Author Archives: Terry DeWitt

People are Nicer Than You Think

“74% of people studied identify more strongly with unselfish values than with selfish values. This means that they are more interested in helpfulness, honesty, forgiveness and justice than in money, fame, status and power.” This is good news and quite different from the “survival of the fittest” ethos of laissez faire capitalism championed by the right.

See George Monbiot’s article here.


The World Has Lost Over 50% of Its Vertebrate Wildlife in the last 40 Years

The World Wildlife Fund announced in 2014 that the world has lost over 50% of its vertebrate wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) in the last 40 years.  The cause is primarily due to an exponential growth in human consumption.

Here are two good articles on the subject:

The Guardian  Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years, says WWF

George Monbiot  The Kink in the Human Brain



Gulf of Maine is Warming Faster than 99.9% of Ocean Waters

According to a 2015 study by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the waters of the Gulf of Maine, which stretch between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia, are warming faster than 99.9% of the world’s oceans.  Rising 3 degrees celsius in the last decade alone, the waters of the Gulf of Maine are rapidly becoming a focus for scientists interested in studying the effects of future climate change right now in a real world setting.  It’s a local test of what is likely to come globally.


Impacts on marine life include:

  • The cod fishery that was over-fished for decades currently stands at only 4% of sustainable levels and has not rebounded as expected despite an effective moratorium on cod fishing in the Gulf
  • Lobster populations and harvests are at an all-time high due to the warmer water and lack of cod predators
  • Local species are moving north and into deeper water and new populations of black sea bass, green crabs and long fin squid are showing up on the Maine coast
  • Phytoplankton concentrations are 25% of what they were a few decades ago.  As an important foundation of the food chain, this bodes ill for marine life generally.

The cause of the recent temperature rise seems to be a reduction of cold deep water entering the gulf from Newfoundland and Greenland due to the global warming induced rapid ice melt occurring there which is changing cold water currents.

Here are a few great articles that go into more depth:

Portland Press Herald  Big Changes are Occurring in one of the Fastest-warming Spots on Earth

New York Times  Cod’s Continuing Decline Traced to Warming Gulf of Maine Waters

Yale University’s Environment 360  Fast-warming Gulf of Maine Offers Hint of Future for Oceans


David Brooks: The Structure of Gratitude


I’ve often maintained that there is a misery index that can be measured as the difference between expectations and reality. And that you can improve happiness by both improving reality and modifying expectations.

David Brooks takes up this theme from the perspective of gratitude.  Read his OP-Ed in the New York Times  here.

Hansen Warns of Massive Sea Level Rise within Decades

sea level rise wave

James Hansen, our most prominent climate scientist, warns of massive sea level rise within decades.  On July 27, 2015, Hansen issued a scientific paper demonstrating that the two degree Celcius global warming limit is not safe, as the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) suggests, and instead will lead to a multi-meter sea level rise within decades. This is major news that will hopefully lead to more urgent action on climate change.

Hansen states: “My conclusion, based on the total information available, is that continued high emissions would result in multi-meter sea level rise this century and lock in continued ice sheet disintegration such that building cities or rebuilding cities on coast lines would become foolish.”  He also says sea level rise could be as much as 10 feet in 50 years.

Hansen followed up his scientific paper with a declaration against the US government for its inaction on climate change and calls to President Obama to act immediately.

Read his declaration and call to President Obama here.

Read his scientific paper here.

See Hansen on Fareed Zakaria GPS here.

James Hansen’s website.

On Care for Our Common Home

Earth Our Common Home

If you do anything this summer, take a couple of hours to read the original text of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, “On Care for Our Common Home.” The media has portrayed it as a statement on climate change. It is much more than this. It is a visionary call to enrich the cultural and spiritual foundation of our common world. It speaks to the underlying values that have led to environmental degradation, hyper-consumerism and lack of meaning, and points to a better way forward.

The Pope’s encyclical is perhaps the most thoughtful and progressive discussion that has been presented by any world leader on our current predicament. As our political leaders have avoided these issues, it is remarkable, and probably appropriate, that this has come from one of our most preeminent spiritual leaders. As a non-church-goer myself, I found the document to be accessible, smart, and highly actionable.

It is notable when religious leaders and the scientific community are in such agreement, particularly on an issue as important to our future and to that of creation as climate change. It’s now time for our political and corporate leaders, as well as all of us, to evaluate how we got here and what we can do going forward. Pope Francis presents a thoughtful diagnosis and a powerful vision for change.

Just google “Laudato Si.” It is well worth a read.  Laudato Si

Join us!


We are launching Harvard Healthy Living to help members of the greater Harvard, MA community to live healthier lives. Of course, healthy living is a multidimensional goal and therefore we’ll be seeking to attract and honor many different perspectives on how healthy living can be achieved. Our work will focus on the key foundational elements of healthy eating, fitness, personal growth and sustainable living.

We hope to share the latest thinking of scientists, spiritual leaders, life coaches, doctors, athletes, nutritionists, therapists, psychologists, cooks, engineers and lifestyle advocates. But mostly, we want to get a conversation going in the greater Harvard, MA community about what healthy living means and how best to pursue it.

We are hopeful that local professionals on relevant topics will share their expertise with the community and that people with personal experiences, including fears and hesitancies, will share those too. The most important thing is that we all start sharing, listening and acting to help each other live the best most healthy lives possible.

So we hope you will join us in supporting this new effort to promote healthy living in Harvard. It should be a lot of fun!