Human Nature Nuggets

Unlike sheer instinct, human nature involves individual thought as to how we should handle or improve various situations. As homo sapiens, we never know what will happen as a result, but each of us tries by doing what we think is the best solution. Here are some examples…

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Location: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

I am a writer at heart, a proofreader by trade, but without a soul if it were not for the nuthatches crawling down my trees, the robins, chickadees, cardinals, and yes, the much-maligned jibbering starlings that create their own unique concerts. I have wildflowers and perennials squeezed into my front and back yards and along the curb of my house in the city. My greatest job: I was a reporter for a locally-based newspaper, where I wrote human interest and news articles, but now I am a freelance writer, both online and in print. See MY ONLINE ARTICLES on how to ATTRACT BIRDS and BUTTERFLIES, and the HEALTHIEST NATURAL FOODS at my contributor page

Sunday, October 30, 2005

We yearn for a place to escape, yet we destroy that very place once we get there

The North Shore, along Lake Superior in Minnesota, has long been a favorite retreat for city-dwellers. Just the words themselves, North Shore, bring up visions of boulders to be climbed, pristine woods brimming with wildlife and wildflowers, and rivers swollen with fish. We anticipate the earthy scent of woodsmoke, of hunkering down by a campfire or loading birch logs into a wood stove. Only there can we find the serenity we seek, be it from the chirping of songbirds, the crickets’ concerts, or the blackened sky—away from the city lights, where we can view a kaleidoscope of stars and constellations. And at night we can go to sleep in a woodsy cottage or cabin, and feel as if we’re a part of nature.

A new breed of North Shore tourists is seeking getaways now, however, according to an article by Richard Meryhew, in the Oct. 28 Star-Tribune. They still want to see the lake and other scenery, but they insist on having hot tubs and flat-screen TV’s, too. So Twin City (Minneapolis and St. Paul) developers are forging in to tear down the few remaining quaint hotels and resorts so they can build sprawling vacation condominiums and modern restaurants.

An explicit example is “the 110-mile stretch of picturesque shoreline between Duluth and Grand Marais.” The area “was defined by mom-and-pop resorts, home-grown cafes and souvenir shops.” When you visited, you truly felt you were on a vacation, in another world. “Now,” Meryhew wrote, “it’s evolving into a getaway for the well-to-do, with rooms, restaurants and real estate developed to fit Twin Cities lifestyles at Twin Cities prices.” Basically, everything that made the area such a naturalistic haven, including the people, is being destroyed and replaced by everything we sought to escape.

Other examples in the article: 1. A $27 million vacation complex with twin-home “cottages” that go for $450,000 or more. Built on a former campground south of Two Harbors, the development has a recreation center with a heated pool, whirlpool, and rooms for massages, games and exercise. 2. An $80 million vacation condominium featuring an indoor water park, which is being built on a bluff overlooking a scenic bay in Two Harbors. The list goes on, along the North Shore. It doesn’t cover other areas in Minnesota, and it doesn’t cover other states.

Uproot more natural habitat for wildlife, ravage the land, manicure the “lawns” down to the shoreline so they “look civilized,”—who cares about all the species whose existence depends on what lives there? Cover up more wetlands, chop down more trees, and replace all the earth with cement…soon the wilderness will disappear and the wildlife we’re seeking will have no place to live and procreate. Who cares about what happened to the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker?

I guess it’s human nature for these people to want to “get away from it all,” but to also have what they’re getting away from waiting for them when they get there.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Where you can Recycle Your Appliances, Electronic Products and Batteries

I honestly promise this site is not going to be devoted to recycling, as you'll see by my next post, but first I had to share this:

About 95 % of the materials in refrigerators are recyclable, including the metal, plastic liner, and glass shelves, and although many electronic products contain potentially hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and cadmium, some electronics equipment can be recycled or reused, according to the Oct. 2005 issue of Consumer Reports. They have a free web site,, that lists groups that will accept old or broken parts. (Under “What you can do,” click on “recycling center.”)

Also, Consumer Reports suggests that if you need to know which stores in your area accept worn-out rechargeable batteries, go to, the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp. It has worked with Home Depot, Sears, Target, Wal-Mart, and other major retailers to implement a battery recycling program.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Why don’t more people recycle and give away the used items they don’t want instead of throwing everything into the garbage?

If we have to use plastic, and realistically I think we do, corn-based plastic food containers (see my Oct. 22 post), as compared with oil-based ones, seem to be the closest we’ve come yet to lowering the burden on our ever-growing landfills. Yet the only real way to lessen the burden is if more people recycle instead of throwing everything into the garbage. Countless cities throughout the United States now have programs in which they’ll pick up recyclable items right outside our doorsteps, but too many people aren’t using them. I figure these malfeasants come under four groups.

1. Some people refuse to recycle because they don’t care about it. It’s their human nature. (I compare them with shoppers who abandon their grocery carts in the middle of the parking lot, where they’ll block traffic, instead of bringing them back to the provided nooks.)

2. Some people actually forget that they could recycle instead.

3. Others pull the old non-voting excuse: "There are so many other people recycling, it won’t matter if I throw away the little garbage I have." And then there’s...

4. Those who are just too lazy to get off their butts and put their recyclable items into separate containers, then carry them down to the curb. Apparently bringing several containers down besides their garbage takes too much effort.

Which group do you fall under? I’m not perfect, but besides recycling paper, cardboard, glass, metal, etc., whenever I can get my hands on typewritten paper that’s only been used on one side, I save it until I have a boxful, then bring it to a nearby school. The students use it in their computer classes. When we use Campbell’s soup at home, I recycle the cans, but first I take off the labels and bring stacks of them to the same school. They save up and redeem the coupons to purchase items for the students that they otherwise would be unable to get. There are many nature-related organizations and groups that accept used ink cartridges for recycling. This in turn gives them extra assets to help further their causes. (My other site,, has more ideas in the comments under my “Reusable or recycle goods wanted or available” category.)

Also, to get rid of unwanted household items, check to see if your city has a freecycle program. The Freecycle Network was started in May 2003 to promote waste reduction in Tucson, Arizona's downtown and help save desert landscape from being taken over by landfills. Now there are freecycle groups around the globe. If you go to the site, you can find one in your location where you can receive lists of items people need or are giving away, or you can list things you need or want to get rid of that someone else would appreciate being able to get free. This pianos, fax machines…you name it!

And if you live in the Twin Cities in Minnesota, check out this listing service for residents. It is part of an effort to reduce the amount of reusable goods being thrown away. Go to the Free Market. (10/29/05—Darlene)

If you think it stinks when you dump your garbage in the garbage can, imagine what it would smell like if our planet became overrun with landfills!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Corn-Based Plastic Food Containers Replacing Petroleum-Based Plastics? They're Here!

Beginning Nov. 1, Cargill-owned NatureWorks, which makes natural plastics from corn, will supply environmentally-friendly containers for fresh strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cut fruit and herbs to Wal-Mart, the largest grocery chain in America, according to an Oct. 21 article in Minnesota’s St. Paul Pioneer Press. Replacing conventional packaging with NatureWorks PLA for just these four items alone will translate to more than 100 million containers per year for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., according to Matt Kistler, vice president of product development and private brands SAM’S Club (a division of a division of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.). “With this change to packaging made from corn, we will save the equivalent of 800,000 gallons of gasoline and reduce more than 11 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from polluting our environment,” Kistler said.

Phase Two includes approximately eight million more packaging items with cut vegetable containers. Phase Three, just in time for the holidays, will be new NatureWorks PLA gift cards. The final phase scheduled for 2005 will include bread bags, donut boxes and select tomato packaging.

Wal-Mart and NatureWorks spent about a year extensively testing packages made from the plastic known as PLA, or polylactic acid. One thing that can’t be packaged in corn-based plastic containers—hamburger, because many people defrost it in the microwave, and the PLA will melt.

Made from Midwestern field corn, NatureWorks PLA is a bio-based plastic that can be used in a wide range of packaging applications from clear food containers to beverage bottles. The material provides the convenience, look, feel and performance of petroleum-based plastic packaging – while being made from a 100 percent annually renewable natural resource. Cargill, a biotech company based in Minnesota, is an international marketer, processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and industrial products and services. They provide customer solutions in supply chain management, food applications and health and nutrition. To read more about these sustainable efforts, go to

Okay folks, admittedly this news isn’t specifically related to human nature, but it does raise a lot of questions, which is our nature to do (or at least mine). For one thing, how will we be able to distinguish between corn-based containers and traditional ones made from petroleum? Also, can they be recycled? How soluble are they? Will they be able to break down in landfills? Other than that, I’m gung-ho!