Rethinking Addiction

Johann Hari wanted to find out why people get addicted to drugs and ended up making some startling conclusions. Yet, not surprisingly, all the war on drugs policies countries have implemented have only increased the addiction problem. Addiction is more complex to solve than just hurting the people who use drugs.

What really causes addiction — to everything from cocaine to smart-phones? And how can we overcome it? Johann Hari has seen our current methods fail firsthand, as he has watched loved ones struggle to manage their addictions. He started to wonder why we treat addicts the way we do — and if there might be a better way. As he shares in this deeply personal talk, his questions took him around the world, and unearthed some surprising and hopeful ways of thinking about an age-old problem.

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How To Stop An Oil And Gas Pipeline: The Unist’ot’en Camp Resistance

The Unist’ot’en people have been fighting the deplorable people at TransCanada, Enbridge, and other companies who are trying to increase their capability to destroy the environment. The Unist’ot’en camp began in 2010 and has grown since to blockade the land from corporate tools trying to get pipelines through the area.

Of course, the Canadian (and BC) government supports the corporations but hopefully recent actions in the courts will force the government to back down. In the meantime, you can read about the Unist’ot’en camp.

Our nine-day visit supports the Unist’ot’en Camp practically as well as politically. On our second night in camp, while my fellow visitors shovel snow and build a counter for the kitchen, I go to the frigid Wedzin Kwah to collect water. As I lug heavy plastic jugs full of ice-cold water up the snowy hill to the main cabin, the opportunity feels special, a rarity for a suburban kid like me. I realize I’ve never lived near a stream clear enough to drink from. This strikes me as completely nuts, considering I’ve grown up entirely in the sopping-wet Pacific Northwest.

Bringing water up from the river by hand leads everyone to use water thoughtfully. There are 12 people at the camp, and during my stay, all of our daily cooking, cleaning, and drinking is accomplished with about 40 gallons — a quantity that a showerhead with the EPA’s WaterSense label would run through in 20 minutes.

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Germs Are Everywhere, Don’t Worry About it

Recently, a study by Weill Cornell Medical College found that the New York City subway is filled to the brim with germs. They are plentiful and easily get on you, but don’t worry. Most of the germs are good for you and the rest are more or less harmless.

Over at CityLab they wondered then if all those odd things people do to avoid germs are worthwhile.

These “good” bacteria might come from food, remove toxins from the environment, or outcompete disease-causing pathogens lurking on surfaces. “That means more [bacterial] diversity, by the odds, would be a good thing,” Mason says.

Still, here at CityLab we have to admit to falling prey to dubious germaphobic behaviors, especially during cold and flu season. None of us has started wearing a surgical mask to work or anything (yet!), but at least some of us do things like flush public toilets with our feet, use tissues to open certain doors, and slather on what has to be far too much antibacterial gel. And the worst part is, none of us can really say whether doing any of this stuff actually works.

So we asked Mason and Dr. Martin Blaser, an epidemiologist at New York University, to tell us how much disease we’re really preventing with some of our most common germ-avoidance maneuvers. (Spoiler: not much.) Keep these caveats in mind next time you reach for the Purell.

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You’re an Environmentalist?

In some parts of the world it seems that caring about the world around is what nerds do. Corey got sick of this attitude against environmentalists that they did something about it – published a post on Medium.

It’s a quick read to reinvigorate your caring for the environment. Don’t be like Harper – care about people and the environment!

Omg, you’re such an environmentalist

I get it all the time.

“lol. Corey, you’re such an environmentalist!”

So apparently i’m an environmentalist because I throw out the top part of the yogurt container and recycle the bottom half.

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The Future of Green Burials Lies in the Past

The modern funeral industry took something that was natural and safe and converted it into a toxic-filled death. When people die we need to dispose of the body in an appropriate way to ensure diseases don’t spread, human civilizations have been doing this for millennia.

However, in the past hundred years we have started taking corpses and filling them with toxic chemicals which means we can’t bury the bodies like we used to. Toxic corpses are more dangerous than non-toxic ones and this has caused people to reflect on what to do.

Green burials are growing in popularity as a result. Indeed, we first looked at green burials back in 2007.

Green burials are the minimalist, eco-conscious burials of the future, but emerging from a history deeply rooted in the past. The dead are wrapped in cloth shrouds or placed in simple coffins made from natural materials like cardboard or pine and buried in a green space, such as a rural or woodland area. “It turns a gruesome procedure into something more natural and celebratory,” explained Mark Harris, author of Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial.

He describes the process as, “returning a body into the earth, where it’s allowed to degrade naturally, renourish soil, push up a tree, rejoin a natural cycle of life.” And, green funerals are much cheaper, with most costing in the low thousands, whereas the median cost for a funeral requiring a vault comes in at over $8,000. According to Harris, “the current cemetery functions less as a resting ground for the dead than a landfill of non-biodegradable and sometimes hazardous materials.”

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