Tag Archives: health care

INSPIRE AWARENESS NOW, the non-profit is launched!

ImageInspire Awareness Now is a non-profit organization committed to improving the health and well being of our country and planet by way of food choice—solving many interrelated issues along the way. Inspire Awareness NOW (IAN) will create awareness and initiate sustainable systems where food is involved, reducing Global Depletion on all fronts. With some initiatives, IAN will merely provide information and educational assistance to essentially facilitate and enhance those services and projects already undertaken by the particular institution we are working with, serving as a catalyst for proper change. Other initiatives will demand that IAN serves as the primary provider because it may be the first project of its kind. Inherent in this goal is to develop more accurate definitions of what can be considered sustainable and then create change based on these more accurate definitions. In doing so, IAN will provide educational assistance and network with other institutions that are committed to planetary health, on many levels.

Over $2.3 trillion are spent on health care in our country each year while minimally half of that can be attributed to what we eat. At the same time, we are using our natural resources at an unsustainable rate. Over 78% of all agricultural land and 50% of all fresh water used in our country is used to produce livestock, which then after consumption is the major contributor to our health care crises. Globally, raising livestock occupies 38% of the entire landmass on earth and is the primary cause of the rapid loss of biodiversity—plants, insects, animals—we are seeing on earth (30,000 animal species are becoming extinct each year). The meat, dairy, and fishing industries are also one of the largest sectors affecting climate change. It is common knowledge that the 70 billion animals raised each year emit more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector—all the cars, trucks, planes, and trains in the world, and yet global beef, pork, and chicken production and consumption are expected to continue to increase. One to two trillion fish are taken from our oceans each year, causing irreversible damage to vital ecosystems. Many researchers agree that it would require 1.5 to 2 full earths to sustain what we are currently taking from and doing to our planet.

There are 1 billion people suffering from hunger in the world with 6 million children dying from starvation each year. At the same time, over half of the grain produced in the world, nearly 1 billion tons, is fed to livestock. Global food security is not an issue of production—it’s an issue of where all the food produced is going. Last year (2011), 77% of all coarse grain produced globally (oats, corn/maize, barley, sorghum, rye, millet) was given to animals.

Inspire Awareness Now views these as serious disconnects in levels of awareness and policy. Therefore, we help correct or solve these problems by educating, advocating change, and administering services to transition our current meat and dairy farming as well as fishing systems into organic or biodynamic plant based operations, which will result in much more efficient use of our nation’s water and land, and food supply while drastically reducing pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and fossil fuel use. Importantly, this transition will result in the increase in many more job opportunities in skilled labor, management, and education—all of which span the academic and previous job experience spectrum. By providing more green jobs, our initiative will ultimately have a positive impact on the 9% unemployment rate and the current 3% “structural” component of those who are jobless in the U.S. The envisioned goal is for a healthier economy, healthier and more productive population, a truly more sustainable food production system, a healthier country, and ultimately a healthier and more peaceful planet.

There are several notable organizations and movements to create healthier food choices and implement food productions systems. Institutions and communities are beginning to rally around concepts such as Real Food, local, farm-to-table, farm-to-campus, organic, biodynamic, sustainable seafood, grass and pasture fed, free range, traceable, small family farms, CSAs (community supported) and urban agriculture, and humane—all of which are fueled by the desire to move away from agribusiness and the previous 50 years of industrialized, profit-driven food production systems. However, none of these concepts or movements will be accurately considered successful long term if they include raising, slaughtering, and eating animals or harvesting fish out of our oceans or on land. Beyond the primary reasons implicit to their effect on Global Depletion, nearly all of these movements have precepts embedded in misinformation and inaccuracy. While operating with inherently good intentions, the results of these movements and organizations will never be optimal.

Although there are many reasons for this, it is essentially an issue of definition. What entity has deemed a food or production system as “sustainable?” What food can really be constituted as “sustainable?” In the case of grass fed, for instance, it is not a sustainable practice in many geographical regions or on a collective global basis long term from a land and water use, contribution to anthropometric greenhouse gas production, food security, and human health standpoints. And, yet, there is that stamp of approval, made primarily by those stakeholders in the meat and dairy industries—the National Cattleman’s Association, National Dairy Council, AGA, and individuals such as Michael Pollan and others with large audiences serving as experts or advisors to many organizations but who consumes beef and tuna, and raises grass fed cows themselves. Therefore, IAN introduces the concept of ‘Relative’ sustainability—how could our land, air, water, and other resources be best used to obtain a ‘more’ sustainable food product.

It is time that the wealth and wellness of a country or nation are measured not simply by economic standards but by the health of its natural resources, its people, and by the fact that truly sustainable systems, particularly those for producing food and caring for biodiversity, are properly defined and in place.  This then becomes our civilization’s new metric of success.

Please find out more about this very important organization at: http://inspireawarenessnow.org/

Let’s continue inspiring others to become aware…NOW!

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You and the 2012 Farm Bill: a new perspective

  For those unfamiliar with this Bill, here is a quick look at what’s happening via two of my most abbreviated definitions: 1. We are all giving an awful lot of money to our government for them to pay large businesses to produce food that we get sick on. That’s pretty much the existing Farm Bill.  2. We give even more money to our government all over again, for them to pay for the health bills of all those people who eat all that bad food—which explains our national health insurance plan, and both are now unfortunately intertwined. Why do you need to be concerned about the Farm Bill? There are a few reasons: One is that you are paying for it—that should be reason enough. Additionally, it is being vastly misrepresented to the public and redrafted as we speak. It will go into effect next year. Less than 2% of the current Farm Bill is used to support vegetables, fruit, and nuts, most of the rest of the money is given to the meat and dairy industries, in one form or another.  All of the major changes proposed for this bill are aimed at taking away economic support from factory farms and providing more to small farmers—thinking this will produce healthier foods. Sounds good, doesn’t it? No, it’s not so good. Essentially, it will be a shift of money away from large meat and dairy operations to small meat and dairy operations—which is not a proper solution. When you hear about “farm subsidies” and “commodities”, it is this Bill that they are talking about. The original Farm Bill, most likely was once a good idea with humble beginnings in 1933 to help prop up farmers battling their way out of the Great Depression, but now it has evolved into a new definition of being disconnected. The current Bill is a 5 yr, $280 billion plan with 15 categories or “titles”, each with its own set of funds. You are hearing mostly about the $42 billion given as direct farm subsidies (these are for “commodities” or corn, wheat, soybeans, and another crops) and also about the $40 billion for two other Titles that provide various types of support such as crop insurances and land set aside programs. These three are the grouping of funds that have supported industrial farming the most in a direct fashion. But, $190 billion or 70% of the entire Farm Bill, is given to 43 million people enrolled in the food stamp program—and that Title has issues as well, but you won’t hear about them because it is more insidious and slides along unnoticed. OK, so what about the other 11 Titles? No one knows much about these because, at a meager $2 billion, they are not considered a problem. But I consider them extremely important. These Titles pertain to such things as conservation and environment, forestry, renewable energy, and research. In fact, if our government would have devoted more of the previous Farm Bills, essentially more of our tax dollars, to just two of those ‘menial’ categories—like, say, to environment and research—they may have discovered decades ago that we are growing our food all wrong. In fact, they would have found out that we are not growing food at all—we are growing livestock, and now fish. In order to move forward with the redrafting of the Farm Bill, a few things need to be sorted out. I’ll review the most important three: First, the Food Stamp program has no proper nutrition education or monitoring system so the program itself, is essentially contributing to our national health care costs and the perpetuation of producing unhealthy food because $190 billion is being spent, by those enrolled, on the cheapest and most readily accessible food possible—food produced with empty calories and from the meat and dairy industries.  Since this will continue to be the largest part of the Bill, it needs to be corrected at least as much as the other subsidy issues. Second, despite what the NY Times and other authors are saying, it needs to be clearly understood that Government subsidies by themselves do not cause obesity or any other disease. Proper food is out there. You just have to find it and create the demand. If we all decided to stop eating Twinkies today, they wouldn’t be made. Again, it begins with education. It begins with awareness—and the Farm Bill (subsidies) need to provide this awareness, before it does anything else. Third, all government funding should be for only those foods that are the healthiest for our environment and for ourselves—organically grown, plant-based foods. Farmers that grow them should be heavily supported and obviously benefit the most. Doing these three things would create the right environment for healthier food to be produced and for proper choices to be made. I encourage everyone to get involved with this. You have a voice but carefully examine what is being proposed because the movement to restructure this Bill is well underway and is quite strong but not in the right direction as I have pointed out here. Since the 2012 Farm Bill will become a reality as a successor to previously enacted Bills, we certainly need to address it right now. However, I have another solution that which would get us on the right track much quicker, while the Farm Bill chugs along—called an eco and health risk tax—which will be for another blog, and can also be found  in Comfortably Unaware.

 

Choosing To Become Obese

It’s about choosing foods.                                                                                              Beginning concepts:

Does high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and/or our government subsidies cause obesity? Michael Pollan has been telling us this and there were others before him. They also believe that HFCS and subsidies cause many of our other illnesses as well. They are so persuasive that even discussions about the 2012 Farm Bill have now been heavily focused on reducing subsidies for the production of HFCS, corn, and other commodity crops. That is fine in one manner, but their energies are focused on the wrong food product. Obesity now affects 400 million people in the world and nearly 40% of all adults in the U.S., but HFCS and our government subsidies do not cause obesity. You do. Well, actually your food choices do. Certainly lifestyle also plays a major role. But in our culture today, that may simply mean the more exercise you do, the more you can indulge in eating foods that are not healthy for you, thus developing choice patterns and essentially postponing some of the negative impact of these foods.

So, what do I mean that they are focused on the wrong food product? Simply, they need to direct more attention to the meat and dairy industries and here is why:

Processed and empty calorie foods are not healthy for you to eat and we all know this. But we cannot be overly focused on that issue without first addressing the many ill effects that eating animal products have. For instance, the consumption of meat has been found to increase the risk of obesity by 25-33% (Int. Journal of Obesity, 2009 and numerous other publications).  Additionally, Dr. Barnard with the PCRM (Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine) demonstrated that individuals who ate only plant-based foods had a 68% less risk of developing adult onset diabetes (which affects 25 million people in our country). Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year on health care costs related to these two conditions in the U.S. HFCS, while not healthy for you to consume in large quantities, is not contributing to Global Depletion (the loss of our primary resources on earth)—the meat, dairy, and fishing industries are. Therefore, if we want to reduce our potential for contracting a chronic disease and at the same time help our planet—let’s begin with addressing the food choice most responsible.

If we completely eliminate HFCS and processed foods from our diet as Mr. Pollan is campaigning for, that would be a good thing—but then clearly understand, that all the far more damaging and unsustainable practices of raising and eating livestock remain.

More will follow regarding food choices, the 2012 Farm Bill, and policies.

Vote with our minds, not our forks.

Regarding this phrase: “vote with your forks”…                                                                  Literally millions of people are influenced by a few who advocate not only eating grass-fed livestock and fish but also that we approach our food choices from other less-than-sustainable concepts. I have a better approach. For instance, instead of “voting with your forks,” which is what we have actually been doing for the past fifty years—and look where it has gotten us—we should vote with our minds first; then, let our forks follow. Also, it is not so wise to eat only foods that your great-grandmother would recognize, because she ate cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, lamb, and other unhealthy foods obtained from animal parts—not such a good idea.

So, let’s vote with your mind first…then, your forks will follow. Here are some ideas.

  • Read “Comfortably Unaware” and then give it to someone you care about.
  • Become aware of just how your food choices impact our planet.
  • Become more aware than you are today of just how your choice of food impacts your own health.
  • Eat only those foods that require the least amount of our resources to produce.
  • Avoid foods that naturally carry pathogens such as E. Coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Mad Cow Disease, etc. This, then, would include all animal products, whether they are confined or not.
  • Let your congress representatives and senators know you do not want to pay taxes that they turn around and spend on agribusinesses raising livestock that pollute and cause global depletion of our resources. This totals $40 billion per year. You are paying for this.
  • Tell all policy makers to stop giving money to businesses who produce food that contributes to our national health care crises.
  • Let them know to subsidize organic, plant-based foods.
  • Eat only those foods that reduce your risk of contracting our major diseases and cancers.
  • Avoid foods that increase your risk for these diseases and cancer.
  • Avoid all foods that required more water to drink than you do each day and another 400 to 500 gallons just to clean up after the slaughtering process.
  • Eat foods that, while growing, take in CO2 and give off O2, thus improving the health of our planet in both directions.
  • Avoid foods that give off methane, CO2, ammonia, breathe in and use O2, and create more global warming.
  • Avoid foods that do not have fiber, large amounts of phytonutrients, but do have cholesterol, and saturated fat.
  • Avoid food that had to be caught with large amounts of other species of living things—most of which, we have no idea of our effect on them or the ecosystems we took them from.
  • Buy and eat plant-based foods only
  • Go meatless everyday, not just Mondays.
  • Influence others, spread the word, and start making a difference.