October 16, 2013

    Photo: KennethMoyle/Flickr

Camping 101 Fights Nature-Deficit Disorder

Feeling irritable? We recommend the outdoors.

Nature-deficit disorder is a behavioral condition hypothesized by author Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, in which he suggests that separation from nature results in "diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illness." Earlier this month, Texas Parks and Wildlife took up the concept with a Camping 101 workshop for families.

"There are studies out there that say kids spend about 7 hours a day with computers and television and only about 7 minutes outside playing," said Robert Owen, a ranger with the Parks and Wildlife's Texas Outdoor Family Program. "They might have soccer practice or something like that, but just being outside and being a kid is not that common anymore."

Owen chalks up a lack of family-oriented camping to nature-deficit disorder as well. During the workshop, held October 4, an experienced staff assisted families with camping basics to ensure quality bonding.

"Only around 35 percent of state park visitors are actually bringing their kids to the park with them," Owen told the El Paso Times. "That's one of the big things the Texas Outdoor Family is trying to turn around."

According to Louv's 2012 book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, a dose of the outdoors is not just children's medicine; adults should try to get out more, too.

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    Photo: Monika Wieland/Shutterstock.com

Killer Whales: Aquatic Babysitters

Menopause may play a role

Humans aren’t the only species that calls on older relatives for babysitting help. Killer whales also rely on grandma to help watch the little ones, and a team of UK researchers aims to find out why.

Their current theory? Menopause, which is only found in orcas, pilot whales, and humans. The scientists, from the universities of Exeter and York, secured nearly £500,00 from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to analyze data from more than 550 killer whales collected over 30 years by the Center for Whale Research

The team will study how a post-menopausal whale helps its grandchildren survive. "If an older female gives birth at the same time as one of her daughters then the two calves will be in competition,” Dan Franks of the University of York told the Underwater Times. “Theory predicts that the calves of the older mother should lose out in this competition. So it makes sense for the older female to give up her reproductive rights and instead help raise the younger generation's offspring."

For more on orca family dynamics, read Outside's "Killer in the Pool."

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North Base Camp at Mount Everest     Photo: oemaix/Flickr

Four Die in Avalanche on Everest

Group was exploring off-limits area

Three Tibetan guides and one Australian tourist died in a slide on Mount Everest early this week. Xinhua News Agency reports the four men were part of a ten-person group that traveled to an off-limits area on Sunday. The group, lead by a local tourist agency, camped at the foot of the mountain without permission and was hit by a large avalanche.

The three Tibetan porters were killed during the avalanche and the 60-year-old Australian was rescued but died as a result of altitude sickness, poor health, and age, reports the Associated Press.

The same avalanche left 154 people stranded throughout the region.

For more on the dangers of Everest for Sherpas, see Grayson Schaffer's feature story "The Disposable Man" from Outside's August issue.

 

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    Photo: YuryZap/Shutterstock.com

Bison vs. Shutdown

Wyoming bison knock over barricade

It’s day 16 of the shutdown, and park goers aren’t the only ones frustrated by the barricades at our National Parks. Two Wyoming bison are feeling discouraged, too. So much so that they knocked down a roadblock near the small town of Kelly.

Several bystanders (bison-standers?) witnessed the event, one of whom recorded their antics:



There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, though. Today, the House Natural Resources Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing to address the closure of National Parks.

“The closure of our National Parks disrupts the lives of millions of people whether they work in a park, want to visit a park, work in a business, or are affected by other governmental services,” said Denis Galvin, a 40-year NPS veteran who will testify before members of Congress.

The bison agree. 

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First Lady Michelle Obama and White House Chef Sam Kass show students from the Bancroft Elementary how to plant a garden.     Photo: Samantha Appleton/Wikimedia

Squirrels Raid First Lady's Garden

Shutdown keeps vegetables on the vine

First Lady Michelle Obama's White House garden is the latest victim of furloughs at the National Parks Service during the partial federal government shutdown. Squirrels have overrun the 1,500 square-foot plot on the South Lawn, eating ripening mushrooms, tomatoes, and peppers.

"Right now, the many squirrels who live at the White House seem to have gotten even more aggressive," writes Eddie Gehman Kohan on her Obama Foodorama blog. "They're now kids in a candy story, gorging themselves."

When the shutdown began, NPS gardeners were ordered to only water and remove trash, although fallen leaves don't constitute "trash." Trimming, fertilizing, transplanting, and mowing the grass have also stopped.


What's in Michelle Obama's Garden?

  • Artichokes                                                                 
  • Okra
  • Sweet Potatoes                                                        
  • Tomatos
  • Lettuce                                                                    
  • Squash
  • Peppers                                                                   
  • Turnips
  • Kale                                                                        
  • Garlic
  • Carrots                                                                    
  • Jalapeños
  • Rutabaga                                                                 
  • Chili peppers
  • Exotic herbs                                                            
  • Basil
  • Collard greens                                                         
  • Papaya

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A lab mouse commonly used in labatory experiments. Connecticut College used mice to show the addictive side of junk food.     Photo: Rama/Wikimedia

Oreos as Addictive as Cocaine

A new study in mice sheds light on addiction

A study conducted at Connecticut College found that Oreos are as addictive as cocaine—in lab rats. Researchers found that rats shared an equally strong affinity for environments with Oreos as they did for environements with cocaine or morphine. The student and a neuroscience professor say the study sheds light on whether junk foods can be as addictive as narcotics.  

"Our research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do," Professor Joseph Schroeder said in a release on Connecticut College News. "It may explain why some people can't resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them."

Inside a maze, researcher fed Oreos to rats on one side and rice cakes on the other side. Mice that were fed rice cakes left the area quicker than those fed Oreos. A similar experiment was done involving injections of cocaine vs. saline solution. The results showed that rats conditioned with cocaine spent just as much time where they were given cocaine on the "drug" side as mice that were given Oreos, and more neurons were activated in areas of the brain that correspond to pleasure than when exposure to drugs. The study also found that, like us, rats eat the cream center of "America's favorite cookie" first.

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