WYSONG HEALTH LETTER
Dr. R. L. Wysong
April 1990

DIRTY ANTARCTICA?
 
    A visit to the continent of Antarctica has been called the ultimate trip or vacation. For approximately $12,000 person can arrange a two week expedition with well guided tour groups. There are problems with this, because a continent without a government. which really belongs to no one and yet to everyone, could be easily victimized. This land was so pristine for so long that it seemed a shame to allow anyone but the scientists to visit. In 1975 the Antarctic Treaty parties agreed there was a problem with tourism, and in 1978 the U.S. Congress passed the Antarctic Conservation Act which expressly forbids such activities as the unauthorized entry into any land designated off-limit, because of the fragility of its ecosystem which was set aside strictly for scientific studies.
    The first human set foot on Antarctica in 1821, and until 1954 there was no permanent research station on the frozen continent. Today, there are approximately 70 scientific bases, which all depend on the outside world for their necessities and their comforts. Even though there is only a small dedicated community of people on the continent, they have managed to generate a tremendous amount of trash to carry out their research, build their shelters and research stations, and of course to maintain their standard of living. On a continent with an ecosystem so fragile that soil retains a footprint for years, and which had existed for tens of thousands of years without a drop of oil or a scrap of paper fouling it, we can now find the same sort of pollution we would see any where. Investigations last year revealed that few, if any even, of the bases on the continent -- operated by more than 20 different nations -- meet the standards set by the Antarctic Treaty's Code of Conduct and Supplementary Recommendations. Much clean-up is called for by environmental groups, and the major U.S. research stations are complying under the pressure.
    Additionally, there have been several reports of crew members from the tourist groups acting in clear violation of the 1978 Antarctic Conservation Act, which completely prohibits direct contact with live animals -- yet tourists and tour guides are seen hugging penguins for photographs and even kicking seals to get a reaction from them. The tourists themselves are led ashore by naturalists and former research scientists with prior Antarctic experience,  but the tour crews from the ships often go ashore unsupervised.
    What used to be pristine snow now shows traces of the modern world -- much from the aviation fuel that is expended so liberally with all the comings and goings.  More than six million gallons of fuel are brought into Antarctica each year by the Americans alone, which poses a significant risk since spillage can occur in transportation and leakage can happen during storage.
    The National Science Foundation is working with vendors toward reducing the packaging that enters the research station, and all plastic packaging is removed before shipments are sent to U.S. stations at Antarctica. As with everything, understanding the problem and working toward prevention before disaster will prove the best course in this case. As it is, one old dump site used for years by several research stations, located at the Winter Quarters Bay area, is such a problem now that investigation is continuing as to what to do to clean up the site. There is fear that whatever may be there in the dump should perhaps just be capped, since remobilizing toxins or other hazardous wastes could be worse in the long run. The bay itself has high levels of hydrocarbons and other chemicals -- primarily from bilge water, machine shop lubricants, and burned fuel residue – a clear threat to this fragile environment. Fortunately there is increased awareness and cleanup operations and better control of human activities are underway.
    The damage occurring in Antarctica is just another example of the short sightedness of the human mind.  We tend to think we live in some sort of vacuum where our actions are absorbed into the vastness of our world and surely will not come back to harm us.   We're learning the propinquity of our world.
    The river we pollute is not an entity apart from us, the air we foul does not blow somewhere else, the forest we slash and burn is not a jungle to be tamed and the arctic wilderness we despoil is real not so far away.  Destruction of these things which seem separate from us and unrelated to our health and safety are not separate at all. They are, so to speak, conspecific.   We are the forest, the air, the snow, the ocean. When we harm them we harm us.
    Reference:
        (The Cousteau Society, Calypso Log. April 1990)
 
FLU FROM OUTER SPACE
    A recent letter appearing in the highly respected British journal Nature by Fred Hoyle Argues that disease on earth may be the result of viruses from outer space.  Hoyle is the author of the modern Panspermia hypothesis which argues that life originated on earth by seeding from bacteria and viruses coming from outer space.  This idea has historical origins in Boffon, Bonet and Anaxagoras centuries ago.
    Although these notions are generally dismissed by the scientific community, there are some remarkable coincidences. They argue there is a relationship between flu pandemics and peaks in the occurrences of sunspots over the past two hundred years.      The reasoning here is that solar wind created during spot activity sweeps space born microbes through the earth’s atmosphere with greater force.  Hoyle further argues that the reason flu strikes more commonly in winter is because winter creates stronger down drafts.
     Critics argue that cosmic   radiation would destroy germs in space before they ever reached earth and that there is not a correlation between pandemics and sun spots as Hoyle argues.  Hoyle rebuts by saying that he believes microbes have been detected in space but that the government has classified the results because they are related to biological warfare.
I thought I’d relate this tidbit of information to you just in case you thought you knew everything.
    Reference:
        Scientific American, April 1990, pg. 26
 
MRFIT ADDS YEARS
    The multiple risk factor intervention trial called by its acronym MRFIT, is a randomized primary prevention study to determine the effect of  a variety of factors on coronary disease mortality.
    Over 6,000 men were assigned to a group to receive special intervention such as dietary advice to lower cholesterol, council to stop smoking and drug treatments to control hypertension.  Another group of over 6,000 men were to receive standard health care.
    It is interesting that after 6 to 8 years of intervention, mortality from heart disease did not differ significantly between the men assigned to the special intervention group and the men assigned to usual health care.  Now, 10   years after the beginning of the trial, it has been shown as reported in a recent issue  of the Journal of American Medical Association, that those in the intervention group are experiencing decreased mortality benefits.  Specifically, mortality rates were 10.6% lower in the intervention group for coronary heart disease and 7.7% lower for all causes.  There was a 24% reduction in death from acute myocardial infarction in the men in the special intervention group compared to the usual care control group.
    This speaks certainly to the benefit of risk factor intervention such as modifying diet and stopping smoking, but also demonstrates the complicated nature of chronic disease and the difficulties we face in determining cause and effect.  Most medicine, as practiced by professionals and received by the public, is short-term focused.  In other words, physicians usually attempt to address immediate health concerns with immediate resolutions.  Patients want the same and have come to expect it.      Unfortunately, this short sightedness has caused us to lose sight of the long-term effects of lifestyle choices.  Thus when you speak of prevention, or risk factor intervention, these seem like soft recommendations and are easily disputed.  In other words, if one is smoking today and not coughing up lung tumors than the conclusion can be made that smoking is harmless.  If one is not involved in a regular exercise program or consuming large proportions of fresh, whole, raw foods and not keeling over from cardiovascular disease or stroke, then there is no need to change.
    Addressing health care is going to have too  be the same as addressing the health of our planet at large. We now have to be the same as addressing the health of our planet at large.  We now have to come to learn that acts we commit now come back to us sooner or later as benefit or harm.   The ten year results of the MRFIT trial should send a strong message to health care professionals as well as the public that bad choices now result in bad consequences later.   And that decisions for health care are going to have too  be made without experiencing any immediate benefit.  In this case, those in the intervention group after 5 or 6 years of modifying lifestyle with no benefit in mortality  could easily conclude that the  sacrifices they perhaps perceived they were making were useless.   It thus becomes important to make decisions based squarely on rational choices that results may not bring benefit until perhaps decades later in life.
    Reference:
        Journal of American Medical Association, ”Mortality Rates After 10.5 Years For Participants In The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial,” April 4,1990, Vol. 263, No. 13, pg. 1795.
 
PLASTIC RECYCLING
    The plastic industry has recently circulated a very interesting brochure in anticipation of Earth Day this month. In a chart, they compare the BTUs required to manufacture products from various starting materials. These materials include paper, glass, steel, aluminum, and plastic. Paper, which is usually the material thought of when thinking of recycling, requires 20,000 BTUs per pound to produce, 11,500 BTUs to recycle it into a new container and 6,500 BTUs are recovered if it is burned. In contrast, plastic requires about 40,000 BTUs to originally manufacture but only 1,000 BTUs to recycle and almost 18,000 BTUs are recovered if it is burned.
    It is believed that plastic recycling will increase at a rate of 31% per year over the next 5 years which is a rate far exceeding that of any of the other materials.
    As I have mentioned before in the Reviews, another added benefit to the use of plastics is that they divert fossil fuels into a form other than that which is simply exhausted into the atmosphere. This is not to suggest that any of the other materials should not be used such as glass, steel, aluminum, or paper, but only that this commonly thought of bad guy”, plastic, may end up to be more ecologically sound than many of the other materials.
    Reference:         
        Plastics Recycling, Edgell Plastic Publications, Chatam, New Jersey.
 
COMPUTER DANGERS
    It is estimated that by the turn of the century, every white-collar worker will be using some type of computer workstation. At this point in time it is approximately 15% -20% of the white-collar workforce. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Frederick Ettner, “The FDA has given warning to physicians that video display terminals may create adverse outcomes, could create birth defects and cause other problems to the fetus during pregnancy.” According to Dr. Ettner, the subject has been far too underreported.
    According to radiation expert Paul Brodeur in an article published in the New Yorker, in one group of seven pregnant computer operators who worked in the classified advertising section of a Toronto newspaper, four out of the seven gave birth to infants with defects; one baby had a clubfoot, one was born with a cleft palate, another had an underdeveloped eye, and one had multiple heart abnormalities. In another group studied, seven out of thirteen pregnant women who worked at an airline check-in counter in Canada miscarried over a two year period.   Examples are piling up.  The important thing is to be aware; if you or anyone you know is pregnant, this is something for you to be wary of. For all of us, this type of information is valuable as we continue to expose ourselves to more electromagnetic technology.
    Reference:
        (The Doctor's People, March 1990)
 
ANIMAL RIGHTS ON THE FARM
    A recent issue of Harrowsmith contained an interesting article entitled "Livestock Liberation", which proposed that the animal-rights activists who ore so eager now to focus on the farm may be right. In Massachusetts last year a rumor began that on animal-rights uprising was brewing which could drive farmers right out of the state. Farm Bureau bulletins warned farmers: "Be very careful: For your own safety. do not invite the animal-rights activists onto your property or near your animals."
What prompted this fear was a proposed law presented to the voters, called Question 3, which included wording about "improving the health of farm animals and promoting the use of humane practices in animal husbandry." The animal welfare groups called Question 3 "the humane-forming initiative" while the Massachusetts Farm Bureau and other opponents of the legislation called It "the anti-family farm bill." The measure was defeated by a margin of 71 to 29 percent. although for a good while it appeared that the majority of voters polled were actually in favor of the bill. If it had become law, it would now be illegal to confine veal calves in the narrow crates which permit hardly a step forward or backward for the calf. Castration and dehorning of livestock would have had to be accomplished with some pain alleviation for the animal, and hatcheries would not be permitted to use inhumane methods to dispose of male chicks -- such as the commonly used methods of tossing them into trash bogs to be crushed or smothered. The commissioner of the Department of Food and Agriculture would hove been authorized to "ensure that farm animals are maintained in good health and that cruel or inhumane practices are not used in the raising, handling, or transportation of farm animals."
    In spite of the fact that defeat was the result of this effort by activists-- at least partly because the opponents of the bill outspent its sponsors by a 20 to 1 margin - predictions are that this issue of farm-animal welfare will come up again and again in the coming decade. Specifically excluded in the federal Animal Welfare Act. farm creatures are a new concern. The notion that the barnyard animals have rights tools a relatively new one. The new methods of high-yield/high production factory farming treat animals much differently than the old family farm picture conjures up. The animal rights activists maintain that animals have become no more than interchangeable units of production, which. if necessary, should be altered by surgery, drugs or genetics to fit into the farm's production schedule and system. A cow is a milk-producing machine and no more Her desire to peacefully graze around in a pasture and eat grass instead of a scientifically formulated feed is a bother to the farmer. She should simply be efficient and the farmer has no obligation to accommodate her comfort, her desires, or even her biological needs unless it affects production.
    The Humane Society of the United States has developed a "humane scale" which they have designed specifically placing the farms producing veal, eggs, and pork on the bottom. The inhumane treatment received by these animals would. in the words of one member, absolutely shock us “out of our heads.” They are encouraging Americans to eat only with their conscience. avoiding veal, eggs, and pork and opting instead for the more humanely produced dairy products, and then lamb, mutton, beef, and poultry if meat is desired in the diet.
    The ultimate question here is one of the rights -- and how far to take the rights of an animal. If a veal calf is permitted enough room to turn around in, how about enough room for a short walk?
    For some sunlight? At least a little time with it’s mother during its sixteen-week life? The depth of this issue is staggering, it is one the producer industry is taking dead serious because of the power of the animal rights organizations.  It is something we do indeed need to face and address -- beginning privately within ourselves is the best way.
    Reference:
        ](Harrowsmith. November/December 1989)
 
SAVING THE PLANET AT HOME
    The earth day event was exciting.  Some of the media programs were tremendous.  It appears the earth issues have come of age.  When I first began addressing this topic several years ago I had to hunt and scrounge for information.  Now its in every newspaper in the kids cartoons and on grocery bags. It gives a real feeling of hope.  If we can keep up we will turn things around  Here’s some suggestions for the home.
    --Remember that turning the water off while you brush your teeth can, incredibly enough, save 10-15 gallons of water.
    --Disposable diapers now occupy approximately one percent of all landfills. They take up to 500 years to decompose. A cotton diaper can be reused up to 100 times and will decompose within a year -- actually Javna says within one to six months.
    --Turning your air conditioning on a really cold setting when you start it up will not cool your air any faster, but will waste a great deal of energy.
    --Using polystyrene foam is inexcusable when your own mug could be carried to the office or in your car. Polystyrene foam is completely nonbiodegradable, it just won't go away.
    --Finally, the last one we will mention here is his recommendation that we not buy ivory, tortoise shell, coral, reptile skin or other skins -- no products which are from endangered species. This could be carried out much further, as far as you personally wish to go. with the animal-sourced products.
    Reference:
        (People, March 5, 1990)
 
KINDERGARTEN
    On a somewhat light note, I would like to take just a few minutes to share two or three excerpts from a current best selling paperback that I had the opportunity to look at recently, entitled All Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, by Robert Fulghum. Some of you may hove picked this one up, too. if the title intrigued you as it did me, but since many of you may not have, and I think there's some very valuable down-home philosophy between the pages and sometimes between the lines, I'd like to cover some of it. If you will permit, I really will be paraphrasing a bit and will quote you a few passages because this is material you can listen to, absorb, ponder and enjoy all at the same time.
    First a little background on the author, Robert Fulghum. It seems that he has been a working cowboy, a folksinger, an IBM salesman, a professional artist, a minister. a bartender, a drawing and painting teacher, a husband and a father, but when asked what his profession is he replies. "philosopher," and proceeds on to explain that his specialty is thinking a great deal about small and ordinary things, and then expressing what he thinks through writing, speaking or painting. This book. and his new book entitled It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It are collections of essays or what he calls his "stuff"   letters, notes jotted down as thoughts come. correspondence with friends and notes to himself - all put together with no connecting or concluding extras.      Each chapter makes a small or huge point all by itself, and he intends no summation or final chapter nor promises any great conclusions. This is just as well, since I don't know about you, but whenever I pick up a book which promises me insights and great secrets, solutions to life's questions, and so forth, I'm usually disappointed. This way seems better: the writer leads the reader down a path and the reader can conclude his own arrival.
    The first essay that particularly amused me was an account about an incident involving jumper cables. It seems that a young couple left their lights on and needed to find a Good Samaritan with Jumper cables, and as he says, the 'Good Fairy of Fate' placed them in his hands. He tells it like this:
    Men are supposed to know about jumper cables. It's supposed to be in the genetic code, right? But some of us are mental mutants, and if it's under the hood of a car, well it's voodoo, Jack, and that's the end of it. Besides, this guy only asked me if I had jumper cables. He didn't ask me if I knew how to use them. I thought by the way he asked that he knew what he was doing. After all. he had an Idaho license plate and was wearing a baseball cap and cowboy boots. All those kind of people know about jumper cables when they're born, don't they? Guess he thought a white-bearded old man wearing hiking boots and driving a twenty-year-old VW van was bound to use jumper cables a lot. So I get out my cables, and we swagger around being all macho and cool and talking automobile talk. We look under the hood of his rig, and there's no battery.
    "Hell," I said, "there's your problem right there. Somebody stole your battery."
    "Dang," he said.
    "The battery is under the back seat," said his nice sweet wife.
    "Oh."
    So we took all the luggage out of the back seat and hauled the seat out into the parking lot and, sure enough, there it was. A battery. Right there. Just asking for jumper cables to be laid on it. I began to get worried when the guy smirked at his wife and said under his breath that he took auto mechanics and sex education at the same time in high school and they had been confused in his mind ever since, when it came to where things were and what you did to get any action out of them. We laughed. His wife didn't laugh at all. She just pulled out a manual and started thumbing through it. Anyway, the sum of our knowledge was that positive poles and negative poles were involved, and either one or both cars ought to be running, and six-volt and twelve-volt batteries and other-volt batteries did or did not work. I thought he knew what he was doing, and kind of went along with it. Guess he did the same. And we hooked it all up real tight and turned the ignition key in both cars at the same time. And there was this electrical arc between the cars that not only fried his ignition system, it welded the jumper cables to my battery and knocked the baseball cap off his head. The sound was like that of the world's largest fly hitting one of those electric killer screens. ZISH. Accompanied by an awesome blue flash and some smoke. Power is an amazing thing.
    We just sat down right there in the back seat of his car, which was still sitting out there in the parking lot. Awed by what we had accomplished. And his wife went off with the manual to find some semi-intelligent help. We talked as coolly and wisely as we could in the face of circumstances. He said. "Ignorance and power and pride are a deadly mixture, you know."
    "Sure are," I said. "Like matches in the hands of a three-year-old. Or automobiles in the hands of a sixteen-year-old. Or faith in God in the mind of a saint or a maniac. Or a nuclear arsenal in the hands of a movie character. Or even jumper cables and batteries in the hands of fools.”
    Now I am wondering, as I relate this passage to you who are listening, how many of you are smiling and nodding, having been there to, as I did when I first read it. We have all surely at some time mixed ignorance. power and pride, and had our own personal disasters result.
    Since the overpopulation problems facing our finite planet and all of us on board are something we've discussed before in past Reviews, I wanted to share a short chapter from Fulghum in which we can see some of the more amazing facts. I quote:
    "If the population of the earth were to increase at the present rote indefinitely, by A.D. 3530 the total mass of human flesh and blood would equal the mass of the earth: and by A.D. 6826, the total mass of human flesh and blood would equal the mass of the known universe.
    It boggles the mind, doesn't it?
    Or consider this one: The total population of the earth at the time of Julius Caesar was 150 million. The total population increase in two years on earth today is 150 million.
    Or bring it down into a smaller chunk: in the time it takes you to read this. about 200 people will die and about 480 people will be born. That's about two minutes' worth of life and death.
    The statisticians figure that about 60 billion people have been barn so far. And as I said, there's no telling how many more there will be, but it looks like a lot. And yet - and here comes the statistic of statistics - with all the possibilities for variation among the sex cells produced by each person's parents, it seems quite certain that each one of the billions of human beings who has ever existed has been distinctly different from every other human being, and that this will continue for the in definite future.
    In other words, if you were to line up on one side of the earth every human being who ever lived or ever will live, and you took a good look at the whole motley crowd, you wouldn't find anybody quite like you.
    This bit of fireside philosophy touches upon physics, history, genetics, ecology and much more: that I guess is what I find so refreshingly simple yet profound about Fulghum.
    Now to the essay which gave his book its name, the one dealing with what we all learned in kindergarten and how - just maybe - that it was all we ever really needed to learn.
    First off, Fulghum touches a little on something that we've discussed here in the Reviews before, which is the wisdom of living a deeply examined life. Which is the better life? The happier life? The fuller life? The more livable life? That which is taken seriously, examined, analyzed , agonized over, philosophized over... or that which is accepted and enjoyed as it is? Which would you recommend, for example, to your children, whose happiness you surely want? "Don't worry. Be Happy." as the current popular expression says, and "ignorance is bliss" both sum up one living philosophy: the other side of the coin would be that an unexamined life is not worth living, and that our abilities to intellectualize and sentimentalize were given us for a very good reason. Some people live to enjoy pizza and their bowling leagues; others live hoping to discover great existential truths. And perhaps many or most of us fall somewhere in between.
    Nevertheless, here is what Fulghum says about kindergarten, and as you listen I'm sure you'll hear the truth ring through:
"ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sand pile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:
    Share everything.
    Play fair.
    Don't hit people.
    Put things back where you found them.
    Cleanup your own mess.
    Don't take things that are not yours.
    Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
    Wash your hands before you eat.
    Flush.
    Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    Live a balanced life –learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and ploy and work every day some.     Take a nap every afternoon.
    When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
    Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
    Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
    And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK."
    Fulghum proceeds on then to comment on this list of rules to live by, and I can't really add anything because of the simple poetry of it all, so this will conclude this month's Review. He says:
    "Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
    Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things bock where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
    And it is still true, no matter how old you are- when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together."