The concerns we are not talking enough about

In the US, we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about whatever the President may tweet or say. And, since he is not known for being the most truthful person, we often chase issues that are over-stated, over-simplified or just not true.

Yet, what we are not talking enough about concerns me. Here are a few items that get too little air time.

– With global warming, coral reefs are in jeopardy. Coupled with over fishing due to territorial issues (like in the China Sea), fish populations are diminishing. This should concern us all, and will create conflict along with industry and food loss. *

– Also due to global warming, we are seeing heavier and repetitive weather patterns which are flooding our farmlands, causing more elongated droughts in drought prone areas, and sparking more forest fires. I read a forward-looking report from 2010 sponsored by the largest global pension trustees that predicted global warming causing more of these occurrences and the multiple tens of trillion dollars in costs to remedy them. *

– We also have a global water crisis that is rearing its ugly head in a number of places such as Capetown and Saudi Arabia. Aquifers are diminishing in certain areas and increases in population far exceed the ability for some areas to provide fresh water. Global warming is making the water crisis worse.

– Bee populations around the globe are in decline. The UN reported 37% of bee species are in decline with 9% now extinct. That is 46% of bee species. The bees pollinate many foods which will be in decline as well, which when added to other threats should raise alarm. Certain pesticides are one cause, but it is likely a more holistic problem, including global warmlng.

– Finally, as alluded to above, we need to be concerned about population growth. A scientist said a few years ago that if everyone consumed resources like the average Rwandan, the earth could support 15 billion or so. Yet, if they consumed like the average North American, the number drops to around 2 billion. We have about 7 billion now. Family planning and birth control have to be in the equation.

There are so many more things to discuss, but we need to discuss protecting our species and environment. Call me crazy, but I think that is important.

***************

* Note: I did see a few stories this morning that were encouraging and concerning. The Central US flooding is a recurrent issue for some towns and even barge shipping traffic on the Mississippi River has shut down until June as a result.

On the coral reef bleaching, I read that Florida and Australian scientists are sharing working approaches to save and try to revitalize dying reefs. That is encouraging, but is it enough?

A science teacher teaching climate change is actively identifying (and teaching her students to do so) the approx. 30,000 internet sources of misinformation on climate change using dated, refuted and untruthful information saying variations that climate change is a hoax. Also, several petroleum companies have provided free teaching materials, which downplay climate change and sell the advantages of petroleum. In contrast, there are about 700 reputable, peer reviewed scientific sites that are worthwhile. That smaller number reveals where the money lies.

A couple of more macro trends

Two recent posts highlighted four major concerns for our planet. To summarize, I mentioned our aging population and growing prevalence of obesity as two overarching concerns that don’t get talked about enough. Two more are highlighted when I mentioned the diminishing fresh water supply and encroaching seas as key concerns. Today, I want to highlight two additional concerns – corruption and growing population.

Corruption in government officials is epidemic throughout the world, irrespective of the type of government. It gets the most press in places where there is an autocratic leader, but it is pervasive in democratically elected leaders as well. Even here in the United States, it requires so much money to get elected, an oligarchy has a heavy hand in who runs for office and who gets elected. Plus, elected officials invariably leave office with far more wealth than when they came in, sometimes going to nice lobbying or peripheral jobs to government where income levels are significant.

What this means varies but it is a version of the same plot line. When money is involved, the disenfranchised people have very little voice. In third world and even in second world countries, monies that are earmarked for those in need do not make it to the intended audience. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was worth $81 Billion when he was overthrown during Arab spring by those who squeaking by on less than $2 per day. In Russia, if you make too much money, your business and assets could be seized, as the oligarchy there needs to be fed. In both Venezuela and Argentina corruption accusations abound. Even here in the US, leaders cannot consider tangible issues, as their funders do not want them to.

Yemen is a very poor country with no resources and provides labor to rich oil countries like Saudi Arabia. Yemeni people could be described as a waiting room for hired labor. It is poor and will be kept poor. So, it becomes a fertile ground for the disenfranchised to hear the compelling stories of terrorists, who will use them for their purpose. In some people’s minds, they have little to lose, yet they don’t know they are being sold a bill of goods. They just know what they have is not working out. So, until we address corruption and can start using money to build industry, trade and infrastructure, terrorism will always find them.

The second concern is our growing population. With around 8 billion people our earth is having a hard time supporting us. It will get worse as we continue to grow. A British study showed that the earth can tolerate about 16 million, provided we consume resources like the average Rwandan. If we consume like the average North American, the earth can only support less than 3 billion people.

This is showing up around the world. In China, when you get away from the coastal cities, rampant poverty can be discovered. India has a severe caste system and for all of its beauty and industry, there is a huge poverty problem which is larger than the population of North America. The poorer countries will be hit the hardest by the resource drain and impact of climate change.

In the US, we have two Americas, the “have” and the “have-nots” who are growing in number. The “haves” do not understand the advantages they have and the opportunities the “have-nots” do not get. So, our “have-nots” will be exposed to resource concerns as we grow in population. Every where around the globe, there is a high correlation between family size and poverty. We must have realistic discussion about sex education and birth control, or we will fulfill our own prophesy. Plus, birth control can help in these impoverished parts of the globe by controlling the transmittal of disease from STD to AIDS to fistula due to young mothers giving birth to soon.

These areas must be addressed or we will see more of all of the other problems we are dealing with. Terrorism, pandemics, women and children being trafficked and resource issues will only continue and become worse problems. Let’s help focus on the real problems and do something about them.

 

Countdown – Too many people to sustain long term

I watched a fascinating interview with Alan Weisman, the author of the book “Countdown: Our Last Best Hope for a Future on Earth” the other day in which he said environmentalists are failing to talk about the major problem we face as a planet which is having too many people to sustain life. I have written before about how many people our earth could sustain and the answer varies based on how much we consume – if we consume like the average Rwandan we could support over 15 billion; however, if we consume like the average North American it is under 3 billion. With our current population of 7 billion, Weisman believes we need to plan our way down toward the smaller number. The following is a link to a Los Angeles Time article on the book.

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/sep/20/entertainment/la-ca-jc-alan-weisman-countdown-20130922

He noted the big reason we have so many people is we have created chemically leveraged ways of growing more food. Yet, even with that people are starving. Further, the chemicals are now being seen as harmful to the environment and our resources. But, it is not just the food – it is the water which is the “new oil” per Steven Solomon’s book called “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization” as well as our other limited resources. So, in his mind, we have to manage the decline of our population to survive.

He cites a good example in his book where Iran used extremely reasonable means to curb their population growth and did so in a non-coercive manner. The Iranian approach was even more effective than China’s one child per family mandate. After the revolution in 1979, Iran was soon invaded by Iraq. To stave off the Iraqis, more children were needed, so families were encouraged to have more. Once the Iraqis were pushed back, the leaders saw they had far too many people and that would cause unrest. So, the leaders convinced the Ayatollah of the problem so he issued a four-part edict that made much sense and has been successful:

1) Beyond a replacement number of offspring for the family, it is more than OK to use contraception.

2) Contraception was made readily available to Iranian citizens.

3) Pre-marital counseling on the cost of raising children was made mandatory.

4) Girls were encouraged to stay in school and get an education.

This last point is vital as data indicates the better educated the family, the fewer children they tend to have. He also noted in the area around the Vatican resides some of the more educated females per capita and they have a very low birth rate.

I have not read Weisman’s book yet, but look forward to doing so. But, I think his message speaks loudly to all of us. If we are going to sustain ourselves on this planet of ours, we need to factor in population planning along with our environmental planning. We need to have a more manageable and sustainable population.

Water is the New Oil

Let’s get down to basics. Our planet has two vital resources  – air and water. We cannot live without them, but we continue to be pretty poor stewards of both. With the advent of man-influenced global warming, one of the key outcomes is we will have more severe droughts in drought-stricken areas. The models are showing global warming is occurring at a faster pace than predicted several years ago. Yet, even without global warming, we must be better stewards with our resources, water in particular. In the book “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization” by Steven Solomon, he devotes an entire chapter looking to the future. The chapter is called “Water: The New Oil.”

First, some context. This book is one of the best history books I have ever read. Solomon discusses how civilizations came into power and then fell by their ability or inability to manager water resources. Water serves several purposes besides drinking water – farming, sewage maintenance, transport and energy. Getting water into cities and out of them with sewage are vital to their health and wealth.  The latter can be equally important due to the bouts of cholera and dysentery that occur when sewage intermixes with the drinking water supply.

A few examples might help. There are three things that occurred in US history which significantly aided our rise to power in the world. The first was the Erie Canal which connected New York with the Great Lakes. The second is the Panama Canal which gave the US control over two oceans. The third is the numerous dams and water shed protections which gave us energy as well as secured drinking and farming water. Teddy Roosevelt’s greatest contribution is he was the most prolific water oriented US president in our history.

Yet, we have a major problem. We are not protecting our water supply like we need to. There are an increasing number of fights over water, where people downstream argue with people diverting more gallons to their communities upstream. Also, with the worsening droughts, there is insufficient rain to replenish the water. This problem is not restricted to the US. Saudi Arabia is rich with oil, but very poor with water. Its water sheds are in danger of drying out in the reasonably near future. In the US, Texas has numerous cities where the water aquifers are dried out. Water has to be trucked in from elsewhere. The national and international agencies that measure the impact of global warming, say the extreme droughts in Texas are exacerbated by man-influenced global warming.

Water is more critical now than ever before. Water is the new oil. We straighten out rivers allowing water to run off too quickly. We let run off occur from developments that increase silt in the water by washing the sand, dirt and clay into the water. With the rising seas, we let seawater run into fresh water lagoons that were used for farming. We Americans over water our lawns to make them green, when the indigenous grass and shrubs would be OK with a healthy brown color. We cut down on the water flow downstream by damming up a river upstream. We get energy, but there needs to be a more judicious way to let the water flow and still provide the energy.

And, we use water for energy purposes besides the hydro-powered electricity the dams create. In some energy solutions, the water can flow back into the water supply as tepid water. For example, with coal-fired, nuclear powered, and natural gas-powered plants, the water is used to create steam from the heated source. The steam turns the turbine which causes the electromagnetic generator to turn and create the power. Once the water re-forms from the steam, it can be released back into its source. Yes, there are other environmental impacts, but the water can flow back to the source.

Fracking to get the natural gas is a totally different matter. The major concern I have over fracking is not just the chemically laden water, the mercury, arsenic and methane that leaks into the air, the earthquakes that are causally linked to deep ground water disposal and the environmental infrastructure defamation, it is the water cannot and must not be reused. There are two problems. You cannot let the chemically laden water to get back into the water supply. It is harmful to humans and animals. Yet, water finds a way and it poisons the water sources. In the movie “Gasland” there is story of a woman who freezes and saves all the dead animals she finds near rivers and streams adjacent to fracking sites. She has hundreds of them.

The bigger concern is the use of the water in the first place. As noted, we cannot reuse the water. Yet, to frack a well, it is estimated by industry that it takes 4 to 6 million gallons per frack. The average well is fracked ten to twelve times, but let’s ten for ease of the math. So, the average well is fracked with 40 to 60 million gallons of water. In Utah, they built 2,000 wells in close proximity. If you multiply this out, that is 80 to 120 billion gallons of water. In my home state of NC, they are talking about fracking 10,000 wells. That translates into 400 to 600 billion gallons of water. Using an unscientific term, that is a bucketload of water.

My question is this where you want to use your water? Given the above problems that fracking causes, is this where you want to use your water? You may say I am blowing smoke, but farmers and frackers fought over water in Kansas and Colorado this summer. I would add that Texas is a leader in fracking and they have an extreme drought issue with some cities out of water. I am not linking the two causally as I don’t know for sure, but that is one hell of a correlation, meaning one occurrence happens at the same time as another.

Is this where you want to use your water? I don’t. Fracking is bad enough news without this issue. But, this makes it a slam dunk. The developer makes money, gives a stipend to the landowner and then leaves the clean up to the state. The state residents are the ones who will suffer from the water shortage and other issues.

Water is one of our two dearest resources. Water is the new oil. We cannot soil it and then immediately drink it. We cannot flush it away and not reuse it. We must find ways to conserve it, distribute it equitably and be judicious with its use. We need to innovate on ideas like the flushless toilet competition that is underway. In desert areas, find inventive ways to get rid of sewage. In a major county in California, they are significantly filtering sewage run off water to make new drinking water. And, I mean signficantly filtering it with multiple steps. We need to use more indigenous plants. We need to conserve our water use.

And, we need to use renewable energy sources that do not demand the use of water. Solar and wind energy processes continue to get more scalable, but we need to factor the overall cost of eco-energy versus fossil fuel energy, which must include the cost on the environment, health of our people, and use of water. Fossil fuel produced energy may be cheaper without these other factors, but we need to move away from them in a concerted way. Our lives depend on it.

A Birth Control Message – Courtesy of the Boss

With due respect and credit for inspiration to one of my favorite bloggers, Jenni at www.newsforthetimes.wordpress.com, who publishes a Tune Tuesday weekly post on the personal or societal impact of a favorite song or singer, I want to use one of Bruce Springsteen’s songs to embellish a point I have been making the past few months. I think I have cited the Boss on a couple of occasions, but I want to lift some lyrics from one of my favorite songs of his “The River” which is pertinent to my point of readily available birth control and education. This song is about a man remembering nostalgically how he used to go “down to the river” with his girlfriend and how life was much simpler before she got pregnant with his child.

The lyrics I want to quote are as follows:

“Then, I got Mary pregnant and man, that was all she wrote.

And, for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat.

We went down to the courthouse and the judge put it all to rest.

No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle.

No flowers, no wedding dress.”

In my post “If Churches Really Want to Make a Difference” a few weeks ago, I suggest that the church should be more involved with legitimate sex education with their young teenagers, including the use of contraception. Kids don’t know enough about this subject and it is the thing they talk most about. The peer pressure is intense. It is more than OK to discuss abstinence, but if you remember your teenage years, that is not going to happen very often. I won’t repeat all of the points made therein, but informed teens should be aware of the need for protected sex as well as ways to say no, if they feel pressured (if a girl) and ways to treat a girl who is saying no (if a boy).

The LA Times reported just this week that data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the birthrate among American teens between  15 and 19, while decreased since 1991 is still at 34.3 births per 1,000 women. That rate is 5 times the teen birthrate in France and 2 1/2 times the teen birthrate in Canada. It is also higher than the rates in China and Russia. THe CDC reports that 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended meaning after unprotected sex or under protected sex. We have a higher incidence of sexual assault among teens as well.

Using Springsteen’s song, Mary did not need to end up pregnant. With birth control access and better sex education, Mary and the boy could have been more adroit at handling the issue before the heat of the moment caused a fate accompli. The rest of the song talks about how Mary and the boy go through the motions of life after being forced to do the right thing and marry. Their dreams were stifled. Yet, if she could say no, or have protected intercourse, then their lives need not be over.

My main point is so many issues could be better addressed through a better protected and more informed group of teenagers. There is high correlation to poverty and family size, especially if the family starts early. There is a high percentage of single parents in teen mothers, so in more cases than not, Mary’s beau would have left the building. With fewer unwanted pregnancies, then there would be fewer abortions. And, our teens would have a chance to grow up more before they start having babies. Finally, per Dr, Cora Breuner of Seattle Children’s Hospital, babies born to teens tend to fare more poorly than babies delivered to older age group parents.

I also believe the education part is just as vital. If the young girls and boys hear from respected sources about these very important life issues, they will be better positioned to handle them. More and more kids are not seeing churches in the same light as their parents. Some churches are actually driving people away with their evangelicalism. I firmly believe if you provide more venues to talk in an intelligent way with the teens about their problems, they will attend and listen. They don’t need to be preached to on the subject, but abstinence is an acceptable discussion point. I think it is important to note that you do not have to have sex if you are being pressured into doing so.

Per Dr. Breuner as reported by the LA Times, “We really can do better. By providing more education and improving access to contraception and more education about family planning, we can do better.” Note, Breuner helped write the new policy statement as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence.

Springsteen, as usual, vividly depicts a real world problem. I think his song could be played during the sex education classes. These kids loved each other (or at least thought they did), gave into passion and after unprotected sex, their dreams were over. This is reality. Why should we not finds ways to educate and help before the “point of reckoning” rather than to let the kids figure it out after it is too late. In today’s time, it can be even worse when a STD enters the equation.

Thanks Bruce for your terrific song. “The River” can permit the dream to continue with protected sex. And, for parents and church leaders who want to throw the bible at me, let me quote a truism that I said in my previous post. Teenagers are going to have sex. If you do not believe me, there is an evangelical university within a three-hour drive of where I live. These young church raised kids “go crazy” when they get away from mom and dad. I actually cleaned that up a little from the quote from someone who attended there. So, we should help them on their journey by giving them the tools and education they need.

If Churches Really Want to Make a Difference

People who have read earlier posts of mine have gleaned that one of my passions is doing what I can to help people climb a ladder out of poverty. I have often referenced Bob Lupton’s book on “Toxic Charity” whose premise is we should help people, but avoid doing for them things they can do themselves. True charity should be reserved for emergency situations and beyond that we should look for ways to aid their efforts not replace them.

Recently, I have prepared two posts from the gist of the book “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto” by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. This book does a good job of highlighting the big lies about poverty and describes significant changes that we can make to help remedy our poverty problem in America. One of the big lies about poverty is many attribute characteristics that people in poverty are less virtuous and industrious. I found that not to be the case as people in poverty tend to be working hard at one or multiple jobs and their faith is the only thing they have. In fact, 84% of the homeless families an agency I volunteer with helps are employed. Poverty is purely defined as the lack of money.

Churches and synagogues are already doing an abundance of good work and they should be applauded for these efforts. I would only ask as they evaluate the success of what they are doing to ask the question – is what we are doing more for us or the people we are trying to help? Are we helping provide a path forward out of poverty or we providing a benevolent band-aid? What if we did not do this particular service, what would happen? These are all good questions to ask, so that we make sure we are making a difference. Please read these two books or at a minimum take a look at some of the earlier posts from the past few months.

Yet, I am going to shift gears and talk about an idea that to my knowledge is not being talked about enough. There is a high correlation between family size and poverty. The more fragile the family’s starting point will easily push them into poverty as their family size grows. Also, for the bad press Planned Parenthood gets in very religious circles, it does a lot of good things around helping people in poverty with mammograms, sex education and birth control access. I want to focus on these last two points, as here is where I see a role that churches could play that would endear themselves to their audiences, lessen the exposure to poverty and dramatically reduce the exposure to abortions and STDs like AIDs.

I believe churches and synagogues should conduct recurring sex education and family planning classes on their campuses for their teenagers and young adults. I think they should make available birth control information and birth control samples, as well. I also believe they can teach abstinence as much as they want as it is a viable choice. Why do I say this? Two givens. First, people tend to trust their church leaders. Second, teenagers are going to have sex. You cannot stop them just as your parents could not stop you. So, let’s pair the two together and have open conversations facilitated by the church with people who know what they are talking about.

Teenagers have many misconceptions about sex, pregnancy risk, STD risk, respect for women (for men) and how to say no (for women). One of my former colleagues told me about the amazing questions she got from teenagers at her church as she was seen as someone who would shoot straight with her answers. “I heard you cannot get pregnant if you have sex standing up” is a good example of what she was asked. Plus, the teenagers are subject to an intense level of peer pressure by a potential sex partner as well as others. I see the churches and synagogues providing avenues to have great discussions for their younger minds which are still being formulated, are very immature, and exposed to so much. What better place to have important conversations like these?

If done right, by people who have open minds, who know the subject matter and want to truly help, this could be a life changing curriculum. This would also give a greater reason for kids wanting to go to church. From the teenager’s perspective, you are talking about things I need to hear. Therefore, I can make better choices when I am in the midst of an important life event in the throes of passion. If I am going to commit to having sex, I will make sure I use protection or have taken some birth control. If I don’t want to have sex and someone is forcing themselves on me, I will be better prepared to know what to do and say. From a parent’s perspective it will make it easier to have these conversations. As a parent, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this subject due to its importance.

From a societal standpoint, this would be an avenue to reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions. It would keep children in school who had to drop out to have a child. It would teach responsibility to young men and women. It would teach these same people how to treat their bodies and each other with respect, but to also look for signals where something may be amiss. It would give young people ammunition to better combat peer pressure. It would have an impact on poverty as families size would be managed, teenagers would be avoiding families at a young age, and we could break a cycle of poverty as kids born into poverty are very likely to stay there. This last issue is key, as breaking a cycle of poverty, homelessness makes a huge difference for a community, not to mention the individuals. Finally, it addresses an overarching concern which is the global problem of population growth. Our earth’s ability to support life is being compromised as we grow. This is its own subject, but the US could lead by example in having a sustainable population.

I am raising this issue for strong consideration by church leaders, male and female. The members of the Catholic Church have tended to ignore the papal advice on birth control and should continue to do so. I see this as a way for churches and synagogues to be more inclusive and in keeping with the life challenges for our young people. I have seen too many decisions and posturing where some churches try to be exclusive and that only ends up driving people away. I truly see this as a win-win for many and will help us actually make a difference in people’s lives. I hope this message is given due consideration by our religious leaders.

Global macro trends we need to discuss more

As I was watching “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday, he had as his last arriving guest, Bill McKibben, one of the planet’s foremost authorities on global warming. Not to shine spotlights, but the rest of the panel was a progressive leaning actress and two conservative talk show hosts, one on the radio and one of CNN, one a former congressman and one an attorney by trade. What I found as indicative of discussion in our country, we had two people arguing GOP talking points with a true expert. I kept thinking they need to be asking him questions about his concerns and what he thinks. When one said that he agreed with the Exxon Mobil CEO that we can just move the farmland to warmer places, McKibben retorted, “so we should just replace Iowa?”

My purpose in this post is not to only focus on the impact of global warming, but to highlight we need to have more informed discussions about the big-ticket, macro trends. We need to do so with better data and recognition for what scientists are saying and not using industry lobbyist talking points which at best are subjective. These are major concerns for the people on this planet, but also in the US. We cannot ignore these problems as we are now being impacted and we are contributing to a progression down a slippery slope.

Please note there are more trends than those mentioned here, but let me highlight four in no particular order:

1) Sustainable Population Growth

2) Aging Population

3) Water, the New Oil

4) Global Warming and our Toxic Chemical Crockpot

Sustainable Population Growth

In an earlier post, I mentioned a study conducted in Great Britain which asked the question, how many people can the Earth sustain? The key conclusion of the study was it greatly depended on consumption rates. If people on average consumed resources like one of the poorer countries in Africa, the Earth could sustain just about 15 billion people. Please know I am rounding the numbers from memory. However, if we consumed like the average North American, the planet could only sustain about 2 billion people. We are about 7 billion people as of this writing.

According to the United Nations Population Fund, if fertility stayed the same, we would be looking at over 11 billion in 2050. If it increases and people consume at a higher clip, then we would be in a heap of hurt. So, what can we do about it? Per the UN Population Fund, they suggest several things, but let me highlight a few year:

– we have to have greater awareness over this issue and concerted planning by major governmental, societal and business leaders.

– we have to increase the availability, awareness and use of contraception.

– we need to have better overall family planning and increased awareness of the correlation between poverty and larger family size.

– we have to improve access to child healthcare and overall healthcare.

– we have to be mindful of our resources and know they are not infinite in supply.

– we have to find better ways to grow food, manage water and sewage (more on water below).

– we need better data for measuring intervention outcomes and assessing needs.

Aging Population

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development partnered with global human capital consultant Mercer in 2010 to conduct a study of major issues facing countries. One of the more significant macro trends that was a premonition into the economic travails in Europe is our aging population. Why is that important? As a society ages, the ratio of retirees to active worker increases. This becomes a huge problem when more of the unfunded liabilities of an entity are out the door than can be covered by active worker funding. These are the reasons France increased its normal retirement age and why Greece has to follow suit.

Our average age has increased here in the US, but there are countries that are far worse than we are. Yet, it is and will become a greater problem here. The other key concern is the majority of healthcare expenses occur in the last two years of a person’s life. As we age, it puts more pressure on the cost of delivery of medical care. This becomes exacerbated by an overweight population as we have here in the US, which causes even more cost pressure due to unhealthy lifestyles. At some point, you have to pay the fiddler.

So, we have to take better care of ourselves and we have to make adjustments to medical care benefit coverages. We need more people included in medical coverages which is the reason some form of Obamacare needs to continue. Yet, we also need to come to grips that changes are needed to Medicare and Social Security. We also need to encourage greater savings. Before the recession, the US was one of the worst at saving. This has only been heightened by the recession where people had to dip into their savings and forego future savings.

Water, the New Oil

This has been a concern of mine which became more paramount after reading Steven Solomon’s book “Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization.” This is the best history book I have ever read about how civilizations rose and fell because of their ability to manage water for use, transport and sewage. This last point may sound very mundane, but washing away sewage has been a huge challenge in major metro population areas such as Rome, London and New York and in impoverished areas.

Yet, the book is more than a history lesson. It shows how dear water has become even in some of the richest places on the planet. Oil rich Saudi Arabia has a major catastrophe in the foreseeable future due to the significant decline in their aquifers. China had a major problem when they built a dam that impacted the water supply to others to such an extent they had to cease energy production until they figured out a better solution. And, we are seeing it in the US as well. We have always had droughts, but they are greater in number and severity and per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have worsened because of global warming.

Any food, water, sewage and energy production exercise has to figure water usage in its calculations. This is probably my biggest concern with fracking, e.g. Fracking takes 4 to 6 million gallons of water per fracking well that cannot go back into the water supply. And, if you do not think this is a problem, the frackers and farmers were fighting over water in Kansas this summer during the droughts. On the sewage side,  Bill Gates is running a global contest for the purpose of developing a scalable, waterless toilet that can be used in impoverished, arid areas. Dysentery and cholera are in abundance in these areas as the raw sewage goes directly into the water supply. Since water is so dear, we need to use it less for sewage. I would add in Orange County, CA they are using multiple filter devices (and I mean multiple) to reuse sewage water as drinking water. They have been doing this for a couple of years now.

We need to have concerted effort around the needs and uses of water and plan accordingly. I believe that a robust eco-energy plan has to factor in the use of water in all energy, water, food and sewage planning.

Global Warming and our Toxic Chemical Crockpot

The impact of global warming is being witnessed on a daily basis. It is no longer a futuristic event. Like the birthers, the deniers should not have a place at the adult table. Yet, we need all reasonable parties to have a voice in what we do next as we develop holistic eco-energy plans. I have said this multiple times, but Germany is ten years ahead of the US and plans to be 80% alternative energy powered by 2030. By my count, that is in 18 years. We need multiple parties at the table as we have to make a concerted effort to divorce ourselves from fossil fuels and not double down on them. We know we cannot quit cold turkey, but we better get moving. Any plan has to endure beyond the terms of political incumbents, so it cannot be shelved when a new political party comes into power.

The part that does not get enough attention is the toxic chemical crockpot that is simmering. As the planet turns the heat up on the crockpot, a relatively misunderstood and vastly underestimated problem will become increasingly worse. Like a broken record, the best books on this subject are written by Dr. Sandra Steingraber – “Living Downstream” and “Raising Elijah.” As a biologist, ecologist, cancer survivor and mother, she is garnering bi-partisan support about these issues. The problem is her voice is drowned out by the petro-chemical industry who is leading a cause to defang the EPA. The Koch Brothers make their money here, e.g, and they are the most significant contributors to the Tea Party success. They also have about 100 pending violations in front of the EPA.

The dilemma is with people moving around it is harder to prove causality of illnesses with toxic chemical creation, disposal or use. This has been the industry’s principal defense and they can throw vast sums of money to confuse and diffuse their opponents’ efforts. Yet, they toxic chemical are present and they do impact people living in various areas for more than a few years. Migrant farm workers exposed to pesticides have much greater cancers, lung and mental health issues. The increase in autism and premature births can be traceable to larger traces of toxic chemicals in the environment. And, as Dr. Steingraber has noted, a very relevant factor in family history is not considered in medical diagnosis as much as it should be – where the family grew up can actually be more important than the genes. Her case in point, her family (siblings, cousins nearby, etc.) had a significant number of cancers, including multiple cases of bladder cancer which is what she had. The key to all of this story – Dr. Steingraber was adopted. Note, bladder cancer is a bellweather cancer. If someone gets it in your family especially at a relatively young age, it is likely environmentally caused.

Dealing more effectively with toxic chemicals also has to be a key part of addressing a holistic eco-energy solution. And, let me shout this from the rooftops one more time – doing away or gutting the EPA is the most irresponsible recommendation that could be made, which is precisely what is being recommended by one of our major political parties in the US. And, I have highlighted the word irresponsible with purpose as a true independent voter and business person. For someone to frame an argument against this by calling anyone a “tree hugger” is poor form and stewardship. Creating the EPA may actually be GOP President Richard Nixon’s greatest contribution as president.

If you agree with me, please help get the word out on these issues. These are local problems, these are state problems, these are US problems and these are global problems. We have to solve them in a concerted way and build upon a confederation of good ideas being done all around the country. With wind energy in 38 states, someone is doing something right. Let’s build on that.