photo from fuh2.com
Archive for December, 2007
photo from fuh2.com
Peace and goodwill to all!
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, Danish researchers showed significant correlations between childhood obesity and coronary artery disease as adults. Looking at 276,835 children born between 1930 and 1976, a linear correlation was found with increasing BMI (Body Mass Index) directly related to increasing risk of having a heart attack. The example used was that a 13 year old boy who is 11kg (24.2 lbs) overweight will have a 33% higher likelihood of having a coronary event than a similar boy of average weight.
NIH statistics show that 17% 0f American children are obese, triple the number since 1980!
Smoking and obesity have become two of the major causes of morbidity and mortality in our country, both of which are preventable. Obesity is a multifactorial issue that stems primarily from the obvious – poor diet and lack of exercise. Granted, the “American diet” is horrendous overall, with plastic-wrapped, preserved offerings of fried this and that, breaded and cheese-filled whatevers, and heaping portions of processed carbohydrates. One of the problems is that these foods are being marketed to children. Sales and demographics experts run numbers to see how they can most effectively sell horrendously unhealthy foods to more and more children (don’t you feel guilty, you heartless bastards?). Cartoons and plastic gifts are used to entice kids to throw fits until they get the Happy Meal or package of sweets that they saw on TV. Also, there is a trend in the media to say that “It’s OK to be yourself (aka obese).” Yes, it is good to be comfortable with yourself as a person, but it is not OK to be morbidly obese! From a pure healthcare standpoint, once you are more than 10-20 lbs overweight, you should start looking at ways to lose some poundage, not find ways to justify your excess weight in the eyes of society. It’s not insensitive or rude, it’s your health. We have gotten so bad, that last year a physician in New Hampshire actually lost his license because one of his patients was offended that he told her that she was overweight and needed to lose weight for her health. She complained to the board and when he refused to go to sensitivity training, they took his license! This to me is absolutely ridiculous. It’s like an alcoholic suing you because you told them to stop drinking!
It comes down to parents, however, to provide their children with a healthy diet and teach them lifelong lessons of nutrition and regular exercise. To do your child the most good, feed them locally grown, organic foods when possible, avoid prepackaged foods as much as you can, and avoid fast foods entirely. Minimal or no sodas/sport drinks/etc, water down your juices, and no bottled water (that’s more of an environmental concern, though). Once the kids are out of the house, it’s tough to encourage these things, so do it while you have their full attention. Also, don’t forget the exercise! Limit TV/computer/video game time significantly. Go cycling or play ball with your kids, take them surfing or hiking instead of letting them vegetate in front of the television. Don’t buy your child Guitar Hero, buy them an actual guitar! Fiddling with 4 buttons on a plastic guitar teaches them nothing except that it’s OK to sit around on the couch and do nothing to better yourself in any way. Your son won’t thank you for all the dates he DIDN’T get because you encouraged him to be an awesome “Guitar Hero.” He may, on the other hand, thank you for guitar lessons after the plethora of dates he did get from his swoon-worthy real-life guitar melodies. Oh, and virtual dates don’t count.
Baker JL et al. Childhood body-mass index and the risk of coronary heart disease in adulthood. N Engl J Med 2007 Dec 6; 357:2329.
In addition to suggestions on The S.E.E.P.’s Holiday Gift Guide, I was just informed of the Eco Gift Expo being put on in Santa Monica this weekend. Over 150 eco-conscious companies will be purveying their wares at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium at 1855 Main St on Saturday, December 15th and Sunday the 16th. They’ll be joined with vendors of organic food and drink, a live jazz pavilion, performers, an eco-wrapping station, and “The Hall of Indulgence” display. Tickets are $10 and 10% of the proceeds will be donated to Global Green USA and the Whole Planet Foundation.
If you haven’t figured out what you’re doing for your loved ones this holiday, be it an oxfam sheep, some home made bread (We got a breadmaker at Goodwill for $12!), or a Patagonia fleece, head on over to the Eco Gift Expo for some more sustainable options!
BP, aka British Petroleum, aka “Beyond Petroleum”, had been doing fairly well in the eyes of environmentalists, seeming to make commitments to alternative energies, trying to live up to their new name. Now, however, they have made moves that put them up with the highest echelons of environmental criminals. According to The Independent, in a joint venture with Husky Energy, BP has ponied up 3 billion dollars to develop a facility in Alberta, Canada to begin extracting oil from the controversial tar sands.
This 54,000 square mile area, covered with virgin forest and wildlife, has an estimated 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil. This recovery, however, is much more resource intensive and damaging that extracting a barrel of oil from a typical well. One way to get at these sands is basically a strip mining process, but BP is planning a slightly more environmentally friendly option which involves injecting water heated with natural gas to liquefy the oil for extraction. This will require 350 million cubic meters (92.4 trillion gallons) of water from the Athabasca river per year, which will then be contaminated and stored in a 20 square mile system of artifical ponds rather than being returned to the local ecosystem. In addition, it will require 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas to produce one barrel of unrefinded bitumen (tar sand oil), which is the same volume needed to heat a typical British home for 5.5 days.
“It takes about 29kg of CO2 to produce a barrel of oil conventionally. That figure can be as much 125kg for tar sands oil. It also has the potential to kill off or damage the vast forest wilderness, greater than the size of England and Wales, which forms part of the world’s biggest carbon sinks. For BP to be involved in this trade not only flies in the face of their rhetoric but in the era of climate change it should not be being developed at all. You cannot call yourself ‘Beyond Petroleum’ and involve yourself in tar sands extraction,” stated Mike Hudema of Greenpeace. According to Hudema, the organization is planning direct action to stop the project.
With this action, BP has completely destroyed any eco-credibility they have garnered thus far, and seem to have no problem commiting what is being described as “the biggest environmental crime in history.” In a previous post, I presented the Sierra Club’s ranking of the oil companies relative harm, with Exxon-Mobile and ConocoPhillips the worst at the “bottom of the barrel”, and BP and Sunoco at the top. This horrifically irresponsible move will no doubt rocket BP to the bottom of the list environmentally. BP is not the only one to blame, by allowing this travesty, the Canadian government is demonstrating a distinct lack of commitment to the environment.
I suppose we’ll be adding BP to the list of companies that will not receive any more of our business! Time to boycott and BP as well as Exxon-Mobil!
via Gavin/infoshop news
OK, we all know that all of the U.S. car manufacturers have made decision after decision that is leading to their own demise. First, the engineered obselescence of the 80’s and 90’s – you need to keep buying new cars if the one you bought was designed to fail, right? Brilliant strategy. Once they knocked that off and lost the faith of the U.S. consumer, they launched ad campaigns convincing a frightening number of us that big, powerful cars are what you need to be a rugged, manly American. They even managed to get ridiculously unnecessary tax incentives passed for ginormous SUVs to sucker in more people. Unfortunately for the American worker, they have continued to lag behind the rest of the world’s auto manufacturers and have yet to give us a reasonably sized hybrid or alternative fuel car with the exception of the Chrysler Sebring and Malibu (I don’t consider the Impala “reasonably sized”)
Now Chevy has answered all of our environmental prayers by launching their new “Gas Friendly to Gas Free” marketing campaign. This ridiculous attempt at greenwashing lists the following subjects: Fuel Efficiency, E85 Ethanol, Hybrid, Electric, and Fuel Cell. Let’s go through the list:
#1: Fuel Efficiency – although some chevy cars get decent gas mileage, they still don’t match up to most foreign offerings, with Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Minis, and VWs taking all of the top MPG spots. Some improved technology has come out, limiting the use of cylinders when not needed, but this is mostly in huge vehicles. Thanks for polishing our brass – love, the Titanic’s crew.
#2: E85 Ethanol – Once again, almost all of these Flex-fuel vehicles are massive SUVs. Also, when was the last time you saw E85 at the pump in most of America? This in addition to the fact that corn ethanol is THE WORST BIOFUEL available! For every 1 gallon of fuel you put into the process you only get about 1.3 gallons of fuel out. Corn requires large volumes of irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides. And don’t forget that you’re taking a needed food source to pour into your SUV – it just doesn’t make any sense at all. Please feel guilty and picture a starving child while you pour what should be their corn into your fuel tank.
#3: Hybrid – What is their first hybrid? A freakin’ Chevy Tahoe. You have got to be kidding me. This wasteful monstrosity gets a whopping 20-22 mpg, and although that’s good for an SUV, it’s downright horrendous for your most eco-friendly offering to date. Why not take your Aveo or Cobalt, which get 24/34 and 24/33 (city/hwy mpg) respectively, and make one of those into a hybrid to compete with the Prius or Civic hybrids?
#4: Electric – Ahh. . . The much discussed Chevy Volt. For one thing, didn’t you already make one of these that worked marvelously? Oh right, the EV1. They were repossessed and shredded (not even recycled or disassembled!). Whoops! The Volt is still vaporware to date (but to be fair, so is the much anticipated Tesla Roadster). If/when it actually does come out, it might be a pretty sweet ride.
#5: Fuel Cell – Yet another concept that will probably never reach any one of us. Can we please get some people with money and brains (Sir Branson, would you consider this as the next X-prize?) together to design a functional, reliable, long-lasting, non-toxic super battery/fuel cell/whatever? All we need is a power source people – that’s all the hydrogen and fuel cell concepts are – glorified batteries. I think that ultracapacitors might do it (still vaporware as well, though) – imagine driving your electric car for 250 miles or more and when you run low, plug in to a power station, swipe your card, and charge up in minutes! Maybe if the oil companies would release some of those battery patents they’ve gobbled up, there would be one worth developing.
Basically, I’m asking that nobody fall for this greenwashing campaign of Chevy’s. Don’t buy an SUV just because it’s a hybrid or it’s Flex-fuel – don’t buy one, period! If they really cared, they’d stop making Hummers, Tahoes, Escalades, and all of the other gas-guzzling compensation tools and make super-efficient, hybrid, alternative fuel (the forthcoming algae biodiesel or cellulosic ethanol), or electric work vehicles, people-movers, and small personal transportation vehicles. Admittedly it would take a lot of chutspa for a major auto manufacturer to trim the fat and only concentrate on these types of vehicles. Toyota is coming close with it’s goal to go all-hybrid, but that’s not enough. If one of the American companies would step forward to this goal, it could be done, and it could be accomplished with American ingenuity and style and we could lead the world once again in transportation innovation.