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The Unsolvable Problem Facing the Planet

As a planet we are currently facing a number of environmental problems. Air pollution, resource depletion and environmental degradation are real issues that we can see the effects of every day from the smog in the air to the trash on the ground. And although we will not see all the harm we’ve already caused for years, if we begin to take the right steps now, it may be possible to reverse the damage. However, there is one problem that stands out from the rest due to the fact that, as of yet, we don’t have a solution for it: the accumulation of microplastics in the ocean.

Microplastics are fragments of plastic that measure less than 5 mm (as defined by NOAA). They can occur as a result of the breaking down of larger plastic over time, but are also sometimes added to certain products as microbeads, which are easily able to pass through water filtration systems and into the ocean. Microbeads have been in use since as early as the 1960s and have been increasingly replaced natural ingredients in items like toothpaste and hand soaps, leading to more and more microplastics in the ocean.

As these plastics float in the water, they amass persistent organic pollutants or POPs. POPs are human-made chemicals that don’t easily decompose in the environment. Instead, they end up getting eaten by marine life, where they collect in the organism’s fatty tissues. Because of their unnatural chemical composition, POPs can cause potentially serious health effects in both wildlife and humans, such as cancer, malformation, decrease in the immune response, and impaired reproductive ability.

Plastic is entering our oceans at a growing rate, and more than half is single-use. In some places, researchers have found the amount of microplasitcs to be six times higher than that of the comparably sized micro organism, zooplankton. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut solution to removing it from our oceans. The tiny size of these plastics makes them impossible to remove from the ocean without also removing the wide array of micro organisms that are crucial to the function of the ocean’s ecosystem. We need to effectively eliminate our use of plastic products and come up with a way to remove what remains, because we rely on our ocean, and we need it to be clean.

C. McLaughlin

Mindfulness~

I used to be a person who harbored a lot of negative emotions and resentment. I was angry because I had been through some bad situations that were out of my control, and yet, at the same time, I felt like I didn’t have the right to be angry because “strong” people didn’t go around feeling sorry for themselves. So I suppressed all of my thoughts and feelings, but this only caused to fall into a dark depression. I would lash out people for the littlest slights and wouldn’t understand why. That’s when I started to notice all the strong people who I admired who were able to come to terms with and discuss how they felt about the bad situations in their lives. They didn’t hide their bad experiences, nor did they let them continue to affect their future. I decided that if they could do it, so could I.

What I found works for me, is finding the part of myself that is aware of, but completely neutral to the situation (past, present, or future) and using that part to make decisions. This practice is sometimes called “mindfulness”. Google defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” There are some really great benefits to this approach, such as improved self-control, concentration, mental clarity, and emotional intelligence. Here are some steps you can take to start being mindful right now:

Step 1: Recognize that your patterns of thought are negatively effecting your life.

This can be hard, since we tend to believe the opposite, that our lives negatively affect our thoughts. However, that way of thinking is problematic because we often cannot control the things that happen, or the situations we are put into. There is nothing we can really do to be more in control of the things that happen to us, chaos is a general rule of life. But that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no choice in the matter, you have the power to choose the way you react to any scenario.

Step 2: Keep track of all the thoughts you have throughout the day.

Everyone has negative thoughts that permeate our minds, alter our moods and make the entire courses of our day more difficult. Sometimes it can even be difficult to identify where these thoughts come from, which is why it is important to notice them as they occur. Developing the awareness to consistently realize when your mind is shifting towards negativity takes some work, but after a while it almost becomes second-nature.

Step 3: Assess the validity of these thoughts and ask yourself “is this helpful?”

Take a step back from the negative thought decide how rational it is. Often, the emotional side of our brains will send us a thought, and we just accept it as a fact, without questioning our own reasoning. However, if we can manage to re-evaluate these thoughts with the unemotional side of our brains, many times we find huge flaws in our logic. And, even when a thought is logical, it may not always be beneficial to dwell on it, especially if it is something that cannot be changed.

Step 4: Consciously choose how to feel and what to think.

The last step in becoming mindful is deciding what you want to do about the negative thought. There is and old Native American story that explain this well it goes “An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life… ‘A fight is going on inside me,’ he said to the boy. ‘It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.’ The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf will win?’ The old chief simply replied, ‘The one you feed.'” (From <http://www.sapphyr.net/natam/two-wolves.htm>) Whether or not we realize it, we are constantly choosing what perspective to take in every situation. When we decide to take a negative perspective, we feed the evil wolf, and let his anger, self-doubt and lies continue to live in us. But, when we choose to feed the good wolf instead, we give life to the inner peace, hope and compassion that can improve our own lives and the lives of the people around us.

C. McLaughlin

 

 

 

A Millennial Mind Set-

A lot has been said about millennials. That we’re too entitled; we want what we haven’t earned and we’re praise-hungry. That we’re too distractible; we spend all our time on social media and can’t hold down a job. That we’re too narcissistic, materialistic, and cynical. These are just stereotypes, obviously, but out of them has come a more disconcerting prediction; that we, as a generation, are not going to be as successful as our parents.
But perhaps we have a different way of defining success. After all, forty-five percent of us prioritize workplace flexibility over earnings and eighty-nine percent prefer to choose where and when we work over having regular, nine to five schedules. We idolize entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerburg, not because of all the money they’ve made, but because their ability to work on their own terms.
This has created somewhat of a rift between millennials and existing companies that have been structured to operate during certain hours and offer employees monetary incentives for their work. For many of us, the solution has been to go out on our own. Fifty-four percent of us either want to, or have already tried starting our own businesses. In 2011, 160,000 startups a month were created by millennials.
The new businesses that we are starting are more likely to provide flexibility. And, since ninety percent of us believe that entrepreneurship is more about spirit than ownership, we tend to find employment in these startups more rewarding. In this way, millennials are actually, wildly successful.
Of course, every generation has their collective flaws, and, as millennials, thirty-six percent of us are currently dependent on family for financial assistance, due in part to our engagement in risky entrepreneurial ventures. However, if the government invested in providing resources such as financial assistance and education to young entrepreneurs, it could greatly reduce the burden felt by their families. 2,100 colleges and universities have recently started offering courses in entrepreneurship, but only half the students who attend feel prepared to start a business afterwards. Certainly we can do more to support people who are developing new companies that will create jobs and boost economic growth.
All together, millennials are 77 million strong and represent one quarter of the US population. We have the power to completely change today’s social norms, expectations and behaviors. In 2018 we will have the most spending power of any generation, and by 2025 we will account for three quarters of the workforce. We can use our combined influence to redefine the meaning of  “successful person” to include anyone who finds meaning in his/her work and doesn’t sacrifice personal values for financial gains.
C.McLaughlin

 

Chika-What. Chicketerian.

Recently my husband and I made the decision to cut meat out of our diets. The decision was not for health reasons, although we had both noticed substantial health benefits, and it was not out of any special compassion for animals, although we both are aware of, and are against the horrendous treatment corporate livestock receive. We cut meat out of our diets after learning about the effects of raising animals for food on the environment. Research has shown that methane emissions have 35 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide and livestock production accounts for 27% of these emissions, making it the largest producer of methane in the world. The droppings from these animals can also make their way into rivers and streams, possibly contaminating drinking water. In 2014 there were 26 EPA enforcement actions aimed at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) for violations of the Clean Water Act. In addition to the pollution caused by livestock operations, we have drastically changed the landscape of our planet. 26% of the earth’s ice-free surface is used for grazing and 1/3 of all farmable land is used for feed crops. In order to make room for crops that will feed pigs in Europe, we are cutting down parts of the rainforest in Brazil which could the cause loss of some unique plant and animal species. In light of this we tried cutting out all meat, and we succeeded… for about two weeks. Yes we are a bit weak, but it was Thanksgiving and the Turkey was torturing us. So I did some research about what types of meat are maybe not as bad for the environment. It turns out lamb is the worst, which surprised me. Beef and cheese are a close second, which is too bad since I just recently started enjoying cheeseburgers (oh well). Next comes pork, and the most environmentally friendly meat is poultry. Now we have declared ourselves “chicketarians” which I believe will be more sustainable for us, and although it’s less than we could do, it’s at least a step in the right direction.

 

~C. McLaughlin

 

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#NoDAPL D.C. 12/10/2016 #FreeLeonardPeltier

#FreeLeonardPeltier

In 1977, a jury sentenced Leonard Peltier to two consecutive life sentences for the shooting of two FBI agents during a conflict at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Three witnesses placed him near the scene, a ballistics expert testified that a shell casing found near the bodies was linked to a rifle of Peltier’s, and the FBI stated that they had been in pursuit of a red and white van matching the description of Peltier’s own vehicle on the night of the incident. For them it was probably an easy conviction.

What the jury didn’t know was that all three witnesses would later recant their stories, alleging that the FBI had threatened and coerced them into giving false testimonies. They also didn’t know that the ballistics expert withheld evidence disproving the link between the shell casing that was found and Peltier’s rifle. Or that the day after the incident the FBI was searching for a red pickup truck believed to be involved in the incident.

Even in light of this evidence, the U.S. Parole Commission has continued to deny Peltier parole, and President after President has ignored or denied his petitions for clemency. At 72 years old after having spent more than half of his life in prison and recently experiencing the loss of his youngest son, Wahacanka Peltier, all he wants is the ability to be there for his three young grandchildren. His health has been declining in the past few years and he most likely will not make it to his next parole hearing in 2024. If the federal government does not release him soon, he will die in prison. Ask President Obama to release Leonard Peltier before it’s too late. Go to www.change.org/p/free-leonard-peltier-contact-the-president-to-grant-leonard-peltier-clemency to sign the petition.

~ C.McLaughlin

 

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MD Cannabis Coming Soon!

Medical cannabis has technically been legal in Maryland since June 2014, but for more than two years there has been no way to legally obtain it in the state. This may change as early as the beginning of next summer. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission announced Friday that they have given stage one pre-approval licenses to 102 dispensaries across 47 districts. Of these, 10 have also been pre-approved for cultivation.

The dispensaries chosen have been given a deadline of one year to have their operations up and running. Once they have completed stage 2 of the licensing process, which includes financial and criminal background checks, they will then need to construct facilities, comply with inspections, pay financial due diligence and meet all other regulatory requirements. When this is complete, the commission will hold a public meeting to vote on their licensure. cannabis4

When the system is in operation, patients will be allowed to obtain up to a 30-day supply, which is 120 grams of dried flower or 36 grams of THC in any other form. Eligible patients include anyone with a severe condition, the symptoms of which can “reasonably be expected to be relieved by the medical use of cannabis”. Medical card registration forms are to be posted on the MMCC website 6 months before the dispensaries open. Patrick Jameson, the Executive Director of the commission said that he expects that the dispensaries “will operate in an extremely professional manner” and he “looks forward to a productive working relationship with their management and staff.”

~C.McLaughlin

 

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Money In The Bank?

Sixty-four percent of Americans don’t trust their banks according to a survey conducted in 2012 by GoBank™ and Harris Interactive. This is not surprising considering that $231 billion of taxpayer money went to bailing them out in 2008. Caused by the corporate banks’ predatory lending tactics and fraudulent underwriting practices, the recession led to a decline in wealth for sixty-three percent of Americans, and a ten percent increase in unemployment.

Some people are so paranoid that they prefer to keep their money in cash, hidden away in a safe or just under the mattress. But for the majority of Americans who enjoy the use of services like credit cards and online banking, this is not a good option. For people who want the convenience of a bank, without the greediness of a corporation, there are community credit unions.

For anyone unfamiliar with this type of institution, it’s basically a bank in which anyone who has an account, gets an equal vote on how the company is run (or at least by whom). credit unions use slightly different terminology when describing their services, (savings accounts are called “share accounts”, checking accounts are called “share draft accounts”, etc.). And instead of being insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) they are insured and overseen by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), both of which are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.

The availability of ATMs and overall technological advancements of credit unions may pale in comparison to that of large corporate banks, however the benefits of reduced fees and the higher dividends they offer greatly outweigh those minor inconveniences. And although membership is often restricted, since these organizations are not-for-profit, the money they make gets invested back into the specific communities they serve. Compare that to the corporate banks that often impose hidden fees and penalties on their customers to benefit the financial interests of their shareholders, and the choice is clear. If we don’t trust the banks, then we have to show it and stop giving them our money, otherwise they’re going to keep screwing us over.

~C.McLaughlin

 

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Love, Unity And Overspending- Every year Americans spend more and more on their Christmas shopping lists. Our collective holiday spending has gone from $414 billion in 2004 to $655 billion in 2016. Forty percent of us start shopping before November, even thirteen percent start before September. All supposedly to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus, but did you know that the bible makes no mention of a Christmas celebration?

In fact, it wasn’t until the 1800s that people really began to celebrate the holiday, possibly in response to the disunity felt after the civil war. Even as late as 1900, only one in five homes had a Christmas tree and they were quite inexpensive to decorate. Nuts, fruits, candies and homemade trinkets were most commonly used as ornaments and only very small gifts were exchanged. But in time, merchants began to see that they could take advantage the situation, and slowly we developed the retail-driven, capitalist Christmas we have now.

These days, only seventy percent of Americans identify as Christians, however ninety-six percent celebrate Christmas anyways. We feel left out if we don’t spend all the extra money we have (and sometimes the money we don’t have) to participate in the meaningless consumerism we call celebrating Christmas. Because what we really want is the sense of love and unity that we get from the whole holiday season. We have a deeply ingrained desire to connect with our friends and family and Christmas gives us the perfect excuse to get together.

 

But there’s no reason that we need to spend crazy amounts of money to do that. We don’t need trees or cookies or cards. All we need is each other. This materialistic way of celebrating our favorite national holiday isn’t making us happier. One google search will come up with a million different articles written to help people relieve their seasonal stress or cure their holiday depression. And what’s the best cure for emotional anxiety? Spending time with the people who you value and who value you. As the witty columnist Burton Hillis once said, “The best gifts around any Christmas tree are the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”

~ C. McLaughlin

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Dab History- Almost overnight, cannabis extracts came in and flooded the market with rigs, dab tools, butane torches and little silicone containers. You can’t go into a head shop these days without seeing tons of vaporizing accoutrement. It is safe to say that dabs are the “hip, new thing” when it comes to cannabis consumption, but have you ever wondered where they came from?

Actually, it all started with the infamous Project MK Ultra in the 1950s, during which the CIA tested psychoactive drugs on thousands of people, often without their knowledge or consent. During these experiments, a highly concentrated liquid extract of cannabis indica was tested for use as a truth serum during interrogations. Unfortunately, most of the records documenting this were destroyed in 1973 when the program officially ended.dscn1345

Around the same time, the scientists at the US Army Chemical Corps were using cannabis to create THC acetate ester in order to study it as a non-lethal incapacitating agent. In 1974 detailed instructions for how to create this compound were laid out in D. Gold’s Cannabis Alchemy: Art of Modern Hashmaking. The product is a brown oil with two to three times the potency of regular THC, however, unlike today’s cannabis extracts, it is synthetic and impure.

Finally, in 1999, an article was published on Erowid.org titled “Hash Honey Oil Technique”. The author, tired of searching for hash in a dwindling market, had come up with a way of concentrating dried cannabis flower, modeled after the Supercritical Fluid Extraction techniques used in industry. The article describes the resulting “deep amber, almost orange oil” as being of “amazing purity” and suggests melting it over buds for consumption. This method, now referred to as “open-blasting”, does produce the same extract that is popular today, but can be quite dangerous if not done properly. A machine called a closed loop system was invented shortly thereafter to contain and recycle the hazardous vapors produced in the process, making it much safer.wax1

Even with this, cannabis extracts did not start to gain popularity until 2005, when a man using the alias BudderKing revealed in a cannabisculture.com article that he had produced the most highly concentrated extract ever. After accidentally leaving his oil out in the sun, he discovered it had gained potency and changed consistency. He named the material budder, in reference to its thick texture and invented a device to be used for vaporizing the product, the earliest dab rig.

The increase in marijuana legalization helped fuel the dabbing trend, and dispensaries all over the country began stocking and promoting the product. In 2010 the High Times Cannabis cup featured oil for the first time in a category of its own. Since then the popularity of extracts quickly flourished and continues to grow, now compromising thirty to sixty percent of all legal cannabis sales.

~ C. McLaughlin