I was instantly conflicted by unease and regret – unease at how unnatural cloning seemed, and regret that I never had the chance to clone my beloved cat, Nero. I quickly realized my internal conflict was a reflection of both the highly controversial aspects of pet cloning and the driving force behind cloning – love.
In order to explore this conflict further, I focused on the ways cloning companies, cloning clients, pop culture, media, and cloning dissenters perceive and talk about companion dog cloning. My research culminated in a massive open online course called Folkloristics and the Vernacular of Companion Dog Cloning that is available for free on Udemy.com.
Strong bond between people and their dogs
People who clone their dogs (or want to clone their dogs) have several things in common. First and foremost, they love their dogs. People and their dogs usually live together, sharing their lives and often food and the furniture as well. The dogs in these relationships are considered friends and/or part of the family. In these close-contact and shared lives, people believe their dogs love them just as much as they love their dogs. These bonds are so strong the person cannot imagine life without their best friend.
I have lived all my life in Moscow, the huge, metropolitan city of 15 million. I got my bachelor’s degree in geography at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2008 and my master’s degree in geography at the same place in 2010. For several years afterwards, I worked on a project developing an enterprise GIS in public organization “Mosvodostok,” which focuses on developing, building, and maintaining stormwater sewer networks. After this project was over, I continued my work as an employee in the company’s GIS department.
By the end of 2016, I had started to feel a dead end in my life and further career and thought that it was time to move forward, or I would be stuck in the same place and position until retirement. Also, I got tired of living in an overcrowded, polluted city and spending 2-3 hours every workday commuting. That is how I became obsessed with the idea to move somewhere to live and work for a longer period.
It was obvious to me that in the world of the global economy and international labor market a significant and almost necessary step in a career and with the possibility to travel at the same time would be a job in an international company. To be successful in this endeavor, it seemed crucial to be fluent in English and to have an education that would be competitive enough on the international level.
So, I came to a decision to complete an academic program in GIS abroad to get a more solid foundation in this field, extend my job opportunities, and simply travel. It was not an easy decision at all. I had to drop pretty much everything considered to be attributes of successful average big city life. I quit a stable job, sold my car, rented out my flat. But, although it might sound too cinematic, when looking back I can confidently say that it was the best decision in my life so far.
I didn’t have sufficient skills to pass the IELTS exam for a score sufficient for foreign universities, so I decided to finish English courses first. By that time I became so sick of living in Moscow that I decided to do that in New Zealand, the furthest place in the world which you can go from it. Looking back, it wasn’t a reasonable decision in financial and logistical terms, but travel wise it was remarkable.
After half year of English courses and successful IELTS exam, I realized that I would like to continue further with my plan somewhere closer. I started to look through master’s programs offered at European universities. I sent applications to several universities and because of several factors and circumstances, decided to choose the Geoinformatics for Urbanized Society master’s program at the University of Tartu.
Plant blindness, or the lack of attention to plants as active agents in ecosystems, may seem to be a harmless ignorance. However, its consequences are directly related to the current state of environmental deterioration.
Plants have been of crucial importance to maintaining ecological processes of the planet Earth as well as for sustaining cultures and societies around the world. Plants themselves are complex, sensitive organisms that employ intricate signalling strategies to monitor, adapt to, and benefit from their environment.1 Baldwin, Ian 2015. Plant Science: Rediscovering the Bush Telegraph. Nature 522: 282–283. ,2 Ryan, John C. 2012. Passive Flora? Reconsidering Nature‘s Agency through Human-Plant Studies (HPS). Societies 2(3): 101–121.
However, despite their complexity and the central role in functioning of the living world of the planet, in Western society plants have been habitually marginalised and described in neutral collective terms, such as, e.g. landscape or agriculture, a tendency which is symptomatic of a wider phenomenon of plant blindness.
In his book Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany, Matthew Hall observes that “most places on Earth which contain life are visibly plantscapes”.3 Hall, Matthew 2011. Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. p. 3 Indeed, plants comprise the major part of the Earth‘s biomass4 Bar-On, Yinon M.; Phillips, Rob; Milo, Ron 2018. The Biomass Distribution on Earth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115(25): 6506–6511., being of crucial significance to maintaining the planet‘s environmental balance and ecosystem stability.5 CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) 2010. Global Strategy for Plant Conservation 2011–2020 [online]. Retrieved from: https://www.cbd.int/gspc/intro.shtml
Thinking on the larger temporal scale, plants feel much more on home ground on the planet Earth than any animal species that ever existed. “If millions of years could be measured in meters” – state Gagliano, Ryan, and Vieira – “the history of plants would equate to a 500-meter-long walk, while ours would be no more than a few centimeters”.6 Gagliano, Monica; Ryan, John C.; Vieira Patrícia (eds.) 2017b. The Language of Plants: Science, Philosophy, Literature. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. vii.
Yet even this tiny footprint of the human species on planet Earth is profoundly embedded in the vegetal world – it is impossible to comprehensively approach the history of any cultural or social formation without simultaneously considering the history of plants.
Nevertheless, in the conceptual framework of the Western cultures, plants, for the most part, have habitually been overlooked and considered no more than a trivial backdrop for daily human practices and activities.7 Aloi, Giovanni (ed.) 2018. Why Look at Plants?: The Botanical Emergence in Contemporary Art. Leiden: Brill. ,8 Marder, Michael 2013. Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life. New York, NY: Columbia University Press
Botanists and biology educators James Wandersee and Elizabeth Schussler9 Wandersee, James H.; Schussler, Elizabeth 2001. Toward a Theory of Plant Blindness. Plant Science Bulletin 47(1): 2–8. once argued that these tendencies to marginalise plant forms are symptomatic of a wider phenomenon of plant blindness – the inability of humans to distinguish and appreciate plants as active agents in the ecosystems.
There’s no question that the University of Tartu is alma mater to a number of Estonians and foreigners, but next to education, many have also found their love here. With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s a perfect time to look past the academic achievements and deep into the hearts of our university family.
Eeva and Ain Heinaru. Swept off their feet
Eeva and Ain Heinaru have been together for more than half a century and celebrated their golden wedding anniversary just three years ago. All that may have never happened if it wasn’t for the eye-catching flat cap that Ain used to wear in his student days.
When asked about when they first met, Ain reflects for a moment. It was so long ago that the exact year eludes him. “It must have been in 1964 or 1965,” Ain finally concludes. However, he clearly remembers the first time they met. “I went to a microbiology practical class and there was a crowd of young ladies there. They took a liking to my funny flat cap and started to throw it around,” Ain says. “One young lady was particularly enthusiastic about it,” he chuckles. The young lady was Eeva.
After that first meeting, Ain and Eeva kept on talking and became a couple. They loved to travel and went on adventurous trips already in student days. Together they also earned money for their travels. “In those days, students used to transport cattle to other countries,” Ain explains. “Mostly it was calves that were transported by train to Kazakhstan and elsewhere in Central Asia. There were two of us in the railway carriage, a bale of hay in the middle, and next to us the animals that we had to take care of,” he tells. “That way we could visit Ukraine, Crimea, the Caucasus and Kazakhstan.”
The pay received was used to finance upcoming travels, including also climbing mountains. “For example, we’ve been to Mt. Elbrus. My wife climbed up to 5,000 metres, I went all the way to the top,” Ain recalls. “We’ve also enjoyed our travels to the Askania-Nova nature reserve in Ukraine and to Central Asian cities – these were great fun.”
Since graduation, they have worked side by side at the Department of Genetics of the University of Tartu – Ain as a professor and Eeva as a microbiology researcher. Today Ain is a professor emeritus while Eva works as a project manager at the Department of Genetics. Working together has made them more appreciative of each other and has taught supportive skills. “For many years, I was more away from home than at home. My wife has had a major role in our life,” Ain confesses. “When you’re abroad, you are not even around to help with raising the children.” Ain and Eeva have two daughters, Piret and Maris.
These days, Ain and Eva do not travel as much. Instead, they often visit their country house near Elva that they fixed up as a side hobby. “My wife has created a beautiful garden there that she tends to. You’re in nature, breathing in clean air – this is very important,” Ain says.
What could today’s students do to find a suitable partner from the university? “There’s nothing you can do because love comes when you least expect it,” Ain replies. So all you can do is hope for that to happen. “When young people spend time together, things always happen,” Ain says and concludes that people who are not too alike are the best match. “There must be some differences so that you can complement each other. Living together is a form of art.”
I have always wanted to travel abroad for postgraduate studies to see the world and meet new people. I did not just want to study, I wanted it to be in a calm, scenic, and affordable place.
It was therefore love at first sight when I came across the University of Tartu on studyportals.com late December 2019. By January 2020, I had put together my application and applied for the MA programme in International Law and Human Rights. My joy knew no bounds when on 7 May, right amidst the gloomy lockdown and the Covid-19 global pandemic, I received a conditional offer from the University of Tartu.
I proceeded immediately to fulfil the conditions of my offer and mailed the relevant documents to the admissions department for consideration. On 30 June, I received an email confirming my enrolment, and my arduous but rather exciting journey to Tartu began.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and most countries under lockdown, it was not clear how I was going to make it to Estonia. To compound my worries, there is no Estonian embassy in Nigeria, my home country. The closest Estonian representation is in Egypt.
I got really agitated when other institutions in Estonia began to cancel or postpone admission offers of third country students, but my worries were laid to rest when I received an email notifying me that studies would be held online until most students were able to make it to Estonia.
I paid my tuition even when it wasn’t yet clear that I would make it to Estonia. The closest Estonian embassy to Nigeria is in Egypt, so I wrote to the consulate to book a date. I got a prompt response and the meeting was scheduled for 3 November. To travel to Egypt, however, I needed an Egyptian visa and also had to apply to the Egyptian embassy in Nigeria.
On my visit to the Egyptian embassy I was informed that visit and tourist visas were as then suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I met similar disappointment at the Turkish, Israeli, and Belarusian embassies. I was considering deferring my studies to the next academic session when I got the good news that a new Estonian embassy would be opening in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
I quickly wrote to the embassy and secured 12 November for an appointment, and I cancelled my appointment with the Estonian embassy in Egypt. I had no problem securing a tourist visa to the UAE. However, the Estonian Embassy, following the regulations in the capital city of Abu Dhabi, required that all visitors to the embassy must have stayed within the UAE for at least 14 days before their appointments.
So, on 26 October I left Nigeria for the first time in my life after taking the Covid-19 test and getting a negative result. I was excited about what lay ahead, but I was also sad about leaving my family and friends. I boarded Rwandair with two stopovers in Accra and Kigali, the longest I have ever travelled by air.
Everybody has used herbs for making tea or seasoning food – for most of us, this is nothing special. But have you thought about the health benefits of the herbs you use? I believe you already know onion, chicory, lavender, rosemary and mustard, but did you also know they may have healing powers?
Nowadays, onion has a place in almost every kitchen and is easily available at the shop and in the garden. In ancient Egypt, however, it was dedicated to the great goddess Isis and forbidden to be eaten by common people. Eating onion was also prohibited during festivals, as it made you cry and could thus ruin the happy event.
One of the best-known riddles in Estonia – “seest siiruviiruline, pealt kullakarvaline” (“intricate on the inside, golden on the outside”) – is about the onion. The intricate inside can also refer to its various health benefits.
The onion is an excellent food plant and seasoning and according to traditional medicine, most of its health benefits are related to its external use. Experts of the European Medicines Agency consider the liquid extracts of onion as traditional and science-backed medical products. For instance, the liquid onion extract with soya-bean oil as the extraction solvent is recommended for the prevention or relief of mild or moderate bacterial upper respiratory airways infections and of hay fever.
Based on the traditional use of onion, some research findings and the similarity of its composition to that of garlic, we can assume that using onion for lowering the cholesterol levels in the blood, preventing the related atherosclerosis and relieving the symptoms of colds is also most likely justified.
The witticism “Söö sibulat ja kala, siis tõuseb nagu tala!” (“eating fish and onion gives you a good erection”) has a pretty good rhyme in it, but not so much truth. However, there is a possibility of a certain link to sexual performance: several studies have shown that freshly prepared onion juice significantly affected the sperm number, percentage of viability, and motility in male rats. The studies indicated that using 4 g of freshly prepared onion juice per kilogram of bodyweight effectively improved sperm health parameters. Also, fresh onion juice increased the production of androgens in rats. Whether it also applies to men is not known, just as the link between onions and erection.
Against colds, add one glass of 70% spirit to one tablespoon of chopped onion. Let it sit for three days. Then strain the liquid and take a small shot (10 ml) three times a day. If it tastes too strong, add some water.
Last November, a bunch of University of Tartu geographers participated in the #30DayMapChallenge on Twitter: Evelyn Uuemaa, Anto Aasa, Tõnu Oja, Janika Raun, Alexander Kmoch, and UT Mobility Lab.
Three geographers – Tõnu Oja, Professor of Geoinformatics and Cartography; Evelyn Uuemaa, Associate Professor in Geoinformatics; and UT Mobility Lab – managed to make thirty maps in a row, one each day. Evelyn repeated her 2019 accomplishment, which was when Finnish GIS professional Topi Tjukanov initiated the challenge for the first time.
In 2020, at least 1378 people tweeted the hashtag. 797 people made 6,882 maps. Geographers used open data and open-source software to make the maps.
Here come 30 selected maps by the University of Tartu geographers, grouped by topic. They visualize both essential and fun facts about Estonia. Clicking on a map opens a larger view.
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