Common Denominator

oceanvied edit

There is always reason to smile. No matter what the situation may be.
You are always able to recall upon a happy memory to help get through the tough times.

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Time Travel

Chopping Wood

I am a big fan of the simple art of chopping wood. Some would say its a type of meditation. There is something very simple and honest about collecting and chopping your own pile of wood, ready to warm those cold hands or cook that perfect meal. I enjoy reading the grain of the wood, the rhythmic thwacking, the sweet sound your axe makes when you choreograph the perfect blow and finally the satisfaction of a job well done.

I tend to do about a hour or two at a time, slowly working my way through the task at hand. When the urge to chop hits me I normally put on a old pair of boots, a T shirt and some shorts. This helps stay nice and cool and anyway I am not a big fan of long pants and avoid it if at all possible.

One such day I was about 3/4 of the way through and Fiona popped in to visit. She knows to let me finish as I hate to stop until I am done. Plopping herself down on a stump she proceeded to tell me about her day ,all the twists and turns, ups and downs. It was at this moment, nearly on my last piece that a sizable chunk of wood flew of the chopping stump and hit me in the shin. As if laser guided hitting square and solid just millimeters above the top of my boot.

I instantly dropped to the floor, curled up into the fetal position clutching the affected limb. At this point I would like to mention that many people have debated if time travel is in fact possible. I think it may. Why? Because at this moment time stops, it transports you to a far away place, all one can think about is the white hot spear like pain that washes over you. You become totally present and focused. How did it happen? Reimagining the event frame by frame. I have entered the singularity.. or have I? Have I chipped the bone, it sure hurts more than when I broke my arm. Best I have a look. Oh gross…. it looks like a piece of bone, could it be? No don’t be silly it cant be. Nope its just a flap of fleshy skin with a bit of fat. Nothing some cleaning and a bit of tape cant fix, its all good. Now I end my time traveling experience and resume normal speed. As if coming to the surface the pain subsides to a bearable plateau, all I can hear is one thing.

Fiona is laughing, now when I say laughing I mean the kind of laughing that you only see in the movies or on a silly clip show. Laughing so hard that it seems that breathing is becoming a issue. Laughing so hard she is having to prop herself up. I have no choice but to join in, admittedly slowly at first. Looking back it must have looked very funny to watch this 6ft 5inch,110kg guy fall to the ground like a pile of dirty laundry. Especially since she probably saw it coming a mile off….Cheeky Monkey.

This refresher coarse reminded me of the following life lessons.

1. I cant do two things at the same time. Its a fact. Talking and chopping wood don’t mix.

2. I have the weakest most sensitive shins in the world. I must protect them when ever possible.

3. Even though it hurts something awful at the time, it will pass. Deal with it.

4. Any crash landing you walk away from is a good landing,(I could have barked myself with the axe, that would have been unpleasant to say the least.)

Have you ever hurt yourself in a silly way then laughed about it at the time or later, Have those experiences taught you anything?  If so please feel free to share your story. Thank you for dropping by. Dan

 

We Are The People

For the last two years I have been able to witness a very strange phenomenon. Winter is the time when Great White Sharks move from inshore, along the beaches, to the feeding grounds off Seal Island, South Africa, where they feed on young seal (Cape Fur Seals) pups.

Last year towards Winter they pulled a vanishing act for approximately 50 days and it seems that this year it will be the same, if not longer. Many experts have put their theories forward. The one that seems to be most accepted is that they are being harassed by a pod of Orcas (Killer whales). This seems to add up as we have seen them in the bay around the time of the last Great White sighting. Adding validity this theory there has been a spate of Cow Sharks( 7 Gilled Cow Shark) been found dead with their livers removed. I personally have seen large bull seals attack sharks and eat their livers so it makes sense to me that this is in fact possible if not plausible that Orcas are targeting the same food source. This means that the mystical Great White Shark could in fact lose its pole position as the Apex predator!

Winter is normally the time of year when I try make full use of the safer swimming and free diving conditions exploring new and deeper spots in clearer water without having to look over my shoulder all the time. However this year it really does seem especially quiet. I normally spend way to much time diving and looking at the various species of shark to the point that I recognise a few regulars. Even the spotted gully sharks are hard to find and non of the similar faces are were they are supposed to be. It shows that even now days with everything we know we still have lots to learn about our natural world.

With the governments of the world trying to screw us, souring unemployment as well as many other sad truths about this world we live in, it is all too easy to become a bit negative. Anyone who knows me well, knows, I choose to look at things in a positive light. Glass-half-full type of chap. I like to take this idea into everything I do even day to day work. We only get one life and sure not everything is a breeze, but hell why not make it fun and enjoyable as possible. If at all possible do what you enjoy and enjoy what you are doing.

This long story brings me to my point. Most people would shudder at the thought of getting out in our winter, no doubt its cold, wet and sometimes windy but I have had some really great times huddled up clenching a “cuppa” with frozen hands. Silly moments in a hypothermic stupor with a good serving of awesome company make for great times. Its so easy to fall pray to the seductive temptress known as my couch next to the TV. You cant buy real adventure and you cant experience life channel surfing. Fiona and I both know we have never regretted a cold swim, it just can be hard to motivate oneself in the moment.

I cant control nature or the government but I can choose how I spend my days. I know that if I choose to just sit back I would never have been able to put this little home video together. This is just a few moments as of late that we have managed to share between studies, jobs and general life. Each moment a great memory that we were lucky enough to share. So even though there are no real sharks in the bay, job prospects are looking frail to say the least. Just getting out when we could made all these moments a reality. Choose to live life. Choose to make the most of what you have, with what you have ,when you can.

Hope you enjoy

Dan

 

 

Eco Labels Explained …

Introduction

Eco labelling refers to products /services that are environmentally friendly, and which are advertised as such. They are labelled in a way that informs the interested consumer (Barrow, 2006). The products generally have a reduced impact on the environment, relative to other products of the same kind.

Eco labelling needs to be certified by an independent organisation. Credible labels are awarded by an impartial, unbiased party for products, or services that have met the various environmental criteria (Network,2016). However, some manufacturers of products try to add their own “eco label” as it tends to increase sales within their specific target market. Common claims are that the product is “natural” , “recyclable”, “organically produced” and “energy efficient”. These are unproven and not recognised by the a registered  independent organisation. Thus these labels have been termed as “greenwash” (Allison & Carter, 2000).

The International Organisation for Standardisation known as ISO is an internationally recognised  organisation which has identified three main types of eco-labelling (Allison & Carter, 2000). Eco-labelling typically falls under Type 1 as explained below.

Type 1 – This label is based on multiple criteria that the product or service must adhere to. A third party organisation awards and issues a certification to the product or service that allows this product /service to use environmental label which illustrates to consumers that the product/service in question is preferred, due to it being environmentally aware and eco-friendly in comparison to other products/services within their particular category. This type of labelling is also known as ISO 14024 (Allison & Carter, 2000).

Type 2 –  These types of labels are self declared by the manufacturers or the retailers. Most commonly the consumer will see comments on the product such as “made from x amount of recycled material”. This type of labels falls within ISO 14021 (Allison & Carter, 2000).

Type 3 – Known as an environmental product declaration where the product or service information is based on complete life cycle processes, and the impact it has on the environment. This type of label is referred to as ISO 14025 (Allison & Carter, 2000).

Examples of Eco-labelling, Description and its Origin

 

Cape Coastal Honey – Eco Label being Badger Friendly

Country of Origin – South Africa
Description of Product – Cape coastal honey is produced with badgers in mind. It promotes badger friendly beehive management and protection in order to comply with the above eco label. The height of the bee hive needs to be altered and be kept out of reach from honey badgers. It is an initiative to conserve these endangered animals which play a vital role within their ecosystem (Van der Merwe, 2014). This eco label is placed on the front of the packaging in order to be visible to the conscious target market. The product is also recyclable which is indicated with the symbol on the back of the packaging.

Light meat Tuna shredded with vegetable oil added – Eco Label being Dolphin Friendly

Country of Origin – Thailand, caught  in the Western Pacific Ocean.
Description of Product – Tuna packaged in recyclable tin which is depicted by appropriate logo. As per the logo it is dolphin friendly (Inc,2016). It is managed by the Earth Island Institute which ensures all tuna companies adhere to catching methods that do not harm dolphins including being aware of all marine ecosystems. In order for it to be classified as dolphin friendly, companies need to ensure that no chasing or netting of dolphins takes place during their fishing trip. Companies must not use drift gill nets to catch their tuna, and lastly, no accidental killing or causing harm to the dolphins may occur when setting their nets (Inc,2016).

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Organic Liquid Beef Stock – Eco label being Oregon Tilth & USDA Organic

Country of Origin – United States of America
Description of Product – Organic liquid beef stock produced in a cardboard recyclable container. The eco label Oregon Tilth and USDA Organic certifies  that the product complies with organic agriculture along with sustainable farming methods. Ensuring farmers and all who are involved in handling and processing of organic food is done so in a manner that complies with the organisation.  Farmers need to stick to set regulations, pass random inspection of farms, and maintain a binding contract between farmer and the buyer of the product in question.  Farms need to comply with the following process and restrictions as well (Tilth,2016).

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviours
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

 


Organic Ground Coffee Blend – Eco label being AFRISCO

Country of Origin – South Africa
Description of Product – AFRISCO is the only internationally recognised and accredited South African certifier. It aims at improving the integrity of organic food processes in RSA, as well as other SADC countries. This organisation follows the product from start through to processing and on to distribution, ensuring that companies adhere to all criteria needed  in order to be AFRISCO approved. AFRISCO raises awareness and promotes to both local and global producers and consumers,  the benefit it has on the environment as well as personal heath choice among the consumers themselves. The coffee is packaged in a foil fresh carton which is recyclable and has a low carbon footprint.

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Running Duck Organic White Wine – Eco label being Fair for Life

Country of Origin – South Africa
Description of Product – Fair for life is an unbiased third party certification organisation.  It ensures there is ongoing fair trade amongst agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations. It promotes operators to have a responsible project in place which protects the environment, including trying to reduce the impact the company has on the surrounding environment.

As per their website www.fairforlife.org  the certification process begins with applying to accredited by the organisation. The interested company would then prepare for auditing to see if they are legible for Fair for Life. Once they are audited, an overall evaluation is done on the company. If the company satisfies their requirements they will be issued their certification which would allow them to present the Fair for Life logo on their product.  In order to remain a Fair for Life ambassador, the company would need to continue their compliance of criteria. Should they for some reason they no longer comply, they will no longer be able to host their logo on their product.

The Euro leaf logo is also displayed on this particular bottle of wine.  It illustrates that the product has been certified as organic conforming to the regulations of organic farming. It is an internationally recognised logo. During processing of the product it also ensures that 95% of the ingredients are organic (COMM,2013). It is compulsory for all manufacturers who are aligned with the Euro Leaf to place the logo on their product should they continue to comply with their standards.

The Importance of Eco labels

Eco labels give the consumer the power of choice when buying a product. They tend to attract the health conscious, eco mind shopper, whilst allowing the manufacturer to become a “greener” and more environmentally aware company.

Eco labels generally increase the sustainability and environmental awareness. Consumers will tend to purchase products that have official logos and certification attached to the product (International, 2012). Eco labels have the ability to strengthen the brand including the additional promotion of the product.

They also increase the marketing competition between companies driving them towards a more environmentally sustainable products. This has a trickle-down effect which can include the harvesting/cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of products. This will also help weed out any unscrupulous manufacturers.

Hope you have learnt something from my post 🙂  – Fiona

 

Platypus – A True “Living Fossil”

platypus

Classification and Biodiversity of this Group

Phylum –   Chordata Bateson, 1885

Class – Mammalia Linnaeus, 1758

Subclass –  Prototheria Gill, 1872

Order – Monotremata Bonaparte, 1837

Family – Ornithorhynchidae Gray, 1825

Genus – Ornithorhynchus Blumenbach, 1800

Species – Ornithorhynchus anatinus Shaw, 1799

Common Name – Duck -Billed Platypus or Platypus

There are no other known living species of Platypus. So it is often referred to by its common name of Platypus. It is one of five extant species of the Monotremes, others being part of the Echidna.  (Nelson, 2014)

Characteristics of the Platypus

Platypus are homoeothermic, bilaterally symmetrical mammals (Ojo, 2014). Living primarily semi aquatic environments, their front feet have become completely webbed while their back feet are partially webbed. This is an adaptation to aid them in swimming in conjunction with being able to move easier on muddy ground. (Duck-billed Platypus: The Animals Files, 2014).

This mammal lays eggs and doesn’t give birth to live young. It belongs to the species Monotremes. (Duck-billed Platypus: The Animals Files, 2014).  Its young suckle for a few months, feeding on its mother’s milk.

The males are able to produce venom through spurs which are situated on their hind legs. There is not enough venom to kill a human, however is dangerous to smaller animals. This acts as a defence mechanism (Duck-billed Platypus: The Animals Files, 2014).

Their highly adapted bills are extremely sensitive, containing electroreceptors and mechanoreceptors which help detect stimuli beneath the water when searching for food (Duck-billed Platypus: The Animals Files, 2014). The platypus is able to navigate underwater using its bill without having to open its eyes, ears or mouth. As young they posses teeth, but lose them in adult hood when they adopt a keratinised pad which aids in grinding up t heir food (Schmidt-Nielsen, 1997).

Origins and Evolution

The oldest fossil dates back to 100,000 years ago, during the Quaternary period which makes the fossil approximately 110 million years. Platypus existed during the Cretaceous period. Other family members of Monotremes have since been discovered in Argentina which would have originated when Australia and South America were previously joined (Truth, 2016).

There is not much information on the origin of this species.  Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1992, state that Monotremes feature anatomy and development that is seen in the earliest of mammals. The platypus is an extremely unique animal, in both its looks and functions. It is a combination of many animals, including bird, reptile and mammal (Truth, 2016).  This animal has puzzled scientists ever since its discovery in the late 18th Century. Scientists did not initially believe that such a creature could exist (Weston, 2002). It seems to be in the middle of an evolutionary decision, as in some ways it shows evidence of being a mammal, while at the same time displays links to its non mammalian counterparts (Weston, 2002). It has since evolved over time and become well designed for its surrounding environments.

Feet
The platypus has adapted itself into having webbed feet helping it with swimming.  Its front feet are for swimming power while its back feet are used in steering. The webbing is able to fold away, exposing its claws when the Platypus exits the water which allows it to walk on land easily and aids in digging burrows.

Bill and Teeth
It originated on mainland Australia and is claimed to be endemic to Australia. Three platypus teeth fossils were found in South America  in the early 90’s, indicating to us that this species was not totally endemic to Australia (Weston, 2002). (This was during the period when it was known Gondwanaland).  Modern day platypus do not contain teeth in any form as they lose them at a young age. They have a tough plate which they use to grind their food (Truth, 2016).

Platypus have electroreceptors for orientation and navigation (Jones and Sati, 2011) on their bill, despite them having eyes, ears and nose which would is used for navigation on land they close them when in water.  Their bill is extremely sensitive and covered in nerve endings which  they use to find food when underwater.

Spur on Males
Male platypus have spurs on their hind legs. In females this is absent. It is a hollow spur which is connected to venom glands. The enzyme that is injected into a victim has shown similarity to the same enzyme which is found in snakes, yet not in any other mammals which suggest that there may be a possible link between the platypus and reptiles (Jones, K.E.J. and Safi, K. 2011),

Skeleton
Their skeleton is tough and durable which supports strong muscles effective for swimming and digging. Some of their bones are similar in function to those belonging to extinct reptiles, but possibly belonged to mammal ancestors. A platypus leg is very similar to those of mammal and reptile. The rotation and outward nature of their legs is very reptile-like, while the ability of rotating in a ball and socket joint resembles a similarity in mammals. Platypus contain rudimentary ribs in their neck which is indicative to those in reptiles.

Platypus are covered in a layer of fur and feeds it young with milk which is secreted through pores in their skin (Truth, 2016) which is a distinct feature of mammals.

Reproduction
Mammals tend to have two openings, one for excreting bodily waste and another opening through which reproduction can take place in (Noris, 2010). However, this is not the case in the platypus. It has one opening for all processes.

The Australian National University  discovered the Platypus contain ten sex chromosomes in comparison to mammals two XY chromosomes. At the same time the platypus chromosomes are very similar to those found in birds. Platypus also lack a sex determining chromosome, making the sex determination in the platypus unknown (Truth, 2016). An egg laying mammal that in itself is an evolutionary mystery (Gopalakrishnakone and Calvete, 2016).

They were initially seen as primitive creatures. However, its since been realised that they are exceptionally specialised creatures.

What is their ecological function and current conservation status?
Platypus are considered to be top predators within their freshwater environment. They are a vital component to their environment including species living within the ecosystem. They act as an indicator species indicating to us how productive / healthy their surrounding environment may be. Thus, if a platypus is remaining in its current environment, then it means conditions are favourable to other animals within the same ecosystem.

It is vital to protect and preserve the status of the platypus as it will naturally increase the biodiversity of other species within the surrounding environment.

In Australia it is an iconic wild animal which could be used advantageously to create more awareness about protecting our environment, and the animals in the surrounding ecosystem.

According to IUCN its conservation status is listed as “Least Concern”. This is because platypus are widely distributed which would suggest that there must be a fairly large population relative to the population distribution. This of course may not be the case, as there is insufficient data in order to predict the population numbers and their trend over a long period of time (Union, Nature, Resources, 2000).

Hope you enjoyed this post and can take something from it.

Fiona 🙂