Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Traumatic Brain Injuries

I work with people with brain injuries mainly from automotive accidents. I am an independent living instructor, so for 8-16 hours t a time, my job is to assist people with their daily activities; including transfers to the toilet, feeding them when their shaking is too much, putting thick-it in their drinks because of swallowing problems, and redirecting them from negative behaviors. Sometimes it is difficult to remember to cut them some slack and not get frustrated with them. I have to remember that they have been through something so traumatic and so frustrating that they do not need someone getting frustrated with their mistakes. How I handle it sometimes is to just laugh with them about their mistakes and my own and remember that we are only human

We brought our residents to the beach on Monday. It is interesting how the mind works we had a helicopter fly over us and one of my residents asked "why is it getting so small?" as the hole copter was flying away. I never really thought about how perception, the thing we learned about in art class in kindergarten, could be so changed and misunderstood from an injury.

Later at the beach I began touching the sand and letting it fall through my fingers. One of my residents is a bit more restricted than some of the others and I wondered to myself when the last time was that she had felt the sand. I brought a pile of sand up to her and she reached for it before I even got there. She told me she couldn’t remember the last time she felt the sand between her fingers.

Experiencing these things really reminds me to appreciate the simple things in life from understanding perceptions to feeling the sand between my fingers. It also reminds me to be that person who brings these simple pleasures to the people I work with. I love my job

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ethical Vegetarianism

In addition to the arguments for vegetarianism, based on animal suffering, huge ecological impacts come from the raising of meat. These impacts include high-energy consumption, concentrated waste, deforestation and the destruction of habitat. Aldo Leopold once said, “Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal” (Walters 1999, 192). Raising animals for the purpose of food is unsustainable on many levels. These systems do not promote healthy ecosystems and do not leave room for ecological self-renewal.

The contemporary production of meat and dairy require large inputs such as fuel and water and produce large waste outputs such as carbon monoxide and toxic runoff water. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method is an internationally standardized procedure that measures the energy use and ecological impacts of a process or activity. When LCA is applied to the production of meat and dairy in comparison to the direct consumption of grains, the results are staggering. By looking only at fossil fuel use we see that forty calories of fuel are required to produce one calorie of beef while only 2.2 calories of fossil fuels are required to produce one calorie of grains. If we apply this to milk production the results are that one calorie of milk requires fourteen calories of fuel (Baroni 2001, 285). Fuel is used for everything from machinery for milking, to heating, cooling and ventilation for feedlots, to the transportation of the meat to local grocery stores (Deckers 2009, 578). Because of the amount of fuel used in the production of meat, “the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions which is worse than the world’s entire transportation output (Cabrejas 2008). This statistic come strictly from the livestock sector and does not even take into account the fuel use and emissions from agriculture that produces the feed given to livestock, so if we take agriculture into account the fuel use and emissions are even higher. Livestock’s digestive systems also greatly contribute to the greenhouse gas emission outputs because they are given feed with a mixture or soy and corn, both of which animals like cows are not naturally able to digest. This gives cows digestion problems that lead them to emit more methane than they would otherwise.

The raising of livestock not only emits greenhouse gasses but add tons of unusable waste to our planet. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that “farm animals produce 500 million tons of waste a year in the United States alone” (Cabrejas 2008). The waste produced by livestock typically ends up in streams and rivers due to minimal federal guidelines to regulate how waste is treated, disposed of, and stored (“Meat” 2011).

Mass amounts of water are also used in the production of meat and in the agriculture system that produces feed for livestock. The World Watch Institute concludes that seventy percent of freshwater consumption on the planet comes from animal farming and agriculture (Baroni 2001, 284). This water is used to irrigate the fields used to grow the cereals that feed livestock, for livestock drinking water as well as cleaning stables, milking halls and slaughterhouses (Baroni 2001, 285). Because of the need for water in the process of meat production, one pound of beef ends up requiring 2,500 gallons of water. Soy production requires one tenth the amount of water and wheat requires one-hundredth the amount of water for production.
After the water travels through livestock and agricultural production, it becomes toxic runoff, unable to be reused and many times causing even further ecological damage. Runoff consists of manure, urine, pesticides, fertilizers and any other waste from production that may get into the water. This water then flows into streams, rivers and eventually the ocean. Animal waste runoff is one of the main causes of dead zones in coastal waters. Dead zones are nitrogen and phosphorus rich environments that are the result of upstream runoff from agriculture, animal production, and anything else that enters the watershed. The nitrogen in these environments cause algae growth that then causes oxygen depletion and ultimately creates an environment that can be home to a minimal number of living organisms (Bruckner 2011). This toxic runoff also finds its way into lakes. The EPA estimates that “between 35 and 45 percent of America’s rivers and lakes are classified as ‘polluted,’ and agricultural runoff is considered the largest contributor to that pollution” (Parachin 2010).

The Western world has progressively added more meat to their diet over time. Because of this higher demand for meat, agricultural land that would have otherwise been used to produce edible vegetables is being used to produce grains for animal feed and as production sites for raising animals. More than seventy percent of all agricultural land is now used for the production of animal products and over one-third of the world’s harvest of cereals is fed to livestock each year (Deckers 2009, 578).

William A. Alcott, a 19th century American educator, reformer and physician wrote that the production of an acre of land in vegetables and grains can sustain animal life sixteen times as long as when it is converted into flesh and the raising of animals for food (Walters 1999, 86). This statement was written in the 1800s as a response to Alcott reading reports by political economists of the time. Consider our lifestyles in the 21st century and how the statistic of 16:1 is probably far greater now. Alcott estimated that Americans eat an average of one whole meal of meat a day. By substituting vegetables for animal food, the United States could sustain sixty-six million people instead of twenty (Walters 1999, 87). Today, an acre of land could produce either forty thousand pounds of potatoes or two hundred fifty pounds of beef (Parachin 2010). Society’s demand for more meat is placing a huge strain on the environment and is causing a transformation of land use, not only from edible vegetables to feed for livestock, but from wilderness and forested areas, to degraded soil and deforestation.

Because of such a high demand for meat, the U.S. and other Western nations have less room to produce meat to meet the demand of its citizens. As a result, much of the meat is imported and forests at home and elsewhere are destroyed in the process. In the United States alone, 260 million acres, around 400,000 square miles, of forest have been lost for the purpose of more land for animal agriculture (Parachin 2010). The demand for meat continues to increase and because of this the United States imports over 200 million pounds of beef a year from Central America (Parachin 2010). Europe is just as bad, if not worse. Only twenty-percent of the proteins needed to feed farm animals originate in Europe (Baroni 2001, 6).

Importing meat has now become common and developing nations are being encouraged and pressured to turn their land into pastures to raise animals to meet this demand from the Western world. Latin America is one of the most affected areas. A study done by the Smithsonian estimates that every minute, seven football fields of land are destroyed to meet the need for more grazing land (Parachin 2010). According to the World Wildlife Federation, eighty-eight percent of rainforest that has been cleared in the Amazon is now used for grazing, and in Panama and Costa Rica it is about seventy percent (Baroni 2001, 284). Looking at the direct comparison of deforestation to eating meat it has been concluded that, “For each hamburger originating from animals raised on rain forest land, approximately fifty-five square feet of forest have been destroyed” (Parachin 2010). Deforestation and the destruction of habitat cause soil erosion and land degradation as well, leading to as a loss in biodiversity. As Aldo Leopold said, health is self-renewal, and the way we are currently living is destroying the environment to a point where it can no longer regenerate itself.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nature as a Commodity

Laws and the market economy shape the way humans interact and view the non-human environment. We live in a time when the market has a big say in what we eat, what we buy and what our interaction, or lack of interaction, is with the environment. Laws restrict our actions while markets shape our options and choices. The expansion of cities and transportation systems have created a medium where products and commodities are imported and waste exported. Interaction with the non-human environment has become limited and not as necessary as it used to be. We have become distanced from the production of the goods—the natural environment-- and this has resulted in us seeing nature as a commodity.

The American consumer demands cheap items and food. The market has met this demand but this has created a disconnect between humans and the non-human environment. Due to the expansion of cities and the inability of places to be self-sustaining, products and food are shipped in from elsewhere, resulting in the process of production becoming unseen. We have been disconnected from the basic and physical process of production and therefore have been led into thinking of food as a commodity rather than something important in our culture that brings community together, or provides nutrition. Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilemma demonstrates humans’ distance from the non-human world that becomes our food, and our minimal relationship with the production process. We are so distanced from the production of what we eat that we see food, not as part of nature, but as an object to buy. “When we only think of animals as sides of beef to be eaten, we may obliterate the problem of the kill from our consciousness” (Sax 1980, 43).

People’s demand for cheap food results in the market putting out cheap food. “It is odd that something as important to our health and general well-being as food is so often sold strictly on the basis of price” (Pollen 2006, 244). Price is what determines what we buy, not the quality or where it comes from.

The market has also standardized food. “Standardization, has bombarded us with the message that all pork is pork, all chicken is chicken, eggs eggs, even though we all know that can’t really be true” (Pollen 2006, 244). With the market telling us that cheap is better, and that food is food no matter where it comes from, quality of food no longer plays into what we eat and buy. The cheapest is said to be the same as the more expensive. We no longer need to know where our food comes from because it is set out for us right in the grocery store, no interaction with the environment or the farmer is necessary. These are the forces that have turned food into a commodity. In fact, “our food system depends on consumers’ not knowing much about it beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner” (Pollen 2006, 245).

Humans beings are so disconnected from the production of their food that it no longer even looks like natural food. The market demand is cheap food that is easy to prepare in our fast-paced lifestyles and the “industrial food chain has made energy dense foods the cheapest on the market” (Pollen 2006, 107). Energy dense foods tend to be the over-processed foods that no longer look like anything our grandparents ate. These foods include everything from chicken nuggets that look like rectangle pieces of dough to prepackaged TV dinners. The chicken nuggets no longer look like the chickens from which they came. We barely even associate a chicken with the nuggets anymore. We no longer need to see the chicken that is associated with the nuggets. We just need to go to the store and buy the processed product.

Many problems exist with the way our food is marketed, but there are also problems with farming law. In Pollen’s book he describes visits to farms where he sees and experiences the full process of production. One of his experiences is at Polyface farm. Polyface processes their own food in order to keep the connection with nature. Joel, the owner, promotes “relationship marketing” where the buyers buy directly from the farmer and therefore create a “marketing” relationship. But even Joel runs into problems with the current laws when it comes to the regulations restricting the processing of food in areas zoned for agriculture (Pollen 2006, 234). He wants to process his own food because he believes that “having customers bag their own chickens preserves the fiction that they’re not buying a processed food product” (Pollen 2006, 235). “Joel is convinced ‘clean food’ could compete with supermarket food if the government would exempt farmers from the thicket of regulations that prohibit them from processing and selling meat from the farm” (Pollen 2006, 236). Even the farmers who fight for “relationship marketing” and promote human connections with where their food comes from, have problems staying afloat when farm laws favor big production though commercial markets.

Another problem with the market is that it has become “totally out of sync with nature” (Pollen 2006, 252). As humans who have come to buy products from the grocery store instead of the farm, “we have to battle the idea that you can have anything you want any time you want it” (Pollen 2006, 252). Because of the demand for cheap food as well as ALL food ALL the time, the market imports food from other countries where they can grow certain foods year-round, when we cannot. This process disconnects human from the seasons. In the past, humans used to eat according to what products were in season. The market has skewed the natural process of food and has created an even bigger barrier between humans and the things they eat.

Friday, October 15, 2010

News from the Gulf

So I recently heard from my friend's deckhand in the gulf and he provided me with an update on what is going on. He told me that most of the surface oil has been cleaned up and that now the challenge is waiting for all the dispersant affected oil to rise to the top. "The oil is at the bottom of the ocean floor (due to the dispersant). Wait until it starts floating again. I say ten years it will take (for all the dispersant affected oil to rise to the top). It's ten times worse than the Exon Valdez"
He also informed me on the mass amounts of people getting sick due to having to handle the oil with the dispersant in it. He said there have been tons of people sick with everything "from breathing problems to staff infections." The news is not good. I asked him why they used dispersant in the first place and he just told me that all the oil field workers had told BP not to use them, but they just would not listen.
I was wondering if maybe it had something to do with avoiding the physical sight of oil (to keep morale up), because when dispersant is used, it is within the water and you can not see it on the top, therefor it makes the whole process look like it is moving faster and being cleaned up faster than it really is?
On a lighter note, I just heard the other day that the marshes of Louisiana are doing alright! And that they have released the Mississippi river to allow fresh water to wash out the bayous. This is definately good news.
So I live in Grand Rapids Michigan and beginning last year we have had ArtPrize, which is a city-wide event where artwork is submitted and hung publically around the city and voted on. This year we had an awesome piece dedicated to the gulf oil spill.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Marine Conservation

So I have recently become more interested in the conservation of marine life. I began watching Whale Wars which is a show on Animal Planet focused around the conservation society Sea Shepherd and their anti-whaling campaigns in the Antarctic. The show follows their two most current boats, the Steve Irwin and Bob Barker as they search and prevent commercial Japanese whaling ships from processing whales in the Antarctic.

According to international conservation laws, only a certain number of whales are allowed to be caught each year for scientific research purposes. The Japanese whaling fleet of 9 ships claims to be using the whales for scientific research (even says so on the side of their ships) but it is clear that the Japanese are using this claim as an excuse to conduct commercial whaling. The Sea Shepherd actions are said to be in accordance to the 1982 United Nations Charter for Nature which states under Implementation section 21 part (c) & (e):

21. "states and... other public authorities, international organizations, individuals, groups and corporations shall:
(c) Implement the applicable international legal provisions for the conservation of nature and the protection of the environment;

(e) Safeguard
and conserve nature in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

According to the UN Charter for Nature, independent organizations have a right to enforce international conservation laws if they are being broken.

The Sea Shepherd conservation society has really caught my attention and I am considering applying to join one of their campaigns in 2012. Their other campaigns include a more recent Gulf Rescue Plan as well as Bluefin Tuna, Defending Galapagos, Canadian Seal Slaughter, Sharks, and Dolphins, specifically in Taiji Japan.

I recently watched the award winning documentary The Cove. The documentary focuses on the massive slaughter of dolphins that occurs every September in Taiji Japan. Ric O'Barry is the head of the conservation efforts to save Japanese dolphins. If you are not familiar with him, he is a world known marine mammal specialist who stared and trained the five dolphins in the hit TV series Flipper. Once Kathy, the most used dolphin in the show, died in his arms because she chose not to take another breath, he began his efforts to free and fight for dolphins around the world.

The Cove is an incredible movie that really communicates the human characteristics of dolphins, such as the misleading 'smile' dolphins always seem to have as well as the visible 'happiness' and energy that is rarely accurate to the creature's true feelings when held in captivity.

These are my thoughts for the time being, I would encourage everyone to look into these violations and begin doing something, even if it is just passing on the knowledge you acquire on your own. I have provided the web sites for every organization and person I have mentioned, that should get you started.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

World Powers Cause Conspiracy as Distraction

Current Oil Spills (following info from link)

Cedyco Corp.'s Orphaned Well Spill, Barataria Bay, La.
Cause: A barge hit an abandoned well near the Gulf of Mexico early Tuesday
Amount spilled: Unknown
Spread: One mile of Barataria Bay (the well can be seen below, emitting a plume of oil and natural gas)

Enbridge Oil Spill, Kalamazoo River, Mich.
Cause: Unknown; spill began Monday
Amount spilled: 19,500 barrels (819,000 gallons)
Spread: 20 miles along the Kalamazoo River
Workers responding: 150, being doubled as of today
Boom deployed: 14,000 feet, being increased to 31,000 feet today

China National Petroleum
Oil Spill, Dalian, China
Cause: Explosion in an oil pipeline in Dalian on July 16
Amount spilled: 1,133 barrels (47,600 gallons)
Spread: 140 square miles of the Yellow Sea
Workers responding: Thousands, many of them fisherman and residents of the area

BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico
Cause: Explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, April 20
Amount spilled: Worst-case estimate was 60,000 barrels a day (2.5 million gallons) before the well was shut off.
Spread: 2,700 square miles of visible slick estimated as of July 15; 57,500 square miles of fishing grounds remained closed as of this week
Boom deployed: Roughly 3.5 million feet
Boom staged: Roughly 905,390 feet
Total boom: Roughly 4.4 million feet
Workers responding: More than 29,000 overall

So a barge hit a natural gas well in the Gulf near the Louisiana coast, like there aren't enough problems in the Gulf already.


...and an explosion occurred in China, providing them with their very own oil spill

Wall Street Journal

Now there is an 800,000 gallon oil spill in Kalamazoo Michigan, just an hour south of where I live!


I have concluded that the worldly powers have banded together to create this conspiracy to distract us from the aliens.