Posts by Liz

Pondering Politics, Punctuation and @realDonaldTrump!

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by the brilliant writer Willow Older. It originally appeared on her weekly Newsy newsletter and in the Marin Independent Journal

 

Dear @realDonaldTrump!

I’m not a millionaire, a businessperson or a politician, but as a professional writer, I’ve got some advice for you! Since you’re super busy these days on Twitter, I hope you won’t mind if I offer a friendly reminder about one of the cardinal rules of writing! Here goes!

An exclamation point is a punctuation mark that a) denotes the end of a sentence and b) expresses excitement or emotion.

Sounds simple, I know!

But hold on, @realDonaldTrump! Your favorite punctuation mark is a little more complicated than that definition suggests! Perhaps more than any other writing device, this one comes with a warning!

I’m serious!

No matter which style guide or grammar book you consult with – I’m sure you keep several of your favorites on hand! – you’ll find notes like this one from author and writing expert Peter Carino! “Some beginners … tend to overuse exclamation points. Where there are too many … they no longer create the emphasis they are designed for.”

That’s right! Turns out when you end every tweet with an exclamation point, you end up sounding like an amped-up toddler whose impulse control has been sabotaged by too many sugary Skittles!

Obnoxious!

Annoying!

And downright silly!

But @realDonaldTrump, you don’t need to just take my word for it! Here are some thoughts from other writers about the world’s most overused punctuation mark!

This one’s from Howard Mittelmark, author of How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them—A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide! “In almost all situations that do not involve immediate physical danger or great surprise, you should think twice before using an exclamation mark. If you have thought twice and the exclamation mark is still there, think about it three times, or however many times it takes until you delete it.”

Here’s one courtesy of grammar guru Oliver Strunk! “Do not attempt to emphasize simple statements by using a mark of exclamation. The exclamation mark is to be reserved for use after true exclamations (“What a wonderful show!”) or commands (“Halt!”).”

And here’s a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald! “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

While we’re on the subject, @realDonaldTrump, I hope you won’t mind if I share one more tidbit! Combining your excessive exclamation points with words typed in ALL CAPS does NOT help you MAKE YOUR POINT! In fact, unless you’re a 14-year-old girl gushing about her current crush, it UNDERMINES IT!

To be clear, @realDonaldTrump, I’m not suggesting that elevating your writing style will make me agree with anything you say! But at this point, I can’t get past your DISTRACTING communication style to even focus on what you think! It’s hard – no, it’s impossible! – to seriously consider your ideas and comments when you punctuate every thought with the grammatical equivalent of FIREWORKS ON NEW YEAR’S EVE!

I confess, @realDonaldTrump, your punctuation is EXHAUSTING!

But HOLD ON! Perhaps this is actually great news! Maybe if enough people find your tweets tiring and tiresome, folks will start ignoring them COMPLETELY! If that’s even a remote possibility, I’m going to stop complaining RIGHT NOW about your abuse of exclamation points and CAPS LOCK!

In fact, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY, I fully encourage you disregard — or should I say DISAVOW! — all commonly held beliefs on the subject!

Just like you already do with so many things!

So, @realDonaldTrump, time to get back to work!

After all, those TWEETS won’t write THEMSELVES!

 

Editor’s bonus article: If you’re just as confuzzled as we are by the Twitter-er In Chief’s communication style, here’s a primer on the joys of semi-articulation:

 

ELECTION DAY 2016 – don’t sit this one out!

courtesy: Patagonia.com

courtesy: Patagonia.com

Whichever side of the partisan fence we sit, it’s our duty and privilege to get out there and vote this Tuesday.

It’s the only way we can keep this democracy of ours chugging. It’s also the only way we can address what I believe is the most pressing threat to the planet: climate change.

 

Patagonia is saying Don’t Sit This One Out — and I couldn’t agree more.

Many issues demand our attention during an election year: foreign policy, immigration, jobs, health care and campaign finance. Yes, they’re important, but we’re missing the point: None of it matters on a dead planet. The health of our planet must be a strong foundation for everything else, not an afterthought.

Patagonia so deeply believes in civil democracy and environmental issues, they’re closing their retail stores, their headquarters in Ventura and their Reno distribution and customer service center this Election Day to encourage customers, employees and all citizens to head to the polls.

I feel honored to be working with a company that supports the environment as well as everyone’s right to exercise their rights – whether it’s voting, gender and racial equality, taking care of our families right, choosing organic and sustainable products, and enjoying the wild places left in nature.

Please mail your ballot today, or plan a hot date with a voting booth for November 8th.

Claim your part in history.

 

3 Comments

THE DIRT ON SOIL how carbon farming can save our planet

projectfitamerica.org

projectfitamerica.org

Do you ever feel like the planet is going to hell in a handbasket, and there’s nothing we can do about it?
Like you just want to throw in the towel, recycle your recycling bin and hit the drive-thru (in an SUV) for a factory-farmed burger (with a side of pesticide fries) and a hormone-laced milkshake (in a BPA-lined cup)?

I know what you mean.

It’s hard to stay positive in a climate of deniers and doom and gloom.

But before you trade in your Prius, take five minutes to watch The Soil Story. Finally, some good news about reversing climate change!

It turns out the soil—the very skin of our planet—could also be the answer to saving the planet.

That’s right….soil.

It’s not sexy but it’s effective, it’s gaining momentum and it just might give you reason to be optimistic again.

 

The carbon balance

We know carbon is a leading cause of global warming, right?

Well, it’s actually not that simple. The problem is not carbon itself, but too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

There has always been a delicate balance of carbon in our air, our soil…and in ourselves. After all, carbon is essential to life.

The problem starts when that delicate balance gets thrown off, as it has since the industrial revolution.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.47.05 PM

intellectualconservative.com

We humans have upset the balance by extracting too much carbon out of the ground, where it’s been minding its own business for millenia. Burning coal and oil, as well other practices like industrial farming, spews millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every day and speeds up global warming. Conventional farming alone emits a whopping 15-30% of annual global CO2 emissions—yikes!

So do we have to burn fewer fossil fuels? Do we have to change the way we produce our food?

YES and YES

But even if we halted all emissions tomorrow, we’d still have to figure out a way to restore balance to the carbon equation.

 

The dirt on soil

The question is: How do we get excess carbon out of the atmosphere, where it’s polluting our air, killing our oceans, and heating up our planet—and get it back into the ground, where it belongs?

Answer: Carbon farming

Carbon farming —also called regenerative agriculture—is a method of farming that actually sinks carbon back into the soil. Carbon farmers use carefully planned grazing and compost instead of machines and chemicals. They work the land gently to avoid rustling up carbon stores. They increase crop diversity and crop rotation. They plant more trees and cover crops.

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 3.18.27 PMThen all those happy plants do their little photosynthesis dance, capture atmospheric CO2 in their leaves, and pump it back into the ground.

Carbon farming also creates healthier soil that can grow nutrient-rich crops faster and hold more water—a win-win for farmers, the economy and every person who needs to eat. Which is like, um, every human on this planet.

Healthy soil and healthy plants! Mother Nature’s little carbon redistribution system. So simple and natural, we don’t even need to develop any fancy pants new technology. We can do more carbon farming right now.

And we are, on a small scale in local areas. But to make a real impact on CO2 levels, carbon farming needs to go global, stat.

 

Want to give carbon farming a boost? Here’s what you can do right now:

  1. Learn more  If you have four minutes, watch Soil Solutions to Climate Problems narrated by Michael Pollan. Or pick up a copy of The Soil will Save Us for more in-depth scoop.
  2. Buy organic  Organic farming and carbon farming have a lot in common, like composting, crop diversity, and more responsible use of the land.
  3. Start composting  Carbon farms use compost to enrich the soil and increase plant production. If you’re not sure how to start, or what you can toss into the bin, my blog on compost can help.
  4. Go grass-fed  Not only is grass-fed meat and dairy healthier for you, it’s better for the environment than industrial-farmed varieties.
  5. Get grassroots  Support your local carbon farming initiatives. Buy their organic produce and products. Support government policies that help organic and regenerative farming practices.
  6. Spread the word!  Because cooling the earth, creating a climate of hope, and renewing our will to save her….could be a simple as the soil.

The will to act is a renewable resource.

~ Al Gore in The Case for Optimism in Climate Change

gurleenkaur26.blogspot.com

gurleenkaur26.blogspot.com

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UPGRADE YOUR VOCAB – new words for 2016

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 5.10.49 PM

Bank of mom and dad ~ parental ATM

Locavore ~ one who eats local

Gramps ~ hipper than “grandfather”

These are just a few of the new words that officially entered the Oxford English Dictionary this year.

(The OED is the bible of dictionaries, so when a word finally makes it in, it’s a very big deal. The grammatical gatekeepers at the OED, the last bastion of linguistic propriety, have been dictating our diction since the late 1800s, and they take their responsibility very seriously.)

To be honest, I’m surprised at some of the words that made the cut, and wonder if they slipped in while the editors were busy inking their quills. Governmentalization? Way too syllablized. Lock-upable? Yikes. What other make-upable words are next?

But many others are meaty, satisfying words that I’m happy to see mainstreamed.

Not surprisingly, there’s a slew of tech-related words, like the hybrid phablet. (Bigger than a phone, smaller than a tablet.)

Other words reflect the latest cultural buzz. Haram, meaning “forbidden by Islam,” helps to clarify the conversation about religion, and the title Mx. helps to neutralize the conversation about gender identity. (Incidentally, the singular ‘they’  has now been approved by the Washington Post as ‘the only sensible solution to English’s lack of a gender-neutral third-person singular personal pronoun.’ Remember when we had to use the exclusive ‘he’ all the time, as in “Everyone has to bring his own lunch tomorrow”? Quel drag.)

Lord of the Rings fans might recognize waybread, “…a sustaining food made for eating before or during a long journey, typically in the form of flat bread or wafers.” The perfect snack during a jaunt through Middle Earth, or perhaps even during a Downton Abbey binge. A decent supply of waybread could carry you through all six seasons without so much as a visit to the loo.

And some of the words just plain sound cool, like the way trussler rolls off the tongue. Example: Marco is a trussler—he doesn’t let anybody give him shit. (FYI, this is not the official OED example, which is probably more: “Lord Grantham is quite a trussler; he finds it rather distasteful when his butler refuses to fetch adequate butter for the crumpets.”

If you like your crumpets a bit less buttered, ghetto upgrade your street cred with some new words from Urban Dictionary. (Parental discretion, however, is advised)

Phantom vibe is when you could swear you felt your phone go off in your pocket, but then upon checking, you discover your phone wasn’t even in your pocket. Example: That’s weird, I just got some Phantom vibes…but my phablet is in the car.

(Not to be confused with abc, ‘accidental booty call’, when your backside dials someone without your knowledge.)

What are your favorite new words for 2k16?

THE GREENEST GIFT OF ALL? two words

emilymcdowell.com

emilymcdowell.com

In past holiday blogs, I’ve waxed ecological about the Xmas tree (and whether faux is way to go) and I’ve given you tips for greener gift wrapping.

This year, I’d like to make the case for a simple gift that’s easy on the planet and good for everyone on your list:

A word of thanks.

Every year, we send loads of thank you cards for the loads of holiday presents we receive. (At least those of us, ahem, who are still practicing the antiquated art of the handwritten.)

Now, don’t get me wrong—thank yous are great. But instead of waiting to send thank yous for all the gifts we get, what if we pre-appreciated our friends and family?

Instead of waiting to thank them for all the material stuff, what if we thanked them now for all the other stuff, the intangibles like love, friendship, life (thanks, mom and dad!), a wise perspective, a good laugh, a reason to get up in the morning.

And you don’t need to take pen to paper to do a proper pre-appreciation. A quick call, email or text are good, too. In person is nice because you can seal it with a smile or squeeze.

Here’s why it’s good to gift gratitude:

  • Good for the planet Very few resources and very little waste involved. And because your gratitude is guaranteed to please, think of all the gas saved by reducing those pesky trips to the mall for returns or exchanges.
  • Shortens the shopping list  And the credit card bill.  Also guaranteed to reduce hours spent trolling the internet for elusive “perfect gift”.
  • Makes someone happy  No one doesn’t appreciate some appreciation.
  • Makes you happy, too! You make a deeper connection to someone you care about.

Let me just say that, although I’m fairly competent at expressing thanks when appropriate, I myself rarely take any formal approach to gratitude.

But this year I’m going to take my own advice and start pre-appreciating. (Dare I say ap-PRE-ciating? Get it?)

I’m even thinking about designing and selling pre-thank-you cards. Made locally with soy ink, from renewable corn husks or re-claimed elephant plop, of course.

What do you think—should we start a new holiday tradition? How about a global ap-PRE-ciation revolution?

6 Comments

WOMEN HAVE TONS OF CONSUMER POWER so why don’t we have tons of power?

Screen shot 2015-09-02 at 11.24.19 AMYou may have noticed my September posts have a curiously recurring theme:

Why I didn’t blog all summer.

I usually have a pretty decent excuse, like editing a memoir manuscript. Or succumbing to the siren call of the pond.  (If you don’t think vacation is a valid use of time, you should read this and see this.)

Well, this summer I was doing my small part for the Feminine Renaissance (oh yes, it’s so ON—did you get the memo?) editing some choice content for viiv.tv.

shmoop.com

shmoop.com

One side effect of this work on my own psyche was the dusting off of my furled notions of feminism (they’d been taking a back seat to my eco-fervor, which happily is 100% compatible with feminine values like sustainability and everything-is-connected-ness) and asking new questions about women today—post-ERA, post-Feminine Mystique, post-Beauty Myth—in business, politics and the media.

  • What will it take to make a cultural, structural and ideological shift towards true gender equality?
  • Why is there such a gap between how we’re portrayed in the media and how we are (and aspire to be) in the real world?
  • When will “feminine” qualities like empathy, generosity, vulnerability, cooperation and contextualized “WEB” thinking be integrated into every successful venture in every corner of the world?
  • Women have tons of consumer power. So why don’t we have tons of power?

Are you wondering about this stuff, too?

So is viiv.tv. And they’re getting answers.

What viiv.tv is:

viiv.tv is a new-media platform serving the $20 trillion “Female Economy.” (Yes, it’s true. The “Male Economy”, in comparison, only drives $8 trillion annually across the globe).

viiv.tv aims to close the gap between women’s enormous economic power and their actual influence in shaping the world.

What they do:

  • curate, produce and publish media with a global worldview, designed to spark insight, innovation and social change
  • host a #FEMALEINFORMED salon-style think-tank series THE LIVING ROOM where the brightest and most curious minds explore the big, messy questions of global impact
  • hold POP-UP POPCORN PARTIES showcasing game-changing media in NYC, SF and LA by female filmmakers and producers from around the globe
  • shine the spotlight on businesses helping women in real, tangible ways like equal pay, flex-time, on-site childcare and C-suite representation
  • believe all consumers deserve to know which brands truly support women so they can support those brands right back—with their attention, loyalty and dollars (Imagine seeing the “pro-women” equivalent of an “organic” or “LEED” symbol on our favorite brands and products.)

Screen shot 2015-09-02 at 12.51.50 PMIn case you were wondering, you don’t have to be a woman to subscribe to viiv.tv (or the viiv philosophy).

You just have to be awake to the fact that valuing women—and “feminine” values—can make the world a richer, healthier, better place for everyone. After all, these values can be found anywhere, at any time, in businesses and organizations and people with all manner of X and Y chromosomal combinations!

Right now, we’re in the middle of intense prototyping at an incredible San Francisco incubator. If you’d like to be part of this important process, we have a few questions we’d love your thoughts on. Your time, candor and wisdom will help make viiv.tv more meaningful, useful and fun.

Want to know more?

Click here and subscribe, and send an email hello to: hello@viiv.tv


Then maybe think about where to go on your next vacation … Mexico is so nice this time of year.

 

hashslush.com

hashslush.com

 

 

 

 

 

STORYCORPS helping us muster the guts to talk about what really matters

Screen shot 2015-05-04 at 11.42.59 AMI’m a little worried about the future.

To be specific, I’m a little worried about technology.

Forgive me for indulging in a moment of cultural angst, but I’m fairly freaked out by the notion that the more we plug in to our screens and devices, the less we’ll tune in to our relationships, sense of empathy, and higher consciousness. The more we are distracted by virtual reality, the less we will engage in, well….real reality.

So I’m always thrilled to discover ways that technology is actually helping people feel connected, respected, and understood – it gives me hope for the future.

StoryCorps  is one such bit of hope.

When I first heard about StoryCorps, it reminded me of The Moth. “True stories told live” is the Moth motto – and boy, do they deliver. The Moth reminds us how powerful the simple act of telling your story, and listening to others tell theirs, can be.

Just like The Moth, StoryCorps reveres the story, but then adds an element of interaction. StoryCorps invites people all over the country to grab a friend, loved one, or unsuspecting stranger and interview them. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews from more than 80,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The StoryCorps mission is to “…spark a global movement to record and preserve meaningful conversations….that result in an ever-growing archive of the collective wisdom of humanity.” (For a moving overview by its founder, Dave Isay, and a sampling of choice interviews, watch this StoryCorps TED talk.)

Typical StoryCorps interview questions can be more straightforward, like Can you tell me the story of your first kiss? or What’s the worst thing you ever did as a kid? But they can also be as delving and complex as How has your life been different than you imagined? or If you were to die suddenly this evening, what would you regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet? and Tell me about the first time you saw me.

Whoa. Pretty deep stuff, certainly not fluff. It ain’t easy being intimate, and each StoryCorps interview is an act of courage that elicits raw honesty and beauty.

How often do we do this in real life – share deep, meaningful stories with each other? Talk about Things That Matter? Ask our friends, our family, or perfect strangers “Who are you? What have you learned in this life? How do you want to be remembered?”

Well, here’s your opportunity. Take a break from social media and turn your phone into an instant mobile interview device by downloading the StoryCorps app. Throw caution to the wind, put your fears into your back pocket for the moment, and get out there. Share an interview with your Mom, your best friend, your son, your hairdresser, or even the guy who mows your lawn every week.

Because the potential payoff is infinite. StoryCorps interviews give everyone at the table permission to go beneath the surface. And you might be amazed at how little you really know about the person you thought you knew the best in the world. And how much closer you can feel after coaxing to the surface their previously hidden depths.

Both parties, and everyone that hears your interview will be forever changed – whether slightly or monumentally – for the better.

Your words will ripple out to the universe (or at least as far as the Library of Congress), reminding us all:

I mean something, I have something to share, I exist.

 

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ECO-MINDED PARENTS add this website to your resource list!

 

So, if you’ve read my blog, you might have noticed that I’m just a wee bit into the green scene. Pretty much every day – for work and for my family – I do loads of research on eco-lifestyle, sustainability, nature, social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

I collect data and ideas from all over the web, and sometimes in unexpected places. (Did you know, for example, that World Naked Gardening Day is coming up on May 2? I am not making this up. Now that’s some getting back to nature.)

But I also have favorite websites that I return to again and again for reliable, current info on a range of green topics. These sites are more than just collections of random trivia – they are true, bookmark-worthy resources.

Environmental Working Group is my go-to for “clean” shopping (especially grocery and personal products). Mother Nature Network delivers beautiful stories on the Earth, the animal kingdom, and the quirkiest animal of all – the human. And TreeHugger gives me a progressive design, tech, and scientific slant on the world.

Today, I came across a new resource website to add to my list: Healthy Child, Healthy World.

Healthy Child, Healthy World does the legwork for busy parents, wading through the sea of ever-changing scientific consensus. It also supports changes to our laws and our culture so that every kid, regardless of circumstance, can thrive. This site is perfect for both new and seasoned parents interested in a safer home base, greener choices, and healthier children everywhere.

Here is a smorgasbord of their topics and resources:

  • Have you noticed how having a new baby kicks everyone’s nesting instinct into high gear? Those home renovations will be great when they’re finished, but demo’d bathrooms and lead paint particles can expose everyone in the house to nasty chemicals. Do it all the safe way with this Healthy Home Renovations guide.
  • If you have kids, I guarantee you’ll have to wrangle at least a few head lice before they turn 18. Unfortunately, over-the-counter pesticide shampoos have been linked to asthma, allergies, even cancer. Instead, remove lice safely with natural essential oils, a lice comb, and some elbow grease.
  • Raise your hand if you ever use your car keys as an emergency toy and teething ring. Do not do this. Those keys can contain mass amounts lead, a well-known toxin. Get a “fake” (real wood) set of keys if your tot insists on chewing up the contents of your purse.
  • Are fake food dyes, preservatives and other additives really that bad? Yes, they really are. They are implicated in many pediatric behavioral and neurological issues. And you can avoid them by choosing more whole foods and fewer processed foods that harbor heinous food fillers.
  • HealthyChild even has a handy new e-book, Easy Steps to a Safer Pregnancy.  Because, after all, “…your baby’s first home isn’t her nursery or even your house. It’s your body.”

 

Makes you think, right?

Like all the info on this site, the goal is to empower you to make more educated choices.

Which may or may not include grabbing a shovel, polishing off your birthday suit, and getting “back to the garden” for World Naked Gardening Day.

 

 

 

 

MAKING SPACE FOR CREATIVITY in the age of overload

Hiromu Kira "The Thinker"

Hiromu Kira “The Thinker”

When I first started writing, I quickly noticed that my best material didn’t happen while I was at the keyboard.

The best stuff usually came to me while I was otherwise occupied with everyday tasks, often appearing mysteriously as if conjured from the ether or channeled from an alternate reality.

My “letter from the editor” would pretty much write itself during my walk home from work. The outline for my next article would take shape while I was in the shower. A kick-ass blog title would pop into my head as I scrubbed the dinner dishes.

The trick was to give myself enough time for these mind-less moments, to mind less what I was thinking, give free reign to my thoughts, give freely to association and stream of consciousness. (I think I just did some of that right there.)

I still come up with my most fruitful ideas and juiciest turns of phrase while I’m doing things other than actually working.

But why?

I wanted to know – what is this thing called ‘creative space’?

Of course, the moment I set this question to brewing, I also set in motion a kind of Kevin Bacon effect. Six degrees of variation on the theme “claiming space in a world of chronic busy-ness” are suddenly everywhere I turn.

I can’t flip on the radio, open a magazine, or check my inbox without hearing about the benefits of taking regular technology vacations. The FOMO (Yes, Folks, that’s Fear Of Missing Out – so pervasive there’s an acronym for it) that drives us to constantly mainline our social media. The decline of adaptability and creativity in our collectively overscheduled kids. Obviously these issues are seriously stirring the pop culture pot.

Then Johanna Beyer of On Your Path Consulting miraculously drops a video in my lap – Tiffany Shlain’s “A Case For Dreaming” – and voila, my aha moment leading to this post.

But this cascade of connected ideas would never have begun if I hadn’t carved out a “creative space” corner in my mind in the first place.

In her illuminating (and just really cool) video, Shlain explains why. She calls it the “Default Mode Network” – a network of neurons that we can only access when we’re on autopilot (i.e., walking, doing chores, daydreaming). In this mode, we suddenly “see connections where we didn’t see connections before.”

Shlain’s video presents the case for dreaming while providing plenty of thought-nuggets to chew on and explore further. I could tell you more, but really you should just take the six minutes and see it for yourself. I promise you’ll never again feel guilty about taking a brain break.

So now I hope you reclassify dreaming and mind-less-ness as critical parts of the creative process. Be generous with your vacations  – technological and otherwise. Sit still. Stop. Notice. Smell. Taste. Feel. Listen.

Let your mind wander. It knows what it’s doing, even if it appears suspiciously to be shirking its duties. In reality, it’s forging paths and making connections and busting its buttocks to create something new, something that didn’t exist a nanosecond ago.

Plus, think of the extra brownie points you’ll get for doing the dishes tonight.

 

courtesy presentationzen.com

courtesy presentationzen.com

 

 

SUPERBAD SUPERBUGS why it’s time to rethink antibiotics

 

courtesy wsj.com

courtesy wsj.com

 

“I’m sure glad I wasn’t born in the Stone Age, before antibiotics were discovered!”

That was my grandfather, who lived to be 95 but had his share of heart infections. Antibiotics saved his life….again and again and again.

Chances are you feel the same way, if you’re like four out of five Americans who have used antibiotics at least once this year. Since penicillin first hit the scene in the 40’s, antibiotics have been a godsend, revolutionizing the way we treat infection, save lives, and spare suffering.

But the trouble is, antibiotics just aren’t working anymore.

Bacteria are smart little buggers – they’re much more intelligent than we give them credit for. They are able to multiply rapidly, quickly evolve and adapt to their environment, and pass information on to future generations.

And now, it’s clear that bacteria are on to us. It didn’t take long for them to get wise to our antibacterial ways. They are quickly becoming resistant to our ever-expanding arsenal of targeted antibiotics.

Scientists can’t keep pace with these new uber bacteria, they can’t develop new drugs fast enough, and in the next decade common infections like strep throat could once again be lethal.

Hyperbole aside, most health and public policy experts agree that the world is hurtling head first into a major antibiotics crisis. According to a recent WHO report, “A post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”

This crisis is complex and multi-faceted, but the simple fact is antibiotics are overused and misused across the globe, which in turn is creating new strains of superbad superbugs.

  • Antibiotics are overused. The more antibiotics you take, the more likely you’ll be to develop a drug-resistant infection. That’s because, while the drugs kill most of the bacteria, the most naturally resistant ones are most likely to survive—and give rise to a whole new superbad generation. Doctors are writing millions of antibiotics prescriptions at the first sign of illness and patients demand them immediately, instead of first giving the body time to fight the infection. And did you know that antibiotics for humans only account for about 20% of the antibiotic use in this country? The other 80% is pumped into to livestock and food animals – mostly to promote growth, not to cure acute infections.
  • Antibiotics are misused. Antibiotics are great for acute cases of dangerous bacterial infections, but at least half of all prescriptions are handed out “just in case” or unnecessarily, as for the flu or other viral infections that don’t respond to antibiotics.  And most people use them the wrong way – taking them too often for the wrong kinds of infections, or taking weak doses for too short a duration.
  • Antibiotics don’t always target “bad” bacteria. In Go Probiotic, I talked about why your body needs certain types of bacteria to stay healthy. Your immune system, your digestion, your brain, your jaunty mood all depend on having adequate levels of “good” bacteria. But antibiotics often kill off the good guys as well as the infectious variety, leaving you seriously compromised.

 

So what can we do about this superbad situation?

Last week, we did get some encouraging news that new soil bacteria discoveries might lead to the development of new classes of antibiotics, and that’s great for the short-term.

But for the long term we must change the way we use antibiotics – both as individuals and as a society – if we want a sustainable answer to bacterial diseases.

 

Take action! Here’s what you can do right now to help turn the tide:

courtesy waleg.com

courtesy waleg.com

 

Ditch the antibacterial products. Don’t buy into the hype sold by Clorox, Purell, and their antibacterial bedfellows. You don’t need to kill every bug within a 5-mile radius of your kid or your kitchen. And you don’t need their chemical products – just a little soap and water will do. Remember that humans evolved surrounded by all kinds of bugs, and your immune system actually relies on stimulation to develop and function properly. Think of bacteria as microscopic personal trainers for your immune system, giving it  practice fighting off garden-variety illness and infection.

Just say no to antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Did you know that many common infections don’t necessarily need to be treated with antibiotics? Sinus infection, bronchitis, ear infections  – just to name a few. Ask your doctor if you really need drugs for whatever is ailing you, or if it’s safe to wait and see. Be patient, give your body a bit of time to fight on its own. It’s not quick and it’s not sexy, but good old-fashioned rest, fluids – and maybe a little chicken soup – should be the first prescription you fill.

Try Pl-antibiotics. Plants are also a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They are naturally resistant to harmful bacteria, evolving constantly to defend themselves from new bacterial invaders. Herbs and plant alternatives to synthetic antibiotics have been used successfully for centuries all over the world, and with a little research, you can find a good pl-antibiotic. These should get you started:

courtesy science.kqed.org

courtesy science.kqed.org

 

Spread the word. Tell the federal government to limit the use of antibiotics in medicine, industry and farming. Learn more about the issue, sign a petition or two, tell a friend.

If we can slash the amount of antibiotics we all use, maybe – just maybe – we won’t have to say to our grandkids “I remember the good old days, when we had these things called antibiotics….”