This Is Your Brain on Nature — National Geographic Magazine

Nature is nurture for me. There are many stresses in modern life, but when I can spend even 15 minutes in a natural environment, I begin to relax and deal with things more effectively. This is a beautiful article showing how nature is used for wellbeing in many areas of the world. Even if you don’t want to read the very interesting article, you can enjoy the lovely images.

When we get closer to nature, be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree, we do our overstressed brains a favor.

Source: This Is Your Brain on Nature — National Geographic Magazine

The Road To Impact – BioLite

I have mentioned previously that I’m very excited about my BioLite cooking system that I use for camping and for BBQ. As soon as I saw this great new innovation, I needed to have it! In the beginning, it was a little bit frustrating, because you need to use wood for your cooking, and the wood at a campsite is often wet, and hard to start. However, I learned to carry dry kindling with me, and once a fire ignites, it is easy to keep the fire going with the generator and fan. Food cooks and water boils quickly and conveniently, and I don’t need to buy or carry fossil fuels, in order to enjoy my camping meals. This video shows you a little bit about how the technology is being used to improve the lives of families in developing countries, where cooking is often a dangerous and difficult activity. When I think of creative solutions, BioLite is often one of the first products that I think of.

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Ready to make a dried meal

An honest look at the business of change and what it takes to bring Energy Everywhere. Learn how your purchase has a direct impact on our mission.

Source: The Road To Impact – BioLite

Eating Right Can Save the World | Outside Online

If you want to read some very good quality writing, as well as learning about all kinds of amazing adventures around the world, then I highly recommend that you look for “Outside Magazine”. This article is very long, and includes a lot of information that might be confusing, but it’s the best analysis that I’ve seen for how various eating choices affect the environment. If you are planning to take a language proficiency exam, or if this is an interesting subject for you, I recommend that you read this article. Maybe you might want to read a couple of paragraphs/day, instead of trying to read the whole thing in one sitting. Get the main idea first, and then look up words that are unfamiliar to you.

The endless cascade of nutritional information—about localism, vegetarianism, veganism, organic food, the environmental impact of eating meat, poultry, or fish, and more—makes the simple goal of a healthy, sustainable diet seem hopelessly complex. We talked to scientists, chefs, and farmers to get the ultimate rundown on how you should fuel up.

Source: Eating Right Can Save the World | Outside Online

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What do you think about trash?

Garbage is everywhereIf you want to study English at a higher level, especially if you want to take a language proficiency test, you are almost sure to find information about trash. Other words with similar meaning are: garbage, waste, rubbish, refuse, or discarded material. Everyone throws away materials that they don’t use. What happens to it after that? Different jurisdictions take different approaches to the problem of waste, including landfills, recycling, composting, or burning garbage. Here are some interesting videos about the subject.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/2662525″>Sustainable Dave Explains Worm Composting</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user919573″>Sustainable Dave</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

Free Fun with my Favourite Funny Fellow

Once a week, I usually spend time with my favourite 2-year-old.  Because he’s only 2, he really prefers to be running around almost all of the time.  I find that he’s really, really happy to go almost everywhere, as long as he can run around a little bit.  Luckily, there are many parks all over the city where he can do that safely.  As well, there are days when different attractions are open for free.  That’s perfect for us, because I don’t really want to spend a lot of money to chase a 2-year-old around.  Once we get in, he’s often really interested, but it’s funny what he decides is the most interesting!  At the art gallery, he loved the stairs and the elevator.  At the Muttart Conservatory, he was crazy about the pebble floor.  When we couldn’t get into the pool at Commonwealth and at MacEwan, he checked out the vending machines, the lockers, the large, open spaces, and the automatic doors.  2-year-olds see the world a little bit differently than adults!

My little buddy loves to splash in puddles.  One pair of rubber boots cost about $10, and he uses them whenever there is water on the ground!

All along the river valley, there are staircases, usually with about 200 stairs.  Apparently that’s not too many for a 2-year-old to climb, although sometimes they like a lift!  There are so many areas with trails, trees, hills, and bridges, and the little guy is always excited about exploring.

Sometimes we go indoors to enjoy the attractions, and the little guy loves to explore.

Do you have children, all the time, or some of the time?  What are some of your favourite free, or inexpensive activities with them?

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Fantastic paddling weekend at Lakeland Provincial Park

This gallery contains 1 photo.

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about Lakeland Provincial Park http://www.albertaparks.ca/lakeland-pp/information-facilities.aspx but there is a  canoe circuit in this area, the only one in Alberta.  I love to paddle on lakes, but most of the paddlers in my club prefer … Continue reading

If You’re Scared of Snakes, Don’t Watch This

If You’re Scared of Snakes, Don’t Watch This.

My students have been asking a lot about snakes in Alberta.  In southern Alberta, there are rattlesnakes, which can be dangerous, especially for children or dogs.

This is a great, short video about the garter snake colonies in central Manitoba.  Garter snakes are very safe to be around, and it’s nice to see the children interacting with them.  There is a garter snake den near Fort Assiniboine, a couple of hours northwest of Edmonton.  I intend to investigate it next time that I go to the area.

Presence of aggressive bears leads to closures near Banff townsite

 

Presence of aggressive bears leads to closures near Banff townsite

A young, female grizzly in Banff

Presence of aggressive bears leads to closures near Banff townsite.

A lot of people are afraid of meeting wild animals when they go out to enjoy nature, but attacks by animals are really very rare.  Your car trip is much more dangerous than a walk in the woods.  Nevertheless, it’s good to be prepared for wild animals, if you plan to go out hiking or camping.  In the spring, bears are very hungry, and they’re also protecting their cubs, so parks staff will often close areas where people have seen bears.  There is some excellent information on the Bear Aware website about staying safe in bear country.

http://www.bearaware.bc.ca/

Presence of aggressive bears leads to closures near Banff townsite

A black bear

Signs of Spring (in a northern city)

Maybe you’re used to a very colourful spring season.  In Japan, the Sakura (cherry blossoms) are blooming, and in Holland, the tulips are blooming.  Here in Edmonton, spring comes more slowly, and the colours aren’t so bright, in the beginning.  Nevertheless, there are some clues that the season is changing:

10. There is gravel and garbage in the gutters of the streets:

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After the snow melts, we can see all of the garbage that people threw away during the winter.  It looks really ugly while it decomposes, but it will be swept up someday!  The gravel is similar, and it makes everything look brown in the early spring.  It’s necessary to spread a lot of sand or gravel in the winter, to keep cars from slipping on the snow and ice.  It doesn’t look nice now, but it’s a sign, or signal, that the season is changing.

9. Puddles are on the streets and sidewalks:

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Some years, there is a lot of snow melting, and the puddles are very deep.  This year, it’s a pretty dry spring, but we still have puddles, small areas that are full of water.  If you have children, you should get them rubber boots, because they want to splash in the puddles, and their shoes and socks will get wet and dirty!

Happy in the puddles!

Happy in the puddles!

8. Birds are back!

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There are many different kinds of birds that have returned to the Edmonton area.  You can hear them, and you can see them, wherever you go.  Woodpeckers make a knocking sound, on the trees.  Birds are starting to build nests, and they’re looking for food all around them.  This grouse (prairie chicken) was wandering around my neighbourhood, but usually they live in the woods and forests.  It’s very similar to a chicken, but it’s a wild bird.

7. Spring flowers are on sale in the stores:

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Tulips and daffodils won’t bloom here for a few more weeks, but people love to bring them indoors, while we wait for warmer weather.

6. Bikes are back:

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Now that the ice and snow has melted, everyone who has a bicycle, wants to ride it.  The bicycle racks are full, all over downtown.  Hopefully, you don’t live near a motorcyclist, because the motorbikes are back on the road now, and they are very noisy!

5. Spring cleaning is happening:

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People are washing their cars, sweeping their balconies, washing windows, and cleaning up their homes.  When days get longer, and weather is warmer, everyone wants to tidy up their surroundings.  Some people are even taking down their Christmas lights!

Washing windows: a sign of spring!

4: Sunrise is early, and sunset is late

Here in Edmonton, we have very long days, between March and September.  It may be hard to get enough sleep, unless you have dark curtains in your bedroom.

Sunrise before 6 am3: Food trucks have returned:

There is an application: Street Food Edmonton that tells you where each of the food trucks will be parked every day, as well as what their hours will be.  You can try food from all over the world, and it’s almost warm enough to stay outside and eat it!

Return of the food trucks!

Return of the food trucks!

2: Grass and trees are starting to turn green:

If you look hard enough, you can find patches of green grass, and there are green branches on some trees.  Flowers like tulips and irises are starting to sprout, although they aren’t blooming yet.

Green grass at the Skaro shrine (northeast of Edmonton)

Green grass at the Skaro shrine (northeast of Edmonton)

1) Barbecues and picnics are back!

Enjoying a cool-weather picnic and barbecue at Victoria Park

Enjoying a cool-weather picnic and barbecue at Victoria Park

Canadians love to barbecue, and some people cook meat outside all winter long.  However, most people prefer until it’s comfortable for the whole family to sit outside, before they begin to grill.  Many people enjoy a simple hot dog or hamburger, but others create a feast on the grill.  Traditionally, the barbecue is the responsibility of the man of the house and women will continue to do the other cooking and cleaning indoors, while the meat grills.  The city is full of parks with picnic tables, and fire pits or grills, so you don’t need to have a yard or a balcony to enjoy this spring custom!

What do you like to do in the spring?  It will probably be different for you, here in Edmonton, but it’s still an exciting season!

 

Students talk about special places, and about protecting the environment

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GLOBAL WARMING AND ENVIRONMENT PROBLEMS 

One of the topics that people talk about nowadays is global warming and environmental problems. A lot of people agree that humans are the ones who are causing it, and a lot of other people totally disagree, because they think that it’s something that nature has always done.

All these environmental problems are affecting us in so many ways and some of us don’t realize that in the future it will end really badly, maybe not for us but for our children.

So, global warming results in so many problems and one of them is the melting of the glaciers. Glacier National Park was created in the U.S, in 1910 with 150 glaciers, and since then, it has decreased to only 30 glaciers. People say that maybe in 30 years there is not going to be a Glacier National Park.

So what is causing the melting glaciers? Well it is the gases in the atmosphere that human beings created because of pollution all over the world. Industries, cars, and electricity all create these problems. All these cause the global warming which is causing the glaciers to melt.

Another problem is the water pollution that affects sea life really badly, because we are changing their habitat in a bad way. People are the principal creator of this problem because of the garbage that we toss in rivers, beaches, and lakes. And this can affect the economy of the countries (talking about tourism), because there are so many beautiful natural places that we are destroying while time passes, and in the end, we won’t have the opportunity to enjoy them and also benefit from them. Because we need the natural resources to survive and to have the life that human beings are used to.

Also, there are so many environmental problems like air pollution and deforestation.  If we don’t start to give and keep a solution to this, maybe in the future it will be too late to solve these problems.

So in my opinion, I think that the best way to avoid this is by giving children a better education about recycling and getting information about how we can contribute to solve these problems.


 

I’m going to describe a particular place in my home country, which is my province. It’s situated in extreme southeastern Poland with the capital and the largest city, which is Rzeszow. The province is mostly hilly and mountainous and the northwestern corner is flat.  The province contains 50 cities and towns with a total population of over 2 million people. This province includes two national parks and 11 Landscape Parks.

Travelling around this province, you can see that every bigger town has it’s own unique downtown with a square. It’s very common through our whole country, where towns and cities are situated very close to one another.  Driving by car, you can easily handle one province with most important cities within one or two days.

On your way travelling around the province you can see a lot of museums, often with medieval buildings. Also, traveling by bike in the summertime, you can admire how breathtaking those southeastern locations are.

Another thing that is worth seeing are the beautiful churches, castles and a lot of structures that were built after the Second World War. For someone who’s interested in the war, it’s a place that you really don’t want to miss.

In conclusion, travelling around this province, in such a small country as Poland, you will definitely find a place that impresses you, over and over again.


 

There are some places in the world about which you will always say: “I want to go back there again”. One of those places is, of course, your home. It is the same for me. I really enjoy every day of being with my family in the environment that I know and love. Also, I am sure that my parents and siblings are happy to be together. Last but not least, this is the place where I spent a huge part of my life and where I learned everything that is important to live well and to help others.

My house is in a small village in the south part of Poland. We live in the central part of Suszec. But it is a very quiet place, because our house is on a dead end road. Also, we had some neighbours with colossal gardens. Thus, it is an island in the middle of a country in which four thousand people live. I feel very comfortable with those whom I know and they feel the same about me. With my parents, I can talk about everything, and with siblings, we have many similar ways of thinking as well. There are lots of discussions about problems, and sometimes we quarrel, but it is a part of life, isn’t it? My parents do not like to have many changes in their daily life so I always know where to find something to eat or some tools. Even the house keys are kept in a case, in the same place.

My family also enjoys time with me. I usually cook when my mom is at work, and I like to help her with some cleaning because she is not so young any more. Everybody is incredibly happy that I can help my dad. All my childhood, I was the main helper for my dad, because I think I was the most patient person at home. So now, I am always ready to go with him to the garage, or to pick some fruits from the garden, but unfortunately I am not so patient any more. My siblings come for a visit when I am at home as well, so I conclude that they like to be with me. Once, my sister told me at the end of my vacation: We really like when you are coming, but we also enjoy (even more) when you are leaving. At least she was honest. Sometimes, during these kinds of vacations our house is like railway station. Those are the words of my aunt. She, along with my uncle and their dog came for a visit, and slept downstairs. Upstairs we have our rooms. So one night, we decided to go to some friends’. My younger brother came home at 12 midnight, I at 2 a.m., and my second brother at 4 a.m. We were very quiet but the dog reacted to every movement. Now, my aunty always asks if we are going to stay at home as well during her stay.

As I said, my last point is about memory and all that I have learned during my childhood and youth. I have had wonderful examples of a good life from my parents. They showed all of us that it is more important to be than to have. They are ideal, and that is why they are so trusting, and authentic. We have also had very friendly and helpful neighbours. I discover, that whatever you did for others, it will be fruitful in the future.

I am extremely happy that after two years I will go home again. I really left home when I was nineteen, and decided that if there is any need or law not to come back, but there was nothing like that in my new life. And I think the atmosphere of home will stay in my heart forever. Whenever I come back, I say: “Home, sweet home”.


 

Little Mayan Place

Xcaret is an Ecological Park on the Mayan Riviera, and it’s located 5 km from the south of Playa del Carmen.

This park has many attractions for tourists, but it’s also a protected area, because the state takes care of the flora and fauna.

The views there are really breathtaking, because it is a relaxing place and because you are really involved with the natural environment.

One of the things that you can find there are the “Cenotes”, which are caverns with water, you can snorkel there and swim in the clear water of the river. If you are more adventurous you can go to the underground rivers, because they are really spectacular.

You can also go to visit the historical Mayan architecture in Tulum. The roads to go there are really rocky and quite dangerous, but the view and the feeling of being there is just breathtaking. If you want to go to the top of the pyramids you have to be careful, because the way can be extremely steep and it could be really slippery if is the rainy season, but all the risky moments are worth it for the view, and the experience of having a little piece of history.

Also, you can enjoy the sun and the really clean beach and white sand. The most popular beach is Cancun, which means snakes’ nest in Mayan, but it’s a little far from Tulum and Xcaret .

 

 

Sunrise in Cancun

 

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Videos about environmental issues

You can improve your academic vocabulary and also your knowledge by watching videos about environmental issues.  The Canadian video addresses the issue of importing food, versus eating locally, and all of the waste and costs associated with this practice.  The video in Viet Nam (watch Dirty Water, Dangerous Fish on Vimeo) shows the practices for fish farming in that region, a practice that is associated with many environmental and health concerns.  I recommend that you watch each video once to get the main idea, before trying to analyze the vocabulary and content in more detail.