Are You Smarter Than a Reptile?

By: Guest Contributor, William B. Miller, Jr. M.D.


Are you smarter than a reptile?  In many respects, you certainly are. After all, no reptile is going to read this article. However, our clearly superior intellectual abilities for certain skills has seduced us towards a dismissive attitude towards the surprisingly deep and broad range of analytical gifts of our companion creatures. A growing body of research now indicates that other animals of all sizes and varieties are highly intelligent problem solvers within their own realms. After all, their cognitive skills have enabled them to successfully survive for eons and that may not necessarily prove to be true of we humans.

Cshutterstock_260232848onsider termites. They are strikingly social animals and have constructed elaborate societies for 200 million years. They engage in a primitive sort of agriculture, farming varieties of fungus for food. As individuals, they demonstrate remarkable intelligence and an even more surprising group intelligence that enables complicated feats of soil engineering in a diverse range of environments. Within their complex societal structure, termites divide labor between varied types of specialized workers, for example, infant care, manual labor, reproduction or soldiers for the defense of the colony. All of this proceeds via highly evolved and complex patterns of communication and signaling.

shutterstock_269700524Individual bees are intelligent and can even solve problems that are mathematically based. For example, they effectively decide the Traveling Salesman dilemma of optimizing the most efficient route to visit large numbers of locations in a single day. Bees communicate in a rich symbolic non-verbal language that enables them to transmit abstract concepts to others such as the location of particular flowers over large distances based on angles of the sun. They even seem to understand some rudimentary concepts of medical care utilizing medications within their hives. For example, honeybees colonies have been demonstrated to self medicate with plant resin to combat fungal infections.

Whshutterstock_177051125at about ants. They’re no slouches. They can navigate long distances to find food and can communicate its location to others with facility. As individuals, they can seek family members, memorize multiple alternate locations and can integrate a large number sources of information. They are even altruistic and will help other ants in distress.

 Modern research is teaching that intelligence is not directly linked to brain volume. All sizes can be demonstrate high intelligence.

Birds have small brains but are terrific problem solvers. They are highly cooperative and exhibit a wide range of highly intelligent behaviors. For example, they useshutterstock_129934394 vocal learning. Their songs are a complex language. Did you realize that they give lifelong names to their young? They are even known to mourn the loss of others. Birds also have a gyroscopic sense of geography and can store seeds in thousands of places that they can remember. Can we do that?
Perhaps you suppose that only humans are capable of understanding analogies. However, crows can use analogies to solve higher order tasks. They understand sharing, can use rudimentary arithmetic and can invent meanings for words. Cockatoos can solve puzzles with at least 5 steps. They can even keep time to music.

shutterstock_90963653Might fish be intellectually impaired? In fact, fish lead complex social lives and are highly intelligent. In a comparison of the intellectual capacity of primates and fish, who do you think should win? In a food test comparing fish with monkeys, chimpanzees and orangutans, it was the fish that proved more adept at learning the advantages of certain patterns of food choices and were faster at it.  And individual fish have personalities. Timid ones stay timid and aggressive ones remain bold. They also demonstrate individually distinguishable levels of curiosity and social ability. Fish can play, have excellent memories and perform complex courtship rituals. And Tusk fish even use tools to open shells for food, an act of intellect, which used to be considered as exclusive to humans but is now known to be widely distributed among species.

Certainly then, we must be much smarter than microbes. However, if intelligence is construed as using information to solve problems to successfully reproduce and survive in hostile environments, then they might be considered among the most intelligent. Some bacterial strains and even some viruses have survived essentially unchanged in any significant manner for hundreds of millions of years, in part this by using elaborate signaling patterns for communication among themselves and others.

So what might we make of this widely distributed world wide intelligence than had been previously understood?

  • Our intelligence might be of a unique kind, but it is not the only intelligence of consequence on this planet. Ours is just different and suited to the types of problems that we need to solve.
  • We have vastly underestimated the intelligence, feelings and complexity of the inner lives of our companion creatures on this planet. The implications are profound for our relationship towards them and our stewardship of the planet we share.
  • The ubiquity of refined intelligence requires a thorough re-examination of our evolutionary narrative. Intelligence exists at every scope, and scale underscores every aspect of evolutionary development.
  • This emerging understanding teaches us that all cognitive ability starts at the cellular level. All complex creatures must in turn be viewed as integrated collections of intelligent cells, vast collaboratives of cellular intelligence – we in our human package, and they in theirs.

While our form of collective intelligence may be privileged compared to others, it is not different in its essence. As a species, we would do well to grasp this vital truth.

Dr. Bill Miller has been a physician in academic and private practice for over 30 years. He is the author of The Microcosm Within: Evolution and Extinction in the Hologenome. He currently serves as a scientific advisor to OmniBiome Therapeutics, a pioneering company in discovering and developing solutions to problems in human fertility and health through management of the human microbiome. For more information, www.themicrocosmwithin.com.

 Lizardtermitebeeantcockatoo, and fish image images via Shutterstock.

by Editor

Forest’s Ecosystem Management

Energy Consumption in Homes Across Europe

Interesting Environmental Law Cases

11 Nature-Inspired Home Design Ideas

By: Guest Contributor, Jona Jone


It’s not surprising if you find yourself concerned about the perils that cripple mother earth. Just like everyone else, you’re probably into the mainstream trend of prioritizing a sustainable living environment.

Of course, you need to have brilliant green home design ideas to make eco-living work. You can’t deny the fact that the marketability of green-friendly materials is on the rise.

ELEA’s Rory Vinokor informed readers that overall consumer spending on eco-friendly products have increased in the United States as of 2014.

Creatively design your home in beneficial, eco-friendly ways. Help preserve the beauty that nature has to offer before it’s too late.


Create a Desk Garden


Photo courtesy of The Virally via Pinterest

If you have a large house, naturally, you’ll want the entryway leading to your residence to emanate a pleasantly sustainable ambiance.

Use your desk to create a garden in your home. Care for your plants in your desk garden. Make sure to water them just like what you’ll do in a garden outdoors. Inspire your home visitors with this creative nature design.

You may find yourself missing doing some of your daily activities in lieu of creating a garden in your desk. Putting up a garden in your foyer may take a lot of your effort and time. However, you’ll eventually find that reaping the fruits of your labor will make all of your sacrifices worth it in the long run.


Hang Out on Your Grassy Bed


Photo courtesy of The Virally via Pinterest

Want to take the green home design tips you’ve got on your mind to the next level? How about having a picnic on your very own grassy bed lounger? You can still have a picnic indoors when undesirable weather strikes. Enjoy a picnic on a grassy bed in your spare room with your entire family. Let the show go on even when there’s a storm on the horizon.

Alternatively, eco-friendly grassy bed cools down your body on a hot summer day. The grass lets your body absorb colder air for better relaxation. Pillows and blankets will let you improve enjoyment of a good night’s rest on this green-friendly bed.


Leafy Bookmarks for Your Reading Pleasure


Photo courtesy of The Virally via Pinterest

Extend your green-friendly campaign to the mini library in your home. Ingeniously leave leafy bookmarks on your library’s books to propel reading pleasure and concentration, and to give you an outdoor feel.


Write the Green-Friendly Way


Photo courtesy of The Gadget Flow via Pinterest

Don’t forget to conceptualize green interior design ideas for your home office, too. Own a plant display and a collection of eco-friendly pens in one package. Use your eco-friendly pens and pencils while doing your office work. When not in use, make sure to turn your pen collection to a plant display to bring in fresh air to your home office.


LED Mushroom Lamps for a Brighter Room


 Photo courtesy of Earth Porm via Pinterest

Be subtle in lighting up your room at night in an eco-friendly way. Use battery-operated yet adorable LED mushroom lamps to keep your room well-lit during bed time. Amuse yourself and your kids when they look at these cute LED lamps. LEDs maximize healthy living by producing low-intensity infrared light.


Your Interactive Cloud Lamp Brings a 3D Feel


 Photo courtesy of Earth Porm via Pinterest

The list of eco friendly home design ideas is not limited to the traditional ones. An interactive cloud lamp lets you live an exciting and environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Activate your senses as this lamp emanates a 3D thunderstorm feel in your home. Your entire family, especially your little ones, will never cease to be amazed as they witness the special effects this lamp brings.


A Garden-Like Stand Your Umbrella Needs


 Photo courtesy of Earth Porm via Pinterest

Put container gardening to good use. Decorate your home with a grassy umbrella stand. To avoid spending a fortune on a green-friendly umbrella stand, you may choose to incorporate the grass beneath the container stand. Care for the grass yourself by being responsible in keeping it watered regularly.


Sea-produce Waterdrop Magnets


Photo courtesy of Rachel via Pinterest

Nurture a sea-nature inspired mood by decorating your home with waterdrop magnets. Use these to keep papers posted on your refrigerator door intact. Appreciate the treasures nature has to offer by having these rare green home decors.


Go Green When Telling Time


 Photo courtesy of Technocrazed via Pinterest

Find ways to create garden in your home with practical benefits. Care for a mini-garden in your home while checking the time. Design your home with an organic clock. Keep yourself preoccupied caring for your garden, while you successfully keep track of time on a busy day.


A Porch Made with Plastic Bottles


Photo courtesy of HGTV via Pinterest

Eco-friendly homes don’t need to look literally simple. A porch made with plastic bottles makes your home stand out. Plastic bottles add colorful appeal to your porch. What’s more, these materials are sturdy enough, just like any traditional wood. Choose from multiple shades and textures plastic bottles offer when constructing your porch. Alternatively, there are also different types of eco-friendly materials to choose from if you’re not into plastic bottles such as coconut wood, bamboo, eco rock, and bio glass.


A Professionally-Designed Bonsai Tree


Photo courtesy of Denice via Pinterest

Design your home office’s bonsai tree in such a way that will motivate you to work harder. Entice a professional mood to shine through your office by putting a miniature businessman and corporate ladder displays on the branch of your bonsai tree.

As an article in DMCI Homes Leasing pointed out, maximizing your living space to accommodate a garden in your home lets you live your life to the best of your satisfaction. Always appreciate God-given creations in amazing ways possible. These wonderful green home design ideas can both motivate and boost your vivid imagination.


Jona Jone was a mortgage originator in Philadelphia, PA and is now a Business and Property Specialist. She writes about real estate investment, business, parenting and living. Follow Jona on Twitter

by Editor

EPA study: Climate Change to Wipeout Eastern Trout, Salmon by 2100





According to an EPA study, in less than 90 years there will no longer be any trout or salmon east of the Mississippi River (barring a small area on Vermont’s northeast border) and populations in the west will only persist in the most mountainous areas.  Current projections suggest climate change will render enormous swaths of habitat too warm to support these ecologically, and economically important cold-water fish.

fish-fig-1-downloadIn a press release this morning, Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway spoke on these findings, “’This report is shocking. Its map of trout and salmon habitat in the year 2100 shows a big blank space over the entire Adirondack Park. Without immediate action to curb the warming climate, EPA is predicting that all Adirondack trout and salmon populations will be dead within 85 years. A change like that would fundamentally alter the nature of this park, its water, wildlife and the economy of the communities. The Adirondack Park would never be the same again.

fish-fig-2-download“ Janeway noted that many Adirondack trout and salmon populations are genetically unique and valuable to the entire web of life in the park. They are food for loons and other iconic wildlife, while also serving as a top predator in the waters they inhabit. Their loss would unravel the park’s web of life.”

Janeway’s statements should resonate throughout the U.S..   Not only would the loss of these fish be an ecological catastrophe, but it would deal a devastating financial blow to the communities supported by the fishing tourism industry.  The national loss in revenue is estimated to run as high as $1.5 billion per year.

Viable cold-water habitat is projected to drop by 62% by 2100.  However, there is hope.  With global greenhouse gas mitigation that number could change to a loss of only 12%.  Nationally, proactive mitigation efforts could preserve approximately 360,000 acres of cold-water habitat, as well as the previously mentioned $1.5 billion of revenue per year.

Trout Image via Shutterstock

Figures 1&2 via EPA


by Katharine Galpin

9 Green Air Freshener Ideas

9 Everyday Items You Should Never, Ever Throw In The Trash

By: Guest Contributor, Joe Baker


We’re all responsible consumers, right? Still, when something is broken, the temptation is often to just throw it in the trash and be done with it. Don’t do it! Here are nine items you may be surprised to learn should never go into the trash:

Note: Disposing of household hazardous waste (HHW) properly starts by knowing where your nearest HHW facility is. Use recyclenation.com to find local recycling and disposal options for just about anything you can think of. Then, spread the word to your friends and family.


  1. ENN_BatteriesBatteries are small, and therefore easy to toss in the trash. However, even used-up batteries are full of nasty metals and chemicals that can cause serious problems. Drop any non-rechargeable batteries drop off at your local HHW facility.
  2.  Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) are energy-saving, but contain small amounts of mercury, which can contaminate the air we breathe. These should go to your local HHW center, where they will also ensure that valuable parts of the bulbs are recycled.
  3. Glass Thermometers have mostly been edged out by electronic thermometers, but if you do have one lying around, it should go to the nearest HHW facility. The average mercury thermometer contains 500 milligrams of mercury—a serious health hazard if the thermometer is accidentally broken.
  4.  Hair (Human and Pet) may not cause harm when thrown away, but it contains high levels of nitrogen, so why not add it to your compost pile to make great fertilizer? You can also sprinkle it around your garden plants to help keep deer away.
  5.  Motor Oil can contaminate waterways and harm aquatic life, so it’s against the law in most states to pour it down the drain or on the ground. The only proper way to get rid of motor oil is to place it in a plastic container with a tight lid and deliver it to a recycling center, a car service station, or an automotive store.
  6. Oil-Based Paints contain chemicals that can be harmful to humans, animals and the environment. These should never be disposed of in the trash or down the drain; take them instead to your local HHW collection point.
  7.  Old Electronic Devices are made from valuable resources and materials, including metals, plastics, and glass, all of which require energy to mine and manufacture, so why waste all that work? Take all your old electronics to an e-waste center.
  8. ENN_TiresSmoke Detectors need to be replaced every ten years. Ionization smoke detectors emit a small amount of radiation, so they should be mailed back to their manufacturer (after you’ve removed the batteries). Photoelectric smoke detectors can be taken to any electronics recycling facility.
  9.  Used Tires are not considered hazardous waste, but they are a problem material. In most states, it’s illegal to dump them in the trash or on the side of the road. Instead, tires can be recycled at almost any car dealer or tire service center.


Joe Baker is the Vice President, Editorial and Advocacy for Care2 and ThePetitionSite. He is responsible for recruitment campaigns for nonprofit partners, membership growth efforts, and all editorial content. Prior to Care2, Joe was the Executive Director of N-TEN. Joe serves on the Board of Directors of Death Penalty Focus, the Advisory Board of GiveForward.org and volunteers for the Sierra Club and Amnesty International.

 Batteries and tires image via Shutterstock.

by Editor


DIY Tips and Tricks for Summertime Savings

With summer upon us, lots of people are looking for ways to keep cool without the cost. Heating and cooling runs the average household about $875 a year—nearly half the home’s total energy bill.

Beyond the energy bill, there’s also a cost to the environment. Did you know that the energy used in the average house can cause about twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as the average car? To help us save this summer, experts at ENERGY STAR have shared with us some tips and tricks.

Easy to Moderate Effort:

Energy efficiency doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time or money. Try out these DIY projects for energy savings.

  • shutterstock_92965054Install and properly use a programmable thermostat: A programmable thermostat is one of the best ways to save energy all year long. Use it to automatically lower your air conditioning and heating when you don’t need it. Raising the temperature seven degrees when no one’s home and four degrees at bedtime during the summer, along with proper programming in the winter, can save you more than $180 annually.
  • HVAC Maintenance: When was the last time you checked to make sure that your HVAC system was working properly? A few simple moves will make sure that your system is working efficiently.
    • Check your air filter every month, changing it whenever it is dirty (at least every 3 months). Dirty filters block air flow, making your system work harder to keep your house cool.
    • Your car isn’t the only thing you own that needs scheduled maintenance. Have a contractor give your HVAC equipment an annual tune up. Your system will work better, keeping you cooler all summer long.
  • Install ENERGY STAR light bulbs: If you still haven’t switched out your old light bulbs for energy efficient options, an ENERGY STAR LED bulb makeover is a great summer project! ENERGY STAR certified bulbs use 70-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs, giving off much less heat inside your home. They can save $30-$75 each in energy bills and last over 20 years, so this is a project that will make a difference for years to come. With prices falling dramatically all over the country, THIS is the time to make the switch to ENERGY STAR LED bulbs!
  • Shade your home: Outfit your home with shades, blinds, curtains and awnings, especially on the south and west sides of your home where the sun is hottest. This simple move will keep the hot rays of the sun out of your home, bringing down the temperature.

Larger Effort:

If you are looking for a bigger project, try out one of these energy savers. Some are still possible as a do-it-yourself project, and others are a better fit for a skilled contractor.

  •  shutterstock_134073479Duct Sealing and Insulating: Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central AC or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20%–sometimes much more.
    • Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts that run through your attic, crawlspace, unheated basement or garage.
    • After sealing, wrap the ducts in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer.
    • Next, look to seal any other ducts in the home. Make sure that connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls and ceiling.
  • Seal and Insulate Air Leaks: Air leaks make it a lot harder to keep the cool air inside during the summer. Find the air leaks around your home (door and window trim are good places to tackle first) and seal them with spray form, caulk and weather stripping. Sealing and insulating your home can save you up to $200 in annual utility bills. For detailed guidance check out Home Sealing Improvement.


See more tips at ENERGY STAR.

Thermostat image and Window insulation image via Shutterstock.

by Editor

The California Spill and the Continuance of Harmful Oil Operations

By: Guest Contributor, Brittany Michelson


Plains All American Pipeline, the company responsible for the May 19th Refugio oil spill rakes in billions of dollars (over 43 billion in 2014) while birds, fish, and marine mammals drenched in oil have washed up on the shores of Santa Barbara County. In the initial few days investigators reported that 9.5 miles of ocean and 8.7 miles of coastline had been affected, but oil shifts with trade winds, and signs of oil damage have shown up further south, in the Malibu region.

“We’re sorry this accident has happened, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience to the community,” Plains district manager said in a public statement. Sorry is a mild response when there are oil soaked wildlife struggling to swim and fly, surfers can’t enter the ocean they love, children can’t play freely in the waves, and families can’t enjoy a day at Refugio State beach, a place that Dana Murray, the senior manager of Heal the Bay organization calls “a treasured and protected beach park and a coastal refuge teeming with sensitive wildlife.” The Chumash Native Americans named the Refugio area “Qasil” meaning “beautiful.” It will also now be known as one of the largest coastal oil spills in California history.

shutterstock_55817818And yet Darren Palmer from the pipeline company referred to it as an “inconvenience.” Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr said, “This is more than an inconvenience, this is a disaster.” Whether this incident is viewed as an inconvenience or a disaster depends on the level of respect one has for the natural environment and its inhabitants.

According to disclosures, it took Plains about 90 minutes after the oil spill was confirmed to notify the National Response Center, a clearinghouse for reports of hazardous material releases that coordinates response. In a letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, U.S senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein labeled the response to the spill “insufficient.” They also questioned why the line lacked an automatic shut-off valve.

Plains spokesman Patrick Hodgins said. “We’re going to address the issue, we’re going to investigate it with the federal regulators, we’re going to find out what happened and we’re going to make it right.” But how exactly can a disaster of this scope be “made right”? From the moment the oil started spewing from the ruptured pipeline, our fragile coastal ecosystem incurred serious damage.

The damage has harmed the Gaviota coast, a rare Mediterranean-climate region where northern and southern plants and wildlife meet. Research indicates that there are only five such regions in the world, located at the western edges of continents and unique for their biological diversity.

According to Plains, there was a pipeline inspection this May and the one prior to that was in 2012. Two inspections in three years, for a massive oil pipe that has the ability to destroy miles of rich, biodiverse coastline?

shutterstock_62505043Brigid McCormack, the executive director of Audubon California, said, “Time and time again, we’re reminded that the benefits of putting oil so close to our natural treasures are never worth the risk.”

And yet, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy states that there are four offshore platforms linked to two oil processing plants in this coastal area, and despite the Refugio Oil Spill on May 19, Venoco is proposing to substantially expand drilling and production at platform Holly.

The conservancy called on Plains All American and the Unified Command to implement effective cleanup of the spill for as long as it takes. The delayed initial response has caused these additional areas to be affected, which could have been prevented.

The Gaviota Coast is already an endangered area due to urbanization and increasing industrial development, and preservation and conservation efforts were already taking place to protect it.

According to Southern California Public Radio, the timing of the Refugio spill could work to the advantage of environmental groups, as the incident happened days after a federal agency approved Shell’s plan for drilling in the Arctic.

Historically, nature conservation efforts have increased in response to certain devastating incidents. The 3 million gallon oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969 was so disastrous, it sparked the environmental movement and various laws to protect the natural world. Artist Bud Bottoms and his group Get Oil Out helped gather 200,000 signatures to get oil rigs removed from the coast. Though that didn’t happen, legislation was passed to protect endangered species, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970, and the Environmental Defense Center was formed in 1977, which has been trying to block certain drilling projects.

shutterstock_164523230Since the 1969 oil catastrophe forty-six years ago, these disasters are still happening. The Exxon Valdez accident released 11 million gallons off Alaska’s shores in 1989 and the Deepwater Horizon spill dumped 210 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

According to federal records, Plains All American subsidiaries have reported at least 223 accidents along their lines and spilled a combined 864,300 gallons of hazardous liquids since 2006, have been subject to 25 enforcement actions, and tallied damages topping $32 million.

The continued refusal to invest in renewables is highly frustrating. “When we have a huge solar spill around here, we just call it a nice day,” said Dave Davis, CEO and president of the Community Environmental Council.

Will the oil industry ever learn? Will they at some point do justice for our precious environment? Will they ever honor the fact that we share this planet with nature and wildlife; we do not own it.

Oil spill on beach, bird and cleanup images via Shutterstock.


Brittany Michelson’s work has been published in several literary journals including Role/Reboot, PoemMemoirStory Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, The Whistling Fire, Split Lip Magazine and others. She cares deeply about animals and the environment and lives in Topanga Canyon, CA. 

by Editor