What We’ve Done

Ever since I can remember, conservation has always been one of my main interests, and lately, every time I look around me, it’s harder and harder to ignore the impact humanity has on Mother Nature. Not too long ago I read an article about the amazing Western Black Rhino becoming extinct, which made me think about the path we’re choosing as humanity…

We live on this planet like we have another one waiting for us to arrive, once we’ve drained the last resource from planet Earth. And when the last resource will disappear, we’ll finally realize that money won’t replace oxygen, plants, animals, our homes, or our loved ones. But it will be too late … Money can buy a lot of things, but not the most important ones.

Even if plants and animals were always in a competition for habitat, no other specie, in the entire history of evolution, has ever caused so much destruction as humanity did in the past century alone! We are responsible for pollution, destruction of habitat, species extinction, draining resources.

Human activities constantly change and destroy the habitats that plants, animals and even humans need to survive. Human population is growing so fast nowadays, that animals and plants are disappearing 1000 times faster than they have in the past 65 million years. It is estimated, that in the 21st century, around 100 species will become extinct every day.

Is this the life we want to live? Do we even realize the dramatic impact our actions have?

Endangered species – Unfair competition

Animals are endangered because of a combination of natural and man-made causes (mainly man-made causes). It’s true, that most animals have predators, which reduces their number constantly, but the one ‘predator’ all animals have in common, is humanity.

With the number of humans increasing rapidly, we desperately need more space for new houses, and we don’t really care how we get that space. We reshape the face of Earth and destroy forests, build homes, and then blame animals for coming in our yards, and/or attacking us. This happens frequently in Romania, when bears come back to reclaim their land, and end up shot dead…

We destroy their habitat, and later we destroy the animals themselves. And if we don’t do this because they attack us, we do it for ‘fun’. Trophy hunting (even if legal) has a huge impact on the continuity of the species, as the purpose of ‘the sport’ is to kill the biggest specimens. As natural selection dictates that only the strongest animals survive, we end up weakening entire species, as the less fit partners will mate, and bring into the world offspring which aren’t genetically strong, and can’t offer continuity.

Poaching (illegal hunting), brings down the number of animals because of a high demand on the black market, for certain animal products/body parts, for which normal trade is banned. Elephants (its tusks value 700$/kg, so poachers cut the elephant’s face off, and leave the animal on the ground, to rot), tigers (very rare and expensive fur), rhinoceros, bears, are the most common victims, and because of poverty, more people turn to poaching, for survival.

Dead bird after ingesting plastic waste

And there’s even more to it. Even if we don’t destroy species consciously, we do it indirectly, through climate change. Polar bears are probably the most affected animals of all, as because of global warming, they are left without both habitat and food. Seals won’t camp in areas where snow isn’t present(they use snow for shelter), which means less food for the bears, and also, because winter starts later and later every year, less ice forms, which means polar bears can’t hunt or mate, as they can’t reach other bears (they are good swimmers, but long distances might cause them to drown). The later winter starts, the more time bears spend without eating, which brings down their number annually.

The Arctic melts even now, when the planet is just 0.8 degree Celsius warmer than it was in pre-industrial times. If the Earth warms up by 4 degrees Celsius, as it’s believed it will happen in the next in 50 years, we’re looking at an irreversible damage.

Deformed turtle shell, after getting stuck in a plastic ring

Oil pollution and plastic waste are also very important factors, when it comes to endangering marine animals. Fish, turtles, and even birds, confuse plastic with their food, and once they ingest it, they die a slow and painful death. Even more, some get caught in fish lines, or plastic waste, and die of starvation. Also, tourism done in the wrong location, affects the local wildlife, bringing down their numbers. Check out my post on marine turtles, for information on human impact on marine wildlife.

If we keep this up, future generations will only see wild animals in pictures, or captivity (the ‘brighter’ option of the two).

Impact on the environment 

Compared to wild animals, humans shaped the environment to suit their needs. This means we’re constantly changing the way in which the planet looks like, which definitely affects every living creature and plant, including ourselves.

Building houses involves buildings cities and infrastructure and this means creating the space for cities to grow. Deforestation if one of the biggest crimes we commit on a daily basis, which will slowly takes us to a filthy environment and poor air quality, and in the end, extinction. We kill Mother Nature’s lungs, not thinking about the consequences of our actions. In the end, we kill our own lungs. Only in Romania, 9 million cubic meters of wood were chopped down illegally in 2014 alone. This is not including the legal wood cutting…

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.

The second best time is now.”Chinese Proverb

Soil erosion is probably the second huge problem generated by deforestation. Landslides happen more and more frequently, and entire cities are ‘eaten’ by the soil which used to host them, or destroyed partially, all over the world. Copping down a tree, means killing the roots which keep the soil in place. If the roots are gone, the right combination of rain can trigger such a disaster.

Besides killing trees, we also poison the ground, in the race for obtaining more food, for the fast increasing number of people. Irrigation, even if it has a lot of positive aspects, it can have a negative impact on the environment, as it changes the quality of soil and water, and reduces downstream river flow, with disastrous consequences. We genetically modify plants and animals, in order to become what suit better our feeding needs, playing with growing time and resistance to bacteria, which in the end, affect our own bodies, more than we like to admit. (Check out my post on meat industry for more information). Also, plants like corn, were modified to such an extent that the right bacteria don’t protect the plant anymore, which means more chemicals are needed, chemicals which end up being ingested by humans, weakening our immune system.

Sometimes we go even further, and we introduce new animals and plants, to a location where they don’t belong, and we destroy the balance of nature. Removing the natural predators of a specie because of relocation, means overbreeding, and lowering the number of local species. Also, bringing new insects translates into birds avoiding them, causing an invasion and mass destruction of plants. Such a fragile balance, we should never influence without intensively research the consequences.

We also actively endanger a large number of valuable organisms. Home of millions of animals, enormous trees and plants, losing the rainforests can become a tragedy for humanity, as such an abundance and diversity, is not to be found anywhere else on Earth. Each year, over 140,000 sq km of rainforests are destroyed for wood or farming ground, also killing a large number of rare plants (medicinal plants included) and animals.

No, not foggy, but a normal day in a very polluted environment – China

Making room for ourselves sounds pretty good to some of us, but we’re not realizing that with every new tree chopped down, we change the climate, bringing up the level of CO2, worldwide. China is probably the best example of a location where the air so not breathable anymore. Selling canned air, is no longer a thing of the future, or anything extraordinary. We’ll soon pay for every breath we take, and it can become very expensive. Respiratory diseases become a larger and larger issue by day, and until the last tree will be gone and the sea level will increase dramatically because of global warming, up to the point of reshaping the continents, we won’t admit we’re doing something terribly wrong.

Natural resources – For how long?

We claim we love our planet, but we harm it with every chance we get. Need was replaced with greed, and taking as much as we need, was turned into a fierce competition for resources. Resources dictate how the world is shaped, and the great financial powers fight for obtaining the most, for the lowest price. With our needs for food, energy and fuel increasing every year, exploitation began, without thinking of the environmental impact of our actions.

Pollution level went up dramatically worldwide, in the past few decades. Toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants, combined with burning oil for electricity, reshapes the climate from one year to the other one. Four seasons countries (Romania included) went to violent switches from very cold and aggressive winters, to extremely warm and dry summers, while autumn and spring don’t exist anymore, or last a few days only. Also, storms became more and more aggressive and powerful, in the last decade, even in areas which were never affected by them before.

Surface mining of oil shale deposits caused huge environmental issues, and the waste material generated by processing oil, release harmful atmospheric emissions, disturbing the fragile balance of gases, in Earth’s atmosphere. Considering that we pollute more and more every year and in 2009 only, the total global CO2 emissions totaled 30.4 billion metric tones, we’re heading for a global disaster.

With only 1.3 trillion barrels of oil reserves left in the world, it is estimated that in 40 years from now we’ll run out of oil. Without green alternatives, the future looks dark, as electricity can become a thing of the past, and also slow, and there’s not transportation without oil. With living standards only going up, the rate at which we go into the reserves, can only go up.

If the slow killer isn’t bad enough, we bring into the equation nuclear power, with enormous negative effects on living organisms and environment, because of the carcinogen radiations which enter every living cell. Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters are just a preview of how bad the situation can get. And how can you fight an invisible killer, which spreads through soil, air and water, with effects which persist indefinitely?

Overfishing is another example of abusive exploitation of Earth’s resources. If sustained, it can lead to critical problems in the balance of the ecosystem, as the fish population is no longer able to sustain itself. The fisheries in the Irish Sea and English Channel, have become overfished to the point of virtual collapse. Also, the Peruvian economy was strongly affected by the low number of anchovy coming from fisheries, after they were strongly overfished for years. By not fishing responsibly, we end up harming the deep sea fish, as well as other species, which rely on the balance, for specie continuity. Japan went as far as killing dolphins, because they were considered pests, and a threat to the local fisheries. Greed always wins in the fight against need…

Is it too late?

The ones above are only a small part of what we’ve done. We treat our most precious resources, water, air and soil, like our personal garbage cans, and we don’t live in a way which will leave a functional planet for future generations and animals. Evolution for us, means disaster for other species and the environment, and will end up with bringing ourselves as well, to extinction.

Is the damage reversible? Very hard to tell. We just don’t have enough energy right now, to power a society like ours. Personally, I believe the high level of living we’re at, and the lack of conservation spirit in our culture, won’t ever allow us to give up on greed and rethink the luxury of having any type of food we want, available at any time of the day or night, or having permanent electricity and running water in our homes, or give up on fast and accessible transportation, regardless of the cost for other living organisms. We’re not concerned with getting access to any of the above, in a green and environmental friendly way, and in the end, we’ll all pay the price. Animals and plants don’t stand a chance, at the rate of destruction we set.

Sea of windmills in Netherlands - Green energy for a cleaner environment

Sea of windmills (and tulip fields) in Netherlands – Green energy for a cleaner environment

It seems like we’re in a competition to destroy ourselves and the environment. Worse thing is that we don’t get extra bonus points, if we make our home inhabitable, as fast as possible. Even worse, is that we do have alternatives, but we choose to not make that extra effort. How will we live with ourselves, when we’ll know we knew, and still we didn’t do anything?

Planet Earth doesn’t need us. We need it. The planet can survive very well, and regenerate on its own, much better, without humanity. In fact, if we would stop all industrial activities, it would take Mother Nature many decades, to restore the balance. Slowly, but surely, Earth would come back to life. We…we simply don’t have this luxury. We only have one home, one chance, and time is ticking. If it’s not already too late, changes should happen now, before they become meaningless.

The planet can support every man’s need but not every man’s greed. Unless we start drawing a line between the two, the future looks dark for most species and plants, and in the end, for the entire human race.


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How It’s Supposed To Feel

You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

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Painting fairy tales and windmills

I’m no expert when it comes to feelings and how love works, and I don’t think I’ll ever be (also, I don’t aim to be one), but like all of us, I do know how it feels like to be happy or miserable next to someone. With more and more people in the wrong relationship, I had to step back and think about how it’s supposed to feel, when it’s really right. Even if is never perfect, it should always feel right.

We spend our entire life looking for love. Happiness is everyone’s ultimate goal, regardless of what shape it takes. For some, happiness might be their dream car or house, while for others is the perfect spouse, or a trip around the world. We learn thorough our mistakes, who we really are, and what we really need in life. We’re not born knowing, we just find out as we go. We might start with an image in our mind of how it should be, and end up in a totally different place than the one we pictured for so long.

Not that long ago I had a talk with someone about relationships and I couldn’t help but notice a huge difference between relationships in the past vs relationships nowadays. When our grandparents were younger, everything had to be fixed, not changed, including relationships. They just aren’t programmed this way, and never threw away their love, feelings, past, and start all over again, with someone else. Getting married, was usually for life. Yes, the access to fast divorces wasn’t an option, but also, they never considered that in first place.

Nowadays, more and more dysfunctional relationships appear. And most of the time, we believe that’s how it’s supposed to be. We struggle to find happiness, but the last puzzle piece doesn’t fit perfectly. Still, we sometimes try to fix something which will never work or give up on the relationship at the first sign of it not going as planned. Even when it’s the right missing piece, we are programmed to throw our feelings away, put our pride and selfishness before the other person and our relationship, instead of working things out with our partner.

What’s the right feel?

Breakups are never easy. We all go through them at one point in our lives, and we all wish we wouldn’t have to deal with something like this ever again.  It’s painful, stressful, consuming, and leaves us with missing pieces of our hearts, every time we lose the partner which was, at one point, the love of our lives. We feel like it’s pointless to even look further for THE ONE, as the past one was the one, and now it’s only a stranger. And then we pick ourselves up, and move further, on the road to achieving happiness, looking somewhere else, and then somewhere else, and so on, until we think we found it, and then we start all over again.

Sometimes what ruins a relationship is the picture in our head of how we WANT it to be. The truth is it will never be the way we pictured it. When something involves more than just yourself, it will never be YOUR WAY. It will be a compromise between what both partners want. Having it your way and not considering your partner’s feelings, means you will end up breaking up over and over again. It will always be something different than what you had in mind, but the question is: how it’s supposed to feel like when it’s the right one for you?

Being stuck in a relationship which doesn’t make you happy isn’t only wrong, but is also useless. It will never keep you on the right track of your life. It will only bring you down, make you question yourself, your choices, your dreams and desires. You will end up in a place where you forget who you really are, what your passions are, and what you used to dream about, for your future.

When it feels right, your partner will bring out the best in you, will inspire you, support you in your wildest dreams, and bring an unexplained joy in your life. Like a missing puzzle piece, the right person will make the image ahead of you clearer. No matter how broken you are, you can see it clear; it finally comes back to you. You know who you are, you are motivated to follow your dreams, you are playful, happy, smiling for no reason, and eager to do more and be better at anything you do. You feel alive, and you two form a perfect team.

The one, will never ask you to change anything about yourself either, and will never let you lose track of who you are, and what really makes you happy. On the contrary. Both of you will blend into a perfect team, an unstoppable power, with the same destination in mind: happiness. And neither of you won’t let anything come between you and your goal.

The right person isn’t perfect. Not at all, but love knows no boundaries. Love knows nothing about social status, skin color, age, educational level, career path, looks, … Love just happens, in the weirdest way, with the strangest person. He/she has a lot of faults, like you also do, but it’s definitely perfect to you. There’s nothing you would change about him/her, and nothing better than their perfect imperfections make you any happier. You choose to be with them not wanting to alter anything, but to keep them as they are, in your mind and heart, just like in the first day you met.

Life is too short to bother with the wrong person. As harsh as it might sound, if someone doesn’t make you feel this way, it’s just not worth your time. You can’t waste the best years of your life, being unhappy, trying to change the person next to you, only to end up old and tired of what still doesn’t work. The perfect fit is never forced, it just works! Besides, its always better to be alone, than to feel alone next to the wrong person.

When you don’t want to lose a single moment of your life together, and when even your dreams seem less beautiful than reality is, then you know you’ve found the one. You will simply know. And when you finally do, hold them, cherish them, and don’t let them go. Love is very fragile and very breakable. Even with the right person for you, you should never take anything for granted, but constantly work on keeping the feelings alive.

Social media, movies, TV shows, tend to promote a very confusing image of how it’s supposed to feel. We are constantly bombarded with images of ‘perfect’ relationships which have nothing to do with real life. Life isn’t perfect, neither are relationships, but it’s all about learning how to dance in the rain. With the right person, anything is achievable and you feel like you can even move mountains (sure you could as well leave them where they are, if they don’t particularly bother you 🙂 ).

Real love doesn’t need to be advertised, doesn’t have to be on any social media, but should only be located deeply in our hearts. Our hearts will know when the right person is the one, and so will we. When it happens, you will finally know how it was supposed to feel, all along.


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Eastern vs Western Europe – The Equality Inequality

You might believe the entire European space is pretty much similar, and all countries are equal in rights and obligations, but this is just not true. Spending a longer period of time in both the Eastern and the Western part of Europe, the differences become more and more obvious. Even if the imaginary borders are dimmed by the existence of the EU, it’s interesting to see how distinct the two geographical areas are.

Cultural variety is always welcomed in any community, but when the differences make it all the way into every detail of the life of an individual, I can’t help but wonder why there’s such a huge gap in the quality of life, in two countries separated by only a few thousands of km.

Communism, which was strongly present in Eastern Europe pushed the development of the countries from the former communist block further back, with quite a high number of years, but the differences aren’t limited only to development, but they go much further than this.

Food Quality 

I know it’s said that Romanian dishes are absolutely amazing, tasty and people come back from all over the world, just to taste more, but what I mean by quality, is the quality of the products which make it in the supermarkets and are available to a large number of the country’s population. This aspect you don’t really notice on a short trip to the other corner of the continent, but only after you live there for a while, and you are faced with a few serious shopping and cooking sessions.

In the west, with the presence of so many food safety associations which actually do a good job at monitoring the market, every fruit and vegetable has a very beautiful smell, the colors and alive, and the taste is right as it should be. The supermarkets can’t allow bad looking or expired products to make it on the shelves, and every such product, in case it makes a person sick, can turn into a serious lawsuit, and a drop into reputation, which is not that easy to recover from. The salami is made out of actual meat, the meat in the stores looks healthy and colored, and the cheese goodies smell delicious, and look like they are made in accordance with the right procedures. Besides, the butter won’t go bad in a few days, even if kept outside, like I was used to and the chocolate with milk, does taste like milk, and no extra sugar is added on top of what’s needed, in order to distract from the real taste.

In the east, most of the time, the fruits and vegetables and not ripe enough, or are well passed their best by date, but are still kept on the shelves (after the date is illegally changed), and you can see flies having a party in the middle of the supermarket, especially during very warm summers. The color is faded, the taste is not present, and the smell is nowhere to be found. Sometimes you can’t even tell the difference between cucumbers, tomatoes and pears. Also, buying fruits and vegetable with fungi is quite common, but because the food safety associations are not present or way too corrupt, such products stay legally on the shelves.The salami is 3/4 fat and other animal remains, and only 1/4 meat, and the meat looks quite suspicious and sick. Even if you want to pay more for a good product, you can’t find any type of cheese which isn’t processed and processed again, and processed again, until you are left with a white ‘sort of cheesy’ block.

Bad quality products combined with low wages means access to a limited amount of vitamins and minerals, and a very poor, heavy diet, which leads to medical issues. And you wonder why you still get sick, even if you have a balanced diet, exercise, and you do all the right things. What you buy simply doesn’t have the right properties, in order to keep your body healthy. And when you get sick, you face an even bigger issue.

Medical Treatments – Inefficient Medication

It happened to me quite a few times so far, to get sick during my travels, and I must say this is quite a serious issue, if it happens in the wrong location. Buying medication which doesn’t work, is quite common for the east. You go to the doctor/pharmacy, they prescribe a bunch of pills, you take them for days/weeks on end, and you barely recover, slowly. Every now and then a new very powerful medicine comes on the market, which gets you well in a few days, and causes cancer, if used long term. Eh?! But, yet again, if you did this all your life, then it seems quite normal.

Getting sick in the west, means buying the medicine, taking 3-4 pills, and you feel like a new person. Wow, they actually work!? The same medication looks different in the west, than it does in the east, even if it’s the same brand, and the ones you buy in the west actually do what they are intended to do.

If you get really sick, there’s no worse place to be than in the East, as besides not getting access to the right medication, you might not get access to any treatment at all, as the hospitals don’t have pills or basic hygiene supplies (they often send the patients to go buy them themselves – quite useful when you can’t get out of the hospital bed), and the best doctors already left for the west, looking for better paid jobs.

Infrastructure 

For a traveler, this is quite an obvious deciding factor when it comes to the level of development of a country. Better roads (highways) and public transportation means better access to all locations of the country, better people flow, which leads to the workflow moving where the jobs are. The better the access, the better the development, as even the less developed areas improve gradually.

Driving around Europe, I must say, you can travel everywhere from everywhere in about 1 day, up to the border with the east, where only one country, from one end to the other, takes you just as much as the rest of the continent took you.

Poor road quality and the absence of highways dictates the access of the population to a better paid job, or to a job at all. As in Romania, even a 30 km distance from the towns around the capital, is too much to do, by public transportation (which sometimes works, and sometimes it doesn’t, because of personal reasons of the company’s owner, or legal issues, when they get caught by the police, operating the cars without licences) development outside the big cities is slow, if present at all.

Poor roads means less tourists, and less investments from abroad. Less contact with the outside, means the mentality stays the same, the education level doesn’t improve, the financial situation doesn’t get any better. And this reflects into everything, especially traffic. Compared to the west, in the east the traffic changes dramatically, and frustration, selfishness and carelessness takes over, turning the roads into a constant circus performance. For a driver, going from west to east, it can become very confusing, and your civilized driving style changes, when you’re constantly bombarded with stressful and absurd situations on the road.

Financial Situation – The Deciding Factor?

And, it all comes down to money. Again. You are poor, you can’t compete with the west, so you can’t expect better from the food you eat or the treatment you take. So you get the remainders from the richest countries in the EU.

Worse part is that living in the same location for too long, you begin to feel that’s normal, and you can’t understand that there’s actually something very wrong with the picture described above. Even if local smaller producers sell better quality products, not everyone has access or the financial power to actually buy those products. So they settle for what’s available in the supermarkets… In the end, if you can’t afford better, you can’t sue them either, right?

Companies, legally, are under no obligation to market an identical product under the same brand, in the European space, which means that the newcomers into the EU, receive the lower quality products.

You might believe this is all, but no. Bad financial situation means less access to education and medical care, less education and treatment means no chance at improving the current condition. Not improving the condition, means the mentality of the people won’t change, the stress level won’t reduce, and the society won’t evolve. And it only gets worse, for countries which are already behind in terms of medical care, education, infrastructure.

Being poor is a state of mind, and is constantly fed by the environment and the society. Not fighting for better, not making the right investments, not caring for own health, not being united as a community, brings down the quality of life, and the hope of it ever improving.


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