Sunday, August 21, 2011

Alpha-males highly stressed, reports new primate study from Kenya

Chacma Baboon, Kruger National Park. Photo: Sally Kneidel

It's not easy being the alpha-male of a baboon troop. Sure, alpha-males have more access to fertile females and more reproductive success. But the cost is high in terms of stress, reports a study published July 15 in Science.

Laurence Gesquiere and her colleagues from Princeton University observed 125 adult male baboons living in 5 baboon communities in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, from 2003 to 2008. The scientists measured hormone concentrations by analyzing the hormone content of each baboon's feces, monthly.

Baboons live in social groups where the the top-ranking males have primary access to females in estrus. Adult baboons have long,dangerous canine teeth, and males fight ferociously for power. Gesquire's study reveals that the levels of stress-hormones in the highest-ranking males are similar to the levels in the lowest-ranking males, who are struggling just to survive.

The stressful challenges of alpha-males include having to fight off rival males and guard fertile females from other males' attentions. The stressors for the lowest-ranking males are not getting enough food and constant harassment from higher-ranking males.

Males that are just one rung lower than alphas in the power ranking have significantly less stress than either the lowest or the highest. But, these second-tier males have less access to females - generally only stolen advances when the alpha is busy elsewhere. And they risk his fury if discovered.

Infant baboon draws interest, Cape Point National Park, South Africa. Photo: Sally Kneidel

To read about my own observations of baboons in Africa, and more about baboon social structure, see link below:

Baboons are Africa's most widespread primate. Females rule!

Some of my previous posts about primate conservation, many based on my own observations in Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa:

Orangutans dwindle as Borneo, Sumatra converted to palm-oil plantations

Laws flaunted: flourishing pet trade threatens orangutans' survival

Monkeys and parrots pouring from the jungle (the Amazon)

Trade a major threat to primate survival

U.S. imports 20,000 primates per year

The great apes are losing ground

Orangutans are lefties; chimps and gorillas right-handed

We are family: new evidence of our close relationship to chimps

Wildlife trade rivals drug trade in profits 

Keywords: baboons alpha male primates stress Laurence Gesquiere

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Herbivore: Best, most versatile cookbook since Moosewood

 "Mock Tuna Salad" from The Happy Herbivore website

"Let's cook something out of Happy Herbivore when Jack's family comes," my husband Ken suggested. "It's so nice to finally have a book of easy vegan recipes."

Ken didn't know I'd been asked to review the The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay Nixon, or was even interested in his opinion. But I was glad to hear it, and I totally share his enthusiasm for the book. This is the book we've been waiting for since the classic original Moosewood Cookbook - and even better, because The Happy Herbivore is low-fat and vegan, not just vegetarian.

We've been eating meatless and mostly vegan at our house for 13 years. We've boiled our rotation down to about 15 meals; we keep these recipes in a tattered folder on top the fridge. Occasionally our daughter Sadie, the creative cook, has warmed us to recipes with new ingredients - quinoa, red lentils, nutritional yeast. She and I co-authored the book Veggie Revolution a few years ago, which is in part a vegetarian recipe book, but is more an expose of local factory farms and an alternate look at small, humane, and green farms.  Sadie's one of the best cooks I know, and when she saw my copy of Happy Herbivore, she was determined to get one herself.  She's subsequently written a great review of the book on our blog.

Features of Nixon's book that won us over, that make The Happy Herbivore easy to use:

1. Beautiful layout, with delectable color photos of most dishes.
2. Nutritional info given on each recipe page: calories, calories from fat, total fat, protein, cholesterol, dietary fiber, total carbs, sugar.
3. Easy browsing due to 7 symbols on each recipe: no cooking required, kid-friendly, gluten-free, fat-free, soy-free, and omni-friendly (favorites of meat-eaters).
4. Inclusion of recipes for sauces, condiments, and spices needed for other recipes - to eliminate searching for hard-to-find vegan ingredients.  This is a tremendous asset.
5. Thorough coverage of food types, with 12 categories in the table of contents, including: Breakfast and Brunch; Muffins and Breads; Soups, Dals and Chilis; Pasta and Casseroles; Burgers, Wraps, Tacos, and More; Quick One-Pot Dinners; Tofu and Vegan Meats; Desserts; and so on.
6. 175 recipes!  And every single one looks good!

The section that intrigues me most is Tofu and Vegan Meats. Check out Nixon's "Mock Tuna Salad" recipe on her website. Ken and I spend a lot of money on "fake meats".  Now we can make our own! Sadie's already made the "Chicken-Style Seitan" and gave it an A+.  Ken already made "Breakfast Sausage Patties" (excellent) and we'll make the "TVP Beef Crumbles" later this week. TVP is cheap. Crumbles are not. Yay! I like saving money.

Last night we made Nixon's "Broccoli Pesto Pasta." We grow basil and make pesto pizzas all the time, which are probably my favorite entree ever. But I have to say the Broccoli Pesto Pizza is a close rival. And low-fat! Unlike the pizza. We got in a little debate after the broccoli pasta dish about who would get to eat the leftover for lunch.

For our visitors I mentioned in the opening sentence, we wound up making "Enchilada Casserole." Also Nixon's "Enchilada Sauce" and "Quick Queso Sauce," which are in her "Spreads, Gravies, and Sauces" section and part of the recipe.  The casserole and sauces were exceptionally yummy, and we're still eating the leftovers. As our guests stood up to leave, Danela said "I loved that casserole - the cheese was so good!" Ken told her, "There was no cheese, that taste was nutritional yeast." There was a momentary silence of bafflement; it was a fun opportunity to educate some non-vegans! Who needs cheese? Who needs to contribute to exploitive and polluting mega-dairies? Nutritional yeast - much more wholesome.

I look forward to enjoying new and scrumptious meals and feeling guilt-free about every bite with the The Happy Herbivore.

Keywords: vegan Happy Herbivore Lindsay Nixon vegan cookbook vegetarian cookbook fat-free cookbook low-fat cookbook great cookbook vegan recipes vegetarian recipes meatless recipes

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Happy Herbivore delivers creative, easy, low-fat vegan recipes

I was in the middle of cooking my fourth dish from The Happy Herbivore: Over 175 Delicious Fat-Free and Low-Fat Vegan Recipes before I noticed that the entire cookbook is a) fat-free or low-fat and b) vegan. Call me unobservant, but it's really because the recipes are so delicious that I just didn't notice the absence of fat or animal products. Ok, and maybe I didn't read carefully.

While the The Happy Herbivore thoroughly covers every category from breakfast to dessert, its inventive array of homemade meat substitutes is what first caught my eye. As a thrifty - er, budget-challenged - vegetarian, I subsist on beans, beans and more beans. Healthy, yes; exciting, no. I just can't afford fancy veggie dogs, burgers, and other packaged veggie foods. So author Lindsay Nixon had me instantly salivating with promises of "Tuna" Salad, homemade Seitan Pot Roast, and Spicy Sausage.

And I was not disappointed. First I whipped up a batch of Mexican Chorizo in about five minutes and devoured it rapturously ontop of homemade sopes. Encouraged, I tried my hand at making my own Chicken-Style Seitan. The recipe promises "a dead ringer for country-fried or baked chicken," and it did not let me down. Best of all, it only took about two minutes of prep time, and the recipe also produced delicious gravy! I also like the recommendations for seasoning blends like No-Chicken Broth Powder and Poultry Seasoning Mix. I'll be using these even in my own recipes.

While the book certainly does offer a bountiful assortment quintessential veg-centered staples, such as Veggie Croquettes and Smoky Black Bean Enchiladas, those fast and easy meat substitutes are what really make it unique. With hearty Soul Burgers, rich Cheater Pad Thai, and hilarious Torkey, The Happy Herbivore will satisfy both vegans and omnivores alike. The flavorful and protein-rich recipes will make you forget meat was ever an option. And you just may fall in love with beans all over again.

by Sadie Kneidel

Monday, August 01, 2011

World population grows by 1 billion in only 12 years

The 7 billionth person on Earth will be born in India on October 31 of this year, according to scientists working with data from the UN.

It's only been 12 years since we passed 6 billion, in 1999.  In contrast, the world population growth from 1 billion to 2 billion took 120 years.

What's next?

Our human population is expected to hit 9.3 billion in 2050.  Some scientists project human population growth to begin leveling off between 9 and 10 billion. Others predict continued geometric growth well beyond 10 billion.

Caption: world population growth between the years 1800 to 2100

Growth is due to reduced death rates

The growth is due to reduced death rates rather than increased birth rates. The decreased death rate is attributed to the distribution of effective vaccines and antibiotics, as well as improvements in public health conditions. These recent medical advances have improved life expectancy most dramatically in developing countries, where most of the population growth is happening.

As the poorest populations expand, scientists say unrest will grow

By 2050, the population of India will surpass that of China. Nine of the most populous countries at that time will be developing nations where poverty is widespread. Issues of unequal distribution of world resources will loom larger; borders of industrialized and wealthy countries will grow increasingly porous.

U.S. will be only developed country among the most populous

In 2050, the U.S. will be the only industrialized nation among the 10 most populous countries. Our over-consumption of the world's resources will be even more out of proportion to the rest of the world than it is now.

Oil has fueled this growth

Although medical advancements have played a role in reducing death rates, it's been the abundance of oil that's allowed populations to grow so large. With cheap oil it's been possible to power the machinery to build large cities and support them. Take it away and you can't sustain New York, Tokyo, Delhi, Mexico City, etc. All cities, even those of moderate size, will suffer dramatically when we run out of oil, which many scientists predict within 50 years (see

Keywords: population growth 7 billion oil end of oil