New ideas for a healthier, more sustainable future.
—by Pax Rasmussen
Clear the air
The Clear the Air Challenge wrapped up the last day of July. Check out cleartheairchallenge.org to see a list of the winners, how many trips were saved, and how much carbon was kept out of our air.
Summertime air pollution isn’t as obvious as the horrific inversions we get in the winter, but the high ozone (and particulates from forest fires) can cause pretty severe breathing problems in some sensitive population groups. “We routinely hospitalize children with breathing problems in the summertime,” said Dr. Michelle Hoffman on KUTV last month (tinyurl.com/ hoffmanonkutv). It’s important to keep aiming to avoid contributing to our air problems all year round, since more than one study has proved that exposure to bad air at a young age can cause problems later in life. “Children’s lungs are still developing into early childhood, and developing lungs in poor air conditions suffer injuries,” Hoffman said.
Another (albeit Big Brother-esque) way you can help clear the air is to report folks with smoking vehicles. Utah Regulation 41-6a-1626.2a states: “The engine and power mechanisms of every gasoline-powered motor vehicle may not emit visible contaminants during operation, except while the engine is being brought up to the recommended operating temperature.”
To report smoking vehicles, call 385-468-SMOG (7664) or use the web form: tinyurl.com/slcosmokingvehicle.
Plants are poison?
Over the last few years, I’ve seen several articles suggesting that antioxidant dietary supplements may actually be a bad idea—one study even suggested that they could cause lung cancer in high doses. These studies are calling into question the very idea of how antioxidants work.
Science writer Moises Velasquez-Manoff published an essay in Nautilus last month in which he expounds on this idea, and more. The currently popular theory is that antioxidants in veggies bind up the bad free radicals in our bodies, protecting our cells from their damaging effects. It stands to reason, then, that taking extracts of these antioxidant chemicals would help prevent cancer, right? Maybe not.
According to Velasquez-Manoff, mounting evidence suggests that these chemicals work not by protecting our cells, but by poisoning us. Antioxidants are typically the things in veggies that taste bad, or bitter. They’re most likely there as toxins, to deter insects, and other creatures, from eating them. This new theory says that these toxins cause our cells stress, making them produce their own internal antioxidants, and that’s what really does us good. In high, extract doses, the ‘antioxidants’ from plants are just poison.
It’s an interesting theory, and one I feel is probably correct. When it comes right down to it, eating a diet of whole foods—most of them veggies—is what keeps you healthy, not a bunch of pills and tablets.
A beef about beef
Environmental Working Group (the folks who bring you the Dirty Dozen fruit and vegetable pesticide residue report) recently released the results of a study showing, yet again, that mass-produced beef has a terrible carbon footprint—roughly 60 pounds of CO2 for every pound of beef produced. They found beef’s footprint far bigger than any other meat (except lamb, but considering the quantities of lamb sold compared to beef, it’s not really an issue). They suggest substituting chicken, which has one fifth the carbon footprint. Pork is also quite a bit better than beef, with 27 pounds of CO2 per pound of pork produced. Tofu beat out every other protein source: 0.4 pounds of CO2 per pound of tofu.
Editor’s note: There is another viewpoint: Farmers practicing permaculture claim that disturbance of the soil is the leading cause of excess C02 pollution. Corn and soybeans, grown to feed cattle, release carbon while the grasslands the buffalo, elk and deer grazed on stored carbon. But this is another (long) story. In the meantime, when you eat beef, choose grassfed beef; it’s a whole ‘nother animal.