Archive for January, 2011

Its Wednesday, time to save the world again.

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Another Wednesday, another chance to make a difference in the world by making small changes in our lives. 

I listened to the State of the Union address last night, as I am sure many of you did.  We should really change the name of these televised speeches, as they are more like rallying sessions and really don’t address the state of the union.  But, that’s another conversation.  So today I wanted to tie into at least one of the subjects that President Obama was trying to get us energized about… health care, budget deficit, education…. lots to choose from.  But what sparked my interest was the interest in changing businesses and focusing on new technologies.  The scientist in me wants to be a part of creating an energy efficient new world.  The folk musician in me thinks that’s too big for a Wednesday.

I care about preservation of resources, but the solutions I’m hearing about all seem to involve buying something.  I have a 60 year old furnace.  I should buy a new more efficient furnace.  But that’s not going to happen, especially since my gas bill was less than 30 dollars in December.  I don’t need a new car, and the evidence is still sketchy that electric cars are any greener than an efficient combustion engine.  I doubt my roof can support solar panels, and don’t get me started on CFL’s.

But I have a solution that actually requires buying less.  Less meat and animal products.  Don’t worry, I am not suggesting anyone become a vegetarian or a vegan.  I like a rib eye on the grill as much as the next person, and you are not taking away my cheese.  But the UN Food and Agriculture Organization did a study a couple of years ago about the impact of raising livestock.  It found that large scale operations produce the majority of meat and meat products and that production has tripled in the last three decades.  Further, they found that since livestock requires large amounts of fodder crops, the use of fertilizers and pesticides has also increased dramatically.  The processing operations are much more energy intensive than processing of grains and vegetables, and the cold storage and transport needs of meat and dairy create another drain of fossil fuels.

But we – this small group of 900 committed, engaged, active, intelligent, music lovers – can do something about that.  We can impact energy consumption by eating a little less meat.  If you eat meat at most meals, have a vegetarian dish once a week- perhaps every Wednesday.  Eat a smaller serving of meat and add more grains and veggies on your plate.  When you are bringing a dish to a house concert pot luck, consider a meat free option.  We’re eating vegetarian chili tonight and I predict a quinoa and vegetable casserole in our future.

If you need help, I have lots of recipes for really easy vegetarian and vegan dishes. I even have a few vegan desserts and breakfast bars that I make.  Happy to share, and I bet others on the list are willing to share as well.

Another Wednesday, another world to conquer.

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

We’re taking on health-care.  Don’t panic, there is no political content this time, no nationwide consensus to be reached. No equations, complicated formulae.  

Forty-one economists, includind a few nobel laureates, filed an amicus brief in Florida arguing that the health-care bill is not unconstitutional.  They argue the unique characteristics justify the congressional mandate.  I am quite sure there is nothing I can do to influence a federal judge.  However, I am also quite sure it is not unconstitutional for me to tell you that if we all try to be a little healthier and help others to be healthier we can go a long way in solving the health care crisis.  And, I don’t think it is an over-reaching, over-confident assumption.

Again, don’t panic.  I am in no position to talk about your eating habits when I share a pie a week. I am not a fitness fanatic or in any way medically schooled.  Nope.  What I am is happy… and healthy.  I’ve always thought those two things were related and now I have found some support in science.

An Australian study of 9981 people found that folks who described themselves as happy and satisfied with life reported good health for the following three years and a much higher rate than folks who said they were not happy.  A Columbia University Medical Center study of 1700 people found that people who called themselves happy were 22% less likely to have heart disease.  (The study was on Canadians, but I think its still valid !)  So, if we are happier we will require less medical care, and put less strain on the health care system.  Simple.

So how do you get happy?  Less sciency studies seem to indicate that happiness is mostly a choice.  For me its always been my default state so I wasn’t sure I was qualified to tell you how to be happy.  So I hit the street.  I smiled and said hello to everyone I could.  Some people ignored me. Some nodded.  Some looked puzzled.  And some smiled and said hello. I asked that later group if they described themselves as happy and they all agreed that they were, to some extent, happy people. I followed up by asking if they ever did things to help themselves be happy.  Surprisingly, the folks that were the most sure about their happiness did modify their behavior to amplify their happy state. So from that pool of experts:  “when I am having a difficult day at work, I look at a picture of my kids”  “if I am feeling down I call a friend who tends to be upbeat”  “I take a few deep breaths when I first start to feel stressed.”

I engaged a few people in deeper conversations and found a few surprising similarities.  They had a good understanding of what mattered to them as individuals… and what didn’t.  They were focused on others, giving and sharing of themselves in service to others.  And finally they had hobbies and interests.

No one said music.  What?!? Music makes me happy.  Especially live music. When I hear other people play and sing, share that experience with a group, I feel energized, transformed and happy.  And that makes me healthy – I have the science to prove it.

Do you have ideas on promoting happiness?  Share them.  And smile, you’re fixing the health-care crisis.

World Changing Wednesdays

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

It snowed here on Monday and it is beautiful.  Today the sun sparkled of the front yard where the snow is still pristine.  Cold nights have created a little ice on the tree branches and they looked silver this afternoon.

So I thought water would be a good place to start.  We need clean water, we use a lot, and its getting harder to find.  We build dams, create reservoirs and use tons of energy purifying the stuff.  So water becomes one of the areas we address on Wednesdays.

Do you leave the water running when you brush your teeth?  If you do, that’s about 1460 gallons per year running down your drain if you brush your teeth twice a day. That’s a really easy habit to change and a great way to start the day thinking about using less, contributing more, and being conscious of  your activity.

Aidan did an informal survey a while ago.  He asked folks in a meeting if they ran the water while brushing their teeth.  40% did.  He told them the amount of water that wastes and asked them to try and change that behavior, if not for the good of the planet, then simply as a favor to him.  A year later about half of those that ran the water while brushing said they had stopped.

So instead of just doing, we can encourage other folks to do the same.  Aidan is a much nicer person than I am, so people will do favors for him, maybe not for me.  So my results may vary.  But I am asking, if you run the water while you brush, consider changing that routine, as a favor to me.  And I am asking you to share the information and ask others to change as well.

How much water can we save this year?

Thanks for tuning in.  Next week I’ll figure out how to incorporate music into this.

January Newsletter

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Happy New Year. Seven days in and its seems like a good one.
Let’s get the important stuff out of the way… the first pie of the year was an apple-cranberry-walnut tart.

Last month I carried on about the bliss of returning to New York for a few weeks. We lived there for nearly three years, met amazing folks, made good friends and felt like we were part of a great community. Going back made me realize that none of that goes away just because we moved. THANKS!

So this month we head to Florida. We lived there longer than anywhere else in our lives and still feel very tied to it. Can’t wait to see friends, visit favorite places, walk in the ocean. We’ll get to see our favorite camper John Rozett, hear how much Benny has learned on guitar, and wish our friend Mark Klein a happy birthday in person. Come out and see us – have a new CD since we were last in Florida.

About that CD… we have never really been happy with any of our previous recordings. But we actually like this one! We want to thank all the DJs who have supported us and especially Wanda Fischer from Albany for giving us a nice quote and John Platt in NYC, Lilli Kuzma in Illinois, Gaye and Randall Auxier in Ohio, Ken Connors in Jacksonville, Craig Huegel in Sarasota, Diane Crowe in Massachusetts, and Harlon Joye in Atlanta who played the heck out of the CD.

Center Stage (seriously, not stage left this time!)
Also last month, I said we’d solve all of the problems of the world this month. Its sounds a little ridiculous, even for me. But I’ve really been thinking about this. I keep hearing folks lament about the state of our environment, economy, healthcare, education. I hear people saying they don’t have confidence in the ability of government to fix things. But I remain positive, rose colored glasses firmly in place.
Who better than us to enact change. Really. I think about the individuals on this list, about nine hundred of you last time I looked, and I see a group of intelligent, educated, well-spoken, dynamic, engaged , energetic people. So really, who better than us. If we make small changes, lead by example, and communicate, we can create a sea of change.
Here’s the deal. Each week I am going to post small changes that we can make to improve our community. I invite you to share ideas on this blog as well. Individually our actions are small, but as a group we have a lot of sway. We may not fix the world, but we will improve our community. Are you in? My first post will be on Wednesday. But you don’t have to wait for me.

Have a great weekend. Hope we see you out on the road.
Christine (and Aidan)