There's an interesting article in the NY Times that's worth a read. The article cites a recent study on the incidence of asthma, which is considerably lower within the Amish community than it is for the rest of us. For those not familiar with it, asthma can be a big deal. Rachel (my wife) has it, as have numerous friends. One of my favorite teachers in junior high died from an asthma attack. It's also expensive -- with the typical preventative inhaler now costing $225 for a month's dose.
The study essentially found that exposure to barnyard dust, bacteria, and allergens is providing the fodder that our immune systems need to function properly. The Amish community cited is in Indiana, likely the one we often interact with. Though many if not most are now employed off-farm (in the RV industry for the most part), they still tend to have farms and all keep horses for transportation. We regularly see young kids (as young as 5, I think) driving pony carts, and I've seen boys younger than 10 driving large teams of draft horses.
The authors of the study assume that their discovery could lead to therapies which could prevent asthma, but I'd like to suggest something much more reasonable, and something which could be implemented immediately for those with interest. Go and live like the Amish.
Why take such drastic measures? Well, first of all, they're not really drastic. Perhaps most importantly, you'll solve a thousand other problems. The Amish are by no means perfect, but they have a lot to teach us.
For example, if you were to "go live like the Amish", you solve the following problems (in addition to preventing asthma):
1) Reduce car traffic along with associated fatalities (like the one which killed my good friend a few years back), CO2 emissions, and the whole toxic industrial mess that produces automobiles, whether coal mining, steel smelting, petro-chemical contamination, oil spills in the gulf, or contamination from fracked tight oil.
2) "Going Amish" allows you to feed yourself without poisoning everyone else around you. I've raved about industrial food problems before. Google Atrazine, for a starter. (Yes, when you're "Lovin' it!" at McDonalds or even the local grocery store, you're also killing people and contaminating the world. Congratulations!)
3) Not only do you get to eat healthier, more nutritious food, but you can cancel the gym membership. Forget about being fat, because growing your own food is a *lot* of work. The diseases associated with our sedentary lifestyles will be much less likely to plague you (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc). The best solution to our healthcare racket in this country is simply to not need it in the first place.
4) We're a little late on this, but extracting yourself from the industrial food system allows you to do a better job of farming than the industrial system currently does, and reverse some of the CO2 that threatens to make asthma the least of our problems. You can raise your animals on pasture instead of heavily sprayed GMO corn and soy (this is what surrounds us here in the midwest). Pasture sequesters carbon. Intensive cultivation of corn and soy releases carbon from the soil, ruining it for future generations and increasing reliance on inputs which won't be available much longer.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Instead of trying to solve the endless array of problems that we've brought upon ourselves through industrialization, why not de-industrialize? Anyone who has studied our energy situation knows full well that it's inevitable. The only question is whether we do it willingly and in time to give ourselves a chance of survival as a species.