Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Maintaining Mind

There has been a bit of press (though not nearly enough) on dementia as of late.  Some has been spurred by findings that Robin Williams (along with 1.3 million Americans currently) suffered from Lewy Body Dementia in addition to early onset of Parkinson's Disease.

Here is a recent APA piece entitled "Speaking of Psychology: Protecting Your Aging Brain" that
addresses the causes of dementia as well as the effectiveness of activities such as physical exercise and brain training games in preventing it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Don't Drink the Water (or swim in it either)

I've been going to water a lot, rather as much as I can, this summer.  I've been to the ocean, rivers, lakes, streams, etc.  Mostly, it's been a pretty frustrating experience.  Initially, I thought that I was going to the wrong spots.  What's more probable, though, is that there is something wrong with the places that I've visited.  There's nuance to this supposition, a nuance that's predicated on subjectivity and awareness.  My most recent visit was to Seattle's Lake Union.

It was beautiful.  It is beautiful.  People were on the water enjoying what appeared to be the most sublime of natural offerings that exists on the urbanized Puget Sound...enjoyment, seemingly without care.  Hell, why not?  Just about every "how to see Washington or the Northwest" visitors' guide has something like the following in every issue that I've perused this year.  I'm inspired by this messaging too.

Until, I notice the "no swimming or fishing" signs posted on the perimeter of the lake.  Evidently the lake is toxic.  Seventy-five years of industrial activity has lined the lake with arsenic.  As, in all over the bottom of the lake.  See the article: "Crews to remove 8000 yards of arsenic-laced mud from Lake Union".

And, what's starkly apparent is the fact that there are a lot of other places I haven't gone that are suffering the same fate.   Evidently, at least one third of Washington's waterways are polluted beyond safe levels according to the state's Department of Ecology (as quoted in the EcoReport).  When I've been to the coast I have to check the warnings for raw sewage runoff, as I also have to do when paddleboarding in the Willamette River.  It doesn't seem that things should be this way.  More profoundly, it doesn't seem that people should be able to simply look past this as they do.  Granted, I'm a recovering Marxist but the false consciousness and disconnectedness is utterly baffling.

I grew up swimming and surfing at Wrightsville Beach, NC which is consistently lauded for relatively pristine water quality.  Shouldn't this be the norm?  The Northwest has a lot of cred when it comes to "eco-consciousness" whatever that means now.  But, some of this spin and negligence when it comes to water quality is a bag of shit that we shouldn't have to accept.  Lipstick doesn't look good on this pig.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Need to Go Surfing, or "Screw You Guys I'm Going Home"

It has been a hot summer in the Pacific Northwest.  The heat has ushered forth a lot of physical and emotional discontent for me, some certainly due to the lack of AC in our Portland home; Portland is on track for its sixth warmest July on record.  When we moved here a year and a half ago, the word on the street was that summers were perfect and there was no AC required.  Well, slow down big fella because my psychological dependency on air conditioning has garnered a very real physiological precedent having lived in our sauna of a house this summer.

And, it appears from this National Weather Service article that the East is cooler than the West this year AND this pattern may persist (in the near term) in our increasingly warming world.  Great...drought, wildfires, and less snow in the PNW while the East Coast enjoys new cooler summers.  See except here:

cool conditions in the East contrasted, as they have nearly all year, with baking conditions in the West, which have exacerbated the effects of California’s epic drought and helped fuel wildfires. This temperature pattern is occurring over a background warming fueled by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere that are making record lows overall less likely and record highs more common. The pattern the U.S. has seen is also one scientists say could be more common in a warming world.

But, of course, this role reversal of cool summers is temporary.  Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere will ultimately ensure that everyone sees more record highs against record lows.  Early in the summer, I found myself thinking that enduring this heat and traffic of Portland would at least payoff with some snow in the Cascades this winter.  But given last year's delayed snowfall on Mt. Hood and what looks like a trend (see Timberline chart here)I've often though about what Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia's founder) said about climate change: "We're getting into the surf market, because it's never going to snow again, and the waves are going to get bigger and bigger".  Chouinard seems right.  Now if only the Oregon ocean water heat up and the sharks will stop eating people, I'm set.

Friday, July 18, 2014

On Preference and Buoyancy

This past Monday my son and I took a day off from work to join a couple other parents and their kids on a brief jaunt up I-5 into Washington so that we could swim in Lake Merwin.  The trip was a much welcomed respite from the summer heat that has finally arrived in Portland.  Lake Merwin is beautiful for sure.

And, having grown up in and around the ocean on the East Coast I have found myself restless to immerse myself in water sans wetsuit (something not very often done in the Pacific Northwest).  We'd suffered through the rain and cold of Portland all winter, not to mention the torment of Facebook posts from our East Coast friends who've been swimming bareback in 70+ degree water for months now.  In short, this was to be some sort of payoff to a psychological setup that I'd been constructing for months.  Going into it I knew that the swimming wouldn't appproximate the memories I have of the warm Atlantic, but the urge toward nostalgia and hope of discovering the joy of lake swimming in the Northwest with my son was too great to resist.

The best part is...the trip to Lake Merwin delivered, though not in all the ways I'd anticipated.  My son had a blast. I did too.  The water was clear and refreshing, though much colder than the Atlantic this time of year.  My son was thrilled to be in lake and to swim to the rope boundary and back.  I was stunned by my own exhilaration generated though witnessing and sharing his joy in the water...excitement that increased exponentially with each stroke he took.  It was shear delight.

My biggest surprise of the day came after our lunch break, as the children in our group were running up and down the rock and sand beach collecting feathers and rocks.  My son came running up to me to show me something.  He clasped five feathers in his right hand and in his left hand was a white object about 4 inches in diameter.  With unbridled delight he handed the white object to me exclaming, "Here, daddy, it's a favorite!  Keep it for me to take home."  He then ran off to water to float on a log with his friends.

I watched him sprint back to the lake, then studied what he'd handed me.  It was a white piece of plastic, most likely a corner of a shattered cooler that someone had left on the beach.  My heart sank.  The rest of the afternoon, while walking across the beach to the lake, I found myself staring across the sand looking for seashells.  I knew there were none to be found.  I was on a freshwater lake in Washington, far from the coast.  

The trip to Lake Merwin was magical for me, as well as for my son, and I hope I always remember our afternoon there.  But, something shifted for me that day.  I realized that, in at least one sense, Portland isn't home.  The saltwater in my veins still runs strong and, that no matter the beauty of lakes and rivers, the ocean still calls me.  The oceans call me to bring my son so he can know their boundless life force, infinitude, and shells with secrets that can't be found on lakes or in cities.

At the end of the day, I finally had to wrangle him in to the lake beach and pack up so that we could drive back down I-5 to Portland.  We stopped for raspberry milkshakes at our favorite Northwest shake and burger joint on the way home.  The kids listened to a CD of The Magic Treehouse as the adults talked.  Things felt OK.  I was grateful for a day away from work with my son, as well as the warmth of summer heat.

I've thought about the broken "shell" that sits on my kitchen counter everyday since.   Oddly, it is affirming.  Maybe because I know that Portland is a "drive in and drive out" for me in this life journey...a lot like the lake trip.  More profoundly, I feel happy that the ocean reached me on that lake in Washington and told me to come home with my son.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Humans Have Reshaped Ecological Process

Anthropogenic Biomes(Anthromes) offer a new way to understand our living planet by describing the way humans have reshaped its ecological patterns and processes.  Click here for a link and description of the infographic below.  The work is is based on a system of 21 Anthrome classes divided into 6 broad groups, as described in Ellis and Ramankutty (2008;Anthromes v1).


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Upcoming APHA Proposal

I'll be presenting at the annual conference for APHA in New Orleans on November 17, 2014.  Here's my prospectus for the roundtable discussion.  I'm pretty excited about sharing my nascent research and would love some thoughts, comments, and constructive critiques. Additionally, if anyone would like to participate in this ongoing research concerning ways health care professional engage climate change please let me know.

Sustainability, climate change, and nursing education: Curriculum for clinical intervention

Monday, November 17, 2014
Hill Taylor, PhD, MS, MA , School of Nursing, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR
Nursing and medical education must address current and future impacts of climate change. This presentation examines responsiveness in nursing curriculum and clinical practice at Oregon Health & Science University. This study’s key objective is to establish protocols and frameworks for managing the health effects of climate change.  The outcome of this study is the formulation of tools that enable nurses to introduce sustainability in multiple contexts.
Public health leaders have underscored the key role of nurses in promoting sustainability in an era of rapid climate change. This presentation showcases a descriptive case study that investigates in-group perspective and practice of nursing students and faculty in Portland, Oregon, arguably one of the most “sustainable” and healthy cities in the United States. These current and future clinicians are developing knowledge and practices predicated on experiences in Portland, Oregon; often, such frames of reference, differ from nursing contexts outside the privileged boundaries of Portland and the United States.
Preliminary qualitative analysis of curriculum, combined with data from semi-structured interviews of nurses, has produced a concept map for use in clinical settings. This map encourages health consultations that incorporate environmental and sustainability education for patients and families navigating health effects of climate change (e.g., air and water quality, nutrition, response to new disease vectors). The presenter demonstrates use of this sustainability concept map as one learning tool to be used by educators in the health professions in efforts to introduce sustainability education into didactic and clinical settings.