The NZ health policy that could get to the guts of the matter.

It’s an election year and there is one health policy I want to see that none of the parties are publicly considering.road to health paved good intestines

It is a policy I believe nearly every Kiwi would support. Especially women, whom this issue disproportionately affects.  A common sense policy to help us maintain our commitment to a health expenditure as a proportion of GDP at under 11%.

It’s a research funding commitment. Not to develop some new flash drug, some silver bullet, or a ‘sure fix’. It’s not a sexy issue, quite the opposite in fact. It’s down and dirty and rather, errr, fecal.

We need to understand what makes our gut lining and digestive system – degrade. Breakdown.

What are the environmental triggers that lead to a permeable bowel? What are the main dietary and environmental factors that result in a reduced gut microbiota – reduced bugs and bacteria in our gut?

We really don’t know.

What illnesses are related to permeable (leaky) bowel? Many cancers, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, coeliac disease, irritable bowel, CFS & ME, allergies, asthma, autism, ADHD & ADD, depression and ankylosing spondylitis, skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, and atopic dermatitis to name a few. Yes, this list covers a lot of illness. I find it stunning, myself.

Yet, a huge part of our immune system depends on a healthy digestive tract. Vitamin C is only part of it. We need a heck of a lot of other nutrients to be absorbed by our bodies – using a healthy digestive system. Without this nutrient conversion and healthy absorbtion our systems break down.  In different ways often, depending on our genetic disposition.

Furthermore, when your family is presenting with ongoing immune related maladies, coughs, colds, the flu etc, it can be pretty surprising to understand the gut connection is a huge part of getting better.

This is a massively important area of understanding. Why? Because a permeable gut wall is usually present before onset of illness. Let me repeat: Before.  So when you descend into illness after a traumatic event, losing a parent for instance, in most cases your gut was already sick.  Your body didn’t have enough ‘ooomph’ to get you through unscathed. Your gut wasn’t working properly, you couldn’t extract enough nutrients to boost your immune system in a time of stress. Then you got sick. And we all get sick in different ways as we have different genetic predispositions, according to the environmental challenges our ancestors faced.

There is a reason, 2,400 years ago, Hippocrates considered that all disease began in the gut.

What are the environmental triggers that create the pathway into allergy and autoimmune disease? We might have the genetic disposition, but nothing happens until the environmental triggers create the gut dysbiosis.

When we walk into the doctors, the symptoms doctors see are the tip of your own private iceberg.

The gut is not often considered, it is hidden away. How do we learn about this? We need research.

Doctors are time poor and this is a relatively new field. Is there a corresponding relationship between New Zealand’s extremely high rate of antibiotic use and it’s correspondingly stunning rate of asthma? How do pesticides sprayed on our food affect our digestive system?  Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides kill plant based bacteria, bugs and fungus, after all. Is it no surprise that a little town of Te Puke in New Zealand with its population of 7,500, its orchards and sprays just happens to have an arthritis support group? Why do I know a mum with 2 autistic kids who spent their early years surrounded by 3 different orchards with three different spray regimes?

Why doesn’t our government look at the independent research that indicates genetically modified organisms are damaging to gut health?

Why are people starting to believe there is a correlation between the Roundup that is sprayed on our wheat, soy, vegetable oils and other cereals, and on the GE/GM feed that our intensively farmed animals (particularly pork and poultry) eat, which together comprise a huge part of our staple food groups – and growing illness rates. It doesn’t seem all that spurious, when you think about it.

Particularly when you understand there is not a single published study held with the NZ EPA, US EPA, WHO or EU as part of their toxicity assessments investigating the effects of pesticides on the gut microbiome and gut wall and their contribution as  environmental triggers to illness.  At all.

medicine war between invadingThere’s more… you could say I am generalising or you could say we need to commit the cash for the research.

The pharmaceutical industry is embracing the big new field of ‘prebiotics’ and even ‘fecal transplant medicine’ to help us rebuild our digestive systems. These guys know something is wrong.  My call is that we need to practice prevention.

In a country where the medicine is taxpayer funded, the only logical situation is to reduce illness in the first place.

There is no point having a poo transplant to improve your gut bacterial profile and then go home and eat a big lunch of bread that has been desiccated (pesticides sprayed on our wheat to dry it out and get rid of weeds) with Roundup (a patented antibiotic, I kid you not).

Yes, our cereals can have Roundup sprayed on them.  Combine that with a dose of antibiotics.  Killing all those desirable bugs of generously donated healthy fecal matter.

What a …waste…  I reckon we can be smarter.

Because the NZ tax system isn’t a money pit.

Can we afford to hop on a ridiculous taxpayer funded bandaid roundabout?  That’s why this call for research funding is simple Kiwi common sense.  This is an exciting and relatively new focus of science which could change the way we view medicine – for the better.

Let’s get to the bottom of this problem. Digest some facts.

Doctors are often between a rock and hard place. Distressed parents demanding antibiotics to fix baby Sam’s illness walk into their clinic every day. But I don’t know a single doctor who wouldn’t appreciate independent research (with no ties to the pharmaceutical industry) to get to the guts of the matter.

This initiative covers an incredibly broad spectrum of the non-communicable illnesses whose costs to our healthcare system are spiralling. We have blockbuster drugs on our pharmaceutical scheme the likes of which we have never seen before, tied of course, to problems related to a permeable gut.

Sadly, researching environmental triggers for gut breakdown are probably not patentable, which is why the commercial sector aren’t here already. This needs to be publicly funded.

happiness digestion Rousseau

The gut is sick before the descent into illness. Without the sick gut would we get sick? Probably not.

We need to understand this. We need to do more than apply expensive pharmaceutical bandaids. Our bodies are delicately balanced systems.

We have over three times the bacterial cells in our bodies than human cells. Our immune systems and body bacteria are interdependent.

Our bodies have evolved to need and use these bacteria every day. We evolved from bacterial sea dwelling slime, we are them and they are us. We get rid of our evolutionary partner and we get sick.

Increased city based populations have resulted in us living in a cleaner, more hygienic environment, reducing our early exposure to germs and dirt. But it’s more than that. Our illnesses are accelerating faster than they ever did before.  There are environmental triggers behind this illness explosion.

A needle in a haystack? Perhaps. But while our governments continue to ignore this pressing need to understand the toxins in our diets, the situation will only get more expensive. (I could say distressing but we are talking policy here). It’s the twenty first century. We have the technology and the scientists.

Does it make sense that we should direct a significant funding commitment to researching gut health? Support groups for people with the above-listed illnesses may agree.  And many sufferers have more than one problem, which can often include mental health disorders – both relating back to the digestive system. Articles here and here and here.  The gut and brain are intricately interconnected through our immune and endocrine systems, among other things, inextricably tied to gut health.

Primarily this is about reducing onset of disease and being cautious. A no-brainer.  It’s tied to a healthy diet (of which lunches in lower decile (‘less fortunate’) schools could only aid), reduced dietary toxins and perhaps altering antibiotic regimes (with independent science based recommendations) to understand what our bodies can actually cope with.

paradigm shift in medical treatmentWe need to ensure our kid’s food is safe (perhaps follow European policy with their no pesticides in baby food mandate) and if necessary, legislate in practical ways to protect our kids physical and psychological futures. Keep toxins out of their bodies as long as we can.

On the plus side, where there is tragedy there’s opportunity.  Mass illness?  Mass niche based opportunities!  The science could boost small start-ups in New Zealand. Like suppliers of natural prebiotics. Let’s not let all those big overseas pharmaceutical corporations make all the money. We are the land of raw milk and raw honey, after all.  Develop home grown organic baby foods. There is international market demand for these products.

Let’s reduce the barriers to small food based businesses and let our foodies develop the stuff they know will sell. Let our producers diversify with smart incentives.

These problems aren’t going away quickly. Let’s make some cash while we fix the situation.

I know an entrepreneur or two that may be able to help out….

Call my bluff, tell me I’m generalising, but I urge you to demand that your political parties think strongly about this research.

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The kindness of strangers

Many moons ago I posted a piece hoping that someone out there could fix my ancient 1964 Sunbeam Toastermatic.  I just put it out there.

It was my dads, and it’s special. So I put it in a suitably special place and hoped my wireless plea would reach someone.

This year a very kind person from Melbourne contacted me. Mr. Toastermatic Specialist. Like me, he loves these beautiful old machines. These toasters are so clever, that all you have to do is drop a piece of toast in and it pops up when it is cooked – this is 50 to 60 year old technology.

Look at your mobile phone and ask it if it can last 50 years.  Well then.

I digress – this gentleman and scholar whom I knew from a bar of soap – asked me to send the Toastermatic (and it’s sacrificial brother I had betoasteren keeping for exactly this reason) to Melbourne and he would see what he could do.  He told me to pay particular care to the side wings – when someone asks you to do that, you know he knows what he is talking about.

There’s care there.

So I trusted him. And he fixed my beautiful machine.

I did pay for the cost of fixing it – but the postage cost way more.

He polished her up so she shone like the sun and she glowed like glory, and mailed it back to me.

She is an old lady, so I have to be gentle with her. She only likes going one round on the golf course, so if we are doing a few more rounds we use the griller.

That suits us.

PS:  You companies out there producing long use goods with your planned obsolescence, your breakdown design with your cheap inputs designed to fail after x uses – especially if there is no ease for recycling engineered into your product – you are unethical and shameful.  People will always pay for a good basic product. If the extra inputs making long term quality gives people an extra ten years – they will pay for it.

The poor will pay the extra amount for a product designed for long term use as often it is a small component cost before markup, and the rich will too as long as there is some elite wanky thing showing how extra special their version is.

No-one wants a product designed to breakdown anywhere between 2 and 7 years of use. It’s rubbish.

You should be legislated against. You buggers.

And Mr Melbourne – you are an angel and doubtless extremely good looking. Tell your family to keep you. You’re definitely ‘worth the trouble’.

My family thanks you, stranger. As does my little old antique machine.

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How parents fail.

Our parents don’t fail us when they can’t make it to sports games, don’t bake the perfect birthday cake, aren’t there to watch us get a certificate. When they make a decision once or twice that they later regret. They don’t fail us when they are poor and the electricity sometimes gets shut off.

Our parents fail us when they are unable to love us and provide us with a secure safe environment to grow and flourish in.  They fail us when they systemically act in a way that makes us feel worthless, year after year.  We are monkeys – we’re pretty simple – it’s about love and security.

Rocamadour

Our parents fail us when they can’t consistently see beyond their own needs and wants, or their own failures in life – and they are unable to shift into a gear that involves simply doing what is best for the growing child.  And ‘doing best’ is not fulfilling the little darlings every wish and want. It never was.

Our parents fail us when they don’t see us.  When we are hidden to them. When they can’t take that sometimes gargantuan step into ‘small child needs’. When they leave us alone because we are just ‘too hard’ and when they don’t care what time we come home when we are still kids. When they don’t touch us in a loving empathetic way. Because they don’t know how to – or they don’t want to.

Children don’t have to fulfil parent’s expectations in order to be loved, just like a parent will never completely fulfil a child’s expectations.

Guess what – we are allowed to be the ‘difficult child’. The challenging child. The different child. Most families have one – usually because there are similarities to one of the parents. We’ve grabbed their genes, after all. No-one is perfect.

Parents can be tested. That is almost the very definition of being a parent.

These parents usually know they are failing. Somewhere deep inside.

No matter how ‘wonderful’ they are to the outside world.

For kids – it’s not about how many after school activities you are ferried to. It’s not about being worshipped. And it’s definitely not about being told how much they love you. That can be nice – but I know just as many people who grew up with the silent loving parents as the daily ‘I love you’ parents – who are just as secure in their parents love.

It’s about love and comfort.

It’s about being nurtured and supported.  ‘I can’t be at the sports games but I’ll make sure you get there. I will be interested in who you are as a person. I will be there for you for the rest of my life.’

To create a solid foundation for a child to flourish into a confident adult.

Because if you are not loved, flourishing is really hard. Because everything that is said, and, more often than not, unsaid, in the family home, is understood by that child. Negativity seeps into your bones and weighs you down, decade after decade.

Are you worthwhile?  Or are you not?

It can be a massive head-shift to understand that when your parents fail it is not necessarily about you. It can simply be their failure to look beyond their own problems and screw-ups. Sometimes it’s about their state of mental health.

Their inability to ‘grow’.

And the hardest thing for an adult that grew up in a world where they were ‘lesser’ – is to understand, it is not about us. When we are kids lack of truly meaningful love seeps into our subconscious and becomes an indelible part of us. We become defined by an absence of love.

It takes grim determination to kick that one off.

The most important thing a person can do is shift their own gears away from that person who, every time they see that person, makes them shrink inside themselves.  Because ongoing constant (and often subtle) rejection of us as a person – which can be how we interpret all this – makes you feel sick and sad and empty.

I’m not talking about bad times, hard moments, fracturing and difficulty in your teen years – I am talking about decades of knowing your parent/s can’t/won’t love you.

You can’t ever expect to change them. Especially by just sitting around waiting for them to change.  You’ve probably been trying for years to get them to ‘see’ you. Lifetime habits don’t change easily.

Stop wishing.

Create your own soil to flourish in.

Reframe yourself.  If you, in your own life, live in a home that you are happy to come home to (mansions always come at a cost), are with a kind and thoughtful partner &/or friends, and have parented children (if you got there) in a way that is never perfect – but is always defined by your trying to do the right thing for them, with boundaries and care – and so you can see that your world and your kids are happy and confident in a way you could never imagine,…..

If you are watching your children thrive and grow with wings you knew you never had.

You are a success.

So little by little, let go of these people that taught you about suffering. Accept them for who they are. Know that you have learnt much from them.

Give yourself permission to walk away. Because they’ve stuffed up. Failed. You can’t change them. It’s not about you.

Leave them to their own lives.

They’ve taught you enough.

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Making a rash decision from the gut. About a dog.

Myrtle up close 1I am about to conduct an experiment on the dog.

My dog Myrtle has had skin based stomach rashes for a good 6 months now.  Extensive reading has lead me to a mother-type conclusion.  Perhaps an outrageous theory (that is grounded in science..) – that most rashes and problems we see on our body, are connected to gut health.  Of course there are other rashes that may not be.  But we can always race to our much loved vet.

And I am going to have a red hot go, at fixing her.

Of course, I am no vet.  I have been feeding my dog reasonably healthy, cereal based foods for the last 6 years with the odd fresh bone thrown in.  She is entering middle age.  And this rash is ugly.

I want a long term fix. Nothing less.

She is going back to what her great, great grandparents used to eat, back to the basics.

I have begged 3 months grace with the other half in order to restore gut health to Myrtle the fox terrier.  Apparently that is the time you need to get back on track.

When it comes down to it, dog cereal biscuits ain’t no freshly killed rabbit.

My theory is that many of the same disorders are affecting dogs as humans.  We are seeing higher incidence of problems related to gut dysbiosis and a permeable gut (with a broken cell wall) – allergies, autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes, skin and thyroid problems – in the human population, as well as our darling beloved pets.  The whole permeable gut problem ties back to gut wall breakdown and reduced microbiota populations.  As a result we are not processing our food as well, we are not extracting the nutrients as well.  Food is becoming foreign as it gets through our gut wall and causes an autoimmune reaction. Our immune systems are not as robust. We are weaker.

With modern medicine, we have fewer communicable diseases causing us hassle, but there is massive growth in non-communicable disease that was never previously at the levels we see today.

Every second person I meet has something going wrong.  It’s not just better diagnostics. It’s not just ‘weak’ genes. Our grandparents didn’t tip over into autoimmune disease when a stressful, heart braking tragedy occurred.  Or just tipped over for no apparent reason.  Not at the same rate we are now.

We have always had families with genetic tendencies that have the unlucky misfortune to, for example, develop Crohn’s disease.  But we have Crohn’s disease in epidemic proportions compared to 30 years ago.

I tend to think tragedies are ‘tipping points.’  But they’re not the culprit.

There is a ‘something else’ going on inside us is that can make us ‘tip over’ into illness in stressful times – an environmental trigger - and it’s often a weak gut. But this is a slow process that we don’t see. So we don’t know it is happening.

If you look at government budgets for autoimmune disease – in my own country New Zealand, our Pharmac register, drugs for autoimmune disease are the most expensive group of medicines tax payers shell out for. It is not a stretch to say that these illnesses are reaching pandemic proportions.

Yet there is no autoimmune database tracking these illnesses in my country.  There is no discussion of the correlation between a permeable gut and these disorders in the mainstream media. It is all about medicine to fix the problem – important – but not the full story.  People don’t want to get sick in the first place.

And what if a restored gut and microbiota health mean’t that in some cases, we would not have to depend on long term medicine?  But it’s not covered in mainstream medicine.

We need to dedicate research to the environmental triggers that cause this damage. But there is miniscule funding going towards looking at the causes of gut dysbiosis, breakdown of the gut wall and identifying the causes of microbiota death.

It is not a priority.

Sadly, when you look at all the research organisations, cancer, Crohn’s, diabetes type 1, rheumatoid arthritis – and the others – research funding allocations are allocated to researching new drugs. Making more medicine.

What if 20% of their research funds were allocated to researching the cause?  Researching the toxins that trigger disease, rather than just medicine to manage and treat disease? Perhaps our world would be vastly different.

Please can you consider that the Roundup pesticide levels permitted on our cereals – our wheat, barley and oats etc – have increased 6 fold in the last 10 years.  That the levels of Roundup permitted on the over 80 different GMO’s permitted in New Zealand’s diet is astonishingly high – these foods are not yet labelled – mainly corn, soy and canola. The pesticide levels are way higher than what independent scientists recommend. The researched irritant that is within GM food, never discussed by mainstream media.

Don’t groan because I am bringing up the ‘pesticide thing’. There’s a reason why people are concerned about our current exposure levels, and they’re grounded in science.

Roundup – or the weaker active chemical, glyphosate is registered as an antibiotic – it kills bugs – microbiota. It also chelates – pulls metals together – and many scientists believe, makes it harder for us to digest vital minerals and vitamins.

Please understand that the full formulation of Roundup is never tested by the regulatory agencies – only the weaker glyphosate.  And as a mother, it is confronting to me that pesticides are never tested on rodents in the lead up to pregnancy or in the equivalent first trimester for the important developmental studies.

Scientists are calling it ‘the worlds most significant environmental toxin’. That’s a very big call.   It’s a lot to, well, ……………………… digest.

And when you look the ingredients label on your dogs food – and what is in our supermarket food – a picture comes together that shows that our staple foods – wheat, corn, soy – that is in so much of the stuff we buy – are the same foods with the highest Roundup residue loads.

There are other contributors, other culprits contributing towards this suffering, of course there are. But this dark empty space of no-research for the most common pesticide on planet Earth is well, wrong.  For a bit more reading on what other mothers day you can visit Moms Across America.  Most of them, by way of watching sick kids suffering, have entered the world of science in a way many of them never imagined they would.

Back to my dog.  I am going off grid.  Entering the dark side. So far, it has worked for my health and my families health. Keeping it simple.  Eating real food.

So for now it’s green animal guts, fresh meat, a small amount of suitable vegies and a vitamin & mineral mix for Myrtle the wee fox terrier. Approximately the same cost as medicine, I am guessing. And a bit more hassle.  But she is a pretty special part of our family.

We’re staying away from pork and chicken – they’re the meats with the highest load of GM feed, sadly.

I’m just relieved she is small, so not too expensive.

The finger has been pulled out and the experiment is ON!

Will it work for my dog?

Or will I end up at the vets?

I know, you are beside yourself with excitement.  Jiggling in your seat.

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Roundup & glyphosate: Independent Research is the Key

crop massgen poppies

This article is a response to an opinion piece in the Bay of Plenty Herald.  Unlike most opinion pieces, the piece BOP Times Independent research is the key never went online…. so here is the text:

In response to Tauranga city council’s communications adviser Marcel Currin’s opinion piece ‘Scare Tactics Modify Stance on GMOs’, of Friday December 6th.

He discusses unhappy rats that ended up with ugly tumours.

Why is there such a fuss over this study?

It’s different.

Professor Seralini is the first scientist to do a lifetime study of the complete Roundup formulation. The study found tumours both with rats fed GMOs and rats fed only Roundup. And they were higher than the control group of rats – the rats on a normal diet.

None of the big assessment agencies like the WHO, EPA and European Commission consider the stronger formula – it is not industry requirement.  But there are a tonne of scientists out there, not connected to industry that want studies of the complete Roundup formulation. It’s more toxic.

And the predisposition to tumours?  These are the same rats used historically by Monsanto, Cheminova and Syngenta. These rats have similar responses to toxins to humans living in industrialised societies.

Mr Currin, does the pesticide industry get to use this rat strain for years and then dismiss this strain when an organisation working in the public interest finds tumours (at a higher rate than controls?

I think that’s called having your cake and eating it too.

Normally a journal demands a retraction of a study for faults like data error, plagiarism or unethical reseach.  Many scientists believe the retraction of this study for ‘inconclusive science’ was illicit, unscientific and unethical.

I believe Professor Seralini previously worked for the European agency EFSA, and assessing the GMO’s that come into Europe.  His job was to say ‘yes, these are safe’.  And when he couldn’t say they were safe he couldn’t work there anymore.

So that’s when he started filling in the scientific gaps left by the corporate GMO industry.

Mr. Currin, the world we are in now is a lot different from the world we inhabited as children.  When I was a child, most of the research and development for agriculture was in the hands of government departments.

It’s not like that anymore.

But we need to see toxicity studies, of the formulations we spray on our food, unconnected to industry shareholders, proving safety.  That’s my middle ground, I don’t believe that’s a ‘sensationalist straw to pluck’.

And your comments regarding ‘anti-GMO grumble’? Why is Roundup so connected to GMO’s?

Because the last 16 years of open research for GMO’s in America have led to more pesticide being sprayed on crops (not less), and the development of six major transgenic pest-management traits dominating pesticide use in the U.S. over this period, 1996–2011: herbicide-resistant (Roundup) corn, soybeans, and cotton;  Bt corn and cotton.

Thousands of smaller ag-based firms have closed business as ownership of the corn traits have led to domination by a small group of firms.

This has led to less crop diversity, higher input margins for farmers, less crop rotation, less drought tolerance, poorer soils and more chemicals on our food.

The scientists at Scion will tell you that internationally, scientists have no problem with GMOs.

The fact is, internationally, industry connected scientists have no problems with GMOs.  But scientists and medical professionals unconnected to GMO industry in the fields of toxicology, paediatrics, neurology, oncology, soil science, endocrinology and veterinary work have a huge problem with them.  These guys want more science to prove safety.

The legal term of GRAS that GMO’s receive, generally regarded as safe, means this stuff doesn’t get tested for toxicity, ever. Yet science demonstrates GMO corn has 18 times the safe level of glyphosate set by the EPA.  GMO plants have less essential nutrients in them – less calcium, less magnesium, less manganese.

They are different.

One of the latest food New Zealand GMO food approvals is for corn with an insecticidal toxin inside the actual plant, which can be then sprayed with Roundup, and 2,4-D and glufosinate and a new pesticide called AOPP.  All together.  These are called stacked traits.

No assessment agency in the world requires these combined pesticides to be tested cumulatively to prove them safe.

Every carcinogenicity study in the world declaring 2,4-D is safe, is directly paid for by Dow or a pesticide industry organisation known as 2,4-D task force?

Intuition, logic and independent science tells me this is not safe. For our kids. This is why I write.

Mr Currin, the Scion scientists believe if the Bay of Plenty uses the term ‘precautionary principle’ in its policy wording it will lead to less science. Poppycock.

Many of our food exporters involved with ongoing research and development believe higher premiums are tied to a GMO free export product.

Consider Comvita, for instance. Do they fit in your ‘middle ground’?

Mr. Currin, my central, conservative view, is that we need more science. More research to prove safety – that is not paid for by industry.

And a heck of a lot of very conservative scientists and corporations agree with me.

Jodie Bruning.

References: 

Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. — the first sixteen years:  Charles M Benbrook  http://www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility: http://www.ensser.org/increasing-public-information/no-scientific-consensus-on-gmo-safety/

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Free-range kids in the Bay of Plenty.

2012-02-27 003

Our family ended up at Matahui Road School after moving from a highly esteemed local primary school in the Bay of Plenty Region, where after 6 weeks in the new entrance class the teacher didn’t realise that my son could read, do some maths, that sort of stuff.  She really had no idea.  Things change and this may not be a problem at that school anymore, but it was a problem for us then.

And then, one day at the previous school when I was quietly helping in the classroom, Will finished his project and went into a corner and rolled a yellow digger up and down repeatedly for 20 minutes.  The teacher was busy, harassed, she didn’t have time to look after him, and he was causing no trouble.  And I thought to myself, is this how his education will be?  In this large classroom at this beautifully resourced, decile 10 school?  He dashes through his work and has permission to be bored because he causes no trouble?  Oh, and then he would hop in the car at the end of the day talking about being pushed over and kicked by a gang of boys….  so many factors weren’t right.

At about the same time my cousin had apologetically told me that her kids wouldn’t be going to this same school, the school their father and grandfather had attended, because she had found another one.  One that was little, just north of Tauranga, it was independent (private) and well, different.  A school that claimed to ‘inspire a love of learning’ that was wise to such things as the ‘habits of mind’ – a concept that was new to me then.  Learning isn’t just about knowing stuff – it is about learning behaviour that will make you strong in this world.  Fair enough.

This school, apparently, reinforced ideas such as:  ‘the true measure of success is not in knowing the right answer, but in knowing what to do when you don’t have the right answer’.

To teach confidence in how we approach this world.   Big call.

My mother-in-law had gone along with my cousin to the open day, possibly a little jaded that the daughters-in-law were departing from family habitude.  But once she arrived at Matahui Road School she exclaimed happily “but this is how the boy’s school used to be!”  And she was converted. Our hearts lifted.

It is a little school, our school, with under 90 on the role.  And its main claim to fame for every new parent, a critical variable for many –  are low class sizes.  Every family has a child that needs extra attention – a little more time.  And to be honest, I believe that is all most children need to get there in the end – time.  Patience.  Something this world does not always have.

And with smaller classes I do believe this is what we get – a more focussed and less harassed teacher. A critical variable in successful learning.

Matahui Road School is an independent primary school in the Western Bay of Plenty.  This is quite rare in our region.  It survives on half the income per student that the flash secondary schools in Auckland and over the hill in the Hamilton region, require to survive.  It is not rich.  It has a marketing budget that would fit in my belly button, as money is spent on more important things.  Nor is it a religious school.  It was set up 25 years ago by two mothers who had a vision of a school where children could be free to learn, free to explore, in a safe yet dynamic environment where risks could be taken –  self-esteem fostered and confidence encouraged.  I would definitely say it is a highly moral school – in part because of a values system that is entwined throughout the schools culture.

The cars aren’t as grand as the public school down the road – many parents make sacrifices to send their kids here.  People don’t come here to name drop.  They come here to make happy, strong kids.

Everyone is different and here, this attitude seems to work.  Our school gets excellent academic results – Matahui, for a small school, punches above its weight.  Our ICAS results confirm this.  There is also, and many of us believe importantly, an energy and strength about the kids who, after their stint here depart for college/secondary – and the feedback from the secondary schools confirms it.

Teachers here are kind, and, I believe empowered in the process of how they structure the program and teach their kids.  So the teachers are happy here.  And in many ways, in this world today, we underestimate the power of kindness and happy educators.

Here, big kids talk to little kids and little kids talk to big kids – no-one is pigeon holed into playing only with their age group.  Be warned, play equipment can be well, risky at times.  If you swing the swinging ball hard without looking, someone will get hurt.  And the swinging ball is one of the most fabulous, beloved pieces of play equipment in the playground.  Because without risk, kids mightn’t be exposed to anxiety.  Kids need and want risk.  Don’t deny them that. And guess what the swinging ball encourages? Kids looking out for each other! Caring! Sharing! Courage! Communicating! As well as risk.  Crazy how many things one big orange ball can do.

And a comment of my son from a long time ago now, stays with me, ‘Mum, at that school I went to when I was little there were ‘no bullying’ signs everywhere, and I was bullied, but at Matahui there are no ‘no-bullying’ signs’.  How interesting.

Is it the best primary school in the Bay of Plenty?

We think so.

Our daughter and our son have been at Matahui Road School for a few years now, living as free-range kids, barefoot most days, as you do at a Kiwi school.   And I would watch them having fun and running around and it all looked so easy.  And this was something that used to niggle me a lot, because it niggles every parent that comes here at some stage or another – are they learning enough?  Are they on par with NZ, with the international world?  Because there is a financial commitment to coming to this school, and parents don’t just want their kids to thrive – they need to perform academically too.  Is it worth it?

And I can confirm that this school is on par. If not above.  We have just had a year at school in France.  As many of you may know, the French system, is, despite the efforts of caring and dedicated teachers, an industrial system.  It is a ‘sit at your desk and write down this dictation’ kind of system.  Yes, it draws out of the ether some of the best engineers and mathematicians in the world.  But it is a largely joyless system.  So it is natural to question this seemingly laissez faire approach of Matahui and contrast the two educational polarities.

Does it really work?

My kids entered French school with minimal French, and after 4 months struggling with learning a new language, thrived.  Their math and science were fine. They only had a year there and they did well, fitted in and kept up.  All in a foreign language.  Then they returned to Matahui and breathed a big sigh of relief, because they were back in a place where they could be happy AND learn at the same place.

This is a skill not every school can achieve.  And, when it comes down to it, we only live once.

Seniors leave Matahui on every academic level.  Because we are not all the same.  Like the world out there, our kids are a mix of brilliant, average and struggling.  Kids will be who they are.  Some will be academic and some won’t be.  Just like the mix of parents who love them.

But do you know what our school is really good at?

Teaching children that everyone is good at something.  Teaching them that they can learn. Teaching them not to dread school and everything it means.

Fostering friendships and confidence and a love of learning in a world where too often, kids and their simple need to be kids, gets left behind.  One of the big buzzwords when it comes to success these days is ‘grit’.  This is why Matahui Road School has a nationally awarded EOTC – Education Outside the Classroom program, that builds strengths in kids in ways they never knew they had.

Our school is about self-awareness and self-esteem in children that means they can grow up and be happy adults.  It’s not just a springboard to secondary school.

Oh and along the way tall poppies can be tall poppies, average kids can strive, dyslexics can be dyslexics (and learn to read at all the different ages dyslexics do – not just at 6 and ¾), sporty kids can thrive and spectrum kids can learn in the hundred different ways they do.

And mix in together and play ball tiggy and play music and climb the best climbing tree in the world.

Because our kids have varied and multiple intelligences.  And we love them for it.

Success is success.  And we all reach whatever our definition of what success is, in a million different ways.

Think about every entrepreneur you can imagine.

NB: this rave is unpaid.

 

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Bulimia – acknowledging that parents can screw up is part of healing.

The first thing that happens to us in our life is that we are nourished and nurtured. We naturally, form loving bonds with family around us. This is the essence of life, the meaning of life, however you put it. And it should end with a strong confident next generation.

So how in our deepest soul, could food and nurture and love inevitably not get mixed up in our thoughts?

When love for a child doesn’t happen the ‘right’ way we want, the way we approach food can be different. The wires of comprehension of what ‘love’ is, can become distorted in our attempt to nurture ourselves. We all need love in order to be happy, functioning people.

I believe that in many different ways, love is historically ‘conditional’ for people with significant problems with food. Whether it is intended, or not. It is somehow tied to performance.  Love is difficult. Complicated.  Unconditional love never happened.  So people with an eating disorder (ED) compensate. By stuffing love in their mouth.

While self-esteem withers.

I grew up without a mother around and with the stricter less ‘loving’ love of a stepmother. I very quickly came to know that by cooking and providing food I was approved of. And so when I tumbled off to university with my friends I became known as the cook. It was my language, my identity, it was my way of making people love me. I couldn’t rely on wit, confidence, money or an inspirational personality. I was the cook that everyone loved … because I made stuff that made people feel good.

I had ten years of struggling with my weight. But I truly believe my issues stopped when I ‘let my mother go’. I let ‘her’ be ‘her’ and I stopped wanting nurturing, motherly love from her. Even with her Master’s degree in psychology.

I look at my friends – the cooks among them are often the ones that feel a desire to bring people together, through creativity and expression but also through a need to be loved. You make for people. You give.  You love. And they love you for it. You feel loved. Seriously, it’s a transaction that works.

It helps make your life meaningful.

Friends with two solid loving parents, with parents I envied, often approached the cooking game later. They didn’t need the approval of others. They had enough already.

Yes, I am a generalist, but when I talk with people, look at a chat stream on a blog or read books by people with actual eating disorders, it occurs to me that a larger proportion, much more than the low 50% stats that text books give – of ED sufferers nearly always state their lives include a difficult parent relationship or a sexual violation.

And I believe this just isn’t covered enough in traditional academic books you find in a library.

Is this because the academics don’t want to pick on the parents – because then the parents won’t buy the books? Regard a personal ED website and it is either difficult relationships with parents that can be anything from high pressure, perfectionist or overprotective types to kids struggling with alcoholic parents. And then there are the deeply heart wrenching stories of the girls (mainly but not always) that have been raped and/or abused (not necessarily parent related).

Who wants to deal with all that? Especially when it is the parents paying the psychologist fees and buying the books? Because most twenty or thirty-somethings with bulimia spend it all on food. There is no cash left.

To me the solution is intensely tricky. In its simplest form it is about forgiving the people who, in the earliest days, made you feel bad about yourself. Letting them go. This can include trying really hard to understand why they treated you like they did. Or why they didn’t treat you like you wanted them to. Accepting them. Sometimes an impossible ask. Especially if you live with them.

And then learn to love yourself.  To become a manufacturer of love and self esteem and joy for only you.  To mindfully change. To know that eating love will only destroy you, physically and emotionally.

How do you start the business of acknowledging that food will never fix that deep empty pit that those other people who grew up with enough love, will never know about?

This is the toughest addiction.  As tough as alcoholism and drug addiction, and just as damaging.  You better believe it.   And like an alcoholic or a drug addict – only you can change.

I can’t tell you that you are wonderful and you say ‘yes you are right’ and change your habits.

When we feel one of the bad feelings; guilt and anxiety, it can be because we seek perfectionism and control in ourselves. And our parents can be heartbreakingly critical – controlling and perfectionist.  Just differently.

Astonishingly, it can come down to genes – these are the same gene traits, just mixed different ways.

Oh the destructive irony. Frequently, so much of us is them no matter how hard we reject that thought.

Is it about the fact that our parents can nearly almost never be the perfect nurturing loving parents we need them to be? They are just human. So an integral part of this is accepting that parents can’t be perfect, often when they are just struggling to be one step up from their own parents who weren’t perfect either, when they themselves were children.

The same anxious perfectionist gene traits passing from generation to generation. Dads butting up against daughters.  Mums saying the wrong thing.  How can that not go wrong sometimes? How can the personality types most likely to end up with an Eating Disorder (ED) like bulimia – traits like obsessionality, anxiety, inhibition (which might also mean defensiveness) and perfectionism, not drive parents crazy? Particularly obsessive, perfectionist parents.

How can that not lead to ultimately anxious people with low self-esteem? Especially if you are ‘the difficult child’. Those very traits that should lead to success in professional life and major career advances can be the very same traits that can destroy a soul.

And all of us with children have a child that is more difficult, more challenging. Their drive, their innate selfishness to do and discover and be themselves, their unconscious rejection of the easier personalities we sometimes wish they had, make it hard to simply love them. And then what happens if they are an anxious child? Parents must love, limitlessly and non-judgementally. Love in a way that has nothing to do with success or achievement.

However sometimes parents fail. They just can’t do it. And maybe we need to accept that.

So how does a bulimic learn to love themself and not look for it everywhere else? Real, nurturing, comfortable love. That you may have never had before. This is such a foreign concept to so many of these girls that haven’t been close, I mean really close, to a parent. In that comfortable, gossiping about everything, knowing that you can say anything, kind of way.

I was once told by a dear friend and respected academic that yes, many of the gene traits above listed are present with all the other sufferers she knows – but there was something more. Something that went to the heart of every eating disorder sufferer that she knew. And it was so simple. It was this: Not believing that the ones you love, love you.

It was the loneliest sentence I have ever heard. And it leads to the loneliest lifestyle.

You believe you are unlovable.

And I know she was the ‘difficult child’, with tragedy thrown in for good measure. I also know that she is brilliant and smart and gorgeous and completely lovable. But for years, she didn’t think so. And that was all that counted.

So how do you learn to love yourself and accept that you are lovable? I’m sure for some people that word even hurts.

And for those who have suffered more deeply with abuse – this is even more deeply, profoundly difficult. How can it not be nearly impossible to climb out of an eating disorder that gives you a feeling of love when you stuff fat and sugar loaded food into you, even for a brief moment?

That is why women and men are out there in their 3rd decade of suffering. Possibly more.

How do you change the way you look at yourself? Is it impossible?

It’s about forgiveness, empathy, letting go of a need for approval, but also, intriguingly, creating a self-habit that means you can be kind to yourself (when the person you most want to look you in the eyes and just love you, won’t or can’t).

Let them go and focus on you.

The habit of putting food in your mouth and then disgusting yourself by purging when you feel anxious, unloved, stressed or bored is simply that. A habit. It’s simply a habit that the brain, who loves to control stuff, is controlling really, really well.

How do you teach your brain to change a habit that could be decades old?

How do you change your habits of mind to fulfil your basic need to be loved? Because it is a tricky, unknown thing this link between health, love and a happy soul.  Doctors and psychologists still don’t have all the answers. (Some do, but they are really hard to find).

Little by little, but emphatically.  Determinedly.  Sneak up on your addiction.  Trick it.  ‘Logic’ yourself into a new life.  Be mindful.  In little ways every day. Laugh at how mean you have been to yourself.  Because you deserve more.

It’s powerful – change your words and then change your brain – for example replace the negative word ‘stubborn’ to ‘determined’ and then pick out the word ‘grit’. Then go and look on the internet for the words ‘success and grit’ and you’ll see what I mean.

I have friends suffering, that barely mention their ED, bulimia, so great is their shame and guilt and self-disgust. But it isn’t just me loving them that can stop their habit. It helps, but it is not the key. It is them learning to love themselves. My hands are tied.

Whether it is anxiety that pushes the button into comfort eating, guilt or low self esteem – dieting is simply a trigger that leads to a heart breaking obsession with food, rather than the original cause. Fixing your food intake can never be the answer. I truly believe there is a back story behind every sufferer of this tragic life style. This story has to be examined, understood and let go, for change to happen to make the world of so many people we love, healthier and happier.

Do we really understand quite how much this struggle to escape the prison that is an ED, is about creating the empathy and then the brain habits that say: I am loveable, I am a good person, I deserve more? I think it is underestimated in a million ways.  How does someone who has detested themselves for years, slowly move from the habitual negative terms of disgust and self-loathing to explaining gently to themselves that they are not a bad person?

Every day, every hour and every minute.

Our brains simply adore a good habit. Computer games, smoking, picking your nose, standing on the bathroom scales. How do you reach beyond your brain into your heart? The solution will never be about physical stuff. It is about the heart, the spirit and self-love. Understanding the heart can help you change the habit.  And changing the habit can help you look at your heart, your ‘self’ in new ways.

And it may gradually dawn on you that you don’t deserve self-cruelty. That face looking back at you in the mirror is just fine. Be kind to it.

Love for you must come from inside you. Self-acceptance and self-esteem can’t be separate.

And nothing will completely destroy your habits of binging or purging until you find your own joy, your own meaning, your own happiness.

For every negative thought create a good thought. For every self-hatred try, search insist – on the logic that the people around you know – that you have a good heart and that you deserve more. The things you, do not make you bad. Step out of the noose. Be kind to yourself.

I was watching a fantastic Ted Talk on grit the other day and a phrase stuck (so I did a search and found a link here): ‘growth mindset’. Because your brain changes and grows in response to challenges. It mentioned something powerful: ‘failure is not a permanent condition’.

Learning to love yourself is more than idle navel gazing. It is a combination of hard work for heart and brain. Thinking, reasoning, and knowing that life is too short to be stuck in groundhog day.

The bank balances of big pharmaceuticals in their magical roundabout of drugs and more drugs don’t want you to feed your soul.

Being kind to yourself is a habit every happy person practices. And for a person with anxiety and/or low self-esteem, it is the most powerful thing you can do.

Every day, a kind word for every mean thought. Replace self-disgust with self-empathy. Replace shame with gentle acknowledgement that what you are doing today is not good for you.

Being kind to yourself are the first tiny, mindful steps that can help you get there.

Because, as they say in the classics, you have to get to the heart of the matter.

But I believe you are worth it.

Self love. Kindness. Nurture.

It has to come from within.

Open up your heart to yourself. Accept yourself. Love yourself.

Because that is the magic within happy people.

Imperfect, lumpy, content, happy people.

It is that simple.

 

 

Written for a beautiful girl.

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Bridal Registry Wish List – the top ten… in hindsight.

2013-03-03 013If I got married today what would be on my list?

After 13 years of marriage this week and 2 (mostly) fabulous kids, I was thinking about the things I had on my bridal registration list.  What was worth it, and what was a waste of time.

And the unasked for presents that have become everyday gems in my life.

And after all this time, the importance of a well equipped, efficient kitchen is reinforced to me with each year my children grow.

The food we put in our body becomes the nutrients that define our health and quality of life.  The food we eat affects our sleep, our intelligence and aptitude and how we socialise.  When we crave food it may be because we are eating too much sugar or carbs, I have been in this world where you can’t stop obsessing and this ‘want’ defines your every hour..    feeding myself addictive substances rather than the nutrition it seeks.   These days  I no longer have cravings.  Food affects us psychologically. And in many more ways than my example.

Food, or rather nourishment, is everything. It’s way up there on the scale of ‘what is important’.

Guys have tools in their sheds.  Some tools can be cheap, like a hammer, but some things need to be good quality, like a saw, so they can be sharpened and used for years.  Kitchen cookware is like that too.

And like tools, these things are not fashionable or hip, they are solid, enduring and something we use every day and every week.

Because, face it, Wedding Time is when you get the most money blown on your home, and on your future.

It’s a ‘once-er’. (Hopefully).

And sometimes it is hard to think past ‘what is gorgeous now’.  Because you may only see what is stylish, what you saw in that magazine last month and what your friends have.

I like to think about this: the French term for food is ‘nourriture’ – nourishment. Whilst the English term is ‘fuel’.

Our daily can should be so much more than fuel. Food should be joy.  And the better you cook, the more satisfied you are each time you sit down to a meal. So the better your day, your week your month and then each year, becomes.

Therefore, you enhance your life.  You make it better. And you keep learning and experimenting, in good, delicious, nourishing ways.

But please consider some suggestions from an old lady.

My absolute top 10 kitchen things to put on a wedding registration list. 

Practical things that will pay dividends to you when you have children, when winters are cold, when you have run out of cash, and when you get (even) better at cooking than you are now.

  1. Excellent knives and a commitment by one of you to sharpening the knives regularly.  Knives need sharpening like toothbrushes need changing.  And men are good at doing both…
  2. Cast Iron round casserole dish. A nice big one.  Cooking big meals and freezing a bit each time makes the best and healthiest fast food in the world.  Popular brands include Le Creuset.
  3. The best quality food processor you can afford. I didn’t used to use them much but once I started doing heavy family cooking and busted three stab mixers in a row from too much use, I became converted.  So we had to invest later.  And guys, a more expensive one usually has a better motor and won’t burn out.  It’s a tool.
  4. The heaviest steel frypan you can get. Make it heavy because then your steak cooks better and you don’t burn things after 3 minutes. I really don’t trust non-stick surfaces and this is the safest long term cooking implement you can buy.
  5. Best quality hand mixer/blender.  Look for one with steel bits inside rather than plastic bits that burn out after 2 ½ days. (Like the three I broke one year).  All your leftovers become soup.  And your kids eat spinach and parsley without realising.  At first.  It pays for itself very quickly.
  6. A big pot with a solid base.  Copper bases are the best.  And steel handles last the longest.
  7. A gorgeous stylish oilcloth tablecloth.  These look great but can get wiped down when every day is messy.
  8. Glass storage ware.  Buying in bulk saves money, particularly if you can buy organic drygoods.  And glass lets off less stuff than plastic.
  9. Microplane fine zester.  The best fried rice only has soy sauce on it and frozen ginger (I keep it in the freezer so it doesn’t go off) grated on your rice mix. Also the lemon zest from this stuff is so fine it makes everything gorgeous and zingy. Invented by a woman who kept stealing her husband’s woodworking rasp from the garage.  I tell you, these things are tools.
  10. A great BBQ.  However lots of people go for the flashest BBQ in the world but end up with a less outfitted kitchen.  A cheaper BBQ works just as well and you don’t need a rotisserie and a wok fryer.

The some other suggestions:

  1. A fridge with a big freezer.  The sooner you double the meals you cook and freeze a bit for busy nights the sooner you have money for fabulous holidays.
  2. A beautiful big salad bowl and salad servers
  3. A knife and fork set where there are no joins. Our knives have joins between the knife and the handle and are breaking already after only 13 years!
  4. Buying soup/dessert bowls:  you want bowls that stack well in the dishwasher because bowls that don’t stack well are a pain in the derriere… for the rest of your life.

Something I stopped wanting:  For years I wanted a gorgeous matching spice storage set.  Not anymore.  I cook with a lot of spices and I have come to love the different sized glass jars that hold different spices that I use in differing quantities.  For example I use tonnes of oregano but not much nutmeg.  And I like to collect interesting shapes so it makes my kitchen more interesting to me.

And something else for winter:  Over the years you realise one of you sleeps hotter and one of you sleeps colder.  The BEST answer for this is a mohair blanket.  I realised this at dinner one time with three sets of aunts and uncles.  They hadn’t realised but they all used mohair blankets because one of them slept hotter than the other.  The pure magic of mohair blankets is that they don’t slide off.  So have a single one in your favourite colour and you will love it till the ‘holes of love’ wear through.

(The mohair blanket and the le Creuset pot are the gems. Two of my most special possessions, gifts unlisted at the gift registry, items my kids will have to prise out of my cold, dead fingers).

I like to think about all these tools above, how important they have been and continue to be in everyday life.  Because when we haven’t had the money to go out for a nice meal, I could always make a rich stew or a wicked pudding.

And sometimes a flash dinner set may not age fashionably (remember that daggy one of Aunt Ethel’s?).  And it may hardly be used because it is ‘too good’.

What’s the point?

Everyday life is not about impressing people.  A beautiful practical casserole pot in your kitchen may say a lot more about your priorities in this fast world of fast food than a decadent set of plates you can barely afford.

When you are tearing around with kids you need good tools in your kitchen.

Not some darn statement piece.

So, what do you want in life?

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So Tauranga residents can save on $ and recycle all our plastics like the 6/8 largest NZ cities?

I am a ratepayerliving around Tauranga & frankly, I am sick of my kids coming home and talking about recycling 3-7 plastics when Tauranga doesn’tactually do this.

And I really hate the legacy of landfill we are leaving for our future. So I conducted an investigation.  And the shame.  Oh the shame of my findings.:

The Tauranga City Council Ten Year Plan is up for review. (Please note submissions are due by 20th April.) Central to all decisions is the ‘Decision Making Framework’. Two of the top eight points central to ‘what we want our city to be like?’ Are (1) Clean, Green valued environment; and (2) Living Well, wasting less.

Out of the top eight cities in New Zealand, Auckland, Wellington, Hastings-Napier, Dunedin, Christchurch and Palmerston-North all recycle plastics no.’s 3-7.
ONLY Tauranga City Council (TCC) and Hamilton City Council do not.

Yet even Hamilton CC are considering the option, and it will be easier for them to implement because they already charge rubbish and recycle collection onto rates.

The big problem for us, is that TCC clearly state ‘No rates-funded inorganic waste collections to be undertaken’. (Section 9.2 TCC & WBOPDC Waste Minimisation and Management Plan).

What Council is failing to do is to communicate to local cash-strapped rate-payers that it will be cheaper to consolidate rubbish collection under one contractor, recycle ALL plastics 1-7, and, if council separates glass from plastics (ie. allows fortnightly collection so glass one week paper/plastics the other), the TCC will actually make money. Ie. it is in their best interest… just speak to little old
Dunedin City Council… AND RESIDENTS WILL NOT LOSE MONEY BY MOVING TO RECYCLING ALL PLASTICS.

For example: My mechanic in Tauranga, rubbish and recycle collection, currently pays $6.75 a week = $351 annually. He thinks he has a good deal.
Dunedin: $68 for recycle collection (taking the bulky 3-7 numbers reduces actual rubbish). If you then included 1 $2.10 rubbish bags a week = $177.20                            Hastings $145.20 and the cheapest is Palmerston North Annual total collection fee at $144.

No recycling? = 3 rubbish bags a week at $2.70 a pop costs you $421.20. Even 2 bags cost you $280.80 over a year.
And if, like most families, you end up with a big recycle bin and 1 rubbish bag a week it will cost you $208.40 over the year.

Tauranga residents are being ripped off – economically and environmentally. Our environmental management is NOT best practice in NZ.

All these city councils clearly state the charge in their rates, so it is not some sneaky rate increase. It is saving Tauranga residents money.

And with change you, the resident that stamps your foot up and down and can’t bear the thought of one more cent on your rates bill,  can look your kids in the eye and say you actually do care.

Just because the Tauranga Council have increased rates shockingly, it doesn’t mean we  should stick our heads in the ground.  Not at all.

For one annual lump sum of $68 (using Dunedin’s price) we can turn recycling around in Tauranga. (And I don’t see why thoughtful landlords couldn’t transparently include it in rent over the year ($1.30pw) – so that tenants don’t get a big nasty lump sum).

Tauranga’s Draft Ten Year Plan 2012-2022 is open for review, and in the full draft, Part A, pages 174-180 is the solid waste component. Their commitment to ‘progressive reduction of waste’ is a tiny 20kg (or roughly 3%) a year (but this isn’t on the plan it is on page 14 of the WBOPDC & TCC Waste Management and Minimisation plan (do Google) which is one and the same). At the moment our waste is growing at 15-17kg a year anyway. And most of the strategies are kind of, well, hopeful.

(When Taupo swapped to user pays rate funded recycling in 2002, it increased from 35% of households to 95% of households recycling, and they then are estimating by collecting no.3-7 plastics around 3 million containers additionally will be kept out of landfill! Note: Taupo has 100,000 less residents than Tauranga).

If you want to help change, make a submission. The more submissions they hear, the braver they will be at dealing with the barriers to achieving this (a) including recycling in the rates bill (b) consolidating collection under one contractor.

Here is the online submission form for you.

Whatever you say will help.

Best of luck helping our kids have a beautiful world to grow up into.

 

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Mark Lynas The God Species – I can’t agree with this GMO nitrogen fix

Mark Lyna’s chapter on nitrogen and the nitrogen boundary (unlike carbon, not crossed yet) reads well.  To put it simply and clearly (as he does): Every living cell needs nitrogen: It makes leaves green, constitutes an essential part of all proteins, forms enzymes, and helps encode genetic information in DNA and RNA.  Without nitrogen our crops would die in the fields and our children would develop the awful starved potbellies of African refugee camps.

What is so tricky about getting nitrogen naturally – is that it comes from two places; electrical discharge in thunderstorms and from nitrogen fixation from leguminous plants (peas, beans and clover).  The nodules on these plants work symbiotically with the soil to produce this very precious resource.

Then we went and created synthetic nitrogen from synthesising ammonia in 1909 which enabled us to create better explosives for war.  It wasn’t until after WWII that we turned to nitrogen to boost our harvests.  The Green Revolution.  And the famines of previous centuries faded into history.

And now – every agrarian economy is fighting another problem.  Massive nitrogen runoff into lakes and rivers is creating dead zones of algae blooms and water depleted of oxygen, something the species living in our waterways regard with less than enthusiasm.  And having created the stuff, nitrogen cycles again and again, from rain to fertiliser to nitrous oxide.  (The only way to get rid of it is to stick it to another nitrogen atom and then it becomes, as Lynas says, a trouble free gas).

So what do we do?  All over the western world farmers are reducing their fert applications and understanding that there are good ratios of fertiliser to plant growth to reduce runoff.  In countries such as China, from what I understand, farmers are still applying too much but cost benefit ratios should reduce that reasonably quickly.

But ultimately we still need to reduce our nitrogen load.  Lynas suggests that organic farming is not the way to go – we need too much land which will ultimately take land away from protected forests as we seek to feed ourselves with another 2 billion in the next 40 or so years.  Fair point and worth the debate.  I’d like to talk more about that one.

But when he says that selective breeding is ‘hit and miss’, but with genetic engineering that scientists can make precise and rapid changes by selecting a gene from any species and insert it into the target crop to deliver a more nitrogen-efficient and higher-yielding crop, well, I just get all hot and bothered.

Selective breeding is slower but still definitely safer.  At this stage in the GMO debate have you heard about horizontal gene transfer?  And of course vertical gene transfer (more likely)?  Do you know that GMO’s can cross the species barrier?  Do you know that when a ‘cassette’ of traits is inserted into the plant there can be a rearrangement of genes at the site of insertation and that this can cause thousands of mutations and random modifications throughout transgenic plants?  That you can get ‘recombination hotspots’ where virus’s inserted into plants (a common way of ‘getting the traits in the plants’ ) make the plant unstable and prone to causing mutations, cancer and new pathogens?

And GMO’s are ‘GRAS’ – generally regarded as safe?   You’ve got to be joking.  Go on, do a search instead of watching your favourite reality show.  This one is bigger.

What is wanting, what is profoundly wrong about the entire GM debate – is that the science that supports the applications for approval of GM across the world, largely comes from the companies seeking to sell the product.

And until our politicians are sophisticated enough to facilitate large scale independent institutions, funded by these behemoths but uninfluenced by their enormous hairy tentacles, we will continue to see health issues squashed by the marketing machine that comprises the GM lobby and corporations – rather than fully researched and understood.  It is not for our long term benefit right now, fellow travellers.

And while this is happening and precaution is thrown to the wind I cannot support GM.

I support the idea of technology taking us into the future but our governments have increasingly assisted (and/or legislated for),  industry to fund GMO research and release applications – removing the independence of universities and research institutions to promote a ‘compromised commercially funded model’.

The God Species is a must read for both left and right wingers, and has transformed my opinions on nuclear and has focussed clearly on the planetary boundary debate.

I believe Lynas has a point with developing nitrogen fixation technologies in plants, but as respected genetist Dr Mae-Wan Ho says, flaws in the regulatory system (at least in the USA and the UK) present a scientific ‘nightmare’ because there are at least a dozen studies showing that GMO’s are hazardous to human and environmental health.

We’ve got a long way to go.

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