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Environment

Nov 6 2015

It’s the Climb

by Amie P

My aunt and uncle live at the base of the Superstition Mountains, just outside Phoenix, Arizona. We recently went to visit and arrived in the dark, so I was happily surprised by the awesome view they have when I stepped out onto the back patio in the morning.

“There’s our mountain!” my uncle said, then added casually, “About 8 or 9 people die out there every year.”

“These mountains?” They are beautiful, but certainly not the tallest mountains we saw on our trip. In the case of these mountains, however, size is not the problem.

“Every year people go hiking up there and they don’t bring enough water. Some make it back, some don’t. Recently a couple walked off a plane and came out here first thing. Only one came back.”

thin airUnfortunately, many climbing expeditions end that way. Mount Everest has captured the imaginations of people from around the globe, and many have tried to climb to the highest peak in the world. Over 250 people have died trying to reach the top. Reporter Jon Krakauer details the story of his personal tragedy on Mount Everest in his book Into Thin Air: a Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster. Krakauer made it to the top with his team, but not all of them made it back down.  The story is gripping and powerful, but don’t expect a happy ending.

k2Not quite as tall, but four times as deadly, Mount K2 spears up out of northern Pakistan. Ed Viesturs, a world-renowned mountaineer, details the story of this deadly mountain’s history, including his own near-miss event in which a single ice pick kept him and his climbing partner from sliding away in an avalanche. You’ll find it in K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain.

 

ledgeThese things happen in our own backyard also. The Ledge: An Adventure Story of Friendship and Survival by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan tells the story of two men who survived a cave-in that took them deep into a glacial crevasse while climbing Mount Rainier in Washington State.

 

 

summitWondering why climb mountains at all?  Check out To the Summit: Fifty Mountains that Lure, Inspire and Challenge by Joseph Poindexter. This book is a visual tour of 50 of the world’s great mountains, with full-page photographs to draw you in.  A book can’t substitute for the real thing, but this one tries its best to tempt you.

 

If you’re not ready to tackle Mount Everest, I’d recommend hiking the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.  It can be done, I will attest.

Just bring plenty of water.

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Apr 24 2015

Loving Mother Earth: Life in the Balance

by Rebekah B

sustainability graphic

Hello readers,

As an inquiring mind, I am interested in many vital subjects, including health, finding balance, sociology, and the environment. Throughout history, various cultures around the world have created, developed, and maintained very different philosophies, laws, and ways of being. These traditions directly affect the way humans interact with the planet, which provides for our needs and sustains our ability as humans to continue to live and reproduce. Some traditional hunter-gatherer cultures, such as our Native American forebears, most of which have been supplanted by more aggressively conquering cultures, constantly adapted individual human behavior to the requirements of their environment. Taking only as much as needed, these types of cultures lived in harmony with their habitat. As in the story of Cain and Abel, the hunter-gatherers were decimated by the builders of cities and civilizations. This story is very intriguingly explained in the philosophical tale Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn. In the tale, Ishmael is a wise mountain gorilla who can transmit his thoughts telepathically. He tries to locate a receptive person to share his knowledge about sustainability and the regrettable choices and collective fate of the human race.

SEEDSClub

Generally speaking, mythologies equate the planet Earth itself as a feminine figure or mother. Abundance, nurturing, and an infinite variety of creative strategies to live and adapt are just a few characteristics of our Earth.  Even in human terms, many of us think of mother figures as individuals whose lives are dedicated to giving and to serving others. A more mature perspective is perhaps one in which we not only show gratitude for those gifts, but also dedicate ourselves in service to those who have given so freely and selflessly of their time, energy, and love to us.

We live in a time in which human populations are larger than our Earth can sustain, especially given the post-industrial lifestyle that a large majority of the world would like to emulate. We know about sustainability, global warming and climate change, green energy and building practices. We know the advantages of organic farming and a mostly plant-based diet compared to the feedlot farms and widespread use of pesticides and hormones in farming. We know that clean water supplies, our most precious resource, are limited. We know that what was believed to be a panacea–better living through chemistry–is not what our hopes invested in these technologies would have produced in actuality.

sustainability-impactAnd so we need to step back, to consciously reduce greed and unlimited taking from Earth. We need to give back to our planet and live in harmony with her. In ancient China, the wise philosophy of the balancing of all energies may one day inspire us to respect the feminine, which is the more passive and receptive of the two forces–the giver of life. It is my personal hope that we may collectively learn that we cannot expand without end and use all available resources for our own benefit. The masculine energies of activity, expansion, and domination can happily be balanced by the feminine. Slowing down, enjoying family life, spending time in and with nature, creatively reusing man-made and natural products, using our ingenuity to create sustainable ways of living and producing energy, and admiring and respecting the wonders of our world are just a few ways of returning to balance. Our Earth needs our cooperation as much as we need her support. For this year’s celebration of Earth Day, please remember that we are all part of nature, and nature is part of us.  Loving and caring for our common heritage is just as important as taking care of our own bodies, our families, our homes.

DCPL owns and shares many wonderful works related to environmental awareness and self-responsibility.  Here are a few fairly recent books about sustainable living that you may find enlightening:

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz, 2013

Do-It-Yourself Sustainable Water Projects: Collect, Store, Purify, and Drill for Water by Paul Dempsey, 2013

Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, by James E. McWilliams, 2009

The Organic Family Cookbook: Growing, Greening, and Cooking Together by Anni Daulter, 2011

What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden? 100% Organic Solutions for Berries, Trees, Nuts, Vines, and Tropicals by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth, 2013

Compact Houses: 50 Creative Floor Plans for Efficient, Well-Designed Small Homes by Gerald Rowan, 2013

The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise by Garret Keizer, 2010

The Island President (DVD recording), 2011

For children:

Earth Day Everyday by Lisa Bullard, 2012

Earth Day Birthday by Maureen Wright, 2012

 

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Apr 20 2015

Nose Notes 2015

by Hope L

sneezing

Well, allergy sufferers … it could be worse.

If you’re like me and you think Atlanta has to be the absolute worst place for allergies–what with the yellow blanket of pollen and our scratchy eyes, congested head, runny nose, dry cough, and tissue after tissue–you may be surprised to learn that Atlanta is not THE worst place for allergy sufferers.  At least not according to the  Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2015 ranking of 100 U.S. cities, which puts Atlanta at a rather unimpressive #61.  Jackson, MS, took the #1 spot.

Obviously, I was not polled for this vote!  I demand a recount!  Every year I resolutely commit to do something about my allergies.  Problem is, I see many people  coughing, blowing their noses, and making horrible noises with their nasal congestion, some even wearing surgical masks, and it is nearly impossible to get anywhere near a doctor.  My bathroom cabinet is crammed with nose sprays, decongestant pills, cough drops, cough syrup, and yes–last year’s sure-fire solution to my problem–nasal filters, which after one or two humiliating times, were put back with the rest of the other failures into the cabinet.

For a while when I lived in Columbia, SC, I went the way of allergy shots.  I am not even sure if they worked, but I’m seriously considering trying them again.  At least I felt like I was doing something.

“The fundamental issue with cities is the type of plant or grasses, trees or weeds that grow in the area,” says Daniel Waggoner, MD, an allergist in Mystic, CT, who is not affiliated with the list creation but is familiar with it.  He says that cities with an exceptionally high concentration of trees, grass, or weeds may have more pollen in the air.

From the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI):

“Local environmental factors such as wind, humidity, typical temperatures–and air pollution–also play a role in allergies,” notes Miguel Wolbert, MD, an allergist in Evansville, IN. and a certified pollen counter.

(A certified pollen counter?  I kid you not.  There are also certified mold counters. Below is the information from AAAAI on the certification process.)

National Allergy Bureau (NAB) counters are certified separately as a pollen counter or as a mold counter in order to use a Burkard Spore Trap or the equivalent. Certification is offered to counting stations that agree to provide data on a timely basis to the NAB. Following the required training course(s), the candidate for certification will be required to take a web-based qualifying exam. The exam covers the basics of pollen and fungal spore aerobiology, fundamentals of microscopy, sampler operation and conversion of counts into concentration as outlined on the “Knowledge Base for Counters” developed by the NAB. Reference materials for the exam are also provided. (The exact material for the exam will be determined by the NAB Certification Committee). Following successful completion of the qualifying exam, the candidate will be permitted to take the practical exams using slides.

Pollen Counter
To be certified for pollen, a counter must successfully count and identify grass, weed and tree pollen grains on one pollen slide, which would represent spring, summer and fall pollen types in most of the continental U.S. Once the slide is graded passing, the counter will be considered a certified NAB pollen counter and eligible to count and present data for the NAB aeroallergen network.

Mold Counter
To be certified for molds, a counter must successfully count and identify molds on a single slide. Once this slide is graded successful, the counter will be considered a certified NAB mold counter and eligible to count and present data for the NAB aeroallergen network.

You can get all kinds of additional information about pollen allergy at MedlinePlus from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. As allergy sufferers know, however, nature’s good news is on the horizon–the rainy season is upon us, conveniently arriving in time to wash much of the springtime pollen away.

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Not everyone will agree with me, but I have often thought that Americans worry about the wrong things. Hmm…I suppose that statement sounds a wee bit judgmental, and maybe it is, but really–are you honestly in danger of being killed by a hurtling chunk of meteorite on any random day? What, truly, are your chances of being trampled by a runaway horse? (Although, come to think of it, I was taking a walk in my neighborhood a number of years ago and was startled to see a horse gallop across Candler Road.) Of course, the world landscape changes ever more quickly and it can be difficult, living as we do in an age of media saturation and a 24/7 news cycle, not to find ourselves wringing our hands and tempted by that always fascinating (and always unwinnable) game of what if….  This recent NPR article  from the news magazine’s ongoing coverage of the devastating Ebola epidemic provides a timely reminder to those of us in the West (and elsewhere) that the thing that is most likely to kill us is our lifestyle.

There. I said it. Our lifestyle. Cardiovascular disease, mainly heart attacks and strokes, is the No. 1 killer worldwide. Worldwide. Much of this has to do with our lifestyle in the Western world and has become a reality for the rest of the globe as they increasingly adopt fast food, tobacco, and lack of physical activity as outsourced computer jobs lock workers to desks for hours at a time.  Although I haven’t smoked in decades and have what I consider a very healthy diet, I received my own wake-up call recently when my doctor diagnosed high blood pressure. My family has a very strong (and stubborn!) genetic component–my mother has high blood pressure as did her father and many of her other relatives–but I am nonetheless determined to bring my pressure into normal range as quickly as I can.

heart_tune_upNone of us, I think, should fret and stew about potential time bombs–but if you’re ready to take some realistic steps toward reducing your risks of cardiovascular disease, DCPL has resources to help.

The following books can provide useful information for all of us interested in addressing and preventing potential risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up: A Breakthrough Medical Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Steven Masley

Heart 411: The Only Guide to Heart Health You’ll Ever Need by Marc Gillinov and Steven Nissen

Mayo Clinic Heart Healthy for Life! The Mayo Clinic Plan for Preventing and Conquering Heart Disease bloodpressuredown

Best Practices for a Healthy Heart: How to Stop Heart Disease Before or After it Starts by Sarah Samaan

Blood Pressure Down: The 10 Step Program to Lower Your Blood Pressure in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs by Janet Bond Brill

 

 

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Nov 7 2014

The Thing with Feathers…

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,

murmurations1

Who among us has never envied a bird in flight? Our mysterious neighbors, many of them so well adapted to urban life, are a subject of endless fascination.

Noah Strycker’s book, The Thing With Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human, is a delightful read, chock full of fascinating historical, scientific, and personal observations about our feathered friends.

A bird lover from childhood, Strycker shares his sense of wonder and dedication to learning about birds of all types and origins in this lyrical and well-written book. Easy to read, The Thing With Feathers will fill you with admiration and inspire you, the reader, to raise your appreciation for large and small winged creatures, some of whom may inhabit your back yard.  From the repulsively mesmerizing visual and olfactory abilities of turkey vultures (who have cast iron immune systems) to the violently competitive and over-stressed hummingbirds, from the astounding navigation skills of homing pigeons, to the friendly curiosity of penguins, Strycker does not cease to fascinate.

murder of crows

Having observed over 2,500 species, the author has spent months at a time watching birds in a variety of remote locations, including the Ecuadorian Amazon, Cape Crozier, Antarctica, the Australian outback, the jungles of Costa Rica and Panama, the Galápagos Islands, and more. Each chapter of the book is devoted to a different type of bird, whether it be a parrot or snowy owl, detailing the author’s personal experiences with these creatures while demonstrating an impressive array of scientific research illustrating the prowess of each of these avian wonders.

To share with you just a small sample of this tribute to the native intelligence and personality of these birds and how this information is relevant to the nearly naked, or at least featherless bipedals that we are, here is a short excerpt from the introduction of this captivating book:

Some bird behaviors don’t apply to humans, and those are especially fascinating and exotic: a ‘sixth’ magnetic sense (see ‘Fly Away Home: How Pigeons Get Around’), flocks that operate as magnets (see ‘Spontaneous Order: The Curious Magnetism of Starling Flocks’), and the smelling power of turkey vultures (see ‘The Buzzard’s Nostrils: Sniffing Out a Turkey Vulture’s Talents’). It’s hard to imagine having such super-powers, though birds sometimes inspire us to try.

But if you look closely enough, many seemingly incredible bird feats have human counterparts, with interesting lessons. Cooperative nesting in fairy-wrens (see ‘Fairy Helpers: When Cooperation is Just a Game’) helps illustrate why humans are usually nice to one another. The dazzling speed of hummingbirds (see ‘Hummingbird Wars: Implications of Flight in the Fast Lane’) serves as a warning about our own quickening pace of life. Snowy Owls (see ‘Snow Flurries: Owls, Invasions, and Wanderlust’) confirm that not all who wander are lost. Even the domestic chicken (see ‘Seeing Red: When the Pecking Order Breaks Down’) has something to teach us about the natural pecking order.”

parliament of owls

The Thing With Feathers is full of humor, sensitive observations, scientific data, and a compelling vision of birds as intelligent and emotional beings with distinctive individual personalities as well as an amazingly varied capacity for survival.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading each page of this lighthearted yet serious book.

DCPL has two other fascinating books related to the topic of little known aspects of animal or plant intelligence, and how this relates to us as humans:

 Images above, from top: A murmuration of starlings, a murder of crows, parliament of owls

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Oct 20 2014

PANIC!!!

by Hope L

tunn

Imagine you are venturing into a tunnel that’s been bored into the bedrock underneath the ocean and that continues straight out, hundreds of feet below the seafloor, for almost ten miles.  There is no light, besides the faint glow coming from the bulb on your helmet. There is no sound, besides the water dripping overhead or sloshing around your boots. Most important, there is no breathable air, besides what you brought in with you, a lifeline pumping through a hose and into your facemask. At the end of the tunnel, you don’t even have enough room to stand up straight, since it chokes down to just five feet in diameter before ending abruptly. It’s the world’s longest dead-end tunnel, so there’s no way out other than turning around and making the hazardous trek back to where you started.”–from the Prologue to Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey

Once, about twenty years ago in Bisbee, Arizona, I had the opportunity to go on a small rail cart into a tunnel, which led to a mine located almost a mile inside a mountain.  Upon entering the tunnel, the tour guide warned that it was the last opportunity to get off the cart and back out for those who were squeamish about such things.  As the cart slowly entered the narrow shaft into the mountain, with barely enough room for our heads and shoulders, the adrenaline in my body surged and I started to panic.  I was moving deeper and deeper inside the mountain, with no quick way out!

I had never thought about it, frankly.  Not until that very dayTra.  And from then on, I realized that I was VERY uncomfortable in certain situations: airplanes thousands of feet in the air, caves miles under the ground, and yes, narrow tunnels carved into rock a mile into a mountain.  In the above-mentioned Bisbee mine shaft there were wooden beams standing vertically in places, literally holding the mountain over our heads.

So, as I read Trapped Under the Sea by Neil Swidey, a chronicle of the engineering complexities of a tunnel built underneath Boston Harbor and carrying waste from a state-of-the-art treatment plant ten miles out to sea, I felt lucky to not be there.  I mean, the professional divers and construction workers who completed this impossible endeavor were paid to do a job.  It’s not like they would receive a gold medal, a place in the Guinness World Book of Records, or even special recognition in a newspaper or technical journal–like the engineers who devised the thing on paper, in the safety of their well-lit office, with ample oxygen, and above ground.

The premise of the task at hand was ludicrous. In order to retrieve the huge plugs that fitted over the many side outlets to sea, a team of professional divers would drive a Humvee loaded with equipment and towing a Humvee facing the opposite direction (to come back out of the tunnel). They would drive almost ten miles in the tunnel constructed under the sea floor–and they would walk once the space became too narrow for the vehicle(s).

The impossible task was eventually accomplished, but not without the ultimate sacrifice paid by workers.

I shall try to remember this when my life gets tedious, annoying and/or boring, for I choose to experience any dangerous adventures vicariously through books, thank you very much. (See the book trailer here.)

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Sep 12 2014

Ready for Fresh AND Affordable

by Rebekah B

un climate summit 2014

At DCPL, if you haven’t already taken note, we have a wonderful collection of documentary films.  A lover of the cinema and an eternal student, I am always eager to check out new additions to our collection.

As world leaders calling for restoration of ecosystems prepare to convene at the United Nations Climate Summit this September 23rd in New York City, the largest people’s demonstration on climate change is also scheduled on the morning of September 21st. In the spirit of environmental awareness, I am trying to do my part to make our society, economy, and food/health-care more sustainable. Although I am unable to attend the NYC march, I can write, watch relevant movies, exercise, buy healthy local foods, recycle and re-use items instead of buying new, travel less…and much more!

Fresh_flyer

One of the films that I recently watched and found noteworthy from our DCPL collection is Fresh: New Thinking About What We’re Eating, produced and directed by Ana Sofia Joanes in 2009.  With an outlook intended to be as objective as possible while supporting the sustainability and local food movement, the film features visits to industrial or conventional farms and to sustainable organic farms and lightly touches upon the problem of food deserts.  The film also includes interviews with farmers from both ends of the spectrum, some of whom had begun their careers as conventional farmers, later converting to organic farming, as well as urban farmers, activists, and smaller businesses promoting locally produced foods.

By visually demonstrating and comparing the processes, output, economics, and attitudes of industrial and sustainable farming, I was able to observe for myself as well as to learn from the experiences of these Americans who have devoted their lives to farming, producing and distributing food.  There is a lushness and beauty to the farms where animals and humans share information about living in harmony with nature that is so harshly lacking in the feedlots and chicken farms, where the animals appear stressed, their coats and feathers dull or literally hen-pecked. Prior to watching this film, I did not realize that industrial farmers clip the beaks on their chickens and that pigs’ tails are trimmed.  Bored and frustrated, the animals often attack one another in close quarters, where they never see the light of day.

anajoanes

Organic farmer Joel Salatin of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia demonstrates how he pastures his herd of about 300 cows in fields in which over twenty different types of grasses and wild flowering plants flourish. Conventional farm feedlots group together thousands of animals in close quarters. As in nature, in which cows naturally move to different areas over the course of a day or week to graze, Joel rotates the cows (and pigs) to varied pasture lands from day to day.  Bringing in chickens to the pastures where the cows have grazed, the birds earn their keep by picking the fly larvae from the cow manure deposited throughout the field, allowing the cows to soon return and avoid infection by parasites.

Mr. Salatin explains that sustainable farms are much more efficient and clean than industrial farms.  The animals are healthy, yet they are given no medications, and the veterinarian is almost never needed.

russkremer5

Conventional farms produce huge amounts of pollution growing grain that does not feed people, but cows (who are by nature consumers of grasses). It is expensive to produce this grain, which requires huge amounts of water and enormous quantities of pesticides.  Groundwater and soil are polluted and depleted by this process, and the natural variety of grasses that would ordinarily populate and regenerate the soil is suppressed.  Feedlot animals are regularly injected with antibiotics and consume pesticides through the grain they eat.  Their feces accumulate in large quantities and cannot be recycled because of contamination by the drugs and pesticides.  Additional pollutants are created through the gases produced by the waste.  The continuous use of low-grade antibiotics causes bacteria to mutate, creating strains that are antibiotic resistant, affecting animals and humans alike and creating risk of untreatable infections. The meats produced by grain-fed cows and pigs are also unhealthy because of concentrations of pesticides, antibiotics, and omega 6 fats accumulating in the meat from the high carbohydrate diet.

ChickensInBatteryCageslg

Conventional farmers interviewed in the film complain that they have difficulty finding people to work all shifts in their plants, particularly in the processing areas, because of unhealthy conditions.  It becomes clear that going against nature is expensive, inefficient, unhealthy, unpleasant and sometimes life threatening to both people and animals.

Today, we face a quandary.  Large industrial farms receive federal government grants to raise grain that does not feed people.  These single crop farms threaten plant and animal diversity and are creating an environmental disaster.  By producing local food even in urban areas, we can lower the costs of creating sufficient, healthy, fresh foods and make them affordable and available to everyone in the country, including low income families in urban areas.  By watching this film, while already convinced of the necessity to make healthy and local foods available at reasonable cost to our entire population, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location, I feel the urgency to help people become more aware of the environmental consequences of conventional agriculture in this country.

industrial vs conventional farming

As consumers, the film notes that each purchase we make is a vote, a demonstration of each of our voices in the democratic process. By purchasing local foods, we are supporting the sustainable movement.  By supporting organic farms that produce quality products, we are supporting our economies and producing jobs in places where people enjoy their work and are well paid for the work they do.  Animals who are raised in accordance with the laws of nature are happier and healthier, and the interconnected process of sustainable farming ensures sufficient food for everyone at a lower cost with infinite benefits for all.  The rear panel of the jacket of a documentary new to DCPL, Fed Up, reads: “This generation will live shorter lives than their parents. By 2050, one out of every three Americans will have diabetes.”  If this is not a wake-up call to change your family’s eating and buying habits and to take action to change the American way of life for the better, I don’t know what is!

basket of veggies

Industrial agriculture and feedlots are responsible for the production of more greenhouse gases than the burning of fossil fuels, to the order of at least 18% (in 2008) according to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  An Indian economist and vegetarian, Dr. Pachauri recommends a reduction in the consumption of meats as an important personal contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases and the global warming effect.  Choosing to eat grass-fed organic meats or organic poultry is also a good choice. Whatever decisions you consciously make in this direction contribute to the return to balance of man’s relationship with nature.  Your stomach will thank you!

A selection of documentaries on sustainable living and health, the environment, and climate change in the DCPL collections:

Fed Up  2014

Hungry for Change 2012

Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? 2010

Plastic Planet 2009

Burning the Future: Coal in America 2008

Carbon Nation  2011

Children of the Tsunami 2011

Garbage Warrior  2007

No Impact Man 2008

Food, Inc. 2008

Blue Gold World Water Wars 2008

Car of the Future 2008

Farmageddon 2011

It’s a Big Big World. The Earth Needs You: Recycling and Caring for the Environment 2007

Freeze, Freeze, Fry: Climate Past, Present, and Future  2007

The Science of Climate Change 2014

Sustainability in the 21st Century 2008

Tapped  2010

The Garden 2008

Fast Food Nation  2006

Business Advice for Organic Farmers 2012

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May 9 2014

Deadly Adventure

by Hope L

everestGeorge Mallory and Andrew Irvine disappeared trying to do it in 1924.  Some believe they were actually the first. Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary finally did it in 1953 and had the film footage to prove it.

Many have since climbed to the summit of Mount Everest, but almost 200 have died trying–most recently 16 Sherpa guides who were killed in an avalanche in April while hauling supplies on the mountain.

Into Thin Air:  A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, written by Jon Krakauer and published in 1997 (which I had read a few years back and read again now after the April tragedy) tries to explain why so many, including the author,  have found climbing Everest irresistible.

But the rewards of the endeavor of summiting Everest (the beauty, the awesome thrill of the senses, and the feeling of accomplishment of this amazing feat) are eclipsed by Krakauer’s vivid account of the danger, the ethical dilemmas, the ego trips and the sometimes gruesome effects of climbing at 25,000 feet.  As the recent avalanche in the news and previous tragedies prove, the book’s cover also relates a dark side of the mountain:

“When Jon Krakauer reached the summit of Mt. Everest in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996, he hadn’t slept in fifty-seven hours and was reeling from the brain-altering effects of oxygen depletion. As he turned to begin his long, dangerous descent from 29,028 feet, twenty other climbers were still pushing doggedly toward the top.  No one had noticed that the sky had begun to fill with clouds.  Six hours later and 3,000 feet lower, in 70-knot winds and blinding snow, Krakauer collapsed in his tent, freezing, hallucinating from exhaustion and hypoxia, but safe.  The following morning he learned that six of his fellow climbers hadn’t made it back to their camp and were in a desperate struggle for their lives.  When the storm finally passed, five of them would be dead, and the sixth so horribly frostbitten that his right hand would have to be amputated.”

There is more than enough concern to go around. The consensus among many climbers is that tour companies running the expeditions (obtaining permits, visas, supplying tents, food and guides) often present the experience as something for practically anyone who has the time and money.  Also, tourism is the lifeblood of the small towns in the area. Krakauer’s account is nothing short of amazing, filled with details and even quotes from criticisms of his own actions/inactions on that fateful expedition.

 

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Apr 7 2014

Nose Notes

by Hope L

sneezingSpring has sprung and so have the faucets for hay fever sufferers–our noses are running, ears draining, eyes itching, throats rasping and heads throbbing.

As I lay awake the other night, hacking and sneezing sporadically, with my arsenal of tissues with aloe, cough drops, and a cabinet full of drugstore attempts at fighting my misery, I wondered why someone had  not yet invented a way to cover the nose to prevent allergies in the first place. I mean, we put a man on the moon, right? A person could get rich. Hey!!! Wait a minute…

That person could be me! I could go on Shark Tank and the sharks would all fight over little ol’ me with my nose filter. (I could call it NasaStop or Hay-Free, or Cry No More.)

Well, somebody has beaten me to the punch.

Look what I found at WebMD:  “Could ‘Nasal-Filter’ Device Help Ease Allergies?”

THURSDAY, March 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A new device that you wear in your nose — about the size of a contact lens and works like a miniature air filter for a furnace — might help filter out pollen and other allergens and keep them out of your sinuses.

A small study reports that this nasal filter could reduce daily sneezing by an average of 45 percent and daily runny nose by an average of 12 percent. The device, with the brand name Rhinix, is not yet commercially available.

“We found clinically relevant reductions in daily nasal symptoms with Rhinix compared to placebo, especially in sneezing, itching and runny nose symptoms,” said Peter Kenney, the study’s lead author.

Kenney, who’s a medical and doctoral student at Aarhus University in Denmark, is the inventor of the nasal filter. He’s the founder and CEO of the company that has filed an application for approval of the device by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Go to WebMD for the complete article.)

Shark Tank will just have to wait until my next great idea…

 

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commandEric Schlosser’s new book keeps me up at night.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser, that is.   He scared the willies out of me with Fast Food Nation and now this.   I do appreciate the way nuclear fission is explained fairly clearly for laypeople like me.  The book gives a brief history of the Manhattan Project and the events leading up to the use of nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and it relates frightening  tales of what has occurred since.

Here is Publisher’s Weekly‘s summary:

“In 1980 in rural Damascus, Ark., two young Air Force technicians (one was 21 years old, the other 19) began a routine maintenance procedure on a 103-foot-tall Titan II nuclear warhead-armed intercontinental ballistic missile. All was going according to plan until one of the men dropped a wrench, which fell 70 feet before hitting the rocket and setting off a chain reaction with alarming consequences. After that nail-biting opening, investigative reporter Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) goes on to tell the thrilling story of the heroism, ingenuity, mistakes, and destruction that followed. At intervals, he steps back to deliver an equally captivating history of the development and maintenance of America’s nuclear arsenal from WWII to the present. Though the Cold War has ended and concerns over nuclear warfare have mostly been eclipsed by the recent preoccupation with terrorist threats, Schlosser makes it abundantly clear that nukes don’t need to be launched to still be mind-bogglingly dangerous. Mixing expert commentary with hair-raising details of a variety of mishaps, the author makes the convincing case that our best control systems are no match for human error, bad luck, and ever-increasing technological complexity. “Mutually assured destruction” is a terrifying prospect, but Schlosser points out that there may be an even more frightening possibility: self-assured destruction.”

Mind-boggingly dangerous, indeed!  What is suprising to me is that we have been so lucky thus far.

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