Cut the Crap

I am a health freak. Processed food scares me silly. I have a love-hate relationship with meat, cheese, and my ever-favorite Diet Coke. I have read so many self-help articles, books and journals that my own brain contradicts itself on the daily. Over the past few years, I have tried everything. I’ve jumped on every bandwagon health-kick, exercise regime and diet that exists, waiting for that one to sweep me off my feet and make me instantly healthy. Here’s what I’ve discovered after years of experimentation: the only self-help tools you really need are a set of eyes, ears, a nose, mouth and some good ol’ common sense. Please, let me explain.

Our world today is covered in artificial chemicals, and I mean that literally. We drink water out of plastic bottles, allowing chemically made materials like BPA to bind with water molecules and enter our bodies affecting our cells, tissues and organs. We breathe air next to Diesel trucks, inhaling mouthfuls of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and other particulate matter. We drop chemicals into our eyes when they are feeling dry, take aspirin when we have aches and pains and eat chemically processed, genetically modified and artificially flavored food because it’s cheap, “safe”, and “good-for-you”. None of this information is particularly new, and none of this information is shocking. What this information is, frankly, is disgusting.

The harmful substances we put into our bodies today, whether by choice or by accident (because let’s face it, breathing in Diesel isn’t necessarily a choice when you’re sitting in rush-hour traffic on a Friday afternoon), are not only making us fat, but they are also making us sick. It’s no secret that diseases like obesity and diabetes are on the rise in the United States. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, from 1990 to 2010, there was a 60% increase in childhood obesity. Diabetes has similar statistics. But what about the diseases you think have nothing to do with what we eat, drink and breathe, like autism? In a study this past May, researchers found evidence that environmental conditions such as air pollution may be a main reason why autism rates are on the rise in children. Increased rates of brain disorders like autism are just the beginning. It’s pretty obvious that as we continue to live, eat and breathe in our environment, we will be at risk for a plethora of new diseases, cancers and epidemics, not to mention extreme weight gain and malnutrition problems. So what do we do? How can we possibly protect ourselves from getting fat and sick? The solution may not be as difficult as problems we face. I’m calling it a solution as simple as “Cut the Crap”.

It doesn’t take a diet book, fad or article to tell you any of the above facts. It takes common sense and some observational skills. The next time you read the nutrition facts on a box of cereal and see more than 20 ingredients, stop and think. The next time you reach for that bottle of water that’s been sitting in ninety degree heat for the last eight hours, stop and think. The next time you drive by a toxic waste center, or see thick smog rising from buildings, stop and think. My hope is that after reading this article, you will begin to stop and think. I hope you will realize that the problems eating away at our health and society are not rocket science. You know you’re not supposed to eat processed food, drink melted plastic, and breathe in polluted air, so don’t. Or, at the very least, cut as much of the crap out as you possibly can.

Chemicals and our environment are making us fat, not the “bad” fats and carbohydrates that we hear about so frequently. It’s not what to eat, it’s what to avoid. Everything in moderation, except for of course, the chemically-processed-been-sitting-on-a-shelf-for-3-months crap. Let’s become a better society together, by weeding out the toxic items we’re putting in our bodies. The first step to a happier, healthier you? Ditch the diet books and open your eyes, ears, nose and mouth. A healthier world is out there for the taking.

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The Rising

It’s been over six months since my last post, and I will admit that in my off-line time, I’ve almost forgotten about the power of blogging. Writing is difficult to keep up with on a daily basis, especially when you believe in quality over quantity. Reading relevant, useful information that is well-thought out and delivered is always better than indifferent posts, published for the sake of adding content to one’s site. So until now, I’ve been in a bit of a hibernation.

Now that you understand why I’ve been dormant, let’s now delve into what I’ve actually been doing, seeing and thinking about in these past few months.

Goodbye Northwestern, hello real world essentially sums up what’s been going on. Between finishing classes, graduation ceremonies and saying goodbye to my previous home of four years, I’m now in a happy place: on my living room couch. Of course I am job hunting, but I am looking for the right opportunity, and I come closer to it every single day. I don’t believe in settling; it’s a principle I learned on my own, and one I am proud I now understand. Settling is for people who want to live life through someone else’s eyes. I don’t want to settle down a routine path and wait for opportunities to arise. I want to search for the right opportunity, place and people where I know I can make a difference and change the way others view the world. So yes, I’m unemployed and sitting on my childhood couch, home alone while all of my friends and family go to work, but I’m doing so much more than that.

In the time since I’ve been home from college, I’ve helped my electrical engineering father take apart a remote control with a broken screen, re-solder a new screen in place, and delve into the world of circuit-boards. I’ve become glued to my Nike FuelBand, and entered into the world of wearable computing, making lists-on-lists of improvements and applications that would pair beautifully with my device, all the while gamefying my own activity level and changing the way I view healthy living. I’ve traveled to Vermont, Florida and Chicago, experienced new people in new places, and now have a deeper understanding for where I want to spend my life and the people I want to spend it with. I’ve had time to read Twitter feeds, news articles and scientific advancements, and I have a deeper appreciation for brilliant minds. I’ve mapped out an exciting new mobile application, formulated new ideas and concepts daily that have challenged me how to think like an engineer and entrepreneur.

I feel remarkably fortunate to be able to live at home during this in-between period. Many people in our country and world do not have this liberty, and for that I will always be forever grateful. While I have this unique opportunity, I am taking the time to better myself and constantly asking questions and solving problems. I am honoring my environmental degree, but living as a life-long learner. I believe you should always strive to know more, and those who keep pushing themselves to find new answers are the ones who really change the way our world works. We will be a better society by challenging the way we exist in it, and I refuse to follow a path that will not allow me to be a game-changer.

Past Poem on Nuclear Power

I wrote this poem in the 11th grade, and recently came across it. It may be a bit whimsical, but it’s still pretty cool to see a passion for the environment, even before my real studies began.

How many times a day

Do you hear on the TV set,

“Nuclear bombs, nuclear war,

Our country has too much financial debt!”

 

Living in the United States

Is not as easy as it used to be

With just under 7300 nuclear weapons

Now it seems that weapons are the only things running free

 

Constantly trying to balance

The usage of coal and nuclear power

Our country is largely at fault

For killing all of the flowers

 

Yet nuclear weapons may prove to be

An exciting breakthrough in science

If only the meaning behind them

Didn’t cause a breakage in countries’ alliances

 

Although many people believe

That nuclear weapons are only used for harm

The bi-products of fission

Set off more than just alarms

 

Made from not natural chemicals

Uranium and Plutonium are ahead of the game

Just by putting these two chemicals together,

Our world could head into a very deep shame

 

So, therefore we have to be careful

With the weapons that we obtain

Because if these weapons fall into the hands of the wrong people

It would cause our country much pain

 

But worrying about the future

Is only a small price to pay

For the possession of nuclear weapons, and other things as well,

Make the United States the strongest country everyday.

Nonbelievers No-More: Hello Climate Change

When I first saw the Hollywood production of The Day After Tomorrow, I was entranced. The thought of a global natural disaster on a gigantic scale was terrifying, yet also bewildering. A look into what happens when the population is unprepared for the worst, but perhaps how to make best of what is left. A parallel to our society today, and with the recent events of Hurricane Sandy, a quite literal comparison.

Watching Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast this past weekend, all I could think about was the Hollywood representation of the disaster, and how fiction was becoming reality. Naturally, this was only one massive hurricane, and not four or five, as we see in the movie, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe that is what we can expect for the future of our planet.

While I send my heart to all of the victims of Hurricane Sandy, including my family, as most of my relatives live in the New York area, I couldn’t help but want to scream and blame our entire country for causing such massive natural turmoil. To all of you non-believers, welcome to a world where climate change DOES, very truly, exist.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a group of leading scientists from all over the world that come together every five or so years to summarize their observations and data on climate change. While a conservative group of publishers, in their 2007 report, they published this statement on natural disasters:

“Based on a range of models, it is likely that future tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) will become more intense, with larger peak wind speeds and more heavy precipitation associated with ongoing increases of tropical sea surface temperatures.”

If this doesn’t scream Hurricane Sandy, I don’t know what does. These are not mystical fortune-tellers, these are scientists with facts. So stop being afraid of graphs and numbers, and read the words. Climate change is here, and it is irrefutable.

In a recent article published in Business Week, Paul Barrett makes a similar observation. He explains Hurricane Sandy a scientific perspective that economists and other non-climate enthusiasts can understand.

“The broadening consensus: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.” Even those of us who are science-phobic can get the gist of that.”

His words are fluid and clear. They prove an inevitable truth: we should have put climate change in a context that everyone could understand decades ago. Quite simply, Barrett claims, “If Hurricane Sandy does nothing else, it should suggest that we need to commit more to disaster preparation and response.”

Hollywood gave us an imaginative representation of large-scale climate change with The Day After Tomorrow, but new leaders like the IPCC and Business Week, among the many others, will help us prepare for the realistic climate change of the future. I beg you- do not be ignorant of what is here, take a stand for the planet you live on. We deserve to all live healthy, beautiful lives on this Earth, and it can start with you. It’s our turn to have the happy, hopeful ending this time.

The Human Responsibility

If you are an average student graduating high school in America, you follow a similar path to the rest of your class- go to college, study, spend time with friends, sleep, eat, workout. Four years later, when you wake from this surreal bubble, real life compounds on you like a pound of bricks. You are no longer forced down the same path as everyone else- and it’s time to make your own decisions about where you want your life to end up. Some will choose careers in finance, some will choose careers in journalism, some will choose careers in education, and there are endless other possibilities. What very few people stop to think about is that in order to perform in any of these careers, you need one thing: an earth to live on.

So where does the environmentalist come in? To many, as an overbearing, judgmental voice, seeming to say “why can’t you just be greener.” Unfortunately, we no longer have the liberty to ignore this voice (and let’s try to pretend that she is not as annoying as you would think). There is no easy solution. For the first time in human history, we are at an energy standstill, and there is no immediate, convenient alternative. We cannot simple replace fossil fuels with an alternative energy source; oil is 13 times as efficient as biofuels. Solar energy is too unreliable without anywhere to aggregate the collected energy, especially on stormy days or in the dark. So while economies continue to change, journals continue to be published, and students continue to graduate, our earth is left in this uneasy standstill.

A vast majority of citizens of the United States do not care about environmental issues because they believe that climate change will not reasonably affect them in our lifetime. The sad truth is that the effects of climate change are coming faster than anyone anticipated, and faster than even our best climatologists can predict. With climate, there is not an easy, one stop solution. As with any severe, large scale problem, it takes a collaboration of minds and thinkers to come up with a reasonable result to the problem. We cannot just rely on the environmentalists to take control of the issue- maintaining the quality of life on earth is a responsibility of all of earth’s inhabitants.

We will fix the environment. But it will take the minds of many- not just scientists- to do so. It would seem as though just when you thought leaving college would be the time to take a path away from your peers, this is the perfect opportunity to instead combine passions to help preserve the world in which we all live. Do not fear climate change, and do not sit around and wait for someone else to fix it. Take the knowledge you have and do something with it.

Don’t Just Think Green- Act Green.

As an environmental science major, I do a ton of scholarly reading on climate change, environmental health and anthropological engagement on our planet. Reading after reading, academic after academic, I am fed similar information, all with an underlying message: humans are affecting our planet; we will soon be forced to change the way we live.

Humans are an adaptive species- but that doesn’t mean that the challenges we have yet to face won’t be difficult. Simply, with climate change comes climate responsibility. We can change our lifestyles, but we will be encouraged to make smart changes if there is any hope of helping to stabilize our planet.

Mother Earth needs us- and to be honest, it’s about time to pay her back for her hospitable endeavors. As creatures of her turf, we, as humans, have neglected her generosity. Human success and our own personal ambitions have blinded us of the unique privilege we have to be living on this planet. Guzzling energy, water and food while trying to personally succeed in our own lives will be worth nothing if we don’t have a place to live when the day is done.

For the past few years, the word “green” has taken on a new meaning in a colloquial context. Society understands what the green movement stands for- but as humans, we have yet to commit to a solution. Society needs activists- we need people that are going to get up and not stand for sluggish efforts. We need individuals to insist that the government, starting with our presidential candidates, advocate for clean energy. We need individuals to make conscious purchasing decisions, including thinking about where the final destination for certain goods will be. Most importantly, we need individuals to take the information that is right in front of them every single day, and  do something about it. It’s not only up to the climate activists and environmentalists- it’s up to the everyday citizen, and it can start with you.

As an environmentalist myself, I would like to start this blog with an official disclaimer: the reason I care about the environment is not because I am a tree hugger or bird lover (I actually despise birds), but because I love life. I want to live a long, healthy, fulfilled life, and I don’t want to grow up in a place that can no longer support human innovation. We are an unbelievable species- but we need to maintain the grounds on which we live. So ask yourself this, would you want to raise your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or cousins, in a community where we wear space suits to breathe and live off of corn and desalinated water? Sounds pretty abominable to me. So let’s do everything in our power to change that- let’s do everything in our power to keep where we live a green enough place to live in tomorrow.