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I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s book 1491: New Revelations on the Americas Before Columbus and so was thrilled to see it’s sequel 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created  sitting in the book store window. 1493 follows in much the same style as 1491, both having a superb narrative flow that is dense with unique historical details and an excellent storytelling style that marks a true page turner. Mann presents an incredibly expansive and fresh look at what brought about unprecedented changes for the entire world after 1492. He calls the era from 1493 to the present the homogenocene, a term he coined, meaning, that all the ecologies and economies of the earth were connected by human activities after 1493.

The first chapter lays out the key themes that make this book invaluable: the thorough history of an era and attention to details that have been largely unexplored by other historians. Particularly memorable are the exchanges between Spain and China and  the way the crops from the Americas affected Chinese and Southeast Asia’s culture, economies and landscapes.  Mann fills in the gaps in the oft told history of the slave trade and slave culture providing new insight and even talks about early climate change. 

The Little Ice Age (1550-1750) was a particularly cold period in history showing the human relationship with the delicate balance of the Earth. Brought on by the early contact of American Indian tribes with the Spaniards in the 1400’s, this first contact caused such a major die off of American Indian populations (see 1491), who had managed vast areas of the continent through intentional burns, that their absence caused the forests to grow back on the eastern seaboard. This forest regrowth dropped global carbon levels and temperatures drastically. The Little Ice Age shows the previous impact humans have had on climate change and makes it crystal clear that planting trees and protecting Earth’s ancient forests is the solution for cooling our planet.

His telling of how the sweet  potato, corn and tobacco affected China is astounding. Each crop had varying degrees to which it displaced rice culture, increased population significantly and caused severe ecological damage from attempts at farming in delicate eco-regions. I found the depth of Chinese history that Mann presented engrossing, especially the history of rubber and rubber plantations that spread all over China and Southeast Asia. The impacts of some of Mao’s agricultural policies on the ecologies of China were new and startling.

This book is full of towns and cities and dramas you never knew existed such as Potosi. A mere 13,000 feet up in the Andes it was the largest community in the America’s in 1642. Fueled by silver mining, Potosi was, “a brawling boomtown marked by extravagant display and hoodlum crime.” The Spanish enslaved millions who died carving the precious metal out of the mountains of Mexico and Bolivia and managed to triple the silver in the global economies stock of precious metals. What happened to all that silver? It seems that vast quantities of it were diverted from the Spanish coffers and sold or traded to the Chinese in the Philippine’s due to Chinese laws prohibiting trading with the Spanish on Chinese soil.

He ends the book with revealing details about the slave trade, slave culture and the number of europeans who died of diseases trying to colonize Panama, Haiti and Central America. It is staggering how many slaves were brought here to mine and farm the Americas.This section compelled me to pick up Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean 1620-1914 by J.R. McNeil, which I will review when it re-surfaces in my book pile.

So much of the history of the Americas has been destroyed, suppressed or forgotten. Charles Mann’s 1493,  along with it’s predecessor 1491, successfully reconstructs a clearer picture of the story of the Americas, one that shows their advancement, accomplishment, rich mythology and resilience in the face of constant change.

"Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human" by Richard Wrangham

Richard Wrangham’s book Catching Fire was a real pleasure to read and a powerhouse of the latest condensed up to date scientific information about human evolution and primate behavior. He is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University and has worked extensively with chimpanzees and our other living primate relatives bonobos and mountain gorillas. Wrangham is also versed in the field of behavioral biology (which is one of my interests as well) and lucidly brings forth all of this experience into the writing of this, subtly radical, book. 

He lays the ground work early on establishing that, clearly, we are unique among primates due in part to our human ancestors initially eating more meat then any other primate. Our early diet provided the caloric density required for larger brain growth. This change in our diet around 2.5 million years ago brought us to the stage of habiline or more specifically Homo habilis the tool user. Then, a second transformation around 1.8 million years ago occured as we evolved into Homo erectus.

It is this second hominid phase of evolution that Wrangham explores by hypothesizing that the use of fire and cooking brought not one but two transformations: our evolution from Homo habilis into Homo erectus and from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens.

His inquiry is profound in it’s insight due to the simplicity and clarity with which he investigates our evolutionary path and our relationship with fire. 

"Animals need food, water and shelter. We humans need all those things, but we need fire too. How long have we needed it? Few people have thought about this question."

His first chapter dives right into the sector of foodies that might resist his thesis most:  raw foodists.

He pulls data from all the raw food diet studies he can find. The most extensive study that took place in Germany, the Giessen Raw Food Study, found that 82% of long term raw foodists include some cooked food in their diets.

"Reduced reproductive function means that in our evolutionary past, raw foodism would have been much less successful then the habit of eating cooked food. A rate of infertility greater then 50 percent, such as was found in the Giessen study, would be devastating in a natural population of foragers."

He goes on to to point out that the people in the study were middle class urbanites who did not have to work as hard foraging as our human ancestors, which would have dropped fertility even more due to physical exertion compounding the nutritional deficiencies. Wrangham goes in depth into a few fascinating studies of human digestion to begin to unravel some of the fundamental differences between raw, cooked and processed foods and how our bodies convert and absorb sustenance from them.

Professor Wrangham also investigates the classic mythologically of raw traditional cultures showing that even the Inuit are eating a cooked evening meal. In addition, for most cultures around the world the evening meal is the largest meal and it is cooked. He then explores how in survival situations people who were eating a rich diverse raw diet became very thin and famished and dreamt of cooked food.

The next few chapters go into a great story about how our guts and brains coevolved in response to a diet of cooked food. Our intestines have shortened our stomach and our mouth is smaller and our teeth are less substantial then all other primates. These physiological differences can be attributed in part to diminishing the time we spend needing to masticate raw foods. Thank goodness as we’ve got other things to do than sit around chewing plants for hours like our mountain gorilla relatives .

Our brains require massive quantities of caloric intake to grow and to operate and there is a clear pattern in evolution that shows that such a high demand organ would need a dense diet to support it. Wrangham illustrates this by some great behavioral biology detail on various species and their high demand bodies and what they all eat.

In the chapter “Brain Foods,” he tells some tasty stories of traditional cultural cuisines as catalyst for brain growth by proposing yet another evolutionary leap through cooking: the use of cooking containers as far back as 120,000 years ago. The reduction in digestive costs from longer cooking times, which containers made possible, may have facilitated further increases in brain size in our the overall evolution of our species. We were able to absorb more nutrients as well. Here’s an idea for your next barbeque: the Adaman Islanders take a length of bamboo and heat it over the fire to dry it out. Next, it is packed with half cooked pieces of wild pork or other meat and heated slowly to swell without cracking. The stuffed bamboo is then taken off the fire, stuffed with leaves to seal it thoroughly and left for several days to ferment. Many of these traditional ways are sadly lost to us today. Maybe one of you out there might be willing to resurrect this gustatory delight? Let me know.

And finally, in yet another fascinating chapter titled, “When Cooking Began,” Wrangham brings the idea home that our living bodies have as much to tell us about when cooking began as do fossils and archaeology.”Humans do not eat cooked food because we have the right kind of teeth and guts: rather, we have small teeth and short guts as a result of adapting to a cooked diet.” He then gives multiple examples of how diet changes the physiology of animals demonstrating that over time there is a tight fit between food and anatomy.

Enjoy reading this fascinating journey into human evolution, diet and our fellow primates and life forms on this wild planet. This is truly one of my latest favorite books that ties together many enlightening theories and ideas about our human evolution. It definitely whets my appetite for more of this kind of research and some slow cooked pastured beef bone broth stew with wild greens and some sauerkraut to bring in the microbes. Bon Apetit!

Tags: andrew faust

I am very excited to share with you all one of my favorite books, “Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence,” by Joseph “Joe” Chilton Pearce. I first became familiar with  Joe Pearce after a friend who I was teaching with at the time (Jim Connor -Upattinas, Glenmore, PA) recommended that I read his third book “Magical Child” because of my interest in the evolution of ecological consciousness.  As a board member of the National Coalition for Alternative Community Schools I immediately pursued hiring him as our keynote speaker for an NCACS,
http://www.ncacs.org/,  conference, on alternative education with Jim Connor who now runs “Whispering Seed”, a sustainable living and learning center for orphaned children along the Thai-Burmese border.  I then went on to read “The Crack in The Cosmic Egg,”  and “Magical Child Matures as well as the sequel to this one I am reviewing, “The Biology of Transcendence.” I have had the pleasure of taking workshops with Joe several times in the late 90‘s, personally witnessing this gifted teacher in the movement to expand human consciousness by cultivating deeply nurturing, Earth centered, spiritual and metaphysical ways of being. In Evolution’s End you will find all of the core concepts Pearce has been developing over the past several decades: the heart mind connection, the need for nurturing the whole human being and the damage that society is inflicting upon itself through our disconnection from our biological nature. He adds to these core concepts the latest studies in brain science and behavioral biology along with a good dose of metaphysics to round out his theories.
 
Pearce fluidly traverses the metaphysical realm, answering questions such as, “How and what does our mind shape reality from?”,”Where do ideas come from?” then is off into the field of neurobiology covering the triune structure of the brain and the developmental stages of brain growth and cognition. He presents compelling and intriguing information such as studies of savants and remote viewing that suggest our brains are like a radio that can “tune into” ideas and information from a data base of wavelengths which, get this, reside outside of local space-time. This enables ideas to not be limited by things like the speed of light or physical location: they are in a different dimension that your brain tunes into and receives information and ideas from.
 
“Evolution’s End,” makes it very clear that our failure to fulfill our species most basic biological needs, those of our children to be deeply nurtured and of expectant mother’s to be safe and secure, is keeping our society and our species from claiming our highest evolutionary potential. Joe introduces the model imperative concept from cognitive studies of the brain which states that if the stimulus is not experienced then the receptors for processing that experience do not develop in the heart/mind/brain of developing human beings.
Joe Pearce expounds on this theory by presenting studies indicating that people in the G-8 nations have a less acute sense of color distinctions because of our nature deficit disorder. Our children are not growing up immersed in and interacting with the overall complexity and subtleties of nature and her vast display of colors. Quite the contrary, they are growing up surround sounded and visually bombarded by a multi billion dollar media blitzkrieg targeted specifically at this receptive impressionable developing young human mind.
 
We are countering the evolution of our species by not making sure that every mother and child are provided for with healthy and nutritious food, good water and a caring and loving environment. Babies need to bond with mothers, according to Pearce, in order for the brain and our deeper psyches to become grounded and able to grow with the amazing rapidity and perception of the world that is every human’s birthright.
In all of Joe’s books he speaks of the bond between mother and child that begins with breast feeding being what connects the larger adult psyche to Earth consciousness and lays the foundation for expanded consciousness of all sorts. 
 
The description on the bottom of the cover sums up well some of the other areas that Joseph Chilton Pearce develops in, “Evolution’s End,” - “A Galvanizing Indictment of How We Are Sabotaging Our Children’s Development And Our Society’s Future That Will Transform The Way We Think About Our Families, Schools, And Lives.”
 
I highly recommend this book to all humans on earth, to permaculture teachers wanting to deepen their understanding of the human brain and human development and, especially, to everyone interested in having, raising or being more empathic with children.

I am very excited to share with you all one of my favorite books, “Evolution’s End: Claiming the Potential of Our Intelligence,” by Joseph “Joe” Chilton Pearce. I first became familiar with  Joe Pearce after a friend who I was teaching with at the time (Jim Connor -Upattinas, Glenmore, PA) recommended that I read his third book “Magical Child” because of my interest in the evolution of ecological consciousness.  As a board member of the National Coalition for Alternative Community Schools I immediately pursued hiring him as our keynote speaker for an NCACS,

http://www.ncacs.org/,  conference, on alternative education with Jim Connor who now runs “Whispering Seed”, a sustainable living and learning center for orphaned children along the Thai-Burmese border.  I then went on to read “The Crack in The Cosmic Egg,”  and “Magical Child Matures as well as the sequel to this one I am reviewing, “The Biology of Transcendence.” I have had the pleasure of taking workshops with Joe several times in the late 90‘s, personally witnessing this gifted teacher in the movement to expand human consciousness by cultivating deeply nurturing, Earth centered, spiritual and metaphysical ways of being. In Evolution’s End you will find all of the core concepts Pearce has been developing over the past several decades: the heart mind connection, the need for nurturing the whole human being and the damage that society is inflicting upon itself through our disconnection from our biological nature. He adds to these core concepts the latest studies in brain science and behavioral biology along with a good dose of metaphysics to round out his theories.

 

Pearce fluidly traverses the metaphysical realm, answering questions such as, “How and what does our mind shape reality from?”,”Where do ideas come from?” then is off into the field of neurobiology covering the triune structure of the brain and the developmental stages of brain growth and cognition. He presents compelling and intriguing information such as studies of savants and remote viewing that suggest our brains are like a radio that can “tune into” ideas and information from a data base of wavelengths which, get this, reside outside of local space-time. This enables ideas to not be limited by things like the speed of light or physical location: they are in a different dimension that your brain tunes into and receives information and ideas from.

 

“Evolution’s End,” makes it very clear that our failure to fulfill our species most basic biological needs, those of our children to be deeply nurtured and of expectant mother’s to be safe and secure, is keeping our society and our species from claiming our highest evolutionary potential. Joe introduces the model imperative concept from cognitive studies of the brain which states that if the stimulus is not experienced then the receptors for processing that experience do not develop in the heart/mind/brain of developing human beings.

Joe Pearce expounds on this theory by presenting studies indicating that people in the G-8 nations have a less acute sense of color distinctions because of our nature deficit disorder. Our children are not growing up immersed in and interacting with the overall complexity and subtleties of nature and her vast display of colors. Quite the contrary, they are growing up surround sounded and visually bombarded by a multi billion dollar media blitzkrieg targeted specifically at this receptive impressionable developing young human mind.

 

We are countering the evolution of our species by not making sure that every mother and child are provided for with healthy and nutritious food, good water and a caring and loving environment. Babies need to bond with mothers, according to Pearce, in order for the brain and our deeper psyches to become grounded and able to grow with the amazing rapidity and perception of the world that is every human’s birthright.

In all of Joe’s books he speaks of the bond between mother and child that begins with breast feeding being what connects the larger adult psyche to Earth consciousness and lays the foundation for expanded consciousness of all sorts. 

 

The description on the bottom of the cover sums up well some of the other areas that Joseph Chilton Pearce develops in, “Evolution’s End,” - “A Galvanizing Indictment of How We Are Sabotaging Our Children’s Development And Our Society’s Future That Will Transform The Way We Think About Our Families, Schools, And Lives.”

 

I highly recommend this book to all humans on earth, to permaculture teachers wanting to deepen their understanding of the human brain and human development and, especially, to everyone interested in having, raising or being more empathic with children.

The “Wild Life Of Our Bodies” by Rob Dunn will change and inform the way you think of the human body and our health and well being.
According to this book we need our on board microbes desperately. We also need to contextualize our understanding of human physiology and what makes us healthy, within our collective journey as organisms who have been on Earth for millions of years. For example, our guts need more flora and even fauna like worms are being found to be an essential healing tool for people with Crohn’s disease and a range of other health issues. Each of us even has our own unique forms of fungi living in our lungs.  Who knows why they are there? Dunn presents theorizes that our hairlessness may stem from bedbugs whom we got from living in caves: they jumped from bats, morphed to live on humans and have been with  us ever since. Lucky us.
The book’s subtitle, ” Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are” sums up some of the unique insights of Dunn and the studies which he covers in it. According to the book we have fear based responses that are hardwired from millions of years of being prey and are now obsolete possibly causing xenophobia about people we do not know. This behavior mirrors the behavior of pronghorns which acquired the ability to run at extremely high speeds to escape the now long extinct mega fauna predators in North America.
Human beings have been prey for far longer then they have been predators and our physiology attests to this. Another theory presented by the book that I found fascinating is that our sharp color vision may be an adaptation to living in environments with venomous snakes. Old world monkeys, who share our color vision, co-evolved with venomous snakes, yet new world monkeys who did not encounter poisonous snakes until well into their evolution do not.  It follows that monkeys living on Madagascar where there are no venomous snakes have very rudimentary vision. This story of the rich interconnections between our environment and our physiology makes this book particularly insightful.
While I found Dunn to be a compelling writer, he is a little pop culture in his language, meaning he has a somewhat simplistic writing style. However the content is great! You will learn about the latest studies in a nice range of seemingly unrelated biological fields that he weaves together masterfully.
This and and other more intriguing tidbits lie within this engaging and smooth read. I highly recommend, ” The Wild Life Of Our Bodies” by Rob Dunn.

The “Wild Life Of Our Bodies” by Rob Dunn will change and inform the way you think of the human body and our health and well being.

According to this book we need our on board microbes desperately. We also need to contextualize our understanding of human physiology and what makes us healthy, within our collective journey as organisms who have been on Earth for millions of years. For example, our guts need more flora and even fauna like worms are being found to be an essential healing tool for people with Crohn’s disease and a range of other health issues. Each of us even has our own unique forms of fungi living in our lungs.  Who knows why they are there? Dunn presents theorizes that our hairlessness may stem from bedbugs whom we got from living in caves: they jumped from bats, morphed to live on humans and have been with us ever since. Lucky us.

The book’s subtitle, ” Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are” sums up some of the unique insights of Dunn and the studies which he covers in it. According to the book we have fear based responses that are hardwired from millions of years of being prey and are now obsolete possibly causing xenophobia about people we do not know. This behavior mirrors the behavior of pronghorns which acquired the ability to run at extremely high speeds to escape the now long extinct mega fauna predators in North America.

Human beings have been prey for far longer then they have been predators and our physiology attests to this. Another theory presented by the book that I found fascinating is that our sharp color vision may be an adaptation to living in environments with venomous snakes. Old world monkeys, who share our color vision, co-evolved with venomous snakes, yet new world monkeys who did not encounter poisonous snakes until well into their evolution do not.  It follows that monkeys living on Madagascar where there are no venomous snakes have very rudimentary vision. This story of the rich interconnections between our environment and our physiology makes this book particularly insightful.

While I found Dunn to be a compelling writer, he is a little pop culture in his language, meaning he has a somewhat simplistic writing style. However the content is great! You will learn about the latest studies in a nice range of seemingly unrelated biological fields that he weaves together masterfully.

This and and other more intriguing tidbits lie within this engaging and smooth read. I highly recommend, ” The Wild Life Of Our Bodies” by Rob Dunn.

Check this out for a good sense of our latest greatest transformative Permaculture Design classes.

I just joined tumblr and found many people sharing this video of one of my talks at #OWS. Thank you!

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OCCUPY THE ECONOMY : Andrew Faust - Permaculture - OWS

Real tips you can incorporate into your life today!

Greetings first sharing

Salutations everyone!

I am excited to create this new medium to share with you a synopsis of the MANY books I read and to share photos, videos, writings, thoughts, links and my best and latest rantings about our world our day and our way.