Tough Love

September 13, 2007

smallstoplight.jpgWe were leaving town in my dad’s gas-guzzling Ford pickup with us kids seated on bean bags in the back when suddenly, the 16 year old son of my dad’s girlfriend opened up the tailgate and jumped out at a stoplight. He didn’t want to go to the beach with the rest of us and apparently nobody could make him. As the light turned green and my dad sped out of the intersection leaving Scott running in the opposite direction, I think now that I was witnessing my first course in tough love.

Tough love is a behavior modification technique that is about not enabling the child to ruin a family unit through destructive behavior. If you apply that notion to a group of people, it is not letting an entire population behave in a way that adversely affects all others and the surrounding environment. Sound familiar?

Americans are the red-headed step children trying to piss off mother earth. We consume more food, more water, more oil than ever before, we dispose of toxic chemicals, electronics and food waste by burying it landfills and then buy more and more and more. And guess what the earth’s response to all this is? Let go.

We throw tantrums about having to cut back on consumption, point the finger at other countries, other races, other political parties. We physically abuse the environment by deforestation and contained feed operations, ignore the warning signs of drought and climate change but at the end of the day, our tough loving earth will say enough is enough, and let go.

We are now faced with the opportunity to either continue our bad behavior and suffer the consequences, or realize that there is a new set of rules to live by if we want to be part of this global family. The earth is not going to give in.

Change is confusing, frustrating and stressful. It seems unfair and painful and from our own selfish perspective, pointless. But if my dad hadn’t driven away from the intersection that day, and let a 16 year old figure out what it takes to be part of a family, maybe he never would have stopped his own downward spiral.

Is our government enabling us to continue our own self-destructive behavior? How bad do the consequences have to be before we decide to change?

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Food Isn’t Love Anymore

September 11, 2007

Gum DropWe spent the weekend with a friend and her children a few months ago and I have been bothered by the culinary selection provided for the kids ever since.

On Sunday morning, my friend’s husband made the adults delicious breakfast burritos with fresh vegetables and tofu sausage, while the kids popped open a can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls with goopy white frosting. The children (mine included) quickly licked the icing from the buns, and loaded up plastic mugs with Ovaltine, to which they added a small amount of cow milk (on it’s own, bad enough). After ‘breakfast’ the gummy bears came out and were grazed upon until we left for the lake an hour later. I was in such shock, I said nothing, but watched as my 2 year old grew giddy with the notion of unregulated sugar consumption, and not just sugar, but fructose, and worse yet, high fructose corn syrup.

Please understand, my friend LOVES her kids and is mostly vegetarian herself (a self-proclaimed opportunivore if you will). She takes great care of them and provides a beautiful home, a loving partnership with her husband, and a stable, active family life in which they can thrive.

So why are we giving our kids substances that are killing them? How do we choose not to ingest these poisons ourself, but willingly pass them on to our children?

Since the 1970’s High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has replaced sucrose in sweetening most processed items on grocery shelves mostly because it is cheap, and manufacturers can realize a better profit if they use it. Sugar, you see, is an import in our country, and therefore subject to import taxes, whereas corn sits rotting in silos, already subsidized by our government. It makes sense to use the food we produce in our country to sweeten other foods produced in our country. That is vaguely what sustainability is all about, except that fructose does not act the same way in our bodies as sugar, or sucrose, and the pillar of sustainability is in producing a healthy, meaningful life that we want our children to inherit.

I’m not a chemist, in fact, I nearly flunked out of calculus in high school AND college but I can understand the basics of laboratory testing, and with HFCS the results are frightening. You feed rats high amounts of sucrose, and not much happens. You feed them high amounts of fructose and you see obesity, anemia, high cholesterol and heart hypertrophy. Male rats fail to develop mature sexual characteristics and females are unable to bear live children. Would you wish even the thought of that on your child?

Perhaps HFCS is ‘the demon of the day’ and no worse for us than sucrose, or trans fats or whatever is popular to hate. If we just eat less and exercise more, our bodies are designed to filter out all the impurities we ingest, right? But still, I’m not willing to take the risk with my daughter, for whom it is my job to protect, keep healthy and teach how to care for herself.

Is the price we are paying for super refined foods worth a few minutes of giddyness? Should our government subsidies dictate what is put in our food at the expense of our health? Ultimately, it’s up to us to decide what to purchase. Nobody is forcing me to eat HFCS, and since I have the choice, i’ll choose not to purchase products containing it. I guess that’s just how much I love my kid.

The first time I found scat outside our house, it was vaguely exciting. The notion that a ferocious bear was creeping outside my window as I slept peacefully only feet away was exhilarating. The next morning, however, when our neighbors trash was strewn about their driveway, I was less enthusiastic. And when the bear, on his nightly rounds, found something in our trash (raw cookie dough to be precise), I felt horrible.

Garbage Kills Bears

The cookie dough itself isn’t really harmful when ingested, but bears easily become addicted to eating out of garbage cans, which puts them in direct contact with populated neighborhoods. A few calls to authorities about a bear stalking the area inevitably means the destruction of the bear.

Let’s get this straight: we move to a mountain town, buy a home as close to the forest as possible, leave our garbage can outside, unprotected, and the bear has to be killed for eating out it. That’s how it is in Skitown, USA.

I am NOT proud that it took a bear spilling our garbage onto the driveway to figure out I needed to put the can on lockdown for the safety of all involved. And our neighbors STILL have not gotten the picture, since for over a week straight I have found the remnants of their trash blown onto our yard. I can even hear the bear testing the chain that I installed on our container outside on some nights.

It’s simple, it’s cheap, it’s easy – here is what you do.

1. Go to the hardware store and purchase two double end bolt snaps, two 5/16″ X 4″ eye bolts, 4 nuts and 4 washers that fit on the eye bolt and one 3 foot section of heavy chain link. Total cost: under $10.

2. Drill 2 holes in the body your garbage can. One on one side of the lid about halfway back and one on the other side.

3. Put one nut and one washer on the eyebolt, push it into the hole you just drilled. Inside the can, screw the other washer and nut onto the eyebolt. Repeat on the other side.

4. Attach one end of the snap bolt to the eye bolt you just screwed into your garbage can, attache the other end to the piece chain. Pull the chain snuggly across the lid of your garbage can and repeat on the other side.

Eye Bolts Inside the Can Bear Proof Can

Your trash can is now bear resistant and you, too, can enjoy the rattling of the chain outside your window knowing that you have not fed the garbage addiction of a bear who really needs to head back up to the mountain and look for berries. This is so cheap, and so easy, I may just install this for our neighbor before the police start showing up with guns drawn.

Butts in the Air!

September 7, 2007

butt.jpgPeople are blown away that my 2 year old is potty trained, particularly when they find out she has been potty trained for months (yes, we do still have accidents). Of course, the first question is ‘how did you do it’. The answer is easy: cloth diapers. Today, disposable diapers have made it too enjoyable for children to walk around with a Big Gulp full of urine in their diapers because they cannot even feel it. Put a cloth diaper on that feels wet, and quickly cold, and it’s a whole different story.

I’m fully aware of the great debate between the energy used to make and launder cloth diapers vs. the energy required to manufacture and dispose of plastic diapers, but let’s face it, 18 billion diapers are entering landfills each year from the US alone which means 82,000 tons of plastic wrapped neatly around human excrement sitting buried in a landfill leaching toxins into our groundwater for a few hundred years.

Believe it or not, many people who use disposable diapers don’t know that you are supposed to throw the solid waste into the toilet before bundling up the diaper and tossing it in the garbage. Seems remarkable since dumping human excrement is illegal in most states, but apparently the poo poo police are not lurking around the landfills looking for violators.

We have just become lazy. Again, the earth is paying the price for us not wanting to deal with our waste. If you are too grossed out by the notion of rinsing your child’s diaper in the toilet and then washing them in your washer, you may want to rethink having kids, because what happens during childbirth is far more unsettling. What i’ve found after becoming so intimate with my daughters excrement is that the better I feed her, the less toxic her waste becomes. Garbage in, garbage out if you will.

Just try cloth, even if it’s only for a few hours a day. One less diaper in the landfill per day would be a great start, especially if 5 million people did it.

Along these lines, check out the challenge that Crunchy Chicken has started for the end of September: the cloth wipe challenge. We have been doing this for our daughter for 2 years, and with the help of the peri bottle the whole thing is really just an exercise in drying up.

Suddenly, dealing with adult excrement on flannel wipes makes cloth diapering seem almost enjoyable – why is that?

Diving In

September 6, 2007

Lab TestingAfter reading Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and renting The Future of Food from Netflix, i’ve decided to do some research of my own on genetically modified organisms.

Modifying the genetic structure of an organism essentially means moving the DNA from one structure to another. It’s not black and white, there is alot of randomness in the process (think mutation) and many unknowns. Mostly, what the long term effects will be for human consumption and for eliminating species diversity. I’ve read that genetic modification is like doing heart surgery with a shovel.

While all the research is still being done (or being buried), biotech companies have planted millions of acres of genetically modified crops which could be wiped out by a single fungus, or be found to cause deadly allergic reactions in humans. These seeds cannot be recalled like a cheap toy made in china once the seeds have been blown to neighboring fields or consumed by birds.

Our government is so intertwined with the companies doing the research, patenting the seeds (that’s a whole other issue), and sueing the pants off the small farmer, that we cannot rely on them to protect us. Read the labels of what you are purchasing. GMO’s do NOT have to be labeled in the US so if the ingredient list says ‘corn syrup’ there is a huge chance that the corn used was genetically modified. The only way to protect my family is to stop buying products that don’t specifically say ‘GMO Free’. It’s worth the extra effort to keep E. Coli out of our food. Believe it or not, E. Coli is often used to make many copies of a gene that will eventually be transferred into a plant. Open wide!

Up and Reading

September 5, 2007

I’ve decided to start a blog separate from my business blog, since my off-topic ramblings have started to monopolize my massage practice site. I really wanted a place to organize all the information that I gather about topics that interest me, mostly the environment and veganism. Today I ordered my first vegan cookbook and look forward to writing about it in the future.