Category Archives: health

Earth Day & March for Science

I’m heading to the lovely Santa Cruz March for Scienceonlinesquare and Earth Day celebration, and wanted to share a song to celebrate that:

(You can also see the lyrics to IFLS hereHank Green has lots of other nerdy science songs, plus SciShow and Crash Course, and I guess I’m a fangirl.)

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Holidays?

CGP Grey gives a brief recap of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, do take some time to get in touch with gratitude for all the good things in your world.  And do consider how many in the world have so much less.  Then remember that the following day is Black Friday Buy Nothing Day, now part of a complete Buy Nothing Xmas (courtesy of Adbusters) — a great way to start down the road to Degrowth.

At the very least, please avoid shopping at “the Dirty Dozen” this season:


Ebola and Applied Cultural Evolution—You Can Help

Using sensitive social science and evolutionary thinking to find solutions to complex, emerging problems.

Social Evolution Forum

A colleague of mine named Beate Ebert started a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) called Commit and Act in Sierra Leone. They run a psychosocial center in Bo, a city in the south of Sierra Leone, led by a local counselor, Hannah Bockarie. Bo is a high risk area of the Ebola epidemic, where some of the first cases showed up. One reason that the disease is so deadly is that it creates a perfect storm of cultural confusion. Here is how Beate described it to me in a recent email message.

Ebola mostly spreads because of local habits like washing and kissing dead bodies. People don’t get the information needed. They avoid hospitals as most people with Ebola die there. Doctors and nurses look like monsters in their prevention suits when they come to villages. The inhabitants are scared and think the health workers bring the disease. People circulate text messages…

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California’s Climate Crisis and Carnivory

So by now you must have seen the headlines.  California is in the grips of a devastating drought:

xkcd california drought graph

And this has some noticeable consequences:

Lake Oroville drought 2014

What’s to be done about it?  Well, a while back Derek Jensen noted that shorter showers are not the real answer.  And while collective action to deal with root causes needs to be stepped up (yes, I mean things like reducing greenhouse gas emissions… what planet have you been on for the last few decades?), we can also consider how to reduce our individual impacts in ways that are most effective.

One of the most effective actions to reduce your individual role in perpetuating the drought is actually by reducing the amount of meat (especially beef) in your diet.

water footprints for various products

Do you have to give up your burgers and steaks altogether to make a difference?  Of course not: two avid-to-average carnivores who cut their meat consumption in half is just as beneficial as one person who goes all the way veg. Meatless Mondays are a way to start – just do what you can to recruit six of your friends.  You don’t have to be perfect – the less meat-eating you do, the better you’re doing:

Better health for you as individuals, better water conservation, better greenhouse gas reduction – why wouldn’t you? And then there’s the whole set of animal rights considerations.

Maybe you’re not ready to go all the way, but wouldn’t you rather at least reduce your complicity in this mess?  Sure, it’s still a good idea to take shorter showers (and catch some of that water before it just goes down the drain), lose the lawn, and do other things to reduce your direct water waste.  But remember that these won’t have as much impact as changing your diet.


Think.Eat.Save is a new international campaign to address a plethora of problems by reducing food waste.

The down side: food waste is a massive global problem that has negative humanitarian, environmental and financial implications.

The up side: with relative ease and a few simple changes to our habits, we can significantly shift this paradigm.

Many regional campaigns have recently been launched, echoing to the challenge of food waste at the national level and in major sectors, including hotels, restaurants, supermarkets and households. Perhaps surprisingly, one-third of all unused food in developed countries is wasted by households.

via About Think.Eat.Save


Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labor and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.

Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.

via Fast Facts – A World of Waste.

Occupied Lands

I’m mostly hopeful about the promise of the “Occupy” movement.   One of the oft-reported weaknesses of the movement is the lack of a unified message.  But this criticism overlooks the essence of the thing: all of these varied concerns have sprouted from the same root.  Where the less-thoughtful of the media see a bunch of different demands from a disorderly gathering of unkempt kids, I hear varied perspectives on the same core issue.

One unifying slogan – “Human Needs over Corporate Greed” – seems to encompass the bulk of the message.  But not everyone understands immediately that human needs include the long-term vitality of ecosystems (and as little climate destabilization as can be obtained at this late date), health maintenance and health care (not just treating the sick, but providing adequate nutrition, clean air and clean water to all), access to educational opportunities (without being tied into debt) and a commitment to justice and true democracy.

I think, I hope, that this movement is a demand for a NEW SYSTEM in which people can be assured opportunities to do all the work that so needs doing, and a system where their needs will be met while doing it.  It’s okay that we don’t know what this system will look like yet.  What’s clear, what’s being protested, are the things that are most actively blocking the chance for something new to grow.

And already, within the movement, are the critiques.  These are valuable.  These are distracting, yes, but we ignore them at our peril.  As Frank Herbert said, “A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.”  One of the most important considerations has to do with indigenous perspectives on the name of the movement:

What “Wall Street” and the U.S. have become — an imperial-colonial power over the world’s economics and the laws that protect it — is a direct legacy of the fraud and violence committed against Native nations.

Perhaps those who now claim to OCCUPY WALL STREET in the name of reforming America’s economy could remember their history and call it something else (see Racialicious’ post for more discussion of the importance of language in opposition). Wall Street is, after all, already an occupied territory.

As are all of U.S. land “holdings” in northern America, the Pacific, and the Caribbean.

Decolonize the opposition!

(especially now that it is OCCUPYING L.A., Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago….)

via Tequila Sovereign: Manna-hata.

Perhaps the movement will find a new and better name as it develops.  I hope that the thoughtfulness, the questioning, is retained as essential to the movement’s well-being.  The importance of the core unifying principle should provide the coherence to prevent disagreements from becoming faultlines.

The people in power (and no, I don’t so much mean elected officials, I mean unaccountable power that comes from concentrated wealth, and the commercial-funded media mouthpieces for such power) want to ridicule what is happening.  They don’t perceive that this is the birth of something new; they only see it as opposing the status quo (which it is), and therefore they link it to older, more familiar terms that were seen as opposition to capitalism (e.g. communism or socialism).  But all of those bear the same underlying structure – the same genes as capitalism – for centralization, domination and short-term thinking.  My hope is that the new generation of activists is a movement away from those old systems of thought.   It hasn’t yet matured into an -ism, and with luck, foresight and courage it may never do so.

I won’t claim to know where this movement is going.  But just the choice speak out, to ask our civilization to change course at all from our headlong rush to ecological and cultural collapse is an improvement, a step away from the wrong direction that just might lead to steps in the right direction.

‘Contagion’ Connections: How Links Among Humans, Animals And The Environment May Be Spawning A New Class Of Infectious Diseases

‘Contagion’ Connections: How Links Among Humans, Animals And The Environment May Be Spawning A New Class Of Infectious Diseases.

I haven’t seen the movie, but this article provides another reminder of the complex, interlinked way that biological systems operate, and another call to encourage exchange across traditional disciplinary boundaries in research and teaching.