Tag Archives: Environment

The Mosquito

Book Cover of The Mosquito by Timothy Winegard

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.

Dalai Lama XIV

Ah, the mosquito. Is there any other insect – any creature – more universally despised?* I don’t enjoy hating on things, but the mosquito is one thing I’m at least not particularly fussed about hating. So of course, I had to pick up The Mosquito: A human history of our deadliest predator by Timothy C. Winegard. It’s actually pretty incredible when you consider how much influence mosquitoes, or more specifically, the diseases they carry and for which they are vectors (e.g. malaria, yellow fever, dengue), have had over human history throughout the ages. According to Winegard, they have affected, among other things: the configuration of human DNA (sickle cell being probably the most commonly recognized one), the outcome of the American civil war, slavery, the history of the Roman Republic (the Pontine Marshes being a malarial sink, it both defended and destroyed the Romans), and more! They’re quite the equal opportunity bloodsuckers, so it’s not necessarily that they’ve always helped any particular side. Malaria also happens to be one of those diseases that constantly outmanoeuvers whatever anti-malarial drugs are concocted to defeat it, and at a frighteningly fast pace at that: new treatments might be effective anywhere between 2 and 20 years after being mass-marketed (Winegard). Interestingly, one of the newer treatments, artemisinin, is one that originated from what was rediscovered in an old Chinese text from the 4th century Jin dynasty, uncovered only during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward, but not shared with the world until more recent times (and even then, the study results weren’t embraced by the international community immediately, according to Winegard).

Do mosquitoes kill more humans than humans do? Debatable, but they’re definitely not slacking on that front (not that humans are either…): the year before The Mosquito was published, 830,000 people died of mosquito-borne disease worldwide. Whether mosquitoes will outlast humans or we’ll decide to use the technologies we have at our disposal (e.g. CRISPR) to eradicate the Anopheles mosquito, which is one of the main vectors of mosquito-borne diseases, one thing is for sure: mosquitoes have driven human history and evolution throughout the entirety of our existence.

Continue reading

Try Vegan in 2020

Are you a devout bacon lover? A chicken wings connoisseur? A meat and potatoes kind of person? When you hear the word vegan, do you run for the hills?

For many, the word vegan is a dirty word – a radical lifestyle met with ridicule and skepticism. But I want to show you that going vegan doesn’t have to mean extraordinary sacrifice. Simply being more aware and mindful of how your decisions impact animals and the environment is a great first step toward embracing the vegan ethos.

The Invisible Vegan

You don’t have to jump straight into it. Take time exploring fresh fruits, veggies and vegan alternatives such as dairy-free milk and meatless burgers. Plant-based options are more prevalent than ever before. There’s no need to give up your favourites. I thought I would never again enjoy the taste of cheesecake, but I quickly found a delicious coconut-based alternative readily available at my local grocery store. Many of your favourite coffee joints like Starbucks and Second Cup offer tasty milk substitutes to satisfy your caffeine cravings. With summer around the corner, farmers’ markets are a great alternative to conventional supermarkets. You’ll be accessing more healthful foods while supporting the local economy. Continue reading

The Giving Tree

Shel SilversteinThis is pretty topical, given Mothers’ Day just passed, right? (On which note, happy belated Mothers’ Day!)

I read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree for the first time recently upon recommendation, and I’m still (a couple of weeks later) extremely conflicted regarding how I feel about it. Going by the comments on Bibliocommons, it seems like this is one of those books that people feel very strongly about, whether they love it or hate it – I would say this is one of the signs of a good book – and I’m no exception. I love it, because it is such a powerful book, and the story and the illustrations complement each other incredibly well to create a multilayered reading of the story. However you read it, it is still incredibly sad. But reading this for the first time as an adult, I can’t help but view it as being problematic in some ways. Shortly after I read the book and waffled over what my verdict was (I really, genuinely, love it while at the same time finding it troubling, in part precisely because it’s such a childhood favourite), an article on LitHub came up in my feeds, the author of the article being someone who loved the book in her childhood and recently reread it, only to view it now with distaste. So I’m glad I’m not the only one (though perhaps I shouldn’t be glad, because if it was, it could have just been me).

I’m pretty convinced that many children who have been read this book or who claim it is their favourite book probably have some inkling, in their heart of hearts, that there is something insidious about it, and that, viewed from the perspective of unconditional parental (read: maternal) love, the story barrels downhill, exacerbating the damage it does to your heart. That being said, I might just be ascribing a cynicism to readers that does not actually exist – it’s a… I’m not sure “touching” is the right word, but I’ll settle for calling it a touching story, and that might just be that. Anyway, I’ll do my best to outline why under the cut.

(I know it’s a childhood favourite of many, and I don’t want to rock too many boats*, but either way, I am exhorting everyone to either read The Giving Tree for the first time or reread it once more. We’ve got it in book format, kit format, as another kit (not sure what the difference between the kits is, exactly), as an e-book, in Korean, and in Hebrew. So there’s no reason to not pick one up, or to put yourself in line!) Continue reading