Thursday, December 6, 2007

Voice Care: Sing in the Key of Ahhhh....

Voice Care article - one of my new ones. For anyone who sings, acts, lectures or speaks.

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff:

Features enviro expert Annie Leonard. Great video piece on resource cycle, toxins, ecological imbalance, cycle of waste, waste stream, damage to societies, planned obsolescence, golden arrow of consumption, closed loop production. Concise, engaging scripting and amusing visuals. Short, smart and worth watching.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Photography as art. Or not.

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rob Besserer, Cumberland Island, Georgia, 1990. chromogenic print. Photograph © Annie Leibovitz.

Annie Leibovitz Gets Personal at the Corcoran; Amateur Hour at the National Gallery

If anything can steal the thunder of Ansel Adams’s iconic American landscapes, it might be Annie Leibovitz’s portraits. Leave it to the Corcoran to stage a photo frenzy, opening Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005 within days of debuting an Adams retrospective.

The Leibovitz feature is two shows in one, combining her personal snapshots and professional portraits. Or three, if you count the super-size nature shots that compete for your gaze in the finale-gallery.

Black and white, color; formal commissions and family snapshots; pleasure, power and pain ... the disparate works harmonize in the context of this exhibition. One reason: the unfussy wall choreography directed by Corcoran curator Paul Roth, which earned praise from the artist herself. (The traveling exhibition opened at the Brooklyn Museum last year.)

Also harmonizing the portraits are Leibovitz’s supreme ability to capture simultaneously the person and personality, stripping away the veneer of celebrity and dispersing the smog of self-consciousness, freeing the subjects to express their individuality. “This is how I want you to know me.” And perhaps “This is how I want to be remembered.” That is what went through my mind as I became acquainted through via photos with the artist’s father and her companion Susan Sontag, both of whom recently joined the departed.

Throughout the exhibition, eyes anticipate and seek out the viewer. Called them staged, but the portraits engage so fully that sometimes it’s a struggle to withdraw your attention do you can move on to the next print.

Arts writers had the pleasure of a tour guided by Leibovitz herself. She is a professional who found her calling early in life and wasted no time in embracing it. Her work for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Vogue and other forums reflects a sensitive eye, keen mind and rock-solid work ethnic; patience, foresight and assertiveness culminate in unforgettable shots. From Queen to cleaning lady to Sarajevo casualty’s grounded bicycle and blood stains, each shot compels you to stop, look and virtually make acquaintance with the subject.

The show also offers a rare glimpse of the photographer’s family – we see her young children romping and her mother – to whom Leibovitz credits the intimacy of her work – frollicking at the beach. Leibovitz, who grew up in Silver Spring, reveals some of herself as she illuminates her subjects..

Leibovitz recalled early dance training, memories and moves that manifest themselves in the motion pent up in so many of her pictures.

Three March 2007 portraits of the Queen, seamlessly shoehorned into the Corcoran stop on the show’s circuit, include one that will probably displace any previous images you had of Queen Elizabeth II.

Same goes for an ecstasy-inducing glimpse of Mikhail Baryshnikov held aloft by Rob Besserer.

Meanwhile, the National Gallery of Art entertains with The Art of the American Snapshot 1888-1978. If you’re trying to convince someone that photography is art, don’t use this show as an example. That’s not to say that the dozens of anonymous snaps collected by Robert E. Jackson don’t rate a viewing. Fun shots from the early decades of the 20th century include crazy stunts such as a man hanging upside-down from a telephone pole, wacky experiments with perspective, and all manner of mugging for the camera. Un-self-conscious subjects snooze, slouch, pout, skinny dip, disrobe, vogue, clown around, and express themselves in ways inspired by the presence of a camera lens.

With its wealth of exhibitions and powerhouse status, the National Gallery can let its hair down once in awhile. It’s amusing to ponder how these unknown snapsters would react to the news that their casual clicks ended up not in the trash but in a national repository for fine art just steps from world masters and under the watchful eye of security guards.

These artifacts offer a stark contrast to the art of Annie Leibovitz. But both collections affirm the power of photography in immortalizing men, women and moments. With this assist from the National Gallery, the folks populating collector Jackson’s found treasures will be goofing off for eternity. For my piece on the American Snapshot in the Examiner, go to .

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005
Through Jan 13
Corcoran Gallery of Art
500 17th St., NW
Admission fee varies

The Art of the American Snapshot 1888-1978
Through December 31
National Gallery of Art, West Building

Ansel Adams exhibiton review – use this link:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Junk Mail Diet

Opt Off of Unwanted Catalog Mail Lists....

courtesy of enviro group-sponsored new, free service, Catalog Choice. The goals: help consumers reduce the amount of unwanted mail they receive – and to ultimately reduce the waste of paper, natural resources, and the overflowing demand on municipal waste systems. Sponsoring organizations: National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ecology Center. Unlike other do-not-mail services, Catalog Choice is free.

Each year, 19 billion catalogs are mailed to U.S. consumers. The costs:
* 53 million trees
* 3.6 million tons on paper used
* 38 trillion BTUs of energy used, enough to power 1.2 million homes per year
* 5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to the annual emissions of two million cars
* 53 billion gallons of waste water discharges from this volume of paper, enough to fill 81,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools

To sign up for the service, visit

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eco Extravaganza

Green Festival
Oct. 6-7, 2007
Washington DC Convention Center

Attendance: Standing room only for this 2-day eco-extravaganza

Ideas and Insights:

Greener than thou?

It’s not a’s about personal decisions. Everyone can make a difference even if not ready to change your whole lifestyle. Do can you can. And realize that we all vote with our dollars. Start by thinking about each purchase; it can be a chance to change without pain.

And those who aren’t ready to trade in their gas-guzzlers, take heart. And all others, take note: gas-chugging lawn care equipment does more environmental damage than cars. And chew on this: changing to a vegetarian diet would reduce several times the carbon emissions of ditching an SUV. Yes, really. Livestock raising, feeding, handling, transporting in the factory farm mode is one of the biggest drains on the environment and energy reserves.

New(ish) foods:

* Hemp milk – richer and reputedly twice as nutritious as soy milk, which is twice as nutritious as animal-derived milk.

* Acai – juices and other foods containing this berry bursting with exotic sweetness, vitamins and antioxidants.

* Clif Bars and Lara Bars – some new flavors, and all good...and good for you.

* Can a tea be luscious? Try Numi’s luscious new flavors. And Traditional Medicinals has brought out a whole line of healing teas to fight colds, stomach aches, flu and other maladies.

* Soul vegetarian...and vegan? Yes, and D.C. is one place where you’ll find some great places for it. Soul Vegetarian on Georgia Ave. near Euclid St. near Howard University in N.W. And Vita’s in Anacostia – perhaps you saw Vita’s recipes for all vegan/no animal products cornbread, pumpkin bread and barbecue (yes, BBQ!) in the Washington Post after she won over the editors.

* Healthy cakes for any taste. OK, they still have calories, but they’re all flavor, and no dairy products. Lines formed for slices of cake and pies from a booth set up by the new Sweet N Natural caterers (their shop’s in the Maryland suburbs). No animal byproducts, so the treats are naturally lactose and cholesterol-free, with no hydrogenated oils. 301-805-0007.

Building tech tidbits:

* Solar panels are getting better, and are expected to come down in price. Big tip: A common mistake is to lay them flush or flat on a roof/surface, but they ned to be elevated of a surface and tilted to allow air to circulate. This is necessary to optimize their ability to absorb and retain sun energy.

* Helpful websites for building green include

* Adding insulation makes a huge difference in home comfort and energy bills. An easy place to start: the attic. Also, around cracks; use spray foam said Jason Holstine of Maryland-based Amicus Green Building Center. New products include eco-friendly soy-based insulation.

* Solar hot water systems are big hits, and while costly, pay for themselves within 7 years and usually quality for tax credits. On-demand tankless heaters are also a very smart move. Appx 13% of home energy is consumed by hot water heaters. Don’t forget to use low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, which use tiny air-jets to push the water. Unlike old-school models, newer ones don’t sacrifice pressure.

* Easy greening and money savings move: replace standard light bulbs with CFLs, or compact fluorescents. They last longer and now many styles cast a lovely tone of light. Disposal is a little different; since they contain a bit of mercury, don’t just toss them in the trash. More and more places for recycling CFLs are popping up. Next-generation LED (light emitting diodes) lights are even more efficient and consume less energy, but they are still expensive and not easy to find. Per Amicus, LEDs, which come in recessed, pendant, under counter and cover versions, use 80% less energy than regular incandescent lights and 40% less than CFLs. They’ll last appx 50,000 hours and throw off no heat.

* Paint progress: Today’s low- and no-VOC paints (better for the environment and your health) now come in hundreds of great colors.

* The most efficient light: the sun. Maximize home design with windows, clerestories (those skinny high-up windows), solar tubes (skylights are so 1990s), glass doors and overhangs, window glazings and other features to strategically balance light and heat gain.

* E-plus building and remodeling: Per, ask for products made from recycled content and /or rapidly renewable materials, are recyclable, and don’t have formaldehyde and other offgassing chemicals. Choosing wood? Look for “FSC” certification that indicates environmentally appropriate management and harvesting.

* Magnetic cooking: Induction stove tops use magnets to heat pots and pans. No heat means money savings and greater safety.

* “Stone” from paper and eco-friendly recycled plastic: Now ready for exterior finishing, countertops and other parts of your home.

* Dirt works: John Spears, president of the nonprofit International Center for Sustainable Development in Gaithersburg, Maryland, discussed energy self-sufficient homes. Earth built, he says, is cooler in summer, warmer in winter, storing passive solar energy in its walls. And construction costs are 30% less than wood homes. He also described creative building materials made of recycled materials, such as insulation from old soda bottles.

Animal testing:

Wonder why so many people have fallen ill, and some have even died, as a result of taking drugs that were tested on animals? Because animal testing results don’t reflect the realities of drug effects on humans. The explanation is too long for this forum, but the proof is in from many sources. Which, like the animals exploited for profits, can’t garner the microphones and media that the drug industry (and the researchers and politicians in the pocket of deep-pocketed Big Pharma) can.

If animals would talk, it would change the face of medical testing – and lead to better outcomes for humans as well as nonhuman animals. Interesting aside: A team of respected medical researchers wrote in the Sept. 21, 2007 (vol. 317) issues of SCIENCE magazine that “Scientists and journals could and should do more to secure the ethical standards of animal use in biomedical research.” They noted the ethical erosion of compromising animal welfare. They also noted the need to use “earlier, less severe clinical signs [in the animals used in research studies] as endpoint parameters rather than awaiting spontaneous death.” Animals are suffering unnecessarily to a degree that appalls even researchers engaged in such studies.

I donate only to cruelty-free charities, and recommend that others consider more fully before making donation decisions.

Find out why the leading scientists and doctors advocate non-animal medical research ... the facts behind various health-related charities (beyond the marketing brochures and press releases) ... the realities of animal testing ... and all-around better alternatives to testing on animals ...

Fun fact:

96% of all materials used at last year’s Green Festival, including the various sample cups, were recycled.

Not so fun fact:

The MSM/mainstream media has continued to lag at best, in coverage of green issues, from energy efficient technologies to organic foods to healthy eating to medical testing. It is important to remember that MSM and even many blog writers rely on corporate-generated information, and profits. Industry leaders from big pharma to factory farms to corporate-industrial food and vehicle manufacturers are able to outspend and outshout nonprofit sources and researchers. Reporters and editors are not only on tight deadlines but have aligned with big business, and many mistakes have been made in the reports you see.

For example, if you are seeking accurate information about health and medical topics, we highly recommend sources such as and

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

... If you use that cell phone too much, you might not be able to hear me later.

American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation’s Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO
Sept. 16-19, 2007
DC Convention Center

Who: 10,000 medical experts who know what’s going on in your head, ears, nose, and throat -- and that pain in your neck.

Insider insights:

* Hold the Phone. Long-term use of cell phones may cause inner ear damage and can lead to high frequency hearing loss, according to a new study. In a study that tracked 100 mobile phones for a year found increases in hearing loss. Also: those using cell phones 60-plus minutes a day had a worse hearing threshold than those with less use.

High frequency hearing loss is characterized by the loss of ability to hear consonants such as s, f, t, and z, even though vowels can be heard normally. Consequently, people hear sounds but cannot make out what is being said.

Recommendations: Watch for symptoms such as ear warmth, ear fullness, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) as early warning signs of auditory problems. Consider using earphones, found by researchers to be safer than holding a mobile phone up to the ears.
Study: Audiological Disturbances in Long-Term Mobile Phone Users. Conducted by Naresh Panda,, Sanjay Munjal,, Jaimanti Bakshi.

* Hump Be Gone: What question do rhinoplasty doctors hear most from patients who need medically necessary nose surgery for health conditions and injury? “While you’re at it, doc, can you get rid of my hump?”

* Voice Lessons from Superstars: Among dozens of fascinating wisdom from this expert panel of doctors and vocal coaches who work with rock stars, opera masters and top theater performers: While it’s good to keep hydrated, continually swigging of bottled water actually throws the throat’s delicate moisture balance off-kilter. Washing away mucous affects the voice – among modern occupational risks faced by singers, actors and other performers.

* To Tube or Not to Tube: Media reports based on outdated studies have conveyed the misimpression that tube-insertion treatment of children suffering from ear infections is ineffective.
One researcher reported study results suggesting the usefulness of antibiotics in treated acute otitis media in young children, but that those beyond age 2 can benefit from a “wait-and-see approach.” Parents of children having speech and language problems reported improvements after tubes were inserted, while parents of children without developmental problems generally did not.

Another researcher noted that the decrease in use of antibiotics for trating otitis media has helped reduce the need to insert tubes. Attendees were reminded that the overuse of antibiotics leads to the individual – and international – problem of drug-resistant microbes.

* Snore-Free without Surgery: 45% percent of adults snore occasionally and 25% are habitual snorers. Snoring can cause sleep deprivation for the snorer and lead to daytime drowsiness, irritability, lack of focus, and decreased libido. Treatments include weight loss, use of specialized devices and surgery.

New study results suggest dental splints can be more effective than breathing mask. For many people, disruptive snoring can be managed effectively without surgery.

* Hum to Easily Diagnose Hearing Loss: Hearing evaluations usually employ the Weber tuning fork test: The tuning fork is hit, causing it to vibrate, then placed on the midline forehead. Patients are asked if the sound forms in only one ear, or is midline. Those with normal hearing hear the sound in the midline, but some forms of hearing loss will cause the sound to be heard predominantly in one ear.

But now there’s a test that people can do at home. New research shows that the hum hearing test is a reliable alternative to the fork. The test involves simply humming to oneself, determining if the hum is heard in one ear, or in the middle.
The hum test requires just minimal instruction and no instruments, so it can easily be conducted at home, eliminating needless office visits. Diagnosis can be made over the phone by an otolaryngologist or even the family physician.

* Taking Things at E-face Value: New research concludes that using internet-based facial beauty rating can aid beauty analysis - a boon to plastic and reconstructive surgeons.

* Polluting Sense of Smell. Based on a study of 211 subjects measured using a computer-driven olfactometer, olfactory receptors suffer pathological effects when exposed to air pollution.

* Asthma-Tonsil Connection: A new study found a reduction in asthma symptoms following tonsil/adenoid removal surgery.

* Changing Reasons for Tonsillectomy: Historically, tonsils have been removed in kids with chronic throat or tonsil infections. A new study reveals new reasons that have emerged since the 70s, primarily sleep-disordered breathing (snoring, restless sleep, obstructive sleep apnea).

In 1970, 9 out of 10 tonsillar surgeries were done because of infection; in 2005, only about 3 in 10 surgeries were done exclusively for infection. Girls aged 18-22 were 3 times more likely than boys to have chronic infections that required the surgery. The findings suggest that more than ever, parents and physicians are recognizing the signs and symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing in children and are opting for surgery as their treatment of choice.

* Rhinosino-Asthma Connection: Doctors reported on the implications of research proving a link between rhinitis, sinusitus and asthma. Nasobronchial reflex – mechnical, chemical or allergic irritation – cause broncho-constriction. Chronic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucosa) affects more than 50 million Americans and accounts for 20 million doctor visits a year. The forum stressed the need to evaluate both upper and lower respiratory systems – and to persuade asthma patients to manage their symptoms, since asthma “remodels the lung,” causing irreversible damage. If you’re awakening from sleep due to asthma symptoms and/or using bronchial dilator such as albuterol 2 or more times a week, the condition “must be brought under control” with regular use of anti-inflammatory meds such as inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, and, in rare cases, mast cell stabilizers – not only the brochodilater – to avoid damage.

As for sinitis, sprays are being recommended to irrigate the nose. Note that old-school antihistamines cause problems because they throw off the mucosal balance.

* Doing the Right Thing ... in Otolaryngology: Dr.Serge Martinez, Professor of Surgery and Ethics at the Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy and Law at the University of Louisville School, examined ethical behavior in an age of plentiful, deep-pocketed and powerful Big Pharma representatives. What should a doctor or researcher do when offered all-expenses-paid attendance at professional events? Lucrative speaking opportunities? An exciting deep-sea fishing trip with the only attached string of hobnobbing with drug reps? Doctors claim that such inducements do not result in changed therapies, prescriptions, regimens. But some studies have suggested that even low-value freebies such as logo-stamped Rx pads exert subtle influence.

Dr. Martinez referenced a June 27, 2007 New York Times article revealing: “...psychiatrists earned on aggregate the most in Minnesota, with payments ranging from $51 to $689,000. The Times found that psychiatrists who took the most money from makers of antipsychotic drugs tended to prescribe the drugs to children the most often.” And, “Over all last year, drug makers spent $2.25 million on marketing payments, fees and travel expenses to Vermont doctors, hospitals and universities, a 2.3 percent increase over the prior year, the state said.”

Education is often given as a reason to accept drug company offers. However, Dr. Martinez noted the distinction between “education” and “information” -- and how they influence decision-making on conscious and subliminal levels. Sometimes, even a most educated person can get sucked into a web of hyperbole.

So how can doctors strike a more ethical balance and learn about new drugs, tools and therapies while resisting undue influence? Rx for resisting drug makers’ influence include:

Legislation to restrict drug company offers to medical personnel. New legislation is being formulated in Vermont, Maine, Wisconsin, West Virgina and DC.

Restrict drug rep access.

Designate a special area within hospitals for demos of drugs and devices.

Physicians must think each time they write a prescription. Is this the best course for the individual patient? Patients can ask, similarly, what are the alternatives, be it generic medications or alternative therapies, and why is the one being recommended in their case.

More info:

Friday, September 7, 2007

Earth Matters: None of Your Business’s Business? Or...

... a Natural Part of Your Business Strategy?

One great way to get excited about your job: Find ways to help your organization make a better impression by leaving a smaller one. Sustainability consultant Beverly Oviedo attracted a full house of event planners with her well-researched, thought-provoking and action-plan-ready seminar on “Planning and Managing Green Meetings.”

Presented during the HSMAI conference in DC (see related KNOW post), topics ranged from determining capabilities of prospective meeting venues for hosting eco-friendly meetings to specific ways to turn your workplace a brighter shade of green.

Though geared to event planners, Oviedo’s smart advice could be put into practice by anyone who’d like their company reduce its negative impact on the environment and help the world one man-hour at a time.

Here’s a sampling of ideas:

* Choose alternatives to bottled water and other beverages that come in individual containers. Sure, they’re convenient, but they clog landfills with matter that takes ages to degrade. Try water coolers and pitchers on tables. With glasses -- see below.

* Ditch the disposables. A 5-day conference of 2,500 attendees providing a continental breakfast, two breaks, lunch and a daily evening reception will use: 62,500 plates, 87,500 napkins, 75,000 cups and glasses, 90,000 cans and/or bottles. While choosing items with recyclable content helps, consider this: Environmental Defense Fund research shows that using 1000 disposable plastic teaspoons consumes over 10 times more energy and natural resources than manufacturing one stainless steel teaspoon and washing it 1,000 times.

* Sobering thought: When we throw something “away,” there really is not an “away.”
Case in point: When landfill space ran out, Naples, Italy closed its landfill – prompting citizens to pile trash in the streets.

* Doable “lighten your stay” steps include:

Put your environmental policy in writing and spread the word, making it part of the core/corporate culture. Get input from all employees to the bottom rung, and at the top, stress the triple bottom line.

Use paperless technology.

Reduce travel fuel consumption.

Practice the 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Eat green – lower on the food chain. Choose local, seasonal foods and vegetarian fare. Great selections exist and will increase when demand increases.

Save energy via a policy mandating “turn off when not in use.”

* Cool new affordable technology that could save your life in emergencies and while traveling: The Life Straw, a portable straw that filters out microbes and viruses.

* Biodegradable good, Compostable better. Within 6 months compostables will be returned into nontoxic usable matter.

Note: For details and resources on this topic, get the Summer 2007 issue of HSMAI Marketing Review. I wrote the cover story about The Greening of the Hospitality Industry.

Events 2.0

Affordable Meetings National
Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Sept. 5-6
Washington Convention Center

Attendees: 1,700 meeting and event planners


* Green Meetings Initiative. Encouraging the use of sustainable, eco-friendly practices in hospitality, meeting, and travel industries. The greening of the hospitality industry. Note: I wrote the cover story appearing in the summer issue of the industry’s marketing journal. (See related post.)

* Harnessing new tools and new media, such as social network websites. A new industry report, “The Travel Marketer’s Guide to Social Media and Social Networking,” will be released within a few weeks. Web 2.0 will help revitalize tradeshow marketing. The social media toolkit includes blogs, wikis, bookmarks, Tweets, podcasts, Mashups (trip planning), Widgets via badges, flakes, and next-gen brand education tools. In an age in which prostitutes Craigslist to expand business, it’s essential for legit businesses to get on the I-ball.

* Event Technology Expo. These days, exhibiting is far more than handing out brochures.

* Among trends: Meetings online. Hospitality and travel tapping into the Conversation Economy. A Travel Industry Association/TravelHorizons study indicated two-thirds of online adult leisure travelers consume online video and audio clips, 4 in 10 read blogs, share photos via the web, and take virtual tours. 1 in 4 post responses to blogs and participate in social networks. These figures seem low...or perhaps I’m immersed in the hyper-conversation economy. Speakers straying from the podium, some breaking the ice and barrier by greeting attendees at the door. Treasure hunts. Rock camps as audience attracting and bonding strategy. The last two are among techniques to seek primacy of in-person seminars over webinars.

* Fad vs. trend: Fads fade, trends the ever-more-elaborate ice sculpture not likely to melt in this century. As for a fad, let’s hope one is hired faces emerging from carved pumpkins and other buffet “head case” centerpieces.

* Catering crazes: Mashed cauliflower bar, tapas, mini-anythings.

* Turn events into memories to court short-attention-span guests: New York BizBash boss Richard Aaron (featured in my 2006 WOW Factor article) suggested:

Wikis about your event to get input, ideas, drum up interest.
YouTube – create a viral video.
Throw a rave on the street in a garage.
Celebrity bartender for nonprofit fundraiser.
Display appetizers on the wall.
Light projections...everywhere.
Partner with a nonprofit arts organization in your community!

* Fun fact: Launching a lecture with a laugh releases a shot of negatively charged ions over your cerebral cortex. Laughing can possibly save a life.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Size Matters

Book Review: Little House on a Small Planet

A few years ago, my husband and I went house-hunting as prices spiraled upward. We sought an affordable, well-built 2,400 sq.ft. contemporary home. We settled for a 1,400 sq.ft. 1950s rambler. Furnishing and maintaining that led to an epiphany: 400 sq.ft. is all we need, and want.

2,400 to 1,400 to 400 – it took a lot of time, effort and money to learn this lesson. Now there’s a short-cut to small-home smarts: Shay Salomon’s book, “Little House on a Small Planet.”

“People really are moved by this movement,” says Salomon, who in an email admits to getting fan mail each week.

Between the book’s covers, you’ll find function-driven inspiration to build all the house that fits your lifestyle, with no excess space to clean, maintain or serve as a clutter magnet. Or a drag – current research shows that our immediate environment impacts not only our efficiency but also mood and outlook. Excess, long a symbol of success, has a downside. How often have you heard laments about stuffed closets and drawers, cluttered rooms, the frustration of having too much of everything except time to enjoy it?

Perhaps you learned early on the real estate rule of thumb: Buy as much as you can afford. And that has become too much in this age of easy credit.

Salomon offers a new real estate rule for the real world: Build a glove, not a warehouse. A dwelling that fits and fulfills you, not someone else’s idea of a dream home in our consumption-driven society.

How much space does it take to be happy?

The author, a self-described “natural builder,”broadens the definition of eco-friendly housing beyond using sustainable, nontoxic materials to size. She has extracted 14 principles of building small from interviews with a few hundred folks with downsized dwellings.

These escapees from overbuilt environments offer antidotes to house lust and alternatives to McMansionization. You can say no to renovated palaces built of plastic credit cards, though often, zoning laws and building codes pose roadblocks.

Profiles of several actual small houses include locations, building cost, size, monthly utilities, and favorite aspects of the house. Among topics and ideas addressed in the book:

* Size matters: House size affects energy consumption more than insulation does – meaning your costs rise with cubic feet.

* How to downsize tips: Examples: Write the numbers 1 to 100 and tag 100 things to give away.
Note the time spent in each room of your current house to plan just what you really need. Remember that money saved in downscaling house plans can be used for eco-efficient and aesthetically pleasing luxuries.

* Not living large: Keep in mind the maxim that “stuff” expands to fill available space. Such is the magic of materialism. Interesting statistic: The self-storage industry has increased 40-fold since 1960, making it larger than the music business and more profitable than the film industry.

Tips: Choose and design for a set amount of storage space and simply allow no more. Design for shared space for different activities – such as a big central table for dining, socializing, work and school projects in an area having the best light, view and proximity to things you need.

* Cool kitchen idea: A cold storage box recessed into a thick wall that harnesses free cool night air and cold stored in the wall’s thermal mass to keep food chilled. A simple screen on the exterior keeps the animals out.

* Create spaciousness with a design that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor space, with nature providing some of the decor.

* Sick building syndrome resulting from the largely 1970s-80s energy efficiency-motivated sealing up of buildings. The book explains where to place operable clerestory windows and skylights to harness the best ventilation, working in consort with the physics of hot air rising. Outdoor kitchens merit discussion for their energy efficiency potential. Then there’s an example of permaculture at work, complete with chickens free-ranging as a “chicken tractor” plowing sections of a Point Reyes, Ca. garden.

* Living with children in a small home: The author addresses controversial questions such as “Is TV a human right?” and the “delicate dance of need and greed.” Consider the effects of modern living arrangements in which family members hole up in their own personal Siberias, shielded from exchanging ideas with one another thanks to their separate computers, PDAs, TVs ... the iPodification of daily life.

* Fortifying resolve against consumerism: To shake free of the tentacles of marketing messages, some have joined “simplicity circles.” Most of us have been co-opted by industry to reinforce messages to consume what benefits big business. We become wallet-waving zombies chanting cheese is healthy, unprocessed foods are undesirable, and bigger is better.

* Intelligent retrofitting and remodeling comprises a second section. Topics meander to gentrification’s environmental degradation of to trailer salvages to the deconstruction cottage industry that dismantles houses to move, rebuild and supply recycled materials for new projects. The book makes detours into co-housing and work-at-home territory, flex multi-generational residences, “Co Abodes” shared by single moms and other ways to maximize efficiency of one’s personal built environment.

* Quick quip: The addition, said Andy Rooney, is America’s contribution to the history of architecture.

* Sophisti-crit: The book’s utopian photo trove of hippie-dippy accented abodes may kick close-quarters up to a claustrophobic level for some recovering space addicts. Then again, there’s upside in having everything at your fingertips. But the principles translate to environs with cosmopolitan appeal. One can swap the fabric curtain dividers with sleek pocket doors, for example.

* Cutting-edge designs based on ancient but enduring building proto-technology: Such as Earthships built into hillsides in the Southwest, with walls bolstered by dirt-packed tires. The author touches on the government red-tape roadblocks erected by bureaucrats – some possibly propped up by big-business interests – via zoning and building codes.

* Big picture insights: Census reports indicate that in 2000, 10.4 million units of housing in the U.S. were vacant, while 250,000 people slept in homeless shelters. That’s 45 vacant houses per shelter occupant. Overseas, as Chinese emulate Western consumer culture, the panda is scrambling for shrinking space as houses grow larger and more plentiful.

* Practical philosophy: Bound by abundance – having so much has led to a different kind of scarcity. One sage commenting in the book noted how if we were to eat directly the 16 pounds of grain that it takes to produce a pound of meat, we would have 8 times as much protein available to us. Then there’s the increasing water scarcity issue.

Small houses, to most Americans, sounds like a revolutionary notion. But considering the revered architects who now hold forth on the environmental as well as aesthetic and social benefits of hewing to “human scale” design, architecture and urban planning, it’s a idea that fits like a glove.


“Little House on a Small Planet” by Shay Salomon (The Lyons Press)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Profits, Politics and Cruelty to Animals

2007 Taking Action for Animals Conference
Washington, DC
July 28-30, 2007

* Why did the chicken cross the road?

To try to escape having her beak sliced off ... being crammed into battery cages the size of a sheet of paper for the rest of her life ... having her male hatchlings tossed in a wood chipper or giant vat to die cruel deaths. It’s no joke, but rather, fact in the commercial/factory farming world that dominates agriculture today.

Profits and politics have led to horrific levels of animal cruelty as well as chronic and acute disease in American citizens.

* One easy thing you can do: Vote with your dollars.

With each purchase, each meal, you can make a difference in animal suffering along with your family’s health. It may cost a few more dollars in the short run, but what better investment than in your family’s long-term health and in living a decent, humane life? Think of all the money we spend on things that are fashionable and novel and appealing -- and yet after the initial thrill, we derive greater satisfaction from choices that feel right and do good.

Be a conscious consumer. As Beatle/humanitarian Paul McCartney says, if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would become vegetarian. Why does the agricultural industry conceal this? Because change takes time and money, which would reduce profits.

* It’s that supply and demand thing.

So the only way commercial agricultural operations will change is if demand from consumers who buy animal-derived products changes. Either switch to a plant-based diet – or if not ready to give up animal-derived foods, buy products sourced only from producers who use humane methods to raised and treat their animals.

Buying from producers who follow humane standards costs a little more, but think how you’ll save in 3 ways: Less exposure to unhealthful components, improving the environment (for details, check the Green Diet book and websites listed in this article), and knowing you are not supporting the cruelty of factory farming.

Why care? Farm animals are feeling, thinking beings. Proven beyond doubt, with more evidence confirmed every year by science – despite the fact that most science is funded by corporate interests that benefit financially, most media outlets are advertiser-driven and government is dominated by business interests such as the food industry, a major economic engine. The animals consumed get no say.

* Education comes with responsibility.

Among those responsibilities, as conveyed at the Taking Action for Animals Conference, was to lead by example, to speak up for the voiceless, and to encourage constructive action among government decision-makers, corporate executives and others. Industry regards animals as a commodity, not out of evil intent, but due to preoccupation with increasing profits and shareholder value.

*** Conference Highlights:

Feature speakers included people working in the meat, poultry and dairy industries, a grocery chain executive, scientists, doctors and of course, animal advocates.

* Factory Farm Hell on Earth:

Agricultural practices considered “common” are excluded from most state anti-cruelty laws.

10 billion farm animals are raised a year, most in inhumane conditions.

Family-owned and independent farms are struggling to make it in a world dominated by large-scale producers who satisfy demand for cheap-as-possible foodstuffs.

Cows are kept in stock-like devices, fed an unnatural diet and hormones for speedy excessive growth.

Veal calves are chained by their necks in tiny cages for their short lives. As shown in videos, their mothers bellow when their babies are taken away. Workers broke the neck of one cow trying to block her baby from being taken. The mother cow was left all day in anguish.

Male chicks are discarded by “business-efficient means” at many commercial hatcheries – crammed and smothered in garbage bags and tossed alive into wood chippers and manure spreaders to be used with manure as a fertilizer component.

Modern broiler hens are grown to slaughter size in 6 weeks, equivalent to a human 2-year-old reaching 250 pounds.

Genetic manipulation is used to boost yields of egg-laying hens and dairy cows. For example, each cow can produce up to 100 pounds of milk a day, 10 times that she would produce naturally.

Foie gras is disgraceful – watch a video of a bird being force-fed an abominable amount to create this “delicacy” and you’ll see why it’s inexcusable cruelty.

Horse slaughter: One of its advocates was a congressman was shown to personally gain from his stand.

But thanks to consumers speaking up, some progress has been made. For example: Food service companies are increasingly saying “No” to eggs from producers that confine hens to battery cages.

* Science Supports Vegan Diet:

Among research findings summarized by Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine:

Asians adopting Western meat-sweet diet have experience a marked upswing in disease rates.

In a major weight-loss study, the group on a low-fat vegan diet that did not exercise had a 13-pound average weight loss, 2 inch drop in waist measurement and increase in natural insulin response (that’s a good thing folks; declining insulin response is a diabetes symptom). Another study: diabetics sticking to a vegan diet were able to reduce their meds.

Free pocket guide from

* Your Tax Dollars at Work – for Big Business:

The U.S. Government funded a project on “How to trigger the cheese craving” to help the dairy industry increase sales. Wendy’s was a prime beneficiary, using the findings to sell its Cheddar Lover’s Bacon Cheeseburger...and Subway agreed to put cheese on 2 subs unless the customer requested otherwise. In 1975, the average U.S. consumer consumed 15 pounds; in 1999, it was 30 pounds. Heart disease and other chronic problems rose during that same period.

* Humane Animal Agriculture:

Nicolette Hahn Miman, Frank Reese, Paul Willis and other ethical agribusiness owners discussed and showed slides of their independent livestock farms at which they engaged in humane practices and provided their animals with natural, comfortable conditions that allowed socialization with other animals. The criticism they endured from some conference attendees was nothing compared to challenges by the agricultural-industrial complex that would prefer to keep consumers in the dark and clamoring for the most cheaply produced food.

If you want organic, safely sourced animal products for your family, you are not going to get them if you buy factory farm products. Forget the feel-good advertising. It’s written by people whose goals were to keep clients and win awards. I know because I was one of them.

* Being a Joyful Vegan:

Once you discover the realities of factory farming, it’s easy to understand why people who oppose physical and mental cruelty go vegan. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau noted the irony that people in Western societies place a high value on individualism, but then fear and condemn nonconformist attitudes. The anger you sense in some vegans is anguish. It’s hard to change others, but you can find peace of mind by sticking to your principles.

And by sharing your vegan dishes, but “make sure it’s good, or it will put us back 3 decades.” Let your guests eat it, and then let them find out, “oh, that’s vegan.”

Attendees nodded knowingly at mention of the “protein question” – which has expanded to the “calcium question.” As in, “how do you [vegans] get your protein/calcium?” Note that in America, diseases stem from excess, not from deficiencies.

* Denial Loves Company:

You know those people who claim “I used to be a vegetarian”? They weren’t. That’s usually a person who tried to eat more salads and less red meat for awhile. Or just because it was a useful thing to say. Or write – such trendy false claims occasionally pop up in news media opinion pieces. Note that most media folks eat lots of fast food and don’t ply investigative skills into the food industry or much else unless there’s ample public demand ... case in point, toxic products from China).

* Green Your Diet:

Nationally respected researcher Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D. summarized incontrovertible evidence that, regardless of one’s food ethics, the less animal-derived foods consumed, the better for personal health, the environment, agricultural sustainability, and water conservation (a pressing issue not yet recognized here in the mid-Atlantic U.S.).

For more about the environmentally destructive effects of raising and processing animals for food, get the excellent book “Six Arguments for a Greener Diet” by Dr. Jacobson and the staff of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

You can also email me for my summary of the book.

* Time for a Global Warming Message:

Research by United Nations scientists indicated that animal agriculture is responsible for an estimated 18% of global warming emissions, and that adopting a plant-based diet saves more carbon pollution than driving a hybrid auto?

* Dogfighting:

Don’t be hoodwinked by the pro spinners who try to promulgate the notions that 1. violence to animals keeps people from committing violence to humans, and 2. that animal fighting is okay if one can conjure a cultural tie to it. Slavery had cultural roots too, but wrong is wrong. Dogfighting, for example, is a bloodlust sport, and watching animals tear skin (no, it’s not boxing) signals a pathology.

* Animal Testing:

Those with a vested/financial interest in animal experimentation will always argue that animal experiments are vital for new cures to be found. But this claim has been repeatedly though quietly debunked – and proven false. Consider the human deaths from pharmaceuticals that were tested on animals – and the greater successes of research involving non-animal subjects.

Cosmetics: Look for the Leaping Bunny logo that certifies no animal testing.

* The Cutting Veg:

Increasing numbers of people report having the desire to consume less or no animal-derived foods. If you’ve ever thought about it, how about the idea of starting with one meat-free meal a day?

There are free “Starter Vegetarian Kits” and “Starter Vegan Kits” available with no obligation from nonprofit groups. Find sources at the end of this article.

* Humane Education for the Real World:

Stand on milk crate in your bare feet for 15 minutes. How much longer would you like to stand there? How about a year or so? Have to use the bathroom? No problem; just go and most of “it” will fall through the crate holes ... well, until it starts piling up. Who lives like this? Hens. This is one show-and-feel-and-tell example that humane educator Zoe Weil has incorporated into her educational sessions. She has committed her life to the goal of teaching people how to live more
humanely, sustainability and peaceably.

She also teaches critical, independent thinking – a skill that is rarely taught but so essential in a world in which “education” is messaged to students and consumers by corporations and well-funded lobbyists.

In the past, she wanted to lead a “Meet your meat” tour of a slaughterhouse but was denied.

* Raising Conscious Consumers:

Weil posed the questions: “What if, by the time they had complete eighth grade, all children were aware of and concerned about the people who make their sneakers, T-shirts, and electronics in factories around the globe, and realized that their money and choices represented their vote for working conditions throughout the world? What if they understood the relationship between the food in their cafeteria, growing obesity rates and ill health, water pollution and soil erosion, and the suffering of farmed animals, so that with their teachers and school administrators they were able to influence the food service to offer healthy, organic, humanely produced meals?”

The goal: Make choices now and later based on full awareness of the connections between your own actions and the future of the world. Ask: What is the “True Price” of that cheeseburger? What is the whole production process that is hidden from view? And, is there a product I could choose instead that would have less negative impact?

*** Resources:

* Humane Farming:

Compassion in World Farming: A charity working internationally for the welfare of farm animals

Animal Welfare Institute

Humane Farming Association: High standards for humane care of farm animals, including the new Animal Welfare Approved husbandry standards mandating for all species environment, housing and diet that allows the animals to behave naturally

* Factory Farming:

Find sources for food in your neighborhood and where you travel that is healthful, humane, environmentally sustainable, and that supports family farmers

“The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter” by Peter Singer and Jim Mason

* Animal Protection

World Society for the Protection of Animals - marginalized animals from strays to wildlife

American Anti-Vivisection Society - nonprofit working to end experimentation on animals in labs and schools

Cruelty-Free Products Certification

Animal Protection Institute

Humane Society of the United States

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Note: Smaller organizations are less known due to limited funds and promotional resources, but do equally important work. Surf the web and look for 501(c)3 nonprofit status, and read GuideStar reports (available free online)

* Health and Diet:

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Healthy diet, humane eating, effective alternatives to animal testing, innovative health and disease research. Membership include a subscription to the PCRM publication good medicine.

Vegetarian Society of DC

* Animal Fighting:

* Fur:

* Advocacy and Policy:

Online alerts about from factory farm abuses to animal fighting and other animal welfare issues:

Short course for planning effective campaigns:

*** Related News Bites:

* "Behind the Mustache: A Farm Sanctuary Investigation" is a 10-minute video documenting the abusive conditions found throughout a thorough investigation into the interworking of California's dairy industry. Among findings: An injured cow unable to rise and a motionless newborn calf were observed at the market, left to languish. Access the video at or on

* Oregon moved to ban gestation crates by 2013. These metal cages about two feet wide and seven feet long are used to confine pregnant sows. Grown pigs are unable to move, lie down comfortably, or turn around for months at a time.

* Louisiana outlawed cockfighting, banishing the cruel blood sport from its last remaining legal stronghold.

* New approved tests are expected to spare more than 250,000 animals in the EU (European Union), including the testing of chemicals that could be irritating to the skin or eye and allergen testing, which previously used rabbits and mice. The EU is far ahead of the U.S., where the Interagency coordinating committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM), a government-funded agency, has approved only 6 alternative methods compared to the EU agency’s 23.

* South Korea has passed new animal welfare laws that will offer increased protections to animals used for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment.

* Fun and enlightening book by a PETA activist: “Committed” by Dan Mathews

*** Thoughts for Thinking People:

Greek philosopher Pythagoras paid fishermen to throw their catch back in the sea. He wrote that “animals share with use the privilege of having a soul” ... that eating meat or participating in any other kind of animal abuse “harms your soul and your health.” This was 3,000 years before a flood of medical studies connected meat to heart disease, cancer, and obesity, he wrote, “Humans dig their graves with their teeth.” Another famous vegetarian: Da Vinci.

“Humans are the only species that can rationalize – or need to.” – Mark Twain

“Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.” – Stanislaus Lee

“What is set by market forces will change only by market forces.” – Free market advocates.

We don’t need to wait another moment to change the world.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Trade Showing Off

The Trade Show About Trade Shows
July 31-Aug. 2
Washington, DC

How do you stage a successful event? Take some tips from the coach – The Tradeshow Coach Susan Friedmann:

* Push the Right Hot Buttons:

For those “Have the Best” folks, offer something exclusive – and never discount (which creates the perception “it’s not worth full price”). Those high achievers? Come up with an opportunity to earn awards.

Button-pushing with Power players? Indicate they are in control, show attention to detail, stroke their ego. The person who asks the questions is actually the one in control – by leading the conversation in the direction you want to go.

* Create a want:

Most people most of the time don’t really know what they want. How many people wanted an iPod before it was marketed?

* Listen to Effective listeners...who, notes Friedmann:

Limit their own talking.
Show their interest.
Avoid letting your mind wander.
Ask questions.
Don’t jump to conclusions.
Listen for the main idea.
Turn off their own worries.
Prepare in advance.
React to ideas, not to the person.
Notice nonverbal language.
Take notes.
Get feedback..
Defer judgment.
Listen for the other person’’s feelings and situation.
Pay most attention to content, not to appearance.
Avoid sidetracking remarks.
Do one thing at a time.
Maintain eye contact.
Avoid emotional reactions.
Give affirmative and affirming statements.
Invite additional comments.
Maintain patience and concentration.
Stay present.


* Green Exhibiting. Eco-Systems creates sustainable exhibits and boothware. PMSI has corn-based biodegradable badge holders.

* Wow Factors: Create an experience and memory with demos, skits, game shows, choreography, videos, audio, robots, singers. Tradeshow research indicates that live presentations are the 3rd most important reason why people remember an exhibit. Numbers one and two: Booth size and product interest.

* Video Massage Chairs!

Quote of note: Triad Creative Group CEO Theodore Lasser: “It is our obligation to be good shepherds of our resources and advise others how to do so as well...we need to steer our industry away from traditional materials and fabrication techniques whenever possible.” He unveiled a Certified Green certificate based on the US Green Building Council’s and LEED criteria.


Sponsorship: A Key Powerful Marketing, Effective Giveaways, The Power of Buzz, Out-Foxing the Competition

Competitive Edge tradeshow expertise led by Jefferson Davis

“Riches in Niches: How to Make it Big in a Small Market” by Susan Friedmann

“Experience Economy” by James Gilmore, who contends we’ve transitioned from a goods economy to an experiential economy. Commodities are wrapped in experiences to sell them today.

“Free Prize Inside” by Seth Godin

“The Anatomy of Buzz” by Emanuel Rosen, who notes the need today to create buzz that travels through “invisible networks” that link people.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Meeting About Meetings

Meet with Success

July 24, 2007
Washington, DC Convention Center

* Marketing Zing:

Todd Charlebois, president, Attendance Marketing, Inc. and Marian Calvin, Experient’s VP of communications, teamed up for a terrific presentation on marketing. Though meeting industry-focused, the lessons can be applied in other fields. Samples of enlightenment:

Aim marketing efforts at the heart more than the head.

Get your board on board.

Promote your brand image consistently and constantly across media.

With info just a Google search away these days, you’ll attract more prospects by offering “what you NEED to know,” not “what you CAN know.”

Holding a conference? Make sure your program is fluid enough to accommodate timely issues and opportunities to be relevant. Remember: ignoring an issue will not make it go away.

Broadcast fax’ing is making a comeback: “what can be faster than sending a bulleted sheet of real paper?”

Market outside the box: Example: one humane society raised awareness by setting up petting stations near post offices, since petting an animal has been proven to reduce stress.

Market your organization post-event, not just pre-event. That’s the time to lock attendees in, at lower rates, for your next event.

Cancellations? Instead of refunding money, apply the fee towards your next event.

* Food and Beverage: Appeal to not only taste, but the other senses, as shown by the savvy staff of Centerplate, the food service contractors for the Washington Convention Center. Attractive presentation examples included serving sushi condiments in hollowed-out lemons and creative vegetarian alternatives to meet the growing demand for meat/dairy-free choices.

* Etiquette like clockwork: Signal you’re done with a meal by placing knife and fork tips to 10 o’clock and the handles to 4 o’clock.

* Cell phones – can you hear me now? Etiquette experts advise that at functions, keep your cell phone on vibrate and excuse yourself – and leave the room – to answer or make a call.

* Handy handshake tips:

Shake a woman’s hand her and abroad just as firmly as a man’s.
Hold your drink in your left hand to avoid giving a cold, wet handshake.
Never allow a meeting or other event to begin or end without a handshake.
Never shake hands with one hand in your pocket.

Etiquette tips from Pamela Eyring, The Protocol School of Washington,

* Money Bags: One attendee noted having several meeting attendees from Asia paying for their contingents with cash, including one hauling a valise containing $147,000.

* Meetings as Economic Engines. Speaking about international meetings: Terence Donnelly, Experient’s trade show markets VP, noted that over the last 13 years, US share of international travel has dropped by 35%. Since 9/11, travel worldwide has increased 20% while trips to the US declined by 17%.

A 1% increase in tourism in the US would translate to 8.1 million more visitors, $13.3 billion in spending, 153,000 new jobs, and a $3.5 billion increase in payroll.

Rx: Expand the visa waiver program (28 countries participate today). New technology and processes to simplify visa processing at borders. Reduce taxes on travel services such as airlines, hotels and rental cars. Change perception of the international community – 75% of tourists from abroad indicate feeling positive towards the US after a visit.
FYI: Those entering the US under the visa waiver program cannot work or study or stay longer than 90 days.

* Resources:

Experient integrated meeting and event services:

Visa info:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Animal Medicine from A(cupuncture) to Z(oonoses)

144th Annual Convention of the American Veterinary Medical Association
July 14-18
Washington Convention Center

Attendance: 10,000 stewards of animal health and counselors of often-confused humans

Quick Take: Impressive range of sessions on breakthroughs and best practices, spanning companion animal health and behavior, farm animal medicine, and holistic health techniques.

Issues: Many, including: New vaccination protocols, the impact of physical conditions on behavior and vice versa, behavior counseling, complementary and alternative medicine, epidemic outbreaks, pet food poisoning.

Insight-Bites: Summaries of select sessions.


Storm Phobias

Rather than resort to drugs, Dr. Terry Curtis suggested products that have helped many dogs, such as DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) and anxiety wraps. Based on the theory that dogs sense storm build-up through electrical charge, the Storm Defender Cape has a metallic lining that discharges the dog’s fur and shields him from static charge build-up. Is it the lining or the caping that has the most effect? She’s not certain, but amused the crowd with a photo of one man’s attempt at a homemade “Foil Suit.” An easier way for cheapskates: rub the animal with dryer sheets.

Nuisance Behaviors

Step 1: Dispel owner notions that usually but needlessly guarantee failure: “My dog is dumb” “ trying to be dominant” ... “is being spiteful” ... and, “my dog already gets plenty of exercise.” (Then there’s the eye-roller, “Oh, I tried that and it didn’t work.”)

“First, find out ‘what is the client’s perception of the dog?’” said Dr. Emily Levine.

Management Techniques to Gain Control Now

“We all do what works,” said Jacqueline Neilson. “Unfortunately, aggression typically works to make threatening things go away or back off.” When people back off at a growl or exposed teeth, this reinforces the behavior. The solution is not to risk a bite, but to practice exercises with the aggressive dog in controlled environments and to manage the situation – preventing an incident. Avoid triggers of undesirable behavior to avoid unintentionally reinforcing and the potentially damaging behaviors that result.

Why food aggression training techniques that annoy and aggravate often fail, and sometimes trigger bites: Randomly taking the food bowl always creates stress and is perceived as a threat. Instead, randomly slip special higher-value goodies into the bowl.

Avoidance works: So for food-aggressive dogs, no long-lasting food treats...and feed meals behind closed doors...keep kids and others away from the dog’s bowl and treats.

For dogs with urinary problems, have a schedule they can count on and don’t expect a dog with a medically based problem to “hold it.” Take him outside before an accident can occur.

Don’t make your animal “hold it” too long. Realize that the feeling of relief of emptying a full bladder makes this act a self-reinforcing behavior.

A guiding principle: “Tell the animal what to do instead of what not to do.”

Maximizing Behavior Modification Success

Veterinary behaviorist Gerrard Flannigan imparted wise advice such as:

* Have all household members, including children, attend the behavior session.

* Document, not just describe: When needed, take a video to capture the problem behaviors.

* Meeting in person allows the pro to observe the people’s reaction to their dogs’ actions.

How to Help Puppies Become Better Dogs

Dr. Margaret Duxbury shared uncommon common sense:

* Have the dog do something before giving anything in return. Aim for 40+ rewarded interactions a day to establish good habits.

* Look for learning situations – and observe what pups are learning accidentally.

* Put breaks on toddlers and visitors. It’s not fair to put the pup in situations in which he feels the need to defend himself.

* Teach that hands never hurt – and that an approaching hand is a good thing.

* Control your visitors so they don’t undo your lessons.

Aggression Between Cats

Karen Overall’s many excellent tips included becoming aware of cat stressors: irregular and unpredictable feeding and cleaning times; absence of stroking, over-petting, unpredictable and unfamiliar manipulation, and changes in social environment.

Watch: are you sure the aggression occurs in absence of any provocation and without the cat signaling he is being annoyed?

Note that long-term caging has proven to be counterproductive. It’s important to avoid not only the development of problem behaviors but aggressive incidents. Why? Because, she said, animals learn behaviors at a molecular level and this changes their neurochemistry – making change all the harder.

Another tip: Take a video of the animal at home. When reviewing the video, fast-forward and the problems will jump out.


Many neurological conditions, endocrine disorders, skin disorders, chronic disease and other medical conditions are at the root of behavioral issues. Behavior can change brain chemistry and structure. Prolonged stress sets off a cascade of reactions that can leave us with overstimulated or suppressed immune systems.

Expert vets shed light in a track of sessions so content-rich that they defy summary, but here’s a snapshot of practical ideas:

* Help! Excessive grooming or indoor urination may be a cry for help. Dr. Ellen Lindell observed that many conditions that owners perceive as sudden onset turn out to have developed gradually. Roots can involve a change in owner’s schedule, a new addition (person or pet) to the household, a house remodel with attendant noise (or shuttling the dog in a crate), cutbacks in exercise, a medication change, diet change, or impacted anal glands.

* I itch, therefore I ache. Dr. Vinl Virga focused on attention-seeking and owner-reinforced behaviors, noting how discomfort and pain can change personality as well as habits. So will insufficient physical and mental stimulation. Can cats and dogs hallucinate? Absolutely.

* Stress and disease change behavior. Explained Dr. Gary Landsberg, anxiety and stress set off brain activity. Common outward signs include piloerection – raised fur – in cats and dogs. Chronic stress can alter the brain, in turn changing behavior and sparking aberrant behaviors such as head shaking, hallucinations, escape attempts, excessive grooming, and also hyperglycemia.

Any disease that affects the central nervous system can alter behavior, as can pain (arthritis, dental disease, injury), decreased sensory function (vision and hearing loss add to fear), and altered motor ability.


AVMA members noted interest in complementary and alternative medicine has quadrupled in the last decade. Many attended sessions on acupuncture, chiropractic, medicinal herbs, and holistic principles – and a hot emerging modality.

* Electromedicine: The Wave of the Future?

Dr. Ava Frick is an expert in this alternative to “chemical medicine,” which uses micro-currents to treat behavioral problems, relieve chronic pain, mediate storm phobias, alleviate phantom limb pain, restore function to paralyzed animals, sterilize wounds, speed up tissue growth, and heal wounds.
All at levels too low enough to sense.

Electromedicine is based on the proposition that biological processes are electromagnetic. Publicized by Robert Becker in his book “The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life,” the modality was used to treat surface wounds over 300 years ago when charged gold leaf was found to prevent smallpox scars. Work in 1960s demonstrated its use for accelerated skin healing; Becker maintained electrical activity is what enables salamanders to regenerate the cells of lost limbs.

Dr. Frick explained that all of the senses are based on pulse transmissions. Mircocurrent application helps the body’s hard and soft tissue “regain its capacitance so healing can begin.” She cited success with golden retrievers, horses and cats suffering from gaping wounds, fears and pain.

* Chiropractic:

Chiropractic care offers another treatment avenue; the practitioner mechanically corrects a structural problem without drug therapy and surgery. Derived from the Greek words for “hand” and “practice,” chiropractic employs the hands to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Gene Giggleman explained how correcting vertebral subluxations that create imbalance helps the body heal itself. When nervous interference disturbs biomechanical and neurological function, the chiropractor releases nervous energy to flow to the tissues.

A chiropractic adjustment is a specific force applied in a specific direction to a specific vertebra. On a neurological level, it affects both mechanoreceptors (movement impulses) and nociceptors (pain receptors). The goals: reduce pain, restore normal joint motion, stimulate neurological reflexes and relax muscles, improve range of motion, and “ affect extracellular and extravascular fluid flow.”

* Acupuncture

Dr. Joseph Kincaid discussed acupuncture techniques that could be used with or without needles. The ancient practice stimulates points on the body to release and disperse blocked energy within the body. “This is real science, not hocus-pocus,” he said.

Every vet and owner can help animals by conducting the 4 Examinations, based on the principles that history-taking is not enough; you must ask the animal how he feels.

He gave examples of food nutrition translating to energy and through energy, supporting immune function and healing the body. Disrputions of electromagnetic patterns throw off bird navigation and are largely responsible, he explained, for colony collapse disorder (CCD) imperiling bee survival.

Pathogens, parasites and predators can sense disruptions in a body’s healthy electromagnetic fields. This may sound like junk science – until realizing the reliance of even Western medicine on energy fields, such as in diagnosis. Example: the EEG, a picture of composite radiation of the energy put out by brain cells.

Notable quote: “Literature shows that when you put a needle in a dog’s butt to open up a flow, the dog feels great.”

Caveat: Good nutrition is a prerequisite for these therapies. The same surely goes for traditional therapies.

* Holistic Principles:

Dr. Robert Silver explained how concerns over overvaccination, processed pet food, increased incidence of cancers, and dead-ends with allopathic (Western) medicine are spurring more veterinarians nationwide to make referrals to alternative health specialists and integrate holistic treatments into their own practices.

Areas of increased interest include Ayruveda, which is Hindu Indian traditional holistic medicine based on body balance, integrating diet, herbal treatment, and yoga exercise. Herbal therapies were covered in detail by Dr. Stephanie Schwartz.


Laurie McCauley gave a lively presentation about canine rehabilitation tools and techniques.
The most important tool? Hands

Her novel, smart practices included targeted use of knuckles to motivate recovering animals to walk. Tailwork often yields rapid results. Smearing peanut butter along wall to persuade an animal to walk? Priceless.

Dr. Jacqueline Davidson discussed passive manipulations such as PROM – passive range of motion exercises.

Good points: Withhold medications during periods of increase to avoid masking signs of pain – since pain signals harm to the joint. Watch weight – excess will stress joints. And don’t subject the recovering animal to slippery flooring.


* Home-Made Diet Do’s and Don’ts

Given today’s increasing interest in home-cooked diets for pets , Dr. Korinn Saker warned that a fresh diet can be risky if not nutritionally customized to the individual. Her case in point: a very young Sheltie who suffered from skeletal changes and fractures due to an inadequate homemade diet.

Ingredient balance, quality and preparation are key. An expert review should be done before feeding a homemade diet. Evaluate factors such as sources and ratios of protein, carbs, fat, calcium and other minerals and vitamins. Online experts and computer programs are available to develop nutritious custom diets.

Tips: a human adult daily vitamin can be used, but not the gender-tailored varieties.

Dr. Robert Silver weighed in with the holistic perspective. He noted evidence that processing of foods, both human and pet, creates byproducts that have inflammatory and insulin dysregulating side effects linked to degenerative health conditions. Some kibble and canned foods contain potentially toxic byproducts. Reactive oxidative species can be created by food processing, leading to tissue damage down the road. Then there are chemical preservatives, aflatoxins and other mycotoxins occasionally contaminating commercial kibble, and basic lack of whole foods.

Interesting side-benefit of milled flax seed, a highly recommended addition to dog and cat diets: the fiber will help manage hairballs.

He agrees that the client tendency to substitute ingredients – “Recipe Drift” – can unbalance the diet.

Not ready to commit to daily homecooking for your pet? Dr. Silver suggests preparing at least one good homemade unprocessed meal a week. Also, people who eat healthy whole foods can make extra and share with their pets. Tip; Remove a half cup of kibble per each cup of fresh food supplements.

* Nutritional Myths: Fat is unhealthy and causes diarrhea? Panelists said not so. Balance is necessary for digestion and health. Dietary allergies are common? Dietary intolerance is more common.


* Pet Food Crisis – Lessons Learned: Panelists analyzed their own organizations’ responses to the melamine-tainted pet food additives from China that poisoned pets across the U.S. Lessons included: Convey facts as soon as they’re confirmed. Set up multiple channels for consumers and health professionals to get answers and to report cases. Establish linkages between industry associations and government agencies. Investigate immediately. The first consumer complaints were filed with Menu Foods Feb. 20. On April 2, the Chinese government was still denying its exports were contaminated, though its mislabeled rice protein and wheat gluten concentrates entered the U.S. in 2006.

And: take pet poisoning seriously, which the major media failed to do, preferring to chase wayward celebrities and rehash political hijinks – leaving bloggers to do the initial investigative reporting.

Wal-mart demonstrated a proactive response, programming check-out scanners to block the sale of recalled foods, noted Pet Central host Steve Dale.

* Mating Isn’t Just About Multiplying: In her talk on “Sexual Diversity in the Animal Kingdom,” Joan Roughgarden presented evidence to disprove Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, which assigned behaviors by gender and labeled same-sex sexual play as maldaptive social behavior. The Stanford University researcher said homosexuality has been documented in more than 450 unique vertebrate species, from bighorn sheep to bonobos, fruit flies to sunfish.

In the animal kingdom and other human cultures, straight and gay are not mutually exclusive. Those friendly copulations between female macaques? They foster social stability, akin to cooperative game theory, said Roughgarden. She regards the hetero/homo distinction is purely a cultural creation. Then there are co-fathering communities of birds. Viva la difference.

* Radiofrequency Surgery: Gaining fans due to its pinpoint precision, tactile feel while making incisions, cutting at lower heat than lasers thus enabling faster healing, scalpel-speed with less bleeding.

* One Health Initiative: Promotes collaboration between nonhuman animal and human physicians, researchers, and epidemiologists to improve public health. In the past 25 years, 75% of the emerging diseases have been zoonotic, such as avian flu and SARS. “Zoonotic disease a growth industry,” said keynote speaker Julie Gerberding, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The melamine-poisoned pet food crisis was a sentinel that triggered action before the poison-laced China exports spread too far in farm animal and human food products. In addition to pathogenic infections and deadly food additives, the effort will limit the destruction of potential bioterrorism. SARS, which sprung from the animal slaughter and marketing practices in some Asian provinces, reached an epidemic tipping point in 48 hours as it spread between guests in a hotel in which a research doctor was staying; it led to 8,000 ill and 800 dead.

On the domestic health front, Americans spend excessively but not wisely. “We need to get our voice heard over the cacophony of junk science,” said Dr. Gerberding. “We need to reach Dr. Mom” – with common sense messages such as “wash your hands!”

* End of Life Overtreatment: Per a Best Friends Animal Sanctuary vet, waiting too long before euthanasia is common. Technology exists to lengthen life, but quality of life is something vet should help their clients evaluate.

* Reconcile – a new separation anxiety drug: The first drug approved by the FDA for treating canine separation anxiety, the once daily, chewable tablets harness serontonin, “the civilizing neurotransmitter,” to reduce anxiety. Other anti-anxiety drugs such as amitriptylene and chomicalm affect multiple neurotransmitters resulting in wider-ranging side effects. Dr. Barbara Sherman emphasized it does not alone alone; it’s part of the medication, modification, management trinity.

* New Test Kit Detect Breed Ancestry in Mixed Breed Dogs: “Doctor, what is my dog?” Now vets can answer the question they’ve been hearing for 400 years.

Many characteristic breed traits and diseases are hereditary. Genetic screening can identify animals at risk of certain breed-linked diseases, drug sensitivities, and behavioral traits before onset of clinical signs. Based on blood testing of 13,000 purebred dogs, Mars Inc. developed the DNA-based Wisdom Panel MX kit that ID’s the breed heritage of mixed-breed dogs within 3 weeks.

* Farm Animal Aid: Downer cows were briefly in the news with the recent federal government decision to permanently prohibit slaughter of nonambulatory cattle for use as food. But they were also on the AVMA conference program as vets discussed treatment issues. For example, when lying down, a cow’s body weight can apply enough pressure to cause nerve and muscle damage. Physical therapy can help the animal stand on hind limbs; devices include hip clamps, slings and flotation tanks. Injury, calving trauma and poor nutrition can result in the syndrome. Nutritional therapy will help.

In his presentation on Herd Lameness Dynamics, Dr. Nigel Cook noted that cows kept standing on concrete walkways in intensively managed dairy herds leads to claw horn lesion development, and poor lying times are a significant risk factor for lameness.

Worth noting: There are economical methods for large-scale livestock operations that do not require the extreme confinement, deprivation and privation that dominate the industry today, wrote Nedim C. Buyukmihci, president, Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and professor at University of California’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Labor cost savings from factory farming is offset by the cost of equipment, water, fuel and other factors, as well as compromised human health, soil health, depletion of resources that will be needed by future generations. He cited a pasture system developed by University of Tennessee proved more efficient and less costly than a traditional confinement system. There were less post-weaning losses and disease and better consistency in sow and pig performance.

* Other notable sessions: New vaccination guidelines summarized by Dr. Richard Ford (who predicts a 4-way lepto vaccine to arrive by year-end and explained the downsides of a vaccine adverse reaction database). NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci zipped through a survey of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. Among arresting points: The problem with HIV/AIDS vac development: with all other diseases, the best path has been to study those healthy immune responses to the pathogen and mimic in vax. HIV not one spontaneous recovery from it, so can’t mimic body’s attempts to fight the disease.


* Holistic animal health

* Animal Protection

Animal Welfare Institute
Wealth of literature on Animals’ Legal Rights, Childhood Cruelty, Threatened Wildlife, Farm and Laboratory Animals (even those professionals who do not oppose animal research or use of animals for food and fiber still stress the need for compassionate treatment, environmental enrichment and prevention of physical and mental suffering among these animals who give their lives involuntarily to satisfy human demands); Alternatives to Animal Testing, Animal Dealers.

* AVAR Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
Nonprofit committed to humane treatment; recommends modifying the Veterinary Oath to base it upon the interests and needs of the individual nonhuman animal. Information on animal lab standards, improving factory farm conditions, non-animal research alternatives, and healthy life-supporting diets for all.

* Veterinary Services and Locators

* Organic-related health news and food/farming

* Vaccination

AAHA Canine Vaccine Guidelines

AAFP Feline Vaccine Guidelines

A few of the many products in the exhibition hall:

* Health Supporting Supplements

Geri-Form intracellular nutrition for geriatric and convalescing animals.

Standard Process unique formulas

* New book

Blackwell's Five-Minute Consult Clinical Companion: Canine And Feline Behavior by
vets Debra Horwitz and Jacqueline Neilson (who spoke at the convention)

* Sorbay Pet Oral Care

* New Greenies animal dental products and Pill Pockets

Friday, July 13, 2007

Art-iculate interpretation of the news

50th Anniversary Convention
July 4-7, 2007
Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC

* Attendees: Drew such a crowd that the number of cartoonists exceeded seats.

* Lower Common Denominator: Town Hall comment about newspapers today: “It’s the only industry where as they lose customers they make the product worse.”

* Views on View: The “Bush Leaguers” political cartoon competition features 99 winners drawn from some 800 entries; they’re on view a few weeks at the American University/Katzen Museum of Art.

* Deciding on a Decider theme: Said Rob Rogers, AAEC president and cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, cartoonists would have trouble digging back any further. These artists dwell in and on the here and now. The contest received 800 entries.

* Ha to the Chief: Referring to the exhibition, syndicated correspondent and special guest speaker Helen Thomas said there’s not much to laugh about with this White House, but it’s a gold mine for satirists.

* Crank Case: Pulitzer winner Walt Handelsman with Newsday draws 4 cartoons a week and produces an animation video each month for the paper’s website. These include “Pirates of the Constitution” and an NSA musical send-up reimagining the lyrics of Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

* Truth and Dare: From the AAEC’s 50th Anniversary commemorative book: Jeff MacNelly once described the profession as such: “Political cartoonists violate every rule of ethical journalism – they misquote, trifle with the truth, make science fiction out of politics and sometimes should be held for personal libel. But when the smoke clears, the political cartoonist has been getting closer to the truth than the guys who write political opinions.”

Sampling the Sessions:

- Blog Or Die! (“Is this the wave of the future or just an act of desperation to hold on to readers and advertisers?)

Does blogging trivialize journalist? Or is it a vital medium for airing views that don’t get published in newspapers? Who has time to read blogs? The public – or it is mostly other bloggers?

What about hecklers with keyboards? Bozo filters let the blogger post comments visible only to the commenter.

Why blog? “There are more things I’m angry about than cartoon slots,” replied one blogging cartoonist.

- Funny People Who Don’t Draw

Kevin Bleyer, writer for the Daily Show and previously for Bill Maher and Dennis Miller, admitted he could be characterized as a centrist or intellectual prostitute. He described serendipitous moments like noticing that the Bushism, “When the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down” had 17 syllables, leading to a hilarious haiku for the Daily Show. And then there was the Metaphorical Mapquest....

- What’s So Funny About War?

What’s the role of the cartoonist in wartime? Panelists such as Ted Rall contrasted being embedded with the troops and drawing from the safety of a cubicle.

“You don’t have to depict Mohammed in your cartoon to get threatened,” said Signe Wilkinson, whose daughter’s teacher was among those picketing the Philadelphia Daily News in protest of one of her panels.

War correspondent David Axe learned a novel treatment overseas for the parasite giardia: eat a whole garlic and wash it down with beer.

- What Do You Mean You’re Not Animating Yet?

Kevin “KAL” Kallaugher, longtime Baltimore Sun and The Economist cartoonist, described the process of creating 3-D figures for animations, starting with styrofoam blocks. He then blends shapes, paint skin, textures and colors of puppets – then use motion capture technology to animate bodies quickly. An actor wears a suit lined with LEDs; as he moves around, the sensors plot and track, create a moving character.

He showed a gardening-themed satire of pro-war politicians: “You’re either for poison ivy or against it ... is this just a ploy to distract from your failed gardening projects?”

* Election Prospects: Political analyst Mark Shields quipped: “this is a field in which Bill Clinton could be the family values candidate.” And speaking of that former president’s don’t ask/don’t tell military policy: “It’s OK if Uncle Sam wants you, but if you want Uncle Sam, keep it to yourself.”

As for John Kerry: “so unexciting that his secret service name is...John Kerry.”

And with a nod to Red Smith: “I love writing except for the paperwork.”

* Resources:

Association of American Editorial Cartoonists

Article on related exhibition of recent editorial cartoons of note:

Animated editorial cartoons

Alternative Presidential Library:

Monday, June 25, 2007

KNOW Book Notes: Six Arguments for a Greener Diet

Six Arguments for a Greener Diet
by Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., and the staff of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Green is the new black. But it transcends fads, since it’s about reducing impact on the environment, using sustainable practices that don’t irreversibly deplete resources, and producing products with minimal or no risk to health. Going green has been touted as a way each of us can help save the world. Greening our diets can help save the world and out lives.

In this well-researched, thoroughly documented wake up call, the authors enumerate many compelling reasons to adopt a more plant-based diet. Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” reveals the origins of the foods we eat, and “Six Arguments” trains its telephoto lens on the environment impact of specific food-raising and livestock management practices on the land, waterways, air, our own health and that of other species.

To aid short attention span readers, each chapter ends with a summary of “What It All Means.”

Consider these examples of environmental impact statements:

* Its takes 4,500 gallons of rain and irrigation water to produce a quarter-pound of beef. About 7 pounds of corn is needed to add 1 pound of weight to feedlot cattle. It takes 1 pound: of fertilizer to produce 3 pounds of cooked beef. Yes, it takes resources to grow fruits and vegetables – a tiny fraction of what goes into producing an equivalent amount of animal-derived food.

* Livestock plus the manure lagoons on factory farms generate enough methane to produces nearly as much global warming as the release of carbon dioxide from 33 million automobiles.

* Health? A 16% decrease in death from heart disease is associated with eating one extra serving of fruits or vegetables each day. Vegetarians have 24% fewer heart attacks as nonvegetarians. To save money, factory farms switched cattle from the natural diet of grass to mainly corn/grain. But a steer fed grain rather than grass has meat that’s twice as fatty.

About 63,000 people die from coronary heart disease annually that is linked to fat and cholesterol in meat, dairy, poultry and eggs. Adding to the toll are the toxic chemicals, such as PCBs that accumulate in livestock animals’ muscle, fat and milk, linked to 50,000 to 100,000 premature deaths each year.

This doesn’t include the established but hushed link between colon cancer and beef consumption and prostate cancer and milk. America spends $37 billion annually on drugs to treat high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Those who profit from work at and investments in these drugs or from factory farms don’t support such research. But to be sure, this issue affects health, quality of life, length of life, worker, productivity insurance costs, and your wallet.

Full of illuminating studies, the brief, pithy paperback is a must-read for the sake of your health and that of your family. And even reading just the first few pages – which feature the chart “The Web of Animal -Based Foods and Problems” and the quick-list of facts called “Eating Green: By the Numbers” – will make you a more enlightened consumer. And a healthier, more socially responsible one if you modify your diet as a result.

And if you care about animals....

Consider these examples of treatment of animals used in agribusiness, specifically factory farming. A half-square foot allotted to the average layer hen. The hogs whose tails are chopped off and chickens whose beaks are cut off to reduce the financial costs of psychological stress. (See farm animal handling systems engineer Temple Grandness book “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior” for the effects of profit-squeezing treatment on factory farmed animals.

And the growing number of filmed documentation of chickens smashed against walls and cattle having their throats slit and hoisted in the air by their legs while still conscious indicates such inhumane treatment occurs frequently – when there is no need for it to happen at all. (See the documentary “Peaceable Kingdom,” which features live footage as well as testimony from farmers and workers.)

To meet the demands of carne consumers, 140 million cows, steer, pigs and sheep are slaughtered each year. 13,200 chickens are killed every hour in a modern slaughterhouse. In return for giving their short lives to satisfy human appetites, at minimum humans could treat these animals humanely.

Under the radar, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI) has developed the “Eating Green” project, which proposes a more plant-based diet to protect health and the environment. As a nonprofit, CPS lacks the financial firepower of the huge factory farming industry (which includes the well-funded and politically protected and government-subsidized beef, diary, poultry, pork and other animal product industries). It does have a boatload of research findings from scientists and doctors.

Most people don’t think about the source of the foods they eat. They don’t know that producing the vast quantities of corn, soybean meal, alfalfa and other ingredients of livestock for humankind’s dining table requires vast quantities of natural resources and thousands of square miles of land. Much of the Midwest’s grasslands and forests have been plowed over by grain farms.

Because of all the fertilizer that washes down the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico has a poorly oxygenated “dead zone” the size of New Jersey. Farming and development practices continue to kill aquatic life, including “commercially valuable” seafood. The dead zone is caused largely by agricultural fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farms.

What is the true cost of raising so many animals to kill for human food? What are the effects on human health and the environment that’s being leeched by our generation?

We can’t get into the fully secured feedlots and poultry factory farms, but the book will offer a real-world view beyond the well-funded public image campaigns that tell consumers to eat more and more animal products.

* Some illuminations from “Six Arguments for a Greener Diet”:

Nutrition researchers examined the ecological impact of 3 diets: the typical Western diet, low meat and lacto-ovo vegetarian. Compared to a typical diet, a low-meat diet uses 41% less energy and generates 37% less carbon dioxide equivalents (greenhouse gases) and 50 percent less sulfur dioxide equivalents (respiratory problems, acid rain). For a lacto-ovo (animal flesh-free) vegetarian diet, the savings are even greater: 54% less energy 52% less carbon dioxide equivalents and 66% less sulfur dioxide equivalents. Though not studied, the diet with the smaller environment foot print is vegan (no eggs, milk or other animal-derived products).

What to eat instead of animal-derived foods? Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains (grains that have not been processed to remove the high-fiber bran and germ, which contain much of the protein, vitamins like the B family, and minerals), and healthful oils such as flax oil. Specific diet modifications are listed in a practical “Changing Your Own Diet” section.

Much of the book focuses on “Changing Government Policies.” Not sexy reading, but important and long ignored, overfeeding the corporate farming machine for several decades – in turn, making change an uphill struggle.

Eating lower on the food chain is a big step in a healthy direction. Also watch the intake of salt, partially hydrogenated oils, and sugar -- itself produced from sugar cane, the raising of which contributes to environmentally destruction

The U.S. has set an example, and upward-aspiring citizens of developing countries – such as China, India, Indonesia – are following our footsteps to the meat counter. Per Earth Policy Institute president and global agriculture researcher Lester Brown (author of the 2006 book on environment solutions, “Plan B 2.0”), the animal-rich American diet requires the production of four times as much grain per person as the average Indian diet. If the whole world’s population were to eat as much meat as Westerners, two-thirds more farm land would be needed. The increased demand for water, fertilizer and pesticides would increase pollution and eventually devastate the planet.

Another point brought up in the quest to update the U.S. Farm Bill: Farmers who grow crops to feed livestock receive billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded annual subsidies, hundreds of times more than received by fruit and vegetable growers. This practice is increasingly out-to-step with the government’s evolving dietary guidelines being promoted to the public.

We’re reminded of the cattle industry’s successful tactics to defeat South Dakota George McGovern after the senator – respected for being guided by ethics that shielded his public stands and his votes from lobbyist/campaign contributor influence – suggested that people eat less beef.

What about alternative food sources to America’s entrenched factory production/consumption complex? Those not ready to grow their own food can shop at farmers’ markets, local veg/fruit farms, coops and CSAs (community-supported agriculture) – as well as grocers that offer humanely raised, locally grown, organic and healthful whole (unprocessed) foods.

Myths exploded: why the “goodness” of grain-fed livestock is good only for producers and marketers, not consumers. Corn and grain fatten an animal faster, meaning they go to slaughter sooner and at a younger age, but the meat is fattier (and more artery-clogging) and lower-grade.

Consumption of any kind of beef was shown to increase colon cancer risk in various studies.

Notes the book: “The practices that lead to the fastest production and cheapest prices are not what’s best for the consumer’s health.”

As for healthy omega-3 fatty acids, the best, purest sources are flaxseed, followed by canola and soybean oils. The book also notes the popularity of fish oil.

Realizing the dependence of Western consumers on animal-derived foods, the authors note that those who do eat beef should seek that from cattle raised on pastureland instead of factory farmed grain-fed. This would “dramatically reduce the fat content of beef, the waste and pollution of water and the fouling of air caused by manure and agricultural chemicals, and the misery experienced by the cattle consigned to feedlots.”

Argument 1: Less Chronic Disease and Better Overall Health

Our diet is killing us. The saturated fat and cholesterol in beef, pork, dairy foods, poultry and eggs have been proven to cause some 63,000 fatal heart attacks a year.

Vegetarians have lower levels of cholesterol, less obesity, hypertension, diabetes, strokes and other maladies than carnes (people whose diet includes animal flesh).

Although Americans are eating one-third fewer eggs (egg yolks are the key source of cholesterol, which leads to heart disease) than in 1953, Americans are eating 4 times as much cheese, which is high in saturated fat and is clearly linked to heart disease.

There are non-animal-derived dietary culprits too: refined grains used for white bread, white pasta, white rice), which are stripped of many nutrients and fiber; sodas high in refined sugars (including high-fructose corn syrup, or HFCS), which replace more healthful foods; and baked goods and fried foods, particularly with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Instead, humans thrive better eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Enlightening findings of studies compare vegetarian and nonvegetarian Seventh Day Adventists, the Mediterranean Diet (heavy on vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts; light on animal products), a vegan diet for fighting the progression of prostate disease, a study of the impact of switching to a plant-based diet on patients with coronary artery disease; intervention studies using a low-fat vegetarian diet on type 2 diabetes – enabling the patients to discontinue use of insulin and another on the pain- and symptom-relieving effects of a vegan diet for diabetes patients. Also addressed: the possible preventative effects of certain dietary approaches on cancer (good candidates include tomatoes, citrus fruits and cruciferous vegs).

There’s a handy chart outlining specific foods that help prevent/fight disease (plant sterols, folates, legumes) or aggravate (alcohol, dairy, salt) diseases. “Beans, beans, good for your heart....” the childhood ditty rings true. Ditto for certain nuts.

Debates over soy, the bone-strengthening effects of dairy, fish risks and nutrients, and specific components of these and other foods provide actual nourishment are addressed. For dairy, this includes vitamin D and potassium, for example, which can be found in many plants (spinach, cantaloupe, beans and bananas, for example). And what components cause harm, such as pesticides that suppress the immune system and cause autoimmune disorders.

Argument 2: Less Foodborne Illness

“Chicken, ducks and pigs serve as major reservoirs for flu viruses. Because pigs can become infected with both human and avian strains of a given virus, the viruses may swap genes, creating a new harmful strain to which humans may be susceptible.” Tight quarters speeds spread of disease.

When food poisoning germs are resistant to antibiotics, ordinary illnesses may become life-threatening.

We’re courting disaster when we allow farmers to use penicillin, erythromycin and other key antibiotics for economic – not medical – reasons.” For example: “Using low levels of antibiotics day in and day out on millions of animals greatly increases the chances that bacteria – including those that cause foodborne illnesses – will develop antibiotic resistance. The problem arises when a germ happens to mutate in one of several ways that reduces the antibiotic’s effectiveness. The tougher new bacteria pump the antibiotic out of their cells, degrade the antibiotic, change the antibiotic’s chemical structure, or modify target molecules to ‘fool’ the antibiotic.”

*** “Just as public health experts finally figured out that cleaning up water and air drastically reduced infectious diseases in people, so agribusiness should turn to different approaches to prevent illnesses in their animals. If they cleaned up their hog sheds, gave their chickens more room to roam around, stopped feeding cattle an unnatural grain-rich diet, and bred animals not just to grow fast but to have strong immune systems, farmers could both raise healthier animals and protect the effectiveness of precious antibiotics.”

Problems are exacerbated by the federal government’s incomplete and fragmented food-safety system. The U.S. lacks a system to track animals and meat from the farm to the slaughterhouse to the table. So health officials can’t trace the cause of a food-poisoning outbreak. Also, the government can’t require food processors to recall suspect projects; instead, they must negotiate with companies; meanwhile more get sick. There are no fines for violating the law from the USDA, and the FDA can only fine a company $1,000. As for imported foods, the USDA has the power to inspect foreign processing plants, but the FDA does not. (Plus USDA is famous for lack of actual inspections.)

Speaking of a fractured system, the FDA oversees dehydrated beef soup, the USDA regulates dehydrated chicken soup. FDA regulates chicken broth, but the USDA regulates beef broth.

The authors raise a critical question in an age when people seek high-tech antidotes to health risks that have logical, low-tech solutions – or rather, preventive strategies. Where is the wisdom of attacking food-safety problems with the development of costly new technology from steam-treating to acid-washing beef carcasses to vaccinating poultry to irradiating cuts of meat? More effective and ultimately more economical: address the root causes of animal disease, dishealth, disease transmission (see above).

*** How can you make a difference? Vote with your wallet and protect your health at the same time: consume fewer animal products. And wash your fruits and vegetables since microbes and fertilizer leeches into the soil and travels far and wide.

Argument #3: Better Soil

Modern agriculture practices have put immense demands on soil. Growing crops for animal feed erodes the topsoil, a precious commodity for all agriculture.

Raising almost 100 million acres of feed crops for livestock production depletes topsoil of nutrients and causes erosion. 22 billion pounds of fertilizer, about half of all fertilizer applied in the the US, gets applied to lands used to grow feed grains for American livestock each year. The energy used to manufacture that fertilizer could provide a year’s worth of power for about 1 million Americans. Soil, and crops can be contaminated with cadmium, lead and other heavy metals in sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers.

Monocropping is hard on land, but that’s how so many farmers respond to the huge demand for feed grains. Inadequate crop rotation with corn and other crops also causes big problems.

*** It takes a pound of fertilizer to produce 2 1/2 pounds of cooked pork. One pound of fertilizer is required to produce 3 pounds of cooked beef. Hogs are the least fertilizer-efficient of major farm animals. Unlike cattle, they eat grains their entire lives.

Argument 4: More and Cleaner Water

Agriculture uses about 80% of all freshwater in the U.S. Example: Lake McConaughy, once “Nebraska’s ocean” and a haven for migrating birds, is now a mud hole after years of heavy irrigation by farmers raising animal feed grains such as soybeans and corn. Half the lake’s water has been lost.

*** It takes 1,000 gallons of irrigation water to produce a quarter-pound of animal protein.
Half of all irrigation water is used to raise livestock. 14 trillion gallons per year are used to water crops grown to feed U.S. livestock; another 1 trillion are used directly by livestock producers.

The water used to irrigate just alfalfa and hay – 7 trillion gallons per year – exceeds the irrigation needs of all the vegetables, berries and fruit orchards combined.

Farms pollute water with fertilizer, pesticides, manure, antibiotics and eroded soil.

About 90 percent of U.S. water is renewable, coming from rain, lakes and rivers. The remainder comes mainly from nonrenewable underground aquifers AKA groundwater. In the U.S., agriculture consumes 80% of freshwater and over 60% of groundwater.

Taxpayers pay for irrigation for livestock producers through heavy tax subsidies. The World Resources Institute estimates that the federal government – rather, us taxpayers – pays an average 83% of the costs of irrigation projects.

California’s Central Valley has log suffered a host of environmental problems due to over-irrigation including “devastation of fish and wildlife habitat and severe toxic pollution.” according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group., which also notes that American taxpayers provide up to $416 million per year for California’s Central Valley Project.

Pollution also comes from manure lagoons. For example, an 8-acre cesspool breach that spilled 22 million gallons of waste from the Oceanview Hog Farm into NC’s New River Basin in June 1995.

Modern farming practices pollute water. Irrigation leds to erosion, runoff and salinization. In California, selenium – a naturally occurring element in soil – was so highly concentrated in irrigation water runoff that it caused an epidemic of deformities in migrating waterfowl, including hatchlings born with no eyes or feet. (photo)

Salinization: water contains salts; irrigation water carries those salts onto cropland. When the water evaporates, salts are left behind. Salt buildup reduces crop yields. Estimates put the affected acreage at about 10 million acres, or almost 20% of all irrigated land.

Fertilizers, including manure, suffocate aquatic life. Runoff from fertilizer and manure is the biggest polluter of lakes and ponds and among the top 5 polluters of rivers and streams. When those nutrients wash into waterways, they promote excessive growth of aquatic plants and algae. That increased growth leads to oxygen depletion and eutrophication – the decomposition of vegetation that absorbs almost all oxygen in the water (hypoxia). Aquatic species then either suffocate or if they can swim are forced out of the affected area.

Phosphate fertilizers -- 12 million tons of which are produced annually – are made by treating phosphate rock with strong acids. A byproduct is highly corrosive chemicals that cause air and water pollution, including hydrogen fluoride. Chronic exposure to hydrogen fluoride weakens the skeleton and can irreparably damage any tissue in the body.

See “Dead zone” reference above.

Manure contains ammonia, thus using too much manure on cropland can pollute waterways and soil with pathogens (dangerous bacteria) and excess nutrients.

Antibiotics in manure contaminate water. (Factory farming uses antibiotics as a crutch with disastrous consequences.)

Pesticides wash off of farmland, infiltrating waterways and soil far and wide. (See articles about pollution carried by such waterways as the Mississippi dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.)

“Cutting back on meat consumption would protect waterways from pollution caused by fertilizer production, runoff from chemical fertilizer and manure, and soil erosion. Of course, producing more fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts still would require water, but far less than is needed to produce animal products.”

Argument #5 : Cleaner Air

Burning fossil fuel emits noxious gases, particulate matter, and methane.

Argument #6: Less Animal Suffering

More and more consumer-citizens are echoing the concern expressed by West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd: How long will we tolerate the barbaric treatment of the helpless, defenseless creatures raised to feed our families?”

Each year in the U.S., food producers slaughter 140 million cattle, pigs, and sheep, 9 billion chickens and turkeys, and millions of fish, shellfish and other sea creatures.

Industrially farmed chickens are raised in huge, crowded sheds. Most never see the outdoors; many exhibit abnormal behavior. Layer hens live in tiny cages, are debeaked, and are periodically starved to maximize egg production.

* The unnatural high-grain diets of cattle in feedlots are linked to liver, hoof and digestive diseases.

* Pregnant and nursing pigs spend most of their lives in pens so small they cannot even turn around in them.

* Fish bycatch: Billions of pounds of commercially useless fish, turtles and other sea animals are unintentionally caught as bycatch and discarded, dead or dying.

* Wildlife is poisoned by pesticides applied to crops [see research news reports about “mysterious” mass deaths in Virginia’s Shenandoah and James Rivers, the Potomac...with frogs born with with excess appendages... and elsewhere].

Farm animals die of injuries or illnesses before they reach the slaughterhouse [Google “downed animals” to learn about another whole category of animals suffering at the hands of factory farm workers before these pitiful animals are processed into the food supply.]

* The egg industry literally shreds millions of male chicks at birth since they don’t lay eggs and they don’t produce tender meat. Cruel, painful methods include suffocation and grinding machines or macerators (in which the chicks are placed alive). Details at

* Chickens to be used for food are separated early from their mothers – visibly traumatic for both mother and offspring, who bawl for each other. Neuroses result.

* Food animals are not protected by federal animal welfare laws. “Inconvenient” parts are removed using usually painful methods without sedatives or anesthesia – debeaking, dehorning, tail docking, detoeing, chopping off testes.

* Economics in part spur ranchers to castrate bull calves: packers pay less for bulls than for steers, ostensibly because consumers prefer the fattier steer meat.

* Sows are confined to gestation crates, resulting in psychological suffering, sickness and organ problems.

* Chickens are confined 5 to 7 at a time in battery cages. A single farm may house up to 800,000 birds at a time. Wire floors injure feet and legs, catch head neck wings in the wire sides.

* Pigs and cattle and chickens are forced to eat, sleep, stand where urinate and defecate.

** Many of the abnormal behaviors of confined pigs, including tail biting, may be reduced simply by providing them with straw, sawdust or other fibrous material. Straw keeps floors drier and helps piglets stay warm. It also keeps animals from slipping, thereby reducing leg injuries. Finally, it helps alleviate the tedium by allowing them to build nests and engage in other natural forms of behavior.

* Animals on factory, and some other, farms today, are fed like living garbage disposals. They’re fed foods contaminated with pesticides and feed from unknown/suspect origins, some found to contain PCBs and other industrial byproducts that pollute the environment. A 2000 FDA test found that 44% of samples of animal feed contained with pesticide residues, with 2% exceeding the legal limits.

* Feedlot operators use antibiotics and antacids routinely to prevent and treat diseases caused by the unnatural high-grain diets in cattle. One-fourth of all baking soda produced in the US is fed to livestock. Growth hormones are routinely fed to livestock hurt humans.

* Since large-scale farm operators do not allow visits and bar reporters from their sites, some have gone in with hidden camera: “In 2004, workers at a West Virginia facility owned by Pilgrim’s Pride – the second largest poultry producer in the U.S. – were caught on videotape stomping on live chickens, throwing them against walls, and kicking them.”

* Poultry litter is a euphemism for the mixture of manure, feathers, wood chips and spilled feed collected from the floors of poultry houses. It is commonly fed to other animals.

* Transportation can be harrowing for the animals. Cattle not meant to be moved. Sheep have been inhumanely treated during transported by ship.

* Abattoirs: slaughterhouses are hell for workers too. An undercover videotape revealed widespread routine mistreatment. The New York Times described the taped scene: “After steers were cut by a ritual slaughterer, workers pulled out the animals’ tracheas with a hook to speed bleeding. In the tape, the animals were shown staggering around the killing pen with their windpipes dangling out, slamming their heads against walls and soundlessly trying to bellow. One animal took three minutes to stop moving.”

* In these venues of slow and excruciating deaths, some holding areas have no water. So animals are parched with thirst as well as frightened while waiting for death. [For better alternative facility design and handling that would even benefit high-volume animal producers along with the animals, see Temple Grandin’s books.]

* Layer hens are typically conscious when their throats are slit. Why aren’t they stunned? Again, profit-focused “efficiency”: because their bones, due to a life without exercise or room to move, are so brittle they shatter when exposed to electrical current.

In contrast to American practices, Switzerland banned the use of cages barren of nesting materials; the European Union (EU) is in the process of banning them as well.

* Wildlife also affected by factory farm practices that result in destructive algae bloom and runoff pesticides causing sickness, birth defects and death in animals “downstream.”

* “Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy” by Matthew Scully, former presidential speechwriter shed light on the cruelties imposed on farmed animals.

The “Making Change “ section of the book offers steps that individual consumers can take that will make a difference.

Such as changing your own diet. The authors explain how what you choose to eat makes ripples throughout the economy.

They present various dietary guidelines from health organizations. The takeaway from the pyramids and professionals: Eat more vegetables and fruits, and nuts and whole grains, cut the amount of fatty sugary foods, and minimize intake of animal-derived foods.

The Mediterranean diet food pyramid now being adopted worldwide suggests reducing meat consumption to monthly; sweets, eggs, poultry, fish weekly; cheese, yogurt, and more olive oil, fruits, beans legumes and nuts, vegetables, whole grains – and exercise – daily. Alternatives include the DASH (hypertension) and the Vegetarian food pyramids.

If continuing to eat animal-derived foods, buy ones that cause the least misery for the animals: eggs from uncaged hens, beef from cattle not raised on a feedlot/factory farm, pork and poultry from pigs and birds who could roam about, and milk from cows allowed to graze on pastures. Look for labels such as “humanely raised,” [note: not always accurate, but the system is a start....] and at farmer’s markets, where you can ask farmers about their practices. Note that some “organically raised” animals are not necessarily “humanely raised.” The book includes a helpful appendix.

When changing your diet for health, environmental or ethical reasons, remember that avoiding fatty meat and dairy products is only half the solution. The other half is choosing healthy plat-based foods. Most bread, pasta, rice and other grain foods Americans consume are made from reined/processed grains. Soft drinks and candy are made with empty-calorie sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. And too much once-healthy vegetable oil has been partially hydrogenated and contains artery-clogging trans fat (though this is one area in which marketers and merchants have wised up about relatively quickly).

You can make changes meal by meal. Each time you have a choice to make, you can try to make a healthy and hopefully more humane one.
and a Diet Scorecard with ratings in the categories of health, environmental impact and animal welfare.

Changing government policies:

“Consumer demand is the most important factor in changing what people eat, what food marketers offer, and what farmers grow. But nutrition- and environment-based food and farm policies could improve diets indirectly.”

Try to buy foods from companies and farmers who are producing healthier foods, minimizing negative impact on the environment, and raising animals humanely. If they succeed, other companies and farmers will emulate them.

Actually changing your diet is not radical comparing with some other proposals for government leg, such as levying a tax on higher-fat cattle, assessed at the slaughterhouse.

Ban routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock, a practice used to ineffectively (window-dressing) to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at factory farms and slaughterhouse and transportation.

Livestock industry ideas include adding canola seeds or other sources of unsaturated oil t cows’ feed to lower the saturated fat and increase the unsaturated fat content by 20% each. Add conjugated linoleic acid to the cows’ feed or change feed in other ways to lower the total fat content of milk by approximately 25%.

Improve nutritional info labeling on beef, poultry and other animal-derived food. Reduce feed grain usage; the authors suggest the USDA or FDA set standards to limit the grain content of the feed and the length of time cattle can be fed grain. But, can the government enforce such a regulation? It’s understandable to doubt businesses’ willingness or commitment to voluntarily make changes but perhaps the market, and consumers, could offer incentives ... with the help of the media, which has largely been asleep at the wheel on food and animal treatment issues, and still behind on the environment despite the popular new appeal of “green.”

Stop the indirect subsidy to livestock producers – cheap corn. Better to convert some of the acreage devoted to corn to growing switchgrass for alternative fuel.

Water pollution could best be mitigated by raising fewer animals for food and limiting the size of CAFOs – concentrated animal feeding operation. Also, required upgrading manure lagoons to reduce the chance of breaches.

Expand the tiny Fruit and Vegetable Snack program that provides free daily snacks to children in a couple hundred schools.

Pursue a federal Humane Farming Act, proposed by Matthew Scully, that “would explicitly recognize animals as sentient beings and not as mere commodities or merchandise.” It has been easy to ignore the inhumanity since most Americans are shielded from it due to powerful meat, poultry and other trade groups that profit from the flesh and product of animals, and the animals can’t speak for themselves. As noted by many journalists, even those writing for Gourmet magazine, the agribusiness concerns won’t allow visits let alone tours of their massed-animal facilities.

Require husbandry and cleanliness standards to reduce use of antibiotics. Require ID by ear tags or devices other than hot-iron branding. Establish a reliable, better labeling scheme to encourage consumers who buy animal-derived products to choose those from humanely raised animals and to inform consumers which come from animals raised on factory farms. Slow slaughterhouse lines to help ensure that animals are stunned properly before slaughter. Also, see Temple Grandin’s recommendations in her book, “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior.”

“Such measures would modestly raise the price of animal products, but any society that considers itself civilized should ensure that farm animals are treated humanely.”


Order "Six Arguments for a Greener Diet"

“Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior” by Temple Grandin

“Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy” by Matthew Scully, former presidential speechwriter shed light on the cruelties imposed on farmed animals.

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan

Gourmet article June 2007 issue: A View to a Kill

Vegetarian diets

Physicians Committee for Social Responsibility

Nutrition for disease prevention and treatment

Animal welfare

Compassion in World Farming

Compassion Over Killing

Farm Sanctuary

Humane Society of the United States

Community-Supported Agriculture

Humane Farm Animal Care

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