Nature & Environment Archive


Zero Waste: How to Untrash the Planet

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Waste. We make it every single day. But how often do we think about it? It’s easy enough to throw your garbage in a trashcan and never think of it again. Out of sight, out of mind—right?

Not for long. “New research showed that the annual volume of that waste could double by 2025, thanks to growing prosperity and urbanization,” writes Paul Connett, author of The Zero Waste Solution and contributor to the documentary film Trashed. “Translation: Rather than producing 1.3 billion tons per year, as we do now, we could soon be producing 2.6 billion tons.” Soon, it will be impossible for us to avoid our own waste.

But there’s hope. Through research, case studies, and profiles, Paul Connett’s The Zero Waste Solution introduces problem-solving techniques to rid the planet of as much waste as possible by 2020. “If we lave the waste problem to itself, we are part of a nonsustainable way of living on this planet with huge consequences for human health and the global environment,” writes Connett in the Foreword. “However, with good leadership we can become part of the solution.”

Inspiring Zero Waste initiatives already exist worldwide, in places like:

  • San Francisco, CA: By 2012, they achieved 80 percent waste diverted and are continuing to move forward;
  • Austin, TX: Has plans to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills 90 percent by 2030;
  • Sicily, Italy: This small island is playing a large role in the fight against incinerators—expensive, unsustainable, toxin-producing waste disposers; and many more.

In his latest book, Connett imagines a world in which cities, regions, and countries with zero waste initiatives were not mere case studies and hopeful examples, but the worldwide norm.

The Zero Waste Solution is for all those concerned about humanity’s health and environment, writes Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons in the Foreword. “Essential reading for anyone fighting landfills, incineration, overpackaging, and the other by-products of our unthinking and irresponsible throwaway society.”

The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time is available now and on sale for 35% off until November 11th.

Read Chapter 2: Ten Steps Toward a Zero Waste Community:

Flying Blind: Buckthorn, Bureaucracy & Bats

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Flying Blind is more than just a story about one man’s battles with bats, buckthorn, authority and byzantine government regulations.

Celebrated author Howard Frank Mosher says Don Mitchell’s forthcoming memoir “does for rural New England what Wendell Berry’s essays do for Kentucky and Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It does for the American West.”

As the title suggests, the book is also about…bats. Not just any bats. Endangered bats. Or, as Mitchell first thinks of them — “flying rats.”

“On the few occasions when I’d actually seen a bat skitter through the night sky—flying with the crazy, unpredictable movements that call to mind the way a fox can dance across the land—my response was apprehensive,” writes Don Mitchell in the opening of his new book, Flying Blind. “Flying rats, they seemed to me.”

How could a man with such an aversion to these nightly creatures dedicate much of his post-retirement to their conservation, literally crawling on hands and knees to create a safe, nesting habitat?

It wasn’t easy. Flying Blind tells the story of Mitchell’s coming to terms with authority figures, whether in the form of his father or the federal government, as he navigates—mentally and physically—regulations, pesky invasives and ends up connecting deeply with a species that once gave him “the willies.”

Flying Blind is now available. Take 35% off through August 19, 2013.

Click below to view photos of Mitchell’s work at Treleven Farm:

Flying Blind Slide Show by Chelsea Green Publishing

Mosher, the author of Where the Rivers Flow North, and Walking to Gatlinburg, among other novels, notes that Flying Blind is “the story of how place, the past, family, and meaningful work can still form character at a time when much of America is increasingly alienated from nature, history, and community. Beautifully written, relentlessly honest, and unfailingly entertaining, Flying Blind is the book Don Mitchell was born to write.”

Join Don Mitchell for a Bat Walk
Interested in experiencing the book’s setting firsthand? Don is offering tours of the forest at Treleven Farm in Vermont to take readers through the bat zones, share his experiences and discuss Flying Blind. If you’re visiting the green mountains during leaf peeping season, stop by Don’s on a Saturday morning at 10am to take the 90-minute tour (last tour will be Saturday, November 2, 2013).

Read an excerpt from Flying Blind below.

Authority by Chelsea Green Publishing

Five Cities that Could be the Next Chernobyl

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Twenty-seven years ago today, a power surge caused an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. A plume of radioactive smoke spread fallout across Europe, making this the most devastating nuclear accident since we first smashed atoms to make electricity.

Could your town be the next Chernobyl? If you live near one of these five nuclear plants you might want to invest in a family-pack of haz-mat suits.

No power plant is completely problem-free, but five are the worst because they’ve suffered from the most dangerous accidents, or have had an abnormal number of near-misses, or are located near massive numbers of people who would suffer in a catastrophe. Despite a dodgy record of ignoring safety abuses and refusing to reprimand violators, even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agrees that these plants are accidents waiting to happen.

From New York City to San Diego, the danger of nuclear catastrophe hits far too close to home. Literally in the case of Vermont Yankee, which is, unfortunately, on this list. We’ve put together a slideshow of images of the five plants, as well as an excerpt from Nuclear Roulette that details the inexcusable mistakes and alarming history of mismanagement that makes them all so scary.

What has Four Legs, Says “Moo,” and Could Save the Planet?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Many of us have been taught that overgrazing, methane-emitting livestock turn green pastures into arid deserts and are responsible for the widespread desertification that threatens precious biodiversity, soil quality, and more.

Not so, as Allan Savory explains in his TED Talk, “We were once just as certain that the world was flat. We were wrong then, and we are wrong again.” You can see in the photograph below the difference between properly managed land on the right, and overgrazed, eroded and degraded land on the left:

In the aptly-titled Cows Save the Planet, journalist Judith D. Schwartz debunks the myth that cows and livestock pose threats to our land. You may think it unlikely that these pastured grazers are the soil saviors we need, but it’s true. Through holistic management and planned grazing, cows can help rebuild soil and restore land to its rightful state—improving carbon sequestration, natural water cycles, and soil fertility and nutrient density.

The solution to climate change, and a host of other environmental ills, is right under our feet, Schwartz explains. And what better time than the week of Earth Day to join Schwartz and the many scientists, ecologists, farmers, and experts (including Savory) featured in Cows Save the Planet and uncover all the reasons why we should be celebrating cattle as a way to improve our soils.

When managed properly, soils can help reverse the effects of:

  • climate change
  • desertification
  • biodiversity loss
  • droughts, floods
  • wildfires
  • rural poverty
  • malnutrition
  • and obesity

In the foreword, Gretel Ehrlich puts it best: “Judith Schwartz’s book gives us not just hope but also a sense that we humans—serial destroyers that we are—can actually turn the climate crisis around. This amazing book, wide-reaching in its research, offers nothing less than solutions for healing the planet.”

Cows Save the Planet is available now and on sale for 35% off. Read the introduction below.

Cows Save the Planet: Introduction

A Chilling List of Nuclear Meltdown Near Misses

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Three Mile Island, the nuclear plant in Pennsylvania that melted down on this day in 1979, is synonymous with nuclear disaster. The meltdown was stopped before any serious damage occurred, but 34 years after this near miss at Three Mile Island, how safe are we from this kind of catastrophe?

Ask the residents of San Clemente, California, who live in the shadow of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. The plant has been offline for months since an “unusual” leak was found to be releasing radioactive steam into the environment. Or ask the folks of Burlington, Kansas where the Wolf Creek Generating Station suddenly lost power last winter after faulty wiring tripped a breaker and blew a transformer.  These are just two of the dozen nuclear plants that had close calls last year. From equipment failures to bumbling workers, and vulnerabilities to extreme weather and earthquakes, nuclear plants are ticking time bombs.

In the excerpt below, Gar Smith, author of Nuclear Roulette, reminds us that while we imagine nuclear technology to be as advanced as what we see on Star Trek, in reality the first reactors began construction in the US actually predate NASA — and the control rooms that manage these relics aren’t even as advanced as Homer Simpson’s — they still use out-dated analog dials and alarms. Not exactly the kind of thing you’d want to be all done up in retro style, right?

But that’s okay, because surely the industry watchdog tasked with keeping us safe from the hazards of nuclear radiation is doing its best to monitor safety violations and respond to lackadaisical plant managers with harsh fines and penalties. Well no. In fact the Nuclear Regulatory Commission more often than not fails to enforce its own regulations, seriously undermining the safety net between us and the inherent dangers posed by nuclear power.

A recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists takes the NRC to task for these failures, pointing out how the even culture within the Commission itself encourages a lack of oversight. For example, NRC managers don’t listen to their employees, and actually chastise them for pointing out safety violations at inspected plants! The UCS report goes on to outline the year’s most serious malfunctions at nuclear reactors across the country: 14 worrisome mishaps at 12 reactors.

Do you live near one of the faulty reactors? Read the full report, and all the scary mishaps that occurred last year on the UCS website. And then stock up on potassium iodide and haz-mat suits.

If you still feel good about nuclear energy, the excerpt below from Chapter 19 of Nuclear Roulette, should fix that. It covers a morbidly fascinating list of worker errors, stories of the NRC ignoring serious violations, and even more plants that have come awfully close to blowing their radioactive tops. And last but not least, check out Mat Stein’s article about the risks posed by that other nuclear energy source we love so much, the sun. With a big enough solar flare we could be facing “400 Chernobyls.”

Near Misses and Unbelievable Mishaps: From Nuclear Roulette by Chelsea Green Publishing

What They Won’t Tell You About Nuclear Power Could Kill You

Monday, March 11th, 2013

There’s a reason why we still haven’t heard the official story about the extent of contamination after the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima: when the radioactive waste hits the fan, the regulators just plain lie.

Two years ago today, the tsunami that swamped eastern Japan set off a nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, just 200 miles north of Tokyo — the largest metropolitan area on Earth. The resulting disaster was the biggest since Chernobyl (whose anniversary is also coming up, on April 26th).

Add the near-disaster at Three-Mile Island on March 28, 1979, and the nuclear power industry is averaging either a major meltdown or a terrifying near-miss every decade. Yet the regulators are quick to tell us everything’s fine, nothing to see here folks, just keep using our cheap, plentiful, clean electricity…

The truth is, nuclear energy is neither clean, nor cheap, and it certainly is not safe.

The excerpt below from Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth explains why you shouldn’t be so quick to listen to the official story.

Why You Can’t Believe the Official Story About Nuclear Energy by Chelsea Green Publishing

Spotlight on Sourlands at Top Environmental Film Festivals

Friday, February 1st, 2013

From Golden, Colorado to Washington, D.C., the story of a small forest in New Jersey is finding admirers.Sourlands, distributed on DVD by Chelsea Green Publishing and Hundred Year Films, hits the road in 2013 as an official selection of the Colorado Environmental Film Festival, the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, and the Princeton Environmental Film Festival.

“The film explores a timely question: With 7 billion people on Earth, how can we make sure the natural world doesn’t get squeezed into oblivion?” says director Jared Flesher.

To find answers, Flesher went to a small forest in New Jersey — the nation’s most densely populated state — and started following around the locals. The colorful subjects of the film are a diverse bunch: hunters, farmers, birders, biologists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

“Ultimately, this isn’t a story about trees,” says Flesher. “It’s a story about regular people looking for good, meaningful work, a sense of home, and some balance in their lives.”

Flesher worked as a one-man film crew, exploring every corner of the Sourlands forest and the surrounding community over 16 months of production. He credits a 1968 book by author John McPhee, The Pine Barrens, as an inspiration for the film.

“John McPhee showed me that the best way to tell an environmental story relevant to people everywhere is, paradoxically, to tell a good story about just one small corner of the world.”

Sourlands screens at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival on Feb. 9, the Colorado Environmental Film Festival on Feb. 24, and the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital on March 13. A full listing of upcoming Sourlands screenings is available at www.sourlands.com.

Director Jared Flesher can be reached at [email protected]

Why I’m On A Hunger Strike — Diane Wilson

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Diane Wilson is a long time environmental activist, the author of Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, and An Unreasonable Woman, and an injured worker advocate in the Texas Gulf Coast. She is presently on a hunger strike to stop Valero from investing in the Canada tar sands. She forwarded us this letter last week…

Workers! Demand Valero divest from tar sands. The life you save may just be your own.

I’m a fourth generation fisherwoman from the Texas Gulf Coast. For forty years I have made a living on a shrimp boat plying the Gulf Coast waters, but for the past twenty-five years, I have fought a long and difficult battle with industry to preserve the health and wellbeing of our Texas bays and marine life for our children and our children’s children.

Today I am involved in one of my most difficult challenges. I am on the 35th day of a hunger strike that I began to convince Valero to divest from Canada’s tar sands.

Many stakeholders have been pulled into this fight that is so colossal and mind boggling that it can almost be called biblical and not be an exaggeration. The indigenous tribes of the First Nation in Canada, land owners, cities’ water supplies, communities surrounding the refineries, and the very planet that we call home are all being threatened by the extraction of tar sands and the XL pipeline that is snaking its way from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

Workers in the refinery don’t get mentioned much and that’s pretty surprising given that workers are ground zero for exposure from the refining of tar sands.

When a refinery uses a bitumen blend from Canada’s tar sands, it is using a raw material that contains large quantities of sulfur. This means U.S. refineries using tar sands generally produce more intense sulfur dioxide air pollution that is, today, not adequately regulated. The result is heightened health risks not only to communities living near tar sands refineries, but also to the workers inside.

In fact, workers are the most direct line for sulfur dioxide poisoning.

A few statistics from publicly available sources indicate that, in general, tar sands refineries spew more sulfur dioxide pollution per barrel produced than refineries that do not use tar sands. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), short- term exposure to elevated sulfur dioxide levels is associated with reduced lung function, chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath, respiratory illness, deterioration of the lung’s defense systems, and the aggravation of cardiovascular systems.

In addition, a refinery’s processing of tar sands leaves a toxic cocktail of 20 by-products (often at 1,000 times above the safe limit) that include the cancer-causing chemicals benzene, toluene, and hydrogen sulfide.

Now I know what some workers are going to say when they read this. I know because I’ve asked them and they say, “Smells like money to me!” or “Not me! I’m healthy! ” Or “That’s why I have two life insurance policies.”

Then stuff happens.

The experts say 870,000 workers get sick and 55,000-60,000 die each year in the United States from an occupational disease. Then the experts add the caveat that these numbers are undoubtedly underestimates. How much of an underestimate? Well, as much as 69 percent of illnesses and injuries never make it to the Bureau of Labor statistics. And the vast majority of workers with an occupational illness never receive any benefits from workers compensation.

Ask any injured worker who’s developed an illness brought on by exposure to a chemical and he can recite a litany of reasons why help never comes.

Work related illnesses are difficult to identify, especially those with long periods between exposure and illness. Part of the problem is simply an absence of data on the health effects of hazardous exposures. Absolutely nothing is known about potential toxicity for more than 85percent of chemicals in use in industry. In addition, routine training on known hazards and their effects is lacking. The average doctor receives 4 hours or less of training in occupational medicine in a 4 year medical school curriculum.

But the major reason is Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) reliance on employers self-reporting. Employers have strong incentives for underreporting illnesses or not at all. Businesses with few illnesses on the job are least likely to receive inspections from OSHA, they have lower worker compensation insurance premiums, and they have a better chance of winning government contracts.

There are other reasons. Employers and Worker compensations Insurers have major incentives to deny a connection between a workplace exposure and disease. Every occupational disease that is not recognized saves them money by socializing the cost on to someone else, mostly injured workers, their families, and taxpayers.

Workers themselves may not want to suggest their health problem is work related, fearing they might lose their job or suffer retribution from an employer angered by a Workers Compensation claim. Workers report widespread harassment and intimidation when they report an injury or illness. Reports, testimonies, and new accounts show that many employers fire or discipline workers who report injuries or illnesses or complain about a safety problem. Other employers add demerits to a workers record for reportable illnesses or injuries or absenteeism that resulted from an alleged safety violation.

This is all just to say: Workers! Demand Valero divest from tar sands. The life you save may just be your own.

In This State: Tim Matson is Vermont’s Supreme Ponderer of Ponds

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Tim Matson, author of Landscaping Earth Ponds, is Vermont’s resident expert on small-scale, man-made bodies of water. His work as a pond consultant, as well as his book and DVD, have been leading people to water for years, and this week Matson was profiled on VTDigger’s series In This State.

Article by Dick Van Susteren.

Like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, Tim Matson travels the countryside bringing value to landscape – only he plants ponds not fruit trees. By his reckoning, in 25 years he has helped design or revitalize some 500 ponds in Vermont.

Matson has found an income stream with ponds, and why not? John Chapman (Appleseed), was known to pick up a free lunch here and there during his meanderings with seed bags across the Midwest.

Pond consulting augments freelancing for this writer-photographer from Strafford. If Vermont decides it ever needs an official pond guru, as it has a state flower and bird, Matson would be a top candidate.

Tim Matson pond

Pond consultant and author Tim Matson offered consultation on this Orange County pond, a little gem that cost less than $2,000 to build. (Photo furnished by Tim Matson)

It all began in 1971 when Matson, then 28, joined thousands of other counter-culture types in immigrating to Vermont, where farmland was cheap and native residents were generally tolerant of newcomers, even those with long hair.

Matson had done a stint in the military, where he had the good luck, in his mind, to avoid Vietnam by being accepted at Army photography school. After his service he wangled a job in book publishing in New York, where his father had been a noted literary agent.

He wound up at divisions of Simon & Schuster, pulling a decent salary as a jack-of-all-trades, copy editing, buying reprint rights, writing book jacket copy, sometimes even taking photos. Matson, now gray-haired, dates himself by mentioning he had a role in helping to bring Yippie Abbie Hoffman’s book, “Revolution for the Hell of It,” to paperback.

On a cold December day in a field in central Vermont, where he is scoping out possible pond sites for a landowner, he mentions with a laugh that it was his photo of author Joe McGinniss that graced the back cover another political classic of the times: “The Selling of the President, 1968,” the story of hucksterism in Richard Nixon’s campaign.

As befits the historic stereotype, Matson arrived in Vermont in a VW bug, a red one at that. He had grown “absolutely and totally sick of the city,” and unhappy with the political system, he says, he was moved by the “back-to-the-land movement” of the period.

His first brush with ponds was the waterhole at a farmhouse that he and a girlfriend had rented in Thetford. It turned out to be a perfect place for hippie parties, skinny-dipping and other wild affairs. He tasted the pond bait and was hooked.

Three years later, with help of a $7,500 advance on his second book (“Pilobolus,” a photo essay of the famous Dartmouth College dance group), Matson bought 45 woodland acres in Strafford and pitched a tent he called home and began building a cabin, with among other tools, a chainsaw. He got along without electricity, put in vegetable gardens, cleared a spot in the alders for his second pond, and then hired a guy with a backhoe.

“I grew up in Connecticut on the Sound, and found that I missed the water, and I wondered where it all was in Vermont,” he says. He couldn’t find enough of it close by, “so I had this pond dug.”

Marriage and two daughters (now grown) followed, and the pond became the focus of family life: Swimming in summer, ice-skating in winter, and, always it seemed, opportunities for social life and observing wildlife.

A snapshot taken years ago of pond designer Tim Matson’s daughters as they enjoy the water on a summer day at the family home in Strafford. (Photo furnished by Tim Matson)

Matson embraced rural life, and, as a freelance writer began writing essays and how-to’s about back-40 ponds for the likes of Harrowsmith, Mother Earth News, Country Journal and Yankee Magazine.

For children and the young at heart, he says, ponds are part zoo, playground, museum and amusement park.

“Kids love to hang out at them, make mud pies, fool around with salamanders, and watch dragonflies,” he says.

“I think too many kids today suffer from what a friend of mine calls ‘nature-deficit disorder’. … They are too much into phones and computers; they live in a screen world.”

Matson is bullish on family ponds of all sizes and shapes, but he’s quick to warn that a once-promising body of water can easily become a costly headache if poorly designed. They can turn to algae-infested quagmires They can even disappear due to drought or leakage.

A pond can also cost a lot, anywhere from $5,000 to more than $50,000, he explains.

Walking across the brown-gray landscape and looking for potential pond sites, and carefully choosing verbs that sidestep certitude, Matson says, “That could be a spot.”

Keep reading over at VTDigger

When Technology Fails: The Compact Survival Kit

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

When the poop hits the fan, you don’t want to be caught with your pants down—so to speak. You’ll want to have your compact emergency survival kit packed and at the ready—and as small and light as possible. That means packing only the essentials.

For more tips and advice from Stein, check out his recent appearance on FireDogLake’s Book Salon, here. Author Barry Eisler hosted the online event, and Stein answered reader questions about topics such as water storage and purification.

Being prepared for the worst doesn’t involve a one-shot prescription for everyone. As Mat said in response to a reader, “If you have little money, focus on skills and knowledge. If you are old and infirm, focus on friends and relationships. No one person can know, do, and have it all. Focus on that which is within your physical and financial means.”

In the excerpt below, Mat Stein tells you exactly what you need in your compact survival kit.

The following is an excerpt from When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, Revised and Expanded by Matthew Stein. It has been adapted for the Web.

Be prepared. The following basic survival kit is small enough to slip into the top pocket of a knapsack or a coat pocket. It fits into a 2-ounce tobacco tin or other small case, and its weight is hardly noticeable. Polish the inside of the case to a mirror finish for signaling. Check the contents of the case regularly, to replace items that have exceeded their shelf lives. Tape the box seams with duct tape to waterproof the container.

  • Matches. Fire can be started by other means, but matches are the easiest. Waterproof matches are useful, but bulkier than ordinary stick matches. You can waterproof ordinary matches by dipping them in molten candle wax. Break large kitchen matches in half to save room for more matches. Include a striker torn from a book of paper matches.
  • Candle. Great for helping to start a fire with damp wood, as well as for a light and heat source. Shave it square to save space in your kit.
  • Flint with steel striker. Flint will last long after your matches are used up. You must find very dry, fine tinder to start a fire with sparks from a flint. Solid magnesium fire-starter kits are an excellent improvement on the traditional flint with steel. Using a knife to scrape magnesium shavings from the magnesium bar, you light the shavings with a spark from the flint, and they burn hotly to easily ignite the tinder.
  • Magnifying glass. Useful for starting a fire with direct sunlight or for finding splinters.
  • Needle and thread. Choose several needles, including at least one with a very large eye, which can handle yarn, sinew, or heavy thread. Wrap with several feet of extra-strong thread.
  • Fishhooks and line. A selection of different hooks in a small tin or packet. Include several small, split-lead sinkers and as much fishing line as possible.
  • Compass. A small, luminous-dial compass (for night reading). Make sure that you know how to read it and that the needle swings freely. A string is handy for hanging it around your neck for regular reference.
  • Micro-flashlight. A keychain LED-type (light emitting diode) lamp, such as the Photon Microlight II. It is useful for reading a map at night or following a trail when there is no moon.
  • Brass wire. Three to five feet of lightweight brass wire. Wire is useful for making snares and repairing things.
  • Flexible saw. These come with large rings for handles that can be removed to allow it to fit into your kit. While using the saw, insert sticks through the end loops for more useful and comfortable handles. Coat the saw with a film of grease or oil to protect it from rust.


Figure 4-1. Compact survival kit.

  • Survival knife. For overnight backcountry travel or as part of your car kit, I would also carry a stout knife with about a 6-inch blade. If the knife has a folding blade, it should have a heavy-duty blade lock. It should be strong enough to use as a pry and to split branches and cut hardwoods without damage. You may need a knife to fabricate crude tools, such as a bow and drill for starting a fire without matches. A variety of “survival” knives are available; they are capable of cutting various materials, including thin sheet metal, and will do nicely. If the knife has a fixed blade, it should be covered in a sheath that it can’t easily cut through. Some knives come with a small sharpening stone in the sheath, which is a nice feature.
  • Condom. When placed in a sock or other cloth for protection and support, this makes a good emergency water bottle.
  • Compact medical kit. Vary the contents depending on your skill and needs. Pack medicines in airtight containers with cotton balls to prevent powdering and rattling. The following list, which is a rough guide, will cover most needs.
    • Mild pain reliever. Pack at least ten of your favorite aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol, or other pain reliever.
    • Diarrhea medicine. Immodium is usually favored. Take two capsules initially, and then one each time a loose stool is passed.
    • Antibiotic. For general infections. People who are sensitive to penicillin can use tetracycline. Carry enough for a full course of 5 to 7 days. Use Echinacea or grapefruit seed extract from the health food store, if prescription antibiotics are not available.
    • Antihistamine. For allergies, insect bites, and stings, use Benadryl or equivalent.
    • Water purification tablets. Much lighter and more compact than a filter. For use when you can’t boil your water.
    • Potassium permanganate. Has several uses. Add to water and mix until water becomes bright pink to sterilize it, a deeper pink to make a topical antiseptic, and a full red to treat fungal diseases, such as athlete’s foot.
    • Salt tablets. Salt depletion can lead to muscle cramps and loss of energy. Carry 5 to 10 salt tablets.
    • Surgical blades. At least two scalpel blades of different sizes. A handle can be made of wood, if required.
    • Butterfly sutures. To hold edges of wounds together.
    • Band-Aids. Assorted sizes, preferably waterproof, for covering minor wounds and keeping them clean. Can be cut to make butterfly sutures (adapted from Wiseman 1996, 16).

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