Category: Health and Well-being

Health and Well-being

Attitude Adjustments and Other Lessons From Mandatory Isolation

Time and reflection change the sight little by little ’till we come to understand.
-Paul Cezanne

My phone notifies me that I have another whatsapp message. I hesitate, wondering if it’s news from an old friend abroad or from my local contact who’s keeping me updated on steps the Colombian government is taking to fight the rapid spread of the new coronavirus here in my adopted country of Colombia.

Over the past two months, many of us have had the good fortune of watching from a safe distance as lives were turned upside down in other parts of the world. That’s no longer the case, as COVID-19 has continued to spread rapidly, with confirmed cases now being reported in 185 countries, areas or territories according to the WHO.

The initial incompetent reactions – or lack of action – from top leaders in the USA, the UK and here in Colombia have caused conflicts and chaos which in turn have slowed any positive steps toward controlling the outbreak before it began spreading from person to person within local communities. Despite earlier warnings from both the military, intelligence community and international medical professionals, many national governments have shown themselves to be unprepared and unwilling to listen to voices of reason coming from regional and local officials aware of the real-time changes taking place on the ground.

In my local region of Antioquia, last night marked our first mandatory 3-day lock-down, a test to identify the service gaps prior to a longer period of quarantine. After taking action on their own, local and regional leaders are now finding Colombia’s national government more conducive to cooperating with local authorities. Although the confirmed case numbers here remain much lower than in the USA or Western Europe, medical experts are demanding action – now.

Fearing that even a mild epidemic could cause the country’s underfunded healthcare system to collapse, the national government has finally heeded the call of health experts and local leaders, calling for a nation-wide lock-down from March 25 to April 12. Colombia’s borders are now closed and all international flights into and out of the country will cease operations on March 25.

Unfortunately, these actions have come too late as infections are no longer limited to international travelers and have begun to spread within communities. The situation on the ground seems to be changing at lightening speed and we can no longer fool ourselves with the belief that the wolf will remain on someone else’s doorstep.

Colombia’s second largest city, Medellín, has some of South America’s best hospitals. Still, the government fears the country’s healthcare system could collapse under the stress of even a mild COVID-19 outbreak. Photo: Henry Lewis

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Health and Well-being

Greetings In The Time of Coronavirus: To Shake or Not to Shake

Consider the humble handshake…

Dating back to approximately the 5th century BCE and popularized in the 17th century by Quakers looking for a more egalitarian gesture than bowing or tipping one’s hat, the handshake has become the defacto greeting used in international business situations. To some degree, it has also replaced many traditional forms of personal acknowledgment once used in various cultures around our planet.

Greek goddesses Hera (Queen of the Gods and the wife and sister of Zeus) and Athena (goddess of wisdom, war and the crafts, among other things) handshaking, late 5th century BCE, Acropolis Museum, Athens. Photo: Henry Lewis courtesy of the Acropolis Museum, Athens.

A handshake: Donald and Me (or I, uh?)

While searching through news articles this week, I discovered that I have something in common with Donald Trump. [You, dear reader, may be surprised, but imagine how I felt!] It seems that it’s a well-established fact – as opposed to an alternative fact – that Trump is a germaphobe and will often go to great lengths to prevent exposure to coughs, sneezes, and yes, even the common handshake. He reportedly once wrote that the practice of shaking hands was “barbaric

The infamous 2017 handshake between President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron is showing Trump who has the strongest grip! Photo: Courtesy of Bloomberg Politics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOf9FqsLfA8

I admit that I too have occasionally been known to recoil in horror (at least internally) when meeting new people and feeling the pressure to swap sweaty palms. It’s not that I dislike being touched. On the contrary, I think human touch is essential to an individual’s well-being. Part of my reluctance to press hand flesh with a stranger is because of my childhood upbringing.

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Health and Well-beingPolitics

Donald Trump and the Corona Virus: Can He Be Trusted?

Even though our factual truth is never completely free of interpretation or personal perspective, this situation cannot serve as an argument against the existence of reality and facts, nor can it justify blurring the dividing lines between fact, opinion, and interpretation. The outcome of such blurring is a confused public that cannot differentiate between fact, fabrication, and opinion.

-Philosopher Hannah Arendt

The mid-20th century writings of Arendt seem prophetic in today’s post-truth world where maintaining political advantage often outweighs the common good. In such an era, what happens when a confused public is faced with contradictory information relating to a topic as important as public health? A comparable scenario was created this week by the Trump administration while discussing the level of risk the US population may face from the current world-wide corona virus (COVID-19) epidemic.

The stage was set by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney who accused the media of stoking virus fears to “bring down the President.” Mulvaney’s comments were purely political and had no basis in fact, and indeed, ignored the seriousness of the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic. They also fly in the face of health experts worldwide.

In an interview with the BBC, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director of health emergencies, Mike Ryan, noted the advice posted on the official WHO website on Friday, February 28. “We have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high.” This is the WHO’s highest level of warning.

The WHO warning calls for “all countries to educate their populations, to expand surveillance, to find, isolate and care for every case, to trace every contact, and to take an all-of-government and all-of-society approach.” According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, both globally and to the United States.”

 Tom Toles – Washington Post

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EnvironmentHealth and Well-being

Coal and the Price of Prosperity

Working as a miner has long been one of the most perilous occupations on the planet. As the ancient Romans famously conquered lands near and far, they sentenced the slaves they took prisoner to a life of back-breaking labor in their mines. The hardships of such labor were famously portrayed in the Hollywood production of Spartacus, the story of a slave who worked in the mines, refused to submit to the torture of his captors and eventually led a rebellion against Roman tyranny.

Fast forward to mid-18th century Britain–the mining of coal produced the energy needed to power factories and run transport networks, bringing about what would later be known as the Industrial Revolution. As knowledge of new industrial technologies spread across Western Europe and then on to the Americas, countries rich in this relatively inexpensive resource developed into industrial powerhouses.

The advent of industrialization sparked an exodus of rural folks from the countryside to rapidly growing cities where they found employment in factories, and for the first time had wages which enabled them to purchase goods. Using abundant coal reserves as fuel allowed factory owners to produce more goods than were needed, thus introducing the concept of buying things as a sign of status. Later industrialists, such as Henry Ford, developed methods of mass production for goods which accelerated these emerging trends. Factory jobs, in turn, provided the steady incomes that built a middle class which could afford to consume more, and therefore, set the stage for contemporary economic systems based principally on the mass consumption of goods and services.

The discovery and use of coal as a tool for rapid economic development not only changed the way people went about their daily lives, it also became a tool for political propaganda. According to Barbara Freese, author of Coal, A Human History:

In the 1800s, a lot of theologians who wrote about coal saw coal deposits as signs of God’s favor. And that’s why God gave America so much coal and gave England so much coal because he essentially wanted English-speaking countries to have a controlling influence over world affairs. So it was seen really as further evidence of our manifest destiny–Barbara Freese

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Health and Well-being

Burning Man’s Southern Roots

Fire is an incredibly unpredictable force of nature and not something to be taken lightly.

~any sane human being

Don’t EVER use gasoline (or kerosene or diesel) in an effort to burn plants, piles of brush or anything else for that matter outside your house.

~Southern advice to folks in other regions

In a recent BBC Future article, journalist David Robson explored the possibility that humanity may have reached “peak intelligence” and that “human intellectual potential may actually be declining.” According to researchers, along with our rise in manipulating more complex forms of technology, there’s been a fall in critical thinking skills. As if the American political scene wasn’t evidence enough of this phenomenon, I personally experienced such a lapse in common sense while visiting the USA in April.

Convenience vs environmental and personal safety

America’s DIY culture, along with large, intensely landscaped tracts of suburban and rural land, have opened the door to many an accident just waiting to happen. When facing a battle with tough, razor sharp foliage, many gardeners (especially in the American South) forgo the scraped arms and burn back some plants in the fall or early spring. While burning dead plants is an often faster, labor-saving method of disposal when compared to cutting and hauling brush away, the health and environmental risks far outweigh any possible benefits. Trust me. I unwittingly did the research for you on this one.

when common sense takes a vacation

So it was that on April 22 while visiting my Sisters (and yes, they are a proper noun) in North Carolina, I used gasoline in an effort to set alight a large pampas grass plant. The still-green foliage didn’t want to burn, so I did the ‘logical’ (NOT!) thing and added more gas while being too close to the plant. An unseen spark lay smoldering within the grassy mound. Instantaneously, a flaming whoosh like dragon’s breath flashed from the bottom of the plant and onto my pants.

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Health and Well-being

Maintaining Inner Balance in a Turbulent World

I don’t know about you, but maintaining a balanced state of being is my greatest challenge in life. As if it weren’t already difficult enough to deal with my own monkey mind, it’s an even greater challenge not to allow the words or actions of others to affect our emotional state of being. Like a pendulum, my mood can swing from one extreme to another. It’s enough to give one mental whiplash!

Technology’s role

It seems that one of technology’s greatest strengths—the ease of sharing information–is rapidly becoming its Achilles heel as humans are now being bombarded on a daily basis by an avalanche of data, information and imagery. Personally, I’m consciously aware that the chatter and inner conflict I experience has become more pronounced as I’ve delved ever more deeply into the realm of my online existence.

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