The Coastal Post - January, 1998

Buck Center Crumbling More Than Forest Knolls

By Stephen Simac

The walls of Jericho came tumbling down when Joshua blew his horn, the Bible says. Archaeologists say the citadel fell many times over thousands of years, because of cataclysmic earthquakes.

The ramparts of the Buck Center for Aging, the berm built to shield the palace from view, has begun crumbling into the neighborhood below. The little Partridge Knolls subdivision-the kind of nature-themed subdivision which have appeared like a blight upon the land-is shifting uneasily beneath the added weight of the berm. The sidewalks in the quaintly named Cobblestone Court and Hollowood Way are cracking, doors donÕt close, and the houses are not holding their resale value.

At first, when the damage became an issue, the Buck Center and Novato officials held secret meetings with the residents to discuss the obvious. When you scrape almost a hundred thousand yards of earth from the hillside to build on a geologically unstable site, and pile it up as an earth wall on another area, it may not sit still.

The knaves of the Knolls neighborhood screamed in protest to their elected officials who had gotten them into this mess. They had held a Novato election on annexing the site. Novato citizens voted for it and made an end run around the will of the majority in Marin County, who voted against placing the Buck Center on Mt. Burdell.

ItÕs always fun to say I told you so, but the Post has truly been a voice in the wilderness, a Jeremiah in the desert crying out against the folly of building this center as planned. Yes, itÕs true we are all going to get old, and in the interests of humanity we should study and implement the most effective health practices to reduce human suffering because of aging. Is this really what we are going to get with Beryl BuckÕs money?

Silver hair, medical gold

The chances of the Buck Center on Aging being a world leader in aging research and of effectively implementing healthy changes for older people are virtually nonexistent.

Medical researchers who have eagerly spent billions to dissect rats, manipulate genes and search for viruses, have ignored the enormous and complex influence of psychological, social and economic factors in health, disease and aging in general.

Instead of focusing on environmental, sanitary and dietary improvements, lifestyle changes and social shifts which would truly benefit humanity, this center will spend it on heroic intervention and magic-bullet medicine. All very dramatic and career-boosting for researchers who announce the latest cure, but it is enormously expensive without clear benefits for helping aging people.

Americans are deserting this near-sighted medicine in favor of alternatives by the millions. Last year, Americans spent $10 billion on alternative treatments, most of it out of their own pockets.

Dumptruck drivers club

Meanwhile, the crumbling Knolls was determined to have one major causative factor-the mound of dirt dumped above it. After many secret meetings, Buck Center officials agreed to cart it away. Six weeks of daily continuous dumptruck loads would cost over $1 million.

It seemed odd to hide a Ņworld-class centerÓ designed by I.M. Pei with a projected cost of $100 million, behind a berm anyway, but it was part of the environmental impact requirement for visual pollution.

The ramroding of the Buck Center for Aging has been a steady thudding since the '80s. It was only a gleam in the eyes of the Marinites who broke the San Francisco FoundationÕs hold on Beryl BuckÕs money.

The sweet little old oil baron had left her estate as a trust fund for the homeless and the needy of Marin County. The shares she held in a little oil company in southern California bubbled up golden in the '70s. It just seemed too much money to spend all in Marin, so the SF Foundation thought. A court trial was held over that same issue, and the judge disagreed. The Marin Foundation was set up to keep the money in Marin. but the judge said some of it must be spent on special projects doing good things for humanity in general.

The Buck Center on Aging is one of those projects. It seemed that nothing could slow the citadelÕs inevitable construction.

You can't get there from here

Most elderly now say their main problem is transportation and isolation. Unless they are able and willing to drive a car, itÕs easy to feel shut in their homes, watching TV shows that compound their fears about taking a walk. The Buck Center doesnÕt plan on addressing such basic problems for the aging or of building social centers for the elderly.

Heart disease kills more older Americans than any other illness. It is mainly preventable, even reversible by diet, exercise and psychological adjustments. The Buck Center isnÕt interested.

One in three older Americans will suffer from cancer. Ninety percent of cancers are known to be preventable with environmental and lifestyle changes. The war on cancer has has spent billions over thirty years, huge chunks of it to find a viral cause and magic bullet cures, almost none for prevention.

The cancer rate has risen, with no improvement in cure rates. In fact, Dr. Hardin Jones, professor of medical physics at U. C. Berkeley, after studying survival rates of cancer patients, found Ņuntreated cancer victims live four times longer than those treated conventionally.Ó

Integrated health care is millennial medicine

While raging debates go on in the medical world about the coming shift in direction of Western medicine towards integrated health care, itÕs as if Buck Center officials had never heard of this debate. This inevitable trend will change funding of research. The Buck Center must compete with other institutes for dwindling amounts of research monies, or dip heavily into BuckÕs bequest to fund the homely and the needless in their dollar drain on the hill.

The Buck Center plans on researching aging and blindness, ocular degeneration in the gerontological population, as they see it. Most aging-related blindness is a symptom of uncontrolled adult-onset diabetes, which is directly linked to poor diet and lack of exercise.

The medical orthodoxy has ignored studies in their own journals dating back to the 1940s, showing that vitamin C can be used to control blood sugar. Studies of nurses who have taken 400mg of vitamin C for ten years or more, showed an 83% reduction in cataracts, another cause of aging-related blindness, compared to nurses deficient in this nutrient. Heart disease was reduced by half in people who take at least 500 mg vitamin C a day, a UCLA study based on 11,000 people showed.

Vitamin C-free radical foe

Americans have increased their usage of ascorbic acid by 300% since 1970. This is mainly because of the writings of Linus Pauling, who was libeled as a quack by the medical establishment, in spite of his two Nobel prizes and his proven health and longevity 'til 93.

A recent report acknowledged Ņthe increase in vitamin C consumption is the most important reasonÓ for the 30-40% reduction in heart disease deaths since 1970. This conclusion was buried in the report, but the media chose to headline the authorsÕ speculation that BHT, a commercial antioxidant, might have played a role in the reduced heart disease.

They gave similar coverage to findings that people who had a drink or two of alcohol every day had a reduced death rate from heart disease over teetotalers. They ignored a British study which showed even greater reductions in mortality among men aged 45-49 who had sex more often, and theyÕve ignored 10,000 scientific studies proving the health benefits of vitamin C. No headlines have been written about these discoveries

Other antioxidants besides vitamin C, such as vitamin E, selenium, beta carotene, picnogenols and cannabinoids have been shown to improve health in many illnesses and to reduce the damages of free radicals, a cause of cellular aging. Pennies in supplementation would benefit the health of our elderly far more than the multi-million dollar palace of Pei.

Of mice and men

These fat cat researchers are sold on vivisection, manipulating and dissecting animals to supposedly improve human health. This reliance on animal models to determine human functioning is not only immoral, but itÕs not even good biochemical, empirical science.

Researchers know that they canÕt even extrapolate between hamsters and rats, much less rodents and humans, but they donÕt seem to care.

Mass murderers have one thing in common-they tortured small animals when they were young. Evidently some get a Ph.D. and have their cruel obsessions sanctified by science as they grow older. Reliance on animal models to understand human health has delayed recognition of numerous human health hazards, including the connection between asbestos inhalation or tobacco smoking and lung cancer, alcohol and cirrhosis of the liver, low levels of radiation and leukemia in the next generation, because what makes animals sick doesnÕt always sicken humans and vice-versa.

The most important health finding from animal studies is that half-starved rats live longer and can swim twice as long in chilly waters as well-fed rats before they drown. Good news for fishermen maybe, but findings unlikely to be followed by the researchers at the Buck Center.

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