-off places and varying ways of life together.

Today, whether you’re in a friend’s home or visiting a foreign land, partaking of your host’s served meal is considered polite — or, at least, that’s what I have been taught. So, when I recently traveled to Greenland and visited an Inuit community, I happily agreed to taste the traditional foods offered, including raw whale blubber, dried cod and simmered seal stew.

Wanting to share my adventure with friends, I posted a photo of myself eating the uncooked blubber on a social media site. To my surprise, I was met with strong disapproval by an acquaintance who works at an environmental organization.

When traveling, should you indulge in the traditional foods offered, even though eating them may not be “politically correct” in your own country?

Should U.S. Military Ranges Double as Wildlife Refuges?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | September 27th, 2013 | 4 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: Army’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord, California, desert tortoises, endangered-species, environment, extinction, forests, Fort Irwin, island night lizard, killer whale, marine mammals, military, military ranges, National Marine Fisheries Service, national park, nature, NatureServe, navy sonar, orca, Oregon, Pentagon, prairies, Puerto Rico, San Clemente Island, San Clemente Island lizard, San Clemente Island loggerhead shrike, threatened species, travel, U.S. Defense Department, U.S. Forest Service, Vieques, Washington State, western snowy plovers, wetland restoration, wildlife, wildlife refuges

Orca in Washington State

When you think of endangered species in this country, struggling to survive in their native habitats, you probably picture them on national park or U.S. Forest Service lands. But according to NatureServe, a nonprofit conservation organization that tracks wildlife, U.S. Defense Department properties have the highest density of threatened and endangered species of any federal land management agency. The Pentagon states that on average, military lands boast 15 threatened and endangered species per acre — nearly seven times more per acre than on U.S. Forest Service tracts.

Our nation’s military lands, however, are first and foremost dedicated to preparing for armed readiness, meaning that military exercises, such as target practice, are routine. Is this the kind of environment in which we want threatened species to play out their last-ditch efforts for survival?

Is It Time to Grant Nonhuman Animals “Human Rights”?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | August 23rd, 2013 | 5 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: animal ethics, animal intelligence, animal rights, badgers, cetaceans, coyotes, crows, dolphins, Eco Travel, elephants, environment, nature, nonhuman intelligence, Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, prairie dogs, primates, travel, whales, Wild Dolphin Project, wildlife

Humpback whale breach

Crows in American cities drop tough nuts onto heavily trafficked streets and then wait for cars to crush them open so that they can get the food inside. Prairie dogs use a sophisticated, complex language; and coyotes and badgers work together to catch prey. It seems as though every day we learn more and more about the high intelligence of nonhuman animals.

Of course, when it comes to mental agility, most of us would list primates, elephants and cetaceans (such as dolphins and whales) at the top of the list. If we are finally starting to recognize the intellect of nonhuman animals, is it time that we extend to them some of the rights that we humans enjoy?

Are Some Anti-Poaching Solutions Too Extreme?

Candice Gaukel Andrews by Candice Gaukel Andrews | July 3rd, 2013 | 3 Comments
topic: Eco Travel, Green Living | tags: anti-poaching, Eco Travel, elephant tusk, elephants, environment, ivory, Kruger National Park, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, nature, poaching, Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve, rhino horn, rhinoceros, Sabi Sand Reserve, South Africa, travel, wildlife, wildlife poaching

elephant poaching

Despite efforts such as anti-poaching patrols, increased arrests, relocation and unmanned security drones, it seems we’re losing the battle against wildlife poachers. Already in the first six months of 2013, for example, in South Africa alone, more than 200 rhinos have died at the hands of poachers.

Rhino horns are in demand because the desire for traditional “medicines” in Asia is growing. Products that contain rhino horn are touted as successful cancer treatments, and rhino horn is being marketed even in hospitals to the families of critically ill patients. It’s also being pitched as a trendy hangover remedy. In Vietnam, the country that has recently emerged as the single largest market for rhino horn, the item is considered a very high-value gift. That’s why some innovative wildlife conservationists have come up with a plan to make the horns of living rhinoceroses toxic.

But should we alter the makeup and appearance of wildlife, even if it is in an effort to save animals from poaching and extinction?