Starling

Starling

Starling

Sleek acrobat hangs

Hacking fat for hungry chicks

From coconut shell

Image credit: Pixabay

Blackbird

Blackbird singing

 

Blackbird

Blackbird crowns his tree

Singing out the fading day

Pure notes lift and soar

 

Image credit: Pixabay

Vegan quibblers hinder positive change

Rather than welcome vegan diet popularity, vegans are quibbling over terms

vegan diet

I recently read a post on Plant Based News reporting that health expert Dr Oz dedicated an entire episode of his show to the vegan diet, predicting that veganism is going to be the “single biggest movement of 2017.”

That should be good news for vegans.

But instead of welcoming the rise in popularity of vegan diets and the positive knock-on effect for animal welfare, the environment and human health, some vegans are quibbling over terms. Continue reading

Create a cafe for hungry garden birds and feel good

Help garden birds through the winter and feel the warmth of nature

Garden birds robin

The rental property we moved to recently was built on land where an old bungalow used to be. Except for three conifers, the garden was cleared and laid to lawn except for an empty flower bed which I turned over the other week hoping to attract robins and blackbirds with worms.

The garden may be neat, but it isn’t bird-friendly. Continue reading

Must we teach children to kill?

By Tracy Brighten

There’s something perverse about teaching children to hunt

enfance-et-violence

The slaying of Cecil the lion last year epitomises everything that’s wrong with a hunting culture that now seems to be more about pleasure and ego. A dentist who learned to shoot when he was five years old hops on a plane from the U.S to Africa and buys himself a baited lion which he slaughters, all for the thrill and the trophy. He doesn’t see the wondrous animal that others see. He sees only himself. Continue reading

Rabbits blasted by hunters in New Zealand Easter fun day

By Tracy Brighten

Children in Central Otago see a dark side to the Easter bunny

Rabbit    

Easter is a time for celebration, whether it’s the Christian celebration of resurrection, or the Pagan celebration of fertility, symbolised in community Easter egg hunts and the Easter bunny.

What you wouldn’t expect is a family bunny hunt involving the slaughter of 10,000 rabbits. But that’s what happens every year in the Central Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. The Great Easter Bunny Hunt seems to be a celebration of killing. Continue reading

Dairy-free for three months and counting

By Tracy Brighten

A dairy-free diet hasn’t been as difficult as I thought, even in New Zealand

dairy free milk options

After reading about New Zealand’s dairy industry, I was unable to convince myself the abuse might be a one-off as claimed by the industry, so as I wrote in a post last year, I’m now on a dairy-free diet. I survived the festive season with a delicious vegan nut roast and hadn’t given my new eating plan much thought until recently. Continue reading

When dietary changes make you a social outcast

By Tracy Brighten

Vegetarian sandwich

Make a decision to lose weight, change career, or have children, and friends and family generally meet the change with excitement and words of encouragement. But tell them you no longer eat meat, fish, or dairy, or even that you’re just thinking about it, and you find yourself being interrogated.

If your reasons for dietary changes are health based, you risk the usual ill-informed response that you can’t be healthy without meat. But if your reasons are ethics based, be prepared for an even rougher ride. Continue reading

Should we care about future generations?

By Tracy Brighten

Future generations

The agreement by 195 countries at the Paris Climate Change Conference is a landmark consensus that climate change is a global problem requiring global commitment. Some people believe spiralling populations and associated development in India and China is the biggest issue. Others believe greenhouse gas emission control will be ineffective with the growing trend of factory farming. Not only do farm animals produce methane, but forests are felled to plant crops for animal feed.

Another question often asked when considering climate change and the depletion of non-renewable resources is why should we care about future generations? Don’t we just live the life we want and leave future generations to deal with the fallout?    Continue reading

Free Range to End of Range

By Tracy Brighten

A poem written in the style of restaurant discourse to voice the plight of  New Zealand’s native birds

Tui in Kowhai tree

Although native birds aren’t normally eaten, I am appealing to the reader’s sense of taste, while simultaneously repulsing them with how wild birds are being killed.

Native birds are facing increasing threats from non-native predators such as possums, rats, stoats, cats and dogs, and also from human behavior such as irresponsible pet ownership, beach and car use, hunting, longline fishing, overfishing and oil spills.   Continue reading

Local nature puts a spring in our step

It’s easy to overlook the local nature in our gardens and neighbourhood, but regular contact helps us tap into our roots 

Yellow Flower

Unless we’re lucky enough to live in the countryside, if we want to spend time in nature, we might wait for a day when we can head to a nature reserve, a wildlife sanctuary, or the coast. But in our busy life, days can turn to weeks, and weeks to months while we miss out on local nature.

Truth is that for many of us, the benefits of time in nature can be enjoyed much closer to home. Continue reading

Respite in Nature

By Tracy Brighten

A story of the stresses of urban life and the need for respite in nature 

Autumn tree for respite in nature

FICTION 

The car won’t start. Flat battery. It looks like I’ll have to catch the bus. But I’ve not been on a bus for years. Anxiety charges through me.

I’ve psyched myself up and I’m ready to go, but it’s pouring with rain. The windows will be steamed up and I won’t see a thing. I’ll have to rub a circle to see out and hope that my breath doesn’t fill the space faster than I can take in the view of the hills. Then there’s the smell of damp raincoats. I loathe the smell of damp raincoats. Continue reading

Joy in fostering an African elephant orphan

I’ve never seen an elephant in the wild, but still these majestic, intelligent, social mammals stir strong emotion. Fostering an orphan is a way of helping 

elephant orphans sharing water

I’ve long known the African elephant is endangered. But until I started writing about wildlife conservation and animal welfare, I wasn’t aware of the complexity of their survival problem. Continue reading

Spending time in nature is good for our soul

By Tracy Brighten

Spending time in nature has many health benefits, yet we find ourselves more removed from the natural world

Walk in nature

In economically developed countries, we enjoy medical and technological advances that improve our health and lifespan. We have education, transport, energy, and communication systems that give us opportunity and a more comfortable lifestyle.

You might expect people to be happier than ever. Continue reading

Nature prevents disease and boosts wellbeing

By Tracy Brighten

Scientific research supports the advice of conservation groups and nature enthusiasts: spending time in nature is good for us

In the growing body of research on the importance of public health intervention for disease prevention, nature is gaining ground as a natural approach to tackle a range of health problems. Continue reading

Equal consideration for people and animals

By Tracy Brighten

Animals feel pain and suffering, yet are denied equal consideration in a world that places human preferences above compassion for animals 
veal calf

Calf in veal crate

Philosopher Peter Singer criticises philosophy for failing to challenge accepted beliefs. He argues for a change in traditional Western ethics, which is human-centred, or anthropocentric, and which denies any direct moral obligation to the natural environment. Continue reading

‘Searching for Ruru’: a native owl

By Tracy Brighten

An extract from my short memoir on searching for New Zealand’s beautiful native owl

Perico 2 (800x566)

The memoir tells the story of a trip I made with my daughter to a small island in the Hauraki Gulf during her study on vocalisations of morepork, or ruru in Maori. I felt privileged to follow and watch this beautiful owl and my daughter in their natural habitat. Continue reading

‘No man is an island’: we are interconnected

By Tracy Brighten

No man is an island

I admit to not having a great memory for quotations, but a line from one of poet John Donne’s meditations has stood the test of time: ‘No man is an island, entire of itself’.

What resonates with me is the idea that no-one is self-sufficient – we need each other to thrive in a world that is far greater than one individual. Continue reading

Nature’s song thrush inspires hope in gloomy times

There’s hope in the winter carolings of Thomas Hardy’s frail thrush, giving us a poignant message

Winter landscape

My favourite poem, The Darkling Thrush highlights Hardy’s despair at the changes he witnessed as England’s agricultural based society was impacted by the industrial revolution. The narrator describes a bleak landscape that reflects this despair. He sees a “frail, gaunt, and small” thrush, suggesting that nature is also affected by the changes. Continue reading

Nordic countries top the world for happiness

By Tracy Brighten

Happy peopleThe recently released World Happiness Report 2015 identifies those countries where people are happiest and highlights the value to economies of considering people’s well-being when determining public policy.

Produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the WHR examines Gallup survey data from 2012-2014 with past data from 2005-2007 for changes in reported well-being and happiness, as well as analysing reasons for the variation across nations and cultures. Continue reading

Magical Montessori

By Tracy Brighten

An early education experience for your pre-schooler that teaches life skills, encourages critical thinking, and inspires curiosity about their world

Montessori outdoor play

Little Cheverells Montessori School lay back from the lane behind a Horse Chestnut tree and hedgerows of hawthorn sprayed with white flowers. I’d started a diploma course with the London School of Modern Montessori and I was visiting the school with our two-year-old daughter to learn more about child-centred early education.  Continue reading

Art, music and nature good for our health

By Tracy Brighten

If you feel awe on seeing a breath-taking view, joy on hearing a song thrush’s trills, or contentment on listening to Mozart, you may also enjoy good health

Science Nutshell panoramic view

Researchers in a study at UC Berkeley found a biological pathway between positive emotions and good health that involves pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Cytokines are proteins that interact with immune system cells to regulate the inflammatory response to infection, disease and injury. However, sustained high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines can be damaging and are associated with type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression. Continue reading