Friday, March 16, 2018

No Single Diet for a Big Planet

The increasing pressure for everyone to convert to a vegan diet smacks of ignorance and righteousness. Yes, that includes scientists, and shame on them.

This stated universal solution for the health of everyone on this planet and all the ills of climate change is fraught with negligence to the fact that not every person can subsist in good health on a vegan diet. Nor is it necessary (some bold scientists have published data on why).

While the public, and many scientists, claim that adopting a vegan diet is the most important way to lose weight, be healthy, reverse climate change, and treat the planet better, there are reasons to believe this isn’t always the case. Despite the prevalent binary thinking and judgement of our Western society, fad science, and culture, there is no one, universal, de facto “right” diet for everyone. Our genetics, physiology, medical history, economic status, food accessibility, and aesthetic tastes are vastly varied. Absolutisms are rarely absolute.

Many people have food sensitivities and/or allergies: allergies to peanuts, gluten-related disorders (including wheat allergy and insensitivity to fructans), intolerance to yeast and/molds (such as in leavened breads, beer and several cheeses), phytates in many legumes and vegetable (taboo for people prone to kidney stones), “onion intolerance” (sensitivity to ingestion, even dermal exposure, to one or more plants in the Allium family), fructose malabsorption (bad things happen when eating even a small amount of most fruits), legume (including soybeans) intolerance/allergies, and the list goes on. People with these sensitivities and allergies may be unable to commit to a vegan diet without jeopardizing their overall health.

Another topic rarely seen in the lay media, and uncommon in the scientific literature, is the nutrient efficiency of a diet containing even a small amount of animal products - meat, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs. By comparable weight, animal food products contain more protein (especially in the context of complementary amino acid profile), bioavailable minerals, and energy than any non-animal product. 

The cautionary point here is that most of the consumed energy is in the form of lipids, aka ‘fats,’ especially cholesterol. Primates -yes, us, too- evolved to store dietary fat for emergency energy in cyclic periods of famine. However, in our modern world of convenience and accessible plenty, we no longer need as much, and eat too much of it. Also, removing excess fat and eating naturally lean meat is an alternative.

The loud proclamation that everyone should embrace a vegan diet is unwarranted and impossible for many people. Nor should the reason of significantly reducing our carbon footprint be justification for imposing guilty consciousness. Some people just can't adopt a vegan diet. Moreover, a universally adopted vegan diet will not solve the demand for food and reverse climate change. 

Research at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service found that removing animal protein from the diets of many people would increase nutrient deficiencies that have been associated with certain health risks, like cardiovascular disease. Mary Beth Hall, animal scientist and one of the study researchers  at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center, comments in a press release,
“Different types of carefully balanced diets — vegan, vegetarian, omnivore — can meet a person’s needs and keep them healthy, but this study examined balancing the needs of the entire nation with the foods we could produce from plants alone. There’s a difference between what’s possible when feeding one person versus feeding everyone in the U.S.”

More importantly we should put more emphasis on growing some of our own or buying locally produced food, learn to make better food choices, eat balanced meals of both vegetables and animal products, plan meals centered around seasonally available foods, and stop piling so much food on our plates. 

Oh, and spending less time on our devices, in our vehicles, and getting off our butts and moving around around would not only reduce our appetite, improve our health, and possibly shrink that carbon footprint. Add supporting informed policy change at the local, state and national levels, too.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Sobering thoughts for a Sunday morning

"We have become the United States of Spite, and we are in this condition because it serves the interests of the plutocrats to have us at each others throats as our quality of life disappears upstream.

This new administration has set about undoing every good thing government has done for us, one vile rescission after another. And they do it with a righteous glee that sickens me. They do it with a logic that is not logic, using facts that are not facts. And they're cheered on by people who are likely to be among their worst victims.
It's hellish."

Friday, February 24, 2017

This is your reality now, and mine.

"....By the time I was 19 years old, I came to view awareness not as a gift, but as a curse." - Guy McPherson, ecologist and revolutionist.
The theme of this blog over the more-than decade it has existed is reality; the realities that exist, that overlap, and those realities in which we choose to exist.

Reality is like multiverses; there are many. One of the past, one of the future, and the combination of these which is the present. Is there one reality? Yes and no (the typical biologist's response to questions).

A reality exists that is outside of our body and minds. Some may call this the 'truth', but that's not exactly accurate. Some may call this 'nature' or 'science', but those are just names we apply to what we really may not know. Or what we think we know.
"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”- Mark Twain
Hey, but Reality is all that is factual, right? Sometimes, sometimes not. Mark Twain understood what facts really are. Yes, facts are schizophrenic. There are facts whether or not anyone can prove they’re true. Facts do not generally depend on our beliefs or desires. They exist whether or not anyone thinks about them, proves they’re true, and so on.

The law of gravity exists whether or not anyone knows about it, thinks about it, proves it, or believes it. We know this because the fact about gravity is a testable statement, and it has been tested multiple times, over and over. We experience it every day. Thus, as a society, we have labeled it a 'fact'. Evidence we have collected by rigorous testing as a society has been put forth to a collection of people that has accepted it as a 'fact'. However, there are many 'facts' we don't know about. Yet.

Facts, including the word, are used loosely in our language. They can be considered and used in several forms of realism: physical, scientific, epistemic, and moral. In the latter, some facts depend on thoughts, beliefs, and proofs (to some extent). Those are facts about what people think, believe, or prove. Some may not exist in any of the other forms of realism. It is here where Mark Twain saw humankind.

As a scientist, my beliefs center on facts, as they exist in all facets of realism. Often, especially in recent times, this has not been an easy process to reconcile between conflicting evidence and reporting. In the realm of moral realism, sometimes evidence and facts are presented as statements that align with prevailing or personal beliefs. It is the explosion of this type of realism that challenges myself, and everyone of us, to think more critically in what we acknowledge as being factual, despite that it exists or does not.
"Sometimes people just dispute the validity of specific facts. But we find that people sometimes go one step further and... they reframe an issue in untestable ways."- Troy Campbell and Justin Friesen, Why People Fly From Facts. 
The increasing numbers of people choosing to disbelieve, or ignore, evidential and tested factual information continues to astound me. When challenged with tested facts, and providing evidence, people choose (consciously or subconsciously) to accept or not accept both the evidence and the fact. Observations of discussions with people have made me aware that, even when presented with tested or testable facts, they will not change their beliefs, which are tied into their desires. This has been tested and studied, with the same conclusions. Personal bias is the strongest realism that sometimes will trump any that is substantiated by physical, scientific, and epistemic processes.
"Unfortunately, we’ve also learned that facts can only do so much. To avoid coming to undesirable conclusions, people can fly from the facts and use other tools in their deep belief protecting toolbox." - Campbell and Friesen.
 The predominant collective reality is based on not science, not the physical, and not epistemic processes, but personal bias. It is the new disease. And this is what prompted me to run away from The Empire (coined by Guy McPherson) and embark on a life of simplicity, and a mission to help preserve and conserve the environment and wildlife. This is what has kept me awake at night off and on for the past six years, but recently more pronounced. And it is this which I try to reconcile my hope in our species, and the reality of what is happening at the national and global scales.

A comment appeared on social media in response to a column appearing in the New York Times, "The Death of Compassion". Author Charles Blow traces the beginning and sanctions of this country's rampant loss of compassion, from Ronald Regan and now to the Trump administration.  The comment to this reminds me of our choices of reality; "Cultural anthropologists say that empathy is "programmed in" to the human consciousness, or we would not have evolved or be here as a species today. A lack of it may end the long journey..."

This statement sums up many events and struggles occurring in our country and around the globe. Yes, there are still small pockets of compassion and altruism. But they are shrinking fast.

We are seeing today an acceleration of a collapsing civilization, similar to the the process in overpopulated groups of animals faced with increasingly limited resources (population dynamics). Animal species and groups have their own inherent checks and balances, but when that fails, they fight and kill each other. Mice will even eat their babies. Observing that as a child was my first lesson in population dynamics.

A few historians and sociologists recognized this, speaking out and publishing in academic and public media on societal collapse as far back as 2009: "....we now live in an era when multiple, large-scale, interconnected structural crises have pushed the global system to the threshold of catastrophic collapse" (Kuecker and Hall, 2011). In his book,
The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Erlich warned of the consequences of overpopulation and limited resources. Like most of the general public, even some scientists called Erlich a "Doomsayer".

Some sociologists predict that small communities are the most resilient and most likely to survive (Kuecker and Hall, 2011). We have seen this cycle before throughout human civilization, but not on this scale around the world (Childs, 2012). Several biologists and ecologists increasingly join the conversation and offer evidence of collapse (McPherson, 2011).

It seems that only those people that are aware of this speak out. Several predicted our current situation and dysfunction. Many of these people are educated. But they have been discredited as Doom and Gloom Sayers. And ignored. I, too, discounted them. But no more. 
 "The world looked insane to me, but nobody else seemed to notice, so I buried my thoughts, and muddled on. Deep inside, this was tearing me to pieces."  - Tim Bennett
Most people are too caught up in the developing chaos to be aware and acknowledge it, and thereby contribute to the process. Many scientists are torn between taboo emotion or gagged by their institutions. The Empire is falling and the power struggle is on full-bore.
"The unwise man is awake all night, worries over and again. When morning rises he is restless still." - Unknown
America is no longer the "land of the free". It is playing 'the game', internally and abroad. We are not immune, and we have ourselves to blame for allowing this to happen here.
"With the disease of bias, then, societal immunity is better achieved when we encourage people to accept ambiguity, engage in critical thinking, and reject strict ideology. We will never eradicate bias—not from others, not from ourselves, and not from society. But we can become a people more free of ideology and less free of facts."  -  Campbell and Friesen.
Now is the the time to be a Warrior. The facts, the realism -the physical, scientific, epistemic, and moral- have all coalesced into one Reality. This is our world now, and we must shape it otherwise. Or someone else will shape it for us.

For many scientists and activists, gloom is building. We have "stopped believing the stories our civilization tells itself." (Dark Mountain Manifesto, Paul Kingsnorth, longtime climate activist and novelist). If we don't act, we can add the Gloom to the Doom. Time is overdue to act.
"Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. The Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise. No one need try to convince me otherwise. The effort is futile; my conviction is absolute. This is a culture war in which truth is the weapon, righteousness the flag and passion the fuel." - Charles Blow.

  •  Bennett, Tim. What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire, movie by VisionQuest Pictures.
  • Blow, Charles. 2017. "The Death of Compassion," The New York Times,  Feb. 23, 2017.
  • Campbell, Tony and Justin Friesen. 2015. "Why People "Fly from Facts"", Scientific American. March 2, 2015.
  • Childs, Craig. 2012. Apocalyptic Planet, Pantheon Press.
  • Kingsnorth, Paul and Dougald Hine. 2009. Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto, self-published. 
  • Kuecker, Glen David, and Tomas D, Hall. 201. Resilience and Community in the Age of World-system Collapse. Nature and Culture, 6:18-40
  • McPherson, Guy. 2011. Walking Away from Empire: A Personal Journey. PublishAmerica, Baltimore, Maryland.PublishAmerica, Baltimore, Maryland 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

This is becoming your reality

It has begun........
Those people that struggle will be struggling more. The inequality will grow wider.
Censorship and propaganda will proliferate. You will know only what the Dictator wants you to know. The federal government will have no transparency.

This is what you voted for. Be prepared to shoulder your responsibility in this.

"Soon after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, his administration undid one of Barack Obama’s last-minute economic-policy actions: a mortgage-fee cut under a government program that’s popular with first-time home buyers and low-income borrowers. The new administration on Friday said it’s canceling a reduction in the Federal Housing Administration’s annual fee for most borrowers. The cut would have reduced the annual premium for someone borrowing $200,000 by $500 in the first year."


"Within hours of the presidential transition, the White House, now under the control of President Donald Trump, took down the Native Americans web page that was part of the Obama White House website for the past eight years.

Also gone from the Trump White House website are web pages on civil rights, people with disabilities and climate change.

New to the White House website is First Lady Melania Trump biography, which is normal when a presidential transition occurs. What is not generally done though is promoting a First Lady’s product, as is now the case. The new web page mentions her  jewelry line sold on QVC."


 "‘‘All bureaus and the department have been directed by incoming administration to shut down Twitter platforms immediately until further notice,’’ said an email circulated to Park Service employees Friday afternoon."


"Shortly after President Donald Trump raised his right hand and took the Oath of Office, the Joining Forces page on went dark."

This is only the beginning. To be silent, is to be complicit.

Not my President!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Modern stressful life and depression

"While being physically ill causes inflammation, it is far from being the only cause. Modern life itself seems to be a state which our body responds to negatively."

An article, Depression Is Only Partly a Psychological Condition, links depression, physical illness, and inflammation. But it is more complex than the process explained by the author.
"While the symptoms of depression are marked by changes in the brain, the cause of the disease may ultimately lie in the body, specifically in a family of proteins called cytokines that set off inflammation."
 One component missing here, but alluded to, is stress. Chronic stress sets off a cascade of inflammatory responses, which affects physical and mental health. For a review of the complex links of chronic stress, depression and many physical illnesses, I recommend a review by  G. Slavich and M. Irwin, From Stress to Inflammation and Major Depressive Disorder: A Social Signal Transduction Theory of Depression.
"This highly conserved biological response to adversity is critical for survival during times of actual physical threat or injury. However, this response can also be activated by modern-day social, symbolic, or imagined threats, leading to an increasingly proinflammatory phenotype that may be a key phenomenon driving depression pathogenesis and recurrence, as well as the overlap of depression with several somatic conditions including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and neurodegeneration."
 A complex environment of chronic stress, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise is probably responsible for more of our modern health (physical and mental) issues than most people realize, and it seems to be an acceptable state of normality in our modern world. No wonder that depression is at an all-time high.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

We've been here before.......

Here we go again.
"I feel like 
I've been here before, 
and you know, 
it makes me wonder, 
what's goin' on, 
under the ground."*
Déjà vu.

But this time, those that rose to protest and civil disobedience in the 1960's are silent or a whisper. Instead, the soma of a privileged class is complacent like walking zombies hooked into a global information stream that ha
s made them numb and elite.

How is it that many of those same protesters of the 60's are silent now? Many that I know personally are talking heads that spew drivel and blindly continue on their indignant paths of privilege.

Some are so full of anger that their mouths and fingers waggle at everyone but themselves as they claim that anarchy is the only way to righteousness. Without admitting that those they voted into office are responsible, or denying they support the tyrants and bullies. Compassion is no longer an option, they cry. "It's all your own fault!", they sigh. And go back to their handwringing while mouthing on and on.

Too many hide behind religion as their flag to change the rules. The old power that whispers behind hands and shouted with self-righteous justification for their own ends to control and bully. Power is their deity that hides their quest for control in the name of a God that vindicates all their words and deeds. While the ghosts of the Spanish Inquisition urge them on and laugh at our ignorance and division.

Do they not realize they are the same as those they label as terrorists, 'unholy', and destroyers? Is spreading their own version of terror their personal salvation?

Some have struggled through darkness and wrestled with their conscience, dropping out of the Rat Empire to advocate awareness, truth and change. A few even campaign for radical change, while feeling mostly alone in a sea of hypocrisy and hopelessness.

And there are those of us that see the ghosts of people in the streets wearing arm bands, waving banners. Some put fingers to keyboards to call attention to the hell that is breaking loose around us. Some thrust mirrors in our faces and point to the public horrors and plights. Others try to pull heads out of the sand and hands away from deaf ears.

But where are the songs? Where are the Pete Seeger's, and Dylan's, and Joan Baez's? Where are the marchers, chanters, and changers?

We drown in words that flash across the TVs and smart phone screens until we are desensitized, dazed and confused. They mean nothing anymore. And we drown in all the noise.

We need the songs and feet on the ground.
'Bang the drum slowly' while we drag our feet.
Take up the voices while moving the beat.
Because we are at war here.

And it may implode.
But the only ones that we can blame,
Are ourselves
In hidden shame.

*Crosby, Stills and Nash, Déjà Vu. 1970.

Monday, June 01, 2015

The Rule of Seven. Happy New Year, Self!!

I hate the number seven. It seems that every seven years, my humanity is tested. Sometimes the trial is tough, challenging, and sometimes I fail. Trip and fall. Hit my head and have a headache for a year. But I always get up, put myself back together and carry on. The Survivor mentality. 

Or, as my father used to say, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.” - Miyamoto Musashi

This time was another test of my humanity. It wasn't as devastating as it was back in 2006. But, then again, I'm not as young as I was either. And betrayals never get any easier to bear. Again, this was partly my own fault for forgiving an earlier transgression that I should have not have. 'Another chance,' I convinced myself. And it bit me a few years later.

"I feel like 

I've been here before, 
and you know, 
it makes me wonder, 
what's goin' on, 
under the ground."
Déjà vu.

Lesson hammered home. The Void.

Yet..... if this past trial had not happened, I would not be where I am now. I am strong, happy, productive, and full of life. Living what exists now, I also know what no longer exists. And I am grateful for that. Rising from the ashes and flying with flames of rebirth. "In my pockets, I carry new-found fruits and seeds that nourish my journeys. And scatter some along my way."

Happy First Anniversary, Phoenix. Welcome back, you old wolf. 
Let's go, brother Coyote. We have an adventurous road of discovery ahead of us.

The truth is that strength lies in the interior of the Warrior: in his heart, his mind and his spirit… The heart is essential in helping the intellect to understand the spirit.” - Miyamoto Musashi, Book of Five Rings