Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Simple, Freeze-resistant Watering System for Multiple Species



      Winter seems to have finally taken hold and that poses some challenges for folks who raise animals as part of a whole and happy lifestyle. I can still vividly recall long ago winter mornings when I visited with my high school friend Pam. Pam had horses, which meant her life revolved around keeping them fed, watered and exercised. Every morning, before most folks had lifted an eyelid and rolled out of bed, Pam was outside breaking the ice that had inevitably formed over their water during the night. I wish I had known then, what I know now. It may have saved her a little work. It may be even more helpful to folks who raise a variety of animals.

      I initially wrote the following blog post when I volunteered for Rural Resources. Organizations like Rural Resources, small nonprofits that promote food security and sustainable agriculture, are great places to volunteer. Small nonprofits typically have more needs than they do staff and budget to cover them. Whatever your skills or interests are, they will likely have a way you can use them.

       In the meantime, take a minute to read about one man's innovative approach to the challenges of providing a freeze-resistant watering system for a variety of animals.




McElroy, a district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA in Greene County, Tenn., discusses an innovative, multi-species watering system he designed for Rural Resources, using recycled materials.


      
      Rural Resources’ Executive Director, Sally Causey, and Site Director Teddy Dabbs, asked Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Mike McElroy to design a watering system that would accommodate a variety of species and work with Dabbs vision for a multi-paddock, multi-species, rotational grazing pasture.

      “We needed something to be relatively freeze-proof because we didn’t want to be breaking ice all the time,” said Causey. “But our problem was, we had all these really short animals, like goats and hogs, but we also had some of the taller variety, cattle. So we had to figure out a system where they could all drink from the same well.”

      McElroy accepted the challenge. He researched watering systems for each type of animal and used past experience to guide his design. The result is a remarkably simple, inexpensive, environmentally-friendly and low maintenance watering system using recycled materials.

      The system is built from a recycled industrial tire that McElroy obtained from Free Service Tire Company, Inc. in Kingsport, Tenn.

This multi-species watering system can be viewed at Rural Resources' Holley Creek Farm.

     
       “They’ll load them for you and they’re glad to give them away, because they have to pay to get rid of them and have them shipped to Texas and have them chipped up, or put in a land fill,” McElroy said, adding, “We like to use them to keep them out of the landfill.”

      Although using industrial tires is nothing new – McElroy estimates that at least 150 tires have been used on about 40 farms in Greene County, Tenn., over the last fifteen years – the concept of an integrated, multi-species watering system is.

      “This is the first time that this has ever been tried as far as I’m aware of,” McElroy, said. “There’s nothing you could actually purchase that would fit all of them very well.”

      The tire is trimmed with a reciprocating saw, laid on excavated ground, and surrounded by crusher run rock.

      The system was put to the test during last winter’s frigid temperatures, but Rural Resources’ staff said that there was very little freezing. The reason is a recycled 15 gallon plastic barrel McElroy placed in the bottom center of the tire, buried two feet in the ground and filled with water.

      “I put that barrel inside just to get some thermal energy from the ground,” he said. “Heat’s going to rise.”

      McElroy picks up the free barrels from dairy farms. They usually contained teet dip or antiseptic and are ready to use after a thorough cleaning.

To retain the thermal energy, McElroy put a layer of 3/4-inch Styrofoam brand insulation over the top of the tire and secured it with exterior plywood held by four bolts.

      Other features include a Gallagher float valve and an optional cement floor in the sidewall to make cleaning easier. Because of its construction, animals are unable to flip or move the waterer, and its construction limits contamination from animals getting into the water.





      The system is surrounded by a heavy-use area constructed of geotextile fabric and crusher run gravel to ensure low maintenance. McElroy said that, when using a 2- or 4-ball freeze-proof trough for cattle, a 16-foot by 16-foot concrete slab, surrounded by a 5-foot gravel transition area, is often used for the high-use area.

      Though it’s the first time it has been tried, both McElroy and the Rural Resources staff are pleased with the system’s low cost, high functionality and low maintenance.

      “It serves its purpose,” said McElroy. “Pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, horses, whatever, they all can have access to water.”



For more information about the watering system, contact Mike McElroy at michael.mcelroy@tn.usda.gov or (423) 639-7397 Ext. 3.

To view the system or tour the Holley Creek Farm, contact Sally Causey at info@ruralresources.net or (423) 636-8171. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

In the Shadow of the Eve


nature, night, dark











Natalie

















As the eve of a new year approaches, I find myself in a shadow land of memory, reflecting on the accomplishments and the losses of 2015. The losses were heavy. I lost my mother, Natalie, and my younger brother, Joe, this year, only six months apart.

Joe

Mentally surviving their deaths to reach another New Year's Eve with my sanity apparently intact, while finishing a degree and dealing with a host of other trials and losses, is an accomplishment of grace made possible by the love and support of some wonderful friends and family and a compassionate counselor.

Yes, a counselor. I put that word in here on purpose. Talking about things can be a huge help in working through grief or other traumatic experiences. Counselor shouldn't be a word whispered behind the hand when no one is looking. It's a resource to help people along when there is a bump in the road of life, just like a mechanic, plumber, dentist or IT tech. When something needs fixing, the smart thing to do is to fix it. Perhaps 2016 will see the fashionable facade of "I don't need any help" fall out of vogue. As one of the proverbs of the rock and roll sages says, we all need somebody to lean on at some time in our lives. But I digress.

Another shadow wraps itself like a shroud around January 31st. It is the anniversary of another loss


Nathan
In 1995, my brother Nathan died after a brutal battle with AIDS.   He was one of more than 658,500 people in the United States diagnosed with AIDS who have died up to this date. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 50,000 people become infected with HIV in the U.S. every year and more than 1 million people in the U.S. were living with HIV at the end of 2012. There were 36.9 million people living with HIV globally at the end of 2014, according to the UNAIDS 2015 fact sheet. Nearly 40 million people, their loved ones and their communities have been affected by HIV. In spite of the heart-wrenching numbers, the World Health Organization says growth of the epidemic is reversing and there is reason to be optimistic in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

When I take time this New Year's Eve to reflect on Nathan's life, it helps me to refocus on one of the core principles I want to live by. Rather than be overcome by heartbreak and tragedy and injustice, I want to overcome those things with compassion, beauty, truth and hope. I want to help the world be better, not badder. Some days I feel more successful about that goal than others. That's why reflection is so important. It brings me back to my purpose when I begin to wander off course in one direction or another. I invite you to visit The Whole Life Journal's sister blog, This Life, to read about Nathan and the lesson his life and death taught me.

I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Seven Simple Steps to a Happier 2016




It's that time again. The new year is just around the corner. For many folks, a new year means a new start. It's a time for setting new goals and making resolutions to help meet them. Those resolutions are often centered around physical health and appearance: quitting self destructive habits like smoking, losing weight, starting an exercise program. But there's much more that goes into creating a happy and healthy life. Check out the seven simple steps below to help create a happier  life in 2016. Try just one to add a little more "happy" to the new year, or try all of them for a radical life transformation. 

#1 Do what matters most to you.

Finding what makes you excited to get up in the morning goes a long way toward living a happy life. Determine to let go of the expectations of others and be led by your own passions, gifts and desires. It's not an act of selfishness. You can't give what you don't have. Invest the time to discover your unique gifts and talents and how to incorporate them into a life that fuels your passions, then watch how you are able to positively impact others.

#2 Find your rhythm.

Everything in our world has a rhythm, from our cells to the solar system. People, like all other creatures, function most efficiently when they are following their natural rhythm. Getting adequate sleep on a regular schedule is a great place to start. If something comes up that bumps you out of your routine, don't stress. Just get back to it as quickly as you can. The reward will be a clearer mind, a better mood and more energy to put toward #1.

#3 Cut out clutter.

Clutter can be mentally paralyzing. Tidying up your personal and work space reduces distraction, which is a slow drain on mental energy. It also saves lost time and prevents the unnecessary stress that comes with looking for things you've misplaced in the clutter. Need some help? Check out becomingminimalist.com .

#4 Play.

Our culture here in the United States is very performance oriented. Long hours of work are lauded as virtuous. In the current state of the economy, some folks have to work overtime or multiple jobs to get by. The result is that many people don't take time to play. Play is an important factor in health and happiness. It reduces stress, increases creativity and, when enjoyed with others, strengthens relationship bonds.


#5 Get rid of the leeches.

Leeches, those things that suck energy, time or resources without any real benefit, can drain the happiness right out life. They may be co-workers who don't carry their weight and expect you to pick up the slack, friends who are constantly in need and don't reciprocate or projects that don't yield any benefits. Leeches can turn happiness into frustration and resentment. Limit the drain by eliminating the leeches. Better yet, get in the habit of not allowing them to latch onto your life in the first place.

#6 Don't overcommit.

Sometimes people over commit because they are uncomfortable saying no or have a strong need to please others. For some, it has become a habit, a default mode of living. Over committed people are often exhausted, stressed and frustrated and often don't enjoy the activities they've committed themselves to. Pruning back commitments leaves more energy for happiness to bloom.

#7 Manage your digital life.

Technology can be a terrific tool or a terrible tyrant. Without boundaries, it can take over life, crowding out important things. Learn to manage technology in order to keep life in balance. A simple but effective way to get started might be to use the "do not disturb" function on your cell phone or deciding to keep digital devices turned off during meal times. 

Do you have tips you'd like to share about creating a happier new year? Share them in the comments section below!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Holiday Wishes

However you may choose to celebrate the holidays,  may the best part of your day not be the presents but the presence of your loved ones. Have a blessed holiday!


                                  
   

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Eve Message from Space

Earthrise from Moon, NASA, Apollo 8, Public Domain image


I was going to post a link to my latest article in The Appalachian Voice today, but it seemed out of season, and I decided to save it for a Throwback Thursday post after the holiday. I was wondering what to post instead, when I stumbled across a link to this video of a Christmas Eve message from space on my Twitter feed. It's definitely a Throwback Thursday post: I was only two years old when this message was broadcast. We won't talk about how many years ago that was, but the date of the image is available, if you want to do the math.

Whenever I view a video from space, I'm struck by the absurdity of some of things we strive for and fight about. A Christmas Eve message probably isn't the best time to bring up divisive issues, so I'll just leave this thought:

One planet, one people, one lifetime.

Wishing everyone peace and joy during this holiday season!







Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Midwinter Greetings


The holiday season is well underway. In the free, multi-cultural society of the United States, there is a veritable smorgasbord of holidays to choose from. Some are celebrated, or at least acknowledged, by the masses, others are more obscure. Some of the observations and celebrations include: Thanksgiving, Diwali, Human Rights Day, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Humbug Day, Christmas, Milad un Nabi, New Year and World Peace Meditation Day. A Google search about each one yields interesting reading that underscores the rich and diverse traditions of a nation that proudly claims itself to be a melting pot of humanity.

Today marks the Winter Solstice, also called Midwinter. It stands apart from the other observations of the season in that it is an astronomical event, as well as a cultural and religious celebration. There are two solstices in the solar year: Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice. The Winter Solstice occurs in December and marks the shortest day and longest night of the solar year, while the Summer Solstice happens in June and marks the longest day and the shortest night.

Between each of the solstices there is an equinox. The Spring Equinox takes place in March and the Fall Equinox in September. Both mark days and nights of equal length. All of these events happen as a part of the solar year that comprises the Earth's journey around the Sun. Each hemisphere experiences the solstices and their accompanying seasons at opposite times of the year. The December solstice is the official beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the continuance of the cycle of seasons on our home planet. To look at it another way, it is the astronomical new year.

In some traditions, the solstices and equinoxes are important waymarks in the agricultural calendar. In fact, The Twelve Days of Christmas may have originally been a blending of the Scandinavian Yule festival and the practice in some regions of slaughtering cattle, and other animals used for food, in the winter time. Animals that couldn't be fed off the farms during the cold, winter months were butchered and a community feast followed.

The solstices also mark important days in some religious traditions. Because it is the turning point in the length of days, daytime ceases to become shorter and light begins to linger longer. In pagan traditions, this marked the time of the rebirth of the sun. Because of this, solstice celebrations often include bonfires or candles to represent the triumph of light over darkness.

The solstices are naturally occurring events that can serve to remind humanity of a common bond shared by all: this home called Earth and the dependence of each one upon it. Perhaps taking a few moments to observe this event and its significance would make room for considering the fragile balance on which life on this planet depends and the interconnectedness of all its inhabitants.



Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Wet Stuff

One of the most basic needs for living a whole life -- or any life at all -- is water. It plays a role in every facet of our lives, and yet clean drinking water is one of the most threatened resources on our planet. In today's post, guest blogger Liz Morgan shares some thoughts about the wet stuff.





Water. The wet stuff.
Water is the most quintessential molecule for human life. When we think about a planet besides earth sustaining life, we question, “Does it have water?” When we think of earth, we think of it being a “blue planet.” And when we think of ourselves, as humans, we think of our supremely aqueous bodies. We have been taught, from a young age, that there is no life for humans without water. 

What we may not realize is that water is necessary for human existence beyond biological terms. Take, for example, the economy. The American economic system depends on strong, thriving markets, which rely on consumerism. What do most Americans consume on a mass scale? Technological toys. But many of us are not aware of the vast amounts of water necessary for these toys to function. An IBM plant in Burlington, Vermont works on creating microchips for said toys. A delicate process, the water required to clean these microchips has to be “ ultra pure.” So pure, in fact, the water goes through 18 steps to remove any sediment, or ions, that may compromise the microchips. National drinking water, on average, goes through 8 steps to be clean.

This is not to say that drinking water is not clean. On the contrary, if a person were to drink this “ultra pure” water meant for microchips, they would become sick, as water is a polar molecule and would travel through the human, grasping essential minerals and molecules. This is merely an example of one industry that relies heavily on water that we may not be aware of. But there are several industries that we are aware of: agriculture, livestock, and energy development. Beyond industrial use, there is the most direct use of water, which is domestic. We use water to wash our clothes, wash our bodies, wash our dishes, swim in at the local pool, play in at the local creek. Water is in the makeup we put on our face, we use water to rinse the shaving cream after we shave our beard. We drink it, which is the most essential function of water.

 

At this point, it is clear that water has many uses. So the most pertinent question may be – how do I know my drinking water is safe? How do I know it is clean? Though the EPA passed the Clean Water Act in 1979, there are many rising concerns (often sensationalized by the media, and proliferated by soft drink companies) about water purity. The American public is often led to believe that tap water is not clean. How could it be? It contains hormones, feces, and other harmful particulate matter. 
  
I am not here to contest the fact that these things have found their way into drinking water. But I know that scientists and city managers alike are working diligently to remove them, and find ways to keep them out of the water supply; that Americans have some of the cleanest water in the world, and laws to protect it; that our water is good water. 
 
But here lays the quandary: how do we keep it that way?
Our population is, to put it mildly, exploding. This is not a phenomenon that is confined to the states, but is a global issue. But unlike the Sahara, or West Africa, water issues are confined to a geographic area. Las Vegas is not going to have the same water issues that Appalachia does.


That being said, there are things that every American can do if they are concerned about water, and answer the question posed above:

1. Be willing to Pay.
Water is something no person should live without. It is a right, but it is becoming a necessity that water be managed. This works when people accept their civic duty and understand how a water utility bill works. You are not paying for physical water itself. You are paying for the machinery and means to clean it. It is still cheaper than electricity, and certainly more essential. Here’s what it boils down to: if you don’t want to boil your water for every shower or load of laundry, understand your water bill and then pay it.

2. Use a Filter.
The consumption of bottled water, in the past two decades, has skyrocketed. Soft drink companies used headlines revolving around water to manipulate the American public into buying bottled water. Next time you pay your water bill, think of how many bottles of water you could buy with it. 50? Maybe 30? This need for supposedly “cleaner” water (which bottled is often not) is, again, a marketing tool that plays on our deep concern that water is dirty. The best solution: buy a water filter. It will save the earth and your billfold. 

3. Take a BPA free bottle.
In the same vein as the previous point, many citizens buy water out of convenience. What to do when you’re out running errands and get thirsty? Make sure you bring a BPA free bottle with you. Glass bottles are best because, unlike plastic, they will not release chemicals into your water when left in the car on a hot, sunny day. 

4. Be an active citizen.
Concerned about taxation? Want to know more about how your city cleans water? Think the pond next to your house may be toxic? All of these, and many more, are reasons to become involved in a city or statewide initiative to get citizens involved with water. You can go to public hearings or simply read up on programs happening around you. The government (at any level) is desperate for the public to become involved.

5. Reduce use at home.
As the population continues to grow, and we all need water, more measures will be implemented to restrict use. Some of these are already popular in arid areas, but they are ideas we can all adopt. Don’t let the sprinklers run, and only water during non-peak times of the day. Reduce length of shower time, and cut off the water when shaving. Fix leaks! This is one of the leading causes of domestic water misuse. 

The list of things we can do, as citizens, is extensive.And that is what is really important -- that we can take the steps to lessen the effects of water scarcity amid a growing population, and that we are capable of managing our water and keeping the world wet.






Liz Morgan is currently studying environmental health as an undergraduate at East Tennessee State University, with the aspiration of studying land and water management. An avid environmentalist, Liz enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors with her daughter. She also enjoys reading, volunteering, and writing. If you enjoyed this article and water issues tickle your pickle, she would encourage you to read The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!






I watched the old year close with miracles of change and I'm reminded that life is constant change, constant recycling of the old into something new, the death of something that was to allow for the birth of something that will be. From the tiniest cells of my body to the wonders of a universe so vast my mind can't comprehend its limits -- if there are any limits to it -- to the mysteries of the relationships between all living things. Miracles of change, renewal and rebirth never cease.

On this first new day of this new year, I'm reminded to intentionally take notice of the countless miracles I witness each day: in the world I inhabit; in the people around me; in the ability to formulate thought and communicate with the Divine Love who created me and all that I come into contact with; in the sensations of my physical body interacting with the physical world; in this constantly unfolding thing we call life. I'm humbled and amazed and excited as I ponder the miracle of living and a new year to experience. I hope that 2015 proves to be a year of miracles for each one of you!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Scary Numbers

When we talk about whole living, we make some assumptions about the world we live in. One of the assupmptions we make is that the world as we have known it for recorded history -- climate, geography, resources -- will continue to exist in its familiar fashion in the future. We rest our ideas of whole living securely on that assumption. We assume that things will keep on much as they have been for the last six millenia, as we work to make ourselves and our fellow citizens on this spinning ball of hitherto fairly reliable resources and climatic cycles more whole. We envision our children and grandchildren inheriting a world like ours, only better. After all, going green has even become a fashionable marketing idea with the general public. But current science doesn't support that assumption.

I read Bill McKibben's article in the July 19, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, "Global Warming's Terrifying New Math," a couple of months ago. It's been bouncing around my brain ever since. When I hear something in the news that's pertinent, or a related topic comes up in conversation, the article, the math and the ramifications of it come to mind. The article is part report, part social and political commentary and part prophecy. Threaded throughout the nine pages of text is a no-punches-pulled description of the fossil fuels industry and a scathing rebuke to its greed-driven practices. McKibben never deviates, however, from the core of what drives his article: stark and ominous numbers that, when calculated without bias, equals the impending end of life as we are accustomed to on planet Earth. He relates the data to well-known and undeniable events that should make even the hardliners  among the climate change skeptics take another look.

What's so scary about numbers? Well, to start with, 2 degrees Celsius is the amount of additional warming the planet can withstand before catastrophic climate events drastically alter our way of living, really our ability to live, on Earth. McKibbens notes that initial conjectures of what would happen as the global temperature rose proved to be far too conservative. At the current level of temperature increase, .8 degrees Celsius, extreme weather events and other changes associated with global warming have been much more dramatic than anticipated. McKibben's writes: "Thomas Lovejoy, once the World Bank's chief biodiversity adviser, puts it like this: 'If we're seeing what we're seeing today at 0.8 degrees Celsius, two degrees is simply too much.' ... At the Copenhagen summit, a spokesman for small island nations warned that many would not survive a two-degree rise: 'Some countries will flat-out disappear.'"

The second of McKibben's three numbers is 565 gigatons, the amount of additional carbon dioxide that can be put into the atmosphere before we exceed the 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature that is the currently proposed limit agreed upon by most nations. As McKibben explained, "Since we've increased the Earth's temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, we're currently less than halfway to the target. But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we're already three-quarters of the way to the two-degree target."

The third number is 2,795 gigatons. "This number is the scariest of all ..." wrote McKibben. "... The number describes the amount of carbon already contained in the proven coal and oil and gas reserves of the fossil-fuel companies, and the countries (think Venezuela or Kuwait) that act like fossil-fuel companies. ... the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher."

And the mega-wealthy fossil fuel barons are hell-bent on drilling, mining and fracking every last cent they can from the planet, the consequences be damned.  If you haven't already read McKibben's article or the IPCC 2014 Report, I encourage to take a look.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Living to Love

I wrote "Living to Love" quite a while ago, but its lesson has become even more relevant to me in the last several years. Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day and I post it in remembrance of my brother, Nathan R. Goff, who died with AIDS on January 31, 1995, at the age of 32. A short time on this earth, forever in my heart.






Living to Love



Images of Nathan emerge from my memory like pages turning in a mental photo album.
​No, not that one!
I reject a vision of my brother’s disease ravaged body, sallow skin stretched over a frail skeleton.
​   I quickly conjure up another, on a beach. The image crystallizes in my mind, becoming clearer as my memory stretches back in time to grab hold of it. He’s squatting down at the shoreline, sun glinting off his tanned, muscle-toned body. His face has a glow of life and health. Dangling securely from the safety of his uncle’s encircling hands is my infant son.
The memory takes on a life of it’s own now. I hear the breaking of the waves on the shore and the giggles of delight from Josh. He draws up his chubby legs and plunges them back down into the ocean waves foaming over his toes. Nathan is beaming, happy to share this moment of joyful discovery with his nephew.
​   Nathan’s life was not all sunshine and giggles. He knew pain and loss, including our father’s sudden death when Nathan was a small child and the troubled home that resulted. When he was a teenager, an automobile accident killed two of his best friends and left him with permanent injuries. Though it prevented him from achieving his dream of becoming a pilot, he dreamed new dreams and encouraged others to pursue theirs. His generosity and trust often led to being taken advantage of. He suffered unprovoked and unwarranted violence when gay men didn’t even merit a blip on the domestic abuse radar.
​In spite of it all, I never saw him yield to hatred or bitterness. He lifted others up, finding peace in relieving their pain. He loved to make people laugh. The more cruelly the world treated him, the more he looked for ways to show love and compassion to those around him.
Near the end of his short life, he watched with horror and heartbreak as friends lost their careers, homes and then their lives to AIDS. When he became sick himself, barely out of his twenties, he regularly visited the pediatric AIDS ward at the local hospital. He brought stuffed animals to the abandoned babies until he was too weak himself to go anymore.
​   Throughout his life, in the face of betrayal, loss and unjustifiable violence and when mercilessly battered by a vicious and relentless disease, he refused to succumb to bitterness and hatred. And amazingly, after every blow that knocked him down, he would get back up, look inside of himself and find more love to give away.
Nathan has been gone a long time. The nephew he played with on the beach is now a grown man with a wife and child of his own. But no matter how much time passes, the lesson Nathan’s life taught me is always fresh, speaking to my heart when it’s battered and breaking with sorrows, trials and injustices: Refusing to live in self destructive bitterness or paralyzing self-pity – living to love – defies all that is evil in this world.  








Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rending and Mending Follow-up

In September, National Yoga Awareness month, I posted "Rending and Mending" as part of the MPH@GW YogaMatters blogging contest, sharing how yoga has played a powerful part in my own journey to wholeness. I'm very excited to see that the winners have been posted! I've only had time to read a portion of them, but I'm looking forward to the rest and am honored that "Rending and Mending" received an honorable mention among some great posts.

The first place winner, Ashley Skow, has an amazing story. Cystic Fibrosis had cut her lung capacity in half, but she defied her medical prognosis. Margaret Felice uses yoga to help her cope with the physical and mental challenges of Crohn's Disease, and Caitlin Grant found that yoga helped free her from perfectionism. Margaret and Caitlin placed second and third, respectively. One of my favorites from the honorable mention list is by Elisa Vannini, whose post about overcoming anxiety is all too relevant to all too many in our pressure-cooker world.

So rather than post something of my own this month, I encourage you to explore the posts compiled on the YogaMatters blog page. Even if you've never tried yoga, you may find that someone's story resonates with your own.







Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Whole Truth?



Whole living is intelligent living. It's finding the information we need to make sound decisions for our own lives and related to the wider world we live in.

I recently read the article “What’s Wrong with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5)?” and it brought clearly into view the problem the general public is faced with when trying to become well informed about important issues in science.

The intention of the article was to prove that the EPA’s regulation of certain kinds of air polution, PM2.5 particulate matter, is unnecessary and attempted to discredit research that shows a causal relationship between PM2.5 pollution and human illness. It was surprising, considering that there is an abundance of information available that proves PM2.5 negatively impacts human health and regulation is vital to reducing the risks for all of us.

But my biggest problem with this article, was its source. The first logical step in evaluating the credibility of information, whether it be from a journalistic or scholarly article, is to determine the credibility of the source. A little digging showed that this particular article originated from Cambridge Environmental for the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology. The website for Cambridge Environmental plainly states that it is a business with industry clients. (http://www.cambridgeenvironmental.com). The journal is the product of the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology & Pharmacology, an apparently shady non-profit with a history of conflicts of interest in the research community, and which is funded by the tobacco, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. It was also accused of having a pro-industry bias that lacks credible peer review. (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_Toxicology_and_Pharmacology). Gio Batta Gori, the journal’s editor-in-chief, is one of 17 scientists accused of writing an "editorial critical of the European Commission's plan to regulate endocrine-disrupting chemicals (that) have past or current ties to industries.” (http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2013/eu-conflict-list).

Further more,  “Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology is owned by the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology & Pharmacology, which has been supported by the American Chemistry Council, Dow AgroSciences, Coca-Cola, Monsanto, and The Weinberg Group.” (http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2013/eu-conflict-list). The Center for Media and Democracy’s Sourcewatch stated that the International Society for Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (ISRTP) is "dominated by scientists who work for industry trade groups and consulting firms," and "Its leadership consists of corporate and product defense scientists and attorneys, along with a small number of government scientists who have apparently bought in or who do not know better.” (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Regulatory_Toxicology_and_Pharmacology) The ISRTP was underwritten by the Weinberg Group which identifies itself as a "product defense firm.” (http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe).

It would be fool-hardy, at best, to rely on information from such an apparently biased and unethical organization as the ISRTP and its journal. But if all someone does is read the article assuming it's from a credible source, it could sound convincing. And unfortunately, there has been a huge marketing trend in which companies set up their own "studies" to prove the safety and efficacy of their products or practices. This is known as "junk science" and  I've seen it done in multi-level marketing companies, for products that are purchased off the health food store shelves and for political issues, as well as industrries with vested political interests, as in the article mentioned above.

So how does someone wanting to live a whole life increase their odds of getting the whole truth to make their purchasing and other decisions by? Dig. Then dig some more. Don't just look at information that agrees with what your hoping to find. Look at everything, and research the sources of the information to be sure that they are not just carefully cloaked agents of the entity that wants your money, your vote or anything else you have. Don't assume any entity is worthy of your trust and until you've seen a consistent pattern of unbiased accuracy. Spend some time researching the agencies and journals that are relevant to topics you care about, so you know which sources are reputable when an issue comes up that you want more information about.

We live in a world which technology has literally put information at our fingertips. The challenge now is learn to distinguish information from misinformation.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rending and Mending

In honor of National Yoga Awareness Month, a blog about becoming whole:



Rending and Mending



Whole living can only truly be experienced by those who are whole beings. For some of us, wholeness is something that must be regained, a process of repair. Somewhere along life's journey, gapes and holes were rent in the fabric of our being. We encountered cutting words or violent actions that marred the tapestry that is the sum of experiences that makes us who we are.

Every tapestry tells a unique story from a unique perspective. Each image in a tapestry is a vital piece of the bigger picture of who each of us is. When there is a rend, a tapestry, like a person, can't be patched. It must, in essence, be remade. The process of repair takes time and intention. The first step is a dusting off. It has to be picked up and handled and cleaned of the dust of neglectful years. That's a good analogy for that moment when we realize we've let ourselves lay crumpled in a corner, collecting dust -- the motes of self-doubt and self-loathing and insecurity and all the other little particles of self-degradation that imperceptibly settle on us and obscure our colors -- and decide to pick ourselves up and shake it off.

The next step in the process of repairing a tapestry -- or a human -- is to take a magnifying glass and examine the tear, down to seeing just which threads are torn and what is missing from the pattern. Only then can the repair begin. With patience and perseverance, the fabric is re-woven. New strands are worked in until the image is restored. Many and divers strands may be needed to accomplish the task. The human tapestry has threads of physical, spiritual, and emotional hues. To leave out even one of them is to fail to tell the true story of who that person is.

My own life was marred by emotional and sexual abuse, and rape. Where there should have been a picture of a strong young woman living joyfully in a beautiful body, there was a gaping hole. Those experiences left me feeling disconnected from a body I was taught to believe was ugly and shameful. It's taken many years and many kinds of experiences to rebuild that image of who I truly am.

I picked up some beautiful strands to reconstruct that image with when I discovered yoga. For the first time, I was able to see my body as it truly is -- strong and flexible and capable of amazing things. I connected with my body. I became comfortable in it. I learned that my body is good, that it wasn't what people did to it or said about it. I'm learning to love it, listen to it, nurture and care for it. I am finding that I can accept it without judgement and enjoy it without reservation.


The years are passing and there are still some stitches left before my personal tapestry will be completely repaired. But I can tell you that I've seen the pattern, those strands of my true self that were missing, in my mind's eye. And I believe the finished product will be as beautiful as it is unique. Namaste.  


To share your own story about yoga, wholeness and health click HERE to visit the MPH@GW blog.


Sponsored by MPH@GW Public Health

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Multi-species Watering System

      Ok, I'm vegetarian and not likely to go out and buy hogs and cattle in the near future, but this watering system is too good not to share. It's simple, inexpensive, low-maintenance and uses recycled materials.

     So for all my carnivore and omnivore brothers and sisters out there, take a look at the multi-species watering system Rural Resources of Greene County, Tenn., and the Natural Resources Conservation Service designed for a multi-paddock, rotational grazing pasture on Holley Creek Farm.



         

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Help Rural Resources Rebuild




Please consider sharing this link for a worthy cause. 

Rural Resources is an NPO that impacts Greene County in may positive ways. They have been operating without adequate facilities since a fire destroyed the building in 2009. 

You can help them obtain a $300K grant to rebuild but there's not much time left:

http://ruralresources.blogspot.com/2014/06/you-can-help-ruralresources-receive.html



YOU 
can help Rural Resources receive a 
$300K 
grant to rebuild!

      


      After fire blazed through the Rural Resources primary office and programming space in 2009, the staff began working out of a tiny construction trailer with no indoor plumbing.