Conventional not Organic Farmers Should Pay a Premium

To practice paneugenesis means to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits.  Incumbent with these efforts means we will also be redesigning reality.  To redesign reality this means we need to build a better system that supports, encourages, nurtures and reinforces improvements.

To build a better system, a system must have multiple interdependent parts that can function as much on their own as possible while also contributing to making the whole system better. That means that each part contributes to the whole system and does not take from, or is a detriment to it.

This past week I attended the first East Carolina University Sustainability Symposium.  It was excellent.  While being inspired by speakers and from discussions with colleagues, we realized a way we could help redesign reality to improve the system and encourage paneugenesis.  A discussion with Anna Martin, Program Coordinator at the Water Resource s Research Institute, led to this post. The symposium and related discussion yielded these ideas to generate improvements…

Currently, organic farmers pay a premium to grow and sell organic food – while conventional farmers pay nothing additional.  This also translates to a higher cost to consumers for organic food.  Thus it is a deterrent from buying or growing organic food. Despite the premium costs associated with organic foods, reports suggest purchases of organic foods are growing dramatically, over 100% per year.

From a systems perspective, organic farmers are a positive contributing interdependent component of the whole system.  Organic farmers improve the system while contributing to it, by providing healthy food to humans, without taking away from the whole system.  Conventional farmers on the other hand are not able to function without getting external inputs in the form of petroleum fertilizers to be able to produce their output.  The fertilizers then hurt the whole system in many ways such as contributing to climate change, leaching carbon, and by hurting other species such as bee’s and in many other ways. (see figure below)

Assessment of organic farming relative to conventional farming in the four major areas of sustainability.

Assessment of organic farming relative to conventional farming in the four major areas of sustainability. Source: Nature Plants 2, Article number: 15221 (2016) doi:10.1038/nplants.2015.22it

Obviously, having contributing organic farmers pay a premium while damaging conventional farmers pay nothing does not make sense.  After thinking about it, we realized a simple change would yield a better system.  Instead of having organic farmers pay to grow their food, have conventional farmers who pollute the land, water and air with petroleum based insecticides and herbicides pay the premium. Currently conventional farmers defer those costs to consumers and citizens who pay for it with damaged water, air, and land which leads to a lower quality of life and additional disease care costs for all.  In addition this situation creates a system that nudges or encourages people to make unwise choices.

Despite a system that gives organic food a disadvantage, consumers are choosing organic foods and science indicates it is better for the people, land, water, and air.  To improve the system, shouldn’t the polluters, so-called conventional farmers, rather than the organic food producers, be the farmers who pay the premium?  Costs to grow organic food are rightly used for inspections and the certification process.  It seems it would make more sense to charge farmers who choose to pollute the food and land to pay for inspections and certifications.  This then means they could avoid that premium by growing food organically instead of growing food by adding ecologically damaging petroleum based herbicides and insecticides.

If  polluters paid a premium, the system would change from encouraging the use of polluting methods to supporting, encouraging, nurturing and reinforcing health promoting practices.  Such a change could have dramatic positive effects on the quality of our personal and planetary health. This change would also make organic, not petroleum laced food, the less expensive and natural, or default choice.

Contact your senators and the USDA to advocate for smart policies like this that support, encourage and reinforce agriculture practices that contribute to healthier personal and planetary health. Thank you.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

New Publication – Tobacco Bans Help

With the help of some genius colleagues,we published a new article A 14-year longitudinal study of the impact of clean indoor air legislation on state smoking prevalence, USA, 1997–2010 is being published in Preventive Medicine. I think it will be the first article published in this journal that discusses the value of salutogenesis.  Salutogenesis was relevant because a health promoting environment cannot include smoking. For this research we wondered if states with more tobacco bans had a related difference in smoking rates. Beyond the fact that bans produce cleaner and healthier environments, do those bans effect smoking rates?  We know that higher taxes lowers smoking rates and our study found that states with ban have an impact. Bans lowered smoking rates above and beyond the impact of tobacco taxes and the longer the ban in place, the greater its impact.  Here is the abstract:


While clean indoor air legislation at the state level is an evidence-based recommendation, only limited evidence exists regarding the impact of clean indoor air policies on state smoking prevalence. Using state smoking prevalence data from 1997 to 2010, a repeated measures observational analysis assessed the association between clean indoor air policies (i.e., workplace, restaurant, and bar) and state smoking prevalence while controlling for state cigarette taxes and year. The impacts from the number of previous years with any clean indoor air policy, the number of policies newly in effect during the current year, and the number of policies in effect the previous year were analyzed. Findings indicate a smoking prevalence predicted decrease of 0.13 percentage points (p = 0.03) for each additional year one or more clean indoor air policies were in effect, a predicted decrease of 0.12 percentage points (p = 0.09) for each policy newly in effect in the current year, and a predicted decrease of 0.22 percentage points (p = 0.01) for each policy in effect in the previous year on the subsequent year. Clean indoor air policies show measurable associations with reductions in smoking prevalence within a year of implementation above and beyond taxes and time trends. Further efforts are needed to diffuse clean indoor air policies across states and provinces that have not yet adopted such policies.

If you are interested, you can read the in-press version of this soon to be Open Access article here.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Bottom up instead of Top Down to Be Optimistic

I thought others would enjoy this I that read from Thomas Friedman.  I thought it was a great way to applaud and recognize the great work and effort many are doing.

He said he tells many foreign visitors that if they want to be optimistic about America, they “Should stand on their heads.” because America looks much better from the bottom up than from the top down.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Mimic Mother Nature to Create a New Political Party


Once again I am referring to some things learned in Thomas Friedman’s new book, “Thank You for Being Late: An Optimists Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations”.  An interesting part relates to how we have just finished a difficult political season where many are left unsatisfied. Thomas Friedman suggests we are now in the Age of Accelerations, where everything is moving so fast it is hard if not impossible to keep up. He says three large forces, technology, globalization, and Mother Nature (climate change) are accelerating all at once.  He suggest that because all is moving so fast and that we all have trouble keeping up, many want leaders to slow things down.  This he suggests is why many extreme views are getting traction.  He explains to keep our balance we need dynamic stability which is only possible if we keep learning to keep pace.

To meet this need he suggests we need a political party that is based on Mother Nature or one that mimics Mother Nature’s killer applications. Without question, nature is incredible. You can see multiple posts where I discuss this, including Jane Benyus’s work on Biomimicry at Parallel NOT Linear Means Create Positive AND Prevent Negative, and  McKibbin thoughts on “The Pope and the Planet”Today’s Pascal’s Wager, One We Must Make!,  Better Has to be BetterWe are Just Talking Apes and more.

With regard to the new Political party based on Mother Nature, Friedman suggests it would have this slogan, “Making the Future work for Everybody” and a platform with these agenda items that would mimic Mother Nature’s Killer App’s:

  1. Have single payer universal health care funded by a  alue added tax VAT consumption
  2. Extend Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit
  3. Would pair free trade agreements
  4. All post secondary education would be tax deductible so would continually learn which means more teachers, more learners and economic growth. Also Universities would move to a 3 year program as in Israel and Europe – better for student debt
  5. Roll back costly bankruptcy reform because changes have made it hard to declare bankruptcy and start again
  6. Build a High wall and have a big gate for immigration so feel safe inside but also can bring in lots of good people and are welcoming
  7. Tax incentives for Internet development because need to stay current and in global flows
  8. Borrow 50 million at low current rates to upgrade ports, airports and grids – and this would also boost employment because it will jobs
  9. Ban semi-automatic and other military style guns like Austraila to limit gun violence and buyback those guns that are in circulation
  10. Have a tax reform that eliminates corporate income tax so America has the lowest rate, now highest, because this will bring all money back from overseas. To replace that revenue use taxes on financial trades and bullets and also end lower dividend and capital gains tax rate – so this is taxed the same as other income
    • These changes will be made because we need to use taxes to incentivize and grow what we want: investment, work, and hiring and shrink what we don’t want carbon emissions, tax avoidance, overregulation, climate change, gun violence – which these changes will do
  11. Put warning labels on all sugary drinks, candies and high sugar fast foods
  12. Appoint an independent commission to review Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes Oxley accounting regulations for reforms to assure not hurting entrepreneurship
  13. Create Regular Improvement Commission as proposed by Progressive Policy Institute in May 2013 policy paper to improve and or remove regulations
  14. Like England, limit political campaign spending and time for national campaigns to a few months
  15. End gerrymandering and make voting better
  16. Elevate the Peace Corps to that of defense of Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines and us Peace Corps as offense that helps others live and be better in their homeland
  17. Make progress on gender equality and family planning
  18. Have social technology innovation incentives such as a race to the topper states that retrain workers  best

To me this is a great idea because Thomas Friedman has eloquently described how to design a political party that functions with the goal to generate all good by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. Or as he says, a party with the of “Making the Future work for Everybody”.

I look forward to hearing about how we can all work toward these worthwhile goals and objectives.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

New Responsibilities are Opportunities

In Thomas Friedman’s 2016 book, “Thank You for Being Late”, he forcibly insists, the time when we could be average and do well is over. In this “Age of Accelerations” as he calls it, it requires us to be better and to continually improve.  As discussed previously and now updated with what I learned in this book, ” Evolve Maintenance to Improvement to Create +3’s


He explains, we used to be able, in Western countries, to pay high wages for middle skilled jobs. He says that time is over. For us in the older generation, we would get our skills, look for and find a job, and life long learning could be a helpful hobby. No more, now life long learning is a requirement just to keep and maintain a job. Today, just to have a job, it may need to be invented. This is what he refers to our need to develop a dynamic stability to keep up in this new time.

He explains the new norm is to work harder, go faster than change and regularly reinvent yourself to stay relevant. No longer can we just show up to succeed, we need dynamic stability and must keep pedaling and learning. This new on-demand world requires on-demand learning.

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In an earlier book he wrote, “The World is Flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century”, he explained how technology had leveled the playing field and made the world flat. That new reality now means  the digital divide, those nations that have access to technology versus those that don’t, has disappeared and this means that only thing left to separate us that matters is the “motivational divide”.  The Internet enables all to learn so people need the self-motivation to take advantage of what is offered.  As he states, this is a situation where we must choose to opt-in, we can’t just be average, if we want to thrive.

In other words, it is important we work to exceed expectations by opting in and getting all we can out of these learning opportunities.

He explains learning and gaining skills is important because of how our world has changed. What was valued has changed over time. We have gone from valuing, treasuring and using agrarian capital, to valuing and using physical capital to now valuing and using human knowledge capital. He also points out this presents our best opportunity to equitably distribute and use these resources because they are plentiful and provide a non-zero sum gain opportunity.

This non-zero sumness opportunity means everyone and everything can benefit, a true democratization of society. This opportunity is what Robert Wright discussed in his book, “NonZero: The Logic of Human Destiny”. He describes non zero sumness as different than zero sum, where what I win you lose or vice versa, but as situation where interactions leave everyone better or worse off – not the same or zero. He also gives a less optimistic but relevant discussion in his TED Presentation, “Progress is not a Zero Sum Game”.    (which relates to Steven Pinker’s work highlighted at, ” What Makes Sense Leads to Moral Progress“)

My understanding of Non Zero sumness is that we either all win or all lose. What seems obvious and has been the focus of my efforts and what are the desires for must is for all to win. This is to practice paneugenesis by creating pervasive, reciprocal selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Evolution of Positive Health

I just uploaded a video to my YouTube page (below) that reviews how I see the evolution of positive health. Within this video I describe how the concepts of wellness and salutogenesis are related. After you watch this short 11 minute video, please share your thoughts. Thank you.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!



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