Why you should read and journal everyday.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” — Jack London

You likely have thoughts everyday that have never been thought by anyone ever. If you are mindful to these thoughts there is a world of potential awaiting in your ideas and daydreams.

Why journal?

You can capture your thoughts and ideas by writing them down and using creative expressions. Your mind leaps over gaps in your thinking. When you write ideas down you force yourself to articulate them, and thus fill these gaps. Your ability to articulate your thoughts is dependent upon how well you can use your medium. (Your experiences and what you’ve read help a great deal.) We must capture them because it’s too easy to forget how you have changed as a person. What virtues and things are important to you? To what do you aspire? Maybe you’ve had the answers in the back of your head. Maybe you never took a step back to ask yourself; and maybe thirty years go by and you never do.

It’s too easy to get caught up in life. Occasionally when I am talking with a friend there will be an eventual pause in the conversation. In an instant I can see their body grimace, and cutting through the awkward silence I can hear their brain scream for stimulation prompting them to grasp for their pockets and purses. Twitter to the rescue!

It didn’t used to be this way. We used to have large chunks of the day in which all we could do was think. We spent hours in meditive states, stalking animals, gazing up at the stars. You may argue that before cellphones there was TV, and before that people could engross themselves in books. However, reading does not cause an increasingly lagging attention span. This brings us to an important point…

Why read?

Information ≠ knowledge. My friend from the previous example is not gauging the nuances of Proust’s opinions on the meaning of life; rather, they’re more likely engrossed in the feed of a celebrity twitter fight.

Reading and fully experiencing others lives gives us perspective. We expand our humanity, tolerance, and knowledge. It is in the words of great thinkers that we may find important life truths. There is a sea of potential. Your consciousness is the vessel that you use to traverse this sea. When your consciousness interacts with ethical and moral dilemmas you decide based on your experiences and knowledge.

Make time to read and write every day.

We are shackled by obligations. Sometimes, in writing, reading and experiencing the profound, I come up and take a breath to realize “shit, I’ve been on autopilot for the last 5 days!” This is because it takes introspective experiences to escape the recurrent thought of “what’s next?” Yet, I know others may spend their lives in that state. Nowadays, even though we are aware nobody has our mind, our perspective, and our ideas we never take the time to express and explore ourselves. I urge you to make time. Journal, and impart your ideas and what you want from this finite life. Read, and travel to another world where you may discover and create yourself.

Sex Ed in America.

On June 5th, 2002, a 14-year-old girl named Elizabeth Smart wakes up to a man hovering over her bed with a knife to her throat. Elizabeth is abducted from her home, held captive in the mountains, and raped every day, for nine months. She recounts her sexual education saying: “I remember in school, I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence, she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum. When you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who is going to want you after that?’ I thought, ‘I’m that chewed-up piece of gum.’ Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away. And that’s how easy it is to feel you no longer have worth. Your life no longer has value.” She thought: “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if I am rescued? My life still has no value”. Abstinence only programs rarely divulge on any topic other than why sex is unacceptable, using the kind of sex shaming experienced by Mrs. Smart as a primary tactic. It is easy to see how abstinence-only programs ostracize individuals and take focus away from healthy relationships. An example of this ostracism is exhibited by a complete lack of education on LGBTQ culture. If a teen were to ask a teacher “is it okay to be gay?” in a total of 8 states it would be illegal to answer that question with anything more than a shrug . Adversaries of comprehensive sexual education however would argue that sexual education leads teens to become promiscuous and less conscious of the implications of premarital sex and safe sex.

My Opinion. I believe all people have the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, including information about their health. I believe that this ideologically driven abstinence only education is incredibly unethical and ineffective.

3 Fixes for Abstinence-Only SexED

 

  1. Make it Comprehensive.

In nineteen states in the US, if sex ed is provided, they are required to provide comprehensive information on abstinence, but not on any form of contraceptive.

A progressive sex ed program in the US, could include information on the following issues: LGBTQ culture, consent, healthy relationships, pregnancy and STD prevention, pornography, and Planned Parenthood. The program could also have websites to answer any questions you may have regarding sex, self-appreciation and acceptance of others, and information about negative stigmas and myths involving intercourse. Abstinence could be taught and stressed as the best option; however, it would not be pushed excessively.

  1. Reliable Education for those who need it.

The broadest goal of comprehensive sex education is to support young people’s development into sexually healthy adults. Yet, abstinence-only programs can threaten fundamental human rights by withholding information about human sexuality and potentially providing medically inaccurate and stigmatizing information. As of 2015, less than six percent of LGBT students aged 13–21 reported that their health classes had included positive representations of LGBT-related topics.

Comprehensive sex ed for all would require the course to be mandatory for schools nationwide. However, parents could still be allowed to keep their kids from learning about any topics in this course. By allowing parents the option of opting their kid out of part of the program the roles of religion and family in raising a child are respected. The aim of this new more comprehensive sexual education would be to decrease unplanned pregnancy and STDs, and promote safe sex within a healthy relationship.

  1. Treat it like any other kind of education.

In 2016, a systematic review of systematic reviews, summarizing 224 randomized controlled trials. Found comprehensive sex ed improved knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and outcomes. Abstinence-only programs did not. In 2012, the CDC conducted two meta-analyses. Comprehensive sex ed reduced sexual activity, the number of partners, the frequency of unprotected sexual activity, the use of protection and STIs. The review of abstinence programs showed a reduction only in sexual activity, but the significance disappeared when considering randomized controlled trials.

A few years ago, federal funding shifted to evidence-based outcomes, letting effectiveness determine which programs get funding. In 2010, Congress created the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, with a goal to fund the most evidence-based programs. However, last year Trump canceled funding for 81 projects that are part of this program.

Bottom line.

Having sex and having morals aren’t mutually exclusive. Abstinence-only programs sound great on paper, but nothing is perfect. The youth of America have a fundamental right to accurate information regarding sex, and healthy relationships. Teaching about sex with love, appreciation, being safe, as well as recognition of diversity and sexuality should be far more important than chastising and deterring youth from enjoying a content and loving relationship.

References:

“A Comprehensive Review of Reviews of School-Based Interventions to Improve Sexual-Health.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17437199.2016.1240625?journalCode=rhpr20.

Belluck, Pam. “Programs That Fight Teenage Pregnancy Are at Risk of Being Cut.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/health/teen-pregnancy-prevention-trump-budget-cuts.html?module=inline.

Guttmacher Institute. (2017). American Teens’ Sources of Sexual Health Education. Fact Sheet on Sexual Education. Retrieved from: https://www.guttmacher.org Klein, Rebecca, and Rebecca Klein. “These Maps Show Where Kids In America Get Terrifying Sex Ed.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffpost.com/entry/sex-education-requirement-maps_n_5111835?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAG6MRATqEdNQEdKNoGd8_HjcPKzxa6CelEiKZvxJKHRLHXeULbz3MPZmNPA4BFmldhsSGWmM0coQeqx_0zEgw5-rECqni8Z-MvoJVjw37Iz_A0vx-04TlLsZVDXmh5r0FthiLsZnyMhKl41OBQ8sqcZxs4O9i5ERitlPFvwY2lU4.

Kosciw JG et al., The 2013 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation’s Schools, New York: Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 2014, https://www.glsen.org/sites/default/files/2013%20National%20School%20Climate%20Survey%20Full%20Report_0.pdf.

Office of Adolescent Health. “About TPP.” HHS.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services, 7 May 2019, www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/grant-programs/teen-pregnancy-prevention-program-tpp/about/index.html.

“The Effectiveness of Group-Based Comprehensive Risk-Reduction and Abstinence Education Interventions to Prevent or Reduce the Risk of Adolescent Pregnancy, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and Sexually Transmitted Infections: Two Systematic Reviews for the Guide to Community Preventive Services.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Elsevier, 14 Feb. 2012, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379711009068?via=ihub.

Tea. A Beginner’s Guide.

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(Annapurna I, Ghandruk Nepal)

Tea. The most popular beverage in the world after water. I am an addict for the stuff. All teas come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Climate, soil, altitude and latitude come together to create a unique profile for each plant. We then cultivate and process these plants using various methods to create our different tea varietals.  

Types of tea

There are over 1500 varieties; but 6 main categories. Black, green, white, oolong, yellow, and pu’er. Herbal tea is created from a blend of herbs and spices. Chai tea is just black tea with spices. Kombucha is a type of fermented tea.

These different varietals are created through different methods of processing.

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Picking. Sorting. Withering. Steaming. Rolling. Firing. Twisting. Oxidizing. Drying. Just use the useful acronym PSWSRFTOD. 

How to brew a proper cup

  1. Use organic fair-trade tea and a reusable mug (Because environment)
  2. Use whole leaf teas (Less bitter, more nuanced flavor, environment)
  3. Warm the cup with water (Tea stays at constant temp while steeping)
  4. Use filtered water (Filtered water won’t distort flavor)
  5. Set the correct temp (Different teas are brewed at different temps)
  6. Set a timer for steeping (Different teas are steeped different times)

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Why drink tea?

  1. Tea might counteract some negative effects of smoking and may even lessen the risk of lung cancer. (So toke up! Nah, JK. Cigs are still super bad for you.)
  2. Tea may aid in the prevention and treatment of neurological diseases, especially degenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s. Polyphenols in green tea may help maintain areas of the brain associated with learning and memory.
  3. Tea has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength.
  4. Tea, unlike coffee, is actually hydrating to the body.
  5. Tea contains the amino acid L-theanine. A relaxant which has shown to improve cognitive function, and mood.

Perhaps, it’s interesting how the mineral content and ph of the soil south of the Yangtze affects your cup of tea; but, neither teas’ complexity nor its’ health benefits is why I enjoy tea. I enjoy tea because it is a signal to my brain that it is no longer burdened by the recurrent thought of “what’s next”. It tells me I can dissolve myself into the present. Nestled up with a cup reading, or watching my favorite show, (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is my shit rn) or writing a blog post. I made myself three cups of some heavenly milk oolong while writing this post. Tea is a fucking beautiful thing. Too many people have been turned off by someone giving them a cuppa cheap black tea steeped for ten minutes. You cannot say you don’t like tea after an experience like that. Tea is so incredibly versatile that there is bound to be a cup that suits your taste. Get out there and find it. 

References:

Hakim, Iman A, et al. “Effect of Increased Tea Consumption on Oxidative DNA Damage among Smokers: a Randomized Controlled Study.” The Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2003, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14519830.

Owen, Gail N, et al. “The Combined Effects of L-Theanine and Caffeine on Cognitive Performance and Mood.” Nutritional Neuroscience, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2008, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18681988.

Ruxton, Carrie H, and Valerie A Hart. “Black Tea Is Not Significantly Different from Water in the Maintenance of Normal Hydration in Human Subjects: Results from a Randomised Controlled Trial.” The British Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2011, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21450118.

Shen, Chwan-Li, et al. “Green Tea Polyphenols Benefits Body Composition and Improves Bone Quality in Long-Term High-Fat Diet-Induced Obese Rats.” Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22749181.

Wang, Yanyan, et al. “Green Tea Epigallocatechin-3-Gallate (EGCG) Promotes Neural Progenitor Cell Proliferation and Sonic Hedgehog Pathway Activation during Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis.” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2012, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22692966.

Your Grocery Bag.

Your grocery bag. Something that can be tremendously useful for 12 mins of your life; yet, is around for over 1,000 years. In this time it could live a life even more impactful than your own! Will it go on to choke a seagull? (1 million birds are killed by plastic every year.) Perhaps it will strangle a Sea Turtle. (100,000 marine animals a year die from plastic entanglement.) Even after it breaks down the dangerous hormone altering chemicals found in plastic pollute our water, air and food. They’re additionally passed down through nearly all walks of life.

The unaltered stomach contents of a dead albatross chick on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific in September 2009. Includes plastic marine debris fed to the chick by its parents.
(Credit: Chris Jordan / USFWS / public domain.

Nearly 75% of deep sea fish have tested positive for microplastics.

Next time you eat fish you may be consuming the broken down byproduct of your plastic bag. Over 93% of Americans out of over 2500 tested have BPA (a toxic chemical found in plastic associated with a myriad of health issues) in their system.

So what can we do?

With all recycling efforts of plastic bags being so tremendously ineffective, the best solution is to stop the use of single use plastics. Although they are incredibly hard to avoid there are ways you can avoid them, such as carrying shopping bags, and giving up bottled water. The most important step is lobbying and supporting bans on single use plastics. More solutions: 100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life.

References:

“10 Facts About Single-Use Plastic Bags.” 10 Facts About Single-Use Plastic Bags, http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/sustainability/plastic_bag_facts.html.

Biello, David. “Like a Guest That Won’t Leave, BPA Lingers in the Human Body.” Scientific American, 28 Jan. 2009, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bpa-lingers-in-human-body/.

Dapcevich, Madison. “Nearly 75 Percent Of Northwest Atlantic Deep-Sea Fish Are Eating Plastics.” IFLScience, IFLScience, 11 Apr. 2019, http://www.iflscience.com/environment/nearly-75-percent-of-northwest-atlantic-deepsea-fish-are-eating-plastics/.

Nordqvist, Christian. “Bisphenol A: Hazards and Sources.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 25 May 2017, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/221205.php.

“Ocean Crusaders.” Ocean Crusaders, oceancrusaders.org/.

“What Is BPA and Why Is It Bad for You?” Healthline, Healthline Media, http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-bpa#what-it-is.

 

More than 90% of the world’s coral reefs will die by 2050.

Coral reefs are akin to an alien world. Home to such immense beauty and diversity it staggers the mind. I have bared witness to this incredible ecosystem. Even though I can tell a pufferfish from a parrotfish, there is almost always some strange creature that makes me say “what the fuck is that thing?!?”

Lionfish. From SkitterPhoto

Without actions taken to minimize local stressors, the percent of threatened coral reefs worldwide will rise to 90% by 2030 and close to 100% by 2050.

We have known about coral reefs dying and global warming for over 50 years and yet we have done so very little. Pollution and litter are harmful, but warming oceans is the biggest issue.

This is a grand theological story.

It was 5 million years ago when, Aridipithecus, an early “proto-human”, inhabited the earth. Over 530 million years before Ardi, the animal, (yeah, I said animal) coral inhabited the earth. You have likely bared witness to the death of most of these primordial organsims. (over 50% of coral reefs have died off in the last 30 years.) In less than half of a generation we have brought coral to its demise; yet, it is in the same generation we have a chance to salvage it.

Coral Bleaching on LIZARD ISLAND, GBR, MAY 2016. CREDIT: THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

Why is this a problem?

More than 90% of wildfires are caused by humans and the forest can nearly fully recover within a matter of decades. However, the massive corals like the one seen above grow at a rate between 5 and 25 millimeters (0.2–1 inch) per year to their length.

Corals manifest biodiversity. They are the rainforests of the sea. Covering less than one percent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to one-quarter of all ocean species. They also provide us with medicines, clear waters and sushi.

What can we do?

  1. Dispose of trash, recycle and stop single use plastics. (Checkout my blog post Your Grocery Bag.)
  2. Don’t use Chemical Sunscreen (Chemical sunscreens cause coral bleaching)
  3. Donate
  4. Reduce your carbon footprint
  5. Spread the word and volunteer

References:

“Climate Science Glossary.” Skeptical Science, skepticalscience.com/coral-bleaching.htm.

“How Coral Reefs Grow.” Coral Reef Alliance, coral.org/coral-reefs-101/coral-reef-ecology/how-coral-reefs-grow/.

“Reefs Are At Risk.” Reef Resilience, reefresilience.org/reefs-are-at-risk/.

“The 35 Esiest Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” State of the Planet, 18 Dec. 2018, blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/12/27/35-ways-reduce-carbon-footprint/.

Sanctuary, Florida Keys National Marine. “The Variety of Species Living on a Coral Reef Is Greater than in Any Other Shallow-Water Marine Ecosystem, Making Reefs One of the Most Diverse Ecosystems on the Planet.” Why Are Coral Reefs Called the Rainforests of the Sea?, 4 Apr. 2011, floridakeys.noaa.gov/corals/biodiversity.html.