Saturday, September 26, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy?


Hi all. I haven't had a lot of time to blog, and this weekend is no different, as my Seattle brother Mike is in town for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, and willing to hang out on this beautiful Saturday. We're headed to the dog park off 119th & Quivera, followed by the Plaza Art Fair. If you're in KC, feel free to join us!

However, it would be very remiss of me not to put some information in front of you from the Environmental Working Group [EWG] on cell phone radiation. Apparently, the short term studies were pretty inconclusive, but now that cell phone use is so widespread and has been ongoing for a number of years, the studies aren't looking good.

Unfortunately, the FDA has been a lot slower about reaching conclusions and getting information out to us than some similar agencies in other countries. EWG has reviewed all the available studies and also put together a list of the best and worst cell phones for exposure. You can find all this information at the links below.

I've lifted just an introductory blurb from their pages, but a full research report is available:

"Researchers and public health experts worldwide are engaged in a vigorous debate about whether cell phone radiation can lead to brain cancer (American Cancer Society 2008; FDA 2003; Hardell 2009; IARC 2008, 2009b; Kundi 2009). While earlier, short-term studies did not find an increased risk of brain cancer (Ahlbom 2009; Croft 2008; FDA 2003), studies of long-term cell phone use, published over the last four years, have found an increased risk of developing two types of brain tumors on the ipsilateral side (the side of the brain on which the cell phone is primarily held) among people who used a cell phone for longer than 10 years (Hardell, Carlberg 2006b; Hours 2007; Lahkola 2007; Lonn 2005; Schoemaker 2005; Schuz, Bohler, Berg 2006; Takebayashi 2008):

•Glioma – a typically malignant tumor of the brain that arises from glial cells that provide physical support for the central nervous system;

•Acoustic neuroma – a benign tumor of the vestibulocochlear nerve that innervates the ear.

Two recent studies also reported increased risk of salivary gland (parotid gland) tumors among cell phone users (Lonn 2006; Sadetzki 2008)."

My friend Robyne Stevenson Turner says ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately, it's only bliss until the check arrives. Please check the EWG website, especially if you have children using phones. The effects are more pronounced.

Btw, here's what the stats look like on my old (red!) samsung (see above).

Please notice the effects are split out by those who wear the cell on their bodies, compared to those who hold them to the ear. Although on this phone, it's pretty even.

The web address for the EWG report, and for the radiation information on thousands of cell phone makes and models can be found here:

addendum: just when I thought I was done blogging for the day and could take off for the dog park, my crazy friend Jim Armstrong gave me the YouTube link below. While I don't think cell phone radiation is funny, I think this video is WAY FUNNY!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


10:10. Reduce your personal carbon emissions 10 percent in 2010.

Kaye Johnston, one of my students (well, truth be told, she's so much more than that; she's also the sustainability officer for University of Missouri's Kansas City campus) emailed me this morning after being inspired by the simplicity of 10:10, how doable it really is!

I went straight to the links she provided me, and was similarly impressed. Ok, I was not sure about giving up my airplane rides to see my daughters (really, we're going to have to rethink this thing about letting kids move away from home), but then I realized, the train runs right to Daughter Number Two in Flagstaff. A bit more problematic re: Daughter Number One, but I'll bet there are buses. If only they'd let me bring my dogs aboard. I guess, if I must motor trip it, I can buy carbon offset credits too, at

Honestly, though, these ideas are pretty simple and do-able. They just take a little conscienciousness. The website has a downloadable print-out you can put up on your fridge or bathroom mirror, and separate lists of emissions-cutting suggestions for People, Businesses, Education and Organizations. Let's not wait until it's too late. Let's make 2010 the year we reduce our carbon emissions 10 percent.

Here's the link:

Monday, September 21, 2009


Colliard greens - as much calcium as milk, half the calories. This week's featured food at World's Healthiest Foods.

If, like me, you've succumbed to the fun of facebook quizzes, let me suggest another. Why not take a quiz that's really informative and may change your life? The World's Healthiest Foods website (my personal favorite food site) offers a quiz (called The Food Advisor) to determine your nutritional strengths and weaknesses, and then makes recommendations to improve your score. Unlike other quizzes looking for the bad stuff (e.g. saturated fats, high sugar content, etc), this quiz is looking to see how many nutrients you're getting. According to the website:

"Answering our short questionnaire will help analyze your nutritional status and provide you with information regarding the nutrients which may be found deficient in your diet as well as recommendations for which foods and recipes will help fulfill your nutritional needs. The results are as accurate as your responses to the questions. Be sure to fill out the questionnaire as accurately as possible and avoid underestimating your food intake."

The World's Healthiest Foods: Food Advisor

Friday, September 18, 2009


I spent Erev Rosh Hashana in the theater, watching the first ever public screening of Michael Moore's new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, the jewel in the crown of the Kansas International Film Festival.

Yes, Michael Moore in Kansas. I was concerned that we wouldn't get in because...well... it's the new Moore film. I shouldn't have worried. It is, after all, still Kansas.. There was no line, no crush of people. The theater filled a respectable 260 of the 300 available seats.

I'm not going to do a review here, but it'd be wrong if I didn't let at least one cat out of the bag. Did you know corporations have found a way to profit from the death of their employees? Many companies have turned employee death into a profit center, taking out life insurance policies on the rank and file employees (without telling them), naming the company as beneficiary. When these employees die, presto! Easy money. This insurance is called "dead peasants insurance." Really. No permission needed. You're just a peasant after all. Don't believe it? Check it out here: Walmart, AT&T, american express, american greetings corp, bank of america, bristol-myers squibb, bell south, coca cola, cox enterprises, diamond shamrock... the list goes on and on... - almost every big name company you can think of.

Moore more than usual does a good job of keeping himself out of the way of the camera, and manages to restrain his typical mouthiness, a complaint I've had in the past. His information is always mind-blowing, but he has been, at times, his own worst enemy. I walk away from his films thinking, "let the footage speak for itself, Michael." Not this time.

You need to see this film. It was quite inspirational. I'm ready to join a band of protesters staging a sit-in for an evicted family, or to feed fired workers of a closed down factory. Even if you're not a Moore fan, see it. Please!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Climate Change & Global Food Security

Who'd a thunk trees would be the answer?

"Sahara" by artist Angela Vandenbogaard

What happens to food production as temperatures warm?

Climate change models suggest that some of the highest impact will be in southern Africa. Given that hunger is already a significant problem there, this outcome is tragic. Between rising temperatures and coastal land loss to rising sea levels, food production levels will likely plummet. What can we do? How can we prepare to feed a growing world with a reduced agricultural land base?

Below is a fascinating discussion about the impacts of climate change on food security, sponsored by the Open Society Institute. The first few minutes, the speakers discuss the climate change models and some predictions of devastation - particularly in the hunger-ridden South Africa. The rest of the clip, however, explains a healing revolution in agriculture that can have profound effects for adapting to climate change. In Niger and Somalia, South Africa, farmers are nurturing trees in the midsts of their fields. How? The forest act like a pump. When air comes across the field, the trees cool it about 10 degrees. The roots aerating the soil, hold water, leads to raised water tables, and disrupt soil erosion. Their leaves stop the wind from eroding soil and blowing seeds away, and the trees provide mulch. This doubles and triples production, and has ended the loss of children to hunger in the areas where this agricultural tactic is utilized! A simple, effective alternative to genetically modified agriculture and high tech proposals.

This a visually boring video clip, but I figured you could listen to the audio in the background while you multi-task on another screen.

By the way, OSI is funded by the very controversial George Soros, about whose political impact we hear so much. I liked learning about the ways Soros is contributing to social issue problem-solving outside of the political arena.

The Adaptation Imperative-Food Security and Climate Change Open Society Institute

See more work by Angela Vandenbogaard here:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

U.S.A. # 37

The World Health Organization ranked the U.S.A.'s health status at number 37, behind...well... just about everybody. Ok, we're 37 out of the 193 countries ranked by WHO... but... aren't we supposed to be the richest country in the world? Shouldn't we be closer to the TOP?

Thanks to Francine Hardaway for bringing this great musical celebration of our "status" to my attention! Catchy tune, but you might wanna turn your sound down just a bit.

Here are some other bits of information from WHO:

The USA's health facts at a glance:

World Health Statistics 2009:

World Health Report 2008, summary:

Full World Health Report 2008, pdf:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dramatic Visuals: Our Changing Ice Flows

James Balog, photographer speaking at TED, shares images from the Extreme Ice Survey, a network of time-lapse cameras recording receding glaciers. Based on 25 time-lapse cameras designed, built and operated by Balog, these photos offer vivid evidence of climate change.

By the way, if you haven't discovered TED, it's a "small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize."

If you want to hear from some of the most brilliant, creative minds of our times, I encourage you to find your way to TED and do a search among the hundreds and hundreds of speakers to find some on topics of interest to you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Did Global Warming Stop in 1998?

I want to share this fact-laden video addressing a favorite "denier" claim, that the planet stopped its warming trend in 1998. Most pointedly, one of the deniers with the most respectable credentials, Patrick Michaels, warned the attendees at the Heartland Institute's 2008 conference not to spread information "so easily debunked." The video is put together by Peter Sinclair, an environmental activist, writer and videographer. I watched it on DeSmogBlog, a blog whose mission is "fact based information regarding Global Warming misinformation campaigns."

Friday, September 4, 2009

All Plastics Are Not Alike

I'm on the mailing list for the Environmental Working Group, an organization that, among other things, disseminates educational material about health and environmental impacts of lifestyle choices. Today they sent some interesting information about picking plastics. All plastics are not alike. Here's the meat of the article, but I hope you'll use the links to read the remainder:

"The toxicity of plastics is not fully understood or adequately tested. What we do know is that most plastics contain chemical additives to change the quality of the plastic for its intended use (examples are to make it softer or resistant to UV light). Some of these ingredients or additives we know are harmful, like the plastics chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) and the plastic softeners called phthalates. Others, we just don't know enough about."

"Stay away from toys marked with a "3" or "PVC" (PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, commonly called vinyl). PVC is often mixed with phthalates, a toxic additive that makes plastic more flexible. While phthalates were recently banned in new children's toys, they may be in toys made before February 2009 when the ban went into effect, as well as in shower curtains, inflatable beach toys, raincoats and toys for children older than 12.

Avoid polycarbonate containers (sometimes marked with a #7 or "PC"), especially for children's food and drinks. These plastics are rigid and transparent, like plastic food storage containers and water bottles, among other things. Trace amounts of BPA can migrate from these containers, particularly if used for hot food or liquids. Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA. A recent study from Harvard University found that college students drinking their cold drinks from polycarbonate bottles had 93% more BPA in their bodies than during the weeks that they drank liquids from other containers.

We recommend the use of glass over plastics. When you have no choice, plastics marked with a #1, 2, 4, or 5 don’t contain BPA and may be better choices.
"When you do use plastics, handle them safely. We suggest that you:

Don't microwave food or drinks in plastic containers -- even if they claim to be "microwave safe." Heat can break down plastics and release chemical additives into your food and drink. Microwaves heat unevenly, creating hot spots where the plastic is more likely to break down.

Use plastic containers for cool liquids -- not hot.

Don't reuse single-use plastics. They can break down and release plastics chemicals when used repeatedly.

Avoid old, scratched plastic water bottles. Exposures to plastics chemicals may be greater when the surface is worn down.

Wash plastics on the top rack of the dishwasher, farther from the heating element, or by hand. This will reduce wear and tear.

Don't allow your baby or young child to handle or chew on plastic electronics (the remote, your cell phone) because they may be treated with fire retardants (learn more about fire retardants and how to reduce your family's exposure in a previous
Healthy Home Tip).
Wash children's hands before they eat."

Read the rest here:

Why you should pick plastics carefully.
How to choose and use safer plastics.
Finding safer, non-plastic alternatives."

The entire article can be found here: Healthy Home Tips 4: Pick plastics carefully Environmental Working Group

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dogs As Food or Food for Thought?

" Zen, which has been in English since 1727, is the Japanese pronunciation of Chinese chán, “quietude.” Chán comes from Pali jhānaṃ, from Sanskrit dhyānam, “meditation,” from the Sanskrit root dhyā–, dhī–, “to see, observe.” The Indo-European root behind the Sanskrit is *dheiə–, *dhyā–, “to see, look at.”

Each summer since my teens, a strange personal phenomenon befalls me. Some new idea or perspective - a lense, if you will - surfaces from the depths of my psyche, and for the months before the Jewish High Holidays that lense becomes a dominant lense through which I view my world. This year, the lense is Zen-ish. It feels Zen-ish to me because the world has contrived to wrest from me whatever small control I had over critical personal affairs, leaving me rudderless, in limbo. And somehow, instead of fighting for control, I simply relaxed into the loss. In case you are wondering what I'm referring to, I'll outline it briefly.

Until about five years ago, I was gainfully employed as a lawyer-lobbyist type in Arizona's capitol city of Phoenix. Then, I set in motion a life-change designed to take me through a Ph.D program and dump me out as a university academic teaching environmental policy, the subject of my prior legal practice. I desired to step back from politics, to look at social problems from a less political, more solution-oriented perspective. With a bit of belt-tightening, this plan seemed feasible.

Now, picture this. I, blissfully ignorant of the coming economic tidal wave, go about my business. I take years of classes, pass my comprehensive exams, become a Teaching Fellow, and finally begin my dissertation research. Then, about a year ago, the bottom falls out of the economy, just as I am about to fall out of my program. The first hint of the economy's coming impact on my own life: my administration forwards a letter from Harvard to its faculty outlining cutbacks the school must take, including a faculty hiring moratorium. Within a week or two, the Harvard letter is followed by another letter of the same ilk. This time from my own administration, to our faculty.

In my field there are maybe a hundred-plus jobs a year that come available across the country. Suddenly there are maybe 20 jobs. And, instead of being tenure track positions, these handful are short-term contract positions, rung reluctantly out of moratorium-tied administrations via a waiver application process. If I was qualified for a couple dozen of the hundred-plus, I feel very fortunate to have been asked to interview for two of the handful. And, given the steep competition for the few existing jobs, it does not surprise me that I won neither job. I am a newly minted academic - actually not even quite minted, as the dissertation is still unfinished and there are no publications to show off.

At first I try damage control. I stop working on the dissertation and apply myself to a couple of articles so that I can be published - more competive. I inform my faculty that I don't intend to graduate until I find a job, in order to keep my health insurance. I tighten my belt even further. And finally, I pack up my pets and head out to Arizona (where EcoCurious was launched last April). I believed that, because of my years' and years' worth of friends and contacts in Arizona, I might more easily find a job. However, those in the know, like economic development guru Ioanna Morfessis, warned me not to get my hopes up. The Phoenix economy is one of the hardest hit in the nation, relying as it historically has on population growth and real estate. I spent nearly four months solid networking, found one job to interview for, "came in second," and left at the beginning of the summer empty-handed. Realizing that it was financially imprudent to fire-sale my Kansas house in this market and without a job - I resigned myself for the time-being to stay in Kansas. Stuck, stuck, stuck, with not a hint of my future.

Someone else would panic. Someone else would fret endlessly over dwindling finances, wondering where their next paycheck would come from. Someone else might go to their doctor and ask for something to calm their nerves, anxious and sleepless because it is nerve-wracking not to know whether you will end up in Arizona, Pennsylvania or Oregon. Whether you will be teaching or whether you will be forced to give up the dream and take some other type of job altogether. There comes a point where personal preferences are no longer among the options. And in fact, I have at least two friends whose nerves frayed badly from being in exactly this situation. Not your classical shlub who can't hold a job, but two very talented individuals whose lives and livelihoods had been thrown for a loop by the economy. One has an impeccable academic pedigree and ran successful venture funds. One has an unbelievable history of creative work as a communication specialist. After about a year out of work, and dozens and dozens of resumes submitted and interviews tolerated, neither was holding up well.

In my case, however, the Zen-ish thing settled over me early. The large, airy house that was my Phoenix home was devoid of furnishings, except for an office chair pulled up to a built-in kitchen desk on which I parked laptop and books, and a blow-up bed borrowed from my friend Jean. I bought a couple of tea mugs, and two of each, plate and utensils. I had no couch, no table. I had internet (of course!) but no cable. For the first time in my life, I had no TV. My visitors were incredulous. They asked how I could live without the trappings of civilized society. I offered them my desk chair to sit on, and pulled up a work-out ball for myself. They were noticibly uncomfortable. "I don't know," I told them, "but it is strangely relaxing. Oddly freeing." I meant it. It was my first entry into the Zen-ish-ness that has become my life.

Today, I find that my personal limbo is a great scenic overlook on the highway of life. Instead of driving by, I have pulled to the side of the road to take advantage of the view. Things I have taken for granted my entire life are getting a philosophical once-over. And don't think that my turn toward philosophy fills otherwise empty hours. I offer two classes regularly, and somehow three more courses have materialized. I added one this semester and am building the other two for next semester. Projects are underway. My dissertation is finally rising to the top of my to do list. I have a great many new friends here in Kansas City, and I get out. But simply put, the inability to design and control my future has freed up brain space to ponder life afresh. To discover my own voice here in this blog, because I have been freed from being someone else's professional mouthpiece. To find a new freedom to reconsider many aspects of my old life. Suddenly I am attempting to realign my lifestyle to more closely match my ideology. I am open to this, because there are no rules and no plans to hem in my vision.

I go with the flow, and the flow asks to be examined.

# # #

In this spirit of this fresh review, I offer up links to two recent blogposts by another writer, Angel Flinn, who is also asking important questions about practices we take for granted. In "Dog, Horse... It's Good Food for Us," and the sequil, "A Mouthful of Flesh" she revisits the way we perceive, embrace and utilize different species of animal. For some we hold great affection, deeming them worthy of protection because we have opened our hearts and homes to them. Others we sever from such consideration, because our contact with them is primarily limited to eating their parts as food. It's not like we don't know this, but we mostly just accept it. We pat the pup under the dinner table. We eat the chicken on our plate.

If this is starting to sound like a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) ad, withhold your judgment. Flinn does not believe in killing animals, but even if you disagree with her ultimate conclusion (I am not a vegetarian), she has insightful observations around human behavior with regard to animals. At a minimum, accept her call for mindful living. Hear her request that we acknowledge the consequences and implications of our choices. This is a food chain and we are fortunate to be at the top of it. It is the way of life and the source of nourishment. And yet, as thinking human-beings with the ability and proclivity to philosophize - to reflect upon the meaning we make through our behavior - we are more than simply food chain royalty. With that position comes choice - ours has been to spare the kitty and spear the cow. With that choice comes responsibility. Isn't it incumbent upon us to ask, each time we eat meat, what it means that our own sustainance is tied to the death of other creatures? You may ultimately come to a different conclusion than Flinn, but the questions she raises are very important.

Today I ask you to go Zen-ish with me. To think about this basic act of taking life so that we may live, and to ask how we might best honor this gift and the animals who are sacrificed in the process. To stay with my earlier metaphor, Flinn has offered us a bit of a scenic overlook. I urge you to pull off here and check the view.

Dog, Horse... It's Good Food for Us
A Mouthful of Flesh

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

REAL or HOAX, ad infinitum

For those who read my blogs about Climate Change denial,
REAL or HOAX part I, &
REAL or HOAX part II,

If you continue to be interested in the on-going debate about the validity of global warming claims, here's a blogpost you might wanna read....

Jonah Goldberg’s classic know-nothing, non-denial climate denial « The Way Things Break
And now for a little entertainment: