Whether you want reduce your environmental impact or ditch city life, many of us dream of dropping off the grid and living off the land. Not many of can actually cut the cord, but on the small island of Lasqueti, about 400 residents are living out that dream.
The island lies about 50 miles northwest of Vancouver in the Strait of Georgia. To reach the remote locale, one can take a passenger-only ferry that comes two or three times a day, weather permitting of course.
At 12 miles long and 3 miles wide, Lasqueti's about the same size and shape as Manhattan, but that's about the only thing the islands have in common. Residents aren't connected to the province's electric utility BC Hydro, so energy comes from solar, wind or hydro power, as well as fossil fuel generators. Some just do without electricity.
The idea of being free from our hairdryers and energy giants is often romanticized, but self-sufficiency isn't easy. Lasqueti has no industry or even much of an economic system, and as the community's website puts it, "Nobody can work a five-day week away from home because it takes three days work just to survive—to cut firewood, to maintain power, water and waste systems, to work in your garden to produce your food."
BC Gulf Island #cabinlife is def in the cards for me. Lasqueti Island, you are now a nominee! http://t.co/Nd0uSdyzLS pic.twitter.com/fWyHF2jIZ5
— Kellie Hart (@kellieinvic) March 4, 2015
Flippin' into some cold liquid. Lasqueti island. pic.twitter.com/zsHumsawVZ
— jeremy Levin (@ridgemont_high) June 22, 2014
Modern conveniences such as microwaves or toasters are obsolete when there isn't a grocery store. Sanitation services such as garbage pickup or a sewage system don't exist either. In fact, the island's website includes an excerpt from one resident's book called, "How to Shyte on Lasqueti," with detailed subsections on composting toilets, greywater, septic fields and more.
With so much freedom, it comes as no surprise that money isn't much of an issue. People grow their own food, barter with each other or go to the free store, a recycling center where people can pick up reusable clothing, books, appliances and household objects free of charge. The island also has an elementary school, volunteer firefighters, organic farms, a handful of B&B's and one restaurant (that's also a bakery and general store).
Canadian news outlet 16x9 documented the island and featured 83-year-old Al Gainsbauer, who has lived on the Lasqueti since he quit his engineering job in 1989. Gainsbauer drinks water from a creek, bakes his own bread and lives in a two-story, solar-and-hydro-powered home he built himself because, "I've just always wanted to live out in the woods."
Check out this video, which has received nearly 800,000 views.
There's also Lasqueti native Tikki Smith, a champion St. Bernard breeder, who allows her 42 giant dogs to roam around her land.
Want to move to the most dog-filled island in Canada? Look no further than Lasqueti Island! http://t.co/vJ1Zgalqcp pic.twitter.com/3p74YfYhcE
— Topmoving.ca (@Topmoving_ca) March 4, 2015
Although many dwellers live in modest homes (where a shower might require a walk through the woods), there are more luxurious homes such as the Earthship. This spacious abode is made of natural and recycled materials and its walls are made of old tires. Power comes from renewable energy, and it also contains relatively modern comforts such as indoor plumbing and flat-screen TVs.
Photo credit: 16x9
In the video below, Lasqueti women describes their off-grid island life, and share some of their ups ("The sense of community," "The freedom") and downs ("It's a lot of work," "The inconvenience of living here can be challenging").
No electricity, no money, no paved roads. It's safe to say that Lasqueti attracts certain types of individuals (And very smart ones at that. According to Canadian census data, Lasqueti is the most highly educated community in all of British Columbia). Another local woman featured in the video below, who's lived on the island for four decades, said it best: "Wussies don't cut it."
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When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
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