Saturday, December 20, 2014

Accouting and Investing for Our Future

As human doings we now must face the challenge to become human beings.  Let’s be truthful about both our blessings and curses to improve our planet's prospects.  We have to speak the same language and agree on a few ley things if we wish to best go forth.

Increasing better management and efficiencies increases our quality of life.  Now for us to embark with this intention to wisely act is the tenor of the times.  There are many ways to plant seeds for the future stimulating resource conservation and waste reduction. However there is a risk involved, massive financial experimentation, uncertain results, complex relationships, and an inescapable mandate for improvement.

The world economy will eventually face this reality so we best conserve and preserve this place.  Our output and inputs must balance with increased environmental and social considerations on how this Earth’s future welfare is assured.  Creating new business that vanguard future generation’s resources is prudent.

This requires a revolution in accountability to establish and maintain new performance criteria. These measures must balance flexible environmental partnerships offer, integrated management system and ingenious feedback loops. Preventing pollution, improving and environmental performance is all about our common bottom-line. Improved performance-based processes must evolve through trials and tribulations into proven practices.

Our money will never reside fully in our bank account. Our saving resides in how we better invest in better ways our world’s environmental economics work. We are all shareholders and beneficiaries on this planet.

As planetary resource managers we will become more skillful and ingenious.  Creating both a competitive and cooperative international marketplace we will tap new opportunities.   Such integration of best management will streamline, target, and consolidate programs to improve their delivery and lessen any footprint. We have the opportunity to better weed out ways that are outdated, ineffective, and unsustainable. How may we best pursue innovative opportunities to maintain our international well being? Exploring wise pragmatic first steps is a vital to this mega trillion dollar adventure.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Free Drilling and Methane Emissions

Taxpayers for Common Sense recently cites in “Free Gas”, a real American tragedy (http://www.taxpayer.net/library/article/taxpayers-are-losing-millions-on-natural-gas-extracted-from-federal-land?utm_source=wastebasket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=free-gas). 

Let’s agree that wasteful free subsidies for oil and gas companies is not good for this country or this earth.  Why do these profitable corporations pay nothing for over $380 million in royalties on the gas they have extracted over the past eight years on federal land?

The gas and oil industry has avoided paying royalties on gas they use as fuel for their drilling rigs is decades old.  Since 1946 our Congress has permanently exempted any natural gas used for fuel on well sites from royalty payments.  How does it make sense that royalty-free fuel for oil and gas companies.

Now the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in the Department of Interior, is considering changing these outdated free
drilling rules on federal lands.
From an environmental perspective, the largest component of the lost gas is methane, which leaks from drilling rigs, storage tanks, pipelines and outdated equipment.  Such lost methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas.  Pollution controls to capture this leaking gases is not being used.

The bottom line is Americans are giving oil and gas companies royalty-free fuel and little incentives for drilling companies to lessen their toxic methane releases.  Is there anything missing with this picture?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanks for Saving; Attitude of Gratitude

When I respect things, no matter if they are natural, human or spiritual, it is a form of thanksgiving.  Showing such reverence, either by conserving or just observing, I directly become interlinked with a profound appreciation of being on this Earth.

Counting my blessings becomes a gift that keeps sustaining me. Nothing for me can be more rejuvenating than expressing gratefulness for all the ways this life and its people, and resources has provided me.

Just maintaining a state of gratefulness re-energizes me, and moves me to shift my attitude so that I look for the silver lining in every cloud. Instead of looking at things as a curse, I can see them as the blessing they truly are.  This is a peak experience because this brings me in a flow state, since I am in ultimate relationship with all things. 

The power of gratitude leads me to a greater sense of purpose, and a richer life. Invoking appreciation gives me a profound sense of joy, and links me with all things, filling me with a sense of harmony and well being.

The act of conserving is a way of showing gratitude by a form of stewardship that allows me to exercise my thanks by acting respectful.   Appreciation creates a mindset that reconnects me to value what has the highest importance. My feeling of gratitude expands when I reflect on how all things are interconnected.

Exercising my "the attitude of gratitude" opens me to new possibilities.  Can I simply enjoy hearing my own heartbeat? How grateful am I to all those things life on this planet has given me? Do I cherish the food, shelter and other gifts?   Instead of the same old "I-am-the-victim", or the "poor-me" mindset I then stop "should-ing" all over myself.

An "attitude of gratitude" is a loving-kind way of making this world a better place.  Each day, Thanksgiving and Earth Day can be observed together. Both celebrate the same blessings we are so lucky to enjoy.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Will Work: Caring for Myself, Family and Country


Americans have yet to address healthcare efficiency as a priority. Health care reform offers an enormous potential for boasting the economy's prospects. If we can emulate Canada and only spend 11% of GDP on health care we would save $950 billion a year.[1]
 
In the last five years I have been taking care of all aspects of my Dad’s affairs.   

The estimated economic value of unpaid work by some 42 million family caregivers in 2009 was $450 billion according to AARP. ...the total Medicare spending in that same years was $509 billion ...nearly $ 3 trillion was estimated in lost wages, social security benefits, private pension for men over fifty caring for their parents. Met-life estimates roughly $350k for woman and $284K lost for man for a typical fifty -years and over caring for their parents.[2]
 
Due to being self-employed just a few hours a week has allowed me insight as my father’s advocate.  

A large part of my father’s life was devoted to bettering the healthcare system in the U.S. and it was indeed a challenge.   Now he is nearly  91, I find as I care for him and myself it is no accident of our present healthcareless situation.

Many years ago, the Washington Post referred to my Dad as “the unobtrusive shaper of law.”  He spent over four decades of his life writing major healthcare legislation as a Congressional lawyer and researcher, including being a member of staff on the House Ways and Means Committee assisting with all facets of Medicare, Social Security, Disability Insurance reform and other endeavors.

Recently I applied to work for Encore.org since I have for 15 years looked for full time work.  My expertise is in pollution prevention and recycling oil, paper and other secondary materials. My past efforts in lessening waste and advocating resource conservation has not translated in any job offers. Interestingly, my home town is where the first Civilian Conservation Camp helped begin to employ millions during the depression.  

Presently our economy totals 15 trillion dollars.  U.S. total healthcare expenditure is $2.7 trillion or 18 percent of GDP.  It is forecast to reach 34 percent of GDP by 2040.  In 2010 Americans spent $1.3 trillion on healthcare. Multiple chronic illness cases that are just one percent of healthcare expenditure consume 21 percent of this total amount.  The last tier of 50 percent of patients accounted for 2.8 percent of spending last year.  Contrary to popular opinion only 10 percent of healthcare dollars are spent in the last year of life.  While there is increased spending in the last few months approaching death, it is not the massive percentage of medical care dollars that is widely believed.

Healthcare spending is forecast to account for nearly 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), or one-fifth of the U.S. economy, by 2021.  It’s been estimated that wasteful spending may account for between one-third and one-half of all U.S. healthcare spending.  The largest area of waste is ‘defensive medicine’, including redundant, inappropriate or unnecessary tests and procedures. Other factors that contribute to this excessive spending include non-adherence to medical advice and prescriptions, alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity.

A chief factor of the high costs is that in the United States-- compared with other industrialized nations--we do not monitor or intervene in medical pricing, aside from setting payment rates for Medicaid and Medicare for older people and the poor. We allow for this government waste.  Many other countries deliver healthcare on a private fee-for-service basis, as does much of the American healthcare system.

Why is there not new employment opportunities making our health care more efficient and less wasteful? How is medical overspending monitored?  Who is questioning what care is of benefit and whether it is truly needed?   Whose role is it to make our medical care more efficient?   How can we determine what tests and procedures will benefit the patient in question?  Do certain operations, medications and devices add to the better quality of life of the given patient?  The bottom line is that we the people must act in reducing these galloping healthcare costs.

Why do Americans pay more for medical care than other people in other countries?  Ironically, we prescribe more expensive procedures and tests whether or not other countries operate a private or national health system. There is a need to best account for who is responsible for controlling healthcare costs including lawyers, doctors, insurers, hospitals, drug makers, and patients.

The United States spends about 18 percent of its gross domestic product on healthcare: nearly twice as much as most other developed countries. The Congressional Budget Office has said that if medical costs continue to grow unabated, “total spending on healthcare would eventually account for all of the country’s economic output.” Federal spending on government healthcare is cited as a primary reason for long-term deficits.

American medical companies can set charges for their products without marketplace competition and government intervention. Contrary to the economic laws of supply and demand, many healthcare products can remain overpriced and even increase in price over time instead of dropping. For example, the price of a total hip implant increased 300 percent from 1998 to 2011 according to Orthopedic Network News.

Presently many payments are negotiated between a doctor, hospital or pharmacy, and an insurer. Insurers have constrained ability or incentive to get the best price, and they can raise premiums to cover costs.

Who is advocating for the consumers? While doctors may agree that they have a responsibility in containing costs, actually doing this is another matter.  They also cite awareness of the costs of tests/treatments they recommend. 

Most physicians may agree to strive in the best interests of their individual patient’s; however, what specific procedures and tests they give them is all over the board.  Whether they focus on cost management and also juggle what is in the best interests of their patients is questionable. Physicians are concerned about financial losses as a result of cost reduction efforts.  While employers are educating their patients to healthcare costs, many doctors advocate for better healthcare cost management.

Greater awareness of medical costs and understanding the true price of such care will lessen overspending.  Changing doctors, consumers’ and insurance companies’ attitudes regarding lesser costs and motivating better care given limited resources is a huge social and economic issue requiring common political will. 

Today the United States spends 5.6 percent of the national healthcare spending, or $113 billion, on mental health treatment.  Most of this goes toward prescription drugs and outpatient treatment. Our country had 156,300 mental health counselors in 2010, and access to mental healthcare is pathetic compared to other types of medical services.

It is difficult to find any peace of mind with our mental healthcare system. For example, how depression, anxiety and other ailments directly affect our bottom-line can only be speculated.  Also, the degree to which such mind states related to obesity and other major diseases today is difficult to track.  Loss of worker productivity and other indirect costs for mental treatment, therapy and other associated facets of mental illness are difficult to fully measure. 

Mental healthcare is expensive, with 45 percent of the untreated citing cost as a barrier. A quarter of the 15.7 million Americans who received mental healthcare listed themselves as the main payer for the services according to one survey that looked at those services from 2005 to 2009.

Greater information regarding expensive treatments with no proven benefits allows the public to better evaluate their treatments options. If consumers, the patients, can see prices before services are provided, that can help create better value.  Presently patients see little of what their full medical costs are. Improved quality data on hospitals and doctors could better the medical marketplace.  Patients with insurance pay a tiny fraction of the bill, providing scant disincentive for spending.

Presently my health care consumes well over one-third of what I earn.  For many decades I worked in resource conservation.  Medical overspending today is just another reason to champion the value of waste reduction. Perhaps I can create some potential employment opportunities in advocating better healthcare management practices, or even stress management options to the greater public.

I have spent thousands of hours exploring diverse areas of stress management and mental wellness. For several years I taught mindfulness meditation at my local hospital right across the street from the National Institute of Health here in Bethesda, Maryland. Every day I exercise and best focus on how to foster my own well-being.  I also do this for many family and friends.

For last 18 years I have learned to better address my anxiety.  I have been fortunate to be able to cope with a more and more demanding world. I have been reluctant to share my plight with my HMO and spent out-of-pocket tens of thousands of dollars of my own money to manage my own mental health.  This exploration has been my most valuable financial investment since I have become more mindful as to how to keep appearances up and costs down. However, stress and increasing global tensions continue to augment as our population and social conditions evolve. It is wise to question how we going to fix our healthcareless system so as to prosper in years to come.

The sooner we Americans face this opportunity the better we will be.  I wish to employ myself in caring in this very careless time.  All Americans are mutually tied in what happens in healthcare.  Our very well-being and future prospects forces us to courageously agree to transform this wasteful crisis—into a new frontier of opportunities.  If only we can collectively care together will such new jobs emerge.  I will work to better care for myself, my family and country.




Saturday, October 04, 2014

Climate Intelligence?


Recently a friend of mine asked me to talk to another friend about climate change.  Friend X, a highly educated individual does not believe that humans impact our weather.   So my response was three-fold.  First, I would challenge friend X to see what our military has observed in the last few years.  Secondly talk to the other experts where roughly 97% of the scientific community agreed on such a thing in the past.   Finally, let’s see what the insurance and financial industry experts say about this warming. 

Several years ago a number of retired generals and security experts presented national-security study. Using the military's risk-assessment practices, 11 retired generals and admirals issued a report saying that climate change creates massive instability around the world.

"The impacts of climate change will be huge — deserts move north, coastal areas threatened, the dislocation of people," said retired Adm. T. Joseph Lopez, who commanded peacekeeping forces in Bosnia. "I'm a student of instability, and instability is the enemy.”1   

Below is what NASA writes regarding scientific opinion on climate change;

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. The following is a partial list of these organizations, along with links to their published statements and a selection of related resources.2

Finally, insurance actuaries and underwriters document the increased property damage and challenges to provide coverage to their clients.  A LA Times June op-ed opinion states;

A number of recent studies by the Insurance Information Institute have singled out Florida as having the most exposure to the combined impacts of climate change, but its governor, Rick Scott, and Sen. Marco Rubio are on record dismissing the threat. And yet everyone can see that sea levels are rising.3

I challenge anyone to explore what the military, scientist and the finance community is doing.  Just read in Forbes magazine in May below;

“The heavy losses caused by weather-related natural catastrophes in the USA showed that greater loss-prevention efforts are needed,” says Munich Reboard member Torsen Jeworrek.

He says that the United States suffered $400 billion in weather-related damages in 2011 and insured losses of $119 billion, which were record amounts. In 2012 — and despite Superstorm Sandy — losses were well above the 10-year averages at $165 billion total, of which insurers paid $50 billion. In 2013, insurance companies paid out, globally, $45 billion in claims, says Zurich, adding that the United States accounted for $19 billion of that.4

Climate change is no longer a question of “if” rather how much and what it “will” cost us.



2 http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
4 http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2014/05/18/rift-widening-between-energy-and-insurance-industries-over-climate-change/

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Investing and Conserving Will Safeguard Our Future

Advancements in weather and economic modeling are documenting the cost of man-made carbon dioxide and other pollutants.  The White House is concerned of the financial concerns of climate change. The White House Budget Chief, Shaun Donovan, comments below;

…global economic output could suffer by about 0.90 percent in the United States that would amount to whacking of gross domestic product by $150 billion a year.  And as the Great Recession demonstrated, “even small reductions in real GDP can dramatically reduce federal revenue, drive our deficits and impact the government’s ability to serve the public,”…1

Conserving certainly can lessen our nearly $18 trillion national debt.  Also we can invest in new economic development program to combat this human environmental crisis.

According to the American Geophysical Union, 80 percent of the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1700’s has occurred in the 20th and 21st centuries. Also the Pew Center on Global Climate Change cited that the 1990s were the hottest decade in the last 150 years.

In 2006, Winds of Change, Eugene Linden charts how public and scientific opinion diverged from 1988 to 2005. Scientific community view has gone from indifference to alarm with a general consensus while the public view has been indifferent except for a brief alarm in the late 1980’s. In a Pew Research poll in 2006 only 41 percent said this was due to human activity. In a University of California 2005 study Dr. Naomi Oreske did a random sampling of 928 peer-reviewed journal articles on global warming revealed that 100 percent agreed with the view that humans affect climate change.

Now various economist estimate costs to contain present emissions, the Pew Center for Global Climate Change determined the benefits to prevent the doubling of greenhouse gaseous between $55 billion and $140 billion dollars and that US greenhouse gas emission increased 12 percent between 1990 and 2001. In 2006, the Stern Review on the Economic Effects of Climate Change estimates stabilizing these emission would cost about half a trillion dollars.

Recent scientific studies document that climate change is increasing due what is called positive tipping points accelerating arctic ice loss and other warming effects. Increased conservation directly translates in increasing our national security.

In my life, science has documented how this earth has rapidly increased in temperature while human population has doubled in size. I have witnessed many forms of human ecological destruction. New advancements of weather modeling now estimate how much humans contribute to increased droughts, wildfires and other climate disasters. The debate is over.  Humans are impacting our weather.  Enacting conservation measure and enacting some form of carbon tax are viable remedies. We can no longer afford to speculate since the present facts dictate that we act.


1         Lory Montgomery, Washington Post, 9/20/14, pg. A14, “Climate Change is New Focus of White House Financial Fears”.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Saving Water



When the well runs dry, we know the worth of water.  Ben Franklin

California’s mega-drought serves as a reminder how precious our water resources are.  Many Americans are unaware what ground water is.  The stuff that creates life below the subsurface like the water that is stored in a potted plant.  Today we are depleting out of the ground H20 that has enormous impact on future reserves since to water is limited and requires time to recharge. 


Throughout the world, clean water is becoming the most precious resource.  Half of the world’s population -- or three billion people -- live without access to safe drinking water.  With an estimated 2 billion additional people to be born in the next 30 years, good water will be even scarcer.  Here and worldwide, record droughts and water shortages are forcing us to reexamine water use.

Four trillion gallons of water fall daily in America, much of which runs off or is evaporated.  Overall the U.S. withdraws 339 billion gallons of ground and surface water each day.  Each day we use 137 billions of gallons of water for irrigation and 131 billion gallons to generate energy.  Industry consumes another 25 billion gallons a day.  So 45 percent of American’s freshwater goes to industrial use, 42 percent goes to agriculture, and the remaining 13 percent goes to domestic use.


Forty-seven percent of the U.S. population depends on ground water for its drinking water. In the U.S. each day, about 76.4 billion gallons of ground water are used for household water, irrigation, and industrial and other uses.  Ground water is an important source of surface water. Its contribution to the overall flow of rivers and streams in the U.S. may be as large as 50 percent.  It is also a major source of water for lakes and wetlands. Ground water is tapped through wells placed in water-bearing rocks and materials beneath earth’s surface. Precipitation and other sources replenish the ground water supply, but increasing periods of drought have led to a situation in which the rate of pumping exceeds that of replenishment.  Nearly 15.9 million water wells serve U.S. households, cities, business, and agriculture. Twenty-three million Americans rely on this private drinking water supply. 




Ironically only 1% of the world’s water is drinkable and that must meet our ever-expanding human needs.  At home we drink 1% while 99% of this clean water may be lost in many wasteful ways.  Most household water goes to lawns, showers, toilets, etc.  In our life time, we will experience a drastic shift in how we use water.



Our public water systems produce more than 180 gallons per day per person, more than seven times the per capita average in the rest of the world and nearly triple Europe's level. By comparison, the World Health Organization says good health require a total daily supply of about 8 gallons of water per person.  An average person can survive months without food, but only days without water.  We flush an average of 27 gallons of drinking water per person per day down our toilets, 17 gallons per day through our laundry and 14 gallons per day in our showers.  Watering lawns also uses up a tremendous amount of this valuable drinking source.



Simply installing a more efficient showerhead and faucet aerators saves about 7800 gallons of water per year in an average household. In addition, by reducing demand for hot water, a low-flow showerhead can save 376 pounds of climate changing carbon dioxide each year, while faucet aerators can save 83 pounds per year.  These items can be found at the local hardware store.  Faucet aerators cost less than $5 a piece and high-efficiency showerheads go for under $20.  Switching to landscaping dominated by bushes and shrubs, instead of grass, can reduce lawn watering by 80 percent.



To appreciate the value of water, all you have to do is realize the role it plays in our bodies. One-half to two-thirds of the human body contains water.  An average adult contains roughly 40 quarts of water and loses several quarts of water per day through normal elimination, sweating and breathing. 



Life itself depends on how we protect, preserve and conserve this precious resource.  Our future prosperity relies on how we champion water quality improvements.  All Americans have a right to affordable fresh water.  Without clean water life itself is in jeopardy.