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People are planting WWI-style victory gardens—even those of us without green thumbs
Annie Reneau

I've never been a gardener. I love the idea, but my history of killing plants isn't terribly inspiring. However, this year is different. I am doggedly determined to grow all the things because I will not allow 2020 to defeat me.

Is there a better symbol of hope than a garden? Planting a seed means you believe the future is imminent. Watching a sprout emerge from the soil and grow into a flourishing plant means life goes on. In addition, reaping the fruits and veggies of your efforts and giving thanks for the bounty that nature provides is perhaps the most basic, fundamental human act I can think of.


During World War I, Americans were encouraged to plant "victory gardens" to provide food during the war—and they undoubtedly came in handy during the pandemic that overlapped with the end of the war. (Side note: Holy cow, those people were tough.) While our food supply has held up so far in this pandemic, we don't know what will happen in the coming year or so before a vaccine becomes available. Growing some extra food seems as prudent as it is poetic.

Not only that, but gardening is good for you. Research from Princeton University has found that gardening at home had a powerful impact on a person's emotional well-being—just like biking, walking or dining out. The benefits crossed racial demographics as well as urban and rural locations. And vegetable gardening in particular had a stronger benefit than ornamental gardening, which provides mainly aesthetic value.

But what if you're not a natural gardener? What if you don't know where to start? What if you don't have any space to garden?

Even if you're short on land and experience, you can still plant your own little victory garden. If you have a patio or balcony, or any bit of outdoor space, you can use containers instead of outdoor garden beds. My family has space in our yard, but decided to use containers anyway because it's a lot easier than tilling the ground, preparing the soil, etc.

The previous owners of our house had left a few plastic planters, but to supplement them we bought a pack of these grow bags. They're basically fabric pots—they almost feel like felted wool—and they're more affordable than plastic or ceramic containers. They also designed for healthy aeration of the soil, which sounds like something fancy gardeners say. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds important.


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You can even choose different sizes of grow bags to accommodate your space and what you want to plant.

One nice thing about container gardening is that you don't have to have a lot of tools. A simple set of small shoveling tools and some gardening glove will suffice. I learned quickly that digging your hands in the dirt without gloves might sound rustic and romantic, but it dries your hands and nails out something fierce.

And yet another advantage of container gardening is that you don't have to figure out how to get your ground soil ready for planting. According to my gardener-by-nature friends, everyone's soil is different, so there's different things you have to add to it and mix into it to get the right balance of minerals— blah blah blah. No thank you. I want to be able to put my seeds or my plant into the dirt and go. With container gardening, you just buy a bag of potting soil (available at any garden center—we got ours at Walmart), dump it in the pot and voila! Ready-to-plant garden.

Lastly, you have to decide what to plant. If you've not gardened before, start with things that are easy and quick to grow, like peas and beans. Look at my beans and peas! I'm doing it! I'm doing it!

Annie Reneau

You also might consider starting with small plants instead of the seeds. They can take a while to germinate, depending on what you're growing and If you don't get an early start indoors, you might find growing from seed frustrating. That also depends on where you live. I live in the north, where we have a limited growing season.

Apparently, beginning gardening books are flying off the virtual shelves as more and more people are using social distancing time to plant a victory garden. But if video is more your speed, I highly recommend the YouTube channel Epic Gardening. Kevin Espiritu used to be like me—a know-nothing, wannabe gardener—and now he helps people learn how to grow stuff. He's delightful and so helpful:

Epic Gardening Channel Trailerwww.youtube.com

If nothing else, a garden gives you a way to help life flourish (hopefully) and a place to see progress when it seems like the world is slipping backwards. Good luck, novice gardeners!

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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True

You could say Marine biologist, divemaster and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Erika Woolsey is a bit of a coral reef whisperer, one who brings her passion for ocean science to folks on dry land in a fresh, innovative and fun new way using virtual reality.

Images courtesy of Meta’s Community Voices film series

Her non-profit, The Hydrous, combines science, design, and technology to provide one-of-a-kind experiential education about marine life. In 2018, Hydrous produced “Immerse 360”, a virtual underwater journey through the coral reefs of Palau, with Dr. Woolsey as a guide.

Viewers got to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles while exploring gorgeous aquatic landscapes and learning about the crucial role our oceans play—all from 360° and 3D footage captured by VRTUL 2 underwater storytelling VR cameras.


Hydrous then expanded on the idea to develop two more exciting augmented adventures using Meta Quest 2 technology: “Expedition Palau,” a live event where audiences can share a “synchronized immersive reality experience”, which includes live narration from Woolsey, and “Explore,” a “CGI experience” to enjoy the magic of the ocean at home.


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“I’ve been extremely fortunate to explore and study coral reefs around the world,” Woolsey said, sharing that it was “heartbreaking” to see these important habitats decay so rapidly while the latest scientific reports did not clearly lead to widespread compassionate action.

“How do we care about something we never see or experience?” she reflected. As she discovered, virtual reality would be a powerful solution for eliciting empathy. “VR has the ability to generate presence and agency and make you feel like you’re there. It's that emotional connection that can bridge scientific discovery and public understanding”

The combination of virtual reality and the ocean’s natural breathtaking beauty is, as Woolsey puts it, a “match made in heaven” for getting people more engaged in ocean education. “When you’re floating you can look up and down and all around you…seeing a school of fish surrounding you and reefs in these cathedral-like structures. Rather than watching a video of a scientist, you get to become the scientist.”

Hydrous also has special kits to provide middle school students hands-on learning about ocean life. In addition to a journal, activity cards and a smartphone VR viewer, each kit includes lifelike 3D printed model pieces of a coral reef so that middle school students can try building their own.

These reef models even turn white when temperatures rise inside the aquarium, which mimics the real “bleaching” that corals endure when they die due to higher than normal ocean temperatures. Students really do become scientists as they figure out how to bring color back to their reef.

While it’s true that the health of our oceans affects us all, the growing threats our oceans face—pollution, overfishing, climate change—don’t always affect us on an empathetic level. Through the use of technology, Woolsey has created an innovative way to connect hearts and minds to one of the Earth’s most important resources, which can inspire real and lasting change.

“We can’t bring everybody to the ocean, but we’re finding scalable ways to bring the ocean to everyone.”

To learn more about Hydrous, click here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


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