Solutions We LoveYES! But How? Hurry! Plant Milkweedscroll down arrow

YES! Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

Hurry! Plant Milkweed

YES! Illustration by by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

Return of the Monarch

YES! Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

YES! Illustrations by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

Winter is a perfect time to show migrating monarchs some butterfly love. Monarchs pair — bug talk for mating — over the winter in Mexico and California, and in February they begin their 2,500-mile journey north to Canada. It takes up to seven generations to get there, as each generation breeds and dies along the way. To help them, you’ll have to get passionate about milkweed.

Milkweed is a perennial wildflower. It’s the only plant monarch butterflies lay eggs on, so it’s needed along their entire migratory path. Its leaves are the only food source their larvae will eat. Eastern Monarch populations have plummeted 90 percent in just the last two decades due to the loss of milkweed, whose habitat has been converted to farms — herbicide-tolerant corn and soybean fields with heavy pesticide use — and roads and other development. Climate change also threatens their migration patterns.

When Brad Grimm took his fiancée to the Monarch Trail at Natural Bridges State Park in California on Valentine’s Day in 2013 to show her the thousands of monarchs he’d seen there 20 years earlier, they counted just five. Western monarchs, which traditionally mobbed that part of California in the winter, have declined to the point that the species will likely go extinct in the next few decades if nothing is done.

Monarchs are an indicator species telling us something is wrong with our environment. They share their habitat with birds, bats, bees, and other pollinators responsible for producing one-third of our food supply.

Back home in Sparks, Nevada, Grimm wanted to help the bugs make a comeback by planting milkweed but couldn’t find any at his local nursery. They directed him to a nearby park.

“There are plants growing in the parks, mostly along rivers and streams, even irrigation ditches,” Grimm said. “The next year, ironically, the local nursery had native narrow-leaf milkweed growing by their entrance but didn’t seem know about the plant or its value to the monarchs because they cut the plants back in mid-July, when monarchs need milkweed the most.”

Grimm’s initial difficulty in finding seeds and plants turned into a passion. He started a seed store, Grow Milkweed Plants. In September he sold 221 packets. He planted the Biggest Little Butterfly Garden in the World, registered by the nonprofit Monarch Watch as Monarch Waystation 8269. All of his profits go to monarch conservation. He hopes to earn enough to buy land for the monarchs.

It’s not hard to make a huge difference in the life of a monarch. Here are five ways.

Grow Milkweed

In North America, there are more than 100 species of milkweed (genus Asclepias), and the first step is finding a kind native to your area — experts like Grow Milkweed Plants or Xerces Society can help.

Fall and winter are the perfect time to start milkweed from seeds. In general, milkweed seeds need a 30-day cold period to germinate, so planting them outdoors in the cold weather is ideal. You’ll have plants by spring.

Alternatively, you can germinate them indoors by putting them in the refrigerator between damp paper towels in a plastic bag for three to six weeks. Give them a head start before spring by planting the germinated seeds indoors in small pots, then transplant them outdoors before temperatures reach the mid-80s. Water well until the plants are established.

You can also buy potted milkweed to transplant.

YES! Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

YES! Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

Put Milkweed in Small Spaces …

Small yard? No yard? Place pots of milkweed on your patio or porch where you can delight in watching the caterpillars and butterflies. Monarch butterflies need nectar from a variety of plants, so grow other flowers, too.

… and Large Spaces

Create Monarch Waystations at residences, businesses, parks, zoos, nature centers, and along roadsides or other unused plots of land. Ten milkweed plants, representing at least two varieties, become a monarch hub, with enough milkweed for their ongoing feeding. Now you’re rolling, and ready to launch a community effort.

Don’t Use ’Cides

Monarchs are insects, and all ’cides — herbicides, fungicides, insecticides — are poisonous, either to insects or the plants they eat. Garden organically to keep pests away without killing beneficial insects. And do what you can to make sure your community doesn’t use these chemicals.

YES! Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

YES! Illustration by Enkhbayar Munkh-Erdene

Get Community Cooperation

Lobby your local representatives to support the Monarch Joint Venture, a partnership of federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, and citizens working to conserve monarch butterfly migration. Since milkweed can be toxic to livestock, many areas target it for eradication. Ask to stop roadside mowing, and ask to allow milkweed and other nectar plants to grow along monarch migratory corridors, in parks, and important monarch breeding grounds.

For Cookbook Author, Food Is an Ally Against Dementia

She can’t remember recipes and food doesn’t taste the same, but Paula Wolfert believes food is a key to helping her slow her cognitive decline.

Paula Wolfert

Over the past several years, Paula Wolfert has been investigating if and how diet can keep dementia symptoms at bay. She stays current with the latest brain health studies and consults with her neurologist, a naturopath, and leaders in the dementia community. Photo by Eric Wolfinger / Getty Image

Five years ago, Paula Wolfert suddenly couldn’t remember how to make an omelet as she walked into her kitchen to prepare one. This would be unsettling for anyone who likes to cook, but for 50 years Wolfert was a leader in the culinary world, having popularized Mediterranean and North African cuisines in the United States. Wolfert had published eight award-winning cookbooks and hundreds of articles. Her culinary adventures were captured in a 2016 book called Unforgettable. In Alice Waters’ foreword to the book, she acknowledged Wolfert’s mastery: “Every element was thoroughly researched and thought out, tested over and over, clearly and logically recorded, and beautifully executed.”

Wolfert’s omelet problem, she found out, was due to a rare form of dementia, posterior cortical atrophy, similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

Now 80, she is fighting dementia with the same ferocity that she applied to studying the intricacies of French cassoulet and Moroccan couscous. Her primary weapon is what she knows best — food.

She follows a strict daily regimen involving nutrient-dense foods, nutrition supplements, and intermittent fasting, along with physical activity, a focused sleep routine, and scheduled social engagement. She keeps up on the latest brain health studies and consults with her neurologist, a naturopath, and leaders in the dementia community.

She believes that her changed lifestyle has helped slow her cognitive decline and given her a measure of control. And she resists the stigma associated with dementia.

“I don’t have any shame about this disease,” she says. “It’s not my fault. Too many people get scared of what having the disease means and what other people will think. They deny, and they hide.” Wolfert prefers to be open. She willingly shares her story and was a spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“No Cure” — Then What?

Dementia is a term for a variety of disorders related to mental decline from damage to the brain’s nerve cells. It affects memory, language skills, judgment, and comprehension, among other functions. Though it usually occurs in older people, contrary to common, belief dementia is not a normal part of aging. There currently is no cure.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and the disease makes up 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases in the U.S. Though lifestyle efforts are promoted to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, research is still at early stages for whether they can help those with the disease.

Increasingly, people are exploring self-care options like diet and exercise to ward off or lessen the severity of other mental health issues as well, such as anxiety and depression.

Why are so many people pursuing their own solutions?

Neurologist Dr. Dean Sherzai and his wife, Ayesha, also a neurologist, are the co-directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda Medical Center and authors of The Alzheimer’s Solution. Says Dean, “Billions of dollars have been spent chasing brain molecules and medications to solve the problem, [yet] in 2018, we’re still no closer to a solution.”

Doctors like the Sherzais and many patients believe that the common medical protocol is flawed: Once a patient is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of progressive degenerative dementia, he or she is essentially told to “settle your affairs, quit your job, and accept your fate,” says Kate Swaffer, the CEO of Dementia Alliance International, a support and advocacy group.

Swaffer, 59, is the author of What the Hell Happened to My Brain? She was diagnosed 10 years ago with a type of dementia that is now called the semantic variant of primary progressive aphasia. She says that when she was first diagnosed, there were no drugs for it. “Instead of saying to me ‘Be as well as possible,’ they just basically told me to go home and die. I wasn’t referred to anyone for follow-up care.”

She says the medical industry’s focus on a pharma cure rather than patient care left her alarmed and adrift, and it still happens to patients today.

Monica Moreno, the senior director of care and support for the Alzheimer’s Association agrees that more work needs to be done to help patients live a positive, productive life with Alzheimer’s. A small stride was made in January, when Medicare began allowing care that includes planning “life after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.”

Committing to a New Way of Life

Without much medical guidance, people with dementia and their caregivers are left to figure things out for themselves.

Wolfert did. And Swaffer devised her own plan after researching and consulting a nurse, a new neurologist, and health care practitioners familiar with helping people recover from a brain injury. Swaffer also eats a limited diet and uses meditation to help with her focus, mood, and pain. She also participates in cognitive and physical rehabilitation and works with a naturopath for supplements and ayurvedic treatments.

Swaffer says, “The lifestyle changes I made haven’t cured me, but they definitely have slowed the progression of the disease.”

One of the other key tenets of the advocacy group is peer-to-peer support. “We are the experts of the lived experience of dementia,” Swaffer says. Socializing and laughing together and sharing resources are fundamental for people to help deal with the sometimes frightening symptoms they face. Social interaction not only helps a person’s emotional state but brain function as well. Wolfert and Swaffer each host several support groups, and there are also many online outlets: the 26,000-­member Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support Group on Facebook, the Alzheimer’s Association’s ALZConnected, and the ApoE4 forum for people with high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Can Dementia Be “Reversed”?

In the forums and group talks members may swap stories on the best form of magnesium for brain health or research on cannabis for better sleep.

And they talk about the Bredesen Protocol.

Dr. Dale Bredesen’s work has been one of the more buzzed-about topics in recent years because he says he has reversed Alzheimer’s cognitive decline in his patients. He is a professor and the founding president of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and the author of The End of Alzheimer’s. He has been studying degenerative brain disorders for 30 years.

Bredesen says that the medical community hasn’t solved the dementia puzzle because the focus on a drug fix is an oversimplified approach. “That’s like trying to apply a checkers strategy to a chess match,” he says. “What are the root causes for the problem?’”

left double quoteThe lifestyle changes I made haven’t cured me, but they definitely have slowed the progression of the disease.” — Kate Swaffer

Dementia is complex. “Most people have at least 10 or up to 25 contributing factors, such as inflammation, exposure to toxins, insulin resistance, too much stress, hormonal imbalances, genetics, nutrition deficiency, gut microbiome imbalance,” among others. He believes the key to figuring out how to stop progressive brain deterioration is to identify the unique triggers for each person and make changes to correct their imbalances.

His approach is controversial. Opponents say that his testing and lifestyle protocols can be expensive and too rigid for many people to follow.

Although the Sherzais don’t mention Bredesen by name, they say that based on their own clinical research, lifestyle changes may slow down the progression or even prevent the development of Alzheimer’s. But whether it reverses the disease has not been clinically proved. Suggesting that it has, they say, creates unrealistic expectations for patients.

Bredesen says, “I completely understand that we don’t want to give people false hope. But people have been given a false sense of doom.”

A snapshot of Paula Wolfert in the 1970s.

A snapshot of Paula Wolfert in the 1970s. She authored eight influential cookbooks, exploring for American audiences the flavors of Morocco, France, and the Mediterranean. Photo by Eric Wolfinger / Getty Image

A New Relationship With Food

There’s no sense of doom in Wolfert, even though her condition has basically cleared her prized palate. “I’ve lost my sense of taste. I have absolutely no memory of the taste of foods or the names of foods.”

After decades of eating and cooking around the world, she’s now making food work for her in a different way.

What does she eat now?

“I believe in the Mediterranean diet; I ate it for 50 years. It helps, but it isn’t all great.” She now mostly follows a Ketoflex 12/3 diet, which means eating a plant-based, high-fiber, healthy-fat diet within a 12-hour window and avoiding eating at least three hours before bed. Though research is inconclusive, studies have shown that with the diet’s (good) high-fat, low-carb focus, the body converts fat into energy (as fatty acids and ketone bodies). The ketone bodies can pass the blood-brain barrier and may serve as a restorative energy source for the brain.

She says that six days a week, “I only make one meal a day, around 1 p.m. For the seventh day I go out with three or four women. It’s a ritual. I’ve been going to my lunch on Tuesdays for 14 years.”

She eats mostly vegetables and, occasionally, pasture-raised eggs and meats and wild-caught fish. “I miss carbs. I miss bread and potatoes, but I’ve gotten over it.” When she does cook, she tries easy dishes, sometimes with her son. “We cook Asian food together because he loves it.” Also “because I can taste them. I can’t taste ketchup, but I can taste sriracha!”

Not Bad Pad Thai is one of her new regular recipes. It comes from Dr. Steven Gundry’s The Plant Paradox. “I made it one day for my husband, Bill. He said, ‘I want this every week.’ So, I make it every Saturday.”

Gundry is another of her favorite resources. The founder of the Center for Restorative Medicine has written several books on how to avoid illness through diet. He believes “disease begins and ends in the gut” and advocates for nutrient-dense foods and increasing the balance of good bacteria in the body’s microbiome.

“This is how it is now,” Wolfert says. “If someone said tomorrow that there was a pill cure, if I trusted the doctor, I would take a pill. For now, there isn’t.”

Despite what some might see as a dramatic shift in her relationship with food, Wolfert at times can seem gleeful: “How you feel on this program is fabulous, once you get used to it.”

And here’s something she still remembers: Her grandmother told her when she was a young girl during World War II, “You can’t win a war unless you’re willing to fight.”

People We Love

Nuns Shaking Up the Status Quo

Whether focusing on fossil fuels, social justice, or lobbying major corporations to be better stewards of the environment, these sisters believe that their faith calls them to create a more just world.
Sister Simone Campbell speaks at a Not One Penny coalition rally on Nov. 1, 2017, on Capitol Hill

Sister Simone Campbell speaks at a Not One Penny coalition rally on Nov. 1, 2017, on Capitol Hill, where hundreds of activists protested corporate tax cuts proposed by Republicans in Congress. Photo From Network Lobby

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell

Sister Simone Campbell didn’t expect the Vatican to condemn her group, Nuns on the Bus, as a “bad influence.” Campbell didn’t let it stop her from touring the country via bus to protest social and economic issues, though. Their latest excursion will target the 2017 tax law and encourage voter participation in the midterms.

A key element in Campbell’s religious practice is meditation. It allows her to pause and listen to what she calls “the wee voice — the Holy Spirit.” This is what she says has gotten her through the tough parts of her activist journey.

After witnessing protesters risk their lives during the civil rights movement, Campbell said, “the gospel spoke to me.” She decided then to use her faith to mend gaps in equality. Despite disapproval from the very institution she serves, Campbell says that activism requires accepting opposing perspectives. “I came to realize it’s fighting for a vision and not against a person.”

Sister Janet McCann
Sister Janet McCann

An Integral part of Sister Janet McCann’s faith is her devotion to Mother Earth.

McCann and her colleagues at the Adorers of the Blood of Christ filed a complaint last year against the Federal Energy Regulatory ­Commission to keep a pipeline off their land in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Previously, they had built an outdoor chapel on the proposed route of the pipeline as an act of peaceful protest.

“We wanted to have some kind of physical witness to our faith on that property,” she said.

While judges ultimately ruled against the nuns, McCann said that their fight to preserve the environment isn’t over. She and the rest of the order are planning to establish a small solar farm near the pipeline to call attention to and combat the negative impacts of fossil fuels.

“So long we’ve been fighting this pipeline,” she said. “We want to use some of our expertise to do something for the environment.”

Sister Nora Nash
Sister Nora Nash

The sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia set up a corporate investment portfolio with their retirement fund in the 1980s. The sisters use their stakes to lobby more than 70 companies to be better corporate citizens.

Led by Sister Nora Nash, the order’s director of corporate social responsibility, the nuns have used their dividends to provide capital and mentorship to women of color entrepreneurs, build infrastructure in developing nations, and compel corporate giants such as ExxonMobil and Wells Fargo to measure and lessen their environmental and social impacts.

“We believe that we need to look at corporations as organizations that are accountable for their impact on health and human rights,” Nash said. “We encourage corporations to do the right thing — not just for themselves but also for the environment.”

The Trump administration’s rollbacks on environmental protections have made this type of activism even more critical to Nash and her convent.

The sisters have also lobbied airlines to combat human trafficking, gun retailers to amend their sales practices, and grocery stores and restaurants to promote healthier options.

The Page That Counts

The Numbers That Define Our World

Minimum number of additional premature deaths per year, by 2030, projected as a result of the EPA’s proposed loosening of greenhouse gas regulations246

Maximum number of additional premature deaths per year1,630

Additional cases of exacerbated asthma by 2030 as a result of the new regulationsUp to 96,000

Additional cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms26,000

Additional lost work days projected 48,000

Additional lost school days140,000 1

Percentage of U.S. adults who say the federal government isn’t doing enough to protect air quality64 2

According to the European Environment Agency, number of premature deaths in Europe in 2013 attributed to nitrogen dioxide, largely produced by internal combustion engines burning fossil fuelsAlmost 70,000 3

Route length for the world’s first hydrogen-powered trains, operating in northern Germany62 miles

Distance new trains are capable of traveling using a single tank of hydrogen600 miles 4

Time required to refill a hydrogen tankAbout 15 minutes 5

Current maximum speed of hydrogen-powered trains87 mph

Number of additional hydrogen-powered trains that will be ready by 202114

Number of byproducts of hydrogen-powered travel besides water and steam0 6

Refugees admitted to the United States by the Obama administration in fiscal year 201684,994 7

Target number for refugee admissions set by the Obama administration for the following fiscal year110,000 8

Number of refugees actually admitted to the U.S. in FY 201753,716

Target number for refugee admissions set by the Trump administration for FY 201845,000

Number of refugees actually admitted by the Trump administration in FY 2018 (which ended Sept. 30, 2018)22,491

Maximum admissions set for fiscal 2018 for refugees from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean43,000

Actual number of refugees from those regions admitted18,919

FY 2018 admission ceiling set by the Trump administration for refugees from Europe2,000

Actual number of refugees from Europe admitted during FY 20183,668 9

Target number for refugee admissions announced by the Trump administration for FY 201930,000 10

Years since professional wrestler Glenn Jacobs (aka Kane) began his career in World Wrestling Entertainment23 11

Number of votes by which Jacobs won the Republican mayoral primary in Knox County, Tennessee, in May 201817 12

Percentage of the vote earned by Jacobs in the Knox County mayoral general election in August 201866.39 13

Months passed since Jacobs’ most recent wrestling match on WWE television4 14

Amount of money WWE donated to the Knoxville Public Safety Foundation in exchange for Jacobs appearing and wrestling at WWE events in 2018$100,000 15

1. Environmental Protection Agency 2. Pew Research Center 3. European Environment Agency 4. Alstom 5. Alstom (reported in Quartz) 6. Alstom 7. Refugee Processing Centera 8. The Washington Post 9. Refugee Processing Center 10. CNN 11. Internet Wrestling Database 12. Washington Post 13. Knox County Elections 14. Internet Wrestling Database 15. WBIR TV

Click for full citations