1718 Pesticide Madness

Pesticides are permeating the land, air and water. Our crops and food are sprayed with toxic chemicals which is causing health issues, pollution and collapse of pollinators. We talk to Carey Gillam, author of the new book  Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science. Ms. Gillam picks up where Rachel Carson left off with the perils of DDT,  but this time the culprit is glyphosate, the main chemical used in Roundup, produced by Monsanto. We also chat with June Stoyer, host of The Organic View, about neonictinoids, and how it is causing the reduction in the bee population.  We need to work to stop the pesticide madness.

Tune in to find out what the hottest tortilla chip on Earth will do to your digestive system and mouth. It’s the hottest chip on the Scoville heat scale, coming in at 1.92 SHU, a Guinness World Record.

For more information go to U.S. Right to Know: usrtk.org, careygillam.com theorganicview.com, thegreendivas.com and themanyshadesofgreen.com

 

 

 

Digesting Our Politically Correct Food

By Susan Lutz

Eating well means we must understand what healthy ingredients are. Then, we must find, prepare, and finally consume them. In each one of these steps, a pile of information, contradictions, and blockades pop up like a viscous video game, trying to keep us away from our goal of optimum health.

I find it hard enough to battle my own appetite in the quest for good health. Sugar tastes really good. So does salt. Between the battle of calories between chips and candy, I think I’m doing well for my health by choosing vegetables, fruits, and organic products. Yet, I fall short and cave in occasionally. Something I notice when I chew on a chip or down some ice cream is how much cheaper it is to fill up on this stuff.

I started reading food labels back in college when the idea of health and watching what we ate and what it was composed of became more mainstream. I focused on trying to avoid food additives, food coloring, and sugar. Every year since then, it seems another ingredient is added to the list of things-that-are-horrible-for-you. When I was a kid, doughnuts were thought of as kind-of healthy. (I mean they had wheat in them.) We’ve probably all, at times, thought we were “wholesome” products such as granola, cookies, or pizza only to find out that they’re loaded with corn syrup or low-grade industrial cooking oils, or refined grains.

Turns out, many of these not-so-healthy ingredients are subsidized by the government. And if we aren’t eating soy, grains like wheat, corn, rice, our livestock are. Even if we make a huge effort to stay away from these foods, we probably eat them at some time or another. According to this New York Times article:

Between 1995 and 2010, the government doled out $170 billion in agricultural subsidies to finance the production of these foods, the latter two in part through subsidies on feed grains….Most are used as feed for livestock, turned into biofuels or converted to cheap products and additives like corn sweeteners, industrial oils, processed meats and refined carbohydrates.

Trying to avoid these foods seems impossible. Fill up a bag with organic foods and a comparable bag of “regular” food. Feeding a family with the former is really difficult for most budgets. In addition, the government wanted to allow the non-labeling of food.

The Dark Act, a bill to stop labeling of GMO food, failed in the Senate in March of 2016. Free to move forward, the Vermont’s law requiring food to be labeled took effect July 1, 2016.  Those opposed to GMO foods, claim victory only for now, yet still fear a reconstructed form of the bill could come forth in the year to come.

Information drives a consumer to make choices. Price can be the final factor. When choosing to feed a family, many of us must opt for those products because they are cheaper. And then, we get hooked. Our diet is constructed around these products. Changing my eating habits and information took years. Stopping for an organic, grass-fed, dairy cow’s ice cream could be out of the budget and often out reach, literally, for many families. Frozen ice pops in the local market’s freezer in fun-filled flavors are always ready, available, and priced to sell.

Star Power

By Susan Lutz

Looking up to the sky, I seem so small. “100 Billion Galaxies each with 100 Billion Stars,” said Carl Sagan in the Cosmos episode 7, “The Backbone of Night.”

The power of his message grew with the rise of his own star. Today, many stars lend their voice to our star, planet earth, in hopes of fixing the mess we find ourselves in.

That smallness continues as the dawn breaks, I look around, and wonder how we can do anything to create change. We’re choking on plastic, dumping toxins in rivers, and spewing harmful gasses into the atmosphere. This is just the short list. Again, I look to the stars.

There are a lot of people doing important, tough work for our environment. I’d have to Google their names though because I can’t remember them. The moment a star, a film or literary or political star, begins talking about the environment – that I remember. I sit up and listen, or at least pause, when a star speaks about the work we need to do concerning the environment.

The reality is, a familiar face brings attention to the issue. Leonard DiCapprio spoke to the Pope about the environment. He has his own foundation called, The Leonard DiCapprio Foundation, dedicated to protecting the world’s last wild places. Julia Roberts is Mother Nature in a gorgeous, short video, “Nature is Speaking.”

Woody Harrelson hosts “Ethos,” a documentary looking “into the flaws in our systems, and the mechanisms that work against democracy, our environment and the common good.” Jeff Bridges narrates the video for the Plastic Pollution Coalition, “Open Your Eyes.”

Either I am starry-eyed or I am truly hearing the important message these spokespersons relate. After I saw the video narrated by Jeff Bridges, I felt nauseas at all the plastic I used. And I consider myself an aware person. Though the practice could seem cliché, I see a twinkle of light and hope as perhaps the message breaks through the atmosphere or our messy minds for just a moment. And funny, after hanging with Julia, Leonardo, Woody, Jeff, and even Carl, I feel like a bit of a bigger star. I feel inspired to do more, to and to help, even if it is the smallest of things.

 

 

 

The Fight for Food: Who’s Got the Right?

By Susan Lutz

We change all the time. We adapt and learn to survive in new ways. When it comes to food, we fight for the right to know what’s in it, eat organic, and buy local. Often these steps all seem logical. We must continue to move forward and build a better food-making machine.

Enter the GMO. Are they good for us? Bad for us? Huge corporations say they are not only fine but needed. How can GMOs be good for us? While sipping my organic, fair trade coffee one morning I saw a report on CBS Sunday Morning about GMOs, examining both sides. I have to admit, after seeing the papaya grower’s woes about a bug that wiped out all of their crops, I could understand why the farmer chose to use GMO seeds to grow a new papaya that was bug-resistant. Both sides gave logical reasons as to why we should allow or ban GMOs.

It’s easy to say something is “all bad”. McDonald’s, for example, encompasses many things I deplore. Yet, I’ve eaten there. I took my kids to the indoor play areas when I lived in a country that either didn’t have parks for kids or had parks that were too dangerous to play in. Did I understand that I was being “sold” a brand in hopes that not only I but also my children would remember those golden arches for a lifetime? Yes. (My son still points to any McDonald’s we pass and asks to play there years after he’s been in one.)

Both sides have a point. The organizations that are against the corporations developing GMOs are passionate about stopping their use. To date, about 19 European countries have banned GMOs. But what about that farmer and those dead papaya trees? He’s now farming again, profitable again. Would that happen with non-GMO techniques? Perhaps that’s the bigger question. Much research and development goes into the creation of GMOs, helping to solve difficult problems for farmers. But could there be another way?

The world moves so fast. Rather than understand all of the ramifications of choice, we sometimes move in a direction that can be narrow-minded, one that doesn’t look at the big picture. What if we had found ways to destroy bugs with other bugs? I see reports of farmers finding ways to tend crops with organic solutions. Climate change is a response to our decisions and the impact those choices place on the environment. The decision to buy fair trade coffee or not impacts the people who pick it and the communities they live in. Our decisions- the paths we choose in our oil drilling, animal breeding, crop growing, and automobile design, to name a few, lead us to where we are today.

GMOs are creeping into our crops, in such a way that soon it will be hard to find foods, especially processed foods, that are GMO-free. I know that we eat some GMO foods, even though I read my labels religiously, and when we do, I let it go because I know that we are in a process, one that will teach us to make it back to middle ground.

 

 

Actions Around the World – Issues to Keep Up with and Watch for the Coming Year

By Susan Lutz

Over the past weeks and months, ideas that began at the grassroots movements finally found movement forward in actions by governments and organizations. As consumers who are opening our eyes, becoming more aware, and utilizing our voices to take action, let’s take a moment to absorb the success and change that has happened so far. Here are a few of the big ones:

1. Microbeads Banned – Those tiny microbeads clogging up the waterways and reeking havoc on the ecosystem were finally banned by the U.S. government. The President signed the bill in late December:

“H.R. 1321, the “Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015,” which prohibits the manufacture and introduction into interstate commerce of rinse-off cosmetics containing intentionally-added plastic microbeads…”

2. FDA Issues New Safety Rules: Strides were made with the new FDA standards for farmers. Some farms will be able to coordinate efforts – a victory seen for small farmers and the reality of modern day food growers. Food safety plans must be implemented, and again, smaller farmers will be given the ability to provide smaller plans, a much more realistic goal.

3. France Bars Big Supermarkets from Throwing Out Food: Legislation in France is banning large supermarket chains from throwing out food and is instead enforcing food donations to local charities. Though not the answer to the seed level issue, the act provides some relief to the problem of food shortages and food waste in the country – something to watch and learn from and a good model for other countries.

4. United States Fish and Wildlife Reclassifies Hunting: The USFW put out a report in December 2015 concerning the classification of animals as endangered. Lions in West and Central Africa will now be considered “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. Lions from other parts of Africa, such as in the south and east, will be regarded as threatened. What does this mean for trophy hunters? For one thing, importing lion body parts will be prohibited. And this is a huge part of the bragging rights of a trophy hunter. The effects these changes have on the population and treatment of lions will need to be monitored. Yet, perhaps it’s a step in awareness plus…

As we roll into 2016, what more can we do? Banning microbeads is important, but yet again, at the seed level how was this allowed in the first place? Without question, there will be so much to watch for in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

We’re Melting

By Susan Lutz

Forests are dying. Polar bears starving, ice caps shrinking. The list grows. We’ve spent a lifetime stomping on the planet and now world leaders gather in the hopes of finding a solution before we hit the tipping point. Can we pull back? Can we save ourselves?

I read positive stories: a community garden in Haiti becomes a center of growth and revitalization; the price of solar power is dropping fast and becoming an extremely viable alternative energy source; climate adapted strategies are manifesting and working to stabilize wildlife. Around towns, I see trees being planted, youth conversing about important issues. This is great. And there are many more examples of success and ideas which are moving us forward.

Yet, I read bad news, too: the UK starts to cut millions of dollars from its renewable resources; the threat of disease increases due to insects gaining the ability to live longer and travel farther; the sea level is rising; and of course, we’ve all seen the pictures of the polar bears starving. Some days, it’s hard to read the news. Some days it does seem like we’re just going to tip over and sink.

I recently heard a lecture on the cause and effect of our actions and the impact our choices have on climate change. The most interesting, and most powerful, I thought, was this: What are we willing to give up? In this country, the majority of cars during rush hour consist of single drivers. Bottled water and soda fill our vending machines, and we don’t give a second thought to the short pleasure we get versus the amount of toxins in each bottle. We like our stuff. We like our creams, cars, deals online, new phones, and processed, over-packaged foods.

The summit on climate change brings together world leaders. The model of coming together to talk; understanding our differences; taking note of those suffering the most; and, moving forward with dialogue. Regardless of how difficult the task is, it is one we must implement from the highest of offices to the grass-roots level.

We wait too long to act. We wait to change gun laws until terror steps into our cafes (if even then). We wait to ban trophy hunting and poaching and watch as species become threatened and face habitat loss and even become extinct. We’re slowly melting under the take-the-money-and-run philosophy of getting what we need, now, and forgetting how it will hurt us in the future.

When my son picked up an acorn the other day, he thought it was the grandest of discoveries. I held it up and told him it was amazing. We carried it with us as if it were a piece of gold. Our food supply, our land, our water – they truly are gold. We must realize this now, or we will watch as the world melts and slowly slips away.

 

Just One Word: Plastics

At times it feels we’re just doomed to suffer in the toxic choices of our every day lives.

By Susan Lutz

I snapped the glow stick. The green, fluorescent light lit the way – the kids on Halloween safer because of the glow. The plastic glass I bought for my son this summer had the Minions on it. If I put it in the freezer, it would keep the contents cold long through the summer day. At times, it feels as if everything is toxic; everything is plastic. At times it feels we’re just doomed to suffer in the toxic choices of our every day lives.

There isn’t a day that passes by that I don’t feel guilty about a dangerous, toxic, or bad-for-me product our family consumes or uses. We occasionally buy water in plastic bottles. I go to the grocery store and sometimes forget my cloth reusable bags. After a few weeks, I’m stunned at the pile of plastic bags in the corner. I dutifully recycle my paper, plastics, and metals, yet I know recycling isn’t a solution, just a band-aid to a bigger problem.

So many of our conveniences trace back to our love of plastics. I recently watched The Graduate again and was stunned by the accuracy and the irony of the iconic line said to Benjamin as he debated what to do with his future:

I want to say one word to you. Just one word…Plastics.

The benefits of plastics and many other chemically based products made in our society are far reaching. Medical, educational, and at-home use of plastics grew leaps and bounds: think bags for blood transfusions, the parts in computers, the covers on our phones, the stuff that holds pens together, the fibers in our clothes, and so on…..

How do we turn things around? Just passing the tetra boxes in the grocery store makes me sad. I wonder if it’s impossible to change the course we’re on. I can’t predict what we’ll do to our planet, and ourselves, but I can obtain peace of mind and enough good habits to overall lessen my carbon footprint and instead chip away at improving our lives and obtaining a better balance of our existence.

What if we all used plastics less than we did the day before? I reuse glass bottles as my daily water bottles when out and about. Though not perfect (they sometimes break!), I feel it’s a tiny step I want to take in reducing my own personal toxic footprint on the planet.

I forgive myself when I don’t make it – when I forget to recycle or when I buy face paint with lead in it for Halloween. (I threw it out and made a DIY face paint from zinc oxide and chlorophyll!). But more times than I fail, I succeed. I’ll remember next year how to make the green face paint. As the end of the year and the holiday rolls around, I’ll buy less. And I see wonderful strides in our community. I see vegetable trays at children’s gatherings and a lot less candy floating around. If we all bought plastic water bottles once in a while or used the same computer two extra years, we’d make a huge dent in reducing the toxicity in our environment.

Make choices knowing that they make a long, long impact on our planet. Now, there’s just one word we must think about. One word to take us to our new level: consciousness.