How to Put an End to our Nation’s Health Crisis

The other day someone mentioned to me that America’s health crisis could be largely resolved if people would avoid everything in the middle of the grocery store and only buy items currently on the outer walls.

I had to think about the statement for a moment, but once the picture of the last grocery store I visited filled the screen in my mind it occurred to me that he was on to something. Perishables – vegetables, fruit, juices, milk, eggs, fresh meats, fresh breads and so on – line the perimeter of just about every big-box grocery store. The middle of the store, conversely, showcases heavily processed, sugared, salted, chemically-enhanced conveniently packaged whole and fresh food substitutes.

My brother-in-law and I were chatting the other day about how few people have a chance to see their food in its original, live state before it is butchered, harvested or processed. Chickens to most children nowadays are slabs of clean, skin-free meat enclosed in styrofoam and shrink-wrap. Cows, pigs, lamb and fish suffer the same misunderstanding. There is hardly any connection between the original plant or animal and its eventual consumer anymore.

In my mind this creates a situation where healthy food choices are more difficult to make. Everything in the grocery store is put on equal footing, the primary difference typically has little to do with the item’s provenance and everything to do with its price to the average consumer. Fair enough, but I have to wonder if we are missing something by accepting the “big-box” distribution system which is backed by industrial agriculture as the only possible solution.

I came across a courageous talk given by an 11 year old, Birke Baehr, at the recently held TEDxNextGenerationAsheville. Sometimes children put it best, despite their lack of life experience.

Wasn’t that wonderful? Don’t you love the fact that he wants to be an organic farmer when he grows up? I wish Birke well. What an inspiring story.

Is our present system sustainable? It’s hard to see how it could be. If we are to escape from the downward spiral we are presently on relative to the health of our nation, we need to take Birke’s advice and learn about ways to get back in touch with real, wholesome and nourishing food. Believe me, there’s more to it than getting sufficient macronutrients.

I’d love to hear what resources you use to help you make healthy food choices as well as any success stories you’ve come across…

Talkin’ ’bout a revolution, wherever you go…

Image by WikipediaJust as the printing press transformed religion and the Western world in the mid-1400s, the internet is catalyzing massive changes in virtually every sphere of human activity. Medicine, science, politics, education, the arts and many other major cultural institutions are adjusting so quickly to the internet’s democratizing influence that the heads of the old guard are left spinning on the ground as the waves of change moves through.

What will be left of the live performing arts, for example, as the percentage of the population raised on the internet grows over time? The internet mindset, where immediacy and ease of access are prized and where virtually anything can be had “on demand” 24/7 is no doubt challenging to the live performing arts, whose rigid schedules, high cost and relatively difficult access potentially stand as obstacles to their consumption.

In a compelling talk at the recent TEDxYYC called “The true power of the performing arts,” arts administrator Ben Cameron makes the point that humanity is at a crossroads and there is a great need for the cultivation of a more empathic civilization. I encourage you to watch the 12 minute talk (despite the fact that Mr. Cameron gets off to a bumpy start).

The majority of the dominant modes of consciousness that govern our world, condition our view of health and healing and shape our view of leisure time were shaped and structured for an earlier era of history. The industrial revolution and the subsequent seismic shifts that took place in the 19th century created a model that has evolved gradually over the last century and it is increasingly clear that a period of deep, revolutionary, if not cataclysmic change is on the horizon on many fronts.

While we human beings tend to cling to tradition we are also drawn to change like insects to a bug zapper. For better or for worse we march on, embracing and absorbing change as we encounter it along the way. The way things look, the way we do them, the way we interact with one another, the way we view ourselves and our world are in constant flux, yet the human spirit continues to flicker no matter how strong the winds of change.

I am a big fan of not trying to do the impossible, and resisting change is one of those often tried but never achievable impossibilities. Learning to move graciously with change is one of the greatest life skills anyone can learn. So doing requires self-assurance, creativity, imagination, thoughtfulness and a genuine appreciation for human ingenuity and the refusal to develop any one of these areas in your experience will produce a flat spot that will eventually turn even the simplest changes into daunting tasks.

Embracing change is optional, but then again, so is success and happiness. Keep your head high and enjoy change while continuing to reach out to the world around you and surely happiness will follow you all of your days.

Too Big to Use Logic?

Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, delivered a fascinating talk at TED Global 2005 that really got me thinking. The question I find myself asking this morning is: “How many things do we hold to be true that have no basis in truth?”

Take a few minutes to watch this fascinating presentation sent to me by a friend a couple of days ago:

Our efficiency and effectiveness as a nation and more generally as a race would likely skyrocket were we to relieve ourselves of these types of elements in government, in business and in general thought. More often than not these inefficiencies are born when emotional reactions overshadow logical, rational consideration.

Forget about “too big to fail.” I’m more worried about “too big to use logic.” Stories like the one Mr. Levitt shared in this presentation need to be shared to awaken those who care from an overly trusting slumber.