Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Understanding the Earth

I've been reading a lot of Earth-centered literature these days, including Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild, and random articles on sustainable farming and arguments against dolphin and orca captivity.

It seems that humans are evolving to a point where we understand that other life forms have a right to exist on their own--they are not for us to capture and imprison at places like Sea World.

Gary Snyder can really get it going, too. On page 181 of Practice, he writes, "There can be no health for humans and cities that bypasses the rest of nature."

He also writes in very moving and convincing terms about the similarities between bears and humans. I thought Ralph might like that part, in light of his uncanny relationship to wolves.

One report said that the federally protected orcas, living off the coast of Washington state, are legally toxic due to the number of PCBs that course through their bodies...and is there still any question where cancer comes from? It comes in regular doses from the synthetic chemicals that we ingest and are otherwise exposed to in our lives.

One professor wrote that male frogs in Midwestern states are beginning to produce eggs and he said that this could be connected to breast cancer in women...something about similar chemistry.

So, what to do? Clean House/Clean Planet by Karen Logan is a book that offers solid direction. She claims, as you might guess from the title, that eliminating the toxic chemicals from your house will help. It will change your world view as it relates to the environment.

Personally, I believe that soaps are way overused in America. Humans have lived on this Earth for tens of thousands of years and suddenly we need to scour everything in site with antibacterial soap? I don't think so.

Now, before my chef friends object, please know that I understand that foodservice is an entirely different matter, because of the threat of cross-contamination. However, everyday people do not need to use the detergents and soaps that we think we do. Go to Wegman's and look at the soap aisle, you know, the one with all the jugs of Tide and such.

Then think about taking all of that soap and dumping it into Lake Erie. Yup. Think about it. And that's only one Wegman's. All over the US, people are dumping soap, and bleach, and Clorox, into the water system.

While the water system can absorb an amazing amount of pollution--and while water treatment plants do a fantastic job making water "safe" to drink-- these efforts cannot absorb all of the chemicals, so we ingest them in our drinking water. And we shower in them.

All this, and I haven't even started talking about lawn fertilizers and other poisons that are being applied at this moment to thousands of lawns across the US.

Then there's commercial farming...

I hate to say this, but we're in big trouble as far as our water system goes. In order to have any chance, we need to stop the insanity. We need to stop dumping chemicals down our drains and we need to support political candidates who will act on behalf of the environment, unless we want our children to have increasingly poisoned water.

Enough for today, I believe.



Stan Langerhaus said...

Interesting observations Doctor. There was an articl in last month's National Geographic which talked about the worldwide rise in allergy sufferers. It seems that many scientists believe that overexposure to antibacterial agents leaves children susceptible to allergies suffering, whereas children raised on farms or otherwise in frequent contact with "dirt" are much more resistant.

And I agree completely with your view about water. America's use of phosphates is literally killing our rivers and lakes. I recommend to everyone reading this post to buy non-phosphate dishwashing detergent from now on. It cast about $1 more per bottle, but it does a good job and it does not pollute.

Ralph said...

Interesting observations on the environment. I personally am at a loss on how to fight pollution. While all your suggestions are good, do you think they'll be adopted by enough people to make a difference? Or is there a ying and yang factor at work here. As you remove pollutants, somebody else adds them back? My final thought on this is that despite all these pollutants and cancer causing agents, people are actually living longer now than they were a couple hundred years ago. It's evolution, baby, you just need to accept it or perish under its power --- Sorry, that's was a Guns, Germs, and Steel tangent I went off on there...


Stan Langerhaus said...

Ralph, I have always believed that just because what you do on your micro level seems insignificant on the macro level should not be a barrier from doing the right thing.

Many people would be amazed at how making extremely small sacrifices actually does have significant benefits to yourself and the world at large. For instance, replacing a single incandescent light bulb with an energy efficient coil florescent bulb will reduce your energy consumption by an equivalent of 500 pounds of coal per year. Further, you will recoup the extra investment in the more expensive in about one year's tim as well.

So, what I'm saying is that Adam Smith's invisible hand should be guiding people to do the right thing, both with the environmental and energy policies because they simply make sense, on a personal level and nationl level. I jut think that there has not yet been enough education on the subject.

Hopefully the tide is turning and as energy costs get higher more people will finally realize the true benefits of "living green." It's not just a throw away joke about tree huggers, it's probably he smartest way to live. I believe that Thomas Friedman has an essay on the topic in his book, the World is Flat.