Archive for July, 2012

Climate Change and the Threat of Northeast Blackouts

July 28, 2012

Does anyone notice that the same arguments that people use to deny that climate change is happening are also used to justify the effects of air and water pollution, harmful medicines, genetically modified food, and power lines, etc., on our health?

 Here they are: * It’s not true, the science is flawed or incomplete. * It may be happening but it’s not harmful. * It may be happening and may cause some harm, but to stop it will cost the economy too much in the long run. * Repair costs for problems will be passed on to consumers, not the corporations.

 It’s sort of like saying, whatever compromises health can be justified. Somehow, the pivotal factor seems to be some corporation’s ability to make huge profits. Even the cap and trade dance needs to be watch-dogged.

 Cap and trade was originally set up so that specific sources of air pollution would be given a certain number of allowances. Facilities that have pollution control systems and come in under the allowable limit have pollution credits which they can then sell to facilities that pollute. Supposedly, this allows polluters to gradually make costly improvements on their systems. Some polluters do try to upgrade to less pollution but others just go right on polluting, knowing it’s cheaper to just buy credits than to upgrade.

 We don’t need more reports to convince us that climate change is happening. We can see for ourselves the crazy intensive rain and lightening patterns right here in NH.

 I shudder at the possibility of plugging into Hydro Quebec’s hugely centralized energy grid that would make NH vulnerable to massive Northeast blackouts in the future. Quebec’s grid is planned to span all the New England states. That’s a huge area that would be affected. When you consider that Quebec has over 200 dams and dykes to generate power from their rivers, one intense storm can wreak havoc gouging out those rivers, roads and facilities, and polluting water supplies. 

Canada has been gradually buying up power in NH, most recently with the purchase of National Grid of NH to Canadian owned Liberty Utilities for $285 m, according to the Concord Monitor. More power slipping out of the communities of NH.

 Everywhere I go in Northern NH, Irene’s calling card brags about the damage it did last September, lifting rocks and shifting soil as it carved out river banks, dumped rocks and debris that destroyed campgrounds and roads and made some hiking trails impassable. Costly repairs were made; other areas were abandoned or put on a list for ‘later.’

 We can expect more dramatic natural or conflict driven events that challenge our health and way of living. Bottom line is: the more localized we are, the safer we’ll be to recover. The Northern Pass project is not just about property rights and health effects of high voltage; it’s a stealthy link to potential natural catastrophic phenomena. The more centralized we become, the more vulnerable we are to major effects. Bigger is not better. Silence gives consent to corporation coffers. Your voice and vote count. Will we choose short-term access to more power and corporate greed or long-term access to the possibility of  healthy lives and autonomous community resilience?

 

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Bone Scams

July 19, 2012

People are getting all steamed up over Health Care. What we really need to get steamed up about is Health Maintenance! We’re bombarded with magic pill adds for everything imaginable and everything those ads can help us to imagine about ourselves.

 Our bodies are the consummate recyclers of all time. Old cells are continually replaced by new and more resilient cells. We see skin cells flaking off our arms and legs but may be less aware of bones being renewed by another process.

 Those who resisted hopping on the estrogen replacement program for women, were spared an increased incidence in breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke, while research studies were being logged. I remember being rudely dismissed from a gynecologist’s office because I questioned the efficacy of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and refused his prescription for “every woman over 50!”

 Similar tactics are used to deal with osteoporosis. The one thing still missing is education about exactly what those drugs are designed to do and why we might want to question using them. Sally Field, poster gal for Boniva, gives a great example of current empty pharmaceutical hype that does nothing to educate people about what’s really going on besides the sale of an expensive drug. Here’s a closer look at how bones are formed and maintained.

 Two types of bone cells continually remodel our bones as we grow. Osteoclasts enlarge the diameter of bone cavities by eating away at the dense white fibrous membrane (periostium) that covers bone except at the joints, where cartilage forms the covering.

Osteoblasts form and repair bones, they fill in the spaces that have been eaten away with new cells that enlarge and reshape our bones to handle current activities. Old cells are disposed of in a process called resorption. Osteoporosis drugs prevent resorption of old bone cells. Patients taking bisphosphonates (osteoporosis drugs) are forming very little new bone and some are reportedly not making any new bone.

 As we get older, our bodies have less need to reshape bones. Boniva, Fosamax, Actonel, and other drugs that prevent bone resorption, end up leaving people who take the drugs with an overabundance of old bone cells, ripe for fracture. Research logs report increased incidence of spontaneous fractures of the femur (thigh bone) in people who take these drugs for more than five years. ‘Spontaneous’ just means that the fracture isn’t caused by a fall or a blow; the bone just disintegrates and needs a steel rod placed in it for repair. Other logs document the incidence of osteonecrosis of the jaw (dead jaw bone). Some dentists refuse to work on patients taking bisphosphonates.

 When we know the risks involved, we can then decide, based on what we understand, whether we want to be part of an experiment using these or any drugs.

 We also need to know what’s going on with our bones. Just being over 50 doesn’t automatically mean anything at a time when we are over-stimulated with health advice. Heel scans don’t tell us much about the rest of our bones. Even if we have a full bone scan X-ray and have osteopenia (mild bone thinning) in places and osteoporosis (advanced bone thinning) in places, there are options beyond drugs available to us. We need to know what we are dealing with.

 So- what can be done? Are we simply between a rock and a hard place when we age? No! At least, not if we’re willing to do a few things to help ourselves instead of looking for a ‘magic’ pill. However, these options won’t cost much and certainly won’t raise the Health Care tab politicians try to swing voters with. Insurance companies do an excellent job of convincing many Americans that we’re all going to get hopelessly sick and need drugs. 

Here are 3 suggestions for starters:

#1 Exercise. To keep each other well, we can begin by giving thanks for all the free supports on hand. Stairs are a tremendous asset for most of us. If you have to climb a set of stairs to get into your house, and another to get to the bathroom or bedroom, consider yourself lucky! And give thanks every time you forget something and have to go back over the stairs extra times. You’re building bone mass! At work, take the stairs instead of  the elevator wherever possible and notice how it builds your lung capacity, bringing fresh oxygen to help all your cells breathe in what they need.

 When you shop, park away from the stores so that you have a good walk to and from the car. Every step you take pumps more oxygen into your body and helps your arteries bring nourishment to your cells and your veins to ship out spent energy. Any other activities, such as hiking, yoga, tai chi, swimming, fly-fishing, biking, walking, or gym workouts, are a treat that keeps circulation energizing, recycling and restoring your body.

 If you need inspiration, watch what many returning veterans learn to do about missing limbs. They band together to keep up morale and achieve their goals. As soon as they master their prostheses, they get moving. They walk, run, compete, and keep their bodies energized and well as they get on with their lives. Or check out wheel chair bound folks who choose to strengthen their arms and give their bodies a regular workout so that they can maintain their independence, drive cars, raise families, and continue their careers in robust health.

 #2 Eat a Healthy Diet, including plenty of Calcium and Vitamin D. Right now, we have an abundance of fresh, local, mineral rich greens and vegetables at Farmer’s Markets and produce stands. Blueberries are plentiful this year, both wild and in Pick-Your Own orchards. 

#3 Drink Water: drink half your body weight in ounces of tap water. (Example: 128 lbs= 64 oz. or 8 cups of water). Caution: if legs swell, drink less until they stabilize. If you’re not used to drinking that much, begin to increase gradually. A well hydrated body enables bones to recycle, food to be easily digested, and circulation to keep everything in balance.

Nature’s Delights and Lyme Disease

July 19, 2012

CWRACK!! It sounded like a loud thwack to the house one evening. Later, I realized it was the two loaded mouse traps in the attic above my study that hit their mark simultaneously with a gargantuan crack/smack sound.

 What are night traveling mice coming into my house for in June and July? What kind of screwy pattern is this? The current crop doesn’t usually arrive before September. Light bulbs started going off in my mind. The White-Footed Deer Mice like to travel at night and we probably have plenty of them around since 2010 was a mast year (big year for acorns and other nuts to the hearts delight of mice),  followed by a warm 2011 winter.

 With a warm spring and balmy summer weather, lots of people are out walking the woods, to the Deer Tick’s delight. People are generally complaining that they pick a tick or several ticks off them on their rounds.

 Here’s a quick review of this particular pattern of nature we’d do well to keep in mind. First, an adult female Deer  Tick finds a deer or moose for a blood feast, then drops to the ground and lays her eggs (about 3000) under some leaves in the spring. The eggs hatch into larva, peaking in August. The larva then waits on the ground until some small mammal or bird brushes up against it. The larva then attaches itself to it’s host and begins feeding; it engorges itself  with blood.

 If that host happens to be a Lyme-infected White-Footed mouse (the primary source), Oh, Oh!  After feasting, the tick larva drops off, totally infected and carrying the disease. It hangs out among the grasses to move into it’s next stage by fall as a nymph. Then it vacations through winter. However, when spring arrives, Look Out!, the nymph is ready to give Lyme disease to you, me, or some unwary mouse, with the next bite.

 This means that it’s well for us to pick our spots where we walk or hike, with the tiny tick in mind, even it’s just to pop off an open trail for a quick pee or to pick wildflowers (not on protected lands). Often, our hands brush against grasses, pick up a tick and then move to wipe sweat off our face or flick hair off our neck and bingo! The tick scurries to our hairline or some other favorite spot and stops for a meal exchange.

 For prevention, the only real deterrents I’ve found are DEET or Permethrin. Permethrin should only be applied to clothing, following the directions on the container carefully. Permethrin is a heavy duty toxin, toxic to humans as well as ticks but clothing can be washed several times before reapplying. It’s great for gardening or woods work where the same outer clothing can be tossed on for minutes or hours. DEET is best applied to clothing as well, but can be applied to skin, i/.e. hairline (and washed off ASAP after the hike.)  Caution: DEET should not be applied to children’s skin, which is more sensitive to toxins. Deet loses its oomph after a few hours and needs to be reapplied.

 The easiest way to remove a tick is to cover it with a blob of liquid soap. It will disengage.  Lacking that, it’s well to add tweezers to your first aid kit and grasp the tick by its proboscis (the straw-like structure of it’s mouth.)  Avoid squeezing its body, especially if it is engorged with blood because that blood, which may be laden with Lyme, will squirt right back into your body. Always check to be sure the proboscis is out of your skin after you have removed the tick and save the tick in a glass jar or your left-over plastic sandwich bag. Later the tick can be clearly identified, especially if it has been attached for several hours; your health care provider my want to give you a prophylactic antibiotic.

 The effect of the 2010 mast year plus a warm 2011 winter can be seen in more of all the four-leggeds around this year. Lots of mice, mean lots of fox crossing the roads, bears checking out neighborhoods, etc. on up the food chain. All are signs to take care, especially when we see more of nature’s creatures enjoying the earth with us. Stay on the center of all trails or wear whatever protective clothing keeps you safe. And, if you can’t unload traps without touching the mice, wear gloves and double bag them  to dispose of them. Since mice are carriers of many diseases, it’s well to avoid inhaling any dust created in the cleanup.

Figuring Out Independence

July 4, 2012

As a child, the Fourth of July was always a big event in the towns we lived. World War II was in full swing and everyone who could wear a uniform met and marched in the parade, starting with flag bearing honor guards from all branches of the service, jeeps and tanks, the town fire trucks and ambulance, a police car, representatives of the American Legion, DAR, Girl Scouts and Brownies, Boy Scouts and Cubs, little girls with decorated doll carriages, unicycle riders, horseback riders, clowns, big balloons, a few dignitaries in antique cars and a few more in cars as big as boats, all kept buoyant by the local high school band playing every marching song they knew. Everyone else lined the route waving little flags. And at night, there were always fireworks somewhere to celebrate. 

As years passed and the war we hoped would really end all wars didn’t end all wars, people gradually didn’t want to see reminders of war and all the pain and mixed feelings about what was being accomplished by war. Those of us working in the mental health field began seeing more people with PTSD, Post  Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and were gripped by horrendous stories of what our service people were being ordered to do and how many were treated in general. We were alarmed and not surprised that many who returned home could not live with their memories and committed suicide at a rate that equaled or surpassed the documented casualty rate of the war. Rehab was and continues to be The enormous challenge for therapists as well as clients.

 Parades have dwindled but fireworks continue in what seems like bursts of  hope that we will actually be able to live free and healthy lives, we will all be able to get along.  At this point, the whole world is included in the challenge and our basic needs for water, food and energy vie with the strength of our environment to put up with all we have tried to rearrange and control, rather than live in harmony with.

 In earlier times, strength lay in communities. People were aware of their dependence on each other which gave them a sense of community independence. It was pretty easy to just move someplace else if one was not satisfied with the way things were going. Today, it has become important to figure out how to get along, share what needs to be shared, and look out for each other because there is less freedom to move. This is the tall order for our times and a challenge that will determine whether we can achieve independent communities and understand what freedom requires.

 This is a move away from big everything chaos to small focused effectiveness. Those of us who have been lucky enough to have farming roots somewhere in our recent or distant past, also have the benefit of recognizing the difference between quality of life and pretense of quality.

 The true test of an independent community will be whether the people in it are willing to do whatever needs to be done to keep each other well. That means applying this principle to water sources, safe food, clean energy, education, environmentally sensitive agriculture, business practices, forest and wetlands management, health care, recreation, music, art, spiritual practices – the whole spectrum of life. Whatever we do for each other comes around to each of us.