Farming For Our Future November 29, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Global Health, Public Health.
Tags: Agriculture, Climate change, Farming, Food, Global health, Public health, Renewable resources, Sustainability, Transitional Farming, Water
We’re on track to deplete the earth of it’s ability to produce food.
Global crop land increased by 12% but agricultural production by 150% over the last 50 years. We’ve managed to keep barely ahead of the curve for overall food production. But not sustainably. The projected world population growth will pass 9 billion by 2050, and that means an increase in food production by 70% and better methods of distribution to meet the food security demand.
Agriculture’s continued dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels for production/fertilizer/irrigation, machinery, processing, transportation, packaging and marketing has direct and unsustainable consequences for farmlands. A recent United Nations study indicates that “all continents are experiencing land degradation, with particularly high incidence along the west coast of the Americas, across the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe and North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and throughout Asia. The greatest threat is the loss of soil quality, followed by biodiversity loss and depletion of water resources.”
Farmed animals consume 70% of the grains produced on U.S. farms. Droughts have already caused food riots and war in recent years. Irrigation currently accounts for 70% of all water use and 19% of farm energy use in the U.S. Once groundwater sources are depleted, the amount of land available for cultivation will diminish substantially. Groundwater levels of the North China plains have declined to the point where rice production, which accounts for 90% of water usage there, are overexploited and now scarce.
Maintaining and improving ecosystems, including coastal habitats and oceans is also critical, as TIME reports
“The world has ignored the ominous constellation of factors that now make feeding humanity sustainably our most pressing task – even in times of economic and climatic crisis,” writes Professor Cribb. But Professor Cribb isn’t the only scientist clamoring for politicians to take climate change seriously. In a recent study by the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, it warned of a potential mass extinction as the number of ocean dead zones – waters starved of oxygen – increase at an accelerating pace. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research also put out a study that shows the increasing likelihood of frightening changes to rainfall, water supplies, weather systems, sea levels and crop harvests by the end of the century.
Progress exists somewhat in alternative forms of energy– nuclear, coal, wind and solar–but none produce liquid fuels. Countries gather regularly to discuss these impending changes, but have yet to enact solutions on the largest crop lands.
Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute, a Chapel Hill, NC educational farm and sustainability living center, was established by Tim Toben, an eco-revolutionary who believes sustainability will require more personal responsibility and that farms will be plentiful in rural areas by 2050 as Americans minimize their grandiose lifestyles out of necessity. This transitional farming is self-sustaining and, he believes, is likely to become the new American Dream.
What kind of connection do you want to have with your food? Will you make any changes to help ensure our planet is able to produce enough food for us in the next decades? Would you live in a cob cottage or stop eating industrial meat in order to preserve the land?
The Future of Farming: Eight Solutions For a Hungry World (www.popsci.com)
The Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (www.peakoil.net)
Regreening Africa (www.thenation.com)
Children of Our Fields (www.acroan.com)
Hidden Hunger in the Heartland (www.acroan.com)
Birth Rights: Gender Selection April 23, 2012Posted by acroanmph in Global Health, Public Health.
Tags: Abortion, China, Gender Selection, India, Infanticide, PGD
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Gender selection for the purposes of eliminating genetic disease or family balancing remains controversial. Not just an option for abnormal genetic screening results, is it another step in population control, gendercide, and the war on women?
The world’s highest population countries remain China (1.35B) and India (1.2B). These and many other countries have traditionally placed greater preference on male offspring, and have instituted population control measures over the last several decades. The manner in which the policies are enforced is physically and socially horrific. As gender selection for birth abnormalities became more common in developed nations, many couples now seek it out to choose their baby’s gender if for no other reason than “family balancing.” Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) virtually guarantees successful gender selection of embryos. X-chromosone-linked diseases are identified in vitro and the undesired embryos removed, for indication of genetic disease. Or not.
Held-over beliefs from Confucianism enabled continuation of the practice of female infanticide and abandonment in China long before the 1978 “family planning” law was enacted, allowing one child per couple. (Occasionally now in rural areas, if the first-born was female, two children may be granted.) This has created a nation of five decades of “missing girls” and an extremely lopsided sex ratio. Population estimates show 111 million Chinese men currently unable to find a wife, secondarily spurring an increase in human trafficking of Chinese girls. It is calculated that 21 million children are born each year and the female portion is missing due to institutionalized killing or neglect. Baby girls are drowned, poisoned, starved, or carted to orphanages where 90% of them will perish as will any record of them having ever existed. Pregnancy in China must be approved and if a subsequent pregnancy is discovered, the mother, now criminal, is captured for a forced abortion procedure usually in late-term, also causing a spike in maternal mortality.
One investigation into an orphanage, or “dying room,” found,
…a lame girl sitting on a bench…her leg swollen with gangrene. Then crying was heard from a nearby cot. Underneath the blanket was a tied bundle of cloth, a girl was found. Upon unswaddling her, the last layer being a plastic bag, she laid in urine and feces. The next cot was the same, and the next and the next. Many children had lesions where the string wrapping them had cut into their bodies. All the non-handicapped children in the orphanage were girls. A response from the Chinese government reads, ‘The so-called dying rooms do not exist in China at all. Our investigations confirm that those reports are vicious fabrications made out of ulterior motives.’ As a result of the documentary The Dying Rooms (1996), American families have adopted over 35,000 Chinese girls, more than any other nation.
Described as the “heartland of sex-selective abortion,” India’s Hindu practitioners readily agree that many unwanted female children are “done away with.” Most Indian women are not able to be independent agents of their own destinies, but victims of a long-standing social ideology which prefers sons. Families must provide for the daughter while she is growing up, knowing once she marries, a large dowry will be required and she will become of service to the husband’s family. Formally outlawed, the dowry practice is still pervasive.
The combination of dowry and wedding expenses usually add up to more than a million rupees [US $35,000]. In India, the average civil servant earns about 100,000 rupees [US $3,500] a year. Given these figures combined with the low status of women, it seems not so illogical that the poorer Indian families would want only male children.” Murders of women whose families are deemed to have paid insufficient dowry have become increasingly common. –Female Infanticide and Feoticide.
India is expected to surpass China in population by 2030 as a result of it’s “less successful” family planning policy. Nevertheless, 50 million girls and women are missing from India’s population as a result of systematic gender discrimination, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The west, being more advanced, tends to use our ethnocentric values to judge other cultures, and often realign them with ours. In no case would we view infanticide is acceptable family planning. Yet, we tout the ability to Choose The Sex of Your Unborn Baby Now! at a high cost and for reasons much more frivolous than poor quality of life of millions of girls and women around the globe. Steven Pinker’s article, “Why They Kill Their Newborns,” notes that we are much more tolerant of killing newborns than older children as seen in the lenient two-year sentencing of Amy Grossberg who threw her infant into a dumpster against the outcry and harsher life sentence of Susan Smith for killing her 14-month and 3 year-old children.
Even American-born baby girls are “sacrificed by the tens of thousands,” according to Steven Mosher of Population Research Institute. A Columbia University study found a disparity between the number of males and females born in certain Asian and sub-Asian populations within the US.
Do you call it abortion, neonaticide, or infanticide? Some people call it the gravest, largest holocaust on earth. Do you see gender selection for non-genetic reasons as morally wrong? For whom? I’d like to know.
- FEMALE INFANTICIDE: United Nations Ranks India the Deadliest Place for Female Children Genocide (alakhtal.wordpress.com)
- It’s a girl: The three deadliest words in the world (antiworldnews.wordpress.com)
- U.S. clinic offers sex selection service to Indo-Canadians (ctv.ca)
- Gender Selection in Canada: No Easy Answers (sentientdevelopments.com)
Tags: Diabetes, Diet, Food Desert, Grocery, Health, Heart disease, Nutrition, obesity, Produce, Sugar Addiction
How far do you live from a large supermarket? What if you only purchased foods you were able to carry either by walking or using public transportation? What if there was a McDonald’s one block over? How is your health affected?
These are questions posed around the communities of food deserts, areas in industrialized nations which are not close enough to any nutritional food retailer. In urban areas this is usually measured at one mile away, in rural areas, about ten miles. Existing stores in these areas carry high-priced, unhealthy options. In many cases, these are the only options.
The high-fat and sugar content of the foods sold at convenience stores or small “grocers” (term used as loosely as possible) is causing an increase in disease in lower socio-economic communities where large supermarket retailers will not build for lack of profit. Consumers in these low SES minority neighborhoods show an increase in meat and processed foods, and much lower intake of fruits and vegetables, but are spending 37% more on food in general. This contributes to spikes in obesity, diabetes, sugar addiction, malnutrition, and heart disease.
As of 2011, the USDA underestimates about 2.4 million Americans living in food deserts. Factors not included in this measure are access to transportation, barriers for the elderly, food price, crime rate, and ethnic disparities, leaving the actual number of people at risk of food insecurity to be much higher. One study (Policy Link and The Food Trust, 2010) showed that in New Mexico, the same cart of groceries costs $85 for rural residents, and $55 for urban residents, a common disparity in relative costs. About a quarter of the people who qualify for welfare and food stamp programs live in food deserts. In fact, according to Mari Gallagher, founder of National Center for Pubic Research, USDA food stamp retailers provide more barriers to nutritious foods than fast food retailers.
Several states are seeing community-level interventions which pair public and private finances to significantly undercut costs and losses to supermarket chains. Co-ops are useful in promoting local growers, and farmers’ markets, although costly, also increase access to food. Community currency has been shown to boost profits in both of these endeavors. Even community gardens strengthen community and social support while providing access to nutritious foods. About 20 grants exist to help individuals and communities afford healthy food projects.
Please click the link below to watch what Karriem Beyah has done for an urban food desert in Chicago’s South Side:
What can your community do?
HIV: Reaching Global Goals? December 1, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Global Health, Public Health.
Tags: disease prevention, Health, HIV-free, HIV/AIDS, politics, Search for a Cure, World AIDS Day
Thirty years of an infectious pandemic, drug research, public health education, and counseling have brought us to the point where we boldly announce the goal of an HIV-free generation in the next three years. This may seem attainable as HIV is a preventable disease. Personal behavior changes will determine the rate of infection. Assuming we will curb behaviors of all people who engage in IV drug use and unprotected sex, especially at a time when economies are struggling, is delusional.
Greece’s troubled economy has seen new infections rise by 52% in 2011, and that rate is expected to increase to 60% by the end of the year. (The US rate of increase is about 7%.) The rate of injected drug use is increasing because people can no longer afford other methods, and there have been heavy cuts to prevention in the form of free needles. The World Health Organization recommends 200 per year per user and Greece is handing out only three. Mobile testing units which frequently hit areas of high prostitution and drug use have ceased, in lieu of free-standing facilities in “posh neighborhoods,” out of reach of those who need them most. Drug therapy is becoming more unattainable, and according to Reuters and the National School of Public Health,
Antiretroviral drugs cost Greece at least 1,000 euros per patient a month. For the state to pay for all those people would cost just over 130 million euros a year. According to Christianna Rizopoulos, who collects data at the Hellenic Center’s HIV office, there is talk among health professionals that the government plans to cut its contribution for drugs to 600 euros per treatment per month, so patients would have to foot almost half the bill.
And this at a time when unemployment is up, hovering around 20%.
Outlooks for the US economy project at least a decade, maybe two, for recovery. Currently, there are over 250,000 Americans unknowingly carrying the virus. Fear of stigma prevents many from being tested, even though access to care is fairly good. Hillary Clinton’s hope of zero new infections by combining prevention techniques may work on paper, but realistically it’s a pipe dream until economies stabilize.
The government is not going to stop new infections. YOU are. David Scondras, CEO and Founder of Search For A Cure/HIV Treatment Advocacy, explains how you can protect yourself:
For confidential testing, find a site near you by entering your zip code. Pass it on.
Ocean Acidification June 7, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Global Health.
Tags: Indigenous peoples, Marine biology, Ocean acidification
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We’ve heard media coverage about ocean health and the delicate balance which relates it to human health. But the last big public push to make any difference was about 30 years ago, involving the cutting apart of plastic rings around soda pop or beer cans to prevent the deaths of cute sea animals and birds who were getting caught in them. These animals were fairly easy to photograph, pulled at our heartstrings, and it was simple enough to perform this one act to “save our oceans.” We certainly didn’t win the fight, as broken down plastics continue to be the number one pollutant of our seas, but now a larger battle looms with dire consequences.
Here’s the skinny on ocean acidification:
The increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere means more of it is being absorbed by the ocean. This is called carbonic acid and it is reducing the pH of the ocean, making it more acidic.
How much more acidic?
Before the burning of coal and oil, the acid levels were relatively stable over a period of 20 million years. Since the industrial revolution, however, a 30% increase has already occurred–a fairly swift change. By the year 2100, it is estimated to double or triple again.
What effects does this have?
The base layer of the food chain includes the marine lifeforms which grow shells and skeletons of calcium carbonate. Not just crustaceans and mollusks, but microscopic zooplankton which are the dietary staple of larger creatures. The increased acid dissolves their shells, or prevents it from growing altogether, resulting in their death. Death, too, works itself up the food chain. The pace of acidification does not allow these species time enough to evolve to their changing environments. Before long, we have a major disruption in marine ecosystems, and eventual collapse.
Sixty per cent of the world’s population lives along coastlines, with 30 million depending directly upon the sea for sustenance.
Interested charitable organizations such as Oceana report that controlling carbon dioxide emissions by humans and lobbying for policy change is the only way to manage this ocean problem. While it is a well-intentioned process and substantiated by scientific research, what would be the state of the oceans if we waited to see evidence of policy changes?
If we regard the earth as a reliable but delicate source which sustains us, our processes may alter slightly, but perhaps enough. From Worldwatch Institute, Guardians of the Land: Indigenous Peoples and the Earth:
…Around the world, where there are still indigenous peoples, you’ll usually find healthy ecosystems. And where there are healthy ecosystems, you’ll usually see indigenous communities…That’s true from the coastal swamps of South America to the sands of the Sahara, from the ice floes of the Arctic to the coral reefs of the South Pacific.
In fact, native cultures remain the day-to-day stewards of an area of the earth larger than all the world’s national parks and nature reserves put together.
Indigenous homelands also shelter a disproportionate share of the earth’s biological diversity…Native peoples maintain a body of knowledge about nature that continues to astonish Western-trained experts.
Now that we’ve run ourselves aground due to greed, we must take extra measures to give back. Will we choose to learn about the practice of sustainable living from native cultures? The health of our oceans could be our best indicator.
Tags: Health Strategies, Imagine Cup
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The world’s best and brightest meet in Microsoft’s annual Imagine Cup competition using technology to solve the world’s toughest problems. High school and collegiate students formed teams and put their creativity and best innovations forward in a global contest to tackle what matters. Finalists have been chosen for the main competition to be held in New York, July 8-13. Here are a few of this blogger’s favorite ideas:
ElderGuardian (Singapore) Rehabilitation Support System uses Kinect ™ for XBox 360 to aid in stroke rehabilitation for recovery with exercises specifically designed for stroke patients.
MomECare from team Hex Pistols (UAE) has devised a mobile application to assist medical staff in providing quality prenatal care by guiding mothers through the steps of a self-performed check-up if they are unable to get to clinic or hospital, often due to health or distance limitations.
Team LifeLens (US) provides an innovate point-of-care tool to diagnose malaria by using an augmented smart phone application. This addresses the high child mortality rates through lack of detection and treatment of malarial diseases via a microscopic lens attached to the phone camera, isolating cells and determining the existence of infected cells and grouping by geographic location.
Terra (Thailand) allows disaster victims to pinpoint their location and broadcast it through social networks with one-click to alert rescue workers, family and friends as to their exact location.
Team Nawy Harkay (Peru) enable users to operate Windows 7 with minimal effort, using their eyes instead of their hands.
Link Your Passion (Korea) has developed a device to help people locate clean water in an effort to reduce child mortality.
The worldwide finalists of the Imagine Cup 2011 include 124 student teams from 73 countries. They are winners of regional, national or online Cup competitions representing over 350,000 students from 183 countries. There are nine categories in which they can compete.
Between July 5-12, view these amazing innovations online and vote for your favorite in the worldwide People’s Choice Award. Inspiration and creativity push technology to make a difference. Have you got any winning ideas?
Optimistic About Ending Malaria April 25, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Global Health.
Tags: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Malaria, Malaria No More, Nothing But Nets, West Africa, World Malaria Day
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It’s overwhelming, at best troubling, the countless catastrophic ailments plaguing less developed countries. Will an avenue of health ever be glimpsed by these populations just so they can achieve a sustained ability to lead normal, productive lives? How much more assistance can the rest of the world provide while simultaneously dealing with their own issues? The outlook need not be bleak.
Malaria is one of the top three world-wide killers affecting 300 million people, according to the CDC, and two years ago killed over 1 million, mostly children. Every 45 seconds an African child dies from this mosquito-borne disease. In this six-minute video, Bill Gates explains the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate the disease from the planet. It’s an inspiring, optimistic view of the probability of global eradication with a sustained effort.
No short-term eradication prognosis, but a high chance in the long-term. While scientists continue to work to produce a vaccine for the ever-mutating organism that causes Malaria, there are simple ways you can help. Widespread use of bed nets is a simple, cheap, effective prevention tool used by 70% of the population with astounding results. One DDT-treated net costs $5 and lasts for 5 years. Alone, bed net use has decreased prevalence of the disease by 50%-80% in tropical and sub-tropical nations.
The United Nations program Nothing But Nets asks for donations before West Africa’s rainy season begins in May.
Malaria No More has donated 2.6 million nets in the last five years and is hopeful for complete bed net coverage within he next four years.
The Gates Foundation continues major funding for a malaria vaccine at Seattle BioMed.
Click here for a breakdown of Malaria disease basics and statistics in an article by fellow health writer Puja Chandra, published via blog.persify.
On this fourth annual World Malaria Day, lives are depending on our help. Donate if you can, spread the word if you will.
Sesame Square, Kami & Shuga Battle HIV February 16, 2011Posted by acroanmph in Global Health.
Tags: AIDS, HIV, Kami, MTV, Muppet, sesamestreet, Sub-Saharan Africa
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Combatting cultural beliefs, and to some extent customs, has been a major hurdle for public health workers educating African villagers about the prevention and spread of HIV.
Entertainment is proving to be one avenue for change, and not among adults. Kami, the newest Muppet from Sesame Square (the Nigerian version of Sesame Street), represents one of the 1.2 million AIDS-orphaned, HIV-positive African children. She’s a five-year-old who contracted the disease as an infant from a blood transfusion. The show was created specifically for the two- to four-year-old Nigerian audience, taking into account many of the widely held Muslim cultural norms. In addition to its regular educational programming, the show addresses not how HIV is contracted, but ways it affects Kami daily, and related medical care.
MTV’s Shuga, from the Staying Alive Foundation, targets this issue among 16-24 year olds. The three-part dramatic series follows a group of students in Nairobi and is definitely not squeamish about addressing disease transmission. Funding efforts continue to produce a second series.
In order to reach teens with no TV or Internet access, information about the events and facilities airing the show was texted, social-networked, and short clips were included which could be viewed on cell phones. At these venues mobile HIV-testing was available. Cell phone use in sub-Saharan Africa is quickly growing, with 350 million in use as of 2008.
The younger audience seems more receptive to the behavior change necessary to reduce the spread of HIV. Sixty percent of youth watched the shows and most retained an understanding of the message. One reason the shows are popular is because they use local producers, writers and actors. Now this is healthy.