50 Year Plan

Walt Disney is quoted as suggesting making 50 year plans – setting goals not just for the present year or so or decade but also for the much longer term. Even if you don’t expect to live that long the team of family or community or business will continue, hopefully.

I don’t spend a lot of time directly with other people currently but during my career I frequently helped ten or twenty families per day and sometimes forty or more during large group events. Empowering people to help themselves is the job of an educator and a public health educator specializes in helping any community members who are interested either in person or with educational articles or Public Service Announcements. It may seem like I don’t help because it is indirect but my long term goal has been to provide whatever help I can to whoever is interested. We as a group are suffering economically for a variety of reasons and one is the high cost of health care and health insurance.

Even with health insurance there can be copays and tests or specialists that aren’t covered by the insurance. Costs can be even greater for those without insurance but they may be more likely to ask about price before proceeding with a recommended treatment plan. (2) It is a good idea to ask about the reasons and necessity for a test or prescription and if any other options are available. Guidance regarding self-advocacy as a patient is available in a book written by a medical doctor. (3)

Magnesium deficiency is involved in many chronic physical and mental health conditions and it can be an inexpensive solution that helps a variety of symptoms at the same time, which can save trips to the doctor or specialist too. I’ve made a lot of mistakes with my own health simply by not continuing with new habits that I found helpful such as taking magnesium, or by thinking that since I was feeling better that meant I could go back to eating or doing things that are considered normal and often expected in social situations. Holiday settings and celebrations can be difficult for someone with health issues that include food sensitivities however hurting yourself just to be polite isn’t helpful to yourself and illness can cause more trouble than saying no thanks.

Recently the healthcare costs of the U.S. healthcare system were found to be expensive compared to other nations because they truly are more expensive. We are getting charged far more than other nations for prescription medications, lab tests and screenings, and many health care workers have much larger salaries or fees than in other nations. We are getting billed more and those with insurance have to pay copayments on those large bills and people without insurance often have to pay even more for the total because insurance companies often have negotiated for slightly lower fees. We also are not providing healthcare for much of the population. The number of prescriptions, lab screenings and healthcare visits is similar to other nations. We are paying more for the same amount of service and many people are left without care. (1)

Lack of healthcare increases costs to society in other ways – from emergency visits and lost wages for people too sick to work, to increased prison costs for people who might simply need mental health care.

My family has a of Alzheimer’s and my genetic screening showed increased risk for it. Based on the material I’ve read on the topic and seen shared by others we need to start early and prevent it because the symptoms occur late in the process of cell death. For a summary of some potential prevention lifestyle and diet strategies see:

Preventing preeclampsia is also easier earlier than later in a pregnancy and can save mother’s and baby’s lives or long term health.  See: https://effectivecare.info/g-preeclampsia-%26-trp-ch

The fifty year plan – as many healthy children of all species as possible. That isn’t up to me, it isn’t something I can achieve on my own, it is up to all of us. The information I share is for anyone interested in do-it-yourself strategies, health is daily habits, and it is possible to improve health for many people with work.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes. Thanks.

  1. Why are U.S. Health Costs the World’s Highest? Study Affirms ‘It’s the Prices, Stupid’, CommonHealth,  http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2018/03/13/us-health-costs-high-jha
  2. 1,495 Americans Describe the Financial Reality of Being Really Sick, (Oct. 17, 2018), The N.Y. Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/upshot/health-insurance-severely-ill-financial-toxicity-.html
  3. If Laughter is the Best Medicine, Then Self-Advocacy may be the Second Best and a U.S. Physician has Written a Prescription for Both; a Book Link. April 2, 2105, https://transcendingsquare.com/2015/04/02/if-laughter-is-the-best-medicine-then-self-advocacy-may-be-the-second-best-and-a-u-s-physician-has-written-a-prescription-for-both-a-book-link/

Focus on a goal – okay

I do focus on a goal – the sustainability of the food-energy-water nexus (1) for supporting life on earth. (2)

That is a short sentence representing some very big topics and issues.

  • The production and distribution of high quality food requires energy and water and fair policies.
  • The production of and distribution of energy also requires water and in the case of biofuel also requires a portion of the crop yield which diverts both water and crops from people who might need it for sustenance.
  • The treatment of freshwater for various uses and treatment of wastewater for reuse or for safe return into surface and ground water sources requires energy and includes food and sewage within the wastewater. Some types of salts, other chemicals, and decomposition bacteria are also used. Fresh water needs to be produced and distributed fairly and wastewater transported back for safe treatment and reuse or return to surface or groundwater supplies.

All three areas of production and distribution use energy and all three are needed for sustaining human life on earth. Protecting the environment while producing the food, energy, and treated water in a sustainable manner helps sustain other types of life throughout the ecosystem, from the tiny microbes at the base of the food chain up to predator species at the top of the food chain. All are important for a sustainable and healthy ecosystem. Food, energy, and water are interconnected within industrial systems and societal needs and within our bodies. Life is complex, the goal is simple – sustain life.

What can I or anyone do in their daily life to help sustain life on Earth?

  • Use less energy intensive crops and buy food in bulk or with more biodegradable or recyclable forms of food packaging. 
  • For example – potatoes and sugar beets are less energy intensive to grow than sunflower seeds or wheat. Chickens and pigs, poultry and pork are less energy intensive meats to raise as farm animal products than to raise cows for beef. See Figures 2.3 and 2.4 (3).
  • Crops also vary in how water intensive they are to grow, wheat and sunflower seeds require more water than beans, peas, barley, millet, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, sugar beets, and melons for example. See Table 5 for seasonal total water needs for a number of crops: (4).

What can local government and industry do? or neighboring countries or states? – work together to devise more efficient use of the available water supplies for energy or food production and plan methods for treating and reusing wastewater from agriculture or urban areas. Urban areas use water and create wastewater within their local area but food and energy is generally produced elsewhere and is transported to the urban location. Currently some progress has been made to treat and recycle wastewater for fertilizer use and to produce some energy (methane is produced during decomposition of food and sewage treatment).

For the sustainable production of crops, within just 40 years, human civilization needs to shift to primarily using recycled fertilizer because there is a dwindling supply of phosphorus available in a form that is bioactive for use as a fertilizer. Recycling wastewater also retains nitrogen and both phosphorus and nitrogen can cause disruption of coastal waters when it enters the water supply within run-off from agricultural or lawn treatments.

Many example case studies from around the world describe ways that communities have worked together to make processes that maximize food and energy production and preserve water by planning the best use of resources for the region. See: Implementation and Case Studies, Nexus – The Water, Energy, and Food Security Platform, (water-energy-food.org).

Some of the ideas I have been working on focus on increasing use of foods or food waste that actually has significant health benefit but which might not seem as appealing as more familiar foods. Reducing food waste directly increases the nutritional value from the energy and water that was used to grow the crop and reduces the amount of food waste that would be entering the waste stream. 

Some foods with significant health benefits that are being under-utilized or currently are being thrown away:

  • Pomegranate peel is being discarded when it could be helping prevent or treat cancer and inflammatory disease and other conditions. (more about pomegranate peel extract)
  • Sassafras leaves were the second largest export from the American colonies in the 1700’s because they have healing benefits and are a natural food thickener and emulsifier when dried and powdered. (more about sassafras leaves/Gumbo File/Choctaw Spice)
  • Fennel seeds are used commonly in India as a crunchy snack or similar to an after dinner mint as a digestive aid/breath freshener/dessert. Fennel seed powder is less crunchy but has the health benefits and could be used in baked goods or as a thickener in sauces or soups. (more about Fennel seeds/Fennel powder in baking).

What can we do to sustain life? My answer: Everything we can think of, soon.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

For more information on water management and food-energy-water nexus implementation strategies check to see if another session becomes available of a United Nations free course on developing local water sources to help meet future water needs, Local Water Solutions for Global Challenges, (GaiaEducation.org).

  1. Leck, Hayley, Conway, Declan, Bradshaw, Michael J. and Rees, Judith. (2015) Tracing the water-energy-food nexus : description, theory and practice. Geography Compass, 9 (8). pp.
    445-460. gec3.12222.   http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/79533/1/WRAP_Leck_et_al-2015-Geography_Compass.pdf
  2. Graham Turner, Cathy Alexander, Limits to Growth was right.New research shows we’re nearing collapse. Sept. 1, 2014, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse
  3. F. Monforti-Ferrario and I. Pinedo Pascua editors & contributors, et al., Energy use in the EU food sector: State of play and opportunities for
    improvement, JRC Science and Policy Report, 2015, http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC96121/ldna27247enn.pdf
  4. C. Brouwer, M. Heibloem, Chapter 2: Crop Water Needs, from Irrigation Water Management: Irrigation Water Needs, Training Manual Number 3, (1986) FAO.org http://www.fao.org/docrep/s2022e/s2022e02.htm

Tips for Changing Habits

Habits are the daily routines that we don’t even think about. It saves energy and stress for the brain to have routine patterns to our lives. The more decisions we have to make about little things, the less energy we may have to focus on work or for important decisions.     

Planning routine actions in advance can help by having already made the decisions about the actions before being in a rush to get to work or school on time. Having an outfit clean and ready the night before an early day; lunch ready to go in the refrigerator; and a quick morning routine for getting dressed, having breakfast, and getting out the door, can leave you relaxed and on time for the early appointment.      

New habits can be easier to stick with when you add the new behavior to a current routine – need to take a medication or vitamin daily?  Try leaving the bottle next to your toothbrush and always take it in the morning after brushing your teeth.  Substituting a new action for a habit that you want to stop may make it easier to change the routine than focusing only on stopping an old habit – want to quit smoking? Substitute going for a very short walk instead.     

Writing down a goal with an action plan and timeline can help and then tallying the goal behavior on a daily checklist for a month or two can help reinforce the new habit long

  • More information about changing old habits or making new ones is available here: The 3 R’s of Habit Change: How to Start New Habits that Really Stick, jamesclear.com.   
  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.