Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

Doomsday Preppers: Donna Nash

Next up is Donna Nash from Utah, owner of a vaguely religiously-themed prepping business called ArkReady.
She’s prepping for obsessed with a worldwide pandemic, probably of some kind of flu. In between scenes of her trying to convince the neighbors of this contingency (and to take one of her pre-made pandemic buckets) are shots of her wiping down doorknobs and countertops, spraying aerosol chemicals in the house, and dusting the floors. She has one of those houses that looks like it’s straight out of a magazine—the kind that looks like it isn’t lived in. She reminds me of a magnet my mom used to have stuck on the refrigerator that said, “Boring women have immaculate homes.”

I also think it’s kind of ironic, that she’s afraid of some killer super-resistant strain of the flu, when she’s practically hosing down her house with hand sanitizer. I’d be really curious to know how often her kids get sick—because growing up in an antiseptic, sanitized environment, I would bet they have all sorts of asthma and stuff. The only thing her OCD cleaning is doing is creating stronger germs and weaker kids. Hell, I grew up practically licking dirt off the floor, and aside from the odd reaction (being barefoot most of the time, I step on a lot of bees; turns out I’ve developed an allergy over the years—it happens.), I go to the doctor about once every five years. Of course, eating dumpster food is always good for the ol’ immune system, too.

I have the feeling that the producers try to push the folks on this show to do at least one thing to make them look completely crazy. In this case, it’s to get Ms. Nash to have her family do a ‘pandemic drill’!—putting on masks, goggles, hairnets, plastic gowns, foot covers, the whole deal—and then go outside. Well, wouldn’t you know there’s a neighbor watching them?

The Practical Prepper ‘experts’ determine that she needs an alternate location, in case her house becomes compromised, or something. Like, somewhere to make a fresh start that will need brand-new equipment to survive, and they know just the folks to get her outfitted…themselves! She knows what’s up (probably thinking, “I came on this show to get free publicity for myself, not for you guys!”) and says that she doesn’t need a bunker, thank you very much. Which is fine, but if you’re going to have to stay sealed up in your quarantine house for weeks or months, you’d better have some food stored up, and I didn’t see anything edible, just shelves and shelves of medical supplies.

Surprisingly, the show suggests that according to the World Health Organization, a devastating flu pandemic is inevitable. It’s surprising, because every other event these people are supposedly prepping for has been denied by the producers (“Scientists put the likelihood of a Yellowstone eruption at less than .0001 percent!”, etc)—most likely as a way to make the subjects look paranoid, or something like that. Saying that a global flu is inevitable is the closest thing to an endorsement this show has made yet.

For future reference, I am not Donna Nash. Please stop leaving comments asking for pandemic kits. If you’re really interested, I link to her business in the very first sentence of this post.

Doomsday Preppers: Martin Colvill

The series’ fourth episode starts out with a look at Martin Colvill, an ex-cop (and apparently a voice actor as well!); he is now another trucker with miniature dachshunds.
Having lost their home to foreclosure in ’08, he and his wife have now become semi-nomadic, living out of the cab of their big rig. Having firsthand experience already with the financial crush, he says he’s preparing “to survive the next great depression caused by a worldwide economic collapse.” He predicts this will occur within the next three to five years, probably brought on by China calling the US debt.
As a trucker, he recognizes the fragile nature of our current system—and that without trucks to make deliveries, America stops. And so, “to help America be the country it should be again”, he is dedicated to preventing total collapse by making his deliveries in a safe and timely manner—so basically, he’s the Postman of freight!

Here is when this show gets it right—showing something besides family after family who have simply spent a bunch of money to build a bunker/storeroom and fill it up with canned goods. I like that this guy’s motivation is more than just simple fear—he has a great can-do, 20th century-American ethic. I like that he reminds me of one of my uncles. I like that they have a sewing machine in their truck. I like that their food storage is mostly dehydrated veggies.

Anyway, concerned about his parked truck being an easy target for roving bandits, he heads to a sporting goods store to check out camo netting. While there, he brings up bugout bags with an younger employee, and to his surprise the kid admits to having one too! Martin explains how he wants to survive so he can be part of the rebuilding process (his heart’s in the right place, but I still cringed), and the kid’s reason? “Hey, it’s all gonna hit the fan sometime!” Like, it’s just somethin’ to do, man! While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this kid putting a pack together, I don’t think that’s good enough. If people are going to start making plans for their own survival, I think they should really sit down and have a good, long think about their motivations for doing so.

During this profile, it’s revealed that his wife Sarah has some kind of cancer. This is sad, but it’s a good example of what the folks over at Zombie Squad call an ‘everyday zombie’ (they use the zed-word to get attention, but it’s really a metaphor for any kind disaster). For all the guns and camouflage and dried foods, it’s kind of silly to obsess on the remote possibility of a major catastrophe, when the person sitting next to you is wasting away. While End of the World-type prepping is big and exciting, folks should really focus on the possibilities that have the higher likelihood of happening—which are probably going to be smaller-scale, close-to-home disasters (losing one’s home to foreclosure, or one’s wife to cancer, for example).

The last section of this segment has Martin’s ex-Air Force brother organize a weird little scenario to test his skills or something, some kind of simulated highway accident that turns out to be a trap. They set it up to be some huge firefight, but it ends up with Martin facedown on the road for wanting to help an injured motorist (like I said, his heart is in the right place). His brother leaves him with advice that boils down to: watch out for yourself and the wife, and that’s it. Every man for himself.   Harsh.

Don’t believe everything that you eat.

At my university, every student has to take the required course “Lifetime Fitness”.  It’s just like PhysEd and Health class from high school, except we also have to work out in the “fitness center” (read:gym) every week.  One of the projects in the course is to keep track of what you eat and do (activity-wise) for three days, and then plug it all into an objective computer program and see what it reveals about your diet.  As soon as I saw the assignment on the syllabus the first day of class, I thought, “Oh, this is going to be interesting.”

You see, when I first got into rewilding, I started with diet.  As a result, I’ve been purposefully ignoring The Food Pyramid for several years.  When I finished this project, I really expected the first page of the report to just tell me to “Eat more bread!” a few hundred times.

According to DINE (for future use, the name of the food analysis program), my diet received an arbitrary score of “Good” with 65 points—high marks on protein (high percentage of calories), and saturated fat, added sugar, and cholesterol (all low).  Of course, the analysis suggested that my diet needed improvement in several areas: total calories (apparently I wasn’t getting enough), mono fat (too much), complex carbs (not enough), and fiber (no idea why, as I eat plenty of fibrous things).

The DINE program suggested that my intake of animal fat was greater than recommended, which would reflect a high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol (“associated with increased risk for heart disease and certain cancers”).  However, the two areas of my diet on which I received extra points for being within or even significantly below the recommended range were…saturated fats and cholesterol.  It’s just further evidence that a high-meat/high-fat diet can be extremely healthy, if combined with an active lifestyle.  Civilized agriculturalists may have had as much meat in their diets as hunter-gatherers, but their sedentary lifestyle and crowded conditions led to the same diseases that plague our modern world.  In addition, the little meat I actually ate during this period was local venison—clearly a healthier alternative to factory-farmed, corn-fed beef or pork.  If my Paleolithic ancestors could eat a diet composed of 20 to 30 percent wild game and be incredibly healthy, I can too.

The DINE system also said that I do not eat enough complex carbohydrates; the Nutrient Messages report suggested that I eat more breads, cereals, pastas, and grains, of course..  This is what I expected when I began this project, and this is one suggestion I will continue to ignore, as these foods have, since their relatively recent introduction, contributed to a decreased level of wellness, and are currently in the pocket of corrupt industries.
Every single one of these foods came into existence only after the Neolithic agricultural revolution.  These were cheap foods that were easy to make; filling, but not terribly good for you in the long run; foods perfectly-suited to feeding the peasants upon whose backs the first civilizations (read: oppressive, stratified societies) were built.  As Jared Diamond wrote, “Today just three high-carbohydrate plants—wheat, rice, and corn—provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life.”  To make things worse, these products are today heavily subsidized by the government, providing incentives to produce more wheat to make white bread, and more corn to be made into cheap, unhealthy additives for “food”.  As a result of the absolutely corrupt special-interest groups (industry lobbyists) who essentially control our government, one cannot trust what The Food Pyramid (sorry, I forgot that now it’s the “MyPyramid”) which the DINE program is surely based upon.  While it’s possible that the limited food database in DINE is simply the result of an out-of-date system, I cannot entirely discount the possibility that the program is backed by Monsanto, Syngenta, or some other multinational industrial food corporation—I was unable to find any organic foods, wild edibles, or provisions for homemade meals—and distorting one’s diet through the filter of “analysis” would lead one to head back to the grocery store to buy the foods that DINE prescribes will make one “healthy”, furthering the capitalist economy that created the problem in the first place.

I do feel that the DINE program is not giving a totally-accurate report, as—despite any apparent lacking in my diet—my sizable intake of organic or local products give me a edge on “wellness” (physical as well as emotional/environmental/intellectual, knowing that many of my meals have small footprints) over those zombies who may follow the program’s suggestions to the letter.

In the end, the project was somewhat interesting, but—as I suspected at the outset—found the analysis results were incompatible with my unconventional diet, way of eating, and philosophy, and I take the results with a large grain of salt.

The Green Man Says: YOU are built to be a hunter-gatherer.

part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.

November, 2009.
This week, let’s talk about food.  Most “go green how-to” articles will tell you to shop locally at farmer’s markets, to choose organic, pesticide-free produce, and eat ethically-raised, free-range meat.  This is fine, but for a poor college student, it’s Expensive!  Yes, pesticides in food are bad, but I believe that what are even worse are the foods and drinks which are essentially nothing but chemicals.  Don’t even get me started on corn syrup.  Have you looked at an ingredients list recently?  A box of my roommate’s chicken-flavored pasta and rice has almost the same things in it as a pouch of instant vegetable soup.  What the heck are thiamine mononirate or disodium inosinate or maltodextrin?  The reason these exist is preservation: our current industrial food system means that food packaged in California might be shipped to Maine, where it may sit on the shelf for months; the mysterious additives ensure a long shelf-life.

As an Anthropology student, I’ve a whole lot of my time at Transy talking about pre-agricultural societies.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that humans have never been healthier than we were about 20 or 30,000 years ago.  After that, we discovered agriculture, and it all starts to go downhill.  You see, back in our good ol’ hunter-gatherer days, our diet was varied, we got plenty of exercise, and we sure weren’t eating corn or bread.  Take a look at The Food Pyramid (the 1992 one most of us grew up with, the one with horizontal layers, not that weird new one where everything radiates from the top).  According to it, the foundation of our diet should be “6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta”: these didn’t exist until humans settled down, started farming, and built cities.  The switch to agriculture led to nutrient deficiency and modern diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (not to mention social stratification, organized religion, and state warfare).

So what can you do?  I’m not saying that you should immediately revert to a hunter-gatherer diet (but if you want to try, get ahold of me and we’ll talk), and I’m definitely not advocating the status-quo diet of soda and Doritos.  But start small—cut out the Twinkies and Gatorade.  Try eating in the style of our ancestors, snacking on fruits, nuts and berries throughout the day, with one big, varied supper at night.  Fiber and meat are great; a bit of dairy (another post-agriculture invention) now and then is good; even Ramen is fine, but pitch the flavor packet and throw the noodles in a hearty stew of meats and vegetables.

There’s a very different way of thinking that comes along with a healthy hundred thousand-year old way of eating.  You start to feel more HUMAN.

part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.

April, 2009.
Because this Saturday (April 11) marks the seasonal return of the Lexington Farmer’s Market (downtown in the park at Cheapside), this week I’m going to talk about food.
You might think that this really only applies to folks who aren’t on the meal-plan, but it’s still good advice for the rest of you to keep in mind.

Some of you might be not even be aware that your food choices have a huge effect on the planet, but believe me, they do.  Right now, our food choices rival transportation as the human activity with the greatest impact on the environment.

So, you ask, what’s causing all the problems?  The short answer is: industrial farming practices…this means meat and pesticides.

Much of the meat we buy at the supermarket is grown in ‘factory farms’, where animals are pumped full of drugs and hormones (cows, pigs, and chickens get 70% of all antimicrobial drugs in the US) and fattened up on an almost-all-corn-or-soybean diet (consider that 95% of the world’s soybean harvest is eaten by animals, not people!).  Animal rights aside (I’ll let the Bambi-lovers at PETA deal with that) this system of farming is very inefficient: it takes about 33% more fossil fuel energy to produce a calorie of beef than would a calorie of a potato.  Eating lower on the food chain is much more energy-efficient…that’s what The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is all about.

Growing plants isn’t much better; farmers spray their crops with nasty herbicides (to kill weeds) and pesticides (to kill bugs) that get washed off into the groundwater; it doesn’t help that some of these chemicals are known carcinogens—anyone remember DDT?

Besides the chemicals used, there’s an even bigger side effect of large-scale farming: international food trade and the glut of heavily-processed and packaged foods has distanced most people from what they eat, both geographically and psychologically.  People think that food just magically appears on the supermarket shelf, instead of being driven or flown thousands of miles to get there.

So as an eater, what can you do?  The three biggest changes you can make:

1) Re-evaluate your consumption of meat.

2) Select food produced without agrochemicals.

3) Buy locally grown food.

The latter two can easily be accomplished by walking down to the Farmer’s Market.  You’ll help support the local economy, burn some calories (instead of gasoline), eat healthier, and help farmers get a fair price for their products.

As for myself, I don’t eat meat because I’m a poor college student.  But the next time I get a hankerin’ for some animal protein, I’m going after one of these tame city squirrels.

part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.

March, 2009.
I’m willing to bet that most people never think twice about the various substances they expose themselves to on a daily basis.  Have you ever tried reading the ingredients list on a bottle of shampoo or shower soap?  I don’t want to scare anybody, but I did some research on some of the chemicals used, and it turns out that there’s some really intimidating stuff in there.  For example, Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid tetrasodium salt (Tetrasodium EDTA, for short)—while not believed to have carcinogenic or mutagenic effects—“may be toxic to upper respiratory tract, skin, eyes” and “can produce target organs damage” as a result of “repeated or prolonged exposure”, which sounds an awful lot like science-speak for shampooing your hair everyday.
Polyquaternium 7 is another chemical used in many of the various goops we use to keep ourselves smelling clean.  While this ingredient doesn’t seem to have any obvious toxicity issues and is supposed to be biodegradable, then why is it advised to “Prevent surface contamination of soil, ground & surface water”, and “Avoid disposing to drainage systems and into the environment”?  I feel we are not getting the full picture.  (If you’re curious about chemicals in the products you use, I encourage you to do your own research; search for a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet).
So if the hygiene products we are exposed to on a daily basis may not be the best things for the health of the environment or ourselves, what can we do? Luckily, there are alternative products out there.  If you walk down Limestone to Sqecial Media, you will find a great selection of all-natural hygiene products like soaps and shampoo (plus, you will be supporting local business!).
While it may be true that environmentalists like knowing which ingredients in your shampoo will kill you, choosing alternative products doesn’t mean you are restricted to the three traditional earth-friendly smells: lavender, patchouli, and “natural”.  Natural products have a wide variety of fragrances, and best of all you can always be sure what they will smell like—you won’t find any ambiguous, faux-natural names like “Ocean Breeze” or “Spring Rain”.
Feeling really adventurous? You can even go one step further, and do away with commercial products altogether.  Try a baking-soda-paste for shampoo and rinse with apple cider vinegar—you may smell a bit like a potato chip but your hair will be much healthier.