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. ( 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. ( 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.” (

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.” ( 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.” ( The ISRTP was underwritten by the Weinberg Group which identifies itself as a "product defense firm.” (

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:

can help Rural Resources receive a 
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.

Friday, February 14, 2014


It’s one of those beautiful, bright days that often follows a snow. The clouds are gone and the sunlight is magnified many times over by the countless crystalline flakes that blanket the earth.
          Stepping outside, I squint into the dazzling whiteness and a sudden rush of cold envelopes me. I take a few breaths and draw the icy, crisp air deep inside my lungs. Stifled by the night of artificial heat in my cozy house, they open wide, like baby birds gaping their mouths for mother to fill their insatiable bellies.
          The fragrance of flowers is long gone from the rolling countryside. No fertile odors from the farm waft across the pastures. No earthy scent of fallen leaves lingers in the air. There is not even a hint of pine from the evergreen boughs above me. The air is so intensely pure that it seems, in the absence of others, to have a scent of its own.
          The dog comes bounding up to me, playfully pawing the ground and wagging his tail. His pleading eyes seem to ask, “Are we going for a walk? Please, can we go for a walk?!”
          I step toward him saying, “Let’s go!”  
He takes off up the hill like he was shot from a cannon, disappearing into the woods. In his exuberance he doesn’t even stop to sniff the day old rabbit tracks in the yard.
A few moments later he is back, the reproachful look on his face declaring his disappointment that I’m not keeping up. He paws playfully at the ground again and then turns, launching himself towards the woods. Halfway up the slope he stops and looks over his shoulder to check my progress.  With an exasperated snort he races through the trees out of sight, leaving a trail of paw prints behind and a fluttering cloud of feathered fugitives scattering in front. The triumphant bark in the distance, announcing his discovery of a furry, tree-top dwelling neighbor, punctuates the quiet. I can tell it’s a squirrel by his bark. His rabbit bark is entirely different.
          Glancing behind, I see my own neatly compressed, uniform prints behind me- human tracks. They seem oddly out of place among the other tracks around me.  A few moments of observant pondering reveals why: I’m wearing boots.
 Dog prints come from paws. Rabbit tracks do, too. Squirrel prints come from little bare squirrel feet. Birds etch their calling card into the snow with their toes.
Everywhere I look I see evidence that the creatures populating the world beyond my back door are perfectly adapted to their environment. They have no need for boots, coats, hats, houses and cars. They don’t require artificial heating and cooling to survive the seasons. Their non-toxic and environmentally friendly homes are made from what grows or is naturally found around them. Dens, nests and holes are perfectly adapted to the needs and comfort of their residents—never too big to warm by the heat their bodies generate, never any excess of space or ornamentation just for show.
They shop locally. Herbivore or carnivore, no factory farms or fuel guzzling trucks, trains and ships transport their meals from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Their ecological footprints, like their actual footprints, are sized to fit, supporting them in a sustainable balance with their environment.
What a striking contrast to the human situation. My size 6 ½ boot print may seem small, but the ecological footprint of that one pair of boots is quite large. Factor in my disproportionate demand on the environment for food, shelter, transportation, goods and services and I have a print that Bigfoot couldn’t fill.
Unfortunately, though my footprint is large, my household budget is small. Converting my home to solar power or buying an electric car are not options.
So what is an ill adapted and financially challenged creature to do?  Education is always a good place to start.
I found some great information about my impact on the planet and some ecological footprint calculators at GlobalFootprint Network and Center forSustainable Economy.
The most important thing I’ve learned from all the blogs, forums, quizzes and pages is this: Small changes make a big impact over time.
It turns out my little 15-square-foot garden plot reduces my footprint and my dependence on a vulnerable food supply chain. It also raises my personal prosperity index by saving money and allowing me to eat organic, not to mention a myriad of other physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that come with gardening.
Sprouting and window boxes are smaller still, yet are a source of fresh, low impact groceries and beauty year-round.
And while we’re on the subject of food- how much is enough? I love food—maybe a little too much. Eating just what I need to be comfortable and healthy is good for me and my ecological footprint. I’ve found there are some things that challenge that principle, though. Busyness is one. Eating too fast usually means eating too much. It also means that something is lost from the experience. The sights, smells and tastes of our food are meant to be enjoyed. I find that cultivating the habit of mindful thankfulness increases my physical enjoyment and keeps me spiritually engaged through a worshipful attitude—not an easy task in a multi-tasking culture that often fragments our spiritual, emotional and physical aspects.
The reduce, reuse and recycle principles can be applied in many ways. There is something I started doing out of necessity years ago when my children were still children: thrifting. I know, it doesn’t have the same ring as re-purposed or even recycled. But by any name, buying second-hand and donating back is a money-saving way to lower the manufacturing impact of some goods. Composting is one of the most perfect forms of recycling and can be done with very little space.
I don’t dwell on the fact that I can’t convert my home to a clean, renewable energy source anymore. Instead, I’ve started doing what I can, as I can afford it. My first steps were purchasing hand-cranked and solar powered radios and lanterns. My most recent purchase was a solar charger for my smart phone. Also on my wish list is a solar charger for my laptop and the pedal-powered GiraDora clothes washer, once it’s available for purchase. Some no-cost approaches include re-structuring my day to utilize natural light and warmth and re-training myself to use less electricity in general.
Small changes in the big scheme of things? Yes, but they get me closer to my goal of a smaller footprint. They also save me money in the long run, while making me feel more empowered and less dependent on vulnerable infrastructure. All factored together that equals a big gain in well-being and the satisfaction of being a good steward of the blessings I have.
What are your ideas for reducing your ecological footprint?

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Welcome to The Whole Life Journal blog.

Wholeness—living a life that completely integrates the physical, spiritual and mental aspects of our being—is a concept that’s gained a prominent place in our popular culture.

Perhaps its growth can be attributed to the fragmentation and materialism so prevalent in our society. Perhaps we’re proving to ourselves beyond the shadow of any doubt that the status quo can best be likened to a broken cistern: The most heroic efforts to fill it must fail. What one does manage to obtain is contaminated and fails to impart the life desired.

To live a whole life encompasses more than the integration of body, mind and spirit, however. It’s the realization that we are inextricably entwined with the countless strands that comprise the tapestry of life on planet earth. 

In its grandest proportions, it takes in our relationship to the whole world. A brief perusal of the current headlines illustrates that “no man is an island.” Economic, political, social and environmental developments anywhere on the globe have repercussions on the individual, and one person’s actions can have ripple effects that impact the nation or the world.

On a smaller scale, it takes in the relationships we have with our families and loved ones, neighborhoods, workplaces and communities. The dynamic interactions of those relationships impacts all—good or bad, intentional or unintentional.  Action or inaction reacts back onto one's own body mind and spirit. What we sow to the world, we reap to ourselves.

Whole living, then, is intentionally living to cultivate our own well-being and the health, prosperity and happiness of the planet and all living upon it. 

The Whole Life Journal blog is a small slice of cyberspace devoted to exploring ideas and issues that promote whole living.


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 l...