Archive for November, 2012

It’s Not the Economy; It’s About Equality

November 30, 2012

 Whatever our spiritual connection, December, our darkest month, signals a journey toward light, clarity, and a fresh start for the New Year.

 The book, Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, by Wilkinson and Pickett, is an eye opener that helps us understand how USA relates to the rest of the world and what our task is if we want to reclaim vibrant health for American citizens in 2013.

 The authors found that “if a country does badly on health, you can predict with some confidence that it will imprison a larger proportion of it’s population, have more teenage pregnancies, lower literacy scores, more obesity, more mental health problems, and so on.”  Currently, the US leads the world with health problems, imprisoned population, and so on.

 After WWII, we, in the US, experienced a more equal society until about 1965, when we began the shift toward more inequality. Here’s a partial list of what happened: trade unions were weakened, profit sharing agreements were abandoned, changes in taxes and benefits were legislated, and adequate minimum wage legislation never happened.

 In the US, Wilkinson and Pickett found that the states which perform well are dominated by ones which have more generous welfare provisions. New Hampshire, the state which performs best, has among the lowest public social expenditure of any state. This doesn’t mean that we in NH have no need to improve. The US average of all our states still makes us the most unequal of all countries in the world. Wilkinson and Pickett’s conclusion is that how a society becomes more equal is less important than whether or not it does so.

 The issue is not about the economy and economic growth. It’s about equality. In 2007, chief executives of 365 of the largest US corporations received well over 500 times the pay of their average employee. The issue now is the community and how we relate to each other. Countries with more equality, like Japan and Scandinavia, also enjoy better health.

 The issue is also not about the greedy rich. It’s about who determines public policy. Wilkinson and Pickett found that greater equality was gained by either using taxes and benefits to redistribute very unequal incomes or by greater equality in gross incomes before taxes and benefits, which leaves less need for redistribution.

 By looking at what more equal countries do to provide greater equality and better health, we can begin to map out where we need to put our energies in 2013. Here’s a partial list of  dynamics found in more equal countries:

  • Democratic employee-owned companies that help companies change from being property to being communities.
  • Profit sharing companies that inspire employee-owners to be conscientious and innovative in their work performance because everyone reaps a share of the profits.
  • Shorter work hours and longer holiday time that increase energy, creativity, and sense of self-worth.
  • More patents are granted per head of population.
  • Health Care is provided for everyone as a right.
  • Early childhood development and education programs are provided that result in high literacy rates.

 What the authors found seems to work best is a series of small changes, not one big revolution. December may well be the best incubator for positive thoughts as we come together with family, friends and groups and celebrate the bonds that hold us together.

Time  to think about what  we need to do as a community to keep each other well both now and for  generations to come so that heaven and nature will sing!


Oh No! Not a Wilderness Disconnect!

November 28, 2012

With all this attention to technology and the newest whatever that connects the most impulses, are we allowing ourselves to be blinded from our place in the wilderness of the planet?

 I notice that I now carry my cell phone just about everywhere, even when hiking in the Presidentials. For many years, part of the hiking experience was leaving all that behind to experience the woods, whether backpacking or day hiking. Now, even though there may not be reception where I am going, it seems irresponsible to not be prepared just in case help is needed, even though I leave it off to save the batteries unless needed. I have mixed feelings about this new felt responsibility.

 When my kids were little, I loved to walk in the woods with them because they paused to explore each little waterfall, salamander, bird, chattering red squirrel, glistening cobweb, creaking tree as it strained in the wind, all forms of precipitation; they were totally present.

 Is this a new disconnection that makes people fear the wilderness, look at it as something to tame? If so, they might even feel more comfortable with fewer trees and more wires to escape from whatever the real world means to them. Have people been so massaged by technology that connecting with the natural world is a challenge? Or is connection now defined as something one does with a hand held appendage?

 Recently, NPR’s Krista Tippett interviewed, Prof. Sherry Turkle, who directs the MIT Initiative on Technology and the Self. Prof. Turkle recommended that we begin to edit what we do, take time to think about whether the message we are about to send is absolutely necessary, and stop filling up people’s email, tweeting, facebooking or texting everything.

 While cell phones are a boon to communication in countless ways, must their ring or vibration interrupt dinner or thinking or conversation automatically? On a recent hike, I’d forgotten to turn off my phone and habitually opened it up when it dinged, cutting off an opportunity to get to know a fellow hiker who had the sense to move on to someone who was present in the here and now and not off checking messages!

 Time to think about who’s in charge of our priorities, enjoy and use our technology but not be used by it. Clear choices could enlighten this holiday season.


Giving Thanks

November 15, 2012

While many of us grew up with contrived enactments of the “First Thanksgiving” in our schools and churches, hopefully even more of us will give thanks this year for the groundswell of people who do want to figure out a way to share our world while there is still time to reclaim the world’s vast resources.

 It would have been a rich heritage that saw our early settlers giving thanks to the indigenous people who helped them to survive that first year. Instead, it is devastating to realize that our settlers celebrated their massacre of over 700 Pequot men, women and children. After the massacre, Governor Winthrop issued a proclamation for settlers to give thanks for their victory. There was nothing about coming together with Indians and giving thanks for sustenance with a shared feast.

 Hopefully, this Thanksgiving, we are not celebrating other conquests. Hopefully, we will be moved to give thanks for our sustenance and pray that we will be able to use our energies to figure out a way to share the earth’s bountiful resources strategically so that our world’s disparate population can claim healthy lives with enough water, food and energy. Our goal is that everyone be “safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.”


Be Ready to Beat the Flu

November 9, 2012

Flu season is here! Warm weather followed by COLD and back again – perfect conditions for wandering flu viruses! To be ready to beat the flu, we need to understand three scenarios: how and why the flu enters a body, what the body’s immune response is, and how we can best prevent the flu from ever settling in. 

There are hundreds of flu viruses floating around, looking for factories where they can replicate (make copies/clones of themselves). The human body is one such factory. In fact, every cell in your body is a potential flu factory. Flu’s favorite mode of entry is our nose or mouth/throat. All it takes is a nearby cough from a flu infected person to get in.

 People who have flu shots get live attenuated versions of the 3 most commonly expected flues in their shot. The immune system responds to the shot by producing antibodies that will latch onto and mobilize the viruses. These antibodies give us temporary protection if any of those 3 viruses attack us. The antibodies then signal phagocyte white blood cells (the trash collectors), to glob onto the virus and get rid of it. However, if at the same time your body is making antibodies against those three viruses you are attacked by some other virulent flu, your body may have less energy to work on yet a fourth strain of antibodies and that flu virus may take over. Here’s how: 

A virus is an incomplete organism, a knobby little spiked capsule of DNA or RNA. Every human cell contains both Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), the genetic recipe for manufacture of all our body cells, and Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) for replication and repairs. In addition, our cells contain all the necessary manufacturing tools (cell structures). A virus spike pokes and invades a human cell, squirts in its own nucleic acid, and takes over the factory to endlessly replicate itself, until the cell bursts and releases thousands of viruses to invade other cells. Viruses are truly fast operators which is why they can knock the stuffing out of us so quickly. 

If, at the stage when we start to feel ‘like I’m coming down with something,’ the flu virus is met with hot lemon water, hot salt water gargles and little else, it gives up and loses its oomph. Here’s where the old adage kicks in, ‘Starve a cold or you’ll feed a fever.’ The emphasis is on clearing out the system, not clogging it up with more work. Instead, have lots of water and hourly Vitamin C. Avoid taking huge doses of Vitamin C all at once. Our bodies can only absorb about 1000 mg/hr. The rest just goes through as waste. Taken every hour we are awake, Vitamin C can help bodies fight the flu by stimulating the production of collagen, the protein fiber that gives our cells strong walls. Strengthened cells can then work to resist the virus.

 Vitamin D3 also helps as it stimulates production of acids that zing viruses, etc. 1000 iu/day is the recommended dose for winter protection when we typically get less sun.

 However – if, at the first sign, the flu virus is met with ice cream and cool, sweet, fruity drinks and hearty meals with plenty of chips and fries, the virus will thrive and continue replicating. Flu loves sugar! Look out for all those white foods: potatoes, pasta, grains, milk, sugar, cheese, dairy, sodas, sweeteners, and avoid them for the duration of the flu.

 Aside from the ongoing debate about the value of flu vaccines, my concern with flu shots is that they can give people a false sense of security. People then skip taking prudent precautions to prevent the flu from gaining entry in the first place, much less settling in.

 Here are conditions a flu virus likes:

1. a tired body, one that gets little sleep and keeps stoked with coffee, sodas and energy bars.

2. a body already weakened by a cold or some other malady.

3. a sluggish body, one that gets little exercise.

 Here are conditions the flu virus does not like:

1. a rested, well hydrated body with strong cells.

2. a well nourished body.

3. a well exercised body.

 Here’s what has worked for generations: If you sense that you’re coming down with something, give it your full attention. Everything else can wait or will be fouled up. Don’t wait until the flu raises your temperature. Beat the flu to the punch by sweating it out before it gets the chance to raise your temperature. Bundle up, have a cup of hot lemon water, and stay put while your body works up a sweat. Stay covered until the sweat passes. You may save your body the strain of developing a high temperature to deal with the flu, and you’ll be able to enjoy life again in no time.

 If you miss that window of opportunity, keep starving the virus with lemon water and salt water gargles, stay warm and work with your body to maintain enough sweat to defeat the flu. Chicken soup or mild vegetable soups also help.

 We can each do our part to keep flu viruses from spreading. Given the observation that we humans touch our hands to our mouths several times an hour, regular hand washing is a wise practice. If we have a cold or feel we are coming down with the flu, we can show consideration for others by staying home and getting well. This may mean missing a singing rehearsal or competitive sport practice, food shopping, or other activities that put us in close contact with others.

 Flues have been around for eons. Long ago, our ancestors figured out simple practices that helped them to fend off and survive flu viruses. Those who observed the practices developed strong immune systems that could deal with any flu virus. They didn’t need flu shots. It’s up to us to use their legacy wisely and spread good health around.