Better Mental Health, Down on the Farm

Since moving to a little farmhouse in middle Tennessee, my mental health has improved tremendously. I find it difficult to feel anxious or depressed when outside or working with animals (be they bovine, equine or human!).

Caring for farm animals appears to offer a therapeutic benefit for people with mental illness, according to new research.

Earlier studies with cats and dogs have shown that animal-human interaction can decrease stress and improve self-confidence and social competence. But less is known about whether working with other types of animals offers any benefits to those struggling with anxiety or other psychiatric disorders. Even so, the use of farms to promote mental health is increasing in Europe and the United States, as various treatment programs offer so-called “green” care, which includes time in community gardens and on farms as a form of therapy.

To determine whether time working with farm animals makes a meaningful difference in mental health, Norwegian researchers studied how life on the farm might affect patients with problems like anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and personality disorders. Reporting in the journal Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, they recruited 90 patients, including 59 women and 31 men, with psychiatric ailments. The vast majority were being treated with antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, mood stabilizers and other medications.

Food for Oil

Consultants like to tell their audience, "In Chinese, the character for crisis is the same as opportunity."

In the English dictionary, however, crisis is defined as "a point in a story or drama when a conflict reaches its highest tension and must be resolved."

While the Developed World frets over the current multi-nodal RealEstateSubPrimeFinancialMarketTradeDeficit crisis--which continues to suck the value out of most of America's larger financial assets--the rest of the developing world is again struggling to afford the basics, namely, food.

In this case, the Cyrilla [oil supply] and Charybdis [demand for crops] have the same source: the global race for energy.

Time's recent article, titled The Clean Energy Scam, desn't throw a monkey wrench into the machine behind biofuels as much as it points a finger at the rising world food costs and slash-n-burn behavior it has inspired in the Amazon.

A rebuttal from 25x25, a non-profit supported financially by the Energy Future Coalition, laments, "Unfortunately, the story's message of concern is undermined by misinformation about biofuels and an over-simplified analysis of complex systems."

The main law of complex systems remains: Small changes can have large, unpredictable effects.

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Food riots which have struck several impoverished countries could spread with shortages and high prices set to continue for some time, the head of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.


A combination of high oil and fuel prices, rising demand for food in a wealthier Asia, the use of farmland and crops for biofuels, bad weather and speculation on futures markets have pushed up food prices, prompting violent protests in a handful of poor states.

Jacques Diouf, director general of the Rome-based FAO, said on Wednesday during a trip to India that there was a growing risk of social instability in countries where families spent more than half their income on food.

"This is due to higher demand from countries like India, China, where GDP grows at 8-10 percent and the increase in income is going to food," Diouf said after meeting India's farm minister, Sharad Pawar.

Nihilistic Neighborliness

Don't get me wrong. I have two small children and care deeply about the future. Then comes Saturday, and we're out of milk. Time to get in the minivan and drive to WholeFoodsWildOatsTraderJoesFreshMarket and buy some organic cow juice.

There! I have done it.

I've just doomed my progeny by procuring breakfast essentials for Saturday morning cartoon-watchers!

The folks at are seriously challenging me, and our communities, by pushing against the greenest of our most well-intentioned green-consumerism, by declaring: "But there is a danger in thinking that all we have to do is design better substitutes for the products we already consume, and then convince people to buy them."

"Neighborliness, Innovation and Sustainability"
by Alex Steffen | April 7, 2008 9:51 AM
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It's an attractive fantasy -- instead of diving a Hummer, living in a McMansion and shopping at the Gap, I can drive a Prius, live in an EcoMansion and shop at Gaiam -- but it's still playing make-believe, because the systems that support and enable those choices are themselves unsustainable. Highways are destructive, even when full of hybrids; sprawl is unsustainable, even when the individual houses are green; we don't even know what sustainable clothing would look like, much less how to make conventional retail green.

No, if we're going to avert ecological destruction, we need to to not only do things differently, we need to do different things. We need to work to build dense, walkable neighborhoods composed of green buildings served by bike infrastructure and transit and green infrastructure, suffused with good design choices and smart technologies that let us live in a different set of relationships with our stuff, the materials we use and the energy that powers our lives.

The Wisdom of Designing Cradle to Cradle

Gavin Blake in Australia, suggests viewing this video from TED 2005. William McDough quotes Kevin Kelly, "There is no end game, there is only The Infinite Game."

Architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account "All children, all species, for all time." A tireless proponent of absolute sustainability (with a deadpan sense of humor), he explains his philosophy of "cradle to cradle" design, which bridge the needs of ecology and economics. He also shares some of his most inspiring work, including the world's largest green roof (at the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan), and the entire sustainable cities he's designing in China.

Sale on Rain Forests, Aisle 24

Oh what an strange turn of events looking back over the last 5 years of sustainability and the board room.
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Environmental Activist Adam Werbach Used To Call Wal-Mart Toxic, But Now He Works For Them Once the youngest president of the Sierra Club, Adam Werbach used to call Wal-Mart toxic. Now the company is his biggest client. Does the path to a greener future run through Bentonville? By Danielle Sacks

How Green is Wal-Mart? In October 2005, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott outlined audacious environmental and sustainability goals for the company. Here's the status of some of the company's major initiatives. By Charles Fishman

Wal-Mart's Personal Sustainability Project The Personal Sustainability Project, or PSP, that Werbach and his firm, Act Now, are running for Wal-Mart is intended to help the company's 1.3 million employees see how sustainability--defined very broadly as "having enough for now, while not harming the future"--relates to their own lives. Here's the strategy. By Fast Company Staff

In Tennessee, Goats Eat the ‘Vine That Ate the South’ - New York Times

by By THEO EMERY | Published: June 5, 2007

photo: Josh Anderson for The New York Times

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Summer is settling onto Missionary Ridge overlooking this southeast Tennessee city. Swallows glide on the warm breeze rustling the hackberry trees, kudzu vines sprout along the hillside and the goats are back at work.

Chattanooga’s goats have become unofficial city mascots since the Public Works Department decided last year to let them roam a city-owned section of the ridge to nibble the kudzu, the fast-growing vine that throttles the Southern landscape. MORE>>

Takashi Horisaki: A Latex Replica of a NOLA Shotgun House, Post-Katrina

WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: Art for Our Sake
by Sarah Rich | June 10, 2007 7:43 PM

When artist Takashi Horisaki left his native Japan, he moved to New Orleans to spend his first three years in America earning an BFA at Loyola University. He left before Katrina ravaged the area, and returned in 2006 to discover 'how seriously those of us living outside of the victimized area fail to grasp the reality of the tragedy suffered by New Orleans and the lethargic pace of recovery.' So he decided to help outsiders get a better perspective by creating a sculptural replica of a condemned house in the Lower 9th Ward.
This is a continuation of a series Horisaki calls Social Dress (this one being called Social Dress New Orleans -- 730 Days "