Make America AWAKE Again

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One is not enough

The title of this article is a spin on the famous slogan that was successfully used during the election campaign to make Donald Trump the president of the United States. The slogan “Make America Great Again” raises some interesting questions such as, when exactly was this great time we are attempting to return to? “Make America Great” without the “Again” part might have been a better choice. I think a more important question to ask though is why do we continue to believe one single human is capable of changing a nation of nearly 320 million people in a meaningful way ? During these past 8 years Barack Obama showed us this is simply not possible despite some very inspired voters that hoped it was. He obviously accomplished many great things during his time in office, and there is a complicated explanation for why he didn’t accomplish more, but he alone was not enough. A person like the Dalai Lama can be an effective leader of many people, though I would argue that is because he is much more of a spiritual leader than a political leader. It always helps to have a great leader, and to have your preferred candidate in the White House, but we need to be realistic about our expectations of being saved by one single person.

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Celebrate Buy Nothing Day!

From Adbusters.org

 

It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving is this Thursday, snow is already falling in the Eastern US, and Christmas is only one month away. Are you ready for the holiday season? Beyond eating turkey dinners with family and hanging festive lights, a new tradition has emerged. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has become famous for low sales prices, all night shopping, and busy shoppers crossing gifts off their lists. Once again, you ask why would this topic be included on a website dedicated to agriculture, food, health, and the environment? And once again I reply, as I did a couple weeks ago during the US Elections, because “everything is connected”.

Tradition, holiday, or religion?

It is no secret that Americans love to shop, and it has become well established over the past few decades that the holiday season is a profitable time for retailers, but what does this mean for the health of our society and our planet? It appears that the act of buying gifts for family has moved beyond the status of tradition to that of an actual holiday. Rather than being a small task that we do for those we love as we celebrate the larger purposes of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and the New Year, there is now an entire day dedicated to shopping. The only thing missing is a Congressional declaration that Black Friday is an official US holiday. So shopping has arguably transformed beyond the status of tradition into that of a holiday, but does it stop there? As each year becomes more and more extreme the temptation arises to label shopping the new American religion. Retailers once opened their doors at normal operating hours until some of them thought it would be a good idea to open a few hours earlier. Like the US-Russian Cold War, an arms race ensued and eventually some stores started opening at midnight. Of course, it didn’t stop there, and some stores now even open on Thursday evening, barely late enough for most people to have digested their pumpkin pie. It appears to me as though the holidays have completely lost their meaning. Sorry if I’m stating the obvious here, but do we really believe that Americans are thankful for the kindness offered to them by our Native American hosts? Are we thankful for the rich and fertile soils, which are necessary to produce the abundance of foods that fill our plates? Do we celebrate the birth and life of Christ, or are we more focused on getting that new smart phone we asked for?

Buy Nothing Day

As consumerism spreads like bacteria across America’s borders into the emerging markets of Brazil, China and beyond, the planet is being devoured by our wants and needs. It would be bad enough if all 7 billion of us were simply shopping for the items we actually needed (in reality there are probably only 1-2 billion of us wealthy enough to shop). Instead, we shop for items that we merely want, or even worse we try to make ourselves happy by seeking the entertainment of some new toy that we quickly forget about. I suspect we are trying to fill an empty spiritual void with material possessions. Speaking from my formal education in Environmental Science, I would strongly argue that the planet is not able to supply our endless demands. I don’t want to sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas, but the truth is that Christmas was already stolen, by Walmart. Or did Walmart sell Christmas? Either way, if you want to show your love for somebody by buying a gift they would truly appreciate then I honestly see no harm in that. One sign of the problem here is seeing shoppers who view gift giving as a stressful chore they must endure, so they buy family members things they don’t even want or need simply to complete their duty. By now, you’ve probably heard enough, so you may be wondering what kind of action can be taken. Perhaps you should try taking no action. Buy Nothing Day has emerged as a global movement in response to Black Friday. However, if you must buy a gift then consider purchasing it from a local business, or making it yourself. Ask yourself what the person really needs, whether they will actually appreciate it, and if there is an environmentally friendly version of the product available. Instead of an item you could also purchase an experience such as a massage or a float tank session for your family member.

From buynothingday.co.uk

From buynothingday.co.uk

Mind, body, spirit

Now that Black Friday is a holiday, and Santa Claus is a corporate executive, where do we go from here? Economists always tell us that we need to grow the economy, but can the planet sustain nonstop consumerism while population rises to 9 billion and beyond? If shopping really is an attempt to fill a spiritual void with a material possession then it is probably time to reconnect to the spiritual world. Ayurveda tells us to eat organic kale for a healthy body, and to get good sleep for a rested mind, but we can’t forget the spirit. This holiday season instead of worshipping at the church of the shopping mall, consider spending some time in the wilderness on a winter hike, or take a trip to a sunny destination to connect with nature. If you must shop then be mindful, and don’t forget to have a very happy Buy Nothing Day!

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Everything’s connected: US Election results

The phrase “everything’s connected” is often used within the spiritual community to describe their feelings and experiences on a higher level of consciousness. Ecological and Environmental Scientists also frequently use the phrase in reference to the cause and effect relationships between plants, animals, microorganisms, chemicals, climate, and many other factors that play a role in the web of life. This phrase also applies to Ayurveda, preventive medicine and human health. Recently, a visitor to this website commented on what he perceived as a lack of focus regarding the topics posted here. I appreciated this critique and interpreted it as, there is a lot of information being offered here beyond what you might find from a typical health site. In this fast paced modern world people are overwhelmed with information and they need to find quick and easy advice, so I understand his criticism. Posting an article about the US elections results may at first glance seem to be another out of focus topic, but hopefully the following will demonstrate that everything really is connected, including human health and American politics.

 

GMO Labeling campaign contributor Dr Bronner's

GMO Labeling supporter and campaign contributor Dr Bronner’s. From Facebook.com/drbronner

 

GMO Labeling

Some might say that if voters can’t approve GMO labeling in the foodie paradise that is Oregon then it can’t pass anywhere. However, the story is not that simple, specifically Monsanto and other agrichemical companies outspent their opponents by 12 million dollars and saturated the TV with their advertisements. Just as in Washington, surveys showed support for labeling in the weeks prior to the election, but in the end the Oregon measure lost by only 1%. What does it mean when corporations spend millions more than their opponents yet barely win? It demonstrates the power corporations have influencing important decisions that affect our food and health, and it also demonstrates that this fight is certainly not over. I imagine Bob Marley singing about Monsanto when he says:

 

“If you are the big tree, let me tell you that, we are the small axe, sharp and ready, ready to cut you down, to cut you down”

Lyrics for Small Axe, performed by Bob Marley

 

Bob Marley

From bobmarley.com

 

Recreational Cannabis

Speaking of Bob Marley… the pioneering spirit of the Pacific Northwest motivated voters there to blaze a new trail for the rest of the nation to follow, as they often do. The momentum generated by Colorado and Washington State continued as citizens in Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC voted to legalize the recreational use of Cannabis. Whether or not you decide to partake should be your decision alone, and not that of the government. Let’s be honest here, this is only a plant, and for a country to criminalize the consumption of Cannabis, yet declare itself “the land of the free, and home of the brave”, is quite simply ridiculous. Not only is Cannabis a plant, but it is also believed to have many medicinal properties. In this case the will of the voters prevailed partly due to a lack of major corporate opposition. Citizens in 4 US states now have safe and legal access to a natural plant medicine that has potential to replace pharmaceuticals and their associated harmful side effects. More importantly they can do this without having to get a prescription from a doctor which empowers them to take control of their health.

 

“So you’ve got to legalize it, and don’t criticize it, legalize it, yeah, yeah, and I will advertise it”

Lyrics from Legalize it, performed by Peter Tosh

 

The urban blues

The US map Wednesday morning looked like it was completely painted red, with a few blue dots where the major cities are. The red Republicans took control of the congress from the blue Democrats. How is this change of power connected to health and preventive medicine? A quick analysis of the Republican’s environmental philosophy should help answer that question. Common sense tells us that without a clean environment we have nothing, no air to breathe, water to drink, or food to eat. Yet the Republican philosophy seems to be the opposite; “remove the burdensome environmental regulations that prevent us from growing the economy” is their rallying call. Sure, we all benefit from a strong economy, but growing the economy while destroying the environment is a recipe for disaster. I suppose it all boils down to whether you believe that in the end technology will save us. Should we pollute our clean rivers to make money, and then spend that money building machines to clean our drinking water? This is the political party that calls climate change a hoax, this is the party that blocks the designation of wilderness areas, and this is the party that fought a national health care system until the bitter end. I might sound like a frustrated Democrat (I’m actually independent), but all I really want to know is why a party that calls themselves conservative seems to understand very little about conserving the natural resources that we all depend upon. Yes, everything is connected, and the people you vote for will either protect our environment or sell it to the highest bidder. The League of Conservation voters, not to be confused with the league of conservative voters, is a great resource this time of year. Their scorecards tell you exactly how the incumbent candidates previously voted on important environmental legislation.

 

“Tell me man, can you eat your money?”

Lyrics from Money, performed by The John Butler Trio

 

Was Agent Smith a Republican?

Was Agent Smith a Republican?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sattvic Nation?

Admittedly, the scope of this site can be quite wide at times, and while politics may seem completely unrelated to preventive medicine, this past election shows us that everything really is connected. How we vote determines whether we are eating GMO foods, have access to potentially medicinal plants, and choose leaders who are good stewards of our natural resources. We are what we eat, and yes we also are what we vote for.

 

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LSD made Steve Jobs “Think Different”

Artwork by Symbolika

Artwork by Symbolika

 

This weekend marks the anniversary of Steve Jobs death, and for me it marks my day of birth. Three years ago, on what I can only describe as a serendipitous day, I celebrated my birthday with the purchase of the first Apple computer I have ever owned, and on the exact same day learned that the man responsible for creating my new computer had just died. Prior to that day I had never once taken the time to think about Jobs, yet since then I have discovered much about the man who is arguably one of the greatest inventors of modern times, culminating last month in me listening to his autobiography audiobook.

Think Different

Apple ran an advertising campaign in 1997 called Think Different, and based on some of the following quotes Jobs really did think different following his consumption of LSD. In the Steve Jobs autobiography written by Walter Isaacson, Jobs is quoted as saying:

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could”

In John Markoff’s book, What the Dormouse Said, Jobs describes his experiences with LSD as:

“One of the two or three most important things I have done in my life”

Jobs is also on record with the US Department of Defense as having admitted to using LSD 10-15 times and describing the experiences as:

“A positive life changing experience”

 

Artwork by Symbolika

Artwork by Symbolika

 

World’s most valuable company

What exactly can we learn about these honest confessions describing some extremely personal moments from his life? Many people suspect that psychedelic substances have the potential to enhance creativity in people, and Jobs said that taking LSD was a positive, profound, life changing experience that altered how he saw the world, so naturally there is some speculation that LSD played a role in the enormous success of Jobs and his company Apple. Just how successful has Apple become? It is considered to be the most valuable company on the planet with a valuation of approximately $600+ billion dollars during 2014. A few years ago Apple took that title from the reigning champion Exxon. It is important to note that Exxon is a company that exists simply to extract resources, a process that leads to the destruction of the planet in forms such as ocean oil spills, climate change and air pollution. Unregulated resource extraction for the past few centuries has been one of the most common ways to generate wealth in America; coal, lumber, and seafood are only a few examples. Perhaps we are seeing a glimmer of hope that the most valuable company is now one that exists to create and not to destroy.

 

steve jobs locus

Meditating on a Mac in the lotus pose.

 

The war on drugs

If you think about it the connection between LSD and Apple’s success is really quite fascinating. Apple is an American company, and America’s political system is dominated by capitalism. The leaders of this country would like to see nothing more than the birth of a hugely popular, market dominating investment opportunity like Apple. At the same time the leaders of this country have decided that nearly all psychedelics are illegal and have no medicinal purposes despite a massive amount of traditional knowledge supporting the opposite. Medicines like ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, san pedro / huachuma have been used by indigenous people for thousands of years. Steve Jobs took LSD even though it was illegal, and it is very possible that his psychedelic experiences played such a major role in altering his consciousness that he was able to create products that were innovative enough for his company to be the most valuable on the planet. Jobs had a vision for his products that left most of his competitors scrambling to keep pace with him. Where did this vision come from and why were his competitors unable to see what he saw? The US criminalizes people for simply trying to alter their consciousness and is a fiercely capitalistic country, yet it is entirely possible that psychedelics helped Jobs build the world’s most valuable company, so I wonder what the investors on Wall Street would have to say if the war on drugs had actually succeeded in deterring Jobs from LSD.

India, Buddhism, Meditation, and Diet

It is important to note the many other factors that made an impact on Jobs and likely played a role in his success, including his trips to India in search of his greater purpose in life. Jobs was also a Buddhist, known to practice meditation, and nearly obsessive about eating healthy food which to him often meant being vegan. Psychedelics may not be for everyone, but they seemed to have changed Jobs life, and to imagine him not taking them because of their legal status, and perhaps not having the vision to create Apple would be a great loss to our culture. I know some people are critics of Apple and they will argue that the world would be no different whether or not Apple ever existed, but if you stop and look at his long list of pioneering efforts even the greatest critic has to admit that his accomplishments were impressive. It is impossible to know how much of a role psychedelics played in Jobs life, and it is impossible to know what the world would be like without Apple, but judging by his quotes on LSD I’m willing to say these substances hold much potential for technological innovations and spiritual advances in our lives.

 

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Weapons of Mass Distraction

You are what you watch

You are what you watch

WAKE UP!!!

Last week my yoga instructor said the American society has been attacked by Weapons of Mass Distractions. I think he was referring to things like TV, advertisements, video games, casinos, professional sports, smartphones, mainstream media, and the everyday culture you experience at the office, grocery store, and even in your neighborhood. The WMDs are exploding all around us, and we are all the victims, so how do we wake up from these distractions? It’s not an easy question to answer. I know we all think that we are awake; there is a Starbucks on every corner, but that is not the type of awake I’m talking about. If you’re not one of the fortunate few who wonders if there is more to life than the next episode of America’s favorite TV show then perhaps you need to be blasted into consciousness. Many people have profound experiences while experimenting with various chemicals during summer music festivals with their friends, though I don’t think that is the ideal scenario. If you really want to get serious about this then you may even consider participating in a medicinal plant ceremony with an Amazonian shaman. Of course chemicals are not the only way of being awakened, though they can be fast and powerful tools. A less intense method might involve beginning the practices of breathing, meditation, yoga, or float tank therapy. Another option might be to substitute your daily mind numbing activities with something more stimulating, such as listening to these episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast…

JRE498

The Joe Rogan Experience

I know the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) podcast is not for everybody. For example, as a martial artist and a commentator for mixed martial arts, often times professional fighting is discussed on his show; which is probably a turnoff for some people. What I find fascinating about the JRE is that he is one of the most famous people I know that openly discusses taboo subjects with his guests, and there are thousands, if not millions of people listening to him every week. Joe’s guests often include fighters and comedians, as you might expect from a man who is a fighter and a comedian, though they are not the guests who I normally listen to, but if you know what to look for there are some real gems in his archive of podcasts. Among my favorites are the episodes with Amber Lyons and Aubrey Marcus discussing in great detail their trips to the Peruvian Amazon where they participated in traditional Ayahuasca healing ceremonies conducted by a native shaman using plant medicines. There is no place else on the internet that I know of where you can find such lengthy and highly detailed conversations about these subjects, led by such a well known moderator, and listened to by so many people. He may not be the best choice for academics or the spiritually advanced, but I see that as his strength. Because Joe speaks in a language that appeals to the common person he reaches a wide audience of people that normally wouldn’t be exposed to his message. Though it is difficult to measure, I imagine that Joe and his guests are responsible for waking many people from a life unconscious. One of my good friends owns a float tank studio, and many clients report on their first session that they first learned about floating from Joe.

JRE-amber lyon

Conscious Consumption

When I talk about being awake, or attaining consciousness you might think of some mystical eastern religious concept that is difficult to relate to, but I’m simply referring to the act of being aware of your surroundings and considering the consequences of your actions. Life is really just a long series of decisions and the choices we make constantly shape our bodies and the world around us. What should I do with my free time, watch TV, or read a book? How should I go to the store, in a car, or by bike? What should I do with this waste, compost it, or throw it in the garbage? Should I sit down to eat my meal on a plate, or order it to go in a disposable container? What should I eat for breakfast, a donut, or some whole foods? Do I need to buy the newest smartphone or does my old phone still serve me well? Do I feel good about my career, and does my job make the world a better place? Taking a look around I think it is safe to say that a majority of the American people are distracted and unconscious. Our consumption is high, our health is poor, and we are killing the planet we depend on for survival.

In Ayurveda

Everyday, we are surrounded by a constant stream of distractions. The billboards on the side of the highway, the commercials playing on the radio, the incoming messages on your phone, and the big football game Sunday afternoon. Some of them are desired, and others are annoying, but they are both distractions. They are a source of constant noise that prevents us from listening to our bodies, observing our natural environment, and focusing on the things that really matter. With advancements in technology, and the increased sophistication of capitalism it has become more difficult than ever to escape these Weapons of Mass Distraction. This is why including breathing, meditation, yoga, or float tank therapy into your routine is beneficial. I can’t recommend psychedelics from an Ayurvedic perspective, but I know they are extremely powerful, and can quickly cause people to examine their lives and ask why they do what they do. In some cases they may be appropriate when used responsibly.

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Make kale chips and save money (recipe)

Brassicas comp 17.indd

Who doesn’t like chips?

You’ve probably noticed the explosion of chip varieties over the past few years at the grocery store. Not long ago your only options were in the form of potatoes or corn, but we now have access to sweet potato, beet, bean, and rice chips. One of the most recent additions to the chip aisle are the kale chips. I was checking out one of the new products recently and had mixed reactions to what I was seeing. I was happy to discover the product was made using all organic ingredients, and there is no doubt that kale should be a healthy ingredient in most people’s diet. In my earlier post, Bitter is better, eating wilder foods, I shared Jo Robinson’s suggestion that everybody should definitely eat more cruciferous vegetables from the brassicaceae family. Examples of these plants include brussels sprout, broccoli, rutabaga, and kale. The part I struggled with the most while examining this new product was the price. The chips looked voluminous, but they were being sold in tiny servings of around 2 ounces for around $9. Out of curiosity I pulled out my smartphone calculator and did the math; these healthy, tasty treats sold for approximately $67 per pound! I then walked down to the produce section and saw locally grown organic kale being sold for about $2.50 per bunch. If each bunch is around 1.5 ounce after dehydration then I could buy a pound of kale chip ingredients for $27, not including all the flavorings. The price obviously drops even further if you are growing the kale in your backyard.

20140810_120827

Wastelandia

The price was obviously a major deterrent for me, but the packaging was also slightly disturbing. To protect these delicate little treats from being crushed into kale dust they are served in rigid plastic containers. I don’t know, as an Environmental Scientist maybe I’m the only person who sees the folly here. I notice things like that, and I understand why we have reason to be concerned about our wasteful society. Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch yet? Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that each of us eat many pounds of food each day, and plastic has become such an integral part of our industrial food system that he have now reached the point where we package mere ounces of food in large plastic containers. If we are packaging food by the ounce, and we eat pounds of food per day, and there are 7 billion of us, and our population is projected to grow to at least 9 billion… Well, you get the picture. The picture looks like a giant patch of plastic waste floating in the North Pacific Ocean.

Ignorance is bliss

Sorry if I’ve depressed you, but now is the time where I introduce some good news and empower you to make right the wrongs of the world. They weren’t lying when they said that ignorance is bliss, but I’d much rather be aware even if it can be a downer sometimes, especially since there are an abundance of solutions available. Now, who wants to learn how to make some healthy, tasty, organic, cruciferous, affordable, low waste snacks??

20140810_112533

Kale Chip Recipe

1 bunch of kale

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

1/8 teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt

black pepper grinder

Cut kale leaves into large pieces and remove the stems. Place kale in a large glass oven dish and be careful not to overlap the pieces. Drizzle one large spoon of olive oil over the kale. It would be ideal if you have some kind of refillable squeeze sprayer. Simply spray a few times until most of the kale has been lightly coated. Sprinkle the salt evenly over the kale; it is surprising how far even a little salt and oil can go, so try not to use too much. Season with a couple rotations on the pepper grinder if desired. Place the uncovered dish in a 350 degree preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. They are not finished if still soft, tough and moist, but will be overdone if they become brown/black or excessively crispy. After they are cool and dehydrated store them in a glass container in the fridge or in the pantry. I like to double or triple the recipe and fill all the shelves of my oven for maximum efficiency. Like any recipe your results will vary based on many different factors, so if the first batch isn’t perfect then you will have to adjust the temp, time, or quantity of seasoning. Of course you don’t need to be limited to salt and pepper, as there are an infinite number of spice possibilities available. In fact, many of the new kale chip companies do offer some good ideas for flavor, and seem to be offering a high quality product. I think their intentions are great, and hesitate to criticize, but the reality is that there is a better way of adding kale to your diet, and that way is much cheaper, and much less wasteful.

That’s all for now,

CIAO

 

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Occupy Farmer’s Markets!

“Now let’s start by, making it clear, who is the enemy here, and let’s show them, that it’s not them, who is superior”

-From the lyrics for Marching the Hate Machines into the Sun, performed by Thievery Corporation and featuring The Flaming Lips

 

I have occasionally spoken negatively of corporations in previous articles posted on this website. With an introductory quote like the one above you must think I’m about to declare all corporations evil. Are they all evil, do we need to purge ourselves of their existence, and is there a better way of doing business in this world? The answers I believe are no, sometimes, and definitely yes, respectively. I would never make such a sweeping statement as to say that all corporations are bad, and as a matter of fact I have spent the past several months researching whether I want to start a business of my own. The following paragraphs attempt to briefly draw a connection between the role of modern corporations and our health since, after all, health and environment are the primary themes of this website.

Wall St versus Main St

The Occupy movement that swept across the US a couple years ago attempted to demonstrate, among many other ideas, the increasingly disproportionate amount of wealth acquired by the top 1% of Americans compared with the remainder of the population. Because money equates to power and influence in the American political system, the Occupy movement wanted to raise awareness of the control that a tiny minority exerted over a vast majority. Beyond these massive societal issues are questions such as what are the costs to our health and the planet’s health when profit is always placed as the number one pursuit of a publicly traded corporation. The dominant business model in America is without a doubt; profit first, people second, and planet third, at least to the extent that the customers and laws allow for. When the primary purpose of a publicly traded corporation is to make a profit then people and planet are often exploited. This exploitation will continue until the customers get upset and their negative perception of the company begins to reduce profit, or until the questionable practices are challenged in court. There must be a better way…

Planet first, people second, and profit third

What happens when a company tries to reverse the order of priorities mentioned above? Sometimes it proves to be quite successful such as when a company like Whole Foods thrives off the selling of natural and organic food. In this case we even saw conventional companies like Walmart trying follow in the steps of Whole Foods, as was the case when they attempted to get into the business of selling some organic food. Similarly we see the launch of pioneering electric car company Tesla being followed by the other major car manufacturers attempting to develop more efficient and less polluting cars of their own. I use these examples to show that it is possible to have profitable corporations that can provide their customers with the services they need while limiting their impact on human and planetary health in the process. Sure, we could spend all day debating whether Whole Foods and Tesla have truly sustainable business models, but you get the point, they are a step in the right direction.

We are what we buy

It can be so easy to always point our fingers at the big bad corporations when in reality we should often be pointing our fingers at the mirror as the number one enemy we face on our path towards health and sustainability. We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”, but what if we shifted that to “you are what you buy”. Corporations may seem evil for their destructive practices, and for selling their disease causing products, but the reality is that they would not exist if we didn’t continuously give them our money. This of course brings us to the slogan, “vote with your dollars”. While the top 1% of the wealthiest Americans are clearly voting with their dollars by lobbying politicians, the remainder of the 99% can also use our money to vote. No, we probably can’t afford to make a major contribution to a Senator’s election campaign, but we can purchase products that are non-toxic, low impact, healthy, all natural, environmentally responsible, organic, fair traded, and/or locally produced. Better yet, we can exert our influence over corporations by simply not buying a product, and I’m not only talking about boycotts, I’m also talking about reducing our consumption; “minimize it, and don’t criticize it”.

eat local

In Ayurveda…

One of the major benefits of Ayurvedic preventive medicine is that there is little need for major corporations. This system of medicine has been in existence for thousands of years, long before the modern corporation was ever conceived. We may need a few companies to responsibly import herbs and spices to the US, but other than that most Ayurvedic lifestyle practices can be performed using commonly available foods. These lifestyle practices can be performed by you alone, or maybe with the guidance of a practitioner depending on your level of knowledge. Everyone wants to be healthy and happy, but if that is what we really want then we need to stop and ask whether the food and products we purchase are actually making us healthy, and contributing to our happiness. More often than not we are buying products that we don’t really need, or even worse, products that are destroying our health and the health of the Earth. There are many small scale, local companies that are genuinely trying to run responsible businesses, and it is important that we give them our support. The Occupy movement started a conversation in America that continues to this day, now it is time to take advantage of the summer season and Occupy our Farmer’s Markets.

Happy Summer Solstice!!!

 

 

The “Integrity Food” Revolution

 

WATCH THIS EPISODE!

WATCH THIS EPISODE!

“A sure sign sir, that we live in a mad mad world is when a person has sane ideas and he comes across as a revolutionary”

-Joe Rogan referring to Joel Salatin

Industrial versus biological agriculture

Charismatic farmer Joel Salatin recently appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast to discuss the philosophy behind his successful business, Polyface Farms, and the current ideology of the modern industrial food system. Salatin first came to widespread attention in the US when he was featured in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Palatin begins the interview with Rogan by making the revolutionary claim that animals are supposed to move. To anybody who has ever seen a deer run, or a bird fly, this statement seems so obvious that it is not even worth saying. Yet a majority of our entire food system is based around the practice of animal confinement where animals are indoors standing on concrete floors without access to such basic requirements as sunshine, fresh air or green grass. Some call it the industrial food system, and others call it factory farming, either way Salatin describes the primary flaw of that type of agriculture as viewing animals from a mechanical perspective instead of a biological perspective. Raising animals is not the same as building iPhones, and Salatin provides countless examples of why that is.

Nutrient dense and pasture raised

To briefly summarize the Polyface Farm philosophy, Salatin raises his animals outdoors on green grass, and he does this by letting multiple species of animal access a portion of pasture in successive waves. First the cows pass, then the layer chickens, followed by the meat chickens, next come the turkeys, and finally the pigs. All this movement is achieved through a form of intensive management that utilizes simple electric fencing. To highlight the benefits, Salatin describes the high nutrient density of pastured pork versus factory pork. The pork industry had the famous slogan, “pork, the other white meat”, yet the absurdity of this slogan is evident in the fact that pork should be pink and not white. The pink color results from blood flow through the tissues and occurs only when the animals get regular exercise. This pink color also is an indicator of iron in the meat, so the pork industry was attempting to sell their product by boasting of the low nutrient content of their meat. Salatin provided many other examples such as the high folic acid levels of pastured versus factory eggs, and the high riboflavin level of pastured versus factory beef. I find it fascinating that Salatin claims riboflavin has calming effects, we don’t each much pastured beef in the US, and we don’t seem like a very calm society do we? A demonstration of food as medicine perhaps?

Antibiotic free

Increasingly people are becoming familiar with the food label, “free of antibiotics”, but have you ever wondered why all our food has antibiotics in it to begin with? According to Salatin the excessive use of antibiotics is simply a result of highly crowded animal confinement. The poor air quality in these dirty environments is abrasive to animal lungs, and as a result pathogens are able to invade the animals through their damaged lungs. Rather than viewing animals from a biological perspective the industrial food industry views animal sickness as a mechanical problem. Instead of simply giving the animals access to fresh air they decided to give them a steady diet of drugs to fight off the inevitable pathogen illnesses. Bacteria are not all bad, Salatin explains that giving the animals access to pasture, or even using compostable bedding are simple methods that can be used to let the good micro organisms defeat the bad. In fact, he states that the default mode of nature is for health and not disease. We only perceive this constant battle against disease because we have developed systems that allow pathogens to thrive.

Artificial people

I really hope you can take the time to listen to this podcast because my summary can’t adequately convey the importance of Salatin’s message, which is basically that the industrial system of agriculture is bad for the animals, bad for the planet, and therefore bad for us. He explained his philosophy best by paraphrasing Sir Albert Howard, known as one of the founders of modern organic agriculture: “when you use artificial manure (fertilizers) in the soil it makes artificial plants, which make artificial animals, which then become food that makes artificial people who can only stay alive using artificials”. Howard said that during the 1940s, and that is where we are today isn’t it? We are a society of people heavily dependent on pharmaceuticals.

Old knowledge seems new

From Ayurveda we now have access to knowledge of a preventive medical system that uses food as medicine. These concepts seems new to many of us because we are unfamiliar with them, yet they have existed for thousands of years. I see parallels to this in the paleo food movement, which is now adopting diet and lifestyle practices based on the daily routines of our ancient ancestors. Joel Salatin, who uses the term “Integrity Food” to describe his style of agriculture, is another example of this since he is now seen as a revolutionary farmer in this age of industrial agriculture. The funny thing is that he often borrows his ideas from agriculture books written prior to the 1950s. This has all been done before, in fact it was the only way that it was done before, but our view of the natural world has been so twisted and dominated by profit driven corporations that we think of Salatin as a pioneer. This is exactly what the Rogan quote at the beginning was referring to. We do live in a mad mad world, but fortunately with a little extra effort and education we can still have access to a high quality, and environmentally responsible food supply.

For more about this topic read my earlier post: Confessions of an Ayurvedic Counselor: Part 2, Meat

 

 

Minimize it, don’t criticize it

Sung to the tune of Legalize It by Peter Tosh

A Sattvic Planet is GREEN

Last week in honor of Earth Day I asked the question, What color is a Sattvic Planet? Continuing with the momentum generated from that post I want to write about another environmental topic this week. It is so tempting for me to write about food every week because it is a topic that I am passionate about, and I suspect many of you are drawn to this site because you share that interest. However, since one of the primary themes of this site is that human health can’t exist without environmental health, and environmental health can’t exist without human health, I need to focus on environmental topics on occasion.

Greenlandia

Portland, Oregon has become famous for being perhaps the most environmentally conscious city in the nation. This is evident in the large percent of commuters who walk, bike, bus, or ride the light rails and streetcars. Further evidence can be seen in the vibrant food scene there, which emphasizes locally grown and sustainably produced products. LEED built green buildings covered with solar panels and living roofs are not difficult to find in this progressive city. However, despite all these successes, Portland does encounter obstacles while biking down the path to sustainability. City leaders have a goal of reducing waste by 25% from 2009 levels by the year 2030. One of the ways they plan to do this is by offering curbside compost pickup, which is a way of diverting food and yard waste from the landfill. Recently Portland hit an obstacle to reaching its waste goal when it was forced to ban compostable food containers generated by businesses from the compost program.

Fred and Carrie from the show Portlandia.

Wastelandia

The primary problem they faced came from commercial customers, not residential customers. Too much of the compostable materials were the bio-based forks, cups and containers that have gained popularity among environmentally friendly businesses recently. These containers and utensils, often made of corn based plastic, were taking too long to breakdown for the business model to be successful. Interviews with local environmental leaders describe the popularity of these bio-based products as a feel good measure that allows people to continue their lives as usual, but without the guilt of being wasteful.

Real change requires more thought than effort

I’m sure that there are benefits of using these bio-based products, and I appreciate the intention of the businesses and customers who have made an effort to use them for the purpose of reducing our impact on the environment, but the reality is that even in a green city like Portland many people are still not making the effort to truly adjust their lifestyle to live more harmoniously with the planet. I see this all the time at the Bellingham food co-op when people order a meal from the deli. Despite the large seating area and the option to use real plates and utensils, people will order their food to go, and many of them will then thoughtlessly sit in the seating area eating out of bio-based corn plastic containers. Minimizing waste can be as simple as eating at the restaurant instead of carrying it home in a plastic container. Often times I bring a reusable container to the deli, or bulk section, and sometimes I even bring a container to the restaurant for my leftovers.

Agent Smith

The Matrix

Agent Smith says the following to Morpheus during a scene from the movie The Matrix:

“Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.”

Dark, I know, but I’ve always been fascinated by that quote because it is an interesting way of viewing our interactions with our surroundings. However, I should try and end this post on a more positive message. There are so many things we can do differently with our daily routines to help create a healthy environment, and that environment in return will help create a healthier you. I could make a list a mile long of individual actions to take in your daily routine, but for now I simply want to encourage you to be aware of the consequences of your purchases, decisions and actions.

“Minimize it, yeah, yeah, and I will advertise it”

 

What color is a Sattvic Planet?

Seriously???

Seriously???

 

Red?

Sherwin Williams seems to think the answer is red. At first glance this logo appears to be a vintage sign from the 1940s. This is one of those logos that make you think how ridiculous people were to believe what they believed back then. It reminds me of the old advertisements touting the health benefits of smoking cigarettes, spraying DDT, or any other product that has not survived the tests of science and time. However, this logo is the same one that they use today, in fact just a couple miles from my home they have a store with multiple large signs in front displaying this exact logo. Perhaps I’m overreacting, but I am amazed that in the year 2014 there is a major corporation with a logo advocating that we cover the planet with synthetic chemicals. All you can really do is laugh at the absurdity of their goal, but I probably shouldn’t be too surprised given the state of the world today. The Japanese atomic energy agency initiated the covering of the Pacific Ocean with nuclear radiation 3 years ago at Fukushima. British Petroleum was busy 4 years ago covering the Gulf of Mexico with oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. For the past 20 years Monsanto has been on a mission to cover your dinner plate with genetically modified organisms; see The difference between Apple 2.0 (the fruit) and iPhone 6 for my view on GMOs. When we see those vintage signs, logos and advertisements from an earlier era and wonder how our ancestors could have been so foolish, we should probably pause for a moment and ask ourselves if anything has really changed. The truth is that it has not. One chemical gets banned, while 100 new chemicals get invented and enter the market. You might feel good about your newly purchased BPA free product, but has anybody stopped to wonder what are the health effects of the new chemical they used to replace BPA? Enough of all that; let us move on to a lighter subject.

Earth Day

The title of this post asks what color a Sattvic Planet would be? The answer of course is GREEN! Earth Day was last Tuesday, so I’m a few days late, but on a Sattvic Planet every day would be Earth Day. I know that may sound cliché, but think about it, every action you take and every purchase you make has an environmental health consequence, and a personal health consequence. Don’t just ride your bike to work one day per year, ride as often as possible because it not only improves the air quality, but it also improves your quality of life.

In Ayurveda…

Sattva is a Sanskrit word derived from Sat which means Truth, and Tva which means Your, so sattva refers to Your Truth. The word sattva is used in Ayurveda to describe a state of mind that has many desirable qualities including: clarity, intelligence, balance, purity, and truthfulness. In Ayurveda attaining a sattvic mind is accomplished through a meditative process that simply involves looking within and discovering your truth, or your purpose. A Sattvic Planet is a concept of a world that we could all create together if as individuals we all began to attain a sattvic mind. In other words, global change starts at the individual level, and we can’t expect to solve society’s greatest problems until we achieve true personal health. On my About page I stated that you can’t have personal health without environmental health, and you can’t have environmental health without personal health. Since Earth Day was this past week I thought now would be a good time to revisit that statement, and remind people to stop and think about the current condition of the environment and what impact it is having on us. Also, think about the current condition of you and what impact you are having on the environment. Stay tuned for a future post where I discuss charismatic farmer Joel Salatin and his vision of creating a greener planet. Until then,

HAPPY EARTH DAY!