Journey to a sustainable future

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Environmental Issues are People Issues

Many people don't "care about the environment."  They equate environmental issues and policy with strange legal ramifications that would increase cost of living and decrease jobs, all for the purpose of saving the endangered leopard frog.  There is a certain "Maslow's hierarchy of needs" in play with environmental issues. For those us not struggling with mere subsistence, though, there are a multitude of reasons to "care about the environment." 

Perhaps you don't care about the fossil fuels your spouse uses to mow the lawn.  But you probably do care about the benzene your spouse breathes in while piloting around a combustion engine that injures over 9,000 children each year. 

Perhaps you don't care about the declining polar bear populations due to climate change.  But you probably do care that your three year old is bouncing off the walls in Fairfax County, Virginia, because it is simply dangerous for him to play outside when it is 7 degrees Fahrenheit in January...or 105 degrees Fahrenheit in July.

Or maybe you don't care that your kitchen floor is made from linoleum, or your child's sweet strawberry raincoat is made from PVC.  But maybe you do care that PVC (which is what linoleum is made of) releases dixoins, which are the most potent, carcinogenic chemicals humans have yet created.

Maybe you don't care what chemicals farmers pour onto their fields, so long as you get cheap food.  But maybe you do care that farm workers in California now have to wear respirators when tending strawberry fields.  And maybe you do care that the neurotoxins used as pesticides are increasingly linked to ADD, ADHD, and autism.  And that your son has an almost 1 in 80 chance of developing autism.

Maybe you don't have kids.  So maybe you don't care that BPA was originally developed as a pharmaceutical source of estrogen, and you now ingest it on a regular basis via bottles and canned foods.  And maybe you don't care that atrazine (another pesticide) causes testosterone levels in males to plummet, thus decreasing sperm counts and fetal testicular formation.  But maybe you do care that as a female, your chances of developing breast cancer are 1 in 8, partly because of this constant inundation of excess estrogen.

Perhaps you don't care about cars, fossil fuels, and smog.  But maybe you do care that you have to carry around an albuterol inhaler to control your asthma.

Maybe you don't care about local bat extinctions due to a fungus that is widening its spread and virility due to errant weather patterns.  But perhaps you do care that your backyard is overrun by mosquitoes, and you just don't remember it being that bad when you were a kid.

Maybe you don't care about the environment.  Or climate change.  Or fracking.  Or the government's resolute resistance to doing anything about these companies who poison for profit.  But hopefully you care about your children.  At the very least, hopefully you care about yourself.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Clutter...and obesity

I have a thought: if we had to clean and itemize and categorize and organize every single item in our houses, we would have a lot less stuff.  Likewise, if we had to grow and process and preserve and bake and mix and cook and broil and serve every meal, we would eat a lot less. 

My mother gave me 6 weeks of housecleaning as our "baby" present when A. was born; and then she gave us another chunk of housecleaning for Christmas.  This was AWESOME.  A true sanity and sleep saver.  But I am happily back to cleaning the house again (honestly; I kind of like cleaning) and realizing how much stuff we have.  We have lived in this house for 4 years, and doubled the size of our family, and wow, does it show.  We have major decluttering ahead of us in the coming months.  Purging and decluttering takes serious effort, and it is quite tedious.  But in the end, if I can shave two minutes off my dusting time, that would be so worth it!  I do not like cleaning enough to do more than I need to.  And with two small daughters, I certainly don't need to look for things to clean.

I am also, even more happily, back to cooking and baking.  Roast chickens, muffins, apple coleslaws, yogurt, etc, are once again emerging from my kitchen.  R. and I are even going to make mayonnaise this week, which will be an exercise in experimental cooking to be sure.  It's a lot of work.  I mean, it's not terrible; the chickpeas are bubbling away in a crockpot on the porch so it's not like I'm stoking a woodstove and chopping kindling in my spare time.  But it's certainly not drive-through fast food.  When I am the one mixing the breading, dredging the raw chicken through raw eggs, and frying it in loads of coconut oil, I am certainly going to enjoy the organic homemade goodness of chicken strips.  And I am certainly not going to overeat.  I'd rather save a few strips of chicken for lunch tomorrow...and save myself a little bit of work then!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Embrace your biology

Since I last wrote a blog post (um, one year ago!) we have added a sweet new daughter to our family.  "A" was born at a freestanding birth center, just like her older sister, into the loving hands of a midwife after a spontaneous, drug-free labor.  This used to be unremarkable.  This used to be normal.  This used to be the way all humans were born, and then scooped into the arms of their euphoric, exhausted, exalting mothers who immediately nursed and cuddled them.

The Caesarean section rate in our county is over 40%.  VBACs (vaginal birth after caesarean) are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.  Inductions at 39 weeks are common.  I am not decrying the existence of C sections.  They save lives.  Just like formula instead of breastmilk, sometimes C sections are the smoothest way to a safe delivery. The WHO insists that this is only 10% of the time. 

What I am decrying is that women are being cheated.  We are being told that our bodies are incapable of birthing, incapable of breastfeeding.  Incapable of biology.  We are told that the highest biological act we can do--create--nurture--sustain--and can be done better by technology.  We are told that our bodies no longer know how to do these basic things, things that no other mammal on the planet has a 40% failure rate of doing.

Women have a RIGHT to exhilaration and power and all-surpassing, immediate love.  Babies have a RIGHT to the hormones and immune system advantages of a normal, natural birth followed by normal, natural breastfeeding.  Our technocratic model of life tells women that they are not capable, not worthy, of that power and that emotional charge.

Part of it is that our society is scared of women with power.  But I think more than that, our society is scared of biology.  I have heard various midwives and birth activists call birth a "sexual act" and it is that, but it is more purely a biological act.  Our society is uncomfortable with biology.  Just look at our views of death, antibiotics, breastfeeding, eating iceberg lettuce in January, and giving preschoolers their own "age appropriate" iPads.

We are doing more and more and more to set ourselves away from our "ecological umbilical" as Joel Salatin calls our connection to the Earth.  We are so desperate to divide ourselves from Nature.  And it is going to kill us.

Those most affected by all of this disconnect are the ones without a voice.  The poor people in Los Angeles who live and (try to) breathe in the inescapable smog.  The tribes in Africa, now environmental refugees, displaced by drought and famine.  The children of migrant farm workers, horribly exposed to pesticides so that we can have cheap tomatoes.  The babies who want to breastfeed.

Not that we should worship the Earth, and not that we don't get to use it.  Humans are the pinnacle of Creation.  But we still are a part of Creation.

Nothing is going to change with birth, with carbon emissions, or with sustainability until we admit that we are dependent on the Earth.  Part of being human in our world today is bearing the burden of civilization's wrong decisions, and the responsibility of rectifying them.  Let's embrace biology.  Let's be human.  Let's start changing our corner of the world NOW.