Archive for October, 2011

Clean Water and the Effect of Dams

October 31, 2011

The 1930s hailed the building of the biggest dam in the world at the time, the Hoover Dam, on the Colorado River, to form Lake Mead. Lake Mead was capable of holding more than twice the annual flow of water in the Colorado River. It was going to forever provide water for CA, CO, AZ, UT, NV, NM, and WY,  plus 1.5  million acre-feet to Mexico, annually.

 Today, the Colorado River  is in trouble and can’t even make it to the sea, much less deliver its quotas. Each year, about 10 million tons of salt enter the system, but virtually none reaches the ocean, according to environmentalist, Fred Pearce, (When the Rivers Run Dry.)

 The Hoover Dam held the expectation of clean water and endless power. Now, 80 years later, we learn that the actual cost of building and maintaining large dams has far greater financial, commercial, ecological, and maintenance costs than the power or clean water they generate.

 Dams have always been opposed by native people everywhere, not only because a dam usually means displacement of great numbers, sometimes millions, of native people. They opposed going against the flow of nature. Dams were an insult to sacred rivers of the earth. Now, the need for us all to revere nature’s plan for river waters is clear.

 Native peoples knew that fish need to swim up river to spawn and that dams would prevent this. The Grand Coulee and other dams on the Columbia River destroyed one of the world’s largest Salmon fisheries. The produce would have been worth more than the electricity generated by the dams.

 Native peoples knew that nature purified water with waterfalls, rapids and fast moving water and were careful to respect natural laws.

 Perhaps the greatest delusion humans have is the sense that we can prevail over nature. We had to learn the hard way that when we build huge dams:

1. Fish have difficulty reproducing.

2. Those fish that do survive in manmade lakes are poisoned with mercury rising from decomposing vegetation in the lakes for 20-30 years, and cause health problems for the humans who eat them.

3. When soil is irrigated with sprinklers, there is a tendency to overwater, waste water through evaporation, and wash chemical residues from fertilizers and pesticides into the groundwater and aquifers.

4. Rivers absorb these wastes in their sediments.

5. Sediments build up behind dams where the water stagnates, grows warmer, and is not fish friendly.

6. Full reservoirs increase vulnerability to devastating floods.

7. Rivers begin to run dry and to be unable to complete their journey to the ocean to deposit accumulated salts.

 All of this and more prompted Daniel Beard, retired commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (which has built more dams than any other body in the world), to declare, “No more dams!”

 We do need to dream up new ways of accessing green energy. But let us not be naive enough to think, with today’s abundant research on the effects of dams, that corporations won’t still try to build them. We know that the way corporations continue to make profits at any cost is to invest enormous sums to hide unfavorable research,  generate misinformation, and control land.

 Here in New England, we have abundant water.Quebec is already smarting from the effects of too many dams in their province, simply to produce power for Hydro-Quebec, despite public protest. We do need to explore other ways to generate power for our future needs. We can save ourselves time, money, and grief by safeguarding our waters and not supporting hydro power that has the potential to threaten our NH rivers.

 The research is there; we’ve been forewarned. Here’s to keeping each other well!


Northern Pass’s Hidden Water Rights Agenda Threatens Health

October 21, 2011

Make no mistake, our health depends on three basic rights: clean water, safe foods and green energy. These rights are the stuff of today’s wars, driven by corporations that now have outrageous and unlimited powers. These rights are inseparable. Water is predicted to be the principle cause of wars in the 21st Century.

It is taking us a long time to recognize the pattern regarding human rights that is being repeated the world over. Corporations, based on profits at any cost, have millions to spend on misleading propaganda while avoiding health, safety, and environmental provisions.

Hydro-Quebec has already managed to ravage much of it’s own formerly pristine province. They’ve put 215 dikes and dams in the James Bay project alone, displacing communities, and flooding hunting and trapping lands in violation of government treaties with the  Cree  Nation.

 Their later agreement in 1975, allocating acreage and a cash settlement to the Cree Nation, does not restore the fish habitat, the beautiful rapids and diversity that an environment needs to remain healthy. Thus far, in Quebec, only 2 of their 16 largest rivers flow freely today. Gone are the rapids in those rushing rivers that drew white water enthusiasts and vacationers to Quebec. 

Hydro-Quebec’s newest misleading propaganda for the Northern Pass (NP) project is found under the guise of There, we can screen through beautiful pictures of NH rivers and forests by clicking on folks who assure us that all will be well for NH with the NP.

 What Hydro-Quebec doesn’t say is that the Northern Pass power line is only Step one in the destruction of our rivers, land, and forests. Step two will be to dam up our rivers for more power, as demands rise.

 Reporter Will Braun, in Canada’s This Magazine, gives us the chilling results of Canada’s 60 years of dam building: “Clean energy does not damage the environment, the ecosystems of rivers and forests, or native communities. The eventual dams that go with hydro-power mean pouring tons of cement into free-flowing rivers in addition to tearing up huge swaths of land for the power lines and raising ecosystem and human rights havoc.”

 Think about what dams would mean to our communities and environment should the Connecticutand Androscoggin Rivers become part of the game plan. We have made it clear that the tourist industry is what we need to focus on in Northern NH. People come here from all over the world to experience our natural environment. Here is where people can hike, ski, camp out, canoe and kayak, sail and relax, away from the hectic pressures of living in a frenzied world.

 To keep pace with our culture, we need to develop alternative kinds of green energy right here in OurNewHampshire that  provide for future needs, yet do not compromise our health and well being. Hopefully, we will be able to Stop the Northern Pass project and find better, innovative, long range plans to enjoy and share with the rest of the world.

Here’s to Flushing the Plumbing!

October 14, 2011

The Indian Ayurvedic Medical System considers the digestive tract the seat of all illness.

Ayurveda promotes many water practices to see that this 28’ long pipeline, which makes up our plumbing system, gets flushed regularly. When we are fully hydrated, hormones regulate the opening and closing of the tract’s valves.

 Here’s a quick review of the system, which begins in the bowl of the mouth. There,  salivary glands flood our food with enzymes to begin breaking down starches and the chewing itself stimulates our bodies to continue to manufacture more enzymes further on down the line.

 Chewed food moves down the pliable tube of the esophagus and through the first valve (lower esophageal sphincter) to the stomach. In the stomach, hydrochloric acid squirts the food to break up the tough stuff before it exits the stomach through the second valve (pyloric sphincter) to the small intestine. There, the gall bladder squirts the bolus of food with detergent (bile) to break up fats, and the pancreas squirts bicarbonate of soda to neutralize the acid, plus more enzymes to work on proteins and carbs. The goal is to break down food to particles that are tiny enough to pass through the wall of the intestines.

 Next, this slurry of food moves through the rest of the small intestine, where more enzymes do their best to finalize the breakdown and absorption if they are supplied with enough water.

 The intestines look like a jumble of tubes but are structured more like a big umbrella. If you took them out, you could stretch them in a rough circle like the rim of an umbrella. A thick membrane (mesentery) forms the dome. It contains several veins (like spokes) that lead  to a big vein, represented by the umbrella handle.

 To get the full benefit of our food, we need to chew it well and add plenty of water so the fine slurry can slip right through the intestinal wall to the smaller veins in the mesentery and right on through the center to the big portal vein that goes to the liver. The liver then decides what nutrients to send where and our circulation takes care of that delivery system.

 What remains of the slurry moves on to the large intestine, where water is absorbed for other tasks, and final wastes exit the last valve (anal sphincter.)

 Now for some of the water practices: Indians commonly start the day with a slow cup of hot lemon water. This effectively opens the valve to the intestines, clears the stomach of any leftovers, and stimulates the bowels to move.

 Many who practice yoga rise early enough to down 2 cups of water. They then spend a half hour or more doing bending and stretching exercises before breakfast and heading for  work. This practice effectively flushes the entire digestive tract. In retirement, the practice becomes even more important.

 So, what’s the big deal with all that bending and stretching? Unlike household plumbing, which follows pretty straight, direct routes, human plumbing has all sorts of nooks and crannies and other systems to contend with. Remember that when the umbrella is closed up, the intestines curl around, up, and over each other. Forward, back, and side stretches massage the intestines and other organs. Other forms of exercise, like swimming, running or walking, to the point of working up a sweat, have a similar flushing effect.

 Few of us are disciplined enough to drink 6-8 glasses of tap water, much less intentionally work up a sweat or exercise every day. But that doesn’t mean we can’t give our bodies a treat regularly and enjoy the benefits that a good flushing with water can bring. Noticing the effect helps us to develop the habit.

 Caution: When we actively increase water intake away from meals, we need to add ¼ tsp of mineral rich sea salt per quart of water so that our body won’t leach minerals. Water taken with meals that already contain salt can be taken ‘straight’.

 Sometimes it helps to call a friend, take a hike, or join a swimming or exercise program. Other times, it helps to keep a journal of after-effects. Perhaps breathing is better, joints move more easily, aches and pains subside, or better yet, we feel fully charged and ready to meet the day!


Here’s to Tap Water

October 13, 2011

Will Rogers had it right when he quipped, “Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need.” Such is the case with bottled water.

 True, it has become harder to find public water fountains today, even in schools, theatres, and parks. Where they do exist, they are often not properly maintained. However, in our homes we have good tap water available and it often tests to a higher standard than some bottled waters, according to Peter Gleick’s research.

 I appreciated reading Peter Gleick’s book, Bottled & Sold. He clearly sounded an alarm that bottled water sometimes exacts heavy dues to our natural ecosystems and wetlands.  The recyclable water bottles often end up on the roadside or in a trash can. Those of us who routinely participate in road cleanups can attest to that!

 Robert Morris, in his book, The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster and The Water We Drink, reports that 50 million water bottles are tossed into trash cans and recycling bins in the US daily. The manufacture of a single bottle requires more water than the bottle will ultimately hold and costs 1000 times the cost of tap water. Transport adds ecological impact.

 NAPCOR (National PET Container Resources) reported in 2007 that less than 25 percent of bottled water containers were actually recycled. 75 percent of the water bottles are thrown away, adding to our landfills. This practice comes at a time when we could be using the money we spend on bottled water to pay for healthier food choices.

 There’ll always be a need to have some bottled water but we’ve gone overboard. Practically every gathering, either personal or professional, now has cases of bottled water instead of pitchers of tap water. 

We can go a long way toward keeping each other well by using bottled water only when absolutely necessary, and by carrying our own water from home in our own container.

There’s more; there’s always more we can do, but small steps move toward big solutions.

“Control Food And You Control The People”

October 2, 2011

Henry Kissinger offered the above advice in 1970. Today, we can see that what goes around, comes around.

 We seem to be intrinsically bound to slowly repeat India’s sagas. This time, it’s the GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) challenge. Vandana Shiva, the Indian physicist who tirelessly advocates for India’s farmers, informs and warns us. Over 250,000 of India’s farmers have committed suicide in the last 16 years.  Monsanto put them all out of business with the high cost of nonrenewable seed in the guise of claiming more abundant crops. Greater abundance seems to apply mainly to corporate profits. 

Shiva notes in The Nation (9/19/11) that the “biggest threat we face is the control of seed moving out of the hands of farmers and communities and into a few corporate hands. The hijacking of our food systems is the hijacking of our democracy.”

 It is chilling to note that  in the US, the 2009  Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals placed a nationwide ban on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa because the USDA had illegally approved Monsanto’s GE (Genetically Engineered) alfalfa without carrying out a proper and full Environmental Impact Statement.

 However, in 2010, the Supreme Court, with advice from Elena Kagan, the then Solicitor General, reversed the ruling. We now have two former Monsanto lawyers, Thomas and Kagan, on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court does not seem interested in supporting a study  of GMO seeds and their potential impact on human health and the environment. There is reason to expect that whatever Monsanto wants, it is in a position to get, in the US.

The 2005 US-India Agricultural Knowledge Initiative (AKI) included a US  pledge of  $24 million to India through 2008. At the time of the signing in 2005, the US-India AKI had on its board representatives from Monsanto, Walmart, and ADM (Archer Daniels Midland). ADM’s annual profits include a hefty sum from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American Government, according to the CATO Institute.

 GMOs are not about feeding people. They have already been shown to produce no greater yields; they simply cost farmers more and we probably will not know the cumulative health costs for years. But they do generate fantastic corporate profits.

 Is this the main reason our administration promotes GMOs in the US and around the world while maintaining a nice, safe organic garden at the White House?

 Shiva predicts that, “We will either have a food dictatorship for a while and then a collapse of our food systems and our societies, or we will succeed in building robust food democracies, resting on resilient ecosystems and resilient communities. There is still a chance for the second alternative.”

 To keep each other well, we need to listen up, observe, and act. One such opportunity will be on October 15-16: Millions Against Monsanto weekend, organized to legally  mandate that all GMO foods be labeled. In Europe, people know that food labeling is what keeps them in control of their food.