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Entries in sustainability (17)

Saturday
Dec282013

Samsara: Returning The Sacred Feminine To Her Historical Place Of Honor Will Help Save The World

Samsara, a visual exploration of Native American and Pagan beliefs about the feminine force within creation, nature, and the circle of life. Through the lens of Paul de Luna, who captures Serafima in this shoot inspired by ancient women and the power of femininity. Styling by Edda Gudman for the fall/winter 2013 issue of WestEast Magazine. Makeup by Hazuki Matsushita; hair by Damian Monzillo.

By Feanne & Anne

In their book ‘Myths of the Female Divine’, authors David Leeming & Jake Page describe researchers earliest understanding of the Goddess:

Like the human fetus in its early form, Goddess was thoroughly female; she preceded any differentiation into God and Goddess. She seems to have been absolute and parthenogenetic — born of herself — the foundation of all being. She was the All-Giving and the All-Taking, the source of life and death and regeneration. More than a mother goddess or fertility goddess, she appears to have been earth and nature herself, an immense organic, ecological, and conscious whole — one with which we humans would eventually lose touch.

Evidence of Goddess mythology is pervasive around the globe. Scholars studying the ‘sacred feminine’ believe that by the time the great civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt flourished, the Goddess had dominated human consciousness for 25,000 years.

Over thousands of years a power struggle ensued between the primacy of the feminine and the growing influence of the masculine — with feminine principles losing influence as the patriarchy gained power. Once powerful goddess creation myths were replaced by new ones in which gods were now male and male values dominant.

In the beginning, according to a Native American creation myth, there was a woman who fell from the hole in the sky. In fact, she had been ill, and it was an angry man who had kicked her down that hole, sending her plunging into this world. There was no Earth at that time, only a great expanse of water populated by animals, who gathered to break her fall and carry about her as she lay incapacitated. One of the creatures dove to bring up soil from the bottom of that primal sea, and out of this soil was created the Earth, as a home for the woman to live in.

This is a very old narrative— surely predating the era of colonization— and yet it tells our present story very well. Over the centuries, civilizations with military might expanded ruthlessly — crushing, conquering and assimilating advanced cultures and indigenous tribes alike.

Man’s pursuit of the dreams of Icarus and a desire to conquer nature replaced respect for her. Women became enslaved and often, victims of rape and kidnapping. With the rise of monotheism, the feminine principles made a pact with the devil, resulting in the searing guilt of original sin and expulsion from paradise. Woman was now responsible for the endless suffering of humankind, more often a witch or demon than a goddess.

In the 21st century, the state of women worldwide and the state of the environment are in grave need of healing.

Samsara from Paul de Luna on Vimeo.

It is our task now to dive deep into the sea— the sea of memory and history’s lessons, the ocean of our own subconscious, the flowing energy of our communal willpower— and to restore the Earth:

The degradation of nature is partially a result of the subjugation of women and earth-based spiritual systems. The collapse of humanity’s sustainable relationship with the earth is due in part to the rise of patriarchal religions that suggest the destiny of humanity to be “a paradise elsewhere”.
- Anthony Hegarty

This disconnect— our loss of the Earth and the downfall of women— has carried a terrible price. Those of us fortunate enough to have been born into a life of privilege have been somewhat sheltered from the horrors of environmental degradation and women’s enslavement in the developing countries. And yet, even in America, the damage and disregard brought on by the pursuit of purely masculine principles of conquering, winning and controlling at any cost, leaves deep scars on our social structure and our environment.

We are soaking all life forms with poisons, changing rivers into lethal sewage, and hurling millions of tons of noxious gases into the respiratory system of the Earth. As scientific as we claim to be, we have yet to realize that babies do not come from storks. The simplest, most empirical fact is that babies of every species are created out of soil, air, rain, food, and rivers. If we change all of these into poison, we must accept the fact that we change our unborn into poison as well. What materials will be used for their arms but the minerals of the poisoned continents? Of what stuff will their eyes be fashioned but the water of our lethal rivers? What will those wet fleshy brains be made of but noxious gases and acid rain?

Our agricultural processes poison our water and destroy four billion tons of topsoil on the American continent each year, and still we keep at it. We are captivated by our consumer lives, addicted, and apparently nothing can break through. Unable to see the simple sadness of our way of life, sunk into our addictions, we overstuff our homes and garages, carrying on, unmoved by the smoke rising over the burnt-out lives of fifty other nations and a million other species.
- Brian Swimme

Feminism is dated? Yes, for privileged women… but not for most of our sisters in the rest of the world who are still forced into premature marriage, prostitution, forced labor— they have children that they don’t want or they cannot feed. They have no control over their bodies or their lives. They have no education and no freedom. They are raped, beaten up and sometimes killed with impunity.
Millions of women live like this today. They are the poorest of the poor. Although women do two-thirds of the world’s labor, they own less than one percent of the world’s assets. They are paid less than men for the same work if they’re paid at all, and they remain vulnerable because they have no economic independence, and they are constantly threatened by exploitation, violence and abuse… Even the most destitute of men have someone they can abuse— a woman or a child.
- Isabel Allende

Earth-based spiritual systems emphasize connection. We are connected to each other and to the Earth. When we think of ourselves as connected to others, it becomes difficult to cause suffering. It becomes easy to do things that benefit others and contribute to the whole.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Dec272013

Master Builder's Update: UAE's 'Organic Cities' By Luca Curci; Wired Looks At Masdar City

UAE’s ‘Organic Cities’

Italy’s Luca Curci architects have designed a landmark project for the United Arab Emirates skyline based on the concept of “Organic Cities’.

The project is organized in 2 groups: organic building on the earth, and ‘moons’ on the sea. The ‘moons’ are divided into 3 kinds: the smaller are private residences with a private approach from the sea and also by air. The middle ‘moons’ are hotels also accessible by sea and air. The largest ‘moons’ are residences, hotels and private apartments.

Plans will host more than 150,000 inhabitants, with 50% of total space dedicated to green and connections, open areas, common grounds and places. The tallest building will reach 470 meters with surrounding structures getting smaller.

Luca Curci architects believe that the quality of our life is strongly influenced by the architectural spaces in which we live. Their design is based on the core relationship between humans and their environment, and “it’s represented by an architecture in which individual well-being and environmental sustainability are closely related.”

Per capita, the UAE has one of the highest energy consumption levels in the world. With development has come air conditioning to cool the unbearably fierce heat. Desalination plants are required to provide drinking water. Coupled with a large oil and gas industry, these developments have doubled the UAE’s carbon dioxide levels in the last 30 years.

Masdar City in the UAE doesn’t carry the name ‘Organic Cities’. But it’s considered to be one of the world’s best examples of a city built with green principles. Masdar City has its ardent critics, however. The December issue of Wired Magazine profiles and updates Masdar’s evolution with an in-depth feature.

What urban planners challenge is the concept of building an eco-city here, from scratch, in the first place. Masdar has no affordable housing, meaning that many of the city’s workforce must drive to their jobs. “What good is a car-free city,” asks Brent Toderian, the former chief planner of Vancouver, a Canadian city that promotes sustainability, “if everyone’s commuting from somewhere else?”

French Roast News

Anne is reading …

On New Year’s Eve, Dubai will attempt to break the Guiness World Record for the world’s larest fireework display. The six-minute display utilizing over 200 expert pyro technicians, 400 firing locations and 100 computers will be choreographed across the whole of The Palm Jumeirah and The World Islands.

Fireworks will also be launched from the seven continents on The World Islands as an invitation to the global community to come to Dubai “during the journey to World Expo 2020”. Read on Emirates 24/7.

(Below) Dubai’s Enormous ‘The World’ Artificial Archipelago Amusing Planet

Photo taken by the crew of the International Space Station shows The World Islands on top right. The Palm island, another artificial archipelago, is also visible on the bottom left.

The project debuted nearly 10 years ago, but work has been stalled periodically ever since due to the global recession. Two years ago, the entire project came very near to derailment when Penguine Marine, the company contracted to provide ferrying services to and from the shore, alleged that the islands were sinking into the shallow sea. Nakheel Properties Group, the property’s developer, denied these reports.

Zaha Hadid’s Largess

Zaha Hadid: Master Builder, Architecture’s Mistress Of Female Vision AOC 11/12/2009

Like her Middle Eastern Iraqi roots, the astonishing experience of Zaha Hadid’s structures come inside. Inside an often modest exterior. one is overcome not with spectacle but sensation. If a person can exist “as one” with a building, the structure is probably the womanly blueprint of Zaha Hadid.

While many women reflect on the possibilities of life and put a toe in the pond of self-expression, Zaha Hadid builds new civilizations.  Diving into her design world like a mermaid, I rejoice for being a good swimmer, because one can drown in the breath of this woman.

Hadid is a Henry Moore sculpture or an Irving Penn “Earthly Body”. Her face and body make monumental impressions on our unconscious minds.

Let us not Photoshop her to death, telling women that no woman aspires to be like her, because Hadid is too large for Karl Lagerfeld’s vision of womanly beauty and aspiration. I think Hadid is too important, influential and masterful to succumb to that fashion claptrap, advising women of an unusually narrow version of desirable identity.

Icarus & Master Builders

Can Architecture Conquer Man’s Love for Icarus with New Dreams? AOC 9/3/2010

The owners of Dubai’s Burg Khalifa say that the entire skyscraper is inspired by female principles, found in the hymen flower. I called the assertion ‘phallic fiction’ — a bit like the current financial balance sheet for Dubai World —  but a reader correctly pointed out that what matters are the building’s green credentials.

Female principles bring curves and a meandering disorder to architecture, along with a dose of playful, irrational exhuberance (OK, that could be boys’ play, too). Biomimicry is feminine with its emphasis of design inspired by nature.

Man’s domination of nature is ending, with the future demanding a collaboration between modern master builders and their natural environments, if we are to advance as a civilization having any quality of life. There’s still plenty of macho-think in the world; consider Cambodia’s new tower.

I cringe now reading that impoverished Cambodia wants to build the largest tower in Asia, a 1,820-foot skyscraper that’s taller than the Taipei 101 in Taiwan, rising 1,667 feet into the sky.

Read and watch: Biomimicry: 3.8 Billion Years of Natural R&D

The observation deck at the Burj Khalifa—the tallest building in the world at 2,716.5 feet—offers a panoramic view of the flat desert shores of sea-level Dubai. The building took seven years to build and holds a number of other records, including most number of stories, highest outdoor observation deck, and tallest service elevator. See more stunning snapshots of life on Earth from National Geographic Travel’s best photos of 2013.

Friday
Jun212013

'More Than Honey' Bee Documentary Focuses On Sex Lives of Queen Bee Where More Is Better

via Scientific American

A male honey bee is essentially a winged penis doomed to die immediately after losing his virginity. On summer afternoons, male bees—known as drones—emerge from many different hives and gather in a small swarm. No one is sure exactly how drones pick their “congregation areas” or why they are often in exactly the same place year after year, but the answer likely has something to do with fragrant chemical messages known as pheromones. The drones wait for a virgin queen from a nearby colony to make an appearance and compete for the chance to mate with her mid-flight, crashing into one another as they race after her alluring perfume. If a drone is successful, the act of copulation rips his penis and entrails from his abdomen, so he falls to the ground and dies. The queen mates with as many as 20 drones in a single flight and stores millions of their sperm in an internal pouch called a spermatheca—sufficient supplies for a lifetime of egg-laying.

Imagining what a mating flight might look like is all well and good; watching it happen as though you were a drone flying alongside the queen is so much better. The fascinating and gorgeous new documentary “More Than Honey” offers just such a bee’s-eye view.

In America, current estimates suggest that a total of 1.5 million out of a total of 2.4 million behives have disappeared across 27 states. In Germany one-fourth of bee colonies are gone. This global phenomenon is called “colony collapse”, and it is s source of grave concern. Without bees, there is no pollinization of our food supply. 80% of plant species require bees to be pollinated.

It appears doubtful that a single pestiside or parasite is responsible for the colony collapse of the world’s honeybees. Rather, a combination of modern-world forces seems likely to killing our honey bees.

Fifty years ago, Albert Einstein said:

“If bees were to disappear from the globe, mankind would only have four years left to live.”

French Roast News

Anne is reading …

Washington State University is at work to develop the first sperm bank for honeybees. Entomologist Steve Sheppard and his team are using liquid nitrogen to preserve semen extracted from males, with the goal of preventing subspecies from becoming extinct.

Honeybees are serious business in America. Washington’s $1 billion apple crop, for instance, needs 250,000 colonies of bees each year to pollinate the orchards. California almond growers need 1 million colonies per year to pollinate their crop.

Sheppard is also working to create smarter, stronger bees with a focus on three subspecies for import into the US. These three prized subspecies come from Italy, the eastern Alps and the Georgia’s mountains.

The Italian bees, for instance, are prized because they reproduce quickly and provide maximum pollination for early-blooming crops like almonds, Sheppard said. By contrast, beekeepers in colder climates want bees that delay reproducing, so a late cold snap does not kill an entire brood, he said. That’s where the bees from the Alps and Georgia are valuable.

Queen Bees With Many Mates

A new study highlights the importance of genetic diversity in honey bee colonies as key to their survival. More mates is better for the queen bee.

Previously, scientists knew that genetic diversity affected survival under controlled conditions. Dr. David Tarpy, an associate professor of entomology at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper describing the study, took genetic samples from 80 commercial colonies of eastern US honey bees.

Studying the genetic samples allowed researchers to determine the number of males a colony’s queen has mated with.

In those colonies where the queen had mated at least seven times, the survival rates were 2.86 times more likely to survive the 10-month working season. Among those colonies, 48 percent survived to the end of the season — still an alarmingly low level. By contrast, only 17 percent of the less genetically diverse colonies survived.

In 2012 scientists at Indiana University also found that greater diversity in worker bees leads to colonies with “fewer pathogens and more abundant helpful bacteria like probiotic species.” Researchers Irene L.G.Newton and Heather Mattila’s work confirms that the genetic diversity created in a colony where a queen mates with many male bees improves colony health and productivity.

Omo Valley Honey Bees

Anne of Carversville and Glam Tribale jewelry and gifts are studying the Omo Valley peoples living in southern Ethiopia. Regarded as the cradle of human civilization, the Omo Valley tribes are under assault — much as the global honey bee population is threatened. Two Omo Valley tribes—  the Mursi and Surma — who are associated with extensive body decoration and covering their bodies with plants and vegetation inspire us daily.

Anne incorporated a visual of Sarah Burton’s spring Alexander McQueen collection honoring honey bees and the Queen Bee in particular — into our new outdoor Saturday market at Philadelphia PHAIR. Photographer Eric Tourneret — The Bee Photographer — has lensed ‘The honey tribes of the Omo Valley, Ethiopia’.

Will Sarah Burton’s Queen Bee Femme Fatales Suffer in Collapse of Global Honey Bee Populations? (Follow link to live links on all these articles in photo.)

Queen of the Sun: Whar Are the Bees Telling Us