Tag Archives: Health

The inexorable oil crisis: Reasons to be glad

I saw a documentary recently called A Crude Awakening, where a bunch of experts said what they thought about oil. Documentaries tend to have an agenda, so you’ve got to be cautious about what you take from them. In the 1970s, scientists worried over the coming of a new ice age; now it’s global warming. As for oil, the experts seem to think that it’s all going to be gone in the next twenty years.

I’m not going to get too attached to specific projections, but there are certain inescapable facts we can take away from a documentary like this. The main one is: it doesn’t matter when the oil’s going to run out, it is going to run out. Oil is a limited resource. It doesn’t matter how many new repositories we discover, there can only be so many. Whether we use it all up in twenty years or a hundred, one day it will be gone. And the human race will be in big trouble. And I can’t help but smile.

You see, I don’t like the way the world is. On a simple practical level, as a cyclist, I hate these lethally fast, carbon-monoxide spewing, four-wheeled metal monsters that I share road-space with. I can’t help but smile at the thought of oil prices rising and rising, as oil becomes less and less available, while our pay checks stay the same. Eventually, I think people will have to consider bicycles, as it will simply be too expensive to drive. Flying somewhere on holiday may become a luxury that only the elite can afford.

I’ve been a fan of the idea of the electric car, but this documentary gave me a new perspective on that. With electric, there’s no longer any need for petrol, so that solves the immediate oil crisis problem, but all we’ve done is transfer the demand for the needed energy to our home electricity supply. And where does that come from, in the majority of cases? Electricity power plants based on non-renewable fossil fuels: coal. The electric car is also almost as much a pollutant as the regular car. It’s just that the pollution is all spewed out at the power plants instead of distributed evenly across the country via the tailpipes of millions of cars.

Even nuclear power isn’t the answer to the oil crisis. I personally hate nuclear power because of the deadly waste product it generates and our need to store it somewhere safe on our very unsafe planet. But even if I could get my head around that objection, nuclear power depends on – surprise, surprise – a limited, non-renewable source: uranium. And when it’s gone, it’s gone forever. So, with nuclear power, all we’re doing is pushing “The End” forward another by another few years, and not very many years according to the documentary.

They say there’s no way to build enough wind turbines to serve entire countries, in keeping with the energy consumption that we’re used to. Solar panels are very expensive to buy, in comparison to the small amount of the energy they generate. The bottom line is, the oil is going to run out, and there is nothing to replace it with. The modern world is living in a state of addiction to a drug, and someday the dealer isn’t going to have any more product. When that happens, we’re all going to experience withdrawal symptoms. No more long-distance travel. No more import-export trade. No more plastics. The impact sounds monumental, but it will likely happen in stages. Everything will simply start to get more and more expensive, and we will lose our privileges by degrees.

But you know what? It’s absolutely fine by me. Funny, even. I have grown to care a great deal about the environment, and it’s heartwarming to know that man can’t keep doing what he’s doing to the world, in the name of expedience and big business, indefinitely. The means of his destructiveness will run out and the earth will recover. I would love to see the roof of my home decked out with a big solar array, and a wind turbine blowing in the garden, while I learn to live a simpler life (something I’ve already started doing in many ways). Mankind lived for thousands of years just fine before the invention of electricity. We’ll never have to go back to that, but we won’t be able to enjoy anywhere near the level or energy we’re used to. I can’t help but think that in several hundred years time, our children might be sitting in schools having history lessons about the horrors 20th and 21st centuries. And they will be shaking their heads in disbelief at the things we’ve done to the planet in our pursuit of wealth and affluence. “Yes, children. In some population centres there were so many motor vehicles causing so much pollution that entire cities became encased in a smog that was so dense you could photograph it. The smog made it more difficult to breathe and caused illness. But people thought this was normal life, and they refused to change.” And the children will gasp in disbelief. People don’t accept their personal responsibility for the planet’s welfare when they see themselves as one among billions. But when all those billions are spewing out pollution, we are indeed all collectively responsible. There’s a saying that I love: No snowflake in an avalanche ever felt responsible.

I understand the predicament people are in. Not everyone is free and single like me. Not everyone works within two miles of their home. Not everyone can say, like me, “Screw cars. I’m gonna ride a bicycle from now on.” Not everyone feels they can change. But the change is coming. And I think that’s great. You can cling to the present system tooth and nail, feeding your oil addiction while the government makes you poorer and poorer through rising prices, until finally you are broke and beaten; the oil is gone and your money is in the hands of the fat cats. Or you can look for ways to beat the system and turn it into personal empowerment.

Of course, the discovery of alternative energy isn’t something that I can completely write off, and it’s certainly something to hope for. The past hundred years have seen massive technological leaps, and I think we can expect more. It’s only fair to say that change of one kind or another is coming, and none of it looks bad to me. The sooner the better, for the sake of the health of the planet and ourselves. To quote a song by REM: “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

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How to slowly kill yourself and your children

[Appended 27 July 2008: On my stats I’ve noticed that people are arriving at this blogpost through search engines, using phrases like “how to kill yourself.” I have no idea how to give a complete stranger a reason to live in a single paragraph, but if you are thinking of committing suicide, what I can do is offer you an understanding, listening ear. So please, contact me. Nothing would make me happier than having opportunity to help someone.]

I have had a problem with being overweight my whole life. It was pretty bad when I was at school, until I finally had a moment of clarity at age sixteen (i.e. I had the hots for a particular girl and wanted to be in with a chance). I cut out lunches, bedtime suppers, and went cycling every day after school. It worked. Within a couple of months I was looking great, and I kept most of the weight off for several years. But I gradually started putting it on again, and although I never ended up with the same obesity as in my boyhood, I did end up with this annoying layer of flab around my middle. I’ve even made an effort to eat reasonably well in recent years, but I never managed to shift the blubber … until something came to a head in December 2007.

I started experiencing some bowel problems. That’s a lie. I’ve been having bowel problems for a few years. You know, soreness, minor bleeding, occasional constipation. Okay, if you need to, have a big horselaugh and get it over with, because I’ve actually got some important things to say here. It got to the point where I would hate the thought of going to the toilet. In December 2007 I decided: This can’t go on. What’s the first thought that comes into your head? “Go see the the doctor.” That might well be a big mistake (I’ll get back to that in a minute). What I did was a little internet research and I came across an interesting site called Wai Says. Some of the stuff on the site is radical, but I came across an interesting piece on how “Eat more fibre” is not the answer to constipation. This piqued my interest, because I had a very fibrous diet already and it wasn’t helping.

To cut a long story short, I learned that the old “Five portions of fruit or veg per day” is a misnomer. I was getting my five portions a day, but I was making it all veg, no fruit. When you think about it, fruit is completely different than vegetables, in terms of sugars, so how can the health profession make this blanket statement, lumping the two types of food together as if you can ignore the quantities in each? I’m convinced that lack of fruit sugars was a major factor in my constipation, and my overindulgence in vegetables (too much fibre) meant that my bowels were often trying to evaculate food too quickly, causing soreness and bleeding.

That’s not the whole story. I still liked my weekly (or twice a week) Chinese takeaways, full of who knows what in terms of artificial additives. I decided the only thing to do was to cut everything out and start off with “safe” foods – those proven to benefit the human body. Six months later, here’s how I eat …

Breakfast: Every morning I have toasted brown bread with butter and honey, a big tall glass of pure orange juice, and a slice of melon. I find this perks me up to the degree that I don’t even feel the need for a caffeine drink. In the beginning I was pining for a cup of tea and a big bowl of cereal, but these cravings vanished after a few days. I actually have a big problem with cereal. I think it was instrumental in me gaining weight in the past, and the processed nature of it responsible for some of my bowel issues. In any case, I find cereal completely unnecessary. Pure orange is great, and I go the extra mile to buy the “not from concentrate” variety.

Lunch: Sometimes I don’t bother. If I do, it’ll be a banana, crisps or nuts, or all of those. You might find it weird I mention crisps. Well, the only crisps I’ll eat are those hand-cooked Kettle Chips containing nothing artificial. Also, I don’t want you to get the idea that I’ve got this completely regimented eating schedule. I don’t. I just know what I can and can’t eat.

Dinner: Every evening I will have some kind of meat with my meal. I regularly buy fish (proper fish, like a Salmon steak straight from the meat counter at your supermarket, not some processed Fish Fingers), steak, and bacon. I never make chips, nor do I buy those oven chips (which are coated in fatty batter). Instead, I cut potatoes up into wedges, roll them in olive oil and cook them in the oven (a little herb is nice on ’em, too). I make three particular meals regularly: (1) salmon, pasta & salad; (2) steak, wedges, peas, mushrooms & onions; (3) bacon, egg, rice, mushrooms, onions. After dinner, I will often indulge in a cup of tea and some chocolate (the expensive organic 70% cocoa variety); I find it doesn’t do me any harm at all.

I’ll be the first to admit this is not the only way to eat, but it represents a pattern of eating that is the only way to eat, if you want to maintain your health. The pattern is this: Eat real food. Avoid all processed meats and as many artificial food additives as you reasonably can. When you’re at the butchers browsing the meats, did you ever look at the label under the sausages that says something like, “Actual meat content 75%”? What the hell is it that the rest of the sausage is made of! Do yourself a favour and buy an actual pork chop or something. You want to know a really delicious alternative to a humburger? Buy a tenderised minute steak (instead of a processed pattie; the meat will be tougher, but still brittle enough to bite), some tomato (as an alternative to ketchup), add lettuce, onion, cheese, and put in a bun. Delicious.

For a savoury snack, if you buy a packet of Kettle Chips crisps, you know you’re eating actual slices of potato cooked in sunflower oil. Look at the ingedients label on a packet of Pringles and you’ll see an unintelligible list of chemical substances that is frighteningly long. I noticed a Smarties television advert a while ago that said “No artificial colours.” This is the perfect example of the way companies will try to deceive the public into believing their product has a healthy side. Here’s how you tell. When a product says, “No artificial colours,” it means there are artificial flavours, otherwise they would proudly display “No artificial flavours or colours.” I see this all the time, and I steer clear of food like that. When you purchase candy for your child, do you realise you’re giving him nothing more than a lump of chemically enhanced refined sugar? Do you honestly believe that is beneficial? Do you suspect, as I do, that it might be harmful? Why not introduce him to a variety dried fruit snacks instead?

Here’s how common modern eating habits work. The crap is there being sold, so we buy it and eat it. And we find that it tastes nice. So we keep on doing it. And the detrimental effects don’t show themselves for years, until we suddenly realise we’ve turned into Ten-Tonne-Tessie, or we’re diabetic, or we’ve got bowel cancer, or who knows what else. A friend once said to me, “All things in moderation.” But to me, processed foods and artificial additives are more akin to slow-working poisons, and it would be crazy to subscribe to the idea of arsenic in moderation. One microgram won’t kill me, but don’t ask me to eat it anyway. I was at someone’s house a while ago (quite a rich family) and they asked me if I would like a glass of orange. I said, “Yes, please.” Then I watched them lift a big bottle of diluted “orange” from the cupboard, fill the bottom of my glass with this chemical substance, then top it up with water. And they handed this poison to me like it was normal. These are people with their heads in the sand, who (despite being rich) will save a few pennies by buying artificial orange juice that doesn’t even taste like orange, and think they’ve make a sensible choice. I let my guard down recently at a barbeque, where there was processed meats on offer. So I indulged, just this once. I paid the price the following day; my body, now re-sensitised to eating real food, almost felt like it was trying to tear me a new arsehole.

Am I an alarmist? I think I need to be. I’m no dietition, and I’ll be the first to admit there may be some innacuracies in this article, but if you still think there’s no link between cancer and food, you clearly haven’t been watching the news in recent years.

I no longer have bowel problems. And I’m glad I was able to sort my problem out without resorting to a doctor. Although I didn’t realise until recently how lucky an escape I may have had. I know of someone else who has bowel problems who did go to see a doctor. And the doctor prescribed a remedy. In other words, the doctor gives you something that allows you to keep on harming your body without noticeable ill effects (until it’s too late), and also helps keep the laxative industry running smoothly, as well as helping you grow dependent on an artificial means of keeping your body functioning normally. The last thing the health profession needs is to run out of sick people. It’s called treating the symptoms instead of the causes. Far be it from me to strike off all the good doctors in the world, but this is something to watch out for.

I could very easily have ended up sitting here today as overweight as I was in December, thanks to doctors. “Ah, you must have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here’s a prescription.” Instead, I’m 2.5 inches slimmer at the waist and feeling a darn sight better than I’ve felt for most of my life. And I did it without dieting. Dieting is fruitless because it’s temporary. I lost weight even though I’m eating chocolate regularly, for goodness sake! What I did was make a permanent lifestyle change – one that I’ve adjusted to completely and love, and one that will stand to me for the rest of my life. I have not only woken up to the dangers of unhealthy eating; I have lost any kind of craving for it. When you detoxify your body from all that crap, you learn that the foods God placed on this earth for our enjoyment are actually delicious.

The only downside to this healthier way of living is that it costs more. And to that, I reply with a simple, “So what.” Putting your health and your bank balance side by side on the scales strikes me as foolhardy in the extreme.

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