Michael Pollan obviously had fun writing his latest book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. Pollan takes us through his hilarious travels to discover the essence of how the use of fire, water, air and the earth rendered humans a dominant species. He’s concerned about our growing distance from direct, physical engagement in transforming raw stuff into cooked food and the nourishment such food provides as opposed to opening a package that has been processed elsewhere.
Discovery of fire and an inadvertently cooked carcass drew early humans in with its pleasant aroma and eventual preferred taste and started this whole business of cooked food. Most animals and birds spend their entire day chewing in order to survive. But, cooked food is more tender and easily digested, so it cuts down chewing time and frees humans to dream up other things to do with their time. Squirrels have to bury their nuts and wait to season them and make them digestible. Bunches of tree seedlings we find in the spring attest to a forgotten stash. Fermentation is practiced by many species, including food that sits in the craw of birds, readying it for digestion.
Pollan goes to North Carolina to learn the fine art of pig roasting by apprenticing himself to the experts. Whether you ever decide to roast a pig yourself, you’ll learn a lot about the value of different wood, and the transformative power of carefully controlled fire in the smoke of “ritual sacrifice that shadow us, however faintly, whenever we cook a piece of meat over a fire.”
Next, he hired a gourmet cook to teach him how to make pot dishes as he walks us through the water element via French, Italian, Spanish, Indian, Greek and more variations, adding vegetables, seaweeds, mushrooms, spices, and sauces. Guaranteed, you’ll want to try some new variations yourself.
He did the same with bread making (air element), apprenticed himself to fine bakers and takes us through the art of making starter, a sponge, and all the shenanigans in between. When we bake with whole grains, we reduce the risk of chronic diseases, weigh less, and live longer than those who don’t.
Finally, Pollan takes us through the earth element, the microbes that render food more digestible, and release valuable nutrients, vitamins, minerals. He has a whole saga for making sauerkraut and other fermented foods, including beer.
As we move into summer, we have the opportunity to celebrate with outdoor picnics, favorite dishes, and ritual gatherings, mindful of how we honor and use the elements of fire, water, air and earth in the foods we prepare to share with others. Farmer’s Markets and roadside produce stands provide us with new and familiar choices to continue our exciting, and often hilarious, human evolution. Here’s to celebrating our evolving art!
Saving Normal, by Allen Frances, the psychiatrist who led the task force for the DSM IV, is a must read. Its subtitle is: An insider’s revolt against out-of-control psychiatric diagnosis, DSM-5, big pharma and the medicalization of ordinary life.
DSM-I, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, was published in 1952 to replace various existing diagnostic classifications at a time when psychiatry was booming after WWII. Now, over 60 years later and 19 years since the DSM-IV was published, we have a 900 page tome in DSM-5, capable of classifying every one of us with a mental disorder. This is the classification used to determine treatment and insurance coverage.
Catchy acronyms like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), or BiPolar (Manic Depressive Disorder) or Alzheimer’s (for all levels of dementia) encourage lay people to diagnose and, with the help of big pharma media advertising, expect their doctors to prescribe a potpourrie of drugs.
Children are being over-diagnosed and given prescribed drugs early on. Many new disorders have been added. In the future, tantrums will be labeled Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder. 100% of kids will qualify for this disorder. The rationale seems to be “get them as kids and have them for life pharmaceutically.”
Policy changes Frances sees that will help are: no more fructose subsidies, no more coke and fries with school lunches, no more streets without sidewalks to discourage walking, restore Phys. Ed. in schools, add calorie counts to menus, subsidize vegetables, lower insurance premiums for losing weight, encourage people to eat less and exercise more.
DSM-5 mislabels medical disorders as mental disorders. Irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, Lyme Disease, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and more, now carry psychiatric disorder numbers.
Elsewhere in the news, oxycodon is being decried as an abused drug. I’ve observed that small doses given to elderly people for pain often causes them to hallucinate. Because they are elderly, they then risk being pegged with a senile diagnosis and given psychotropics.
Treatment of US service people for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is under fire in the news this week. After 3 or more deployments to participate in the horrors of war, there are reports that the Army is criminalizing PTSD behavior and discharging service people with PTSD instead of court-martialing them if they agree to give up their health benefits. The PTSD diagnosis without treatment makes it difficult for them to get a job, much less resume their personal lives. Is this how we want to recognize and care for our service people?
The rationale of using drugs to correct a chemical imbalance “for the rest of your life” has been abused, not only with psychotropic drugs but with drugs for medical problems. Frances reminds us that Big Tobacco once seemed invincible, yet was taken down so quickly. The same thing can happen with Big Pharma when we refuse to accept the buffet of pills it promotes that rob us of our health and financial solvency, when we heed Hippocrates’ caution to let our food be our medicine, and when we intentionally give our bodies the exercise we need to keep all systems running smoothly.
We’ve come a long way since Emma Lazarus’s poem, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” We now find ourselves singing the songs of the ‘huddled masses’ with our burgeoning prisons and hospitals that reflect the dire circumstances of our minds and bodies.
The American Dream existed when there was still land, a frontier to be explored. Now, as every inch of land is accounted for and up for corporate competition, we are constantly disempowered as individuals and collectively in groups. What happens in Haiti and Africa, India, China, and South America is now happening in the US.
Each week we learn of some corporate plan to destroy a little more of our precious land. We are bounced from project to project: Tar Sands, Northern Pass, Poland Spring, Coos County Wind Project, or Iberdrola’s massive wind farm projects fingering their way through Grafton County. We end up paying taxes to support our legislative system and then having to fork over more time and money to protect the rights our legislators seem so intent on cancelling for us.
Even when we gather to protect some aspect of the environment, we are immediately taken by how quickly our purpose is compounded. Being involved in stopping the Northern Pass involves protecting our forests and our water and then connects us to out-of-control wind projects, the Tar Sands, and….
Climate Change is no longer a theory. Our vanishing glaciers all over the world attest to the reality that we’re getting too warm. Significantly, our scientists affirm that if we act now, we can slow the process of climate change. We can make certain that the lives of our offspring will be livable.
The environment must not be sacrificed for corporate profits. Our forests are the sacred grounds we need to breathe, to connect with the ground of our being, and to remind us that the earth is to be revered and shared with all species if any of us are to thrive.
One way to join the effort to stop predatory exploitation of our forests is to add your name to the link below.
We were stunned to realize horrific killing and serious injury terrorizing the Boston Marathon. Patriot’s Day has always been a point of pride and joy as people gathered at points all along the road from Hopkinton to Boston to cheer on the runners from all over the world. I well remember the day my father and I watched the marathon from Framingham and my father picked the winner, a man who lightly touched the earth with his graceful stride. He was from Korea and we were jubilant to hear that he so deservedly won!
Yet, many of us have wondered not whether, but when, the rest of the world would become desperate enough, after so many US attacks killing innocent people, that they would begin to pay back. Or, how many US citizen protests against continuing wars that have been ignored by Congress, might stimulate some one of our own to cause such an attack in hopes of waking up Congress to start thinking about peaceful means of co-existence with the rest of the world.
Our massive military offense spending to protect oil and other self interests comes at a time when we need to provide massive spending for research and development of renewable, sustainable energy sources. Instead of impoverishing our country with the costs of war while enriching US corporations who go in to clean up after our attacks, we could be providing leadership to resolve inequities and enrich the health and well being of people everywhere.
This is not a time to be thinking about getting perpetrators and making them pay. Our religions all yearn for peace and harmony. We need to ask ourselves, how important is peace and harmony to us? Is it important enough for us to be able to show tolerance and respect for people of different religions, sexual preferences, languages, bodies, and life styles? Is peace important enough for us to recognize that we are but one of the species that needs to be protected in order for the earth to continue to provide for us all? Do we fully understand that our natural resources must be protected for that survival?
Do we recognize that to keep everybody healthy, we need to share the wealth and keep people gainfully employed? Do we recognize that we need to stop bombing, killing and torturing people in other parts of the world? Do we recognize that we all need to be re-educated to make this happen, not just school children?
This wake-up call is about choice and communities pulling together to change course.
Spring’s surge of energy is everywhere: in the swelling of buds that give hillsides a warm red glow, tulip leaves poking up regardless of remaining spring snows, chipmunks fluff up their tails and dart around old haunts, the air smells fresh, spiders hatch everywhere, winter stuff is stowed in favor of spring hikes; we’re getting out the canoes and kayaks; the juncos are back.
Earth teems with the fever of mating as spring throws off its winter blanket and we humans, just one species among all who share this planet, reliably start a fresh year. We’re as predictable as the chipmunks, and I wonder if other species say to each other, “I just saw a few humans out picking up trash on route 175,” or perhaps the robins are saying, “that pile those humans raked up scratching earth’s back gives us the best building materials for this year’s nest.”
Sometimes humans forget that we are just one of the life forms on earth. We forget that we have an important role in earth’s dance for all beings to share the space, water supply, and land with each other so that we can all continue to thrive and survive.
This week, Canadian activist and world citizen, Maude Barlow, spoke at PSU, updating us on our need to care for the earth’s water responsibly. PSU students have organized to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. 75 percent of bottled water bottles are trashed, not recycled, and the water they contain often does not meet the standards of regular tap water. Good news is that even airports are now installing tap water spigots so that it is possible for us to carry our own containers and refill them safely while traveling.
Barlow’s latest book, Blue Covenant, is available in local libraries and YouTube carries several of her lectures.
Many of us rely on our NH mountains to pump up our spirits. Whether we actually hike in the high peaks or walk in nearby wooded areas, spring is a time to be aware of how much our woods and all the life forms they house nourish us as well. Hopefully, we will choose to protect our woodlands and not cut them up with tower paths that stifle lives in the forest.
Whenever we threaten the life of other species, we threaten our own as well. Whenever we value and safeguard other species, our own health reverberates with robust energy.
Here’s to fully embracing spring’s dance!
Have you ever wondered What Plants Talk About? If that sounds like too far out a question, check out the video by that title on pbs.org and enjoy a fascinating surprise! I was amazed to hear that we only see a third of the forest above ground. Below is a mind-blowing family network of roots and fungi working together in the two-thirds of the forest that is underground. We know that trees absorb carbon dioxide and the bigger the tree, the more it absorbs.
The surprise for me was seeing and hearing about the network of fungi that coat all the roots and are part of a huge underground internet for fungus and tree families. And carbon is sucked down deep into their roots to be stored. Mother trees then send the bulk of the carbon as food to their young sprouts. Fungi cover the roots and bring in organic nutrients to the trees while the trees feed carbs to the fungi – symbiosis at its finest.
Because trees are capable of sucking up massive amounts of carbon dioxide, the more trees we have, the better our chances to decrease global warming. Energy problems invariably bring us to the realization that trees are key to our survival and cannot be exploited. Trees provide us with oxygen, heat, furniture, paper, tools, shade, and habitat for birds, squirrels, tree frogs and other members of the wildlife family. They also serve as holding tanks for water reserves and keep the land around them alive.
I just gave Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse, another read. I hoped to understand the pattern that caused so many civilizations to collapse. I hoped to learned something to enlighten us lest we end up another collapsed civilization. In all of the collapsed civilizations, deforestation was a factor or the major factor. In this information age, we are the first civilization to have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
Here’s the pattern that historically puts deforestation in motion: there was always a competitive streak among chiefs, priests, and rulers to outdo each other. Easter Island rival chiefs tried to do so with bigger and bigger statues. They cut down forests to provide the necessary staging to move the statues once completed. The last thing they did was to destroy each other’s statues. Having already destroyed their trees, they also destroyed wild life, water supply and soil, which led to starvation and cannibalism.
We have a big medical system, big food companies, big agricultural conglomerates, big pharmacy, and big energy competitors. Their precedence threatens our trees, water, and soil. Finding out what worked and didn’t work in other cultures can help us make better choices for our future.
Significantly, Japan has 73% of its land mass under forest management. Perhaps this has allowed the Japanese to recover from such devastating catastrophes.
As we reset our priorities this month, Earth Day can have special significance for us if we plant a tree as a symbol of our commitment to make saving our forests a top priority to keep each other well.
Spring sets off a bunch of questions about what to plant, what new foods to try, what to look out for, and what really works to keep us healthy. We’re on Daylight Saving Time again. It’s mud season. Bulbs are poking up. Road cleanup is on the to do list. It’s time to take wreaths down and put up the egg tree. We can micro-spike familiar trails and watch our favorite waterways magically slide their multi-mineral colored ice drapes from high banks back into the brooks. Citrus is in and we’re thinking more fruits….
We’ve had the winter to soak up the latest trends researchers have come up with to bring about a health spurt and it’s tempting to try some new diet. Now, there’s an upsurge of energy to recharge our bodies. Which is why most of us need to pay special attention to the signals our bodies send out if we want to claim our drive to be well. What we eat isn’t nearly as important as noticing what happens AFTER we eat.
Some foods get a nourishing boost if eaten with good friends or family, whether grazed through at a party that includes lots of hilarity, or savored with a friend, whether it’s a piece of delectable venison, or an amazing multi-course meal. What we eat, with whom we eat, the ambiance of where we eat, and what else is going on in our life, all collectively generate how we feel AFTER we eat.
What we’re looking at is renewable, sustainable energy for our bodies that we can access and control. Food is just the part that gets the most notoriety for health. Exercise also plays an important role, whether we hike, work out at a gym or intentionally hit the stairs several times a day. Every move we make sends our blood circulating whatever nutrients we’ve taken in. When we make our exhalation as full as possible, like blowing out a hundred candles, this automatically assures that we’ll then inhale a full blast of fresh air through the nose to wake up our lungs and keep the oxygen exchange going. What we choose to do for exercise isn’t as important as how we feel AFTER we exercise.
Noticing what happens when… joggles our consciousness and helps us to choose sustenance and exercise that generate robust health, regardless of whatever current researchers come up with. Here’s to enjoying all aftereffects!
I was stunned to see the Moratorium Bill rolled back down the hill. NH HB 580 required that there be a Moratorium on wind turbine plants and electric transmission line projects until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan. This week, despite hundreds of protesters at the Feb.19 hearing in Concord, the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee voted to postpone dealing with this and other energy bills.
The news report read like something out of Jared Diamond’s, Collapse. So many civilizations have met their demise by ignoring the management of their natural resources, with towns and states pitted against each other for bigger pieces of the pie. Step one is the top drawer greed and apparent political stagnation in the face of environmental destruction. Step two is the general poverty of the masses leading to disease. Step three is the final starvation of whoever is left.
Last week, when a tree fell on lines at the Thornton Power station, the area blackout caused Waterville Valley Ski Area to lose thousands of dollars. We all are so dependent on energy that it’s not just the lifts, but the kitchen, the toilets, the internet, and all that must be running well to accommodate over a thousand skiers. Those are recreational dollars lost. Yet the legislators, with few exceptions, want to have more time to think about whether they want time to think about advance planning for future provisions of renewable energy that can be safely transmitted. They want more time to think about burying new lines along state transportation rights of way to avoid such disasters.
Meantime, energy projects are moving right along, with a third contract for another wind farm in the Groton area. People in the North Country have to regularly ask police to remove trespassers scoping out their land for the Northern Pass Project. Yet these intruders are carrying illegal permission slips from the Department of Energy.
At this point, if we want to protect the health and safety of people in New Hampshire, we need to support the work of our one true ally: the Society for the Protection of NH Forests. To help stop HQ’s latest Northern Pass bullying attempts, please send your contribution to Society for the Protection of NH Forests, Trees Not Towers campaign, 54 Portsmouth St, Concord, NH 03301; or on line at www.forestsociety.org/np; or call 603-224-9945 and ask for Suzanne Kibler-Hacker at the Forest Society.
Please also attend your town meeting and support your town’s Rights Based Ordinances. If we want to leave our grandchildren and all children a legacy they will appreciate and continue to honor, we have to come together, and not risk being another chapter in Collapse.
In response to my column on “The Cholesterol Sting”, a reader was kind enough to recommend that I update my references with two important books. Both books were the result of over 40 years of research, neither of which was funded by food and drug companies. They were funded by US taxpayers and results are openly available to us.
The first is The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Cornell University nutritionist, and co-authored by his physician son, Thomas M. Campbell II. Campbell includes 750 peer reviewed studies to back up his finding that cholesterol levels in fact do cause heart disease and other illnesses. This was true even if the cholesterol levels were high in HDL (High Density Lipoproteins), the so- called “good cholesterol.”
The reason China was an important country to study is that their plant-based, dairy-free diet kept the incidence of heart disease and breast cancer at bay in China. Also, when Chinese people emigrated to the US and adopted our diet, they also developed heart disease, breast cancer, and auto-immune diseases. Campbell established that diet, not genes, is the most significant stimulant of conditions.
The second book is by Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., MD, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Esselstyn is a surgeon who wanted to find a way to prevent women from needing disfiguring breast surgery, and heart disease patients from undergoing such invasive and life threatening procedures. He found that when he was able to convince patients to adopt a plant-based, dairy-free, fat and oil free diet, they usually did not need surgery: hence, the title of his book.
He asked doctors to refer to him their heart patients who had exhausted their by-pass and stint procedures and had been essentially told, “we can do no more for you.” When they came into his program, all who accepted the diet plan improved and/or reversed the damage to their coronary arteries.
Here’s what they had to say about cholesterol that jolted my education. First, total body cholesterol IS an important marker, even if HDL, the good cholesterol, is high. For optimum health the total level needs to be 150mg/dL or less (not 300, which the USDA recommends or 200, which the American Heart Association recommends.)
We do need cholesterol but excessive amounts of it end up blocking our arteries. The amounts the USDA recommends appear to be causing more harm and expensive treatments.
There is so much money to be made by radical surgery and treatment for breast and other cancers and heart disease that there is little incentive for doctors to focus on preventing the diseases. Esselstyn had a long uphill struggle to get referrals from cardiologists but once the word got out that people who went through his program regained their health, people began looking him up.
Significantly, both Campbell and Esselstyn walk their talk. Esselstyn’s family made the transition when their children were young. They all enjoy robust health. Campbell grew up on a dairy farm. Esselstyn grew up on a cattle farm, but their search for what makes people well superseded preconceived notions about diet.
President Clinton attributes both his weight loss and improved health to this diet which he continues to maintain.
The good news is that there is a growing number of physicians who are committed to keeping people well. That goal supersedes making a lot of money with preventable surgeries. Both books are available at your local library or through Inter-Library-Loan.
Campbell’s book covers research on a broad spectrum of diet-caused conditions. Esselstyn’s deals mainly with heart and breast cancer and has a long section on the diet itself and recipes to transition for those interested. YouTube has an informative talk by T. Colin Campbell, “Lessons from the China Project.”
Bottom line is, we can’t lower cholesterol with the American diet, which relies heavily on meat and fat. And, equally important, changes need to be made gradually to be sustainable.
Margaret Mead advised us to, “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” In the towns of Nottingham and Barnstead, NH, such a group passed a Rights Based Ordinance (RBO), and stopped USA Springs Corporation from draining their towns’ shared aquifer.
The world watches what happens in the US. People in India were inspired by Nottingham’s model, and have organized to stop pollution of the Ganges. In India, their focus is on building a national campaign to recognize the river’s rights. Their campaign slogan is, “Ganga’s Rights are our Rights.”
I was certainly educated to believe that the US was a democracy, governed by, for and of the people. Yet, I have come to realize that our government was never set up as a democracy in practice. Instead, it assigned states the parent role and citizens as children who must obey their parents. When the state is feeling indulgent, it provides hearings for citizens to express their concerns but rarely seems to feel an obligation to make significant changes based on citizen input.
It seems incredulous that we citizens have to, at our own expense, organize to put Rights Based Ordinances in place in order to protect our water, land, health, livelihood, and wildlife. All this to protect ourselves and our land from self-serving ‘parents’.
At this point in time, denial of costly long range harmful effects continues to be the hallmark of corporations as they take advantage of small towns. Our lack of self-governance leaves corporations open to get state permits for what amount to sting operations. The plan seems to be to use up natural resources, destroy habitats of species, including humans, slash real estate values, destroy livelihoods, raise the cost of living, and move on.
Hydro Quebec has already plundered it’s own province, including Newfoundland, and now wants to ‘move on’ through New Hampshire. Iberdola slid into Groton with the state’s approval. After the fact, residents are reeling as they realize the total impact the wind farm will have on this area. At first, there were a few wind towers and none of them were spinning up a racket. Suddenly, there are many, like a disease defoliating our ridges, and they won’t be able to generate much electricity from our average 6 mph winds. Iberdola’s big plan is to cut a 3000 mile swath over our ridges in addition to an above ground grid that looks like a massive cobweb over our state.
Burying the transmission lines costs no more than installing above ground lines, especially when you add in the long term cost of maintaining above ground lines due to wind, ice, and snowstorm damage.
The whole point of establishing a chain of Rights Based Ordinances in our towns is that collectively, we can pool our efforts to save our communities, our forests, land, and water from continued corporate onslaught.
Instead of giving corporations rights as individuals, we need to give rivers rights to flow freely, to be healthy and thrive. In 2011, Ecuador became the first country to try the first Rights of Nature constitutional case and ruled in favor of the plaintiff, the VilcabambaRiver. Ecuador stopped a highway construction project that was harming the river.
Trees need rights to breathe in carbon dioxide for themselves and to exhale oxygen for humans and wildlife. Our land needs the right to breathe free from debilitating pesticides and fracking. Sustainability is measured, not by people’s loss of use of the ecosystem, but by damage inflicted on the ecosystem itself and the cost of bringing the ecosystem back to its pre-damaged state.
On February 27, Thornton RBO citizens’ Opposition to the NorthernPass group is holding a public hearing from 5-7 PM at the Mad River Coffee Roasters in Campton.
Here’s an opportunity be informed and express your concerns.