GPS Guides are our way of showing you what has relieved others’ stress in the hopes that you will be able to identify solutions that work for you. We all have de-stressing “secret weapons” that we pull out in times of tension or anxiety, whether they be photos that relax us or make us smile, songs that bring us back to our heart, quotes or poems that create a feeling of harmony, or meditative exercises that help us find a sense of silence and calm. We encourage you to look at the GPS Guide below, visit our other GPS Guides here, and share with us your own personal tips for finding peace, balance and tranquility.
We all have those days — the ones where nothing seems to go right and our to-do lists keep growing. It can be easy to let stress sink in and become overwhelmed. Sometimes we just need a different view to change our perspective and refocus on our priorities. Take a mental vacation with the slideshow below and allow these mountain tops from across the world to offer you a moment of clarity.
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Taking a real vacation from your digital life is one of the most restorative things you can do for yourself. Daniel Sieberg, author of “The Digital Diet,” recommends unplugging completely the next time you take a trip.
“If you respond to one (work) email, you’ve just opened the floodgates,” Sieberg told CNN in 2011. “You’ve lost that barrier — it’s gone like a sandcastle in front of the ocean. Now that person knows that you’re really not on vacation. You are reachable and you will respond. Hold onto that. Otherwise, it’s just a slippery slope to just responding to everything … It’s not giving you that clarity in your head that you’re seeking from a vacation — the reason you did it in the first place.”
If you’re in need of a true escape from email and social media, try booking a trip to one of the world’s most pristine, untouched places (untouched by technology, that is). From the Grand Canyon to South Pacific islands, these eight connection-free vacation destinations are the perfect spots for a digital detox.
Tristan da Cunha Island
Don’t expect to ever get a cellphone signal at any point on your tip to Tristan da Cunha, a U.K. territory that’s also the most remote inhabited island on earth, located 1,750 miles off the coast of South Africa. There’s no mobile phone network to be found on the active volcanic island. You can, however, track down Internet for a small fee at the island’s one Internet Cafe, but don’t expect much from the 1Mbps connection, which is shared among the entire Tristan population of 259 residents.
American Samoa, U.S. Pacific Territories
Home to the “most expensive Internet in America,” the South Pacific U.S. territory of American Samoa is, in many places, a connection-free oasis. Internet access is not readily available on the islands, so be ready to cut off virtually all communication with the outside world for the duration of your visit. There are several Internet cafes on the largest island of Savai’i, but Internet is hard to come by in most locations, and only few hotels are equipped with WiFi.
In the remote village of Yakutat, Alaska — recommended as one of Forbes’ best places to “get off the grid” — the interwebs are tough to come by. Visitors can enjoy the stunning scenery of the Gulf of Alaska without having to worry about texting, tweeting, emailing or Instagramming. The town, located on the northern side of the Inside Passage region, is full of hiking in the Tongass National Forest, outdoor recreation activities, and Native culture.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California
If you’re looking for an epic, tech-free backpacking trip, try the Sequoia/King’s Canyon National Parks leg of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,600-plus mile stretch through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains from Canada to the Mexico border, recently popularized by Cheryl Strand’s bestselling travel memoir “Wild.” Because of the high elevation, there’s little cell phone and Internet service in most of Sequoia and its neighboring park, King’s Canyon (although you can find free wireless in the Wuksachi Lodge, located in the heart of the park), according to visitsequoia.com. But there are stunning Redwood forests, mountains, and breathtaking views that need no Instagram filter.
The Sahara Desert is likely one of the first places that would come to mind if you were asked to make a list in your head of the world’s most remote locations — and of course, most of its vast expanse are sans connection. But even the border areas of the desert that are more regularly frequented by travelers (generally on the Moroccan side) are blissfully connection-free. Some towns have Internet access, but in most areas, email will have to wait.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Internet and cell phone signals are only sporadically available beyond the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, so you can enjoy your donkey ride down the canyon without fear of interruption by a vibrating phone or work email alerts. The only place to get free WiFi access on the North Rim is at the general store next to the North Rim campground, according to Frommer’s.
Black Forest, Germany
Some of the more rural parts of the Black Forest in southern Germany are without Internet access. European travel blogger Cheryl Howard, who stayed at an isolated resort while teaching English there, told HuffPost Travel, “I fell in love with the beautiful area and enjoyed my time of getting back to basics there (no Internet access).”
Dzanga-Sangha National Park, Central African Republic
Although travel in many parts of the Central African Republic is not advised, the Dzanga-Sangha Reserve, located in the southwestern corner of the country, is an area open to more adventurous travelers seeking to experience the area’s stunning natural beauty. The rainforest reserve is home to gorillas, elephants, forest buffalos and more wildlife, and small groups of visitors can participate in gorilla tracking with the team of researchers that live at the base camp of Bai Hokou. Most visitors travel with tourism groups and stay at the small riverside Doli Lodge. Lonely Planet advises checking with your embassy before planning a visit.
Seize the day, y’all.
Reducing the flow of the greenhouse gases that spur global warming could prevent up to 3 million premature deaths annually by the year 2100, a new study suggests.
Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide trap heat, helping warm the globe. The surge in carbon dioxide levels due to human activity since the Industrial Revolution is now causing an overall warming of the planet that is having impacts around the globe. And the burning of fuel generates not only carbon dioxide, but also air pollutants that are harmful to human health.
Past studies have analyzed how reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would also improve air quality. [5 Ways Climate Change Affects Your Health]
However, most of this previous work has treated any mortality from air pollution as a near-term and local effect, generally not further analyzing how air pollutants can drift across national borders, long-term changes in human populations or the indirect effects of climate change on air quality, said researcher Jason West, an atmospheric scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Now West and his colleagues have devised a global model to simulate likely future scenarios of the interaction between mortality and air pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter (tiny particles suspended in the air).
The researchers found that aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions could help prevent 300,000 to 700,000 premature deaths annually by the year 2030, two-thirds of which would be in China. By 2050, such reductions would prevent 800,000 to 1.8 million premature deaths annually. By 2100, between 1.4 million and 3 million premature deaths annually could be averted.
“We found reducing greenhouse gases could lead to a pretty striking reduction in air pollutants, and thus a pretty significant impact on lives saved,” West told LiveScience.
Based on standard cost-benefit analysis that assigns a monetary value to saving lives, the researchers estimated that reducing a ton of carbon dioxide emissions was valued at $50 to $380.
“This is much more than the costs of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, so this can justify reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the point of view of human health,” West said.
The International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international body that assesses the current science on climate change, is due to release its next summary on climate science on Sept. 27. The panel will also release further reports on how climate change will impact the world, and how it might be mitigated, in 2014.
“Climate change is an important problem that needs strong action, and our study suggests serious benefits to reducing greenhouse gases in addition to helping slow down climate change,” West said. “Many times, long-term global problems such as climate change are hard to act on, but here we show that reducing greenhouse gas emissions can have near-term, local benefits for health, as well, which might strengthen the arguments for action with governments and citizens.”
In the future, researchers can analyze the impacts of efforts to intentionally improve air quality as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions, West said.
West and his colleagues detailed their findings online Sept. 22 in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Seize the day, y’all.
What if I told you that a recent study found that relatively new, unconventional ways to produce oil and gas–horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”–added an average of $1,200 to U.S. household disposable income in 2012? And that this drilling “revolution,” enabling the industry to recover previously inaccessible shale reserves, supported 2.1 million jobs last year and is projected to support 3.3 million by 2020?
Sounds pretty good, no?
But what if I told you that the study not only exaggerates the number of fracking-related jobs, but also that it was funded by the oil and gas industry’s trade association–the American Petroleum Institute (API)–along with, among others, the American Chemistry Council, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Natural Gas Supply Association, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?
Maybe you wouldn’t be as impressed.
What is most egregious about this self-serving study, however, is that it tells only half of the story. What’s missing are oil and gas’s considerable drawbacks, notably their impact on public health, the environment and the climate. It’s analogous to a tobacco industry-funded study claiming a new type of cigarette created new jobs and saved smokers money without mentioning the obvious associated health costs.
Does it matter that this study–the third in a series by the consulting firm IHS Global Insight–is so one-sided? Certainly. News organizations have already reported its findings uncritically, and it bolsters the industry’s cred in Washington, giving the industry’s friends on Capitol Hill another weapon to fight against stricter controls on shale drilling.
Kyle Isakower, API’s vice president for policy and economic analysis, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that a study by a firm of IHS’s stature should impress government officials. “It’s important for us,” he said, “that we’ve got credible data to help educate policymakers about energy policy.”
Credible data? Let’s do a reality check.
IHS Study Inflates Job Numbers
A number of industries have been trying to exploit the jobless economic recovery by claiming they could create millions of jobs if the government would just get out of the way. The oil and gas industry is one of the worst offenders.
Over the last few years, API has funded a number of studies that make dubious job claims. A 2009 PricewaterhouseCoopers study, for example, maintained that the oil and gas industry supports more than 9 million jobs. Another study, conducted by Wood Mackenzie in 2011, estimated that building the Keystone XL pipeline, drilling in protected federal land and coastal waters, and relaxing fracking restrictions would create 1.4 million new jobs.
Like these previous API-funded studies, the IHS study–which just looks at a subset of the industry–overstates the number of jobs linked to shale oil and gas development by including “direct” jobs, “indirect” jobs at oil and gas industry suppliers, and “induced” jobs–the people who provide products and services to oil and gas employees and their suppliers’ employees. According to an API ad promoting its 9 million jobs claim, induced jobs can include just about everybody, from bakers to bank tellers, lawyers to librarians, and real estate agents to retail clerks. All told, the ad cites 42 job categories.
Keeping that in mind, let’s look at IHS’s numbers. The consulting firm says that last year unconventional shale oil and gas development and “energy-related chemicals activity” supported some 2.1 million jobs in the lower 48 states. About 494,000 were direct jobs, nearly 640,000 were indirect jobs, and nearly 1 million were induced. About 17,300 of the workers IHS included in its direct jobs category actually work at chemical plants that manufacture natural gas-based products. IHS counts them because it says they wouldn’t have jobs were it not for the “revolution” in unconventional oil and gas production.
Let’s put aside indirect and induced job stats, which are imprecise at best, and focus on the most reliable data for direct jobs. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the oil and gas industry employed 570,251 people at the end of last year. That includes workers in conventional and unconventional development, as well as 13,641 people in Alaska. Excluding the Alaskan workforce, there were 556,610 employees in the lower 48.
When you compare IHS’s numbers with government data, IHS’s numbers don’t add up. Even if you don’t count the chemical industry jobs, which should be considered indirect anyway, IHS is essentially saying that 85 percent of the oil and gas industry’s employees in the lower 48 states are involved in shale fracking-related work. That’s just not plausible. And no matter how much the industry huffs and puffs about millions of jobs, the fact is the number of people it employs directly–570,251–amounts to only one-half of 1 percent of total U.S. private sector jobs.
The Hidden Costs of Oil and Gas
So what about that extra $1,200 that we supposedly found in our wallets last year? That’s IHS’s estimate of how much more each U.S. household would have had to spend if shale oil and gas were left in the ground. All told, the consulting firm estimates that U.S. households saved $138 billion last year and predicts the savings will jump to $2,700 per household in 2020 and $3,500 in 2025.
Again, IHS is not telling the whole story. There’s no doubt that lower natural gas prices have saved consumers money over the last few years, but there are other factors that have contributed to lower electricity and heating bills, including reduced demand and energy efficiency. And natural gas prices are unlikely to remain so low. The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that after 2015 natural gas prices will rise steadily over the next three decades.
So the consumer benefits are likely temporary, but what about oil and gas’s societal costs? They’re potentially permanent–at least when it comes to the climate. It’s here where IHS study is the most misleading: It left out the bad news.
First of all, oil and gas production causes air and water pollution and, of course, spills. The 2010 BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico is probably the most extreme recent example of what can go wrong, but since then there have been more than 600 oil pipeline spills across the country, the worst of which fouled Michigan’s Kalamazoo River with more than 840,000 gallons of crude. And just last week, massive flooding triggered two large spills and eight other minor releases in Colorado.
On the consumption side, the transportation sector–which still mainly runs on oil–is the biggest source of air pollution nationwide. Chemicals and particulates in vehicle exhaust have been linked to cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. And a recent MIT study published in the journal Atmospheric Environment reviewed air pollution data from nearly 5,700 U.S. cities and found that vehicle exhaust causes 53,000 premature deaths every year.
But oil’s social costs go beyond death and disease. In 1998, the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) issued a report, “The Real Price of Gasoline,” that also factored in oil and gas industry tax breaks and subsidies; the U.S. military presence in oil-rich regions; environmental and social costs; and other externalities, including climate change-related insurance losses. The report may be dated, but its conclusions are still illuminating. It calculated that the price tag for all of gasoline’s external costs ranges from $800.7 billion to $2.4 trillion in today’s dollars–dwarfing IHS’s estimate of $138 billion in energy savings last year.
ICTA made its calculations based on an assessment of conventional oil development. There’s less hard data when it comes to the more recent, unconventional approaches to oil and gas drilling. A September 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on fracking’s environmental and public health risks concluded that those risks, which are primarily to air and water quality, remain largely unknown.
Adrienne Alvord, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) western states director, explains why the GAO came up empty-handed. “Questions about the safety, public health and environmental impacts of fracking have been difficult to answer in many cases because limited information is available in the public domain due to a combination of trade secret protections and uneven, weak or nonexistent regulations,” she said at a UCS-sponsored fracking forum in July. “It’s even difficult to determine where, when and how fracking may be taking place.”
Nevertheless, we do know that oil and gas developers are exempt from key provisions of at least seven of the 15 major federal environmental laws that protect air and water from toxic chemicals. Giving the industry a free pass to flout these safeguards not only allows it to pollute with impunity, it also shifts the cost of monitoring, remediation and cleanup to taxpayers and can have a devastating impact on local communities where frackers have set up shop.
On the consumption side, natural gas may be the cleanest fossil fuel, but it is still a major contributor to global warming. The electric power sector accounts for nearly 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution, and last year natural gas–which recently has been replacing aging coal and nuclear facilities–was responsible for a quarter of those emissions, according to EIA. If more utilities turn to natural gas during the next few decades, the electric power sector could emit 5 percent to 25 percent more carbon emissions than today’s levels through 2050, according to a new UCS report, “Gas Ceiling: Assessing the Climate Risks of an Overreliance on Natural Gas for Electricity.”
The bottom line? The cost of exempting the industry from environmental regulations and failing to rein in its carbon emissions far outweighs any short-term benefits the IHS study touts, exaggerated or not.
Fortunately, there are practical, affordable ways to get to where we need to go. UCS’s National Oil Savings Plan, for example, demonstrates how the United States can cut projected oil use in half over the next 20 years by developing low-carbon fuels and electric vehicles, expanding public transportation alternatives, and improving the energy efficiency of planes, trains, ships, factories and homes. Likewise, UCS’s “Gas Ceiling” report recommends steps that local, state and federal governments can take to improve energy efficiency and boost renewable energy’s share of the electric power supply to 25 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, which the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory says is eminently feasible with today’s commercially available technology.
In the meantime, expect to see a steady stream of slick industry-funded studies gushing over oil and gas. But don’t be fooled. It’s all too appropriate that one of the trade groups that paid for the IHS study was the Fertilizer Institute.
Elliott Negin is the director of news and commentary at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
This post is part of a series on Cultivating Leadership Presence through Mindfulness. The series will culminate in a four-day mindful leadership retreat in New York in October 2013. For more information, visit http://www.mindfulleadership.com/.
I was reaching for the phone to return a professional call when I stopped and noticed what was happening in my body. My hand was shaky, my breath was rapid and shallow and my shoulders were higher than usual by a good inch. I knew that if I tried to speak, I would sound breathy and high-pitched, completely exposed as anxious, which was surely not how I wanted to present myself. I was a bit mystified. Why was my body reacting in fear when I knew, quite rationally, that there was nothing to fear? Were my physiological responses to be ignored, controlled or examined?
I have been practicing yoga for over 40 years and teaching for 18, and I have come to have great respect for the wisdom of my body. I know that sometimes my mind can get caught up in the idea of what is happening rather than the reality, but my body does not lie. So, for me, my body’s responses are worthy of my attention. As I reached for the phone, my body was revealing an aspect of me to myself. It was providing me with important information that was not available to my conscious thinking mode. To be effective in the phone call, in business, and in all of life, it serves me well to have a working relationship with not the idea of myself, but the actual process of myself in that moment, i.e., an awareness of what is really going on, right now, physically, cognitively and emotionally. Obviously, some part of me was afraid when I was reaching for the phone. Examining the fear response that my body was offering and dealing with that response, even though I was busy, was a worthwhile investment of my time.
An important intention in the practice of yoga is the exploration of conditioned responses. Just as meditation reveals the contents of the mind, yoga postures reveal the patterns of the body. On the mat, we see the way we hold ourselves. We see, for example, how we collapse our chests, overarch our backs, jut our chins forward, tilt our pelvises and roll to the insides of our feet. It is only when something is made known to us that we can consciously relate to it. In the moment that we notice our misalignments, we can correct them.
So, how does this relate to your life? Every thought that moves through your mind creates a cascade of physiological responses in your body. The animal aspect of ourselves is continuously operating to maintain homeostasis, to process incoming data and above all else, to survive. Unless we consciously examine ourselves, many of our reactions will be based on conditioned responses that are the product of survival instincts or past experience. We may think that we are acting based on present data when, in fact, our survival mechanisms are creating internal reactions based on unexamined previous experiences. This not only impacts our behavior, but what others observe in us.
This is why it is so important to 1.) have an ongoing relationship with your body and 2.) check in periodically with your body. In any given moment, it is helpful to ask yourself, “What is happening now?” Information about breath, tension and physical reactions is invaluable. It reflects you to yourself so that you can notice, examine and choose how to deal with what is revealed. This literally makes your body your business, not just for reasons of health, but because your body impacts every decision you make, every action you take and what others see in you.
When you notice that you are not breathing fully, you can choose to breathe fully. When you notice your shoulders are tense, you can release your shoulders. When you notice your stomach is tight or your jaw is locked, you can choose to relax. But, perhaps, more importantly, you will learn something about your inner life. And to be effective in the world, both personally and professionally, we are wise to know what is going on around us and within us. How we react in any given moment contributes greatly to the outcome of our behavior. If we don’t see ourselves fully and others do, at the very least, communication is impaired. Imagine this common but less than ideal scenario. Someone is looking at your red face, flaring nostrils and clenched fists, literally witnessing your anger, while you maintain that you are not upset.
Your body is precious, always with you and the vehicle for manifesting your mind. Whether you practice yoga or not, you are always holding postures. Imagine a snapshot of yourself when you are reprimanding someone, denying someone something, asking for something or appreciating someone. Visualize your body’s pattern of holding. Enlightenment is the product of bringing to light any awareness that was previously in darkness. Close your eyes and explore the sensations of your body. What is vibrating with life? What is tight and defended? What is flowing with pleasure?
Befriend your body and it can be a great ally, aligned with your intentions. Deny your body and it can be a formidable opponent, at odds with your intentions.
So, to lead effectively and successfully, it is wise to make your body your business.
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