Knowing how ignorant the majority of Americans are about farm issues, wouldn't it be great if more among us still had personal connections with the agricultural industry? There was a time when almost every city dweller either grew up on a farm or had a cousin who owned one and occasionally invited his city relatives to visit.
Nothing imparts an appreciation for the achievements of farmers and ranchers more than a visit to the field or corral, where it quickly becomes apparent how challenging it is to make a living from the land. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Americans have farming connections, and thus, all they know about farming is what they occasionally learn in the media, which frequently stacks the news against farmers.
One misunderstanding that just won't die involves distiller's grains, the by-product of making ethanol. Uninformed city folks think that turning corn into ethanol creates a feed shortage that's driving up meat prices. Actually, the distiller's grains that come from the ethanol process make for wonderful livestock feed. That means we can get ethanol from corn and also produce a feed by-product.
We can blame the urban dweller-farmer disconnect for misguided regulations. Nebraskans will recall the crazy attempt a couple of years ago to give the EPA authority to cut down on farm dust. Proponents figured all that dust kicked up by pickups on country roads was unhealthy and had to be dealt with.
Now the federal regulators are looking hard at drafting rules and standards for our water.
Hopefully Americans can smarten up about these costly and distracting proposals so farmers and ranchers can focus more on what they're in the business to do.
Farmers understand the need to protect the environment, produce healthy and wholesome food, and keep a tight rein on expenses. It's time for Americans to reconnect with country cousins and learn what makes farming and ranching tick.
Lincoln Journal Star. Nov. 2, 2014.
Part of a bigger problem
On the surface it appears justice is being served in the death of FarmHouse fraternity member Clayton Real from acute alcohol intoxication.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln administrators have suspended the fraternity and ordered freshmen living there to move into other university housing.
Four students who are members of the fraternity sat in a courtroom in shackles and jail uniforms as they were charged with felony crimes carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison. Three others were charged with misdemeanors.
Authorities had to act. But the outcome of this tragedy needs to be more than court verdicts.
A promising 18-year-old, a high school football player, student council member, member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters is dead.
Seven other lives might be forever altered.
Anyone who thinks that this is an isolated case of risky behavior is fooling themselves. Responsibility for Real's death goes beyond those facing criminal charges and FarmHouse fraternity. It's a larger problem.
Real's death was one of four alcohol-related deaths this September cited by Insidehighered.com in a story on the risks freshmen across the nation face in transitioning to college life.
The Daily Nebraskan student newspaper put it this way in an editorial: "The truly distressing aspect of this story is how familiar it is. Fraternities and other student organizations host alcohol-laden parties every weekend. People who are of age buy alcohol for minors all the time. And when underage students pass out from drinking, rarely are they taken to detox, partially because of fear of an MIP and partially because those surrounding them have probably never seen the extreme consequences of alcohol poisoning."
Coincidentally it was 10 years ago this month that Samantha Spady of Beatrice died of alcohol poisoning after a fraternity party at Colorado State University. The Sam Spady Foundation continues the never-ending battle to stop alcohol poisoning.
It's not just a UNL fraternity problem or even simply a college campus problem. Early this year the Centers for Disease Control reported that almost 24 percent of Lincoln residents in 2012 admitted to binge drinking, defined as five drinks in one sitting for men and four drinks for women.
Assuredly the tragic death of Clayton Real shows the need for fraternity alumni and UNL officials to do more to educate incoming students on the risks of alcohol abuse.
But they're not the only ones who need to take action. The need to reduce alcohol-fueled risky behavior extends beyond fraternity houses and the UNL campus. We all need to do a better job.
Omaha World-Herald. Nov. 1, 2014.
Sound environmental ideas explored
A new report from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has described long-term climate challenges for Nebraska. One of the best resources for exploring sound ideas in response are our institutions of higher learning.
Ideas to promote greater efficiency in energy use and environmental matters are on the drawing boards at Nebraska educational institutions. Here are four examples:
UNL recently started an undergraduate major in climate science. The University of Nebraska at Omaha just named the first director of its new Center for Urban Sustainability.
Last year, Creighton University received recognition as one of 322 campuses nationally, and the only Nebraska campus listed, to have demonstrated "a notable commitment to sustainability." Creighton was one of only three universities in the country offering degree programs focusing specifically on sustainable energy.
Energy-efficient and alternate-energy technologies have become a growing focus at Metropolitan Community College, where courses include such fields as commercial building energy efficiency, solar energy design and installation, biofuels and electric vehicles.
From 2008 to 2012, U.S. college degree programs focusing on sustainability grew more than tenfold, from 13 to 141, according to the National Council for Science and the Environment.
In pursuing a strong economy while addressing environmental needs, Nebraskans have an important asset in our institutions of higher learning.
McCook Daily Gazette. Oct. 27, 2014.
Survey measures stress, laughter as parts of parenthood
It's the worst job in the world.
It's the best job in the world.
When it comes down to it, being a parent is all about living.
According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 45.1 percent of adults with children at home say they experience greater stress as a result — as opposed to 36.8 percent who don't live with children.
At the same time, 84.1 percent living with children, compared to 79.6 percent without, say they smile or laugh a lot on any given day.
The findings are based on 131.159 interviews with American adults, aged 18 and older, including 36,043 adults who reported having a child under 18 living in the household.
Unfortunately, the survey seems to indicate that children do more to boost negative emotions than positive ones.
And, the stress burden seems to fall more on women, who report more stress than men on any given day, but both genders reported about eight points more stress than laughter each day.
It's true that parenting is tough, dealing with normal misbehavior, mealtime, household routines and homework and loss of sleep, as well as tough issues like special needs, eating disorders peer issues, substance abuse and self-injury.
And, issues such as separation or divorce complicate the issue greatly, especially for women.
But most of us like to remember moments of joy as children grow and learn, achieving growth and success as students, artists, athletes friends and citizens.
One question that wasn't included in the survey carries more weight with us.
How many people, at the end of their lives, would choose not to be surrounded by a loving group of children, grandchildren, spouses and extended family?
For most of us, looking forward to that future erases all the supposed stress-free life the questions in the survey suggest.