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Living Close To Trees Comes With A Number Of Health Benefits

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Trees are one of nature’s many wonders. They’re beautiful to look at and can house animals and produce fruits that we enjoy; they also provide us with shade when we need it on those hot and hazy summer days. As if that weren’t enough, new research from the University of Exeter has concluded that being around trees makes us happier, functioning as a natural antidepressants.[1]

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The study found that antidepressants were prescribed less frequently in areas in London which have more trees. To gain this information, researchers gathered data for antidepressant prescriptions across London in 2009-2010 and then compared that data with the numbers of street trees in the same area. They soon discovered that antidepressant prescriptions were significantly lower in areas which housed a higher concentration of trees.

How Do Tree’s Make Us Happier?

The idea that trees can have a positive influence over our mental state and wellbeing isn’t entirely new. As NatureAndHealth.com reports: “In Japan, people practise ‘forest bathing’, where they spend quiet time absorbing the wisdom of ancient forests, taking long walks among the trees to stimulate their immune system. In Taoism, students are encouraged to meditate among trees, and it is believed that the trees will absorb negative energies, replacing them with healthy ones. Trees are seen as a source of emotional and physical healing, and themselves as meditators, absorbing universal energies.”
To further study the reasoning behind these practices, Geoffrey Donovan looked at comparable death rates in areas where the emerald ash-borer decimated tree populations. He found that as more and more trees died, so too did deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases increase. In other research, he discovered that areas with a higher density of trees actually had lower crime rates! While there could be other explanations behind these phenomena, of course, the suggestion that there is a correlation between our wellbeing and our interaction with trees is, nevertheless, quite interesting.
“Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people’s health. And if that’s true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does,”  says Geoffrey Donovan.
Furthermore, the USDA’s Forest Service has also compiled research that shows people who live around trees are physically healthier: “About 850 lives are saved each year, the number of acute respiratory symptoms is lower by about 670,000 incidents each year, and the total health care savings attributed to pollution removal by trees is around $7 billion a year.”

Wealthier Areas Have More Trees

What’s even more interesting is the difference in tree coverage depending on the socioeconomic status of a given area. This was found by Tim de Chant at Per Square Mile who used Google Earth to examine various areas:

They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent. But when income dropped by the same amount, demand decreased by 1.26 percent. That’s a pretty tight correlation. The researchers reason that wealthier cities can afford more trees, both on private and public property. The well-to-do can afford larger lots, which in turn can support more trees.
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Comparison of tree coverage in a lower income area (top) and a higher income area (bottom). Source: Google Earth

We do know, given all the research, that people who live near areas densely populated by trees tend to live healthier, richer and happier lives, but is this because of the trees entirely? Perhaps not, but again with so many correlations pointing to the case, a simple and research degrading argument like “correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation” doesn’t suffice. We have something pretty interesting here that could really contribute to quality of life – with no negative repercussions.

What Can We Take From This?

Trees are important! There’s no denying the therapeutic value that comes from spending time outside and enjoying nature. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another and don’t need a study to tell us that. Sure it helps to have these feelings grounded in hard science, but some things we just know and feel to be true. Sometimes it’s science that needs to do the catching up.
I believe this illustrates the importance of maintaining green areas in urban spaces as much as possible, and green does not mean grass and bushes – we need more! Larger pockets of trees and accessible areas where we can connect with nature, right inside the city, would do a world of good.
We need to challenge neighbourhoods and builders to maintain as much green space as possible when building new developments. We’ve come to accept the idea that we should cram as many houses into one area as possible, but this is only helping to degrade our quality of life.
For a few ideas on what you can start doing to bring more LIFE into your day check these out:

1. Bring plants into your office space or where you work.

2. When going for walks, choose paths where you will be walking through parks or nature with trees.

3. Bring your friends and family to treed areas more often when you go outside or play with the kids.

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4. Plant a garden and be amongst nature. You connect with your food and with the earth.

5. Plant a tree in your own yard, or even in an area you feel could use a tree!

6. Make time to go be amongst trees daily or every other day. Don’t be afraid to jump right in and hug the tree!

Sources:

 

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Awareness

60% of Kale Samples Contaminated With Cancer Causing Pesticide – Organic Is Key!

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found a high level of Dacthal in non-organic Kale.

  • Reflect On:

    Why do we justify the spraying of poison on our food? How does this make any sense? These substances have been linked to several diseases, how are they approved and marketed as safe in many countries? Why are they banned in so many others?

Do you still think organic is not necessary? A recent study published in the journal Environmental Research examined four families who eat conventional diets. Pesticide levels were measured via urine before switching to an organic diet for 6 days. A dramatic drop in pesticide levels was found. Another study conducted by researchers from RMIT University, published in the journal Environmental Research, found that eating an organic diet for just one week significantly reduced pesticide (commonly used in conventional food production) exposure in adults. This study found a dramatic 90 percent drop in pesticide levels. Both studies used urine samples to measure pesticide accumulation. You can access those studies and read more about them here and here.

A lot of these agents were initially developed as nerve gases for chemical warfare, so we do know that they have toxic effects on the nervous system at high doses. Conventional food production commonly uses organophosphate pesticides, among many others, which are neurotoxins that act on the nervous systems of humans by blocking an important enzyme. Recent studies have raised concerns for health effects of these chemicals even at relatively low levels.

There is no question or doubt about it, organic food not sprayed with pesticides is much better for our health, and eating organic is a great way to prevent multiple diseases, including cancer. Despite all of the publications and research on this subject, it’s confusing how cancer awareness initiatives continue to focus on raising money without ever addressing the root causes of the disease, one of which is clearly exposure to herbicides and pesticides.

This is why the Environmental Working Group (EWG) advocates buying organic products. Since its inception in 1993, EWG has fought for consumers’ rights to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. EWG’s very first report in 1993, “Pesticides in Children’s Foods,” played a pivotal role in Congress passing the Food Quality Protection Act two years later. They are a well known group of scientists and activists doing great work.

Recently, they discovered that approximately 60 percent of kale samples sold in the United States were contaminated with another carcinogenic pesticide, according to the  EWG’s analysis of the 2017 Department of Agriculture’s test data.

The pesticide is called DCPA, often marketed as Dacthal,  and it’s a substance that the EPA classified as a possible carcinogen in 1995. In 2005, its major manufacturer voluntarily terminated its registration for use on several U.S. crops, including artichokes, beans and cucumbers, after studies found that its breakdown products were highly persistent in the environment and could contaminate drinking water sources. This is why in 2009, the European Union prohibited all uses of Dacthal, enforcing a complete ban on it. With all this being said, the fact remains that it is still used in the U.S. on crops including kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, eggplant, turnips, and who knows what else.

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Even as kale’s popularity as a health food rich in vitamins and antioxidants has soared in recent years, the level and type of pesticide residues on kale has expanded significantly. EWG’s new analysis places it third on the 2019 Dirty Dozen™, our annual ranking of the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues. Recent EWG-commissioned tests of kale from grocery stores found that on two of eight samples, Dacthal residues were comparable to the average level reported by the USDA.

The USDA has not tested kale for pesticides since 2009, when it ranked eighth on the Dirty Dozen. Between 2007 and 2012, the acres of kale harvested in the U.S. grew by more than 56 percent, with more than 2.5 times as many commercial farms growing it.

Conventional kale farming relies heavily on the use of several synthetic pesticides, including Dacthal. The EPA’s 1995 classification of it as a possible carcinogen noted increases in liver and thyroid tumors. Dacthal can also cause other kinds of harm to the lungs, liver, kidney and thyroid.

According to U.S. Geological Survey data from 2016, about 500,000 pounds of Dacthal was sprayed in the U.S., mostly in California and Washington state. In California, the only state where all pesticide use must be reported, nearly 200,000 pounds were sprayed in 2016.

In states with high Dacthal use, concerns have grown about the capacity of its breakdown products to contaminate surface and groundwater. Not only can Dacthal contaminate areas near its use, but studies indicate it can also travel long distances in the atmosphere as well. (EWG)

You can read more from EWG on the subject here.

The Takeaway

Again, multiple agents can be found on non-organic produce, but this article just outlines one. At the end of the day, the choice is up to you whether or not you buy your fruits and vegetables organic. If you can afford conventional produce, you can afford organically grown produce as well. One helpful tip is to cut out junk food from your purchases if you have any, and that can make room for organic produce. Another way to look at it is spending the extra few bucks to invest in your health.

It’s unfortunate that organic food is more expensive, especially when organic food in general could be provided to the entire world if we actually utilized our fullest potential. It’s actually cheaper to produces, it’s just that governments subsidize convention farmers, not organic ones. At the end of the day, kale is extremely nutritious. It’s high in vitamins A, K and iron, and consumption of leafy greens is associated with reduced risk of various diseases. It’s best if we keep it that way by only growing organic kale.

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Awareness

A List of Children’s Foods That Are Contaminated With Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the Roundup herbicide that was manufactured by Monsanto, has been found in multiple foods that've been marketed to children. You can view the list below.

  • Reflect On:

    With countless scientific publications and examples of fraud clearly showing that glyphosate is a major health and environmental hazard, how is it still on the market in multiple countries? Why? What is going on here?

It’s very confusing as to why poison is still being sprayed in our environment, and how anybody could ever justify the use of these poisons. Justification has come from mass brainwashing, marketing campaigns, and just downright deception. There are many examples of deception when it comes to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. A great example comes from Europe, where the product was recently re-licensed and approved by European Parliament. However, MEPs found the science given to them was plagiarized, full of industry science written by Monsanto. You can read more about that here.  Another example would be the corruption that plagues our federal health regulatory agencies, which have been completely compromised by big corporations. There are several other great examples that illustrate this point, in fact there are decades of examples. One of the best would be the SPIDER papers. A group called the CDC Scientists Preserving Integrity, Diligence and Ethics in Research, or CDC SPIDER, put a list of complaints in a letter to the CDC Chief of Staff and provided a copy of the letter to the public watchdog organization U.S. Right to Know (USRTK).

We are a group of scientists at CDC that are very concerned about the current state of ethics at our agency.  It appears that our mission is being influenced and shaped by outside parties and rogue interests. It seems that our mission and Congressional intent for our agency is being circumvented by some of our leaders. What concerns us most, is that it is becoming the norm and not the rare exception. Some senior management officials at CDC are clearly aware and even condone these behaviors.

When it comes to glyphosate, there are currently more than 10,000 pending cases with regards to ailments it’s caused people, and we are now starting to see cancer cases go through courts of law. One of the latest examples would be school groundskeeper Dewyane Johnson, who was awarded a victory after a jury found Bayer (Monsanto) to be guilty of causing/contributing to his terminal cancer. You can read more about that story here.

This is why it’s a bit concerning that this substance is ending up in our food, and that includes food that’s being marketed to children.

For example, Moms Across America, a National Coalition of Unstoppable Moms, recently discovered glyphosate in multiple brands of popular orange juice. You can read more about that hereThe full report can be seen here. The testing methodology was “Glyphosate and AMPA Detection by UPLC-MS/MS.”

Furthermore:

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Major food companies like General Mills continue to sell popular children’s breakfast cereals and other foods contaminated with troubling levels of glyphosate, the cancer-causing ingredient in the herbicide Roundup. The weedkiller, produced by Bayer-Monsanto, was detected in all 21 oat-based cereal and snack products sampled in a new round of testing commissioned by the Environmental Working Group. All but four products contained levels of glyphosate higher than what EWG scientists consider protective for children’s health with a sufficient margin of safety.

The new tests confirm and amplify EWG’s findings from tests in July and October of last year, with levels of glyphosate consistently above EWG’s children’s health benchmark. The two highest levels of glyphosate were found in Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch, with 833 parts per billion, or ppb, and Cheerios, with 729 ppb. The EWG children’s health benchmark is 160 ppb. –  Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., senior science advisor, and Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., Toxicologist for the Environmental Working Group (EWG)(source)

The EWG recently purchased a number of products via online retail sites, and then they packed and shipped approximately 300 grams of each of the products they purchased (listed in the chart below) to Anresco Laboratories in San Francisco. Glyphosate levels were analyzed using a liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry method described here.

The Takeaway

Glyphosate is used mostly as a weedkiller on genetically modified corn and soybean crops. But it is also sprayed on oats just before harvest as a drying agent or desiccant. It kills the crop, drying it out so it can be harvested sooner, which increases the likelihood that glyphosate ends up in the foods children love to eat. It’s present almost everywhere and it’s a great example of how we don’t really live in a democracy, and how big corporations are operating without any concern for human health or the health of our planet. So far, more than 236,000 people have signed a petition directed at these food companies, calling on them to take action to protect consumers’ health.

The best way for you to combat something like this is to help share information like this in any way you can and go organic. Multiple studies have shown that pesticide exposure dramatically drops from consuming organic food. Just one week of eating an organic diet can drop pesticide levels in the body up to 90 percent in both children and adults. You can read more about that study here.

There are more concerns here, as it’s not just glyphosate, but also pesticides like organophosphates, which are sprayed on our food and have been linked to multiple diseases. A lot of these agents were originally developed as nerve agents for warfare.

Change starts with you, so you can go organic and spread awareness. Just five years ago not many people would have even known what glyphosate is, so things are definitely changing for the better.

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Awareness

Milk Sales Plummeted By $1.1 Billion In 2018

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Good news: dairy milk sales dropped by $1.1 billion in 2018! This is partly due to a consumer shift towards plant-based alternatives.

  • Reflect On:

    Is it time to walk away from unhealthy foods that harm animals in the process of creation? Does it make sense to keep listening to a dairy lobby using deception to sell products?

Good news! Dairy sales dropped by $1.1 billion in 2018! You may not know why this is good news just yet, but we’ll get there! Dairy Farmers of America during released the new statistics during an annual meeting in 2018. Sales dropped 8% from $14.7 billion in 2017 to $13.6 billion in 2018. This was due to low milk prices and a massive consumer shift toward plant-based alternatives like cashew milk, almond milk and soy milk.

In response to the losses, dairy lobbyists have been pushing to ban marketable terminology like ‘milk,’ ‘cheese’ and ‘dairy free’ from being used by creators of plant-based products. It seems the hope is that this will confuse the marketplace or make it harder to describe new products, ultimately pushing people back to dairy.

The act was officially titled “The Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, Milk, and Cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act.” Michele Simon, the executive director of 130-member lobby group Plant Based Food Association, believes this is misleading and unconstitutional.

Simon stated:

“In an era of increasing innovation in the food industry, this legislation would send a chilling message to small and emerging businesses: The marketplace is rigged against you in favor of large and powerful special interests,”

“This mean-spirited bill would harm innovative plant-based food companies that are growing rapidly, providing new, great-tasting options for consumers. This bill would declare the free market dead with the promotion of protectionist policies pushed by dairy-state politicians and their lobbyists.”

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The dairy lobby is clearly not happy about this, and with the following statistics, you can see why this could be alarming for their business. The United States Department of Agriculture released a report in 2017 that showed milk consumption had declined by 22% between 2000 to 2016. It further revealed that vegan dairy alternatives currently worth $17.3 billion is predicted to nearly double by 2023.

 Dairy Is Scary – It’s Time For Change

Of course, the move away from dairy hasn’t come randomly, research continues to come out every few months illustrating just how bad dairy is for human consumption. From bone issues, increased cancer rates, inflammation, and pesticide and hormonal intake, we see only a small amount of what one might expect from regular dairy consumption.

What is interesting to observe is that instead of making an adjustment away from an unhealthy product, the dairy lobby holds onto its grip in fear of change. They also took up arms in creating and spreading lies to deceive the public on the health of dairy.

But not all dairy farmers are fighting back, some are actually looking at the health concerns and animal abuse and are changing. Elmherst Milked was a dairy producer that has now turned to plant-based alternatives.

Henry Schwartz, whose grandfather started Elmherst Milked stated:

“It was time to reevaluate the past and start creating the food traditions that would carry us into the future.”

It took just two years of transition and the company was on track producing healthier, nutritious, humane and environmentally friendly milk.

The Takeaway

The world is shifting! Holding onto old patterns simply because we are afraid to change or don’t want to see the truth coming to the surface in new research and understandings will only make it more challenging for us to thrive and it will turn us towards egoic tendencies of deception and manipulation in order to survive for just a bit longer.

It’s time to truly question what we do and why… not just that, but the effect it has on others including animals and our environment. Elmherst Milked was able to adjust and do well, so can others. Everyone is going through a challenge in one way or another, comparing who has it worse won’t lead us forward but will only have us spinning our tires.

Change can happen – it is happening.

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