Monday, August 31, 2015

Naked and Afraid TV show

[Paul Campbell sets up a quail trap]

Christopher talks about training contestants for "Naked and Afraid."

[Nyerges is a teacher and self-reliance instructor who has been teaching since 1974.  He is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” and other books. He can be reached at, or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]

Yes, that was me you saw in the very beginning of the Nicaragua episode of “Naked and Afraid,” one of the latest in a series of TV shows which contain not much entertainment and mostly useless information.

If you haven’t heard of the show, it’s one of the many “reality” shows pandering to the current interest in “survival skills.”  A decade or more ago, it all began with “Survivor,” which was a contest to win a million dollars if you could survive to the end of all the competitions. It was like Regis’ “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” in costume. Since then, there has been “Dual Survival,” “Tethered,” “Alone,” and many other so-called reality shows where we see what it takes for a few guys to eke out a meal in the woods without killing each other.

I’ve heard good things about “Naked and Afraid” because it’s not a contest, per se. Your task is to just be out in the woods, with no clothes, and just a few pieces of gear that the producers let you have. The people who took off their clothes for the show were all some sort of survival expert, and some lasted a few days, and others made it through the full three weeks.

But I’d never actually seen the show when the producers called and asked if I’d train two upcoming contestants. They wanted to have a show with two fans, viewers who were not survival experts.  They wanted me to give them sufficient training so they’d at least have a chance.

I agreed to train them and scheduled a day to be with each contestant. The producer explained to me what skills were most important.  The two people would be given a choice a few items, and they would not be allowed to pick up and use any random debris that they happened to find during their experience. Everything I taught had to be based on natural materials.

I spent each day going through the same regimen of skills with each contestant.

I shared how to purify water (boil it!), how to make twine from natural fibre, and how to make a net. The net could theoretically be used to make clothing.  I taught them how to make fire using two of the most ancient methods: the bow and drill, and the hand drill. Each of them succeeded in producing a coal using the materials I had brought.
We also spent time making a lean-to, which would be the most probably sort of shelter to set up for a two-week experience.

I didn’t take any time showing them edible plants, because I had no idea what sort of plants they’d see where they were going. However, I did show them how to make an ages-old bird trap with sticks and twine.

I also suggested that they should cover their bodies with mud and/or charcoal to avoid sunburn and insect bites.  After all, they were going to romp around for two weeks in the buff!

Both contestants were alert and seemed eager to learn each thing I shared. But I had no idea how much was sinking in.  After all, I learned all these skills, one by one, little by little, with plenty of time to practice and perfect.  I cannot imagine how I would do if I were thrown into an unknown territory, and with no clothes!

Months later, the man and woman spent their two weeks in the wild, and finally the show was aired sometime in August. I was able to view it from a DVD, and it was the first full episode of the show that I have seen.

Before I’d seen this show, I didn’t think there would be much value in watching two naked people try to simply get by for two weeks, finding their water, making shelter, trying to eat whatever they could. My view didn’t change after watching the show.  I did feel a bit glad that at least one thing that I taught them turned out to be useful – they managed to capture a bird from the trap I showed them. 

In the Nicaraguan “Naked and Afraid,” I saw two people who steadily grew dirtier, who didn’t drink enough water, who seemed to just hang around the same area not doing a whole lot.  To me, it was sad, and a poor example of entertainment. Yes, of course, it was a very real challenge. Yes, they made it through two weeks.  But that was a very unrealistic experience, except that now those two knows that they could do very well, with clothes and with equipment, in a bad situation.

Trouble is, most of the real survival situations in the world are people-caused, and involve war or other turmoil.  Survival situations in the woods are far more rare, and the person is always clothed and usually has at least some basic gear.

The hour show moved along quickly enough, though in retrospect, there wasn’t much action. Eating a snake seemed to invigorate them and raise their spirits, though they needed a can or something to collect water and purify it and drink it regularly. Yes, they ate a bird near the end of their experience, when they had already lost much weight. The man lost 30 pounds in two weeks, and the woman lost 10 pounds.  The woman’s body was covered in insect bites, and I presume they either forgot what I told them about protecting their skin, or they just didn’t want to do that.

 If you’re serious about learning basic survival skills, you’d do better to enroll in a field trip with a local college or even a Meetup group.  As for entertaining TV, much of television has lost any focus whatsoever.  I’d turn it off and get outside!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Don't Expect "ObamaCare" to Cure You....


[Nyerges is the author of “Extreme Simplicity,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Guide to Wild Foods
and Useful Plants,” and other books. He can be reached at, or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]

Health. What is it, really?  When most of the world speaks of the “health profession,” they’re not speaking of health at all. They’re speaking about maladies, discomforts, and disease.  They speaking about what the western doctors can do to relieve or eliminate the symptoms of our problems.

So it always bugs me that we’ve hypnotically switched “health” with “symptom relief” in our thinking. 

It also bugs me that no where in all the “healthcare” debate about “Obamacare” being forced upon us is there any discussion whatsoever about what constitutes health!  So what
is health? How do we achieve it? What does it look like?

When I was about 17 I got a job at a local health food store. The owner made a point of telling me that he got into the “health field” because he’d nearly driven himself to death because of his desire to be an actor.  He would recount for us his various diseases and symptoms, all of which he says he overcame by a change of diet.  He still died a young death in his 50s, perhaps because his years of stress and drugs and drinking still caught up with him. But for awhile, he was the image of radiant health. What did he do? Perhaps more importantly, what did he not  do?

I am not a fan of a big government dictating what constitutes health, and so I have no faith in the current dictates that everyone should get “mandatory” vaccinations.  I don’t believe it is safe, nor efficacious, and yes, I am one of those who believe it can be harmful.  (But this is not primarily about vaccinations.)

What is good vibrant health, and how can we all achieve it?
It is something that Obamacare can give us?  Is it something that most doctors can tell us how to achieve?  For starters, just look at your doctor.  He or she might be the epitome of radiant health, but chances are, your overworked doctor is not an exemplar of radiant health.

In one of my books, Integral Health, I have proposed the “Pyramid of Health,” where the bottom foundation of the pyramid constitutes all those things that are the most important foundations of health.  The very tip of the pyramid – those things that are least important – include the drugs and care of doctors.

What you do, and eat, and think, and how you spend your life, are the building blocks to radiant health. This is nothing new, and is not a mystery.

Hippocrates, sometimes called the father of modern medicine, used a variety of “natural methods” to relieve sickness and bring about a state of health. These methods included exposure to sunlight, exercise, diet, fasting, water therapy, etc.  There are whole books today about the scientific foundation for each of these means of promoting health.
Of course, the greatest focus in our society is upon the foods that we eat, and the intensity of the exercise we do.  It is easier to quantify the effects on our health of various foods we eat  than it is to quantify our state of mind on our health.  But that is the direction in which we should be headed.

In a recent discussion with a mentor, he brought up what he felt is a major source of mental and physical sickness.  He expressed that whenever any of us carries on with unpaid debts (and these debts can be financial, ethical, moral, or spiritual), that nightmares and sicknesses result.  The obvious solution is to delve deep within, and find a way to pay that debt.  But what most of us do, instead, is to dig in our heels and resist, resulting in much mental anguish and even manifesting as various sicknesses and diseases. Then, the common next step is to get a doctor (of some sort, even a psychiatrist) to give us drugs to deal with the pain.  Of course, all the drugs have side effects, sometimes worse than what it was trying to cure. Or maybe we drink alcohol to relieve the pain so we can carry on with our life without ever having to deal with the cause.

Healthcare should promote regular vigorous exercise, and an excellent diet, and should guide each patient to see how our thinking, and the jobs we do, can ruin our health, or improve it.  Real health educators should teach how to use foods as medicines, and how we can allow our body to heal itself, if we let it. For example, using the fresh aloe leaf to treat cuts and wounds. Or using garlic (internally or externally) to deal with infections.  I told a friend how I once used garlic after a root canal, and didn’t use any antibiotics that the dentist prescribed. He believed I was lying! 

Another “natural method” involves using vinegar in our drinking water and fruit juices to help us adjust to external temperature fluctuations, or externally to deal with bug bites.

We are, of course, in the early stages of a health revolution, where people know something is wrong with the overall direction and focus of the “health profession.” But don’t expect changes from the industry or from government. Educate  yourself, and learn to treat yourself and your family.  And keep learning!

(Obviously, I’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg here – I welcome your questions and comments).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Book Review: "Va Fa Sa: A Young Man's Memoir" by Hugo Cipriani

“Va Fa Sa: A Young Man’s Memoir.”

[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Guide to Wild Foods,” and other books. For information about his books and classes, contact him at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or Please sign up and share your comments on these Blogs!]

Recently I was given the book “Va Fa Sa: A Young Man’s Memoir” by Hugo Cipriani.  Cipriani died in  his home on March 4, 2014 at age 100. He and my father were childhood buddies growing up in small town Bedford, Ohio,  and eventually settling just south of Pasadena. I knew him and his family my whole life.

“Hugo wrote a book?” I said with surprise when I was handed the book.  “And what the heck does Va Fa Sa mean?” I asked.  I promised to read the book, but I knew it would be boring, probably just the stuff that he and my father would always talk about, reminiscing about the Depression and the War and whatever it is that “old people” talked about.  How surprised I would be!

“Va Fa Sa” was Cipriani’s coined saying, meaning “to go, to do, to know.”  It encapsulated his philosophy in life that you had to go somewhere and do something if you are ever to learn anything. Just reading things is insufficient. How I wish Hugo could be preaching to today’s dumbed-down Youtube generation. As he writes, “Nothing becomes real until it is experienced; even a proverb is no proverb till your own life has illustrated it.”

“Va Fa Sa” is Cipriani’s account of growing up in a small town, living through the Deperession, hitchhiking to California to go to school at UCLA, how he earned a living, all peppered with observations about how to live a good and full life. The book ends when he went into the service at the onset of WWII, and no sequel was ever written. “At 29,” Cipriani writes, “I’m still a young man,” and perhaps that’s how he wanted it.

As I began reading the briskly-written book, I admit that I was looking for insights into my own father, who is mentioned frequently when my father and the author exchanged letters or discussed their futures.

I was quickly drawn up into the narrative taking place during the Great Depression.  Part of this was due to Cipriani’s incredible recall of names, dates, classes, street addresses, etc. Did he take and keep notes of all these details, I wondered?  What I presumed would be a boring telling of long, long ago turned out to be an insightful look into life in the United States during the Depression, and how one man’s upbeat attitude continually improved his condition.

Cipriani describes the chaos and panic that set in, with unemployment at 25%, and how his older brother earned $16 a week at the Cleveland Chain Company.  Poverty was widespread, and there were no federal welfare programs.

“And yet,” explains Cipriani, “there was no increase in criminality or violence.  I know there was a special kind of glue that held us together. There was a sense of belonging to one family, to one neighborhood, and to our hometown. There was a sense of duty and discipline. It was this bond that brought the mutual respect to each – in our family, in our neighborhood, and in our community.  When you are all in the same boat, you don’t want it to sink.”

Cipriani goes on to describe Roosevelt’s March 4, 1932 inaugural address where he stated, “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear – is fear itself.  Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. There is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. There are many ways to achieve our goal, but if we only think and talk about it, we won’t get there.  We must act, and act quickly.”

Cipriani describes that message as being a tonic to his spirit.  “I loved his words, caressed his ideas, and agreed wholeheartedly.  He would be my new hero. And the philosophy of politics would become my new passion.”

Indeed, FDR seemed to be telling the nation to follow Cipriani’s motto: Va Fa Sa.

Cipriani was the first scout from his small town to hitchhike across country and see what the promised land of Hollywood was all about.  And work he did. Cipriani worked at every job he could, and did good.  He describes every dollar he earned, and the reader begins to realize that most youth today have no sense of what it means to earn a dollar wholly on your own, with no one and no government propping you up.

One day he saw the “Prophet” book in a Hollywood bookstore.  While reading the chapter on “work,” Cipriani realized why he felt so much joy at his UCLA coffeeshop job. He realized that he was working with love. Quoting “The Prophet,” he writes that “I knew now that it was true – All work is empty save when there is love.”

Cipriani did borrow money from time to time, and he tells us how he paid back each dollar.  He shares his delight at a 40 cent all-you-can-eat restaurant, and how he only needed a dollar a day when hitchhiking across the United States.

While working at the coffeeshop, the waitresses gave him a surprise birthday card which everyone signed. On the card, a Sidney Smith quote was written: “It is noble to seek truth, and it is beautiful to find it. It is the ancient feeling of the human heart that knowledge is better than riches. It is deeply and sacredly true.”

It is this deep knowledge that Hugo Cipriani managed to share in his memoir of his first 29 years.  Through his detailed telling of the most formative years of his life, he’s managed to capture an essential aspect of Americana, a way of thinking, and a way of being, which seems all but lost today.

Though the book is no longer in print, “Va Fa Sa: A Young Man’s Memoir” by Hugo Cipriani can be found on

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Terumasa's Questions

[This is an excerpt from “Til Death Do Us Part?”, a book by  Nyerges  about the death of his wife Dolores, and how they dealt with death.  Nyerges is the former editor of Wilderness Way magazine and the author of 9 books.  He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock,CA 90041, or]

            Terumasa – Nami’s friend from Japan – had arranged to visit Nami and Dolores in December of 2008.  As it turned out, Terumasa arrived a few days after Dolores had  died. 

            In the evenings of late December and early January, I would often sit with Terumasa and Nami and have dinner together, often watching television, and always trying to converse with Terumasa in English.  Terumasa was a noble man who exuded greatness.  I loved to be around him, and wished that our language barrier was reduced.

            One late afternoon, after we had the memorial for Dolores, a few people lingered in the backyard and living room to talk.  Terumasa sat there next to me, with Mel sitting there listening.  Terumasa looked at me while we talked about Dolores.  He said, “Christopher,” to gain my attention. 

            “Christopher,” he repeated with great concern in  his voice.

            “Why are we born? Why are here?  Why do we live this life?  Why must we experience all this pain?”  He paused.  He was about to cry.  He added, “Why do we die?”

            We were all silent for a few moments.  Joe Hall looked at me, wondering what I would say. Joe had previously made it clear to me that he didn’t believe in reincarnation, so I suppose he wanted to see how I would respond.   Mel commented, “Those are the questions, alright.”

            I nodded to Terumasa.  What could I say?  Should I offer my opinion as to the meaning of life and death in a few simple words with the attempt to cross the chasm of our English-Japanese divide.  

            “Yes, what is this all about?” I asked rhetorically. I felt that I was certainly able to intellectually approach those questions, but I did not feel emotionally up to it in that moment. 

            “Let’s talk about that some more soon,” was all I offered.

            Eventually, only Joe Hall and Mel remained talking, and when I finally walked Mel to his car, he turned and said, “We should get together and talk about Terumasa’s questions.  I’d really like that.” 

            “OK,” I told him.

            About a month later,  we planned a Boy Voyage party for Terumasa, who would be soon departed to Japan.  We invited many people, and planned to have Japanese tea and Japanese food.

            We set up an outside table up on the hill at our non-profit wildlife sanctuary, with lights and a table full of dinner.  Nami came up with Terumasa and we invited them to sit down.  It took a little while for Terumasa to realize that this was a party for him.  He laughed loudly when he realized this was a surprise for him!

            We filled our tea cups and touched them together for our toast, reciting the words of a little cartoon – Love Is…

            Then, all holding hands in a circle in the darkness of the evening, we recited a work called “Friendship Bridge.”

After asking Terumasa about the details of his departure, and what he’d be doing back in Japan, we made the effort to answer his questions.  Prudence and I prepared with different parts of the book “Thinking and Destiny” by Harold Percival, along with our own insights.

We didn’t want our bon voyage to Terumasa to become a metaphysical study, but rather we wanted to provide some preliminary answers to his serious query.  It was as much for us as it was for Terumasa.

We decided that we were born upon this world in order to continue our spiritual evolution.  Each of us added some comments to this, but everyone seemed to concur that this is why we are here, and which is why we are here to live this life.

The subject of pain was much more complex.  Yet, we quickly denounced the notion that our pain is something given to us, or done to us, by “god,” as is so often averred by religious zealots.  In fact, in all the cases of individual and large scale pain that we could list, we felt that we are our own worst enemy.  We men and women are the sources of pain on the earth, which usually come about by some violation of natural law, some breaking of the Ten Commandments, not abiding by the Golden Rule, and by partaking of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Our pain is the result of our own choices, and when we learn from our pain and our choices, we – if we are intelligent – learn to make other choices. 

This was a big topic, but again everyone was in agreement that we bring our own pain upon ourselves, and that pain is largely unavoidable.

Then we talked about death.  Prudence read from “Thinking and Destiny” and pointed out that death can be a friend to our Spiritual Self, that our bodies are simply not destined to live forever, and that – like it or not – we will all die as part of our long progress towards spiritual perfection. 

This was not wholly agreeable to all, but the topic of death is so full of emotion and opinion and religious dogma that we did not attempt to have agreement all around, and that was OK.

By now we were feasting on some delicious Japanese fish and soup, and we gave Terumasa some gifts to take back to Japan.  He really enjoyed the roll of the new George Washington brass dollars that he was given.

We all exchanged phone numbers and emails and we all hugged.  It was clear to all that change was coming soon, and that this wonderful warrior would soon be gone.  By 9:30 p.m., we all departed, and on the following Saturday morning, Terumasa flew away to Japan.  We fondly remember this modern Samurai who was not afraid to ask the only questions that matter.


Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Protestors Object to Eucalyptus Tree Removal

Are Eucalyptus a desirable species in the California landscape?
According to one researcher:  “Eucalyptus … creates the threat of desertification.”

[Nyerges is the author of “Guide to Wild Foods,” “Foraging California,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and other books. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or]

Eucalyptus has been in the news the last few weeks because naked protesters are unhappy with U.C. Berkeley’s plan to remove thousands of these Australian natives.

When I was growing up, we had a neighbor with a few eucalyptus trees in their backyard. I remember that nothing else grew in the back, around and under the eucalyptus tree.  We boys liked to climb that tree, but the owners glumly told us that the huge tree was there when they moved to that house, and they could not afford to remove it.

Later, in high school, a schoolmate took me to see  his many worm farms that he’d constructed in his large back yard. He showed me the tiny earthworms that grew in the worm farm under the eucalyptus trees. The worms that were raised on the other side of the yard had large normal-looking earthworms. This friend, Scott, also showed me carrots he’d grow on each side of his yard. The carrots under the eucalyptus trees had lots of ferny tops, but very tiny carrots. The carrots on the far side of the yard, away from the eucalyptus, were large normal-looking carrots.   “Don’t grow things around eucalyptus,” Scott told me.

On a property governed by a local non-profit, I was once asked to plant bamboo on the property line. The property line was also planted in eucalyptus trees. Nothing grew well under those trees in some 40 years.  I planted the bamboo, and watered it. It died, whereas other bamboo beyond the influence of the eucalyptus thrived like weeds.

These are just personal observations, though I have heard dozens of stories like this. What is the “bottom line” about eucalyptus?

Eucalyptus is a tree with a mixed reputation. This stately tree  is renown for the “forest effect” due to the high transpiration rate of its leaves.  According to one report, “In Sydney, a large gum tree [eucalyptus] transpires up to 200 litres of water a day. A well-maintained garden in Sydney will transpire nearly twice the volume of water as the total rainfall.”

The tree was included in my Guide to Wild Foods book since it was so useful in its native Australia by the Aboriginees: the leaves for various medicines (mostly upper bronchial issues), the bark for infections and many other uses, and even the little psyllid bugs can be harvested and eaten like a backwoods sugar. And the honey produced from eucalyptus flowers is a dark almost-medicinal honey.

But is it  good for the California environment to remove the eucalyptus trees and replace them with natives?  In fact, is being non-native the only reason that UC Berkeley wants to remove the trees?

In order to fully grasp the effects of eucalypti on the environment, let’s look at its effect in other parts of the world and the problems experienced there.

Eucalyptus is a fast-growing tree.  When you cut them down, they will sprout right back up again.   Because of this, there have been major plantations in various countries throughout the world from Europe to China to Africa in order to supply the wood for lumber, paper products, and firewood.  If the eucalyptus trees are planted in non-agricultural areas where nothing else will grow, they survive quite well. A eucalyptus tree in a plantation can be cut as little as every four years.

Around the time that the U.S. was experiences long gas lines during the 1970s ”energy crisis,”  many countries around the world discovered that the eucalyptus tree seemed like a miracle tree.  It grew easily anywhere, and could be regularly harvested  for fuel wood, building materials, and pulp for paper. It was also a financial boom to the public and private businesses in various countries who grew these plantations.  Today, eucalyptus is one of the top trees planted in plantations around the world (pine is apparently the top tree). With so many undeniable benefits, what could go wrong?

Over the last 30 to 40 years, countless business, governmental, and academic studies have been done to weight the pros and cons of the largescale plantings  of the eucalyptus tree.  I’ve spent time over the last year reading these studies, and compiling hard data on the eucalyptus tree. 
There were very real worries about deforestation and desertification that intensified in the 1980s.  Eucalyptus, with its obvious economic benefits, were planted in ever-greater numbers.  Today we can analyze the ecological effects of over 30 years of eucalyptus plantations.

For starters, there have actually been riots in protest of new eucalyptus plantings.  Really, riots?   In Northeast Thailand, most of the native forests had been completely logged by private companies, which affected the water, and forced local people to relocate. The Thai government, along with the World Bank, planted eucalyptus trees both as a cash crop, and so that local villagers would have fuel wood for their daily needs.  However, it was noted that some results of the thousands of eucalyptus trees planted included lowering the water table for villages, drying up local wells, and making the farmable land less valuable due to the allelopathic effects of the eucalyptus leaves. When the Thai government began to grow even more eucalyptus plantations, villagers in the Tung Kula Ronghai section of Thailand, held meetings, marches, rallies, and they also blocked roads, burned eucalyptus nurseries, ripped out eucalyptus seedlings, and chopped down eucalyptus trees, and planted fruit trees.

Because the eucalyptus tree is such a great transpirer, it follows that it generally consumes far more water than other native or non-native trees.  In fact, one of the stated reasons that eucalyptus is planted in certain countries is to dry up swamps and wet areas, either for development or because the wet area was believed to be a source of malaria.  The deep roots of eucalyptus, and their extensive network of small surface roots, has been noted to extend deep to the water table. 

Although a eucalyptus plantation does very well in dry areas where nothing else is growing, in areas as diverse as China, Ethiopia, Vietnam, etc, local villagers of these diverse places have noted that their water wells run dry.  In fact, this seems to be one of the main objections to eucalyptus plantations: it dries up the local sources since it generally consumes more water than is received by rain in any given area, which then means there is far less water for agricultural crops and orchards. In the various studies about eucalyptus, it is always pointed out that the effects of eucalyptus on the water table can be minimized by carefully choosing the locations of the eucalyptus plantations, and by interspersing other forest trees with the  eucalyptus. However, in practice, this has not been the case because it is also widely acknowledged that to get the greatest economic advantage from the eucalyptus trees, the eucalyptus are grown tightly in huge acreages, like a crop of corn.

In studies done to determine if the leaf drop from eucalyptus is "allelopathic" (exuding soil toxins), various plants grown in a mixture of eucalyptus mulch and soil have exhibited a germination rate as low as 3%, compared to normal rates of germination with an oak mulch.  This means there is typically little or no undergrowth in the eucalyptus groves, and therefore there is a lack of food for grazing animals in the eucalyptus groves.  Formerly, villages would be able to graze their animals in the forest and let them feed on the undergrowth, and even the leaves of the forest trees.  But the eucalyptus leaves themselves are not eaten by grazing animals, which is good if you are growing the trees, but not good if you raise animals.

Another argument against the eucalyptus plantations is that there is a great depletion of soil nutrients. In general, eucapytus take up more nutrients (and water) from the soil than other native or non-native trees because they are fast-growing. And, in theory, if all the leafy matter was left on the ground (as opposed to cleaning it up), those nutrients would degrade and enrich the soil. But unfortunately, eucalyptus mulch takes a very long time to be degraded by bacteria and fungus due to its oils, and so in actual practice, the soils around eucalyptus tend to be very desert-like due to the unavailability of nutrients. [Source: The Effect of Eucalyptus and Oak Leaf Extract on California Native Plants, Kam Watson, UC Berkley]

This effect results in the lack of biodiversity and understory that is commonly observed under and around eucalyptus trees, in stark contrast to native forests.

One study was also done with soil under the eucalyptus trees, along with a soil sample not influenced by eucalyptus.  Soil samples from under eucalyptus trees proved to be less able to absorb water. This meant that though eucalyptus trees have been planted in areas to reduce runoff and flooding, this result is not usually successful because of the effect of the tree’s oil on the soil.

These same results have been documented in eucalyptus plantations in China, Kenya, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and other sites.

Kenya Forest Service has published guidelines, basically aimed at promoting eucalyptus plantations in the country, called “A Guide to On-Farm Eucalyptus Growing in Kenya”, December 2009.
They advise not growing eucalyptus in wetlands and marshy areas, and riparian areas. They advise not growing eucalyptus closer than 30 meters from rivers, and ideally 50 meters, so that the trees do not adversely interfere with the water source.

They add that other areas where eucalyptus should not be planted include around  lakes, ponds, swamps, estuary and any other body of standing water.  They advice that eucalyptus not be plants closer than 50 meters to (about 55 feet) farm lands, and other measures. In other words, even those who are pro-eucalyptus recognize the adverse effects of eucalyptus on the environment, and offer ways to minimize those effects.

The study done of the eucalyptus effect in the Tung Kula Ronghai project in Thailand is    somewhat typical of the relationship between local villagers and the various entities who run the eucalyptus “farms” (though, admittedly, every situation is unique). For example, in theory, the eucalyptus plantings are ideally done “where nothing else will grow,” though this is simply not always the case. In this project in Thailand, many of the “public lands” were occupied by poor people, who were evicted from the lands so that eucalyptus could be planted.

Remember, World Bank and other funds were provided with the stated intent of providing a cash crop, as well as providing daily fuel for the poorest of the poor. Though the former has materialized, the latter has not.  Protests occurred when it became clear that eucalyptus forests did not solve villagers problems, and created new ones. It turned out that firewood from eucalyptus was not “free,” and it burned too fast compared to former forest woods. There was no benefit from the forest for grazing animals, areas for growing rice disappeared, and the benefits that were supposedly going to assist villagers went to the Thai government and to multi-national wood pulp industries.

By the way, according to Midgley and Pinyopu, “The Role of Eucalyptus in Local Development in the Emerging Economies of China, Vietnam, and Thailand,” there are nearly 10 million acres of eucalyptus under cultivation in the Asia region, which includes Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Phillipines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Because of the kneejerk reaction to “plant trees” to help offset drought and desertification, some believe that any  tree is acceptable to plant.  Yet according to Shiva and Bandyopadhyay, “Ecological Audit of Eucalyptus Cultivation” (1987),  the “complex multi-dimensional impacts on soil moisture and ground water, on the soil fertility; on other plant life and on soil fauna undermine potential of land for biological productivity.  Eucalyptus cultivation therefore creates the threat of desertification.”

Obviously, the disputed eucalyptus trees in the Bay area were not planted to provide firewood for local San Francisco “villagers.” And they serve no purpose for a third world’s needed cash economy.  They, in fact, serve no purpose at all, except their  ease of care and growth, and their very subjective value of  beauty .  With so many negatives, and so few positives, why does anyone insist on keeping those trees? 

U.C. Berkeley should proceed with the removal of eucalyptus trees on the lands under their control, and begin the long process of re-introducing natives, and the many benefits that will come therefrom.

If you have a single eucalyptus in your backyard, you will not likely experience any of the negative effects mentioned here. However, if you have 3 or more, close together, it is likely that you have noted that not much grows under these trees, and other plants struggle. What should you do?
You could remove the tree, use the wood for firewood, and plant something more suitable. Yes, large tree removal is expensive, and some local communities make funds available to help homeowners pay the cost. You could also try drying and selling the eucalyptus leaves to people who do not have them growing nearby.  And you could make and sell walking sticks, and other carvings from this hard wood.

[The facts stated in this article come from over a dozen research papers; sources provided upon request] 

Man Eating Plants - The Movie

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Day My Mother Died

[Excerpt from “Til Death Do Us Part?”, available on Kindle, or from]

August 1, 1998

 When I arrived, I put my hand on Marie’s head.  She was hooked up to oxygen, and her eyes were fixed ahead.  She was alive, but not responsive, though I felt she could hear me, and I talked to her.  I cried for awhile, and closed my eyes.  I tried to Feel-into this person, my mother, Marie.  She was breathing with eyes straight ahead. After awhile I felt I was with Mary/Marie.  My eyes closed, I began to see pictures, which I assumed were her pictures.  Childhood -- seeing the front of the farm house in Chardon.  I could sense that Marie was “waiting” -- maybe confused, waiting for us, her children, to come around and to say goodbye, that it is OK.  I asked her how she was, and she “responded” “What now?”  I tried to look at the pictures with her, tried to mentally look at her pictures with her, whatever it was that she wanted to see. 

I saw my childhood, the Cub Scout activities at home, counting pennies and dimes, having tantrums on the kitchen floor, her work, her fears, her doubts, and the many interests and activities that she tried to pursue with me, such as learning Spanish, practicing karate, wild foods.  I saw her focus on Virgin Mary and the League of Mary activities at the church, the desire to save the world by alerting people to change their lives. 

This was her world I was seeing, and I sensed that she did well, in this world, and that she had what could be called a good life.

I was mostly silent with her, holding her hand, my other hand on her forehead, and I knew that she was just waiting now.  All was over, and she wanted to go on.  It seemed she was waiting because she thought we wanted to say our final goodbyes.

I called a priest at St. Andrews, and a Father Gonzalez showed up within 15 or 20 minutes, and gave the Last Rites.  Brother Richard was there by now, and Frank cried when the priest said his prayers.  It had turned out that these Rites had already been administered, but I didn’t know that.  It was good to do, it was what Marie would have felt was best. 

I felt that all is OK.  This life of her’s is over.  But it is not the end.  I asked to myself: Is that all there is?  I knew the answer, but I had to ask.  Life is not the mundanity of everyday things, but it is the value -- our Conscious Light -- that we put into what we do, who we are. 

Marie is waiting now.  I close my eyes, my hands on her.  I am breathing deeply, somewhat akin to the Drain I would do at the Survival Training class, and I felt my breath as a circuit through one hand, through Marie’s body, and out the other hand.

I could “see” a pulsating opening, the so-called tunnel that we have often heard about.  It was right there, and she was ready.  Marie was right  at the tunnel, waiting, ready to go on, only waiting for us, to allow us to say goodbyes.  So she is done with the world.  There is only the body, which is now a distant pain, a body that no longer works.  She is free   She is very close to those of us who are here.  She is accepting. 

Frank is sad.  I know this took him hard, that it will be hard on him.  They were together so long -- married 56 years.  Frank came in each day to sit with Marie.  He mentioned to me that sometimes he mixes up days, not sure if it is Thursday or Tuesday, the days blend together, each day a repeat of visiting Marie.  Now it is almost over.  I know this has been tough on him.

I told Marie, I’ll never forget you.  You will be with me always.  We are conversing now, silently,  and I told her we could talk by sending pictures to one other’s mind.  She asks me, Will you continue my work?  She is referring to her Virgin Mary work and League of Mary church work.  I am silent for awhile.  I tell her that I cannot continue her work, but that I will continue my work.  She is silent, and I can tell she is thinking about it.  She is considering the ultimate goal of her work, and the ultimate goal of my work.  She then smiled, and she said -- That is OK, that is good.  It is noon.

In my mental communication, Marie is smiling. Her radiant smile is not the skin and bones lying on the bed.  She is smiling.  Marie, I tell her, I didn’t know it would be like this.  She is ready for rest, ready for peace, ready for on-going.  She said “please don’t worry for me.  Why worry for me, she smiles. I am ready to go on. I am done.”  She tells me though that she is concerned for Frank, and that we should watch over him.             

After a while, I take Frank back home, and I come back to the rest home.  The condition of Marie’s body seems the same. I put my hand on her hand, and the other hand on her forehead.  I tell her that she need not worry about dying on Dolores’ and my Anniversary, that it really is OK.

Yes, it was August 1, the same day Dolores and I married many years earlier.   I tell her that it just might be a good thing, that Dolores says it is OK.  Dolores told me this on the phone, and so I told Marie.  I told her that she will be OK, that we will miss her terribly.  Dolores told me this, and I know it is so -- there will come a time when I really want to just say hello, to tell her something, to talk about things late at night.  But she won’t be there.  I went from hard crying to just being with her.  I really shouldn’t be sad, but happy that the pain is almost over, that she is nearly free. 

I told Marie, this time whispering to her, that I loved her dearly, and that I wished I could have done so much more, but that I was so glad to have at least done what I did with her, especially since the surgery.  I didn’t want to indulge in my regrets or “poor me” -type thoughts.  Rather, I was trying to stay right with Marie.  I believe she felt settled, that although things were never ideal and could always have been better, she worked through so many obstacles of large family and conflicting family interests and all of the challenges that anyone must face, and she somehow managed to constantly be concerned and thinking about other people.

I recalled an old dream that Ellen Hall had of Marie, and it came back to me, and I whispered to her -- Mother, you are going to a wonderful place, your idealized heaven, an oasis, far more wonderful than you could ever imagine.  I cried for my own loss, but I felt a relief and even inner happiness radiating from Marie.  I held her hands and occasionally I could feel a finger tug or pull.  I believe she knew I was there, was communicating with me. 

I told her that I would like to see her again.  I felt that I would.  I tried to explain some of the after-death states, whispering that she would experience peace and heaven, and that she would also get to review her entire life, and that there would be judgement.  I told her not to fear.  I told her I would be with her, mentally, psychically, as much as possible, and I told her that she could come to me if she needed.  She said that I could talk to her whenever I wanted, and that I shouldn’t be unhappy or sad, that she would always listen. 

Her close friends Jean Marie and Mary Sue Takeuchi came when I was just sitting there, breathing with her, holding her hands, and I talked with them. I felt it was time to go, to do some work I needed to do, and I said goodbye. 

We got a call about 3:45 or so, saying that Mother had stopped breathing.  She had died.  It was over.  I dressed and quickly went over, and Jean Marie and Mary Sue were still there.  I embraced mother and could see her body now noticeably faded.  I embraced her and told her again I loved her, that I was glad the pain was over, that I would miss her always. 

There was a feeling of great relief.  Jean Marie and Mary Sue said they had just finished saying the rosary next to Marie and then she stopped breathing at 3:35 in the afternoon on August 1, 1998.

We talked, and Mary Sue told me how lucky I was, that she lost her parents when she was very young.  I agreed that I was lucky.  Jean Marie and Mary Sue were obviously very close to Marie -- they had come quite regularly to the rest home, and I could see they were now filled with personal loss but there was also a sort of joy that Marie’s pain is over, that the final hours were filled with closeness with Marie’s loved ones. 

They left, and I removed Marie’s scapulars and medals, and cleaned out her things from the room.  I again placed my hands on Marie’s hand and forehead, and said final goodbyes -- goodbyes to the body, I suppose, since I feel I will always have some connection to Marie, long after her body-Temple is gone.  I felt her presence, and I breathed, and still felt the pain of her being gone from my life.  For so long, I think I denied that this could happen, and wanted to believe that I would always live in a world where I could see and be with my parents.  Perhaps that ideal world exists somewhere, and we just have to find it.

A man from Cabot’s mortuary was on the way, and I realized I wanted a locket of Marie’s hair, so I cut a few lockets of her white hair and put in my pouch.  Then Cabot’s came, and I helped David wrap Marie and put her on the gurney, and I gave her a final hug and goodbye, and then she was gone.

I drove away feeling very empty but also fulfilled in the sense that I could be there for those final moments.  It made the seeming pointlessness of life very meaningful in this final moment, and it made me feel now that part of Marie lives on in my work, and in whomever embraced Marie’s dream of sacrifice and prayer and long-suffering so the world could be a better place.

So I went home, and I took the bulk of the next 85 hours to be there with Marie for the first phase of her after-death processes.  This is a Returning Science procedure which I had been taught years earlier, and had worked with others when their spouses had died.  Now it was my turn to do it with Marie.