Archive for October, 2012

Autonomous Communities, Not Centralized Megalopolises

October 26, 2012

The successful wave of the future may well be found in what Jeremy Rifkin calls ‘Autonomous Communities’. Such communities are self-sustaining. Hydro Quebec’s Plan Nord is an example of an outdated, archaic, centralized system of a huge corporation that subjects masses of people to a scheme that makes the corporation rich on the backs of customers they control. In this case, through control of electrical power. 

Canada’s Sierra Club Director, John Bennett, in his presentation at PSU, said that many Canadians aren’t happy with Hydro Quebec’s destruction of the environment. HQ has flooded an area in Quebec the size of Belgium. 10,000 caribou drowned when HQ opened the floodgates on a river crossing as part of their project. When Hydro Quebec tells Canadians they’ll have cheap power because the US market they are targeting will be footing the big bill, this doesn’t give Canadians back their environment, nor does it give the native peoples back their culture and livelihood. And it will never bring cheap energy to Northeastern US. 

Europe is clearly struggling to come up with a better plan. Understandably, big corporations don’t like Europe’s plans. Germany already has legislation in place that new buildings have to be self-sustaining. Germany has tired of centuries of war and is proactively getting it’s act together, a courageous task amidst a world that has not quite awakened to the fact that war has not brought peace, much less robust health to the world.

 Germany is taking new risks with their attention to a sustainable energy makeover and is providing needed education to meet future challenges. Here in the US, we continue to watch our government steal education funds and stir up wars that have nothing to do with defense. We’ve become the biggest threat to the world, destroying countries and sending in corporations to bleed those same countries even more with ‘restoration’ projects, and GMO seeds, pesticides and fertilizers that poison what’s left of the land.

 We don’t have to continue on this tack; we can decide to pull together to make health a priority. Autonomous communities are health promoting communities. Instead of complaining that our young people aren’t prepared for technological jobs, we need to put money back into education so that our people can use new technologies to make our communities sustainable without leaving our youngest and brightest drowning in debt. We need to respect the diversity of the web of life that nature itself provides checks and balances for.

 These are heavy thoughts that also contain the possibility of a brighter future for the generations to come. Hopefully, they will be proud of the efforts we make now on their behalf.

Medicare Mumbles and the US Class System

October 19, 2012

People in the US shy away from the socialized medicine practiced in Great Britain and Canada like it’s some kind of regressive poison that deprives people of what they need. Yet there is an important attitude we Americans need to chew on.

 Turning the World Upside Down: The search for world health in the 21st Century, by Nigel Crisp is an insightful read. Crisp, a UK leader in promoting world health, notes that today we may be over-investigated, overmedicated, and overspent. Also, we may end up in the hospital when we don’t need to.

 In the UK, Crisp notes that the National Health Service is designed to offer services to every citizen  equally, regardless of their ability to pay. This says something about the British and Canadians and their ideas about fairness and compassion. It also calls to question the top down hierarchy of treatment available in the US with probably the most top drawer life long care going to our congressional legislators. The public has no vote in legislator health insurance; it can be as inclusive and expensive as legislators choose.

 It doesn’t matter which political party is in. Obama Care’s insurance plan is not unlike Romney’s MA Health Care. Requiring everyone to buy insurance is a mandated, class specific, medicine plan. Neither plan dispenses health care equitably.

 Today, when we visit a health care provider, we are sent home with a sheet of recommendations for medication, and options for further tests. The length of the list has more to do with protecting the provider from lawsuits and raising money to fund expensive technology, than it has for providing quality health care. A good diagnostician can usually ask insightful questions and make necessary observations to identify the cause of problems. Much is based on their ability to “see” and “listen to” patients.

 A frustration among health care providers is the continual requests for more medication based on what their patients have seen on TV ads, and their patient’s reluctance to follow simple suggestions for diet and exercise or other habit changes. Small wonder that with all our services, we’re still reeling in chronic illnesses. The American Cancer Society lists three changes in American Lifestyle that have led to our long list of chronic conditions: we eat more unhealthy foods, we eat bigger portions, and we are less active physically as a country.

 Crisp suggests a new system based on independence and self-determination. He defines health as independence and ability to live lives we value, whatever our condition, with a system that values contributions of lay people as well as professionals, cares for the public sector as well as the private, and underscores the importance of family and community.

 In sum, we have a lot to chew on and think about what we want to swallow when it comes to insuring that we keep each other well.


Contaminated Steroids’ Fungal Meningitis Outbreak

October 12, 2012

This week we learned that 14 people died and over a hundred more people are sick as a result of contaminated injections of the steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, produced by the New England Compounding Center. In May, the NECC  began shipping contaminated steroids to 76 US clinics. People with back and neck pain may have been exposed to fungal meningitis by  injections of steroids to relieve their pain. Meningitis is an inflammation of the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord. 

The FDA was concerned about this drug and had warned the NECC but did not take action to see that distribution stopped, nor did the FDA warn health providers. 

Compounding companies have been around since our earliest pharmacies began, over 4000 years ago. Unlike drugs produced by the big companies for general distribution, compounding prescriptions are produced for specific patients. For example, a patient may need a smaller dose of a particular drug, or the drug may need a liquid added to make it easier to for a child to swallow, or the drug may be put into a topical cream to be absorbed through the skin by a hospice patient. Compounding companies are not allowed to produce a drug that is already commercially available. And, they do not glean enough revenue to fund the research required for FDA approval of new drugs. Their job is to customize existing medication.

 In this case, NECC appears to have been mass producing a preservative free form of this drug without subjecting it to the FDA approval process. The big drug companies like Pfizer and Merck must do extensive research for every drug produced and they spend millions to qualify for FDA approval. Sterile technique is rigorously monitored in their labs. This whole process means that every time a new drug is produced, even if only a molecule is changed in the formula, the big companies charge astronomical prices for each new drug. 

When a compounding company like NECC began producing methyl prednisolone and marketed it at a much lower price because they skipped the FDA approval process, 76 clinics in the US thought it was a good deal. Problem is, with careless oversight, the drug became contaminated with at least two different fungi that cause Fungal Meningitis, a non-contagious form of meningitis.

 Please note: there are many bona fide compounding companies that provide a needed service and play by the rules. No doubt, health practitioners will be carefully checking their supplies but it is up to each of us to double check where any medication we’re given comes from, and to keep a record of what we receive and why.

 Even more important, we need to eat well, exercise well, sleep well, enjoy family and friends, and hopefully be so healthy we won’t need injections!

Let’s Define Renweable, Non-polluting Energy

October 12, 2012

It must be confusing for students learning new vocabulary words to see the terms “renewable” and “non-polluting” defined in such strange ways by so-called experts who are supposed to know better. If we want to keep each other well, we need to be clear on both terms.

 Renewable: Something that is inexhaustible, that is replaceable. Hydro power is only renewable IF the water cycle is not interrupted. Let’s be clear about the water cycle. There is a finite amount of water on earth and it keeps moving around in different forms. Here’s the ideal scenario.

 The sun heats up the water in rivers, lakes and oceans. As it heats up, surface water turns into vapor or steam we can easily see rising. Humans sweat and plants transpire water also into the air (less obvious). As the water vapor rises to the cold atmosphere, it condenses (changes back to liquids) and forms clouds. The clouds then move in whatever direction winds carry them. When there is so much condensed water in the air (clouds colliding) so the air can’t hold it, condensed water falls back on earth as rain, snow, sleet or hail. It then collects in rivers, lakes and oceans, and the ground (in aquifers and springs.) And the cycle continues.

 Dams interrupt the rivers’ part in the water cycle. Rivers are meant to flow freely at a natural rate and even temperature. When they do, they bring debris floating in it downstream as building materials for whatever lives in the river in the food chain. Free flowing rivers also flush out irrigation pesticides, salts, and silt to keep the river clean and healthy.

 When dams are constructed, the first thing they change is the river’s rate of flow. Water moves over the dam with so much force, it scours out riverbanks, makes it difficult for river life to survive. Water behind the dam sits and heats up to a higher temperature than it normally would.  Trees and other debris get stuck behind the dam and the reservoir gradually begins to fill with silt that cannot be flushed downstream. Over many years, the reservoir evaporates more of its water than precipitation replaces and the river begins to dry up. Eventually, the river carries less and less water until it no longer meets the sea, disconnecting itself from the water cycle, and leaving a dead space in its wake, dead to diversity, and no longer renewable.

 Eighty years ago, we did not understand this pattern with dams. However, in recent years, the pattern has been well documented the world over wherever large dams are in place. If our descendants are to have access to abundant river water in the future, we need to take care to protect our rivers now. New dams and hydroelectric power are not the answer.

 Non-polluting: Not harmful to living things. Recently, Dick Green of Rochester, campaigning for a State Senate seat called Hydro electric power a “non-polluting” form of energy. If the word pollution means to make harmful to living things, then energy made by creating carbon dioxide emissions from rotting trees and vegetation is “polluting” energy. If the earth needs a diverse population of species to hum along harmoniously, then what happens to the food chain for wildlife if deforestation for dam construction eliminates their habitat possibilities and their food supply?

 Hydro Quebec’s empty promises of cheap power are being used to deceive people into agreeing to subscribe to power that is non-renewable in the long run. Their NorthernPass plan will not only destroy and pollute the environment, the NP will limit our future water supply and subjugate subscribers to astronomical rates for future power.

 The Forest Society’s Trees Not Towers Fund needs to raise $2.5 million by October 31 to finalize easements that prevent the NP route from going through. One way to stop the NP is to contribute whatever you can at or send your check to Society For Protection of New Hampshire Forests, 54 Portsmouth St., Concord, NH03301. Earmark it “Northern Pass Opposition.”