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Size doesn’t matter: The war of the germs.

7 Sep

Obama to announce expanded plan to fight Ebola

(Headlines from USA today, September 16, 2014)

War is brewing.  The war to end all wars between Humankind and Mother Nature.    Don’t worry – dinosaurs won’t get us – cloning hasn’t been perfected.  And we seem to be doing a pretty good job of killing off other predators – in a gentlemanly way – by killing off their habitats.   To be sure, Mother Nature retaliates to our carbon barrage with draught and killer storms.  But I think we can’t see the real enemy.  Brilliant warriors – the germs’ll get us.

We’ve created germ warfare –  forming alliances with germs to kill  ‘enemies’.

And antibiotic soaps and sprays – to wage battle against germs themselves.

Prescribed antibiotics protect us from insurgent germs.

With the best of intentions, the good guys give support to the bad.

With the best of intentions, the good guys give support to the bad.

This war will be like others – the good will be sacrificed while killing the bad. The red cross will be called in for intestinal disaster relief aka probiotic/antibiotics – likely a shot in the arm for the economy.   And killing off the good, creates funding for the bad, making them stronger launching them into attack mode.  In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, these little guys are building strength as they sneak into our internal and external lives from run-away viruses to antibiotic resistant bacteria.

I can’t help but wonder:  How did something so good get to be so bad?   Is it bad PR?  A slur campaign?  Is it time to start a save the (good) germ campaign?

A ‘germ’ is not a four-letter word, not by definition:  All new ideas start with a ‘germ’ (of a good idea), the bud for future growth and development.   Too much of anything can be bad even when it’s good.  For some reason, technology springs to mind, including old-fashioned TV.  Germs, as new ideas and technology can be scary.  Remember when some thought TV would be the demise of society?  Until TV’s invaded living rooms around the country and took over our minds and hearts.

In face,  bad gut bacteria can alter minds and hearts in a way even binge watching ‘Game of Thrones’ can’t cure.  A scarier example: “Take Toxoplasma gondii, the single-celled parasite. When mice are infected by it, they suffer the grave misfortune of becoming attracted to cats.

OR,

read about how one doctor cured a teen of OCD:  Although plenty of questions remain, the benefits of using probiotics to treat human behavior are becoming increasingly obvious. Yogurts like Dannon’s Activia have been marketed with much success as a panacea for all of our intestinal ills. Other probiotic supplements have claimed to support immune health. Probiotics’ potential to treat human behavior is increasingly apparent, but will manufacturers one day toss an anxiety-fighting blend into their probiotic brews?

 

What do you think is hiding in cells as ‘fake’ proteins, awaiting the right time to inflict disease on an organism?  Viruses!  It gives whole new meaning to sleeper cells.    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140707092707.htm?utm_source=feedburner.

It’s not easy…  Kill off one germ, and others spring to life and/or adapt.  New generations of super germs are raised and recruited, able to resist determined antibiotics meant to kill them.    Those little guys must have the best R&D around to adapt and survive.  Is it any surprise killing one germy dictator  gives rise to a whole new breed of (bacterial) terrorists?

Ebola is the germ du jour.  Sweeping fear and disease across the world faster than a tweeted selfie at the Oscars.  Insidious little germs that can’t be caught, attacking silently and stealthily.  All reminding me of news of ISIS, and other (still small) terrorist groups brewing around the world…   Ah, human kind – with all our advances, there’s still no cure, no antibiotic for hate, terror, and injustice.   Germs are tough, resilient, and ambitious for survival.  We need a probiotic to balance needs.

 

Tweets spread faster than viruses/germs (so far).  I wasn't a carrier for this tweet - were you?

Tweets spread faster than viruses/germs (so far). I wasn’t a carrier for this tweet – were you?

Annihilating germs can’t be done with inoculations of mass destruction – that just creates new problems.  The best action – maybe the only immunity– it seems, is creating environments that don’t support the bad germs.  Got an infection?  Forget antibiotics.  Simply create an environment for the good guys to take over.    http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/herbal-antibiotic-alternatives.  A good guy environment must include food, jobs and safety from the bad guys.

How do we create a good guy environment?  Or once created, will we change the climate to favor the germs?   Can we win?  Is any war winnable?

 

 

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Ecotourism on the Serendipity Trail

16 Oct

It’s one of my odd fears:  ringing the doorbell, bottle of wine in hand, only to find I’ve shown up on the wrong day.

Last Wednesday was one of those days.  Only I wasn’t going to a party, rather the Science Cafe at the American Museum of Natural History.  It’s the  Museum’s brilliant ploy to convert the curious and wannabe’s into card-carrying nerds.

It was a perfect fall day, comfortably cool as my walk through Central Park accelerated to the distant strumming of guitars.  Turns out it was John Lennon’s birthday and Strawberry Fields was playing host to a rocking jam session of musicians and a swaying crowd of back-up singers.

strawberry fields

I’m still singing ‘Nothings gonna change my world…’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN9n1bAahg4

This was one of those perfect NYC moments of peace,  joy, and connection.  Even the undercover cop/parks department garbage picker I overheard talking to his command had nothing to report.

Entering the Museum for this after-hours event was a whole other matter.  Like solving the Rubik’s Cube, it took rounding the grounds a few times before finding an open door and receptive guard.   Following an arrow landed me in a closed exhibit filled with 3 foot hominids.  It was a bit freaky.  Lost, I was easy prey and hoped the Neanderthal’s in their dinosaur bone hut didn’t come alive like in the movie  ‘Night at the Museum’.

Pointed in the right direction by the now laughing guard, I was still lost – kind of.  Entering a half-filled lecture room with name tag wearing young people  was not the buzzy wine/beer-swilling space I normally associate with the Science Cafe.    But safe from Neanderthals, I slunk into a comfy seat to play scientist and observe.mack-lipkin-man-and-nature-series-panel-discussion-2013_large

They say, you always end up where you are supposed to be.  I had ‘crashed’ a Conservation Conference lecture on research and action led by four brilliant panelists.

We regular folk don’t always think conservation amidst environmental debates.  Anti-frackers seek to shatter beliefs that drilling is the best way to secure future energy sources (an on-going NY ‘action’) – but not necessarily about using less.  Meanwhile many of us are just overwhelmed by the effects of climate change and global natural disasters from raging forest fires to never-ending draughts to tornadoes twirling in unexpected places to devastating hurricanes like Sandy having the audacity to slam into NYC.  Victims are left shaken and outraged over the result of climate unrest.  At least till it’s all over.

They say: when climate conditions gets tough, the tough travel as ecotourists.   Here’s my packing tip to include along with hiking boots and organic snacks (I greatly modified – but hopefully not too much) from Stanford’s Rodolfo Dirzo when asked about ecotourism:

  • It’s a great thing:  indigenous people make a living while maintaining their environmental culture – it’s an ecological win-win!
  • And yet… young people employed as van drivers, wait staff, guides, etc. in the hospitality ecosystem are trading in their knowledge about the environmental ecosystem for customer service skills.

They no longer need to know  how to care for/understand/support the flora and fauna tourists pay to see.  Which may not be bad – until the realization hits: who will know when a species is threatened – and when an ecosystem or species is at risk, how to nurture it back to health?

And who can blame these new drivers and front desk clerks?  Don’t we all follow the money trail?

Costa Rica, according to Wikipedia had 2.2 million visitors in 2011!  Imagine the money and ruts that trail leaves.  Imagine the impact even if visitors live the mantra:

“Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave Nothing but Footprints and Waste Nothing but Time”

 Ecotourism saves threatened environments and local knowledge, so what’s the answer?

Personally I think it comes back to education and making it as sexy to know about the ecosystem as to know how to drive a van.  Imagine if every adventure traveler swooned over that same van driver sharing her knowledge about the local flora and fauna along with the local watering holes.  And she shared how a traveler’s lifestyle impacts the local natural wonders with the same verve as recommending the best dinner spot.

It seems it’s all about following the money trail crafted by hiking-boot-gortex-wearing ecotourists.  If these same tourists want flora-fauna ecosystem knowledge, the locals will learn.    Bottom line is: with preservation of land and learning we can get what we all want:  to travel forever uncovering the secrets of the serendipity trail.

Optimistic and naive, maybe.  But what do you think are other options?

To read more about human impact on climate change:  http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Population-growth-increases-climate-fear-4781833.php 

Flash to Fallow: Mother Nature’s 5 Financial Lessons

4 Oct

This post originally appeared on blogher’s ‘Diary of a Single Professional Woman’

Nature is rich – in resources – just like I want to be.

I often say ‘Everything I need to know about the economy and life I learned from Mother Nature’.   As fall sends nature’s flash into fallow (or dormancy), it’s the perfect time to learn from her (save, spend, grow) sustainability plan.   After all, she’s been around a long time – so what does she know that we don’t?  And more importantly what can we learn so we spring open along with the crocuses come April?   Here’s my simplistic, and metaphoric thoughts on ‘environmental economics’ to kick around along with the leaves.

seedling

Fall may feel like an end rather than a start – look out the window and nature looks like it is dying.  Ha!  Mother Nature is transitioning from her extroverted spring/summer flash to a well-deserved introverted fall/winter recovery time.  Her withdrawal of energy allows time to reflect, rejuvenate, and save for spring’s big bloom roll-out.

Shorter days likely darken our mood.  Especially as color leaves our external environment.   Green, in particular colors our thoughts – and the U.S. dollar or greenback, that universal currency.  Simply:

Lush, rich, life = Green

Green = Money

Green = Nature

Nature = Resources

Resources = Money

Money = Nature

Nature = Resources = Life

Yet, when it comes to linking the economy with the environment, it seems we are colorblind, too often living in the red.  I think we need to ask: which resources are needed for life?

For a brief period of time, I thought it was a ‘red handbag’.  As you’ve read,  it was a temporary want.  Sure, I love ‘stuff’ that makes my apartment home.  But honestly, I don’t need it – I just want it.   The only resources any of us really need for life are oxygen, water, and food.  Resources only nature can provide contrary to food package’ ingredient listings.

I say our challenge is working with Mother Nature for our needs while satisfying our human nature with our wants.

It’s asking:  What Would Mother Nature Do (WWMND) for economic success?   She’d say begin with her 5 steps:

1.  Balance:    Mother Nature has obviously spent plenty of time on a playground seesaw.  She understands the need to maintain balance even while going up and down.   She uses what she has – while saving a little for the future.    Mother Nature foregoes debt, once her bottom line turns from green to red, she catapults into endangerment/extinction.

Lesson:   We may become morally, emotionally, financially bankrupt overusing resources, causing our internal peace (balance) to become extinct.  Live under your means to keep your personal seesaw going.   Debt drives your energy, emotions, finances and goodwill into the red.  And remember: There is no plastic – no credit cards – found in nature.

Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child's play.
Maintaining balance, like on a see-saw can seem like child’s play.

2.  Save:   Mother Nature saves everything including those piles of leaves in your yard.   This is not hoarding.  She reduces those dead leaves/blooms by recycling (decomposers de-clutter causing decaying leaves to smell like a frat house bathroom on a Sunday morning) and reusing (notice those leaves are gone by spring – broken up and back into the soil like using old clothes to make a quilt).  All this saving leads to new blooms – and a reminder that the future is no predictor of the past.

Lesson:  use what you have to grow your future – like with an IRA.    And don’t bother raking those leaves in your yard!

3.  Spew seeds:  Seeds are nature’s C.D.’s (certificates of deposit), little packets of possibility to ensure future growth.   They even sound similar!   Seeds, like C.D.’s only open at the right time, in the right place, and the right conditions – and they are supported by all those unused seeds and leaves that ‘die’.  There are even special seeds that open during a forest fire to ensure that tree species survival.  Kinda like emergency C.D.’s/funds.  

Lesson:  save for emergencies as well as the future – though the stock market provides better returns than C.D.’s.

Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already  open (like all CD's should be!)
Nobody would touch this funky burr-covered seed till it was already open (like all CD’s should be!)

4.  Diversification: The healthiest forest and gardens are filled with diverse trees that play host to lots of different bugs, and are called home by lots of birds.   Having only one species like Dutch Elm (on decorative paths) found one ‘sick’ tree caused them all to die.

Lesson:  Diversification of your holdings maintains balance and growth so even if your ‘Dutch Elm’-like stock tanks/dies, other stock species survive.

5.  Be sustainable:  Mother Nature thrives because everything she has is used and supports everything else, even though it may seem to be in conflict.

Lesson:  Invest in things that feed your future.  Material things that overwhelm you and end up in landfills throw you off-balance and leave nothing to decompose – unlike the leaves left in your yard that will decompose to nurture spewed seeds.  Experiential investments always leave you with seeds or kernels of thought and growth.

Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium
Part of the Coney Island boardwalk by the NY Aquarium

 Mother Nature’s 5 lessons keep you blooming in all seasons:

  • This holiday season, stay green and out of the red by matching  spending with your values (http://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/values-activity/) and keep you growing.
  • Make every day is your special Valentine’s Day by making black the new red.  Love yourself by loving your finances and living under your means to live fully in the future.

And really, just one more thing to think about:  We may say money is the root of all evil, and we should add, resources are the cause for conflicts personally and globally...

Meanwhile, what steps will you take to support your spring blooms?

My Revised Scientific Method: it’s not just for scientists anymore

1 Aug

“Our species can only survive if we have obstacles to overcome… without them to strengthen us, we will weaken and die.”
(Metamorphosis)  James T. Kirk, USS Enterprise Captain, Star Trek (the original!)

Ask any drama queen (or king):  creating challenges is fun.    Politicians/economists/scientists jockey for position on viable solutions to

Time to "phaser-out" problems!  http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Starfleet_insignia

Time to “phaser-out” problems! http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Starfleet_insignia

industrialization’s created problems.  From the mortgage debacle/financial crash, climate change, obesity, cancer, hate-crimes, and illiteracy, obstacles are as plentiful as the stars.

The real obstacles which fully capture our attention are individual and personal:   from getting out of bed and making it through the day, connecting with teens and silently feuding partners, finding a partner, finding a job, paying for groceries, dealing with a difficult boss or mother, deciding which brand of toothpaste is best or who to vote for on American Idol – the list goes on.    We can’t deal with the big obstacles until our real ones – the personal ones – weighing us down are shrugged off .

Thing is, solving these small problems are as difficult as the big ones.  And that saying?  “Don’t sweat the small stuff.  It’s all small stuff”.  Much easier said than done.

I say:  The scientific method:  it’s not just for scientists anymore.

photo-85

Yup, that method we re-learned in every science class is one we use daily for real challenges – kinda.   Though there’s likely to be more madness than reason to our method.

If you’re about to say “yes, but…”, give your knee-jerk response a rest.   Scientific experimentation is all about DISproving, making scientists the original “dis-sers”.

As a reminder “The Method’s ” steps: Identify what’s bothering you (problem), form a reason why (hypothesis), figure out what to change and action to take  (experiment),  see if it works (observation), declare victory or try again (conclude or start over).  We do that all the time, right?  Yet….

Society teaches (for the most part) there is a right answer – in the back of the book, like in science class:  

By the time you reach age ‘x’, you should have achieved ‘y’.

The media bombards with what accomplishments are needed to get a good life grade.  The answers are wrapped up in the “American Dream”!  My hypothesis: solving for that “right” answer keeps us awake and without dreams.

I prefer: “The good thing about the American Dream is you get a new one very night” (Michael, “The Office).

Today’s the perfect day to create a new American dream using a revised scientific method?    Solve for the right ‘y’ (and why).

Instead of the problem:  ‘How do I get what I’m supposed to have?’

And the hypothesis: ‘I am doing ‘a’ or ‘b’ wrong.’

Reframe the problem to:

‘What is right for ME?’

plos blogs diverse perspectives on science and medicine http://blogsplos-orgblog20110506the\secretofexperimentaldesign.jpg

plos blogs diverse perspectives on science and medicine http://blogsplos-orgblog20110506the\secretofexperimentaldesign.jpg

Here are 5 (revised) steps based on my personal problem-solving experiments.   No goggles or safety equipment needed.

  1. Listen to your body to identify the problem:  the body never lies.  Does your back tighten when it comes time to go to work?  Do your fists clench when talk turns to money?  There’s a problem when aches and pains appear at the thought or mention or appearance of a defined “obstacle”.  Do you dive into a super-sized bag of chips before a family event or when you have a deadline approaching?  Pay attention!  Start by recording when you feel that “tinge”.  For example, keep a food journal to keep track of overriding emotions causing you to devour the contents of your refrigerator.
  2. Look inside to uncover your hypothesis, the source of the problem.  Identify your values and how well those values are met  http://communicationessentials.wordpress.com/values-activity/.  For example if you inhale a pint of ice cream every time a credit card bill arrives, identify which value is NOT being met as in:  My finances are stressing me out because I don’t feel independent (value), causing me to overeat.
  3. Make a plan to take action.  Action is the experimental heart and focuses on how to meet the value (independence) not the ice cream inhalation.  Experimental (financial) plans may include contacting a debt or financial coach, setting up a saving/payment plan while developing a mantra when your fingers are at the cyberspace checkout button such as:  “this (item) will whittle away my independence which makes me unhappy”.  Create several steps to take to get your value met and use them for at least 21 days to create a new habit.
  4. Take stock of your situation.  Maintaining independence through debt-free finances is fairly easy to assess when a bill arrives:  can you breathe?  Does the thought of the balance throw your internal equilibrium off-balance by sending you to the kitchen or elsewhere?
  5. And repeat.  If your symptoms continue – try a new plan of action and ask for help with problem-solving.  If your experiment was successful, bravo.  Now it’s time to assess other body reactions to unmet values and identify what actions will remove obstacles and calm your body.

How will tapping into your inner scientist help you?  Which step can you apply to your daily obstacles to uncover a winning solution?

Exploring our own nature as humans is a good time to shelve our human nature fears, especially the fear of failure.   Remember, many of the best solutions are found by mistake after doing “the wrong thing”.   Successful experimentation is all about failure, learning from mistakes and moving forward one step even if you’ve gone backwards two (steps).   Personally, I embody the scientific notion that taking a risk and failure is an experimental “win”.   Just go boldly where your values tell you to go!

  Enjoy the journey and keep a data log!

Oh Brave New World: Are we there yet?

31 Jul

When I’m brave, I notice old things in new ways.  Even when I barely remember ‘it’, my second viewing can feel as fresh – or even better.

Before your imagination runs rampant with romanticized ‘do-overs’, I’m talking about rereading ‘A Brave New World’, Aldous Huxley’s 1932 shocking and ground-breaking novel.  It’s initial review: ‘nothing can make it come alive.”

Or, oops, have we brought to life this fictionalized world?

Revisiting anything after 40 years or so (YIKES) is like entering a brand new world.  A reminder of how experience and age adds perspective.  I’m reminded why ‘do-overs’ can be wonderful.  The reason we should all literally be physical tourists to our past.

But here’s what I wonder:  does Huxley’s world  need to be relived, or it our own?

Here are my 7 perspectives on our bridged worlds:

1.  Conformity:  Their brave new world was big on conformity.  Our thoughts are freely shared – with the hope of FB likes – and the affirmation that others agree.

2.  Consumption:  Their economy survived because people consumed new stuff.  Post 2008 crash and awareness most people had no savings, we’re now told to go out and spend money to build the economy.  Throw away stuff anyone?  Products that don’t last and have to be replaced?  New styles that must be purchased to update your look every season?  Check, check, check.

3.  Never alone:  Their society shunned being alone.  Our society doesn’t have to be alone, or not virtually.  Most of us are never thumbs away from texting – or more like tweeting and FaceBook-ing our thoughts, whereabouts, and eating habits.

4.  Feeling good:  Their drug of choice, soma, made bad thoughts disappear without negative side effects.  Our society may not match that, though we do have eating, shopping, and drugs and alcohol to make us feel better even momentarily – though, unfortunately all with negative side effects.  O.k., we need to

work on this one.

5.  Class differentiation:  Their classes were separated and defined by ‘pre-natal’ nurturing (or rather test-tube), educational conditioning, and by dress.  Our society is still challenged with school inequality based on zip code, higher drop out rates and lower literacy in ‘inner cities’.  We are reminded about the importance of pre-natal care and faced with young children’s learning difficulties based on lead poisoning, fetal alcohol treatment, and poor nutrition.  And differentiation by dress:  before I knew there was a name for them, I could identify them on the ‘F’ train:  hipsters.

6.  Dislike of the natural world:  Their entertainment focused on the beautiful and clean.  Our entertainment still takes us into the natural world, though even National Parks are feeling the strain of consumerism with wildlife lying victim as roadkill.  Perhaps we can handle the dirt though because of our ubiquitous anti-bacterial sprays and hand lotions, which thankfully kill off the very bacteria which our bodies are equipped to keep in check and keep us healthy.

 There’s clearly a divide between the ‘natural’  – outdoor – world – and humankind’s ‘unnatural’ one.  Hmmm….  What does that say about our place within ‘livingkind’?

photo-117

His first choice: the remains of a Dorito’s bag in Prospect Park

7.  Love of beauty:  Their world thrived on eternal youth and beauty:  a lack of wrinkles, fat, and ugliness.   Suddenly I’m sold on traveling to this brave new world.  Then I glanced through a fashion magazine while watching T.V.  Oh, wait, we are getting there.   Check, check, check to the aforementioned.

There’s no excuse for aging or ugliness in our world (though I’ll come up with a reason soon):  anti-wrinkle/aging creams are easily found at all price points in every drug/department store.  Botox is like soma.  (I think I use parenthesis often because I see them every time I look in the mirror.)   Fat is bad: Diet advice, pills, powders and food are as plentiful as those anti-aging potions.  Spanx and slimming undergarments come in all sizes for both sexes.  Even size 2 actresses wear layers of Spanx.    If you don’t get the picture yet, just turn on your computer to watch T.V. or a movie, then look around you.  Last reminder for our distaste of the unattractive:  we’re shown pictures of stars aging poorly (i.e. look like ‘regular’ 55 y.o.’s) or look imperfect without make-up or a done hair do.

I don’t mean this to be as cynical as it sounds.  Really, I don’t.  I also don’t think it’s us following art.

Rather, I think it is us following our human nature.   Seeking natural selection to be our best, while still discovering what that best may be.

If we are ‘there’ – or where-ever we are – where do we go next?  Are we brave enough to decide?

Going up! Running express from 350 ppm to 400 ppm: Is it worth the risk?

8 Jul

You’re running late.  Standing at the elevator, you push the button what feels like a bazillion times, fully aware that it won’t make it come any faster.  The familiar ping of the arriving car brings a wave of relief – until the doors open.  The elevator is packed tighter than  proverbial sardines in a can.  There’s a sliver of light between sweaty bodies and bulky briefcases –  just enough inches for you.

basia961-webd-pl.

basia961-webd-pl.

Fitting 12 oz. in an 8 oz. glass, there’s need for those compression storage bags to fit you all in comfortably.  Arranging your body in an uncomfortable angle, you mumble apologies and giggle, your eyes avoiding others.  Your bodies are  superimposed in intimate configurations.  For distraction, you fixate on the weight limit warning, boldly posted in the upper right hand corner.  Involuntarily your eyes, the only part of your body able to move, dart around the two square foot space, mentally adding up real vs. driver license weights.  Horror mixes with fear: realistically, you should all be crashing to your deaths right about now.

So when the door opens do you run out screaming for safety?  Or do you inhale and sidle up even closer to those nameless weighted bodies from the 7th floor to make room for the next dangerous addition to your safety violating can?  After all, this is a daily occurrence.  Besides, how often do overweight elevators crash at warp speed to a deadly destination for its inhabitants?  Your worries dissipate with thoughts of Chicken Little-like elevator inspectors.

Arriving safely at your destination, a bit late, a lot rumpled, you mentally run through all the warnings that never come to pass:  the 2012 Mayan calendar,  the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, the hazards of eggs or is it coffee this week?

Then there’s those environmentalists crying ‘wolf’, or rather:  global warming! global warning!  Is there any real difference between an elevator holding too much weight and the atmosphere holding too much carbon dioxide?

The CO2 limit in the right hand corner of the sky reads 350 parts per million (ppm).  That’s the safe amount of carbon dioxide in the mix of ‘air’ to allow life to continue as we know it.  But climate scientists lecture our ‘weight’  is now at a rip-roaring 400 ppm.

That air you’re breathing is CO2 obese.  Can we blame CO2 for personal obesity too?

400 ppm – we should be grabbing our chests and grasping for oxygen.  If the scientists are more accurate in their predictions than elevator inspections.  Which clearly they are not.  Because we are still here, sweltering in triple digit temps, disaster weary after hurricanes and tornadoes rip through formerly safe havens.

Global Warning!

Yet we can each make the choice to step off an overweight elevator.  When it comes to a safe gas mix in the air we breathe, there is no escape.  Though we escape from record-breaking heat in air-conditioned shelters, in air-conditioned cars.  AC that inches up the CO2 reading further.

It’s about risk.  We can always take the stairs.   In fact taking stairs and walking will reduce obesity.  Using less AC (the smallest of starts) will reduce CO2 levels.  (And wouldn’t it be nice to do away with plastic!)

There is no substitute for oxygen and healthy breathing air.  No substitute for balance in the CO2 cycle.  Not unless we want our species to go crashing down.

We might be safe for now.  Are you willing to risk your kids or grandkids future?

Speak up for alternative energy.  Recycle.  Support environmental groups.  The earth has taken care of us, now it’s time for us to take care of her.

350.org

Sierra Club

World Wildlife Fund

Heifer International

These are just a few…. share your favorite group and what they do!

Too much of a good thing: 3 things to learn from corn

27 Jun

“Americans are already paying the price of inaction,” he (President Barak Obama on coal power) said.

“Our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all humankind.”

corn

It’s hot.  I mean really hot and I walk around feeling soppy.   I have to admit I’ve never gotten the whole ‘ain’t summer grand’ thing.

Growing up, it didn’t feel as hot as it is now.  We survived with fans – even in  out cars.    Though things always feel different when you’re a kid.

There’s a reason fans were enough back then:  since 1970, the earth’s temp has risen more than 1 degree Fahrenheit.  If you like this hotter world we’re melting into, stick around another 80 years or so.  Global scientists predict the temperature will rise about 11 degrees F – IF we keep burning coal, oil and fracked natural gas.

Of course not every area will suffer equally:  small Pacific islanders won’t suffer – they’ll just no longer exist.

It’s hard to imagine the power of a rising ocean level sweeping away cities, though hurricane Sandy gave us a sneak preview.   Honest now:   have you bought additional rain gear in the last year?   Will building big, big sea walls protect hurricane-challenged areas like NYC?

But it’s really corn I want to talk.  That same treat that reminds us it’s summer in the best possible way:  grilled, boiled, buttered, salted or plain.   Then there’s full planet empty plateseverything I didn’t know (we’ll just stick to corn for now) until I read  Lester Brown’s ‘Staple Crops Vulnerable to Rising Temperatures’ in Heifer’s World Ark this morning.

Remember the saying:  thigh high by the 4th of July as a good sign for corn.  As the world blazes,  rising temps will interfere with our corn growth spurt.

I know it sounds ‘corny’, or should I say there’s more than a kernel of truth in it, but it’s all about sex, or more specifically pollination.

Pollination is the most vulnerable part of corn’s life cycle.  Those silky strands stripped off the cob, sometimes right in the store, are each attached to a single kernel.  Each strand needs a grain of pollen to fall on it, that grain journeying to the kernel for fertilization and our ultimate delight.   Too much heat?  The strands dry out, thwarting all hopes of fertilization.  Hmm, I would never have thought about the similarities of human and corn reproduction.

Then there’s sun stroke/shock:  those high temps that leave me wilted and my hair curly, dehydrates the plants.  Just like we need to drink more water in the heat, so does corn.  (sans plastic bottles)

Unable to hide in the shade, plants curl curl their leaves to reduce sun exposure.  Less sun means less photosynthesis.  Less photosynthesis means less carbon-dioxide absorption – and less oxygen production.

For those who need to keep score: Greenhouse gasses: 1, summer picnic: 0

The sun gives life.  The sun can take away life.  Here are 3 things to learn from corn’s challenge:

1.  It’s all about balance:  or equilibrium, or homeostasis.  Even if like sun we think we need more of something.  Too much work burns us out – get it.  Too much play can leave our brains soppy.  Overspending can thwart hopes of fertilizing retirement, home or a new car.  We can take steps to regain balance in our life (usually).  But we can also take steps to balance adding hot air to the atmosphere.

2.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction:  Mixing biology and physics is enough to get anyone drunk.  If something is good for us, more MUST be better, but like sun and crops, instead of increasing yield, it decreases it.  It’s like thinking a bigger house will add joy, when it can also just add more stress.  Or, how technology makes our life easier – absolutely makes it more complex.  Changing one thing mean something else will too.  Just not in the way you think.

3.  It’s personal: Optimally and often, when good things happen, they spill into all areas of life.  It’s as if there is a cosmic synergy that sparks and connects all our dreams.  Yet I realize each part of us is tethered to the outside world by a vulnerable silky strand.  Each strand needs to be nurtured to fertilize, before yielding a bushel of dreams.  If the right job, love, or opportunity isn’t attracting the right pollinator, there is one variable that isn’t ‘right’?    Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in the big picture and forget the little details that make that picture come alive.

A field of corn is similar to a networking event.   There needs to be balance (between listening and talking), going to too many  events can be as bad as going to none (burn out), and, it’s all being in the right place at the right time to meet the right ‘pollinator’/organization that will yield results.

Let’s respect the power of nature – and the added power we gift her by our actions!

Enjoy this weekend’s picnics (and corn on the cob!)

10 Characteristics to ensure a Big Bang Life!

21 Jun

Today’s the day to nurture and flaunt your inner scientist!

Do you diligently watch Big Bang Theory reruns?  Sneak into Star Trek conventions in strange cities?

While TV’s Big Bang nerds are cast as socially inept, it’s likely the coolest kids would be envious of their social network.

Like most things in life, it’s not what you know  but how you use it.

Time to rethink scientist’s bad rep.

Chemist from NYC Tech Day (google???)

Chemist from NYC Tech Day (google???)

Believing human behavior mimics the laws of science,  what makes a good scientist?  Is it biology or chemistry?  Alchemy at birth?

Here’s a compilation of the best scientists 10 characteristics.  For fun, insert your name for the word scientist:

1. Curiosity:  good scientists are insatiably curious about life’s ‘every things’.  I imagine their favorite word, like most 2-year old’s is ‘WHY’, marrying curiosity with child-like wonder.  (Hmm, picture the progeny!)  Curiosity can turn any experience into an adventure:  it prompts us to act, to take risks.  Though I wonder:  how will our ability to google everything impact our pursuit of curiosity?

Do we love George because he's a monkey - or because of his mischievious and enviable curiosity?

Do we love George because he’s a monkey – or because of his mischievous and enviable curiosity?

2. Open-minded and free of bias:  Great scientists are objective.  Imagine entering into situations and interactions without prejudice or tight and tiny opinions.  Open-minded scientists suspend judgement about findings until they are sure (and scientists really never are).  Wait – are eggs good or bad for us this week?  That’s one way to look at it.  Suspending judgement, like oil in water, allows scientists to continue observing and gathering data, while continuing their search for the best solution and opportunity.   Staying open-minded would lighten our load vs. carrying judgements and opinions.

3. Keen observer:  Scientists look and listen at information/data.  Never knowing what is most important, everything is considered and noted.  On the simplest level, it’s applying curiosity, watching and listening, for example, to loved ones behavior and actions, without bias.   Improved relationships anyone?

Observing life through a kaleidoscope

Observing life through a kaleidoscope

4. Resourceful:  Scientists look for avenues to explore in unexpected ways.  Have you ever seen some of those projects being funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) or the Federal Government?   For starters, I’m sure if I was a scientist I could get the NSF to fund my training for developing these characteristics in students!

5. Purposeful:  Scientists (often) believe they can change and improve the world through their research.  We’ll assume it’s not all about money or the plot of a Hollywood sic-fi thriller.  Imagine applying curiosity and resourcefulness to improve the world:  we could be styrofoam free, greenhouse gases would be relegated back to greenhouses, farmers applying the art of fallow could grow pesticide-free crops, and well-written sitcoms would edge out reality TV.  Perhaps we could  achieve world peace.

6. Good communicator:  While scientists are competitive due to funding and Nobel Prizes, they also need to communicate and share information, especially to us, non-scientists.  How is that doctors can’t explain a procedure or an ailment without an interpreter?  Sadly there are a handful of scientists who make it to the small screen and are deemed understandable:  Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan to name a few.  As I see it, scientific rules and laws simply and clearly mimic our human nature (shameless plug here for all the posts to come on this blog!).  And while it’s a scientist’s challenge:  science is simple at its core.

7. Persistent:  Scientists don’t give up when proving their passion.   Consistently, they can pursue the same hypothesis for many, many, years, following good scientific protocol changing one variable at a time.  Over time they learn through experimentation, slowly building evidence to prove or disprove their hypothesis.  It’s about  following dreams – logically.  Unlike (me), constantly drenched by chasing rainbows (or butterflies?) muddying my purpose.

Ever notice how all the really cool science stuff is for kids?

Ever notice how all the really cool science stuff is for kids?

8. Creative:  Scientists, through observation and open-mindedness come up with new problems and new ways to problem-solve.   Einstein said it best:  “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  Personally I am victim to old biases and protocols clogging my creativity.  Sadly, the great boxed science experiments on store-shelves and in classrooms all have a set protocol and a ‘right answer’.  Creativity uncovers MANY right answers.

9. Critical Thinker:  Of course to get the most bang from experimental buck, scientists know all about logical analysis. What’s most critical, is remaining emotion-free, a challenge to many of us.  This is problem solving blended with creativity and an exacting methodology, while examining the observed.

10. Courage:  Scientists ‘get’ being laughed at for beliefs and hypothesis (even outside of social situations).  Is the world really round?  Imagine holding strongly to a belief and persistently plotting to prove and accomplish your passion?   REAL courage is all about staying open-minded and living without judgement.

Perhaps what I love most about this list is how ubiquitous these characteristics are for any person interested in a full life.  Including every manager, parent, friend, and human being.  I would be a better person by being a ‘better scientist’.  An exploration I can apply purpose and curiosity to!

Sure, scientists may be ‘different’ than you or me, but it’s not what you have – or even who you are:  It’s all about what you do with the qualities you posses!.

WWMND? (What would Mother Nature do?): A fictional conversation begins

5 Jun

What’s real?

As the new normal emerges as packaged austerity and annual 100-year storms,  I’ll let you decide once you’ve ‘listened’ to these somewhat fictional conversations I’ve been writing between somewhat fictional characters: Mother Nature, Humankind, Greenback, and Credit Card.

Here it is:

“Meet me for coffee.”  Mother Nature’s  invitational text sent in frustration was born from

frustration and sadness.  She’d heard too many rumbles of despair, drowned out by the constant drone of cell phone chatter, overwhelmed by music seeping out of ear plugs.

Overheard messages:  “They did it to me; fool me once, shame on them, fool me twice, super-sized shame on them”.

“I didn’t know.  How could I have known? “

“What do you mean my job isn’t there anymore?”

“It’s not MY fault.  They made me do it:  it was the advertising, the celebrities, the catalogues, my friends, my parent”s.

“They knew I’d lose the bet:  you just can’t eat one – or buy just one”.

“Don’t tell us what do – but if you don’t – it will be your fault”.

“It’s their fault.  They came in, gave us jobs, then, spilled their oil.  Lost our jobs.  Ruined our environment.  We want our jobs back.”

And most of all she heard:  “Bamboozled.  We’ve been bamboozled”.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature listens and shakes her head again.  She has watched exploding globalization, make America’s number one export the American Dream.. She’s watched so much melt away.  Literally:   icecaps, savings, and even happiness have seemed to POOF!  evaporate into thin, or rather carbon-dioxide heavy air.

Staring at her text to meet for coffee, she looks for blame.  But where to start?  Is it Greenback’s fault for the greed he ignites in Humankind?  Or is Humankind’s irresponsible and insatiable hunger for Mother Nature’s rich resources to blame?

These bullies are culprits – and potential saviors.  Much as Mother Nature hates the idea, she knows she has to practice friendship with her enemies, or she will be the planet’s sole inhabitant.

Not that this would necessarily be a bad thing.  After all, she doesn’t need Humankind or anyone else to survive.  Yet, she is an optimist and collaborator.

And meeting for coffee doesn’t sound so bad.  In fact, it sounds pretty good.  And she wants to meet these ‘characters’.

So off she goes to the local java joint.

sustainable mug - party talk for environmentalists

Later….

At the cafe:  Greenback joins Mother Nature in ordering lattes.  Credit Card arrives in time to swipe.

Sipping, Mother Nature shakes her head as she looks around:  “Ha!  People say they’re green as they drown in their mounds of organic clothes, fair trade coffee and ‘save the planet’ coffee mugs.”

“I know what you mean.  I may be called Greenback;, but I’m seeing red these days on too many bottom lines.  I feel like I’m having an existential crisis.  Do I exist or have I been passed over for a shiny piece of plastic?”  Holding his head in his hands, Greenback glances at Credit Card who is snickering  while chomping on a scone.

Has she found an ally so quickly?  Mother Nature looks sympathetically and says, “Yup, now you’re as screwed as I’ve been for decades.”

“But he has me to help.  Together we are invincible thanks to Humankind,” Credit Card adds pointing to Greenback.  “Where IS Humankind?”

Hopes of camaraderie fade, as Mother Nature’s mood changes as quickly as the weather:  “Sure you’re invincible – at MY expense.  Sure your value has multiplied since you’ve devoured all I have to offer, from the depths of my oceans to the tops of my mountains.  Wake up:  you grow, but I’m dying.”

“Humph!”  Greenback chortles, patting Mother Nature condescendingly on the back.  “Quit whining Mommy Dearest.  I’m never down for long.  My comeback is inevitable.  What’s YOUR problem?”

“Actually, it’s YOU.”-

Stay tuned for Humankind’s entrance.  In the meantime:

What do you think a successful relationship between Mother Nature, Humankind, Credit Card, and, Greenback would look like ?

Who is to blame for the mess our world is in?

What do you think will happen when Humankind shows up?

Do you think it’s possible for Mother Nature to form a win-win relationship with Humankind, Credit Card, and Greenback?  Why or why not?

Happy Earth Day 2013: Go get hugged!

21 Apr

‘They’ say we need 8 hugs a day to be at our best.

A celebration of earth's bounty: 'Spice and Tease' at NYC's Chelsea Market

A celebration of earth’s bounty: ‘Spice and Tease’ at NYC’s Chelsea Market

‘They’ say each person needs 56 trees’ oxygen to offset her personal production of carbon dioxide.

How many hugs then do trees need – or deserve – for taking care of us each and every day?

Before you read further:  go hug.  Hug a person and/or a tree.

Not aware of Earth Day?  It’s probably because it’s not a Hallmark holiday.  That’s a good thing –  (wasted) paper would exhaust the very resources to celebrate:  trees and water.

But the downside:  it’s not well celebrated – and our survival depends on it.  Literally.

Wikipedia  ‘facts’:  Earth Day (the first in 1970) and  International Mother Earth Day (by the United Nations in 2009) is observed annually on April 22  in support for environmental protection.   Around the planet, people are listening to music, learning about eco-friendly technology, recycling electronics, clothes, bottles and cans, and participating in cleanups.

I’ve done beach clean-ups, including in the Hurricane Sandy devastated Rockaway’s.  One long-time Rockaway resident observed:  ‘lots of people come here to clean up on one day.  Then, nothing.  Nobody comes to clean when the beaches get crowded – and dirtier.’

It’s true of course.

We put a lot of momentum into one day, and then go about our business.

That one day is our consolation, and a commemorative prize.

Aveda's annual water campaign provides awareness and clean drinking water!

Aveda’s annual water campaign provides awareness and clean drinking water!

But I wonder: why do the beaches need to be ‘picked up’ so often?   We’ve picked up cigarette butts, toys, bottles, cans, socks, towels, styrofoam cups, those big plastic cups, straws, and suntan lotion bottles. In April or May. Long before beach season begins.

People must believe it’s okay to bury their garbage along with their heads or feet in the sand….  Or that small stuff, like thousands of cigarette butts won’t make a difference because they are small.

Btw, cigarette butts don’t degrade.

Saturday, I volunteered with Riverkeeper, at NYC’s Hudson River Greenway.  The bright sunny day masked the freezing wind, keeping people moving along the beautiful green space that parallels the High Line and the Hudson River.  This event brought several environmental groups together to share information.

Solar One:  those little black squares are solar panels and the little colored things are spinning around

Solar One: those little black squares are solar panels and the little colored things are spinning around

(Interestingly, I was told, environmental groups compete for attention and funding, often not communicating and sharing thoughts and action.)

These groups do amazing things - not many people because it was FREEZING! Panelists including:  Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, Grow NYC and Hudson River Greenway

These groups do amazing things – not many people because it was FREEZING! Panelists including: Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper, Grow NYC and Hudson River Greenway

The passing public collected ‘swag‘:  reusable bags from Magnolia Bakery, Aveeno face cream, and pamphlets.  People love free stuff.

Swag (bags from Magnolia Bakery) roadkill?

Swag (bags from Magnolia Bakery) roadkill?

I asked one event participant why Earth Day wasn’t a widely celebrated ‘event’.

‘Exhaustion from being over publicized’

Is this really what we want to hear?jbblogfloprotacohvac.com

Is this really what we want to hear?jbblogfloprotacohvac.com

I wonder if it’s become like the boy calling ‘wolf’:  the environmentalist calling ‘global warming, global devastation’ one time too many.

first-earth-day-1970_1366004188 earthday2013funphotos.com

And we deal best with catastrophes when they strike –  all of us trying to stay afloat between devastating events from super storms to job loss.  Exhausting!

It’s almost understandable that clean air, water, healthy food, the diverse ecosystems that provides these things are exhausting to think about. Much less do anything about it.  I’ve often seen bottles in cans in Whole Foods garbage cans when a recycling bin is steps aways (and yes, I take them out and settle them in their proper receptacle!)

But here’s the most interesting thing:  Earth Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day are days apart.  

Coincidence?  

Maybe.  But these two days are joined in a tight hug.

This WWII poster says it all!

This WWII poster says it all!

Last year I wrote about the Bielski Partisans (movie: Defiance) WWII survival in the forests.

Wars, hate crimes, genocides ultimately are over resources.  Natural resources that come from the Earth.

People are killed over land, water, diamonds. Food.  Not to mention Nike’s.

So my thoughts on this beautiful Earth Day are:  Stand-up!

Hug a tree.  Hug a person.

Fight Genocide – fight for a healthy planet.

You can prevent war- reduce your consumption of ‘stuff’, turn off the water, drive less, recycle.

less is more earth day

Let’s focus on quality – not quantity.  Let’s care enough about ourselves and future generations to leave them a real inheritance.

Stand up by donating time, money, and energy.  Talk about and share these organizations:

Riverkeeper

Grow NYC

Waterkeeper

JNF (starting planting trees in Israel in 1901!)

Sierra Club

US Holocaust Museum

A Meaningful World (anti-Genocide)