Monday, October 20, 2008

Why we cannot all just stop drinking bottled water.

I was just reading a blog post that begged the question, why can't we just stop drinking bottled water? It is a great question.
seen here

For many of us the answer is that we can and should get over what we have come to see as necessity in our lives and give up the bottled water completely. Between the impact on the environment of all of the non biodegradable material, our landfills filling up with plastic, the fossil fuel it takes to truck these bottles of water around the country, fish and animals dying from either being caught in plastic remnants, eating them, or inhaling nurdles of plastic that have photodegraded, and lets not forget the impact on our health from the xenoestrogenic BPA leached from plastic bottles why are we sticking with this phenomenon. In this country still today a majority of us have access to safe drinking water straight from the tap. So why are we paying for it????

Mostly we pay for it, because it is yet other area of our lives where we have been convinced of the need for corporate intervention. We like that it comes in a clear, sealed bottle, and we can imagine that no contaminants could ever have touched it. Well guess what? That water might as well have come from your tap, and you might have been better off if it did. As I have mentioned in previous posts, bottling plants draw there water from the same sources as community taps, and in many cases do nothing to it, not even run it through a carbon filter before it gets put in the bottle. Community water supplies are tested at a minimum a few times a week, in somewhere like NYC, at least once an hour. A bottling plant may be inspected as little as once a year. And as too the convenience factor of bottled water, REALLY? carrying bottles of water home or having someone deliver jugs of water is more convienient than turning on your faucet? I am guilty of the occasional bottle of water when I am on the run or somewhere that I cannot practically bring my own water - airports to name one - but the rest of the I take water from the tap, and you should too! Unless...

There are many parts of this nation that are not as lucky as the rest of us. Their water supplies are not safe to drink due to environmental contaminations mostly propagated by private industry. Mostly these areas are underrepresented areas with high poverty rates. The water is not safe to drink and even though they pay a monthly water bill, they cannot partake in drinking it and MUST buy bottled water to drink and cook. As the popularity of bottled water has soared, or water supply seems to be getting less safe and has less oversight. The ability to buy water is no substitute for the right and availability of to the life sustaining substance. What happens in those areas of this country where the water supplies are so contaminated people must buy their water and an American citizen's paycheck doesn't quite stretch far enough to pay for water? Where do we live? Is this really America? Is this the America that I was brought up to be proud of and respect?

There is so much going on right now in the United States, economic bailouts, Presidential campaigns, and natural disasters to name a few, when are we going to see that the most important thing is making sure that we all survive? When are we going to realize that we do not have a lack of food or a lack of money in this country, if anything we have too much. The problem is not scarcity, it is the malapportionment of excess and the lack of accountability to our fellow human beings. We have come to believe that we need so many of the modern luxuries in our lives, that we absolutely cannot live without them, but nothing could be further from the truth. Bottled water and cable television are two that come to my mind most vividly. What we need to do is take care of our fellow Americans, be sure that everyone has food and shelter and if we really want to make this world a better place - a little love.

We can continue to talk about all of the "issues" in these last couple weeks of the campaigns, but lets get down to the real issue: The basic needs and rights of all human beings. Lets narrow our focus and assume responsibility, once those issues are met, then talk to me about politics.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Like Water for Chocolate

I do not have time to write a full entry on this but, there are a couple of recent articles that I feel are really important to post.

The first is on the melamine coming from China in the form of a lot of our processed foods. Candy such as Cadbury Chocolate, other candies, baby formula, toothpaste, pet foods and so many other foods that have been contaminated in this crisis. Unfortunately it takes a lot sometimes for companies to own up to the responsibility and possibly the blow to their reputation when they have to publicly admit that their products are cheaply manufactured in China as opposed to with some care and tradition as they are often thought to be. This underscore the importance of the eat local movements in this country and the need to protect local agriculture. When we outsource and centralize our food supply far, far away from our homes we lose complete control over what we are consuming. There is no accountability in our food supply unless numerous people become deathly ill. One, two, or even unfortunately in a lot of cases hundreds of outbreaks get swept under the rug or interpreted as not having strong causal links to a food or manufacturing plant.

Be wary of eating anything made in China, especially if it is a milk derivative or made with milk. But on the whole, we have so little trade regulation with China, I am confident that if wide scale testing were done on imports, we would find much much more of this type of contamination in the foods that Americans ingest everyday. We only find out about the ones that are killing too many people to keep them quiet.

Here is just one, the most recent article I have just read on the Melamine outbreak, do a search in any paper for many many more.

The other issue is of our water supply in this country. The EPA is failing us once again by failing to take action on the amount of Perchlorate in our drinking water right here in the US. We can't blame China for this one...

Monday, September 1, 2008

Organic Batter Blaster

This is an insult to people, to their intelligence, and most of all to food. Spray pancakes in an aerosol can. I encourage you to go on their website to see exactly what a sham the USDA Organic Seal has become. The idea is disgusting enough, but I have read reviews on this product that compare the taste to gritty sawdust. But is organic and convienient!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Where Good Doctors Miss The Boat

Let me start out by saying that there are a growing number of physicians that are genuinely interested in their patients health and in getting their patients healthy without drugs. I just wish more of them would do it without filling their patients bodies with crap. I just watched a webinar on obesity in America and a number of physicians and a chiropractor spoke passionately about patients they have helped and personal stories. It was an industry webinar, by invitation, so I genuinely believe that these doctors are in this for good reasons and that their passion is real. The program is based on immediate rapid weightloss, including meal supplements(shakes, bars, cereals) every three hours and then one "healthy" meal a day. This is followed by health coaching and support to keep them on the program.

Ok, so they are getting people thinner to get them to the point where they are interested in their health and wanting to stay thin and "healthy". This is a great idea, but the reason I have healthy in quotes is that the way they are helping them lose weight is anything but healthy. It is for sure better in quantity than the fast food and other garbage people shove into their mouths, but the fact is you do not need supplements and meal replacements to lose weight and be healthy! What you need is real food! Look at the labels on these supplements, they are horrible! I decided not to post one or the name of the company that produces them or the name of the plan. But any time you are faced with some sort of meal replacement, read the label as if your life depended on it, because it does. Most have more chemicals, sugars, cheap soy and whey protein isolates, and more fillers than some fast food.

If you want to lose weight and change your life, start listening to your body. Cut out sugar, refined carbohydrates, and commercially farmed meat and fish. Pay attention to what you are eating. Trust your body to tell you what it needs. Most people think that a healthy diet means eating boiled chicken and vegetables every day. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Depending on your body chemistry a nice juicy grass fed steak could be just what the doctor ordered. What about Cholesterol you say? If you still believe anything you have heard about cholesterol, do some research.

My point is that you can have people achieve these same results if not better, by putting them on better eating plans of real food without all of the crap supplements and replacements. But then, no one could make money off of selling all of that cheap crap. Doctors get what are called compliance fees, basically a portion about 20 to 30 percent of the the profit off of the patients purchases for the meal replacements. This is not really that big of a deal I guess, but it is certainly incentive for the doctors to push the products instead of whole foods.

The chiropractor on the call claimed that optimal health is a place you have never been too. I agree for most people. He then went on to say that it is not that you will wake up one day and say "wow, I feel optimal!" Here is where I disagree, feeling optimal is not easy, but it can be done. If you start to detox your body from chemicals as in those found in meal replacements and any other food replacements and processed foods, you will wake up every day and feel more and more optimal. Optimal health is never ending in the beginning, you don't realize how bad you felt before, until you start to feel so good. But he later goes on to say that he has reached optimum health, so I am not sure what is going on there.

These doctors did touch on congruency, a very important topic. The best compliment you can receive in my mind as a health care professional, is that you seem like you really live your words. Health care professionals should be healthy, otherwise, what is the point. You can have all the information in the world, if you haven't figured out how to make it work for you, how are you going to help your patients?

They also mentioned another fact about helping people get healthy. It turns into a chain reaction. People want to help each other, they want to become health coaches and tell their friends to get on board. This kind of chain reaction is a huge source of hope. If you can build it, they will come.

So overall, I applaud these doctors for going into territory off the mainstream and genuinely trying to help their patients. But buyer beware if you are faced with meal replacements. There are other, much tastier, much healthier, ways to go about it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

San Francisco Heriloom Tomatoes are Unreasonably Good!

I thought I knew what a good tomato tasted like, apparently I was mistaken. The heirloom tomatoes that I had in San Francisco were like candy. It is really almost unfair the amount of fresh amazing produce available year round in that part of the country. I guess that is the Mediterranean climate for you. I had some in Southern California as well, they weren't nearly as good. I would move there just for the produce!

The Greening of Detroit Michigan

Detroit has a lot of green spaces and vacant lots. Many of these are next to schools and areas where children play. Lets not beat around the bush, it is a depressed city with a high crime rate and as it turns out, a lot of heart. Detroit is unusual for the amount of grass and vacant space around even its poorest neighborhoods. There is a remarkable effort taking place right now to turn old condemned spaces into fertile ground, literally. The effort is centered around organic gardening.

From children to adults, from rich to poor, the city of Detroit is training gardeners to grow their own organic foods. The gardens are communal, but the skills can be taken anywhere - in a lot of cases hopefully they will be taken home. Some of the most touching gardens are those built in school yards, with the effort of the children at the school and those at community centers. The children get to experience growing and harvesting organic food and experiment with eating new things. In an area like Detroit, what came to my mind first was that these kids are learning survival skills. They are not stuck in a city like NY where there is no green space. They for the most part have backyards, or at least these community areas, they can grow food. The ability to grow food, become independent of welfare and learn these skills to teach for generations.

There are other plots of land, an acre or two at a time that have been donated by the city, one in particular to the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. I can not even begin to express how impressed I was with the whole operation. On this particular two acres of land they did not yet have running water, so in the days that it did not rain, they carried buckets of water across the street to water the crops. It was really a hopeful project with benefits for everyone involved. Some of the gardens and farms have poultry and egg operations, others have future plans to keep bees.

Projects like these that get everyone involved in their health and security are the way of the future. It was really eye opening for me to see projects of this size off the ground and running. I think a lot about what I think needs to be done, or what would be ideal. Sometimes I run across a group of people that just blow me away with what they are already doing. This project is producing about 80 tons of fresh organic local produce a year! All of which is going back to the residents of Detroit. Some of the children working at the community centers even make a little bit of money off of the sales of the produce at farmers markets, others get grades in school, and others just learn skills that if they put them to use may just change the course of their lives.

I toured many of these farms with 500 other people some on tour buses, some on bikes. The event was much larger than I ever expected. For more information visit

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Water, Water...used to be everywhere...

Last week I had the privilege of attending a seminar on the Global Water Crisis in San Francisco that was being put on by a non profit organization called Spark. There were two panelists that have been water rights activists for many years. They were Maude Barlow author of Blue Gold and Blue Covenant, and Susana De Anda of the Community Water Center in the Central Valley of California. They were both very interesting speakers and coming from such different levels of work. Maude Barlow's work focuses primarily on the Global Crisis, where as Susana De Anda's Work is more localized, in helping individual people in her area of America.

I had an economics professor in college who was convinced that the next major war would be fought over water, not oil. If it hadn't been for les imbeciles de regime cowboy, aka the Bush administration, he probably would have been correct. I believe that our food and water supply are the most important thing for us to protect at this time in history, and we are doing the exact opposite. We are centralizing our food and water supply instead of diversifying. If you want to protect your money, you don't invest it all in one place, you diversify. So why can't we understand this, with our most precious resources? In fact, a major reason for the spike in wheat and rice prices this year is because some of the major rice producers in the world are starting to realize the need to be independent. India for example is clamping down on rice exports, and as one of the worlds biggest exporters, it is bound to hurt our pockets and dramatically cuts supply. Some areas such as Australia are already facing major issues due to shortages of water. Third world countries feel it much deeper as they do not have the money and technology to filter the water that the first world has polluted. The levels of nitrites, perchlorate, and many other chemicals are off the charts in many parts of the United States. Unfortunately this water looks crystal clear and safe to drink, and when it is boiled many of these contaminants increase in concentration, particularly nitrites. Also of concern is the amount of medication, sedatives, birth control, anti psychotics that cannot be filtered out of water when it is recycled and which seep back into ground water. Many areas of the United States have undrinkable groundwater due to these pollution and contaminants. We will run out of clean water, if there is an area that I am pro technology, it is in trying to figure out how to solve this problem. The earth has an innate ability to heal itself, just as the body does, but it cannot heal itself if we keep thrashing it. Your body cannot mend a broken bone if you keep having someone hit it with a bat.

Our problem is our wasteful lifestyles. At the seminar a woman raised her hand and asked when we are going to realize that we need population control, in other words we need to stop over populating the earth. Overpopulation is not the problem, as Susana De Anda pointed out a family of 7 to 10 in rural Mexico probably produce less waste than a family of 2 in America. It is our lifestyles that lead to pollution, the draining of our resources by industrialization. Don't get me wrong, technology and industrialization have brought us many great things in America, our lives would not be the same without them. However, there is a line, bottled water is one of them. Coke and Pepsi both take water directly from the ground and bottle it. There is no filtering in most cases. You are paying for ground water, sometimes from your local area, and sometimes your local area supply might be safer. These companies are subject to sometimes monthly, often yearly inspections. In a city like New York, the tap water is tested multiple times daily. This use of fresh water in industry is also a major drain on water supply. In some areas there area actually pieces of legislation that state that in an emergency, water must be diverted for drinking and agriculture first before industry, but this does not exist in all or even most areas of our country.

The problem is not hopeless, but the time to act is now. If we run out of drinking water, we die. That is not a scare tactic, that is reality. And it is not a scare tactic to say that at the rate we are going it is inevitable. Conservation of water at a personal level is important for all of us, but it is equally, if not more important for our government to step in and regulate. We need to realize as a culture that water is not as renewable as we think.

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” Cree Indian Proverb

Blessed are Thou who Modifies Nature


The Vatican has issued a statement claiming that it is ok to genetically modify babies. The process begins with isolating a gene from one organism, plant or animal and lodging it into another. Genes can also be shut-off through this process as well so that they are no longer active. The process is a bit imprecise however, we are never really sure what the outcome will be or if we will create foreign proteins that will damage our bodies for generations to come. Although the science to genetically modify human babies is in the works, the Vatican's position is on the genetic modification of plants and non human animal life forms.

What is the difference really? What is the difference if the Vatican's position supports the modification of plants or humans. In my mind supporting one is only a short step away from supporting the other. To confuse matters even further the Vatican has recently updated its list of mortal sins which now includes, genetic experimentation, tampering with the order of nature, pollution, social injustice, causing poverty, accumulating excessive wealth, and drug abuse. Ironically. I could go through each ones of those additions and show rather definitively how the Vatican is breaking its own rules. However, here I choose to focus on those first two. Genetic Experimentation and tampering with the order of nature.

The Vatican has come out many times over the last few years in support of genetic modification. Touting the technology as the hope for the future and putting pressure on the European Union, who currently require all GM foods to be labeled and certain countries completely ban them from the market. It should be noted that the United States has no restriction on Genetic Modification and there are no labeling laws. It is estimated that around 75% or more of the average American's diet contains genetically modified foods. The Vatican claims that these patented modified foods are the answer to the worlds hunger and malnutrition problems. GM Foods are a great blow to sustainable agriculture. The seeds must be purchased every year as they are built to self destruct after one season. In the US and around the world, if a farmer buys seed one year and does not use it all they must get rid of that seed and purchase new seed every year. If they are caught "saving seed" they must pay fees for violation of the patent on the seed. Our worlds hungry need a method that will be sustainable for them forever, otherwise they will be on our welfare forever. That is what these dependent crops do, they take away independence. Some say that it is easy to be anti-GM crops when your belly is full, but our problem in this world is not a lack of food or overpopulation. Look at America, we are the most wasteful country in the world, we have ridiculous surpluses of food, and we have hungry, starving poor people in this country that have no access to food and clean water. The reasons that people in this world are starving are political and monetary, not lack of food.

A large part of the reason that third world countries have problems growing their own food is access to clean water. In many areas around the world the women of the nation spend nearly 8 hours of their day gathering fresh clean water for the household, walking miles and miles carrying pales of water. In other areas meters are installed in towns to allow only a small portion of water to be available to the residents at a great cost. Let us not forget our fellow Americans who cannot drink the tap water that they pay a municipal bill for because it contains such high levels of nitrites and perchlorate. By the way, if you boil water containing nitrites, the level of nitrites increases dramatically! It is education and access to water that is needed in these areas. If we teach people to grow crops and help them with an adequate supply of water, people can sustain themselves. GM crops are a quick fix that will destroy soil quality and keep the world dependent on patented technology. Plus we really do not know the long term implications of genetically modifying crops, the strong pesticides that are used on them, the unnatural protein and gene structures produced in these orgainisms are a potential nightmare for spreading protein diseases such as Mad Cow (BSE, human form Cruetzfeld Jacobs disease).

Companies such as Monsanto run around the world trying to push their financial agenda, in the process they occasionally pick up substantial supporters, such as the Vatican, the US Government, the G8 Summit, and people such as Bill Gates. I believe the reason these people are behind using genetically modified crops is that they are not being shown the other options forcefully enough. The other options are also not as simple. GM crops are the quick fix silver bullet that we are looking for in our society. But they are not a sustainable fix. Education and the promise of clean water are not easy things to produce, but they are necessary. The US Government, Monsanto, Cargil, and GD Searle, have been revolving doors for employees to jump from one to the other and back again. The political lobbies are so strong it is sometimes hard to tell them apart.

So my message to the Vatican, Please I beg of you, knock one mortal sin off of your repertoire. You do not need to commit them all, we believe that you are powerful enough that you do not have to follow your own rules. But this is a fairly clear cut case of tampering with nature and genetic experimentation. You have so much power, use it for good!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Rubber Duck has New Reason to Float

Congress Moves to Ban Phthalates in Children's Toys.

Wow this is indeed a rare action by Congress! Before I explain the ban, a little about phthalates. Phthalates are a group of oily, colorless chemicals that are found in soft plastics, think vinyl, all vinyl. They are in most commercial products from plastics to shampoo. They are also used in plastic food packaging that leaks into the food being stored. They may also be used in foods as emulsifiers and in the food and cosmetic industry are completely unregulated and not required on the label. All of this despite the fact that they are on the EPA's list of toxic chemicals. They are also in the enteric coating found on many medications. The European Union banned phthalates in 2004 for all uses regarding children under the age of three.

Phthalates are xenoestrogenic, meaning that when these chemicals get into your body they mimic the hormone estrogen. Particularly in males this excess estrogen has a deleterious effect on fertility. Numerous studies with rats have confirmed these findings as has our petri dish that we call reality. For girls the estrogenic compounds can lead to early onset of menses and there are some links to breast cancer. For years people have denied that these chemicals in plastics and cosmetics were having any effect on human beings. Parents in particular, that worried about the health of their children, were concerned that these products were in their children's toys, food products, diapers, nipples on bottles, and personal care products without labeling. These products cannot be readily avoided by a conscious consumer. Phthalates are very available chemicals, they can be transferred simply by placing a toy in your mouth, let alone chewing on it. There is also evidence that phthalates can be absorbed through skin contact.

Phthalates and another chemical BPA Bisphenol-A which has similar estrogenic effect and is found in hard plastics such as Nalgene bottles, baby bottles, plastic tupperware and in the lining of canned goods, have caused much stir among scientists, environmentalists, and doctors, particularly oncologists over the last 10 years. There has been much call to remove or at least label these chemicals on products with little avail until now.

Following a ban in California and Connecticut, all phthalates are to be removed from children's toys in the United States by January 1, 2009. That is pretty quick action! To their credit, big box retailers Walmart, Toys R Us, and Target are pulling phthalate toys ASAP. The problem here is that short of testing every toy on the shelf, how will we KNOW that these imported toys are phthalate free? They weren't labeled before and historically we have not be so great with regulating manufacturing processes overseas especially with China. Well the biggest change with this bill is that it requires that all toys be tested before being sold. The current standard allows toys to be put out on the market and then recalled if they are found to be unsafe.

This brings me to a wider topic.

The Precautionary Principle.

Wikepedia defines the Precautionary Principle as a moral and political principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.

This means that if you have an idea or product, you must prove it is safe. In the European union the Precautionary Principle is law. In the US however, the burden of proof often falls on the consumer. And establishment of this proof not necessarily through science, but lawsuit. This allows either laziness or corporate greed to infiltrate our market place with unsafe goods. The danger is that new chemicals and products are not labeled so consumers are indeed the petri dish in the lab, chemicals and new products are set out among us to see how we react to them. You should feel empathy for monkeys in labs, because hopefully you just woke up and realized that you are one.

These chemicals are in so many other products, that are also used on babies and the rest of us. We need to take a much wider look at this issue, however this is a great start!

Happy Meal?

I think these videos say enough!

New Wearable Feedbags Let Americans Eat More, Move Less

Domino's Scientists Test Limits Of What Humans Will Eat