Welcome to my Keeping Each Other Well Blog!

January 10, 2012

August 6, 2014

Here’s GOOD NEWS of simple practices that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while benefitting the earth’s web of life. In his book, Grass, Soil, Hope, Courtney White takes us on a trip around the world with courageous people who have figured out ingenious ways to sequester carbon in the soil.

He cited research which found that “globally, soils contain 3x the amount of carbon that is stored in vegetation, and 2x the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact.”

Because 2 billion of the earth’s people depend on livestock, New Mexico was a great place to see where better soil management would take us. Actually, we all live in Carbon Country. There’s something here that can benefit all of us as we think about cover crops like white clover and winter rye and other nitrogen fixers, and upgrade our gardening skills.

Native Americans long practiced no till farming, where roots are disturbed as little as possible to allow for new plant growth while keeping the nematodes (soil microbes) happy, and atmospheric CO2 stored in the soil. Today, the no-till method is helping farmers to reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

He cites ranchers who divided their property up into paddocks based on grass quality and soil type. By rotating their herds through the paddocks, they prevented overgrazing and assured good pasture. Some of them grazed sheep and cattle together, and the cattle kept sheep predators at bay. Herds, by eating, walking and defecating, also stimulated native grasses to grow, proliferate, and outcompete the weeds. To top it off, the quality of grass fed meat gradually increased income and ability to increase herd size.

He also cited the work of French agricultural scientist, Christian Dupraz. Dupraz came up with the idea of an agrovoltaic system where solar panels were constructed 12 feet above ground. This enabled farm machinery to move easily beneath them. In addition, the panels were constructed to provide the right amount of shade and reduced the amount of water needed, and to protect crops from hail and rainstorms related to climate change. All the while using solar energy to make electricity!

Courtney White’s book is guaranteed to stimulate all kinds of innovation and a sense that if we tune in to alternatives, we just may resolve the carbon riddle and experience the fringe benefit of keeping each other well.



Flora, Fauna, and Flossing

July 17, 2014

While the challenge to see that the food we eat is free of mercury, pesticides, hormones, and whatever else threatens rather than supports robust health, we sometimes need reminders to be sure that we toss our food into a clean mouth bowl after going to all that trouble to check the food out.

It may help to visualize how perfectly arranged the mouth bowl is to house a variety of bacteria, not all of them friendly. Bacteria love dark, moist places and a steady diet of sugar. Any pockets in the gums surrounding our teeth are a housing bonanza for bacteria, depending on how welcome we make them. Unchecked, bacteria create gum disease, get into the blood stream, and create plaques in our arteries that lead to heart disease.

While we deplore the amount of sugar degenerating our diet, this is not really a new phenomenon. I was raised in the penny candy days and there was a regular stash at the corner store in my neighborhood. There was a sugar bowl on every kitchen table and plenty of home baked cookies and bars. Cakes had an inch of frosting on them and fruit pies were common desserts. However, carbonated drinks were only had on special occasions. They took up a minor section of an aisle in the grocery store, not the whole aisle. Orange juice was only had by squeezing oranges so it was consumed in small glasses.

The problem with today’s soda is that it is sipped throughout the day, along with snacks providing bacteria with a steady diet of sugar and setting off just as steady a stream of bacterial plaque and tooth decay. Hygienists patiently demonstrate flossing technique and the necessity of routing out the bacteria before they form plaques and start eroding the enamel on our teeth. It is not enough to slide the floss up and down between each tooth. We need to wrap it around the base of every side of every tooth to rout out any bacteria in residence. If you then rinse your mouth with about a tablespoon of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide– brace yourself– you will immediately see the spots you missed.

Food is meant to be digested standing up. Anyone who regularly takes a nap directly after a meal is in for a foul awakening as remnants of the meal shift into reverse, travel back up the esophagus, and start over again in the mouth, definitely not as tasty the second time around.

Step one is to remain in an upright position for 3-4 hours after eating to give the meal a fair chance to enter the relay race through the digestive tract, at least to make it beyond the second gate, the pyloric valve, at the entrance to the small intestine. Water we swish and swallow between meals also keeps nutrients moving easily in the right direction.

So, on any visit to a dental hygienist for a cleaning, listen up for a longer, healthier life.

PS: The most effective toothpaste I know is a tsp. of baking soda with a squirt of lemon juice. Watch it foam and load up your brush!

Counterclockwise: Think Positive Health

July 10, 2014

Every day we hear of amazing feats that defy the notion that life, health, or events are predictable with inevitable results. Harvard social psychologist, Ellen Langer’s latest book, Counterclockwise, is just that – a mind-blowing collection of positive outcomes that trump dire predictions. She gives a steady stream of reversals of everything from stage 4 cancer, hearing, vision and memory loss, paralysis, cardiac problems and more, when we keep a mindful, positive attitude toward challenges.

Her strategy is that there is “always a step small enough from where we are to get us where we want to be. If we take that small step, there’s always another we can take, and eventually a goal thought to be too far to reach becomes achievable.” It was refreshing to read a book with positive outcomes that happened simply by reframing someone’s perspective.

Langer points out that the expression, “we won’t know unless we try” is misleading because if we try and fail, we still don’t know whether another attempt might be successful. We still do not know that it can’t be. And: there’s a lot we don’t know yet.

I continue to be concerned about the effect of overhead power lines on our children who live in close proximity to high-density lines. I realize that there have been no rigorous double blind studies done with experimental and control groups, studies that lay out results of how many died, developed birth defects, etc. in each group. I admire the countries in Europe that have decided to pass Bury the Lines Laws after simply seeing the association studies showing rates of cancer and birth defects among children living near high power lines. Those countries value the lives and health of their children so much that they are not taking any chances on even potential effects of power lines that might threaten their health.

Bill Dowey’s, Letter to the Editor (Plymouth NH Record Enterprise, 7-3-14) “25 solar arrays for 25 New Hampshire small towns to meet the 2025 Energy goals” is an example of small town ingenuity and positive attitude. Bristol, NH is now on track to meet the town library’s annual power needs through its solar array because it tried solar energy and not only succeeded, it has come up with a plan that can easily be replicated by other small towns.

ISO New England (International Organization for Standardization) has come up with a plan to smother New England with a giant cobweb of above ground lines crisscrossing the state. This archaic, outmoded plan comes at a time when more modern towns and cities are streamlining lines underground, and exploring forms of renewable energy such as solar and geothermal that protect environmental webs of life.

At the same time, the NE governors are meeting to decide whether to approve a plan that would allow one gas pipeline and one electric transmission line from Canada through New England. This, despite the fact that Hydro Quebec could not provide the power last winter when it was needed, not even for Quebec. If the governors agree, our rights to eminent domain are also at risk with this new deal – a deal put together by Northeast Utilities – like putting a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Each of us has a choice in any event. Hopefully, we will dare to put our energies into positive, healthful outcomes for the future. One small step we can each take is to call Governor Hassan (603-271-2121) and let her know how we would vote.

Solar Energy: Our Turning Point

July 10, 2014

The cost of solar is equal to or less than the cost of electricity powering electric grids in at least 79 countries, according to Al Gore’s piece in Rolling Stone (The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate, 6/18/14). Gore alerts us to the reality that the tide is turning in favor of consumers for our energy needs. No more blatant example of this can be found than in our struggle with Hydro Quebec over their Northern Pass Project. We have struggled for 4 years against HQ’s slick advertizing, empty promises and outright lies in their efforts to sucker NH into caving into their scam.

To illustrate the turning point, Gore uses the example of Solar energy’s growth, thanks to consumer initiatives. People have gradually been adding solar to heat their water and their homes. Like cell phones that began as big boxes 25 years ago and have now streamlined to small handheld devices affordable by most consumers, solar is gradually becoming streamlined and more affordable, thanks to ordinary citizens, not corporate power.

Key to this turning point is our ability as individuals to keep alert and informed about new possibilities for renewable energy. Massive campaigns by centralized corporations, full of empty promises of affordable energy, need to be recognized for what they are.
In Arizona, the Koch brothers tried to stop homeowners from expanding their use of solar by funding a campaign that asked the public utility commission to tax solar households up to $150. a month. The opposition (grass roots people like you and me) worked out a compromise that reduced the tax to $5. a month.

Keeping each other well becomes possible when we choose to stay awake and informed and, as Gore says, “empowered by a sense of urgency and emboldened with the courage to reject despair and become active.”

With elections coming, we have the opportunity to attend candidates nights and find out where candidates stand on energy issues. We can talk with neighbors who are exploring solar and other renewable energy systems. We can keep informed by reading Gore’s and other articles about climate change and real renewable energy available free on the internet. We can keep our governor and legislators posted on our concerns.

As always, it’s that first step that counts.

Glyphosate Blues

June 12, 2014

Roundup is the most widely used herbicide/pesticide in the world. Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, is currently being reviewed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to determine whether to place new restrictions on glyphosate, or to take it off the market.

We know that Roundup depletes soils of rich microorganisms and plant diversity, gradually destroying soil nutrients. Proponents claim that Roundup will provide more food to feed the world. However, the world has survived to date through diversity. The reason we plant different varieties of vegetables is to ensure that most of them will survive to reproduce and feed us.

Roundup and GMO sterile seeds are setting us up for a double whammy. The Irish Potato famine was catastrophic because so few varieties of potatoes were planted, and one blight wiped them all out. In Peru, where potatoes are said to have originated, there are hundreds of varieties of potatoes that can stand up to any given blight. Whatever organism emerges to destroy glyphosate, stands to effectively starve the world.

In response to this obvious threat, organic farmers and people concerned with maintaining soil diversity continue to call for food labeling and taking glyphosate off the market.

Monsanto and other GMO corporations continue to focus on the harmlessness of altering genes, while the real culprit that threatens our health may well be glyphosate.

Two activist groups: Moms Across America, and Thinking Moms Revolution, want the EPA to recall Mosanto’s Roundup. They recently convinced the EPA to hear them out and brought lawyers, scientists and advocates from the Organic Consumers Association, Natural Resources Defense council, Consumers Union, Beyond Pesticides, and the Truth-In-Labeling Coalition as back-up. (Google: Moms to EPA: Recall Monsanto’s Roundup)

The Moms related many health problems in their children including autism, and numerous deteriorating conditions. The children’s urine was tested for glyphosate and found to have toxic levels. Nursing mothers were also found to have toxic amounts of glyphosate in their urine that generated infant problems. However, when put on organic diets, their symptoms began to disappear.

Most of the reports I read are anecdotal accounts of individual children and mothers. There is a reason that much larger studies are not happening. Universities, particularly state universities, began as great research institutions for the public. However, Monsanto and other GMO corporations began to muzzle university research several years ago. You will now find science laboratories and programs at universities that are funded by Monsanto and other GMO corps. There is always an important string attached to their funding. The donor, i.e. Monsanto, retains the right to review all research before publication. Guess what research never sees publication? Guess what projects never get funded? Guess which researchers tend to be fired? Hence, we have many citizen groups appealing for sane controls that protect health and promote diversity.

Unless food is labeled in grocery stores, it has probably been GMO seeded and sprayed with glyphosate. Glyphosate is absorbed through the plant roots and on to anyone who eats the plant.

If you want to avoid the problems generated by glyphosate, now is a perfect time to find an Organic or Non-GMO vegetable stand, and just observe the changes in your well- being in addition to enjoying deliciously flavorful foods raised in harmony with the environment while providing jobs for local residents.


Oratorios for Health Living

May 31, 2014

Like a great choral oratorio, whether about an outpouring of grief over the death of a loved one, as in the Brahms Requiem, or about a much longer struggle against oppressive forces, as in Handel’s Messiah, people come together, moved by one universal voice that inspires us to move forward and embrace life anew.

That same voice was heard again in the Newfound area community voice that silenced the Iberdrola Wild Meadows Wind Project last week.

A much longer oratorio is currently in the works as people voice concerns over the Northern Pass project. Pieces have been composed chronicling the destruction of culture, livelihood, and natural environment in Quebec, robbing Newfoundland-Labrador of its future energy, and destroying family relations in northern NH. The piece that may well turn the tide on the NP is Susan Schibanoff’s unveiling of the true cost of putting an above ground line through the State of NH. Her piece in the Concord Monitor (May 21), “My Turn: Overhead lines require a lot of digging, too” may well be powerful enough to move us to come together as one voice and put the necessary limits on the project that will ensure a healthy outcome.

The news is that 90-130 foot poles carrying the proposed line through the forest and existing right of way would require 35 foot deep foundations to be dug, blasted and filled with concrete throughout the length of the proposed line. The NP claim that burying the lines is too costly makes no sense. It has to be a lot less expensive to bury lines 3-4 feet deep along existing rights of way than it is to blast 35 foot deep foundations to seat hundreds of monopoles for an above line through forest and replacing existing PSNH poles to support High Voltage Currents.

Hydro Quebec’s bottom line here must be to eventually charge New Englanders steep rates so that HQ can continue to placate Canadian ire over HQ’s destruction of their province for hydropower by promising cheap rates forever to the people of Quebec.

The proposed line would create an ugly swath through our state, destroying families, recreation, livelihoods, real estate and the health and well being of all life here, as has been duly reported over the last four years unless….

Unless we unite as one voice in the final Amen that buries the line or scratches the project altogether.

Our ability to keep each other well depends on our readiness to attend to these health issues and to let our legislators know our concerns. Here’s the URL for the above article.


Plastic Grocery Bags: Who needs ‘em?

May 1, 2014

Plastic bags have become the most blatant symbol of our throw-away-society. Four out of five grocery bags in the US are plastic, which means 100 billion bags a year. 12 million barrels of oil are used to make them. 4 billion bags end up as litter that didn’t make it to a landfill. Over one billion birds and mammals each year are killed by ingesting these bags.

True, some end up as lunch bags, book bags, gym bags, trash can liners and doggie poop bags. But more end up littering roadsides, seeping into soils, lakes, rivers, and oceans. They clog roadside drains and fill sea turtle bellies.

Those of us with farms somewhere in our background can recall a time when just about everything was recycled. That was the reason we saved everything that might come in handy someday, a mindset that marked us as New Englanders. I grew up in a home where a braided rug was a conversation piece about my brother’s old plaid shirt, my old skirt, Dad’s trousers, and on down through the contribution of every member of the family. The prize-winning quilts my grandmother made for us, she made out of grain bags. Grain used to come in bright colored prints of broadcloth.

Today, we need to bring our throw-away mentality into balance with our recycle-everything history.

In the 70s, when plastic bags were first introduced, people were encouraged to buy SAVE A TREE canvas tote bags that had a big green tree on them along with the logo. The first thing I noticed when I used one was that the bag not only held more groceries, it didn’t break! Environmental groups, libraries, and other fund raisers also began selling canvas tote bags which encouraged people to save the environment.

Today, some countries charge a tax for bags. Ireland’s 15 cent tax resulted in a 95 percent reduction in their use and by 2002, just about everyone there was carrying a reusable bag. As far back as 1978, Switzerland had stopped supplying bags to grocery customers. As travelers, we had the option of buying one of those European mesh bags at the grocery store if we didn’t bring our own.

The American Plastics council resists the tax, saying it would cost the loss of thousands of jobs, increase energy consumption and landfill space, and store owners would rely on more expensive paper bags. Another way of looking at this problem would be to ask the question: How can our existing workforce switch the production of plastic bags to biodegradable earth- friendly packaging that does not require the use of 12 million barrels of oil to produce, that takes up less landfill space, and encourages shoppers to bring their own grocery bags? If Ireland can do it, why on earth can’t we do it?

“Slow Medicine,” and Living Wills for the Well

April 17, 2014

Dennis McCulloch, Chief Geriatrician at Kendal-At-Hanover, has written a kind and sensitive book, My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing “Slow Medicine,” The Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones. The book offers a reliable road map and guide for children with aging parents.

People over seventy may find the book a bit creepy as it outlines the stages of decline in store for all of us. Wherever you find yourself on the spectrum, now is the time to see that your living will is documented and ready to be accessed whenever needed.

What I like about the book is the way McCullough draws on over 30 years of experience in which he helped his clients “postpone as long as possible any decline of function that might require institutionalization.”

The debate over end-of-life care weaves in and out of the news and recent book releases, no doubt spurred on by the struggle over the cost for health care. The time to draw up a living will is when we are well, thinking clearly, and before we have trouble making decisions. It can always be updated, but it does need to be put in place.

Those of us who value quality of life over simply existing in a deteriorating state, have likely had to watch a loved one depart after having their life unnecessarily prolonged in a state they never would have chosen for themselves. However, each one of us has the authority to decide how our end-of-life care will be administered, if we put our wishes in place when we are well.

My mother did not choose to make a living will, despite encouragement from us, her children, to do so. She was sure we were out for her money, despite the fact that we had been urging her for years to travel and consider us her insurance if her money ran out. She ended up living her last several years literally physically deteriorating to a shell while continually being “saved” by antibiotics. None of us dared make the choice for her to do otherwise.

Not wanting my children or myself to ever have to be in that agonizing position, I drew up my living will in my 50s. Each of them has a copy, as do health care providers I see. It is a relief to me, and I hope to them, that should I be unable to make decisions: do not resuscitate, no antibiotics, no ventilators, no tube feedings, etc. are all in place. I found a good and reasonable lawyer to draw it up so that I could be sure everything was covered, including appointment of my Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney designees.

McCullough also suggests that designated contact persons and your physician agree to advocate for your wishes should you ever need emergency services, since hospitals sometimes ignore these legal papers and insist on life-prolonging services, against a patient’s wishes.

Here it is spring, or at least the bulbs are trying to poke their way out of the snow and brighten things up for us. Spring is a time when we think about new life, fresh starts, and increased physical energy to be turning over new leaves. It’s a good time to put all of life in perspective so we don’t have to worry about it later. This is a vital part of keeping each other well and enjoying life.

Beware HQ Tricks to Scam NH with the Northern Pass

April 5, 2014

Hydro Quebec’s (HQ) continuing theme to delude NH citizens into accepting the Northern Pass (NP) came in the form of NP spokesperson, Lauren Collins’s 4/2/14 article in the Boston Globe talking about 1200 jobs for construction. NP clearly figures that if repeated enough times, NH people will believe their scam. Now hear this: translated, the Northern Pass project also means 1200 unemployed on completion of the project in addition to the tourism people the project will put out of work.

Tricks are what Hydro Quebec specializes in. They evidently make much more money that way. In an earlier column, I spelled out the deal HQ tricked Newfound/Labrador’s (NL) former Premier Smallwood into signing. HQ’s trick was for NL to sell power to HQ at 0.2 cents/kwh. That is two-tenths of a cent per kwh, which HQ then sells for 7 cents/kwh. So HQ has made lots of money to buy NH property, alienate neighbors, illegally survey areas, and keep NH citizens riled up. For four years, NH citizens have spent enormous amounts of time and money in their efforts to protect NH’s safe future by urging the NH legislature to require HQ to bury the lines and pay the rent money to the State of NH.

HQ’s Transmission Division was willing to bury 110 miles of line to protect Australia’s environment, and HQ proved that undergounding not only saved Australia’s environment, it reduced outages by 80 percent. So, why all this hoopla for overhead lines in NH? Check out the minutes of the HQ sponsored, 2004 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conference in Hartford, CT. Minutes are on the FERC website.

Impacts of the project on electrical system reliability mean that by HQ’s own analysis, we can expect 80% higher maintenance costs on above ground lines than buried lines. We need to be concerned about future long terms costs, not about providing a few jobs for a few years, and then paying through the nose like Newfound/Labrador. HQ has already destroyed their once beautiful province. To assuage their guilt, they have assured Quebec citizens that Quebec will always have cheap energy, but guess who they plan to hoodwink into paying for that energy? Guess whose land they plan to destroy next? HQ has already bought up huge parcels of NH land and Canada owns every NH dam in the CT River. Is anyone watching?

Keeping each other well includes caring for our environment and all we share it with. We are all part of a larger community of living, breathing life. Even children who have read Dr. Seuss’s Lorax know that. As adults, we have a responsibility to let our governor and legislators know we are not fooled by this disreputable corporation called Hydro Quebec. Hopefully, MA will stand with us in our quest. They too risk high costs for electricity.


Snow, COPD, and the Benefits of Exercise

April 5, 2014

I was surprised to hear a college student say, “I don’t mind the cold but I don’t like snow!” Having been born in a giant snowstorm that tied up Boston for several days, snow has the opposite effect on me. Snow makes me feel safe and protected, gives me a sense of wonder. As kids, we spent every daylight hour we weren’t in school outside building forts, igloos, sledding, or just eating the snow and checking our mittens for unusual formations of snowflakes.

Snow continues to be an important part of winter for me. Having joined the ranks of those with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease), getting out in the snow and pumping up my lungs as much as possible tops the list of healthy exercises. The only difference now is that I have to be sure I intentionally exhale fully. If I make my exhalation twice as long as my inhalation, I squeeze my lungs out like a sponge ready to take in a big new breath. With COPD, when people continually take short breaths, their lungs get more sluggish than ever and the last thing we want is rigid, stuck, air bags.

So here’s food for thought if you or a friend are dealing with COPD. The 2:1 breath can be practiced whether sitting in a chair, walking up stairs, running, hiking or just about any activity. You can simply count the time it takes to fully exhale and then inhale to half that amount of time or you can count your paces.

Here in New Hampshire, we have a beautiful natural environment with a variety of free, built in attributes for exercise. Most of us live on or next to some sort of hill. Since we’ve been inundated with snow this year, woods trails have all been smoothed out with 2-3 feet or more of snow. With microspikes, most popular trails and roadways, especially when icy, are safely doable.

It can be a scarey shock to find that when hiking with a group, all of a sudden, you’re winded when you talk while hiking uphill, or when you can’t keep up with the group. As Sam Levenson would say, “So don’t talk on the uphill.” You’re probably not the only one gasping for breath. If necessary, find a group that hikes at a more comfortable pace but keep on hiking! Use ‘em or lose ‘em applies to lungs as well as to muscles.

It helps to find a friend or friends to exercise with both for incentive and companionship. One of the ways we can keep each other well is to get out and enjoy this snow while it lasts. This week, the group I hiked with did the Sugarloafs off the Zealand road. It was a bit steep going up but we had exhilarating luge runs coming down. All that’s needed is a big black trash bag wrapped around your tush and a great hooting “Whoo!” Ah, snow.


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