Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bad Medicine


In the midst of the growing national debate on health care reform, I have been a patient. I participate in two diametrically opposed health care systems. Traditional western medicine, where my appointment is cancelled and I'm charged a fee if I'm late while I frequently wait up to two hours to be seen for my appointment, and non-traditional/naturopathic healing, where I usually can just call and talk to my health care professional in person, and I often don't even need to be seen in person. I understand that both sides bring things of value to medicine. But only one of them allows me to retain my humanity.

I can't even bring myself to summarize the statistics I have in front of me regarding the state of medical care in the United States. But we all know, without the numbers or references, we all know that we pay more for a less efficient or effective system than almost any industrialized nation in the world. We also know that we're fat and getting fatter, and suffering the health repercussions. We know that our health care system is entrenched in the treatment of symptoms rather than causes, and that we are more likely to demand a prescription than suck it up and make a lifestyle change. We know that the current system values the prolonging of life far beyond the preservation of quality of life. And we all know, that even giving its failings, it's the only system we have fiscally available to us. And we still can't afford it.

So we need to go off the grid. All of us. Before our collective health and well-being goes the way of climate change, way too little, way too late. There's too much money invested in the "western system" to expect tangible and substantive changes, the ones that will make us happier and healthier, in our lifetimes. So, make the lifestyle changes you need to make to be a healthier person. Eat whole foods, that you prepare yourself. Exercise. Get massages instead of muscle relaxants, eat garlic instead of taking antibiotics. Meditate. Get a naturopath, they are true healers. Laugh. Take care of your body, it's the only vessel you're given.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Nice Ride

For the last few months there has been ongoing debate over a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to neither designate critical habitat nor develop a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar. A recent ruling by U.S. District Judge John Roll said the agency did not use the best scientific evidence available in deciding that critical habitat for the jaguar was "not prudent" because Fish and Wildlife contended that its main threat in the United States was from being hunted, not from lack of habitat.

Jaguars once roamed from the southern tip of South America north to the region surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border. Today significant numbers of jaguars are found only in remote regions of South and Central America—particularly in the Amazon basin. In fact, of the three to five jaguars believed to still spend any portion of their time within the United States, only one is considered to have the majority of its habitat in the U.S.

That cat, known as Macho B, may have been the oldest know jaguar in the world.

On March 2, the Arizona Game and Fish Department resolved the issue independent of the legal system. Macho B was captured on Feb. 18 in a snare placed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in an area outside Tuscon. The cat, which was described in field reports as healthy and robust, was tranquilized, equipped with a radio-tracking collar, and released.

Macho B was recaptured on March 2 after wildlife personnel reportedly feared that it might be in poor health. It was transported to the Phoenix Zoo, where a veterinarian said it had irreversible kidney failure and was euthanized the same day.

The federal government has opened a criminal investigation into the capture and death of Macho B amid accusations that a biologist working for the state illegally baited a trap to attract the cat.
The tragedy in this is that we will now spend more in legal fees, press coverage, and public outrage and debate far more resources than would have been allocated to the protection of critical habitat in the first place. And all the noise and outrage in the world will do nothing to help the few remaining jaguars whose range extends into the United States. Lets hope that what we learn from this is that we can’t afford to wait, or rather, the species with whom we share our home cannot afford for us to wait. Habitat protection, hunting restrictions, and recovery plans are crucial to maintaining biodiversity and our own quality of life. Do something.