This Doctor’s Wishlist for a “Green New Deal”

Localism over socialism

The news is abuzz with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s “Green New Deal.” 
I have always maintained that the health of humanity depends upon the health of our environment. The first objection to her proposal by her critics is always, “How are we going to pay for it?” Her initial ideas will not even enjoy Democrat support from places like West Virginia or the Midwest, where oil, coal, and natural gas are vital to the local economy.

To succeed in congress, the Green New Deal must create economic opportunities in rural, “red-state,” America that will be affordable or even revenue-generating.

I believe such legislation is possible, even if it would look nothing like the first draft of the Green New Deal.

What if we could solve the healthcare crisis in the bargain? Call it “too good to be true,” but read it first. These are ideas worth voting for.

Common-Sense Agriculture

America’s current agricultural paradigm is to extract fossil fuels from the ground, send them to a refinery, refine them, and ship them to farmers, who then spray them as various pesticides and fertilizers to grow corn and soy in such abundance that we are running out of people to sell it to, or even places here at home to store it.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans are starving. The vast majority of Americans are now obese or overweight as a result of the glut of corn and soy that we pervert into an endless variety of fake foods. These fake foods, from high-fructose corn syrup to soy oil, are linked to every significant disease of modernity.

This paradigm of American agriculture works because the American tax-payer subsidizes it. We are subsidizing the very foods that are killing us. If you think modern American agriculture is going strong, guess again. American farm bankruptcies and American farmer suicides just hit all-time highs. The current American agricultural paradigm is on its last legs and the American farmer is badly in need of rescuing by a new paradigm.

“A nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.”
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The author of the original New Deal would hopefully have recognized modern American agricultural policy as destructive of both human health and soil health. Ironically, modern American agricultural policy is a bipartisan form of socialism (I would go so far as to call it fascism) that started under FDR.

So how can we fix American agriculture?

First of all, protect American farmers from imported food. Food imported to the United States is often grown at the expense of the environments of other nations. How can you consider that ethical? I don’t care how much you love eating avocado toast year-round, we need to preserve forests in Central America to protect butterflies. I know you want to eat beef, but eat pasture-raised and local beef, not beef grown in the ruins of the Amazonian rainforest. American farmers simply cannot compete with cheap food produced overseas, just as American workers cannot compete with cheap labor in places like China. American farmers need to be protected against foreign competitors who degrade the environment and abuse human rights to lower costs. Tarrifs or subsidies can be used to accomplish this.

Second, prioritize American farmers growing healthy food. The produce section of the grocery store should be bigger and better. The processed food section (the aisles) is only as large as it is because we have been busy subsidizing all the worst foods. We have created our modern epidemics of disease — Democrats and Republicans vote for it every single year in The Farm Bill. We pay farmers to grow corn — why don’t we pay them to grow cabbages instead?

Third, stop shifting the cost of externalities onto the public. Agriculture is responsible for most of our water pollution. That pollution is ruining America’s water quality, which has both direct and indirect effects on American health. First, water pollutants can directly harm people. This harm is insidious and will rarely generate headlines comparable to those of lead poisoning in places like Flint, Michigan, but the harm is no less real. Second, water pollution from terrestrial agriculture has crippled our healthiest food source: our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Aquaculture Over Animal Agriculture

Seafood is undeniably the health food of the past, present, and future. As diets have drifted further and further from the sea, they have become less and less healthy. There are three broad categories of seafood — fish, shellfish, and seaweed. Combined seaweed and bivalve aquaculture is far more productive than anything we can do on land. For the Americans, this is important news. Americans are notorious for eating a diet of deep-fried meat, potatoes, and refined flour. Add to that high-fructose corn syrup and refined vegetable oils (not to mention artificial light and wireless devices, which I discuss later) and you have the perfect storm for modern diseases.

The answer to these diseases? Seafood is part of the solution, as I write about frequently, and will write about for the rest of my life.

Who is paying for these diseases? You are. How could we pay for a Green New Deal? Try alleviating the country of the economic burdens of healthcare for a start. How do you generate jobs in a world that is hungry for seafood and is running out of arable land, not to mention water? Invest in aquaculture.

If seafood is part of the solution, then modern day American terrestrial agriculture is part of the problem. Not only is what we currently farm on land unhealthy, the way that we farm it is destroying our fisheries. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, one of our nation’s vital fisheries, is the product of agricultural run-off from the Midwest. American agriculture accounts for the majority of water pollution in our waterways. The oceans have suffered terribly as American agricultural policy has coddled farmers and destroyed fisheries. I recommend you read Paul Greenberger’s work to find out how and why.

American fishermen have a right to their livelihoods. American farmers have no right to destroy their livelihoods for the sake of convenience, especially when the best prescription for America’s epidemics of disease are fish, shellfish, and seaweed. Who can defend modern American agricultural practices in good conscience in light of these circumstances? Paleolithic, ketogenic, carnivore, and Mediterranean diet wonks should agree on this one — terrestrial agriculture must be sustainable and low to no-impact on our waterways and, therefore, fisheries.

There are many potential problems with aquaculture. We may end up with the same problems (corporate malfeasance and environmental degradation) if it is improperly implemented. Nonetheless, this is the direction I believe we should go for the health of our nation, our people, and our environment.

Did I mention that aquaculture can provide significant protection against storm surges? A shift away from terrestrial agriuclture would also promote wetland preservation. Our coastal cities are seeing worse and worse flooding during storm season, largely thanks to wetland destruction. Who pays the cost of hurricanes? You do. Why not spend that money on aquaculture instead — as we say in medicine, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Artificial Light: Harmful to Humans and the Environment

The effects of artificial light on biology are undeniable. The data is there from the fields of quantum mechanics to epidemiology. The WHO even lists shift-work as a risk factor for cancer. The reason? Artificial light at night, which causes a shifted circadian rhythm, has this strong of an association with cancer. Artificial light is one of our greatest energy costs. The sun is actually one of our most vital tools to create health and wellness. Ironically, the millions of Americans who stay up watching television or playing on their tablets, smart phones, and computers, while avoiding the sun during the day, pay a far steeper price in terms of their health than they do in terms of their electric bill.

You want to pay for Medicare for all? How about you restore the health of Americans first? The use of artificial light at night is driving modern epidemics of disease from heart disease to cancer. If we minimize our use of artificial light and maximize the efficiency of our sleep, we can reduce our healthcare costs overnight, while simultaneously saving on our electric bills. Need a new source of government revenue? Tax the use of artificial light at night, by taxing electricity use at night.

Wood Over Fossil Fuels

Not long ago, most American homes were heated with wood. Wood heat still competes with gas in many parts of the country, particularly rural areas far from gas supplies that are rich in timber. Imagine an America heated by wood once more. Every town would have an active timber industry. We would not waste energy sending oil from one side of the country (where it is pumped) to another side (where it is refined) and back again. Moreover, this would radically change both the distribution of air pollution and quality of air pollution in America. Currently, areas where fossil fuels are burned or refined suffer the consequences. We have “Cancer Valley” in West Virginia and “The Carcinogen Coast” in Texas. One of the major problems with fossil fuels is their high content of heavy metals. These compounds in part explain the health effects of air pollution. Wood contains little if any of these toxic heavy metals, not to mention toxic compounds like benzene.

The health of our fisheries depends upon this as well. We have pumped so much mercury into the air by burning coal that fish all over the world have more mercury today than they did before the Industrial Revolution. This has real impacts on human health over long periods of time.

Wood is local, sustainable, and healthy. I believe it is the future of how we heat our homes.

How We Communicate: Wireless Technology, Human Health, and the Environment

Everyone wants to believe that wireless technologies are safe for human health and for the environment. Plenty of establishment “experts” will tell you that they are, using a variety of logical fallacies supported by a library of poorly conducted and often outright fraudulent “scientific” studies. The wireless communications industry aggressively advances the narrative that “everything is fine and wireless technologies pose no threat to human health.” Yet we know that everything is not fine and the evidence that wireless technologies like cell phones, radios, and wireless internet are quite harmful is mounting at a rapid pace. Wireless technologies can, regardless of their effect on humans, easily destroy the mechanisms by which organisms navigate their environment. Might this be contributing to declining populations of butterflies, birds, and fish? It is far from the only factor, but we cannot dismiss it. Make what you will of this threat — evolution will sort it out one way or another.

I have another problem, however, with wireless technologies, and that is how they change our society. Humans are wired for interactions in person, not via digital media. Our society has declined precipitiously since we tuned into the first radio broadcasts, because the convenience of radio, television, and now smart phones, tablets, and computers keeps us at home or in our cars, instead of spending our time at the local bar, restaurant, place of worship, or theater, just to name a few. Local businesses have been destroyed by our shift to a virtual reality that we can now live in 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The productive members of society have everything they need delivered to their door by Amazon, including their groceries.

Not surprisingly, as real-life human interaction has become increasingly rare, depression, anxiety, and mental health problems generally have become epidemics. If you think this is a coincidence, I have a great deal for you on a bridge in a lovely place called Brooklyn.

How We Travel: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I have, for a long time now, harbored a dislike of the modern American highway system. Highways work for large corporations like Walmart and Monsanto, wealthy suburbanites whose jobs cannot be off-shored (or at least not easily), and politicians who want to be re-elected by effectively bribing their voters. They have done incalculable harm to the poor and to minorities, who are now literally choking on vehicle emissions in our inner cities. Rates of asthma and lung diseases are soaring in part because we have concentrated our populations in major cities without providing adequate pedestrian and mass-transit options that minimize air pollution. Old cities like New York are rare exceptions to this — they were founded and built up long before the invention of the internal combustion engine.

The Eisenhower highway system has given rise to an economy that revolves around cars and trucks, instead of trains or planes. If we had sunk even a small fraction of what we have spent on highways, not to mention cars, trucks, and gasoline, into our rail network, what would it look like today?

Traffic compounds the issue of vehicle emissions. Where do we see the worst traffic? We see it in areas of high population density — metropolises like San Francisco, New York, the District of Columbia, and Los Angeles. There are few, if any, traffic jams in cities of less than 50,000 in America.

I view this problem as being too far gone for us to fix without a massive de-population of American cities. Yes, I think that would be good for the environment and for public health.

Small Towns Over Big Cities

You will notice that the proposals above would create jobs and economic opportunities in rural America — not urban America. American cities are remarkably unsustainable and damaging to our environment. The water shortages of the West are entirely the result of metropolises like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. The open aqueducts that supply these cities, not to mention the irrigation practices of farmers in those regions, are incredibly wasteful of water. The pollution problems I have mentioned above, from highways choking our inner cities to artificial light destroying our circadian rhythms, take the greatest toll on our public health in major cities. Decentralizing American society is part of a green future. Meeting your needs locally, from how you heat your home to how you fertilize your crops, minimizes fossil fuel use. Localism is our future — not socialism. It is socialism at the federal level that has created each and every problem I outline above. It is localism that provides the solution.

An “America First” Green New Deal?

Ironically, what I propose above would revive the parts of America that elected Trump and are skeptical of environmentalism, particularly climate change. If you asked me to put together an “America First” domestic policy, this would be a good start. The above policies would work in states with strong fisheries, like coastal New England, California, and the Pacific Northwest. The could work for the American South and the Upper Midwest, both of which have significant water resources that could be used for aquaculture. What about the oil-boom states? Oil and fossil fuels aren’t going away anytime soon — I am sure they will still find someone to buy their oil. Besides, as I outlined above, I believe our current fossil fuels agricultural paradigm is doomed to failure. Likewise, many of oil-rich states, like West Virginia, are heavily forested or have significant water resources.

Maybe I should have entitled this piece, “An America First Health and Environmental Policy Plan.” It puts American workers, American farmers, American fisheries, and American health before partisan politics, after all.

Thank you for reading. 
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