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What’s a good diet for healthy people and watersheds?

Know what feeds ya!I am struck by how challenging it is for me to change my diet after the Holiday season fare of sweet food, great dinners, and yummy drinks.  An adventure I took with my family in early January 2013 led us through the oil patch of New Mexico, Artesia, and I saw a cafe that made me think of my diet and the diet of those around me.     Many other people struggles with much the same not just from a rich diet of food but also from our dependence on energy coming from oil in the ground.

Dependence on oil came home for me during this trip since we we’re driving a rented compact RV, something my wife and daughter and I had dreamed of doing for a while.  It got about 13 miles to gallon during the trip, much less than the 36 mpg I normally get in my Honda Fit.  It was a once in a lifetime experience that allowed us to bring our dogs, avoid getting hotels, and see Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, and soak in the springs of Truth or Consequences in relative comfort.  An unusual snowstorm hit SE New Mexico during our trip bringing snow in from the east, and along with the snow came nasty smells from the oil patch that made us initially wonder if our dogs had eaten something nasty.

We learned by the next morning in an RV park in Artesia that the odors came from the oil wells off to the east and it made me think of how the oil fields, and the large dairies, have affected the springs and smells of Artesia (formerly the site of artesian springs).  I recall a student of mine in a UNM watershed management class who was born and raised in Artesia and told me of how the creek near her home had gone dry.  I also think of the rules and regulations that can mitigate the problems of water & air pollution.  I learned recently that the 1935 Oil & Gas Act of New Mexico may be modernized at the NM Legislative Session of 2013 for the first time in nearly 80 years to bring the fines and rules up to speed with modern industry activities -this may be a tough battle that gets lots of industry resistance.

I also learned that the NM dairy industry is seeking to relax groundwater protection rules by petitioning the Water Quality Control Commission of NM to change the regs.   The dairy industry is asking for changes in monitoring systems to protect groundwater such as back-flow prevention, flow-meter calibration, and nutrient management plans.   But these regulations are only 1-year old and were crafted to recognize industry demands.  Now that they are scheduled by implemented the dairy industry is finding it hard to change practicies.  After all, changing our habits, just like our diets is hard.

Carol walks on a monument to oil well riggersIn the long run, changing our diets for our health and health of our environment makes sense, even it increases the cost of some items to reflect a true cost rather than one low because the real cost is paid by a polluted environment.  I’m reminded of the challenge of making the changes as my body aches for some of the extra sugar I ingested over the holidays.  But I’m also keeping in mind the importance for my health to start now, don’t wait, and begin making scaling back my  consumption and get more exercise so that with time I’ll get back to sustainable weight on my body — and the planet.

What would you suggest for a diet for a healthy watershed?

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