The Great Milk Debate Part 2

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I have just read Julia K’s post regarding the safety of cow’s milk as food for humans and would like to make a few comments. Julia is absolutely right in her assessment of milk and osteoporosis. I discovered the same thing 30 or 40 years ago, and drank milk substitute for many years (mostly rice milk).  However this objection doesn’t condemn all dairy products. She is certainly right, that we don’t need to eat dairy for the calcium. If we are Vitamin D and K2 sufficient, with supporting co- nutrients, then almost any diet will have enough calcium for our needs, as we really only need 200 to 300 mg a day at minimum. We also need to eat an approximately balanced ratio with potassium and phosphorous, and they are harder to get.

She is also right to flag problems with growth hormones. Fortunately, we don’t allow growth hormones in dairy cattle in Canada. Just don’t consume US dairy and you will dodge that.

Julia mentions the damaging nature of pasteurization. When we talk about grocery store milk, we aren’t really evaluating the original product, i.e. raw milk, which has many positive aspects. For those interested in more info, I recommend Dr. Kate Shanahan’s book, Deep Nutrition, which contains much useful info on milk and pasteurization.

Julia refers to the relationship between high protein content and metabolic disturbances. Milk is relatively high in protein. The metabolic products of protein are acidifying. Too much acid creates problems with PH levels in the body. Another concern is that proteins can convert to glucose in your body, raising problems associated with high blood sugar levels. This problem is accentuated when consuming 1 and 2 % milk. But, if you are eating cream, yogurt and cheeses that are full fat, then the protein level in them is low and the story is different. Especially if it is a fermented product, where the bacteria have transformed it into something more suitable for us to digest. Fortunately I happen to like old cheese, and the older the better. I say fortunately, because a significant quantity of my daily fats come from dairy. But I don’t drink whole milk itself, for the many of the reasons Julia cites.

Another worrying side of milk, is what food the cow eats. These days, dairy cows are fed primarily grains and corn. The corn is almost certainly GMO, and both of them would have been sprayed with and contain residual levels of Roundup. The grains will change the omega 3 / omega 6 ratio of the fats to the unfavourable one, high in omega 6’s. I would love to find cheese etc. made from grass fed cows milk, but don’t know anywhere I can get it. The inflammation I am struggling to suppress now may be in part due to this bad ratio, since omega 6’s are inflammatory.


Is Cow’s Milk Healthy for People?

milkThe famous question ” Is cow’s milk the best option for optimal health” was brought to me by  Oxford Chiropractic, and here was one of my answers.

This topic is a BIG one and sometimes can be a bit controversial. With more and more studies being done on how milk is being produced and what it actually does to our bodies, we are starting to see that cows milk is not a healthy option for us humans.

There are many different routes I could take to answer this question with the ever-growing lists of reasons why, including; the pasteurization process; growth hormones and antibiotics which are given to cows to help produce the milk; the fact that cow’s milk is custom-designed for calves and contains 3 times more protein than human milk, which creates metabolic disturbances in humans; humans over the age of 4 do not produce the proper enzymes to breakdown lactose: and the list goes on and on!! But today I want to focus on how drinking cows milk can actually be harmful to our bone health! 

The milk myth… ” Cow’s milk is a protein and calcium-rich drink that is essential to support good overall bone health at any age”…is widely used and often referred to when thinking about overall health. It is easy to understand the confusion about milk’s benefits because it does contain calcium – around 300 mg per cup.
However, not only do we barely absorb the calcium in cow’s milk (especially if pasteurized), but to make matters worse, it actually increases calcium loss from the bones! Like all animal protein, milk acidifies the body pH which in turn triggers a biological correction. Calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer and the biggest storage of calcium in the body is in the bones. So, the very same calcium that our bones need to stay strong is utilized to neutralize the acidifying effect of milk. Once calcium is pulled out of the bones, it leaves the body via the urine. So the surprising net result after drinking milk, is an actual calcium deficit!

* Statistics show that countries with the lowest consumption of dairy products also have the lowest fracture incidence in their population!

International Year of Soils

raking-soilMy quest for better health began with a series of questions. What’s in the food that I’m eating? How is it produced? Under what conditions? Is it safe? This led me to start growing some of my own food and to buy more food at organic farm markets. I reached out to other gardeners and shared information on enriching soil, crop rotation, companion planting and ways to extend the growing season. I learned about permaculture and followed debates within the organic food movement.

Today I learned the UN has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils. Alan Guebert writes about this initiative, calling it Dirt’s Big Year for the Manitoba Co-operator. To promote awareness of the importance of good soil practices, the Soil Science Society of America offer a lesson plan for school teachers. Here is a slideshare about composting and soil from the Rodale Institute.

Show of Hands on Fish Farming

Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon farm off Meteghan, Nova Scotia. (Photo by Adrien Veczan)

Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon farm off Meteghan, Nova Scotia. (Photo by Adrien Veczan)

Yesterday’s press conference held at the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax was greeted by a room jam-packed with 400 concerned citizens. The purpose of the meeting was to send a loud and clear message to the McNeil government to put order into the chaotic affairs of fish-farming in Nova Scotia. Those who were there witnessed an impressive show of leadership and collaboration by a wide coalition of community, environmental and commercial groups (in all 33 different organizations). Many of these groups had started in total opposition to unregulated open net fish pens in shallow waters but today rally together to support a comprehensive solution. The meeting contained an underlying warning that the recently issued Doelle-Lahey report must be adopted in full to be accepted by a disgruntled public and by a growing number of alarmed fishermen. Half measures won’t do.

Packed houseStewart Lamont, of Tangier Lobster stated: “The status quo is a wild west show in Nova Scotia in terms of what can be done in open net pen farms.”

Raymond Plourde, from the Ecology Action Centre, was asked by a reporter why his group’s endorsement of the report was so guarded. Plourde replied that if he had his way open net fish pens in shallow waters would be banned entirely. He went on to give his reasons: too many fish are jammed together (in one case over 2 million fish contained in one netted pen in a cove near Lunenburg) resulting People from the Valley in diseases and parasites that migrate from the farmed fish to wild fish, endangering the total fish populations. As well, the waste products and pesticides used on the fish destroy sea beds in local harbours. Plourde explained that lobsters from Nova Scotia fetch top prices around the world (and support a billion dollar local industry). The reason for this great success is the belief that these lobsters come from pristine waters. This is true, but may not be for long if fish farms continue their unregulated and unsafe practices.



Roundup…. Glyphosate study‏

round-up-bullI subscribe to and they send me news bulletins on many of the subjects that we are following. Today I got a link to this report.

Firstly, let me note that the report, and authors of the report are about as far disconnected from Monsanto as they could get on this planet, so we should be assured of a reasonably untainted treatment.

I suggest you read the report now, and think about what it is saying.

My first reaction was dismay… I never realized how pervasive this chemical is, nor the myriad ways that GMO’s can be harmful… I only knew of the Roundup – 24D – Bt routes….

I’m not sure if I told you, but I have had a personal run-in with Roundup.

My brother ( and Father at the time, because he was still alive ) run a farm, mostly strawberry u-pick in Newfoundland. This was around 1997 or so and I was working in the Bahamas. I went to visit them in the summer, and my brother had to spray his fields… with Roundup. I know that Dad used to keep the big drums of this stuff in his basement…. Well my brother’s wife, is usually the one who follows just behind the sprayer, with an adjustable wrench, ready to undo any nozzles on the long sprayer bar that became blocked with sediment, shake out the nozzle, and put it back. She was gone at the time, so I volunteered. I spent a good many hours, dripping Roundup all over my hands, and probably breathing in the fine spray as well.

Then I continued my travels and returned to the Bahamas. By the time I was flying back, I had the most awful hives, big, itchy, oozing patches all over me, particularly arms…. and my biggest fear was that they would stop me in customs thinking I had some terrible contagious disease. Not so.

When I got back to the Bahamas, I went immediately to the doctor and he did the normal thing, prescribed me a large dose of steroids and sent me home.

I had that rash in some form or other for at least a year, and, over time I finally figured out what had caused it. My Dad and Brother gave me assurances that it was benign and I must just be allergic to it, or something else. Let me also mention that my Dad was not only a Professional Engineer who  supervised quarries, prestressed concrete, asphalt roads and runways and aggregate production, he was also a Chemical Engineer and, in his later working life, taught chemistry at the technical school to pharmacy students… he had some credibility with me.

Now, especially after reading this report, I know how destructive this chemical is, and how pervasive it is in our environment and food supply. I especially noted the section beginning page 23 where they detail the kidney damage. I know, in the 8 months or so before we went gluten free, that I was suffering from severe pain in my liver and kidneys… enough so that I couldn’t sleep at night, and I realized that it was serious and I may have to turn myself over to the medical system. Fortunately, and somewhat by chance, when we shifted our diet, all that pain went away.

Now that I see the damage Roundup does, particularly to these two organs, it all clicks in place. I fortunately dodged a serious bullet, or at least so far I have, let me say that much. If there were cancerous changes made to cells by this chemical, I am relying on my generously sufficient level of Vitamin D to take care of it.

This is a very thorough discussion of the general subject of Genetically Modified Organisms, and I am learning many new ( and alarming ) things from it. Particularly about the other genes that are also put into the plants from various sources and how they, too can have ” unintended consequences ”

I don’t necessarily buy that all the increases in chronic disease are due solely to the introduction of Roundup and GMO’s…. I think the big picture truth is that it is a combo effect, with some of the other problems contributing….. fear of sunshine exposure and indoor living causing low Vitamin D in the general population, high consumption of sugars, grains and other carbs, diminished nutrition in our food due to chemical fertilizers, monoculture, and poor soil practices, a myriad of other chemicals insulting our bodies all the time,  more stress in our lives etc. etc.

Notice that both Dr. Seralini and Seneff are mentioned here. We have run into them before. But now I see there are several others, and their credibility is high, as none of them are connected to big ag or big business and a lot of the info comes, not from the US, but from the EU and other more civilized places.

This is going to take some digesting. We can now see that there are threats from places we never realized. Something like Kathleen telling me the other evening that my Blueberries are sprayed with Roundup !! Now I find out there’s lots more ….. The magnitude easily qualifies this as a crime against humanity.

I must insert a note of optimism here… I also get e-mails from the people running the pro side of Proposition 92 in Oregon, the one to require labelling on all foods that have GMO content. They are recounting ballots and there are now only 812 votes separating the Yes and No sides… and they are very hopeful now that they are going to overtake the  Monsanto crowd and win this after all !!! That would be a great victory for all of us.

Enough for now. We can talk about this when we see you again.


Vitamin D: Changing Attitudes to Medicine

VitmainD copy

Nutrition is often treated as an after-thought by the public, by the media and by researchers who see medicine as a brave new world of wonder drugs, zappings, and other space-age procedures, played out in an arena of high technology. But this attitude may be changing. In his 2010 talk, Vitamin D: Role in Preventing Cancer, presented by the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, Dr. Cedric Garland makes a strong case for using Vitamin D as a primary means of cancer prevention. He starts his lecture by showing a map of the United States, colour-coded red to indicate the regions where breast cancer cases most commonly occur. He asks why cancer is more common in the northern latitudes of the industrial coal-burning Northeast and less common in the sunnier latitudes and less industrial regions of the country?

This map helped researchers correlate breast cancer rates and the degree of sunlight with its strong natural vitamin D component.

This map correlates breast cancer rates and the degree of sunlight with its strong natural vitamin D component.

Critics pooh pooh such stuff because it is epidemiological evidence, collected by analyzing associations between disease incidence and diet, environment, etc. This is only association, they say, it doesn’t prove causation. And they are right. The only absolutely rigorous proof is a double-blind placebo controlled study conducted with large numbers of people over a considerable period of time. Unfortunately, it is unlikely this is ever going to happen, because there’s no profit in it for the corporate interests. This kind of reasoning that rejects reasonable and helpful data because it is not definitive gives medical researchers (and the pharmaceutical body) a good excuse not to take any action in the direction of nutrition and environment. We don’t challenge the “experts” on this, bowing to their superior “knowledge and wisdom.” As a result, we find ourselves locked in a limbo state, where we generously fund “cancer research” to find the magical pharmaceutical silver bullet. The conveniently concealed knowledge is there is no such thing. The answer will never be found this way and thus there is a wonderful, endless source of funds and profit-taking from high priced drugs, which pretend to offer solutions, but don’t really.

SunGraphic2The experts should be challenged. Although absolute causation cannot be proven, the circumstantial evidence is strong. So-called “primitive people,” living in places with lots of sun, and contemporary beach-patrolling lifeguards who have similar exposure to naturally-generated Vitamin D, have levels that fall between 50 and 80 nanograms per milliliter. In contrast, modern people who shun the sun, based on misguided fears of skin cancer, have levels drastically lower than that. Indoor lifestyles add to the problem, especially for those living in higher northern latitudes. The flu season clearly follows the winter low-sun time. In the southern hemisphere, the flu season is six months out of synchronism with the northern hemisphere, which is perfectly consistent with the “theory” that Vitamin D deficiency has an effect on immune systems.

Modern chronic diseases, rare in our hunter-gatherer ancestors, are now rampant in current populations. These chronic diseases consistently appear alongside lowering levels of Vitamin D in our blood, including a lower chance of cancer survival if diagnosed in the winter, rather than in the summer.

Popular fears that “high” Vitamin D3 use (above 2,000 IUs per day) is “dangerous” is a bunch of caplooey. This misrepresentation of D3 was caused by earlier use of Vitamin D2, which does have safety limits. D3 is altogether more effective than D2 and much safer. One of the surprises of Dr. Garland’s research was the discovery that the intake of D3 can be very safely taken up to levels of 10,000 per day, especially with the added precaution of taking K2 at the same time. The fact that I am vertical right now, and not dead, speaks volumes to that, on a personal note.

So, given there is a high likelihood that there is significant positive benefit to be had, implementation is cheap (pennies per day), and there are no negative side effects, then the position of the medical establishment, not to support and indeed encourage optimal Vitamin D levels in the general population, but especially as the first order of business when processing and treating a patient is untenable, and indeed negligent.

If I appear to criticize the medical establishment, it should be noted that many doctors are also speaking out and creating a lively debate on these matters. American author and educator Sayer Ji has created a forum for many of these voices. This forum may in time become a movement. Ji calls it “green medicine.” My blog today was inspired by new info posted by Sayer Ji about a late 2014 study that confirms a causal relationship between Vitamin D and positive treatments for breast cancer. The authors of this study state (a bit evasively and not clearly enough for my liking, but perhaps due to legal advice) that the present treatment protocol for breast cancer in many cases either makes the situation worse or actually precipitates the dreaded metastasis, totally against the medical precept of “do no harm.” Many breast “cancers” are groups of somewhat abnormal cells, but among these are cancer stem cells, which are resistant to radiation and/or chemo treatments. By employing such invasive therapies, the majority of the mild mass of the tumour is destroyed, but leaves the stem cells untouched. After treatments, these resistant stem cells congeal in much greater proportion and spread rapidly. The tumour becomes highly malignant, leading to the death of the patient in short order. Whereas, if it had been left undisturbed, the condition may not have developed or would have done so much more slowly. The authors argue that getting sufficient Vitamin D to the patient may enable the body to clear the problem altogether.

Indeed, by encouraging the general population to take regular meaningful intake of nutrients such as Vitamin D3 as a matter of course, patients may be capable of dealing with errant cells at the first sign of cells going off track, and thus preventing any incident whatsoever. Indeed the almost total absence of all cancers in “primitive” or traditional peoples proves that optimally nourished humans are fully capable of dealing with wayward cells as they occur. I think this preventive nutrition-oriented approach is really the best scenario, and the one that I would favour promoting in our public health strategy.

Let’s try a test 

When I use the term optimally nourished, I hesitate to restrict this just to the use of Vitamin D. Vitamin D works best as a co-factor with other nutrients such as magnesium, Vitamin K2 and Vitamin A.  I would like to see a representative slice of the general population treated with optimal nourishment. What if half a dozen doctors, across the province, offered to supply patients with Vitamin D, etc. and then regularly measured their nutrient levels, with steps taken to “optimize” levels, as needed? These nutrition-supported patients would be monitored for how many and what kind of medical events they have for at least a couple of years, but ideally for many years. They could then be compared, on an ongoing basis, to the rest of the provincial population, and a reckoning of the cost savings (I am pretty confident there would be savings) produced from time to time, to prove the financial advantage, without even having to deal with the less clearly defined “quality of life” advantage. I think a study of this kind could be fairly low cost, and worth while. So, without dealing with the thorny issue of proving absolute causation, proving financial advantage is all it would take to make a very compelling case.

Local Power

Nigel Solar BarnCongratulations to This Green World co-founder Nigel Thornley for completing the install of 39 PV solar panels on the roof of his barn located in Hants Border, Nova Scotia. A retired electrical engineer, Nigel is also an accomplished carpenter and gardener. He built the barn two years ago for storing wood and farm equipment, but also with the intention of installing solar panels on the roof.

NigelSolarRoof copyI was fortunate to be there filming as Nigel bolted the last panel in place. It was surprising to see how quickly–just a matter of minutes–it took to network the panels together and plug the system into an inverter. By noon, the house was running on its own supply of solar power. This project is the first of three started in the area by a group of neighbors, who ordered their panels together in bulk.


Concepts for a Shifting Landscape: New Models for Energy and Food

PotatoTending1One reason why our environmental problems are so vexing and polarizing is because they are largely self-inflicted. We are the problem. We enjoy the benefits of burning fossil fuels, just as we enjoy the low costs of food that come from industrial farming. However unsafe energy and agriculture practices are causing serious long-term damage, the cost of which is unaccounted for. The good news is: we are also the solution. We can work together to invent new strategies to safeguard the environment while maintaining current levels of productivity. These strategies involve recognizing shifts in a business landscape.

A shifting landscape creates opportunities as well as problems. We need to distinguish two different kinds of solutions to problems. Some solutions solve an immediate problem, but they lead to further problems. Often these further problems are more serious than the original problem. Here’s an example: In the 19th and 20th centuries, people burned coal and other fossil fuels in furnaces, cars and other machines. This solution worked for a time. It solved the one problem of running our machines and supplying power to our cities. However, this solution led to more serious subsequent problems: pollution, climate change, and the acidification of our oceans. A small problem mushroomed into a gigantic problem.

Here’s another example: as our population increases, there is an increased demand for food. The problem is our farmland is limited in size. The short-term solution has been to increase the use of fertilizers and pesticides and at the same time to alter the genes of our favourite plants to make them more resistant to these toxins. This has made farms more productive, with higher yields per acre. Unfortunately this solution has led to more serious subsequent problems: the toxins used on our foods and the genetic modifications have led to an increase in autism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia. In short, we have more food now than before, but the food we have is making us sick. On top of this, the way we’re growing our food is depleting the natural nutrients in the soil and turning farmlands into deserts.

The kind of solution that solves one problem but leads to a more serious problem needs a name. I call it a “net-loss solution.” In contrast, a solution that brings positive long-term benefits might be regarded as a “net-gain solution.” I borrow these terms from the language of accounting. If we are to survive our own self-inflicted problems, we need to encourage or reward those who choose net-gain solutions, while discouraging or punishing those who choose net-loss solutions that threaten the well-being of our communities.

One of our greatest problems is this: we make organizations that operate with net-loss solutions into fortress-like institutions and mighty industries, as if they were essential to our collective identity and sense of self-worth. Blunders made by these entities are dressed up to appear respectable. To reform a destructive practice is regarded as an impossible proposition, an assault on culture itself.

Why is it impossible? These entities are businesses that must respond like any business to the changes taking place around them.

 The New Energy Model, the New Farming Model

People resist change because it’s hard to imagine what the new order will look like, how it will work, how it will affect our jobs, our lives, our families. That’s why we turn to models—conceptual tools that structure the way groups operate and interact. One model that has recently impacted all our lives is the “producer/ sharer” model. This is the model behind mobile technology. The old model in communications allowed a handful of TV stations and newspapers to produce all the content and information for the bulk of the population to passively consume. This was a “producer/ consumer” model. Information only flowed in one direction, from a central TV station or big city newspaper office to households around the country. The average person made little contribution. The Internet has made this model obsolete. Of course there are still TV stations and newspapers, but they now one source of information among many. Today, TV stations and newspapers are like tiny rivers flowing into a vast reservoir of information into which everyone posts stories and shares information. We are all producers of news and information, as well as being sharers. We are active participants.

AmateurSolarThis “producer/ sharer” model is currently shifting the landscape in two other fields: energy and agriculture. As home owners install more and more solar panels, heat pumps and other forms of new energy technology, sending excess power back to the grid, and drawing energy when it’s needed, they become producers of energy as well as sharers of energy. The clean energy technology saves homeowners and businesses money, it helps the environment, but most important, it changes the landscape and the model of industry.

Community gardens and urban farms are also helping people become producers and sharers of food. People dislike the notion of one giant corporate farm feeding the world and feeding it badly. The model is top-heavy and doesn’t work. We want more control over what we eat. We want healthy food that hasn’t been modified in labs and sprayed repeatedly with cancer-producing toxins. The only way to do this is to get involved and grow some of the food ourselves, to grow it locally, and when we can’t do it ourselves, to support those small-scale local farmers who do.

Once the new producer/ sharer model is accepted, as it was in the field of communications, there is no turning back. Our cell phones, Internet, and social media accounts have become indispensible tools that factor seamlessly into our everyday routines.

I like to think that the revolution in social media is only “Part 1” of a larger transformation, a transformation with a powerful underlying purpose. That purpose is to give people the tools to rally and work together at a moment of environmental crisis. We won’t heal the world by talking to each other on our phones. That’s not the tool I’m talking about. The tool I have in mind is a template of interaction that can extend beyond communications to other fields such as energy and food production. This is the producer/ sharer model. In the field of energy it means building a network of local power producers. This might take different forms, such as enabling a million homeowners and small businesses to place solar panels on their roofs. If a network of cell-phone towers can be constructed around the country, why couldn’t a network of solar towers also be constructed? In the same way, it doesn’t take too much imagination to picture individuals planting food gardens in spaces that used to be lawns or vacant lots around the country.

No one’s permission is required. It just needs a million people with the willpower to make it happen. The movement has already started. The early adapters enjoy cheap clean power and healthy food. Others are following because they see that it makes sense not only for themselves but for their communities as well. The key to a producer/ sharer model is not to rely on a central power, whether that’s a giant corporation, a power utility, an industrial farm, or a government, to make things happen. People have to take it upon themselves to install their own solar panels and plant their own gardens and once they do, a meaningful social transformation takes the form of an unstoppable and inevitable movement.

As we enter uncharted waters, people are understandably fearful, reluctant to be the first one in. Tough decisions are always made in the face of fear. That’s what makes them tough decisions. But we can take confidence from the fact that our action plan is modeled after a movement in social media that has not only been successful, but also has allowed a degree of mobility and maneuverability that will be essential to us in the difficult times ahead.

Why I wrote this essay

Concepts are ideas in motion. We cannot change our destructive ways without changing conventional ways of thinking. People need to act with confidence and strong sense of purpose. To do this, we need ideas and core principles upon which to build a unified front. In this essay, I offer a few concepts to help clarify common goals and strategies. I start with the notion that a “tough decision,” is triggered by a “change in a business landscape.” When landscapes shift, both problems and opportunities arise. I argue that “net-gain solutions” are preferable to “net-loss solutions.” I also put forward the concept of a “producer/ sharer model” in contrast to a “producer/ consumer model.” Social media uses a producer/sharer model to great effect. The same model could be applied to the fields of energy and agriculture with similar success.

A day after writing this, I received an email from a friend who is a member of Citizens Climate Lobby Canada (CCLC). This group has been meeting with politicians in Ottawa to work out the perimeters for a national carbon tax, patterned loosely after the carbon tax successfully introduced in British Columbia in 2008. A national carbon tax is a good idea, but it has one flaw. It punishes those who practice net-loss solutions, but it doe not reward those who practice net-gain solutions. In the CCLC proposal, those who use carbon-emitting machines are taxed. The tax is earmarked as “revenue-neutral” with all money collected being redistributed back to Canadian tax-payers. The idea is to benefit low-income groups, who use less carbon-emitting machines than high-income groups. In essence, the low-income groups are given an energy rebate. As the rebate is spent on disposal items, the money gets rechanneled back into the economy, providing a boost for retailers and small businesses. Everyone seems to win.

The problem with this is it does not change the model of industry. It does nothing to build a new de-centralized infrastructure nor does it mobilize the money and resources that are needed for new clean technology. The carbon-emitters simply pass on their increased costs by charging higher fees. Higher fees may eventually create consumer resistance that in time could lead to people seeking other alternatives. We need more direct action.

Let me give a parallel case. Food production is as big a problem as energy and the way we address the one problem will illuminate the way we address the other. In Canada and the United States, food plants, such as wheat, corn and potatoes, are genetically modified to allow greater exposure to toxins. Both the genetic modifications and the toxins that get into our food are harmful to human health. The food keeps us alive, but over time it causes severe health problems. We can kid ourselves and say, having cancer or diabetes or dementia is just the price we have to pay to feed ourselves. This is insanity.

Pall Mall Cigarettes. Guard against throat scratch (1953)If you had told someone 50 years ago that smoking cigarettes causes cancer and that a cigarette tax would be funnelled back into a rapidly expanding healthcare system to offset the increased cases of cancer, people would have said: 1) cigarettes do not cause cancer and 2) you can’t tax a product so many people use because people won’t stand for it, nor will the companies that make tobacco, nor will governments. Today, the cigarette tax is unquestioned. How is the cigarette tax different from the proposed toxic food tax? Cigarettes are luxury items that people can live without. Food is not a luxury item. The purpose of the “toxic food tax” is not to punish self-indulgent people, as we do with the cigarette tax, but to prevent an industry from becoming toxic-food-only. The tax allows consumers an option of buying non-toxic food.

Foods that cause cancer and other illnesses are a net-loss problem. Industrial farmers who grow such foods need to be discouraged or taxed. This tax money needs to be redistributed to organic farmers who are willing to grow foods that do not present risks to people’s health. In this way, the tax has a double benefit. It both punishes and rewards, while financing a new model of production that’s healthier for the environment and for people.

It’s the same with energy. The carbon tax punishes the users of old energy technology with their net-loss solutions, and the money raised by the tax should be redirected to building a de-centralized system of energy producer/ sharers, using new clean energy technology with net-gain solutions.

I started this essay with the slogan: we are the problem, we are the solution. We cannot afford to isolate a few large players as scapegoats, when in truth, as consumers of energy produced by fossil fuels and as consumers of food produced by industrial farms, we are all to blame. We cannot give ourselves an energy rebate when we’ve done nothing in the way of changing habits to deserve it. We need an underlying principle, such as punishing net-loss solutions and rewarding net-gain solutions, and we need to be consistent in applying it. A practical response to a shift in a business landscape, is to wisely reinvest in a new infrastructure—such as using a producer/ sharer model– and the training of people in the technology used by this model. Just as we need a carbon tax, we need a Health Risk Food Tax. This tax money then needs to be directed back to small-scale localized producer/ sharers of clean energy and to small-scale localized producer/ sharers of organic food.

Governments act in response to movements and shifts in popular sentiment. The great thing about small-scale alternatives in energy and food production is that anyone can step in and be part of this transformative process. As the numbers of local producers increases, the movement will grow and become an inevitable force of positive change.


Gluten-free Almond Bread Recipe


A good gluten-free bread is hard to find. This recipe makes a bread that’s delicious, healthy and easy to prepare. Thanks to our friend Marlie Thornley for sharing this with us. The recipe has been modified slightly from a sample found on Elana’s Pantry.

Dry Ingredients:
1/4 cup ground flax
1 1/2 cups almond flour
2 tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:
5 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp apple cider

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate metal bowl, use a mixer to beat the eggs. Microwave coconut oil for 60 seconds to melt and add to the eggs with honey and cider while mixing. Then add wet to dry ingredients. Pour the dough into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Countering the “We Use It, We Need It” Argument for Oil

Oil-handsNothing derails and muddies an argument faster than the viscous sludge of oil. Supporters of oil view it as a source of wealth and riches. Oil and natural gas are resources that power our cars and cities and provide good jobs for hard-working men and women. Oil is no longer the hostage-child of unscrupulous sheiks but is rather a home-grown asset, as American as apple pie, as Canadian as a frozen outdoor rink. Oil equals independence and freedom. Community activists point out that burning fossil fuels pollutes and harms the environment, leading to disastrous climate change. Yes, the oil people say, fossil fuels have dangers, but we all use it and we all need it. How can you criticize oil’s dangers when you are as dependent on its benefits as everyone else?

Here’s where the argument derails. The green movement finds itself in an impossibly compromised position. Most conscientious and well-meaning people would have to admit that they are consumers of oil arguing for the abolition of oil. We want to protect our homes and communities and the land and waters around our communities, but oil has become essential to the life that we’ve constructed for ourselves. In short, our hands are dirty and we’re trying to appear like saints. It isn’t possible.

There’s a way out of this bind. If we think only in terms of either/ or, we’re in trouble. The same is true if we think there is only one solution. We need multiple solutions. We’re living in a period of transition. Everything is hybrid, a little of this and a little of that. There is no purity. Of course our hands are dirty. We created the problem. As on-going consumers of oil, we perpetuate the problem. But we can lessen our dependence on oil by exploring other options. Oil is a tool, it is not a shrine. It is one tool among many. If we find better tools, like solar power and electric cars, than we’ll use them. Our economy will not collapse once we’ve found cheaper, cleaner and more efficient tools. Just the opposite.

I suspect too much mental energy is wasted on debates over the oil industry. We don’t need to kill the industry. We need to embrace and invest in alternative energy solutions. We do not need the government’s permission to buy a solar panel or to purchase an electric car. As millions of ordinary people start acquiring these new tools, as money gets redirected and new industries arise, no smart young person or shrewd investment manager will seriously consider the field of fossil fuel as an employment or growth opportunity. Oil will be seen as a risky investment, an old tool for a time that is quickly fading.


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