Indigenous Knowledge

Food Sovereignty in Wabanaki Communities

Fruit and nut tree program aims to promote food sovereignty in Wabanaki communities: A U.S.-based Indigenous non-profit is trying to help Wabanaki communities have access to sustainable foods by distributing fruit and nut trees.

Nibezun is based in Passadumkeag, Maine, roughly 50 kilometres northeast of Bangor, and is offering up to 300 beach plum, elderberry or American hazelnut trees to interested community members.

The Wabanaki Confederacy consists of the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqey, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy and Abenaki nations. Kassidy Bernard is L’nu (Mi’kmaw for person of the land) from We’koqma’q First Nation, about 240 kilometres northeast of Halifax, and uses they/them pronouns.

Bernard was thrilled to learn about the food security initiative because they want to implement a food sharing program in their community. “Having that, to rely on each other and to sustain ourselves for such a basic need, it’s such a big reassurance to me,” said Bernard. 

Humour Miscellany

Ig Nobel Awards

The sex lives of constipated scorpions, cute ducklings with an innate sense of physics, and a life-size rubber moose may not appear to have much in common, but they all inspired the winners of this year’s Ig Nobels, the prize for comical scientific achievement.

Held less than a month before the actual Nobel Prizes are announced, Thursday’s 32nd annual Ig Nobel prize ceremony was, for the third year in a row, a prerecorded affair webcast on the Annals of Improbable Research magazine’s website.

The winners, honoured in 10 categories, included scientists who found that when people on a blind date are attracted to each other their heart rates synchronize, and researchers who looked at why legal documents can be so utterly baffling, even to lawyers themselves.

Though the ceremony was prerecorded, it retained much of the fun of the live event usually held at Harvard University. As has been an Ig Nobel tradition, real Nobel laureates handed out the prizes, using a bit of video trickery: The Nobel laureates handed the prize off screen, while the winners reached out and brought a prize they had been sent and self-assembled into view.

Biodiversity Health

Why Forests Make Us Happy

‘I’m glowing’: scientists are unlocking secrets of why forests make us happy: How happy do you feel right now? The question is asked by an app on my phone, and I drag the slider to the space between “not much” and “somewhat”.

I’m about to start a walk in the woods that is part of a nationwide research project to investigate how better to design the forests of the future. Volunteers are being sought to record their feelings before and after eight walks on a free app, Go Jauntly, which could reveal what kind of treescapes most benefit our wellbeing and mental health.

My guide is Miles Richardson, professor of nature connectedness at the University of Derby, who hopes the data he gathers from the Treefest walks will discover how the age, size and shape of trees and woodlands benefit wellbeing. “With the government’s ambitious tree-planting targets, there’s going to be hundreds of new forests around the country,” said Richardson. “The whole project is about creating design tools so we can create the best treescape for 50 years’ time. Is the best way to do it with densely packed plantations of trees in regimented rows? Is that more beneficial to your wellbeing than a less linear approach? We don’t know.”

Scores of peer-reviewed studies have identified the myriad benefits of wooded landscapes on everything from improved cardiovascular and immune system health to depression, which decreased with immersion in a forest alongside lower levels of anxiety, anger, confusion and fatigue.

But it appears the type of forest may be important too: intriguingly, several studies suggest that more biodiversity has a bigger boost on people’s mental health, while the recording of brain activity in response to forest density found a more relaxed state and reduced tension and fatigue in forests with a lower density of trees (from 30% to 50%) – suggesting that densely packed conifer plantations aren’t so restorative. The article also details how future AI may connect us to nature, and how soundscapes also impact our mood.


Skin Care

Herbal Skin Care from Garden Plants: The great Larry Hodgson shares some tips for skin care based on common garden plants. Chamomile, mint, sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary, calendula and basil all have medicinal properties you can put to work to help your skin. This is a fun project to investigate this fall as our gardens begin to go dormant.


Container Gardens

How to prepare your container garden for winter: Odessa Palmer Parker writes a useful advice piece in the Globe and Mail for those looking to prepare their container gardens for winter. She wisely consulted some experts and your editor was honoured to be one of these.


New Tools for Raking

Getting Those Fall Leaves Off Your Lawn: Larry Hodgson recalls days of yesteryear when we burned fall leaves. He suggests new tools for raking, and new approaches to dealing with our fall leaves. These are not a waste product, of course, but a valuable resource for gardeners.