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Dirt for Physical and Mental Health

first_imgLive Science has an article suggesting that exposure to dirt can improve your mood by boosting the immune system.  This is an unexpected twist on the “hygiene hypothesis” that childhood exposure to dirt and animals helps innoculate the body to certain diseases (see 08/02/2006).  Certain bacteria might not only boost the immune system, but also release neurotransmitters that could fight depression.  “These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health,” said Chris Lowry (U of Bristol).  “They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”Maybe horses and dogs are onto something.  You can’t give them a bath without them running for the nearest place to roll over in the dirt, to the frustration of their owners.  This is not to imply that pigs set a better example.    Anything can be taken too far.  There are things in some soils that are clearly harmful.  Some locations have to worry about pathogenic roundworms, valley fever, and other risks.  Cleanliness is still a virtue, but it is possible to be too clean.  We were made to live in the great outdoors.  Some African tribes, like the Masai, living close to animals and plants, seem happier than Westerners.  Moderate exposure to sunshine, fresh air, soil, plants and animals is healthy for body and soul.  When was the last time you did some good, hard, sweaty, dirty work outdoors?  Didn’t it feel good when the day was done?  Don’t hire a landscaper to do it all; get out there and do it yourself.  A good shower afterwards is still a big reward when you’ve earned it.  Just don’t use antibacterial soap (see 08/02/2006).    Our bodies are not intended to be hermetically shielded from nature.  There are microorganisms we depend on.  Consider how Adam and Eve would have worked close to the soil, the plants and the animals without covering in an ideal world.  That would have been the norm had things not gone wrong.  Even today, gardening and farming and outdoor work is honorable.  Don’t we all have a place in our hearts for the iconic farmer, outstanding in his field, wiping away the dirt and sweat from his brow as the rooster crows and the sun’s rays spread over the land?  Doesn’t the proverbial milking maid walking through the chicken yard sing cheerfully as she carries the buckets of milk she squeezed with her bare hands?  City slickers driving their Lexi down concrete roads from plastic offices to their townhomes are missing out on a big part of life.  Watch the fun movie City Slickers again and see how some hard work and fresh air and risk-taking transformed a group of dudes in a midlife crisis into handsome, noble, proud heroes for a week, riding their steeds like kings.*    Don’t take this too far; nobody is prescribing mud wrestling.  Some things are dirty in an unhealthy sense.  If you are always depressed and tired, though, maybe your doctor needs to prescribe an oxymoron: clean dirt.(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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MH370 comment: The search should continue.

first_imgThe definition of “specific” is  playing  a key role in deciding whether the governments involved in the search for the missing Boeing 777 that operated Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will end their involvement when the current 120,000 sq. km search area has been swept.Two of the three governments have now rolled out the word in their response to a report by experts that there remains a high probability the wreckage is in a 25,000 sq. km area north of the current zone.Australian Transport Minister Darren Chester signalled on Tuesday that he did not think the new 25,000 sq, km area was specific enough to meet the criteria set down by officials from the three governments —  Malaysia, China and Australia — in July.Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tong Lai was singing from the same hymn sheet when he said Malaysia retained its “aspiration” to locate MH370.“While the report presented a thorough analysis of MH370 search efforts, we remain to be guided as to how this can be used to assist us in identifying the specific location of the aircraft,’’ Liow said.“The Governments of Australia, Malaysia and People’s Republic of China during the Ministerial Tripartite meeting in July 2016 have agreed that consideration will be given in determining next steps should credible new information emerge which can be used to identify the location of the aircraft.“I wish to reiterate that the aspiration to locate MH370 has not been abandoned and every decision made has and will always be in the spirit of cooperation among the three nations.’’All three governments should bite the bullet and do the right thing for the families of the 239 passengers and crew lost with MH370.Any government genuinely committed to finding the crashed Boeing 777  would search the area that the experts at November’s “First Principles Review”  said should be searched.The fact that the wreckage was not found in the first 120,000 sq. km search area may well mean we were looking in the wrong place but we were doing it for all the right reasons. That was the place to which all the facts we had at the time pointed. Now there are new facts, including a drift study by the CSIRO, that says it may be in a different area.Nor is this a finding group of a people who were dragged in off the street to voice their pet theory of what happened on that tragic night in 2014 when the plane veered off course. These were experts from around the world who took a forensic look at every scrap of information on the missing plane and said it’s worth continuing the search into this new area.They included Boeing 777 captains, representatives from accident investigators in the US, the UK and Malaysia as well as scientists, manufacturer Boeing and technology companies such as Inmarsat and Thales.Once this area is area is searched, they’ve acknowledged, the possibilities suggested by what little evidence they have will be exhausted.But until those possibilities are exhausted  the victims’ families are entitled to be outraged that not everything has been done to locate the plane.last_img read more

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South Africa ‘making progress’ in prisoner rehabilitation

first_imgThe chairperson of the government’s justice, crime prevention and security cluster, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe briefed journalists this week about prisoner rehabilitation programmes.South Africa’s prisons are correctional centres of rehabilitation, giving offenders hope and encouragement to adopt a lifestyle that will result in a second chance towards becoming ideal citizens. (Image: GovernmentZA, Flickr)Brand South Africa reporterSouth Africa is making progress in rehabilitating people in prison for committing crimes, and in creating opportunities for members of society to participate in this process, says Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.Briefing journalists in Cape Town on Wednesday as the chairperson of the government’s justice, crime prevention and security cluster, Radebe said these initiatives included the Victim-Offender Dialogue programme, as well as various education programmes to help offenders break the cycle of crime.Introduced by the Department of Correctional Services in 2012, the Victim-Offender Dialogue programme places the victim at the centre of the corrections process, and seeks to ensure that the victim is not forgotten once the offender has been sentenced by the courts.“As government, we acknowledge that the loss suffered by victims is irreplaceable, and that the healing of wounds and pain is a process that does not end once guilt is established by the courts.”Radebe said the government has in the past five years intensified its focus on the education of offenders.“Our prisons are now correctional centres of rehabilitation. Offenders are given new hope and encouragement to adopt a lifestyle that will result in a second chance towards becoming ideal citizens.”Flowing from the adoption of compulsory education, illiterate inmates on the pre-ABET adult literacy programme had increased by 100% from 1 300 to 2 600, with the target of catering for over 5 500 completely illiterate offenders.According to Radebe, over 9 700 offenders are currently enrolled on the full ABET literacy programme, while 3 525 are busy with Further Education and Training (including grades 10-12) studies, and 1 762 are undertaking their post-school studies.Source: South African Government News AgencyWould you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See Using Brand South Africa material.last_img read more

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Britain’s Zero-Carbon Dustup

first_imgSometimes, half-measures seem more disappointing than out-and-out reversals. Take, for example, the reaction to recently released details of the British coalition government’s 2011 budget for green measures in its “Plan for Growth,” whose relaxed home-building requirements have been called a “U-turn” by green-building advocates.Under the government’s lowered standards, critics say, carbon emissions generated by homes built after 2016 would be reduced by only two-thirds of the amount required to bring them to true zero-carbon performance. That’s because the new government policy requires home builders to comply only with the UK’s Building Regulations, a national building code that covers carbon dioxide emissions from energy used for heating, fixed lighting, domestic hot water, and building services. Getting projects to full zero-carbon performance, however, would also require that they obtain their energy from carbon-neutral sources.What’s really raised the ire of British green groups, however, is the government’s decision to exclude plug loads — electricity used for televisions, computers, hair dryers, and appliances — from consideration when making the zero-carbon determination.A missed opportunity to lead on emissions reduction?As noted in a recent post by green business website Greenwise, compliance with Building Regulations (most recently updated on October 1) is a crucial but incomplete step toward honoring the greenhouse-gas-emission mandates of Britain’s Climate Change Act. Passed in November 2008, the Climate Change Act commits Britain to legally binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions, including a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of at least 26% by 2020 (against a 1990 baseline) and a reduction by 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.So for green-building advocates, many of whom had worked on a consensus-based plan to define zero-carbon homes, the new budget policies are zero-carbon “lite” – or “anti-green,” as Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Building Council, put it.Last week, King complained that “in the space of two weeks, this government has gone from a firm commitment on zero-carbon homes to watered-down policy. A zero-carbon home will no longer do what it says on the tin. The world-leading commitment that new homes would not add to the carbon footprint of our housing stock from 2016 has been scrapped despite a remarkable consensus between industry and NGOs in support of it.”Incentives for renewablesThe government’s policy changes did include indications that the government will look for ways to advance the use of microgeneration technologies, however, by enhancing incentives for feed-in tariff programs and renewable-energy installations. The government says its Plan for Growth leadership will consult in May on the particulars.The coalition’s deregulation approach also played well with the Home Builders Federation, a trade association serving England and Wales. “HBF welcomes the move to set a realistic objective that is within the gift of house builders to actually deliver,” said John Slaughter, the association’s director of external affairs. “It is critical that if we are to build the homes the country desperately needs we reduce the overall regulatory burden on house building sites.”It’s too early to tell how much the government’s new policies will affect Britain’s ability to meet its Climate Change Act requirements, but the changes seems to have subverted the coalition’s promise to be the “greenest government ever,” says World Wide Fund for Nature-UK campaign manager Darren Shirley. “The government has undermined a unique example of the UK leading with a unique policy in Europe,” he said. “Zero-carbon new homes are now nothing of the sort.”last_img read more

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Friday Field Notes

first_imgEducation and Training for VeteransCSFP supports military veterans in New York directly by providing resources, training opportunities, and networking events. We work closely with key partners in the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) system to provide targeted, localized agricultural training opportunities to veterans. County extension offices make logical partners in our efforts to support veterans in agriculture due to their educational resources, community visibility, and existing networks. We see farming as both a way for veterans to make a living and a way to reintegrate with local communities. In this sense, CCE is able to connect interested veterans with farmers, homesteaders, and food producers who have similar interests within the community.  In August of 2015, working with Cooperative Extension of Allegany County and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, we ran a five-day intensive farm training program, called Armed to Farm, in Western New York state. The week long retreat utilized a mix of classroom and hands-on education to give 28 veterans a taste for what it would be like to start their own farm. The participants and instructors stayed together in a college dorm and took most meals together, creating a strong sense of camaraderie among the cohort.  This training program will be replicated again this year, in Central New York, and in 2017, in Eastern New York. Also last year, through our partners at Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, we were able to offer an “Ag Industry field day” to transitioning army personnel at Ft. Drum in Northern New York.  Working in collaboration with the Transition Assistance Program on the base, we toured a number of different local farms, as well as a winery, and a large farm machinery dealer. We see this opportunity to work with Fort Drum as vital, since they currently have roughly 4,500 soldiers leaving the base as civilians each year.Armed 2 Farm 2015 Group PhotoTraining the TrainersIn order to help cooperative extension better serve veterans we dedicated a full day of our annual “train-the-trainer” event to bring together traditional agricultural educators with traditional military service personnel. This allowed folks who serve veterans to learn more about the viability of farming as a career, while simultaneously teaching extension educators about the resources that are available to veterans as they transition to civilian life. This type of network building is a hallmark of our work and allows us to leverage connections to create a much greater impact. In addition to structured professional development events, we spend a good deal of our time making connections between individuals who are working to support veterans but do not know about each other. As noted in last week’s Friday Field Notes, there are a lot of people who are working in this field but often they exist in silos, through no fault of their own. Breaking down these silos can be challenging and time consuming but the results are often powerful. Because our work encompass the entire State of New York (which is quite large), we depend upon these networks of service providers to connect with each other in order to identify the veterans in their communities who are interested in agriculture and provide relevant programming.On the Job TrainingShort, intensive training opportunities can be ideal for some but what about more formalized training for veterans seeking careers in agriculture? Although careers in agriculture are increasingly thought to be rewarding for veterans, most types of farm training are not eligible for military education benefits, such those offered through the GI Bill. Transitioning service members are able to use GI Bill benefits for certain kinds of training, such as in the trades (e.g. plumbing or electric), or for accredited college programs. However, no state that we know of currently allows military service members to use their benefits to get hands-on agricultural training on farms. To change this, we are working with partners at the New York State Division of Veteran’s Affairs to develop high-quality, on-the-job training (OJT) programs for veterans on farms. Our challenge now is to find the right kind of farms to host on-the-job training and then to match veterans to those farms. We hope to have two veterans placed on farms this growing season. Once we pilot OJT on a few farms and learn best practices, we believe that the model will be easy to replicate on farms across the state and perhaps in other states as well.Ft. Drum Soldiers Learn about Dairy ProductionLooking AheadOver the next 18 months we will be working with The Institute of Veteran and Military Families at Syracuse University to evaluate outcomes from this project. We will be looking at success in terms of how many veterans have started a career in agriculture, how many have improved an existing farm business, and also at how the veterans we have worked with may have improved health outcomes, quality of life, and community support. We look forward to sharing success stories, lessons learned, and best practices with you in the future regarding how extension efforts are helping military service members transition from service to farming careers. For more information on the project please contact Matt Weiss ([email protected]) or Dean Koyanagi ([email protected]) or call our office at 607-255-9911.Hands On Vegetable TrainingAbout MattMatt is an Ithaca, New York native who has returned to the Finger Lakes region after spending seven years living in Philadelphia, PA. Matt has a B.S. in Communications from Cornell University and an M.S. in Community and Regional Planning from Temple University, where he focused on environmental planning and the collaborative planning process. He has over four years of experience with cooperative extension and small farming enterprises.Interested in learning more about this subject? Want to share a story? We invite you to comment. In our second Friday Field Notes blog post we are highlighting how cooperative extension educators in New York worked with personnel from Fort Drum  and with the New York State Division of Veteran’s Affairs to build capacity to address the need for assistance for transitioning service members and their families in their job and career searches.  As you read this post, consider how your efforts to build community capacity to enhance the resilience and well-being of military families via job and career assistance might benefit  from a collaboration with cooperative extension in your community. MattThe Cornell Small Farms Program (CSFP) makes its home in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. CSFP works collaboratively with a network of Cornell University faculty and staff, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) educators, and other small farm advocates throughout New York State to generate innovative research and extension initiatives that enhance small farm viability. We are currently engaged in a three-year project to support military service members and their families who farm and create pathways into agriculture for veterans seeking a career in the field. Transitioning service members bring many applicable skills with them to agricultural careers and they can make great farmers. Furthermore, those who farm often report that they find it deeply satisfying, allowing them to continue to serve their community, while also providing a nurturing environment in which they can heal. Farming is not an easy career for anyone but transitioning service members often encounter unique obstacles when considering entering into farming. There are over 800,000 military veterans in New York State, but they exist in a dispersed population, varying from 3-15% of the total population of each county. Because they do not have a dominant presence in any one location, specialized resources are often lacking, ultimately presenting a high barrier to entering agricultural jobs and further marginalizing these transitioning service members. Our project seeks to be a central point of contact and a resource hub for veterans who are passionate about agriculture in the state.Our strategy for supporting veterans takes a three-pronged approach:Provide educational opportunities in agriculture directly to military service men and women and their families (predominantly veterans);Empower traditional agricultural service providers AND traditional military service member service providers to better support veterans who want to farm;Certify farms in New York State to provide On-the-Job training to veterans.last_img read more

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