About Slow Thinking (a Good Thing), plus an Offer of Friendship from a Democrat to Republicans, Independents, and Undecideds, and a Request for Their Help

A recent program from the TV series Hacking Your Mind explains that while we imagine our conscious minds make most decisions, in fact we go through much of our lives forming quick opinions without even realizing we’re doing it, using what researchers call autopilot thinking. We rarely take time to consciously consider opinons more slowly, which researchers call “slow thinking.” They also find we tend to stick to an opinion we made on autopilot, even if we later discover we were mistaken. We especially stick to it if it’s held by groups we feel we’re part of (Democrat, Republican, White, Black, etc.)  

Knowing about slow thinking and some other ways our minds operate could help Americans right now. But before getting to those, I have a proposal. In hopes our divided nation can come together and solve problems in an atmosphere of civility and empathy, I respectfully ask those who are considering re-electing the president to read what’s below. I come in peace, and write from my heart. I hope you agree at least that rather than the conflict and angry rhetoric we hear so often, it could be so much better (and make us happier) if we could work together to solve our many problems. We might even get to know and like each other. (As I finished this post the president and first lady contracted coronavirus. I wish them a quick recovery, and have left these thoughts mostly as they were, assuming he’ll be able to continue his campaign.) 

Back to Hacking Your Mind, researchers say it’s in our history and genes to want to belong to groups, and to feel a pull to compete with or even fight with other groups. This tendency can lead to an “us versus them” frame of mind. “Us vs. them” thinking oversimplifies and distorts complex problems by dividing the world into an “us” and a “them,” and scapegoating and vilifying” the “them” according to writers for Psychology Today.* We see this in sports, politics, and other areas. 

The writers say there are two theories as to how “us vs. them” occurs.One involves competition. As I understood it, an example might be a country struggling with a terrible economy blames a particular group for it, even though that group has nothing to do with it. (A version of this occurred in Nazi Germany). Or it may arise for reasons concerning identity and self-esteem. One of the writers explains: “the mere categorization of people into an us and a them is enough to produce hostilities.” So if you’re a member of a certain group, you may think it’s natural to feel hostile toward a group that thinks differently, even if it’s full of lots of perfectly nice people. (Note from me: What if the two groups talked about their differences together over coffee? Can we not have some differences without figthing about them?)

Social media has made these tendencies more extreme, for example when it’s used by bad actors who want to get us so angry with each other that we fight with and even kill each other. Hacking Your Mind tells of someone on social media who made up names for two nonexistent groups, and statements that would make each group hostile to the other. They then announced a meeting of each group, on either side of the same street at the same hour. Hundreds of people who had identified with the two groups went to the meeting, and when they realized the others were across the street, began to rage at each other. No doubt this was very satisfying to the instigators, who now must feel they have a lot of power over us. 

This is a terrible side of social media, and makes hopes of peaceful, unified problem-solving hard to hold onto. But we don’t have to fall for it. Slow thinking and vigilance can help us avoid the lure of such fake people and groups, and also of baseless dangerous theories and the often deranged, hate-or-power-obsessed people behind them. It would also help if we used social media less, and demanded that its owners better police themselves. By the way, our using social media is making the owners very wealthy. The site Investopedia tells us:

“If you’re not paying for the product, the product is you. The real transaction here isn’t you receiving enjoyment in the form of a free temporary distraction created by a media company at great expense, but rather, that media company renting your eyeballs to its advertisers.”  

Re “us vs them,” Psychology Today’s Marika Lindholm says today we tend to take sides on all kinds of issues such as vegetarians vs. carnivores, or Coke vs. Pepsi, etc., but some will have more serious consequences than others. A solution she suggests for those is “boundary spanners,” meaning people who belong to multiple groups and social worlds, including immigrants, biracial or bicultural individuals, gay members of the military, and others. She says rather than marginalizing them, we can “honor and empower” them, because they can help us bridge “us vs. them” divisions. For more on this go to:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-new-home/201908/the-psychology-us-vs-them

Now let’s apply slow versus autopilot thinking to politics. It’s clear Mr. Trump’s decisions please many people, and he’s a magnetic and skilled speaker. But did you ever feel swept up in the moment when everyone was cheering something he said, say at a rally, and then later hear a voice inside you ask, “Do I really go along with that statement?” Your autopilot thinking may have been at work at the rally, but a different decision later may be the result of slow thinking you chose to do when you got away fom the noise. 

I suspect many of us act too often on auto-pilot, not taking time to think through the country’s most serious problems and how we can solve themTake the pandemic. Say you saw photos of people on ventilators and doctors covered in protective equipment, you heard doctors say masks and distancing protect us, you saw many people wearing masks, and photos of huge new grave sites in various countries. Then you heard the president say the virus isn’t that dangerous or is nearly over. You might have made an autopilot decision to believe him, but later in a quiet moment you might have wondered what the real truth was as you slowly considered all the evidence. Even though he now has the virus, many people coming into the White House are still not wearing masks. They see how real the virus is, yet stick with their initial autopilot decisions, even at the risk of their lives!

We can find the truth by researching several sources, and asking ourselves questions such as (in this case) why would a leader we strongly supported lie to us about our own potential suffering and death? Why are so many businesses shuttered? Why do he and those around him get tested constantly, when many of us can’t get a test? Eventually we’d see that Mr. Trump got tested because he did know the virus is dangerous. Yet he needed us to feel calm and safe so we’d agree to opening businesses and schools, and would feel good about things seeming normal again. But why would he urge us to have such a dangerous “normal?” The only answer I see is that  his main goal was re-election, and it didn’t matter to him if more of us suffered and died to make that more possible. Your autopilot opinion may tell you “no way!” about this, but try slow-thinking through the facts and you may change your mind. 

Look at global warming. We’ve lost over four critically-needed years in which we could have slowed it, and not only does Mr. Trump not help, he’s done much to make it worse. As a model to the world he could help leaders work together and with us, to turn this hellish situation around. What’s worse is he does believe global warming is real. In 2009 he was part of a business coalition urging President Obama to take urgent climate action. See this link:

https://sustainabilityx.co/once-upon-a-time-there-was-a-president-that-didnt-believe-in-climate-change-21414c69e829

He has not and will not create national plans to stop the virus and global warming, but there is someone who will: Joe Biden. He’s got well thought out plans for both, having consulted the best experts he could find. Without such plans the pandemic will surely affect us deeply for another year or even more, and economic recovery will take much longer. If we don’t slow global warming we’ll soon see ever-larger areas where drought and heat force mass migrations northward; also more wildfires, loss of our remaining precious natural spaces, tropical diseases such as Dengue fever moving north, and more pandemics, just to start. (For more on this, one of many good places to look is the site of Union of Concerned Scientists.) 

There are many other issues we’ll need to think about carefully, but the virus and climate change certainly are among the most urgent. Joe Biden is intelligent, grasps what’s at stake, knows how to research  a problem, is kind, and will calm our overwhelmed nation and the world. He’s pledged to help people on all sides. So I respectfully beg you, even if you’re fond of Mr. Trump, please do consider at least for this one election voting for Mr. Biden. 

I apologize if anything I’ve written here has offended you. I hope a time comes soon in which feeling offense is rare because despite our differences we’ll have learned to respect each other. We’ll become more aware of our prejudices, substitute kindness for them, make friends with people from diverse groups, and decrease hostile “us versus them” thinking. We’re all human. It can’t be that hard to unite in peace to solve problems, especially with the extra time we’ll have that we used to use to fight and hate. Most important, we’ll gain the gift of new friends. Researchers say that if we want to thrive, the support of many good friends is crucial.     

*Psychology Today article by Arash Emamzadeh  
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-new-home/201908/the-psychology-us-vs-them

Some Ways to End Hatred

This article is mostly about reducing hatred and the misery it causes in America, but in the background is the rest of the world, which I mention because of what it and America now have in common. We and many other countries now stand on a precipice. At the bottom is the hellish existence we all face if we don’t solve several terrible problems we share including global warming, poverty, the decline of mental health, and hatred and its associates racism and anti-semitism. These problems will be solved more easily if all countries collaborate to share ideas and to help each other.

While current U.S. leadership thinks being a loner makes America great, the world is now so small that other countries seem to live just down the block. We need to get busy, with or without presidential help, rekindling old friendships with other countries and repairing strained relationships with them so we can make our efforts at home to stop hatred also become worldwide efforts to stop it. Many cities outside our country are protesting the murder of George Floyd, watching how we handle this moment, and I think rooting for us to find ways to solve these problems.

Our next step here however must be to arrest the officers who did not try to stop the murder. I hope that’s happened by the time this is published. This doesn’t mean they’re guilty and is not a trial. But doing nothing will only incite further protests which may cause more destruction, or cause our unstable president to again make matters worse by intimidating, offending, and harming protesters with absurdly inappropriate military might.

Next, we all need to see and hear serious talk followed by immediate action, about police reform and about equality for all in this country. The president should stay out of it since his only interest as everyone knows is in getting elected again.

There must be ongoing clear communication with the public about how the case is proceeding including plans for a trial, what plans have already been discussed on changing policing, and what else is in the works now to show we’re serious about laws and reforms that will stop this terrible cancer in our culture. The point is the people need to see action now.

To accomplish what must be the immediate raising up of all who are downtrodden here (now an emergency of the highest order) we need not just the help of government leaders but also business leaders. On CNN this past week Martin Luther King III called at one point for large businesses to help. I agree, because with some thought and effort they can help provide or at least encourage creation of more jobs, higher minimum wage, a racism-free work atmosphere, funding for media campaigns that encourage the same, and more. All businesses need to strive to do this, but Big Business’s big money does talk and can get big things done.

Also critical is the need for better laws at federal, state, and local levels, which must include a strong focus on safe and fair voting, ethically-run elections, much more support for the poor, homeless, unemployed and underemployed, fairness, justice, equal opportunity, and elimination of hunger and homelessness. If all this change requires giving checks to everyone below a certain income, that’s what we need to do (see Annie Lowrey’s book Give People Money).

Our government, business leaders, and educational and research institutions all need to support decent housing and ways to provide more healthy food, including eliminating food deserts and repairing and beautifying now-downtrodden neighborhoods, adding to them healing nature with trees and parks, and adding a sense of safe community by helping business owners open stores and establish cafes, coffee shops, etc. that include outdoor seating. All American cities need more of those amenities that add nature and a place to meet and feel community, because researchers say we are chronically nature-starved and too isolated socially for the most part. But poor communities often have not one of these benefits, and the resulting atmosphere adds to their feelings of hopelessness.

Mayors of cities have already banked up a lot of wisdom, and often have to come up with solutions to big problems with no outside help. Both singly and together with other mayors they’ve been wonderfully innovative. In this case we need them to assure citizens first that there will be immediate police reform, and then to help secure the requirements such as better pay and more food that are mentioned above. Governors hopefully will also help with these changes throughout their states. When federal leadership is lacking, governors and mayors have shown they get a great deal done by helping each other, so we can hope that will continue at least until there is a competent president again.

Chiefs of police are clearly also important in this process, and besides being good leaders of the force must be also humanitarian leaders, and teachers in the community. One critical task they have now is to stop allowing people to become police officers who were once playground bullies, or who ever showed the slightest indication of a bent toward cruelty, sadism, or obsession with weapons, or showed any other psychopathology.

Psychologists who understand police work, then, need to be hired to develop tests and interviews that reveal such personalities, so they are not hired. Once officers are cleared and hired, they should be required to sign contracts that.pledge to respect and treat humanely every individual they encounter. They need to be coached in helping to reduce racism and hatred in their communities, and informed that any actions or comments to the contrary will not be tolerated. Oversight and laws will probably be needed to ensure that these changes are made and adhered to.

The media and ad agencies can help us reach an entire swath of people who are prejudiced in many different ways and for many reasons. Some hate anyone not white, others hate Jews, the list goes on. They’re out there and we’ll probably never know how many there are, but the idea is to reach them and try to help them see why it’s best for everyone including them not to continue this way. This requires educating people wherever possible, not just in school and at home but in workplaces, on TV with messages and shows suitable for both kids and adults, and on billboards, posters, and signs in front of homes as we already see now in some places.

I’ve always believed, perhaps being too much of an optimist, that civilization would finally evolve, becoming kind, empathetic, and wise. Here and there there’s been a glimmer of hope, but given our problems now, that’s not enough. The time to evolve is here. It’s too late for a slow change because this is an emergency. I believe we can do it, and the rest of the world might just follow.

Let the murder of George Floyd help carry us to that new place we should have gotten to long before now. In this new evolved era we’ll need to understand that to stop hate, nothing is likely to work as well as the power of kindness and empathy. Many of us don’t think about these concepts often, so the concepts might have to be taught, and then practiced. Still, good laws will be needed as backup to protect the rights of all during those times when some forget to practice this new ethic of kindness.

Many cynics, or other people who somehow enjoy feeling prejudice, may sneer at the idea of kindness, empathy, and generosity being the norm, and the accepted way to work, govern, and live. Let them. Then remind them that the alternative is further disintegration into the tragic morass in which we now find ourselves. Explain that we all need people to recognize that hate and fear of others gets in the way of happiness for everyone, and often causes much of the harm and suffering in our world.

Teachers in our schools can help deliver this message by promoting kindness and empathy in the classroom and on the playground. They can stop bullies immediately, and then teach them why that behavior is so bad for them and for the world. If the children are bullied at home they need to be counseled and helped. There should be school psychologists available who can help detect whether there is abuse at home or in the child’s neighborhood.

Although many have tried unsuccessfully in the past, each of us needs to continue to encourage and model that because someone’s color or religion is different there is no need to fear or hate them, and that we can all be friends, and benefit a great deal from the friendship. It needs to be a ubiquitous message, at least until there is change. We need to emphasize that friends are important, and that it’s wonderful to have many of all kinds because the mental health boost given us by having such a supportive community is said by researchers to make us happier and even more physically healthy. More happy people seem likely to help to make the world a happier, less violent place. We need to get across that being together as one people is actually possible, and is much better for us than division and hate. Children need to get this message too, early and often.

To further encourage this togetherness, I can report that rapper Killer Mike, asked by Stephen Colbert on his show what else we all can do to help, requested that we donate to and/or volunteer to work with one or more of the many grassroots organizations trying to help African Americans in many cities, such as Movement for Black Lives, and commit to doing this for some time.

I’ve mentioned ad experts and the media. They can help by crafting and showing messages and PSAs that remind us that treating others kindly is no longer just a nice thing but is essential, and that not getting to know those who are different out of fear and old hatreds makes our lives much duller and surely less joyful. I’m no ad expert but here are some of my (rough) ideas for marketing slogans, which I imagine might have some good art to accompany them: “Love people. Most of us are really cool,” or “Love. It feels so much better than hate,” or “Most people are fascinating. Don’t hate them. Get to know them!” And there’s an older one that’s still good: “Live and Let Live,” or another version of it I came up with: “Live and Help Others Live.”

A nationwide deep apology is also now called for, and it should come from every business and government leader.

We can do this. The wrongs that have been done are clear. If we can’t make this cultural shift toward changing from hate to love, then the tyranny and suffering will continue. If we can’t manage to turn toward kindness as the American way of life, we are not only pathetic, we are lost.

Animal Agriculture and Amazon Fires–a Reasonable Solution

Since I’ve been hearing for years that animal farming converted to plant farming could feed everyone on the planet, and since the animals suffer so horribly, I could never understand why the world had not at least begun to move toward this change. Now of course it’s an even bigger emergency as the Amazon burns and we hear it is again largely because Europe (and I guess other places) wants more and more beef. I looked around to see if anything is being done at all right now with the animal farming issue due to the emergency we now face in the Amazon, and found a page of various contradicting views. Then I found the article I want to tell you about, on the Forbes site:

Who can Really Stop the Amazon Fires? by Justin Adams.

It makes a lot of sense because Adams sees that in order to make the needed changes we have to support the businesses reliant on earnings from their current activities that damage the forests (such as cattle farming). I have always believed something similar to this kind of thinking is the solution to most of our problems. Make sure those who would lose money due to the changes are pretty well supported financially while we help then to convert to something less harmful, or ideally not at all harmful.

I urge you to read Adams’ article (it’s not too long) and encourage your government leaders, as I now do, to use this and similar methods as soon as possible to help save the rainforest, but also in other cases where there is any emergency that causes suffering of living beings, human or animal, caused by a business that’s the livelihood of people who also need to survive. As for the Amazon right now, in addition to the health of the planet that’s already in dire straits from global warming, don’t forget all those beautiful and often-endangered forest animals who are suffering and dying in the flames, or the healing and sometimes life-saving Amazon plants experts have been discovering that are now being destroyed.

Sure it will cost money to support the businesses as they convert to something else, but what is money for if not to keep our Earth healthy so we, the animals, and the plants can all thrive? And what will it cost if we don’t make the changes? Of course we’ll also have to stop eating beef and using many other animal products, and help businesses to find ways to produce other things we need (as Adams discusses) that don’t harm the trees. Don’t be afraid of this. Innovation is alive and well in the world and much has already been done to solve the problem of what to use for food, clothing, shoes, and other products, instead of using animals or using harmful methods when safer ones are available. Many of us have been doing that for some time and have become much healthier than we used to be (myself included). We also feel free of the burden of knowing we no longer cause suffering, though we get depressed about how much suffering continues.

Meat substitutes are getting fairly sophisticated, though I don’t crave them and find getting creative with plant food healthier and surprisingly enjoyable. Imagine the resulting decrease and maybe even ending of the current 24/7 agony of beautiful, innocent animals. You may not hear their cries of terror and pain, but believe me the suffering goes on all the time. How blissful would it be to know we’re ending it as a side effect of saving the planet and feeding the world’s hungry? But we’ll also be helping decrease other damage, as Adams describes, by using less harmful methods to get products we need from the forests. There’s a reason they call the Amazon rainforest “the lungs of the planet.” Do we really want to leave a barely livable planet to future generations? Our children are already angry with us for much of what they see now. Let’s not wait and discuss it endlessly. The time for action is now.

Adams describes the kind of things that can be done logically and clearly. He gives me hope. Please do read the article. Here’s the link:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/worldeconomicforum/2019/08/29/amazon-fires-people-focus/#23f9466e1cd2

IN MEMORIAM

For a Country and a Planet

The planet, a diverse paradise of oceans, rivers, mountains, forests, and plants and animals of unimaginable beauty, was the only one in its solar system inhabited by all these, and by sentient beings called humans, or people. Many of the people lived joyous, peaceful lives, yet some sometimes became ill with unfounded fears about each other that led to hatred, tyranny, and even wars they never learned to prevent even though each was more terrible than the last. Eventually their weapons became more ferocious, until they were so powerful they could destroy large swaths of the planet and all that lived on it. 

Despite it being clear that humans were imperfect and often made mistakes or became unbalanced, no one stopped the creation of the weapons and the use of materials that could make more of them. Neither did they stop creating smaller weapons that caused murders of many of the people by only a few individuals. It seemed that no one could stop them because powerful groups of people who were addicted to weapons would not allow it. There was more and more killing followed by crippling sadness in people who lost those they loved.  

Some of the most powerful people were so consumed with their own desires that they ignored the suffering of all others, including the people whose loved ones were killed in mass slaughters. It became clear many were killed mostly because they were not the same white color as most of those in power, or prayed in a different way from them. During this same period, many of the powerful also ignored the looming demise of the planet, as it grew sick from toxins created by the peoples’ industries, showing its grave need through increasingly dangerous fires, storms, deaths of species, and destruction of the natural areas that made it so beautiful. In the end the powerful people let the desperate planet struggle until it died, taking with it all living beings, most of whom had been innocent, kind, and good. 

The pieces of land called countries had looked for guidance to one country considered the greatest, whose founders had possessed great vision. But in this country’s latter days one of its temporary leaders, elected under murky circumstances never completely understood, began to talk of permanently extending the job he had already made into something like the reign of a king. Unlike his predecessors, he was mad and sick with power and greed, and devoid of the great human quality of empathy. He worked both openly and in secret to undermine every effort of those fighting to save the people, the country, and the planet from each other’s weapons and from the planet’s illnesses. 

He soon was acknowledged as the country’s first leader desiring to be what people called a dictator. These were the worst leaders in this world’s history, and always left suffering and death in their wake. Though already wealthy and powerful, he took advantage of his position to gain yet more, despite the cost to the country and the planet. To this end he put in powerful positions people who thought as he did or who would do what he commanded without question. 

The people began to suffer from fear and grief as they watched him destroy laws and rules that had protected them and their beautiful world, and make new ones that made them feel unsafe, causing endless worry and stress. They saw him align himself with other dictators, and with a growing group of people that, like some similar groups in the past that were responsible for murdering millions, spread hatred of all those different from them. They watched him befriend yet others who seemed to love weapons, and who, when grieving families worked to ban them, blocked their every attempt. It didn’t matter to the dictator or his allies how many lives the weapons took. Their turning away from the suffering created a well of sorrow in the country so wide and deep that an anguished cry for the country’s sake was heard throughout the planet. Yet they let the deaths and the mourning of the people, and the destruction of the beautiful planet go on and on. All that seemed to matter to them was wealth and power. The dictator himself believed he was all-powerful, as indeed he seemed to be.  

He and his associates came to symbolize to the people all that was immoral, unethical, cruel, and–in the end we would have to say–evil. Some who could have stopped him were afraid of losing their own positions, so remained silent and continued to obey him. They too became symbols of cruel indifference. The people began to call them all by a name reserved in their history for those they’d reviled the most: traitors. The powerful had betrayed with stunning heartlessness their fellow humans, the great country’s founders, and the beautiful planet with its marvelous creatures.

Who can say if there will ever again exist such a wondrous world, or beings similar to those of that planet, now lost to us? The creator or whatever force made it would have to find a way to make intelligence in each being a trait infused with abhorrence of hate, greed, and tyranny. All people including leaders would need to be born with generosity and the desire for peace ingrained in their very cores. Until such a marvelous thing occurs, all we can say further about this world that contained so much raw material from which could be made such a beautiful existence, is that we miss it, and we will long mourn its passing.

No Excuses

No Excuses

Around the world people are starving, others are suffering as war rages around them, water resources are endangered, rain forests are disappearing, the ever more dangerous effects of climate change are increasing, and fellow humans at home are under constant attack by people filled with hate, Instead of being a world leader in attacking these problems, our country’s leaders are busy avoiding the wrath of the NRA while mass murders continue to accelerate.

There is no excuse for this kind of supremely selfish, cowardly behavior in those in power in what used to be the leader of the free world. It’s an atrocity that background checks and banning assault weapons is even under discussion as people are mowed down or lie in hospitals wounded and dying, and millions of others  fear for their lives and the lives of their children.

Stringent background checks and banning of ALL assault weapons and ways to make them should be immediate with NO DISCUSSION.

To do less or wait one minute longer can be considered nothing other than immoral, unethical, and yes, criminal. Leaders who are blocking this, and NRA, this is what you are will be remembered for.

A Note to and for Haters, Killers of All Kinds, and Certain Government Officials

I’ve been writing about hate and killing for some time now since they’re hardly compatible with my goal of helping us create less-stressed American cities. I agree with many of the suggestions offered by caring people about these matters, and here add my own specific ones, some of which may seem naive but–some readers tell me–that help them to feel more hopeful. I realize some of these suggestions will seem extreme to some (such as no guns, period). Yet in the end we have to get our heads out of the sand and acknowledge that the problems we to need solve in order to stop the violence are deeply embedded in our society, encouraged by leaders who are part of those problems. So it shouldn’t be surprising that the changes needed are dramatic. 

Our problems are not just from the bigotry now being considered fine by some, or from fear of those not like us, but also from our general acceptance of violence and weapons as necessary. Neither prejudice nor guns are necessary in a civilized society, and if we made the society more civilized with laws and whatever else it takes to show we value lives and peace, more of us would see that. (Isn’t a civilized society the goal? ) It’s not normal that some people see hate and violence as normal.

Each time there’s a massacre and whenever there’s cruelty or killing, I find I’m thinking the same thought. That is that along with gun control (at least) and the other changes most sensible people want, we also need deep and thoughtful change in our culture, and much of it should involve promoting kindness and empathy at every level and in every corner of the culture. Maybe that kind of change is what will finally convince those in elected office or otherwise in power that when they don’t act to stop mass murder and suffering, when their own personal goals come before the lives of others, they must accept some of the blame.

FOR THOSE WHO HATE

(The bold print below is accidental and so far we’ve been unable to return it to normal print. Please read as regular print–thanks.)

If you hate a certain group of people, or even one person, there are numerous ways you can turn off that hate, and it’s a good idea to try to do that. If you were trained to hate–and most people who hate have been trained–you owe it to others, to the world, and mostly to yourself to un-train yourself. There are many ways to do this. Practice empathy and kindness even if that’s new for you. Stop hanging out with other haters, and do whatever else you can to get yourself to the other side where you can learn about and begin to care for your neighbors. If you get to know your neighbors or acquaintances of other colors or backgrounds you’ll likely find they’re really cool people, nice to be with, and often have interesting life stories to tell. If you ask you’ll learn about their cuisine, how they like to party, what they miss from back home and what they love here. Your own life story is also of great interest–everyone’s is. So why not tell it to them, while removing prejudice, fear, rage, and cruelty from your mind. Then your life has a better chance to end up a happy and peaceful one, which is much harder to accomplish if you live in a cloud of hatred. 

Remind yourself that people can’t help where they were born, what color their skin is, or who their parents are. Put yourself in their shoes if they’re not like you, and stay there a few minutes. Realize that all most of them want is a chance to have a reasonably happy, healthy life, like you do. Many of us struggle with how to do that, and the struggle is hard enough without having to deal with hatred, violence, and the horrific loss of life mass shooters cause. 

If you’re still consumed with hate or the urge to harm, ask for help. One place you can get it is to google local mental health resources in your area and try to connect with one. One helpful national site (and group) is MHFA or Mental Health First Aid. Try going there to see their huge list of resources that can help with any kind of mental illness or pain. One of many helpful pages there is https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/mental-health-resources/

Or go to a place online that’s about more positive emotions such as ways to be happier. One of many sites that may be helpful is https://www.sparringmind.com/be-happy/ . Or learn about how prejudices are formed, at a site like Very Well Minds, on this page:  https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-prejudice-2795476 

If you’ve read any history you may know that often the reasons people are taught to hate are based on false premises. A common human weakness is to find someone else to blame for our troubles even when it makes no sense. Other people may harm us at times, sure, but when entire groups, races, or religions are made into scapegoats you can bet the reasons for it don’t ring true. So stop believing things you hear coming out of the mouths of racists and bigots and get over your prejudices that some pathetic, clueless website, friend, or relative taught you. 

Look the rest of us straight in the eye and tell us that if you didn’t live here and were being persecuted or threatened, that you wouldn’t want to come to a freer country like this one where you thought you could be safe and have at least some kind of work. Persecuted people and refugees have done this throughout history. You know you’re a hypocrite if you say you wouldn’t do the same. Many immigrant families by the way come from places where family ties are close. This often makes them secure and loving people just because close families often foster those good feelings. That means they’re very nice people to know. All such families I’ve met tend to be warm, caring, and kind.

So please come out of the dark ages and stop accusing them of things they aren’t doing, and stop trying to hurt them. Maybe even try this: help them. Helping people makes the helper happier–too many researchers have found that to be true for you to doubt it. Try it. You’ll like it.

GUNS & THE ACT OF KILLING  

A great many people, myself included, believe there’s no excuse for killing for any reason, period. In fact by now we should have evolved enough as a species to be done with all killing including that done in wartime as a way to solve problems (we should be done with war as well). But even if we’re temporarily forced to participate in or suffer through wars by greedy, angry, selfish, and power-mad leaders, we don’t have to also kill each other at home.

As for guns themselves, they don’t belong in a peaceful, civilized society, end of story. Hunters, you won’t like this, but even killing animals for whatever reason has got to bring out something in you that cringes, doesn’t it? Truly evolved humans, in my view, should abhor inflicting pain on any other living thing. As long as a bunch of us go ahead and kill things (and most of us really don’t need that deer meat do we?) it will be easier for humans to find killing and maiming okay. 

That’s why I believe guns of ANY kind should be banned, and nothing short of that is acceptable. I’m not a naive wacko, I’ve just had enough. Haven’t you? Let’s say you still insist on having a gun. Whether or not you’re a member of the NRA, don’t you find it outrageous and kind of sickening that this group that tries to keep lots of guns around at all costs actually controls many of our elected officials? 

TO CERTAIN GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

You’re not fooling anyone when you act only to protect your title as representative or senator or President, while letting suffering and injustice continue. No rep of mine who does that will ever get my vote again. Act to protect people from hate and gun violence now, and get ALL of it done, not just tiny steps.  And no I don’t want the death penalty–that’s just more violence, cruelty, and death.  Enough. 

OTHER KILLING IN OUR CULTURE ADDS TO THE GENERAL VIOLENCE

Because I believe that killing anything makes killing something else easier, I also believe we should stop the horrifying practice of animal agriculture. We may not personally hear the tortured, terrified cries of animals headed to and going through slaughter, but we know they’re out there, 24 hours a day. We know unless we lie to ourselves that that pain we cause, directly, or indirectly with our dollars, can’t be good for us either. When we do such things to other living things it should ring alarm bells in us, and I believe it would go along way toward creating a happier, more peaceful culture if we paid attention to those alarms.

Besides it also being awful for the environment and the fact that we can feed many more people with plants, continuing this practice means a certain number of humans–many who would rather not have such jobs but can find no other—will be forced to carry out that cruelty for hours a day even if it causes them great personal pain (the evidence is that it does for many of them, and they are never the same again).


I’m convinced that one day slaughtering for food as well as hunting for “sport” will be universally decried for the barbarous acts they are, that we’ll be seeing very few mass killings of people then as well, and that those two changes will be at least somewhat connected. This is why I include comments about animal killing when I write about hate and mass shootings of humans. Killing and causing suffering is too widely accepted in our culture, even though most of us don’t participate. It’s in the air too much. So I’m suggesting a holistic approach to stopping violence by stopping all violence of all kinds, so we get out of the habit of seeing and accepting it.

(Note: For a more detailed piece on some of these ideas, go to this blog’s first-ever post, written after the Parkland massacre.)

5G Update February 2019

Susan Cooke

I just heard a commentator on CNN mention that soon “They’ll be rolling out 5G,” as he talked about other innovations and changes the country will have to face in the near future. I wrote here about 5G last fall, reporting the outrage of many people who fear the health effects a number of experts are warning us about with this new technology that’s about to be forced on us. They see it as yet another example of high profit for a few and ever-faster communication a rush to get the next best, fastest thing despite inadequate testing. 

I’m writing about it again because suddenly it seems it’s a done deal that we are going to have it forced on us. The best way to give you a taste of what’s wrong with that is a quote from an article by  Dr. Cindy Russell of the Santa Clara Medical Association  (“A 5G Wireless Future: Will it Give us a Smart Nation or Contribute to an Unhealthy One”).

The quote is from a letter about 5G written to the FCC by Ronald Powell, PhD: 

It would greatly extend FCC’s current policy of the mandatory irradiation of the public without adequate prior study of the health impact and assurance of safety. It would irradiate everyone including the most vulnerable to harm from radiofrequency radiation: pregnant women,  unborn children, young children, teenagers, men of reproductive age, the elderly, the disabled, and the chronically ill.

Below I list some important articles on 5G and the cell towers that apparently are going to be inflicted on all of us (lots and lots of them) without concern for possible health effects. First I recommend Dr. Russell’s article, at:

https://www.mayday-info.dk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Bilag-4-A-5G-Future-Santa-Clara-Medical-Association.pdf

Before going to the other articles, I should mention that there are already many people trying to fight off effects of our chronic exposure to electromagnetic radiation with the current technology in use by most of us. They build shelters to put in their bedrooms or systems to put in their attics because even if they shut off their own wifi as much as possible (some have none at home at all any longer) they still suffer from wifi from homes close to them. When they manage to shield themselves successfully they report many painful symptoms disappearing. We figured at our house we’re already swimming in electromagnetic radiation, and it’s likely you are too. We now turn wifi off at night so at least we’re not sleeping in so much of it. This was recommended by a book I read on possible contributors to auto-immune illnesses. Some people think it’s nonsense but there’s much evidence to the contrary.

It’s clear we don’t even know enough about our current state of exposure, so it’s insane to pile on more, wouldn’t you say? If we don’t protest–now rather than later–we’re going to find thousands of new smaller and powerful 5G towers almost in our front yards, and yet have zero control over their effects on us. We have pretty much the same human body we did centuries ago, but it wasn’t exposed to any of this stuff. It’s hard to imagine it not having an effect.

The next warning article is from CBS News, includes some photos. Note that one person interviewed feels she’ll have to move to avoid living next to a tower.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/5g-network-cell-towers-raise-health-concerns-for-some-residents/

In the article below are details about 5G’s potential health effects, including some studies. It’s thorough, alarming, and proof this is not a good idea, at least not as it’s now planned, should not be forced on us:

Next is a video, and several other links on the subject on that same page you might want to have a look at as well:

https://www.google.com/search?q=%22ConsumerWatch%3A+5G+Cellphone+Towers+Signal+Renewed+Concerns+Over+Impacts+on+Health%22&oq=%22ConsumerWatch%3A+5G+Cellphone+Towers+Signal+Renewed+Concerns+Over+Impacts+on+Health%22&aqs=chrome..69i57.2573j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

And from UK’s Daily Mail:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5784487/The-roll-5G-wireless-service-massive-health-experiment-public-health-expert-warns-a.html

The above UK report (which is mostly about the US) states that some studies have already linked older wireless service generations to cancers of the reproductive system and heart, and 5G health effects have hardly been studied yet. But still the plan is, without asking us, to inundate us with some 800,000 new cell towers to support 5G. (The report says now we have 154,000.)

These articles make clear that it’s highly irresponsible, unethical, and, might I say, greedy, to bulldoze over the entire US population with hundreds of thousands of new cell towers we can’t trust to be safe.

I’ve already written two of my reps in Congress about 5G, and I hope you’ll do the same if you’re concerned. My purpose in this blog and in my book is to find ways to increase wellbeing for all living things, which mostly cannot be achieved as long as profit always remains king. Yes 5G does some helpful things, but rolling it out untested is not worth the possible price. By the way for what it’s worth the towers don’t look that great and would not be a garden enhancement for sure. You’ll see them in some of the articles.

Go to the next link to see some important notes of one concerned reporter on how a number of people (including some firefighters, notably, who were affected by a 5G tower near them) are desperately trying to prevent–and if not that–escape–a much more difficult task–5G being put near their homes and workplaces due to illness they’ve already experienced when 5G is allowed.

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/mobilfunk_newsletter/o88iVmdFm4o

The above information gives you a good idea of what’s going on, but there is much more online including pages on how 5G will benefit the Internet of Things. But don’t let all that excitement distract you from the real possibility that the health and even longevity of many–perhaps all–of us–and animals too (maybe even plant life?) may be in serious danger. Below are a few more of my comments, some of which were on the earlier blog post, should you want to read more.

——————————–

I’ve seen a variety of opinions on EMFs (electromagnetic fields), but I still find enough negatives to make me want to insist on no further electromagnetic radiation near where I live.  An accomplished software engineer I know says he doesn’t see that the new 5G technology is that necessary, especially if it puts people’s health at risk. He says instead what we need is faster connections to people’s houses, which you can do with just wires only. (Full disclosure,  I’m married to the software engineer. His name is Victor Preston.)

My understanding is none of us has the power to say “No” to these towers. As one article states it, they’re coming, period. That’s pretty pushy, wouldn’t you say? What I think we need to do then is block this technological “advance” until its proven safe.Why not delay it until it’s known for certain not to cause harm? And if it does cause harm it clearly must be redesigned or scrapped. We’re going to be exposed to this stuff for most hours–maybe all hours–of every day. What’s the big hurry? I’m pretty sure it’s primarily the usual suspect—Big Profit.

We’re already bullied a lot health-wise, and if you want to know more about that read Ty Bollinger’s mind-blowing book The Truth About Cancer.  (If everyone read it and helped create change in the system, many of us would recover from illness with less suffering and less expense, and Big Medicine and Big Pharma would be just a little less wealthy—but don’t worry about them—they’ll still be richer than most of us.)  Big Money’s tentacles extend into medicine so far beyond what you might imagine that it will make you very angry. But 5G will also add to the enormous cost of healthcare and line the pockets of Big Pharma even more once we all get even sicker which does seem to me likely.

Sadly it may be hard to prove it was 5G that made us sick if it does because the damage may be slow and not necessarily immediately noticeable. What if you move to another location, you ask? I’m afraid that may not be possible, since, though it may start only in select areas, what I’ve read so far indicates those in charge assume eventually it’s going to be everywhere. Even if we could move away from it, how many millions can uproot themselves, and where can they go that won’t have it eventually if those in charge are this set on it? 

Another thought: If we don’t stop this plan to dump these towers on us, and we do get sicker, the companies profiting from them will likely find ways to blame any resulting illnesses on something else.

Yet some people are already planning to uproot themselves, as you see in one of the articles, should those towers come into their neighborhoods. But the tragic results of a lot of moving is it will further to destroy what little sense of community some of us have managed to build into our lives. This country desperately needs more sense of community because we’ve lost most of what we did have and many of us are isolated to a degree that’s dangerous to mental (and therefore also physical) health. 

The companies pushing 5G–and also governments allowing the towers–should also consider what they may likely have to pay for the lawsuits that will likely show up later due to illness if they charge ahead. But how do you measure tearing apart communities as people try to flee this technology to protect their health?

The time to investigate and to protest is now, before they put all the towers up. I feel bad for the initial test cities, which you see listed in one of the articles. Did those people have any say in the matter? In one of the articles you’ll see that one resident expects property values to go down a lot when the towers come since most people in her area don’t want them. I honestly don’t see how this many towers can be shoved on us all without asking our permission and with so much ignorance about future results. I saw a figure of 800,000 by 2026 for the US.  And even if a neighborhood wants them (I doubt that will happen given the risk) each house should be able to say no.

I’m all for technology making our lives better but when health is endangered and anxiety over the technology causes stress and the increased depression (often caused by added prolonged stress), the change is not better. Ignoring such concerns shows a lack of respect for people’s peace of mind, something too little attention is paid to already by government and business, and which deeply affects wellbeing and health and therefore the very length of our lives. 

I don’t want to be part of this experiment, or for you to be either. Too often in the past we’ve accepted new technologies without asking enough questions and demanding proof of safety. I believe a good chance to have a healthier, less angst-ridden life is a basic human right, and government and industry need to be reminded of this constantly. It looks as if we’re going to need to stand up to protect our health and wellbeing since government is failing to do it, and because profit can and often does roll over a people like a tank. As I say ad nauseam, enough money is one thing; more and more profit no matter the cost to health of people and the planet is another.

Here’s a novel idea:  How about these big companies taking a kinder, wellbeing-promoting route? I urge them to make their money on something known to be safe. If they can’t find safer communication technology, they could turn their vast innovative powers to other businesses desperately needed to make life healthier. They could for example replace some of the many toxic chemicals the FDA allows with safer ingredients. They could work on ways to grow more healthy plant food and feed more people, or find ways to house more people. Instead they’re promoting possible increased illness and more of the chronic anxiety already rampant in our society by forcing 5G on us.

 

INDUSTRIAL & Other LOUD NOISE & its EFFECTS on HEALTH & WELLBEING

Susan Cooke

This is an updated and clarified post and reminder of how we’re affected by industrial noise, how we can help others by limiting the noise we make, and how we can begin to persuade government and business to help us find more quiet in our daily lives in the city, including quiet in the few bits of nature we can find there. Research increasingly shows we’re starved for time in nature–that is, nature without industrial noise.  Research also shows that loud noise in general is decreasing wellbeing and adding to illness worldwide.

———-

Do you ever find that there’s no place near home where you can experience even a few minutes of quiet time in some green space like a garden or park, or even your own yard, porch, or balcony (emphasis on the word quiet)? How many times can you go outside or just open your windows on a lovely day without hearing leaf-blowers, giant lawnmowers, diesel trucks, jets overhead, or construction equipment? Do you go into your garden if you have one, to take a moment to smell the roses or some other flowers you planted, or just to hear the breeze rustling the leaves, and get a lungful of nearby leaf-blower or diesel exhaust along with an earful of roaring noise?

Do you get blasted with loud sound systems or TVs in every eatery or store you enter? Do you ever say “enough” to the ever-increasing noise assaults of all kinds? Did you know that besides the stress you feel, and even if you don’t feel it as much as many others do, that so much exposure to all these loud sound assaults (and in the case of loud engines, exposure to the exhaust from many of them) is harmful to your health?  

In my town, a small city next to Boston, you can take what you might hope will be a quiet walk as late as 6 or 7 pm and still be forced to hear or inhale, on street after street, noise and fumes from leaf-blowers, giant lawnmowers, weed-whackers, power saws, sanders, stone-cutting equipment, and more. When you add this to the many loud and smelly (and unhealthy for you and the planet) oil trucks, huge UPS trucks, and souped-up motorcycles, you can see you’re living in a chronically noisy and toxic atmosphere humans were never exposed to for most of their existence.

Our nervous systems haven’t changed much and they don’t react well to this onslaught. While many Americans suffer from hearing such noises most of the day and into the evening, these practices at such extended hours are illegal in many cities in the world. Noise laws are generally lax in the United States. In my town, and according to my research, in many others, the loose laws are clearly designed to largely to make landscape and construction businesses happy, along with a few residents on every street who are in love with their own private stash of power equipment. All of these people and businesses are seemingly unable to (or refuse to) consider how much anyone else may be stressed and made ill by the noise and fumes. They in fact don’t seem to even consider the effects on their own and their families’ health.

There is similar lack of empathy in legions of restaurant and store owners who now regularly torture many of their customers (and quite a few employees) with sound often loud enough to damage hearing, cause headaches, and raise blood pressure for hours after the exposure. (See, for example, these links:

https://ny.racked.com/2012/7/20/7717129/abercrombie-and-hollister-are-painfully-loud-on-purpose

&

https://www.vox.com/2018/4/18/17168504/restaurants-noise-levels-loud-decibels

I’ve noticed that the sound systems tend to become louder every year, unless many people request that the volume be turned down (and mostly that doesn’t happen because often such requests are met with surprising hostility). I and many people I’ve interviewed are finding we’re more and more uncomfortable everywhere we go. Lately the music has moved from fairly annoying to sounding like World War III in some of these places, starting as early as 6:30 in the morning when customers’ eyes are barely open. My own experience has convinced me that torture by noise (yes, noise has been used to torture) must be quite effective.

In many American cities, attempts by residents to ease their noise burden are met with passivity, stubborn resistance, or even rage. Heads in the sand, oblivious to the pleas by suffering residents, many city, state, and national leaders put noise on the bottom of their priority lists. This is hard to understand when healthcare costs are so high and the effects on health of noise and fumes are so egregious. In my town loud noise is allowed 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays, and is hardly better on weekends (including Sundays)—8 am to 7 pm.

This kind of schedule would astound people in some other countries whose governments are sensitive to this problem. In Germany, making others suffer with your noise is understood to be rude and to cause stress. As you’ll see below, German cities and some other European ones such as Stockholm are some of the quietest in the world. There is more awareness of the bad health effects of noise in European countries today than in most others worldwide. American cities temporarily became concerned around the 1970’s, but despite more noise than ever now, they’re now less willing to take action than in the 70’s. (But the good news is there’s evidence that’s slowly changing.) To read more about these noise issues, see the wonderfully comprehensive article in Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_regulation . 

The top five quietest cities in the world are all in Europe: Zurich, Vienna, Oslo, Munich, and Stockholm, according to the World Economic Forum. In addition to Munich, three other German cities are in the quietest top 10: Dusseldorf, Hamburg, and Cologne. The criteria used included measuring the sound of music and TVs in restaurants and shops along with all the aforementioned types of industrial noise. The site says the world’s noisiest city is Delhi, followed by Cairo, Mumbai, Istanbul, and Beijing. The only US city among the quietest on this particular list is Portland (the list doesn’t say whether that’s the one in Oregon or Maine but I’m assuming Oregon). Some of the U.S. cities In the moderate range are New York, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham, and San Francisco. I think New York may have managed to get a moderate position partly because of Central Park, and Battery Park City, a planned community that’s so uniquely separate from the city that you can be close in, yet experience quiet and lots of nature in that park and along the water. To see the chart of noisiest and quietest cities go to ttps://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/these-are-the-cities-with-the-worst-noise-pollution/

For a more personal viewpoint of one woman who traveled to a number of US cities in search of quiet places to take a vacation, blogger Jessie of Jessie on a Journey lists as the quietest of those she visited Durham, NC, Cape Cod, MA (not actually a city ), Hartford, CT, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Des Moines, Iowa. She lists the loudest as New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago. (See Jessie on a Journey at (https://jessieonajourney.com/usa-quiet-and-loud-cities/.)

In any case it’s likely that If you do live in a U.S. city of any size you often suffer from unwanted, disturbing noise. Noise complaints and new organizations formed to fight noise are common in many U.S cities now. It’s sad and in fact I believe unethical that citizens have to fight so hard for what it seems should be their right not to be assaulted by others’ health-damaging noise, especially since, as you’ll see in my next noise post, so much of it is unnecessary.

So what’s the noise really doing to us? At the web site The Network for Public Health Law, you can see a litany of different types of noise complaints from around the country. The first sentence in its intro is telling: “Community noise can be detrimental to public health. Adverse health effects include cardiovascular problems and learning deficits. Studies indicate the incidence of heart disease increases as community noise levels rise above 40 decibels (db).” And, “Noise is the subject of tens of thousands of complaints to government and citizens, who often cite noise as a significant quality of life issue.” I found it intriguing to learn on the site that noise complaints have been with us for centuries. In sixth century BC a Greek council created a sort of zoning ordinance that required noisy tradesmen to do all their work outside of city walls. Sounds good to me. For more go to https://www.networkforphl.org/_asset/3rvh8q/5-23-13Survey_of_noise_activity_4.pdf . 

Besides the physical effects mentioned above, noise is having significant effects on mental health. Many people  feel isolated and even lonely now (who did not before) because they simply can’t go into most stores or restaurants or even coffee shops they used to enjoy. This is also happening to many UK citizens who can no longer go to the pubs that used to be their main venue for socializing. This is bad news since loneliness is such a problem there that there’s now a Minister of Loneliness. It’s a growing problem here too, and often associated with depression and increasingly mental illness. Community–and not isolation–is best for human thriving. Research shows repeatedly that too much isolation is unhealthy, from infancy on.

I’ve met others who feel hopeless about escaping noise, and then depressed (hopelessness often leads to depression). They see they have little control over their quality of life, since it’s scary and often useless to ask for noise relief and it’s lonely when you’re shut out of places you used to enjoy and that helped you get out into the world. Again, humans are social creatures and unwanted isolation is known by researchers to be extremely bad for mental and ultimately physical health.

So people now often find not only do they miss coffee shops where they used to see and meet many other people, but they no longer can find any peaceful place to have even a few minutes outside their own homes in nature, maybe just to sit on their own balconies or front steps. This is rarely possible from morning till night in more and more places. This is happening to people regardless of sex (noise is not just a “woman’s thing,”) age, ethnicity, or occupation. Younger people who think they “get used to” noise often don’t realize it’s still damaging their hearing and raising their blood pressures.

Real hopelessness due to loud noise was plain to see in my former neighbor, a U.S. Air Force jet fighter pilot who has flown missions in Afghanistan, and was working on a graduate degree when he was back in the states. He very much wanted and needed to have dinner at 5 or 6 with his young family on the balcony overlooking their small yard after grueling days at grad school. Yet this hero hardly ever could have this modest enough pleasure because of the chronic presence, even at that time of day, of the many yard work teams (often hired by absent landlords who don’t have to hear the noise) that descended on the neighborhood (and still do) almost every day because of our town’s cruelly lax noise laws. He would get depressed about this, and told me he felt hopeless because in the past his requests for relief were ignored. He and his family had lived in Germany for awhile and he said it was quieter there. He deserved better. He lives in another city now, and I hope for him and his family that it’s a quieter one.

To make stressful matters in our lives worse, researchers say we desperately need more nature in order to thrive, yet most of us barely get a whiff of it compared to early humans who lived close to nature much of the time. Such nature starvation is especially severe in cities. Right now most nature we can find in the city and increasingly anywhere else doesn’t promote wellbeing as it used to because it’s so often accompanied by industrial noise and fumes, loud car radios, and even loud people who shout at each other (when they used to just talk) and who shout on their phones on their porch or steps, ruining your own badly needed quiet time on your porch or steps. (Other writers have noted, as you may have, that Americans, at least lately, are just plain loud.) 

A typical event at home could go something like this: you go outside for a few quite minutes in nature in your yard or on a balcony, and the neighbor drags out his leaf-blower. What can you do? Risk an enraged or even threatening response (this happened to my husband) or go back inside and shut all the windows.  I’m delighted to report that occasionally someone is nicer, such as another of our neighbors, who told us he had no idea the blower bothered people. He was kind and turned it off, for awhile anyway. Sadly, this response is rare.  

Occupants of the many homes and apartments close to all but the quietest streets rarely can open their windows or go outside because of noise and exhaust. A motorcycle and one of the cars in my neighborhood both sound like the apocalypse when they go down our street. This problem too is common in many U.S. neighborhoods despite laws against it, laws that appear not to be very effective in many cases). In New Jersey alone in 2017, over 2800 summons had been issued for super-noisy vehicles just from January through September. For more, go to https://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/2017/09/do_cops_actually_write_tickets_for_loud_exhaust_systems_we_checked.html .

Loud Noise is often Accompanied by Health Hazards

Besides leaf-blowers’ terrible noise, we see in a report sent by investigators to the Lincoln, MA Board of Health an array of scary components of their exhaust that anyone close to users will be breathing in, and that get into the soil and water. The report says these include the volatile organic compounds benzene, 1,3 butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde—all of which are labeled as HAPs or “Hazardous air pollutants,” that “can cause or may cause cancer and other serious health effects.” Then there are nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen carbon, and particulate matter, labeled by the report as carcinogenic and/or ozone-causing. The particulate matter is composed of a mix of acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil, and dust.

The report compares the effects on the environment of a Ford Raptor Truck’s and a leaf-blower’s hydrocarbon emissions: 30 minutes of running a leaf-blower with a 2-stroke engine equals a 3,900 mile drive in a Raptor. Comparing for non-methane hydrocarbons, the leaf-blower generates 23 times the carbon monoxide and about 300 times more hydrocarbons than the Raptor. The leaf-blower’s particulate matter alone can include animal fecal matter, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, allergens such as fungal spores and pollen, diesel soot, brake dust, rubber tire particles, and toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you’ll be breathing today as you tend your garden next to the yard using the lawn care team. Or, if you just walk by with your dog or your children, who breathe it too. It’s even harder on their ears and lungs than yours. The fumes and particles also hang out in the air for awhile, then settle into dust and any water that’s around. I’ve even seen workers blow dust and leaves or just plain dust from the yard they’re working on into the next yard (where children may play) or on the sidewalk where people walk with kids and dogs. In Harvard Square I recently saw over a period of several days that one worker regularly blew both dust and litter into water drains leading to Boston’s beloved Charles River (yes that’s illegal here). 

How you can Help Yourself & Others

Here’s more technical information you might want to add to the above Lincoln, MA report in order to understand and explain to your town council and local businesses the harmful effects of loud noise and of gas-powered equipment’s noise and fumes. Among comments on the pollution from yard equipment and other smaller gas-powered machinery from California Air Resources Board’s “Small Engine Fact Sheet” is yet another comparison of environmental effects of driving a vehicle with using this machinery, in this case both a lawnmower and a leaf-blower:

“Today, operating the best-selling commercial lawn mower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving the best-selling 2017 passenger car, a Toyota Camry, about 300 miles – approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. For the best-selling commercial leaf blower, one hour of operation emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver.” (The Seattle Globalist, at http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2017/09/25/leaf-blowers-flagged-as-polluters-possible-health-threat/68802).

California has done better than many states in combatting noise or at least attempting to, with a number of cities there having completely banned gas-powered leaf-blowers. The Globalist writers say it still struggles against resistant tool companies (such as the big producer of gas-powered machinery Briggs & Stratton) in the state’s fight to protect workers and everyone else from the devastation to health and environment caused by this machinery. Yard workers themselves have complained of headaches, nausea, effects of hours of loud noise exposure that the CDC says will cause hearing loss without ear protection (and most don’t wear protection), and other health problems.

Despite the use of millions of these machines, there’s been relatively little testing, but even “improved” versions of them “still emit toxic contaminants such as carcinogenic benzene as well as surprisingly large amounts of other smog-forming chemicals.” Did you read that right? We’re talking about cancer-causing chemicals in the air here.

Highlighting the immediate medical dangers to us all, Jo Kay Ghosh, epidemiologist and health effects officer for the South Coast AirQuality Management District, a pollution control agency covering much of southern California (where there’s plenty of smog) says in the article “the smaller the particle, the deeper it can be inhaled into the lungs, and the more potential it has then to cause health problems” such as lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory ailments. She adds that ultra fine particles can even pass through cell membranes and slip into the bloodstream.

The writers say unpublished preliminary research by California regulators (to be followed with a more formal study) suggests that the equipment operators were exposed to at least 10 times more ultra fine particles than if they were standing beside a busy roadway. (They also mention a worker who suffered from migraines every day until he switched to a job where electric rather than gas-powered equipment was used.)

I recommend the Globalist article to help you understand and/or communicate the full impact of what these machines are doing to all of us, our pets, our kids, wildlife, and the planet. And yet the writers don’t have space to even begin to cover all the other gas-powered machines affecting our psyches and health besides gas-powered yard equipment, such as those in many gas-powered vehicles.

While many of us may have expected that gas-powered vehicles would have become illegal by now due to the obvious climate crisis we’re experiencing, not only has that not occurred, but there are in fact more and more of them including diesel engines (with their own uniquely dangerous exhaust) on our residential streets.  At least California is working hard to battle all small gas-powered motors including chain saws and other construction equipment that drive a lot of us crazy on residential streets. Later, after I’ve done more research, I hope to list some companies making cleaner, quieter equipment. I know they’re out there because there’s now a successful yard work company near me in Concord, MA using all-electric equipment.

Meanwhile I’ll be posting more on the effects on us of industrial noise and fumes, on extremely damaging-to-health sound systems in almost all retail stores and restaurants, and what we can do about these problems that add so much suffering to already-stressed Americans’ lives. These solutions include a number of quieter, cleaner-running machines you can find online right now.

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

Susan Cooke

 

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

It’s taking me longer than I’d like to finish my book on stress in American cities, a book that I hope will help all of us, especially if our legislators and business leaders pay attention. I address many stresses in the book, some of which I cover in this blog, and one point I return to often is the way chronic stress affects us both mentally and physically, hammering away at our brains, our moods, for many of us causing migraines and lack of sleep, and ultimately when it gets bad enough making us physically ill by increasing blood pressure and in other ways contributing to heart disease and other ills. You probably already know that stress has been shown many times by research to affect our quality of life and even how long we live. 

What I did not so far include in my discussions of all the stresses, because it wasn’t around when I began the book, was the gut-wrenching, happiness-destroying, anxiety-inducing, chaos-pushing, rudeness and crudeness-modeling, insulting-to-allies and embarrassing-to-Americans behavior of the current wrecking-ball residing in the White House. He is, if you ask anyone I know, the cause of a slew of destructive mental and physical symptoms from chronic worry, anxiety, and even panic, to insomnia to real hopelessness, all of which can turn into depression—a huge problem already in our country and worldwide. (Since legislators are often so concerned with finance, they should know that depression costs our country well over $210 billion a year.)

We suffer everyday shock and awe at Trump’s dictator-like behavior and narcissism, his bullying cruelties, his unprecedented delivery of coy, confusing messages, his turning around of many upsetting things he says, one of the worst of which was his recent glee over the idea of sending Americans to Putin to be questioned (which in the case of one of them was likely to mean certain death), and he didn’t turn that around until those Americans and their families had sweated through several long and fearful days and nights. We also suffer from his and his administration’s increasing secretiveness as with that recent Putin summit, secretiveness that leaves everyone churning in the wind with worry about what might happen next. Therapists sometimes use a term for how he treats the American people: he’s “crazy-making,” and he seems to enjoy the resulting chaos as much as Putin is purported to enjoy the chaos Russia adds to the mix as it tries to turn us against one another..

While we stew in confusion, we also watch helplessly as he destroys the environment, relations with allies, and the lives of desperate immigrants. He’s removed for many of us what little feeling of security we once might have had in a world that includes monsters like Putin. In short, Trump is stressing much of America, and likely shortening our lives right now, all by himself. He’s surely having much the same effect on millions worldwide. We do the world a great disservice by letting him continue, and the only moral and right thing to do seems to be to get him out of office as soon as possible, meanwhile limiting, curbing, and protesting loudly and constantly every step he takes that leads to more destruction. Occasionally he does something good, but these moments are so rare they can’t counterbalance the enormous amount of stress he causes.As I watch Congress react, I find most of them much too placid and not livid enough. I want them to get really angry (but not with weapons!) and stop all this destruction of so many facets of our country and our freedom we hold dear.

What he’s done to the environment alone is keeping many people up at night as we watch the horrors of climate change and species extinction multiply right in front of us. What we needed in these difficult times was a leader of extreme intellect and ability, and what we got was a thoughtless, largely incompetent (for this job), and strangely non-empathetic person, who seems to thrive on making people feel awful. He is not in the slightest prepared for the emergencies of climate change such as the moving northward of tropical diseases and the endangering of wilderness lands and wildlife. In general problem-solving he seems mostly unable or unwilling to think ahead more than a few minutes, which to me is one of the most frightening things about him.

I’m stunned at how much he’s gotten away with so far, but to save what quality of life we might still be able to hold onto we need to take more and faster action. I beg Congress to act to repair the damage, and I beg us all to vote people into office who will do the same. Trump as we now know him simply seems too dangerous a choice as continuing leader for a country that needs to remain a beacon for the world. He doesn’t study, he doesn’t know history, and he doesn’t appear to make much use of the amazing brain power available to him. He thinks so highly of himself that he doesn’t think he needs to do any of those things I just listed, and that is not leading. A good leader prepares deeply and makes good things happen, or clearly tries to, and inspires and serves as a shining example to others. 

I realize many of Trump’s base may feel less stressed than before, but now that we understand better what their needs are, can we not help those people and address those issues without all this destructive fallout? Surely we have the ability and the smarts in this highly educated country to lift everyone in ways that we know they need but that don’t do this kind of harm in the process. But to do this we need a leader who is not mostly concerned with himself and his whims at the expense of the entire world. We need a leader devoted to undoing and stopping damage to the planet, to feeding, housing, caring for, and providing a better life for the poor and desperate in our country and in the world, and to helping others by building, with careful thought, study, consultation, and planning, the many systems and practices we need that are humane and good.

Another reason we need to stay stabilized (that is,Trump-less) and not fall further into fear and hopelessness is that we must work together as a country to keep Putin and other likeminded creatures away from our precious democracy and freedom. We need to remember when we see on TV or online spectacles of conflict and chaos, that Russia may be behind much of it. We’ll need to stand strong together so Putin can’t play us into more chaos so we’re too broken and weak to fight him. We need to stand together with our allies for the same reason.

Meanwhile here are some thoughts on possible ways we could make some other recent terrible events turn out at least somewhat less badly:

Some of Trump’s own millions should go immediately to getting every single parent and child he’s separated back together, and as I’ve mentioned before, to pay for the years of therapy they’ll need. (No, I’m not joking, I really think he should pay.) He should also give at least a thousand-dollar stipend to each family (though it isn’t near enough) to help them start again, wherever they end up living. And most should live here rather than be sent home to die in violent countries or to live in fear until they die. We need lots of workers here right now, so he should keep every person not clearly proven dangerous here in the country (with children) and find them housing and a job, and we DO have the resources for both, especially if money is spent more wisely (not on military parades–an offense to even think about in the face of so much poverty and suffering). I wish he could be made to pay also for the therapy, lost sleep, and illness caused by stress of the millions of Americans suffering deeply every day from the fear and desperation he causes, but I know that won’t happen. 

He (and Sessions) should go to trial for cruel behavior and emotional abuse of those immigrants. I so wish Trump could also be tried for emotional abuse of all Americans caused by increasingly frightening many of them as he acts more and more like a dictator every day, and a rather unstable dictator at that. As I write this the WH has removed phrases from printed versions of the press conference at the Helsinki summit, and decided that there will be no written versions of his phone calls to other leaders. He has told us not to believe what we read or hear on the news. Hardly anyone can figure out from day to day what he really thinks or means to do about anything. Does this sound like our forefathers’ idea of a good leader for the United States of America?

Trump should also send whatever money he was going to have us spend on his military parade directly to Puerto Rico right now, and keep sending more until they are back on their feet and everyone has power, food, meds, and clean water. 

For the wellbeing of the entire world the best thing for Trump to do on top of the above-listed items is resign. A President who regularly causes so much damage to health and wellbeing should not stay or be allowed to stay in office. An enormous apology to us, to the world, and to the founding fathers seems in order too, but we know that’s not going to happen either. In order to make a sincere apology, people need to be able to find within themselves at least a modicum of humility.

Trump, human rights abuse, & racism

Susan Cooke

Despite the fact that most of us have observed that Trump rarely thinks about anything before acting, and that he’s focused not on planning but mostly on what he apparently perceives as his Almighty self, I can’t help but believe based on all his past actions and statements, that his ability to even think of separating parents and kids with no plan to unite them and not feel an ounce of guilt or responsibility is based on an innate fear and hatred of non-white human beings.

Yes you can say it’s just his obsession with staying in power by pleasing his base (notice I didn’t say “Presidency,” I said “power” which seems to be, as with Putin, his main reason for living), you can say occasionally he’s hugged a black person on TV, and you can say many other things, but let’s cut out the hedging and go ahead and call him what he is–a racist. We have a racist President.

When you combine the racism with a love of power, an egocentric impulsivity that makes him able to insult longtime allies, endanger the world order, and indeed endanger the world’s very existence by his willingness to invade other countries and by ignoring the science concerning climate change, you end up with an astonishingly toxic mix. By the way I believe  he does believe in climate change and global warming, yet loves power so much he feels no remorse about the damage he and the EPA are now causing.

Trump in fact seems to loves Trump more than anything else, and the world’s and little children’s and their weeping mothers’ welfare be damned. They’re mostly brown so they’re not quite human in his book, meaning the suffering isn’t quite real to him or doesn’t matter. Many monsters want to continue acting monstrously but will say to us, how dare we call them monsters?  If he doesn’t like being considered a monster, he should drop everything else he’s even thinking of doing and personally make certain those families are reunited immediately, pay out of his own pocket all the money it’s going to take to get it done now, and pay all the bills for the therapy these people will need. He should also, along with Sessions, be tried for human rights abuse.

As he might say himself, he should man up and be tried for all the destructive blunders he’s made, blunders that have damaged so many. Yet there’s no sentence heavy enough to pay for causing what may well be lifelong depression and other mental illnesses for thousands of traumatized children and their parents.