Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Tag: children’s health Page 1 of 2

What We Stand To Lose In Healthcare

Originally published as a column in NewsKamloops

For a few days now my little guy has been going to bed after using the puffer. Mornings start with the same device. He’s a soldier that way and though the wheezing is audible enough to make me cringe, he says it’s fine and tries to do it without the puffer as much as possible.

We’ll meet with a specialist next week and hopefully solve some of the puzzle that’s been plaguing our lives lately as to which allergen is causing the trouble. It took a couple of months to get the appointment and we’re grateful that the wait has not been longer.

It’s been a while since our last visit to the emergency room and when it happened we had nothing but good things to say about the ambulance crew and the hospital staff that attended to my barely breathing son. The emotional price we paid was immense yet the financial one barely anything (we paid the fee for the ambulance service).

Anyone in Canada who’s been in an emergency situation, or suffers from a health issue that requires prolonged medical care knows one thing: you do not have to worry about the bill that will take years to pay if at all.

The lack of family doctors in Kamloops and other areas in BC is a sad state of affairs, yet the system is still not as bad as it could be should it become privatized. If you’re aware of the court case that made its debut in Vancouver a few days ago regarding the possible privatization of the healthcare in BC and eventually the whole Canada.

While most people whose children are encountering chronic health issues can attest that they would not hesitate to sell the coat off their back and more in order to pay for the best medical care, that is barely the point here. In fact, that is not the point.

The court case is not about a choice that should be made between the present system and a privatized one. It is about changing the system that put Canada on the map of countries who take care of their citizens health-wise, without charging an arm and a leg. That improvements can be made to the current system is true. There is room for better.

Yet what Brian Day, MD, is calling for is not it. For profit healthcare just like for profit education (university level) defeats the noble purpose such endeavours start out with. It is bad enough that money gets in the way of learning, or that conflicts of interests are often plaguing higher education when big companies doing controversial or disputed business in the community pay part of their acceptance with ‘gifts’ to learning institutions.

People can still find options. Healthcare is a different matter altogether. A matter of life and death one could say and it would not be exaggerated. Should our system change (let’s hope our judicial system will maintain a backbone on this one) we will see a lot of people falling through the cracks due to financial difficulty or less than ideal medical care because of the influx of doctors and nurses to the better paying side which is private care.

That someone who has once taken the Hippocratic oath pledging to not harm and cause hurt, to live an exemplary life and take into consideration the benefit of the patient first of all, is capable of taking the health care system to court in order to transform the profession into a business that will allow those in the higher financial tiers access to good medical care, while the ones less advantaged will take one for the team, is unthinkable.

We should all talk about this, understand the reality of a privatized health care and make enough noise to let those with the power of decision know that the actual final decision should be the result of all Canadians speaking up and standing for what is right for everyone.

Start a conversation today, read about what led to this court case to take place and why privatized healthcare is un-Canadian and unethical. Decisions can only be made if we’re educated enough and we have enough information available to do so. Standing up for what’s right has never been more important. Yes, our lives depend on it and we ought to act on it. Write to those who can act on your behalf, talk to people and spread the word. Every one of these matters more than you can imagine.

Please visit www.savemedicare.ca for more information.

Health And Education Should Come First

Originally published as a column in NewsKamloops.

PupI could delight you this time with some stories about our three-month-old puppy. Her deeds are cute, funny and downright naughty at times but cuteness comes with built-in ‘forgive me’ features and that’s that. Should she happen to need veterinary care because, say, she swallowed some sharp pebbles (true, she did), I have no trouble finding help in one of the clinics here in Kamloops.

That is reassuring. It’s good to get help when you need it and reassuring to know that you are not on your own with an issue that gives a few extra heart beats.

When it comes to my children, well, that’s a different problem. Over the last couple of weeks my youngest has been struggling with asthma on and off. As long as the puffer works, he gets some breathing help at night and I get some peace of mind. But puffers can only last that much and then you need a new prescription.

Unlike the urgent help I can get with our puppy, finding a spot in one of the local walk-in clinics for my son is a different matter. There are line-ups, there are lists, there is luck (or not) and there is the fear that, should he need additional tests done, there will a long waiting time before we can get in and get an answer. When one’s breathing is laboured, that is the farthest thing from reassuring.

This last week the news that the BC Children’s Hospital had to cancel some surgeries (non-emergency ones) because of a shortage of nurses was not only sad but infuriating. Though positive thinking tips include the one that says you should not ask ‘what if’, in this case I have to admit that the dreaded question crossed my mind.

What if? What if my children were among the non-urgent cases whose surgeries would be postponed because of a shortage of nurses? This kind of question becomes severely uncomfortable when it affects one directly. And it does, many people.

It does not cease to amaze me that our province lags when it comes to health, education and general child care issues. There are nurses I talked to who said they are overworked, many work on contract which means they have no benefits and support staff is scarce to make proper medical care a joke at times and their job a lot harder.

At the same time, many schools are closing throughout the province and in Vancouver too, where you’d think the rivers of money brought by real estate and foreign investors could positively impact the school situation.

That sometimes they are the only schools in an area (the case of the highschool in Osoyoos) makes it all the more shocking. Many teachers are being given the slip, many support staff too, so for parents whose life was a struggle at times because their children needed special assistance, life is becoming even more challenging.

Same goes for children struggling with chronic health issues. The families who appeal to the government for help are being told that there are no available funds for their case. To add to an already flammable list… we have the highest rate of child poverty in Canada, and there are communities where environmental pollution affects people’s health (as always, children are most susceptible), not that the latter is in any way a concern of the present provincial government.

Reading a well put together book on virtues with my youngest, we came across issues such honesty, kindness, compassion, and the discussions that ensued are nothing short of wonderful. We all want our children to learn to be honest, kind and compassionate. The world seems better that way. When someone goes the extra mile out of sheer kindness, it gives me hope.

When someone in a leading position makes the choice to remember that many people hope with all their might that vital issues like health, education, minimum wages and affordable daycare or support for people in poverty-ridden communities, are not overlooked but dealt with respectfully, that makes a world of difference. As it should.

Life is so far from perfect at times so our only hope is to stick together, to stand up for what’s right and to remember that though we may be out of harm’s way, some people aren’t, and their needs have to be solved. That a society where health and education are well taken care of sees many of its other issues solved too. It’s a story that could have a happy ending, but all characters, and primarily the ones in leading roles, need to show some good moral and intellectual virtues. Like honesty, kindness, compassion, courage and wisdom. That would do. Truly.

The Pesticide Dilemma and Why We Should Look Into It

(Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday, May 2, 2014)

The garden is coming along nicely. From green onions to radishes, carrots, peas and the lettuce mix disrupting the pattern of bright green with unexpected burgundy, our back yard is laced with goodness.

More to come. Back yard goodness, and weeds also. That means weeding. Again and again, until that first frost in the fall when it’ll all come to a well-deserved rest.

There will be plenty of clean food to eat yet we supplement, as we always do in summer, from the farmer’s market, sourcing for chemical-free crops as much as we can.

Clean food is something to be immensely grateful for. More so when, growing it ourselves, we become aware of the hard work behind it.

A recent Australian study showed that in just seven days of eating mostly organic, pesticide levels in people’s bodies dropped by 90 per cent.

This kind of science is not earth-shattering in the novelty category.

We know eating clean is good. While a couple of studies showed that organic produce is not necessarily superior nutritionally when compared to conventional crops (that is still a matter of debate,) the chemical load that the latter comes with cannot be denied.

It is well known that some crops are more sprayed than others, and some pesticides can wreak havoc with human health, especially when it comes to children.

Little sunsThere have been studies showing correlations between neurodevelopmental impairments in children and pesticide use; this pertains cosmetic use as well as agricultural.

The move towards cleaner produce, which translates into a cleaner environment and a lesser impact on human health, is an actively growing one.

Organic crops can be finicky in how they develop and their vulnerability to the elements, plus their increased demand for the tedious repetitive work, such as the above mentioned weeding.

For these reasons and more, organic produce costs more, yet perhaps not much more when one keeps to seasonal local produce.

Many say that you cannot feed the world unless you bring in conventionally-grown crops that rely on chemicals for growth and pest control, or genetically modified crops with that address the needs of the billions of us inhabiting the planet.

Most of conventionally-grown produce is undebatedly, cheaper than organic produce.
Yet, in many ways, it is, and continues to become more expensive. If we add the impact on human health and the environment, and the fact that cheap food encourages waste, the price spikes to new highs.

A comprehensive pesticide use survey done in California revealed that many children go to schools located near farm fields with intensive pesticide use, and are, as a result, exposed to high amounts of chemicals, some which have been already shown to be toxic and some already banned in other parts of the world.

The Canadian Association of the Physicians for the Environment (www.cape.ca) adds a strong voice to the issue.

The neurobehavioral effects of pesticide use on children are subtle in many cases but also pervasive. Behavioral problems, attention/hyperactivity issues, learning disabilities observed in more children every year, the result of chemical exposure before birth or during the first years of life. Pesticides are one of the said chemicals.

Children are, by default, vulnerable, due to their developing bodies. It is not a matter of whether they’ll be affected but how much.

A landmark study of Mexican children growing in a valley where pesticides are heavily used supports the concern. These children showed decreased stamina, impaired gross and fine motor skills, memory and drawing ability, when compared to their same age, less exposed peers.

While may say ‘Well that does not happen in all farm areas’ and they may be right, there are a few thought-provoking aspects of such studies.

As we know, much of the colorful, out-of-season produce found in grocery stores in North America comes from places such as the Yaqui Valley of northwestern Mexico where the pesticide study was done.

If there is demand, the offer will be created. A demand for blemish-free, out-of-season food creates an unwanted series of events that end up affecting people’s health. Theirs and ours.

Conflicts of interests are never fun to solve, but we ought to when children’s health, and human health is general, are at risk.

It comes down to the silly yet relevant ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ and the cheeky answer: ‘One bite at a time.’ Perhaps that’s the way the pesticide issue should be addressed as well, starting with our community.

Decreasing the amount of pesticides children are exposed to has to be addressed. From purely cosmetic use, such as lawn maintenance, which is another source of exposure for children and pets alike, to agricultural use.

Encouraging community gardening, supporting local farmers – we are blessed with many – through the farmer’s market and, ultimately, creating the link between needs and abundant, seasonal produce that can become a source of good nutrition for those with limited resources are but a few ways to reduce exposure even further.

There is no shortage of creativity and good intentions when it comes to food and keeping a community healthy. As they say, when there is a will, there is a way…

The Undeniable Truth About Our Environment

?A documentary aptly titled “Toxic Hot Seat” aired yesterday on HBO Channel. While I have yet to watch it, I have researched the topic (flame retardants) extensively for a feature article a while ago. They are a vile bunch of chemicals.

Just like so many other environmental toxic substances, flame retardants are so pervasive in today’s world that it comes down to this: If you are alive, you have them in your body. And if you do, then you may, at some point in your life, experience the plethora of health problems that come with them. Flame retardants accumulate in your body and unless you move to Mars, and soon, there’s no escaping building your own supply of them.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Here are some required facts about flame retardants:

  • Flame retardants are used, well, to retard the onset of a fire. Chemically speaking, these substances are called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs.) The people who come most in contact with them are firefighters of course, but more and more studies point to all of us being exposed to them because of their ubiquitous presence around us.
  • PBDEs are found in mattresses, electronics, carpets, curtains, and sadly, even in children’s pajamas. They are found in the dust you have in your home (unless you live to vacuum, which you should not because life is too short for that.)  Regardless of your vacuuming habits though, gone are the days when dust bunnies were just a sign of a bohemian lifestyle or a rushed one. Now they’re the harbingers of health problems because of the chemicals they house within their fluffiness.
  • Chemicals used as flame retardants affect the reproductive system and the brain (they affect learning, memory, behavior and cause deficits in motor skills,) and they increase the risk of various types of cancer. In short, bad news.

I’ve written about these chemicals a while ago. I said then that the ones who get it bad are children. It’s true. Due to their growing bodies and propensity to jump on couches, crawl on the floors and take in more breaths than us adults, more chemicals per body weight enter their bodies and that is a sad reality. Not only flame retardants but many others.

Though many companies do plan to phase out flame retardants in some of their products, one has to wonder about history repeating itself. Many chemicals that were phased out due to their ill effects on human health, wildlife and the environment  (think DDT, PCBs,) have yet to disappear from our surroundings. In other words, a 30-year-old ban may have prevented more chemicals from being dumped upon us, but the ones already here are here to stay for a few more decades. Present-day chemicals such as flame retardants and others such as plasticizers are no different.

Some could argue that such is the price of comfortable, practical and safe goods. “Safe” according to the industry promoting and encouraging the use of these chemicals, not safe from an unbiased, evidence-based and responsible perspective. A terrible and sad case of abusing a concept, you’d have to agree.

It should not be this way. In a considerate world, people’s health and well-being should come before money.

Flame retardants and many invisible yet powerful chemicals we all breathe and eat today should be assessed at face value and given proper consideration.

The environment changes slowly and subtly, yet the manifestations of those changes are displayed dramatically, some more than others.

  • The number of children suffering from environmental allergies as well as asthma are increasing year after year; same for asthma. There are more and more people suffering from what it’s called multiple chemical sensitivity, a disease that is somewhat controversial due to a difficulty in establishing a clear connection between symptoms and causes. While the debate goes on, some people are affected by the same environment that leaves many of us unscathed (for now.) In the meantime, more public buildings adopt a fragrance-free policy in order to reduce the effects of exposure to fragrances and similar substances that many people are sensitive to.
  • More children than ever display signs of what is slowly becoming “yesterday news,” such as hyperactivity and ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism. Again, easy to overlook if you’re not in the thick of it. Not to say that all causes of above-mentioned issues are caused by the collective chemicals that keep adding to the environmental burden, but if multiple studies point to a clear link in some cases, or a putative connection, in others, perhaps it is wise and responsible to look at it objectively and take the appropriate measures.
  • Endocrine imbalances translate in infertility and other hormone-related health issues including breast cancer, a chronic affection that was deemed environmental in many cases.
  • Cancer attacks indiscriminately nowadays and that’s both sad and scary. Cancer used to be a disease of old age, but that is no longer the case. Also, cancer used to be associated with doing this or that (fill in with various “bad for you” activities such as smoking) but nowadays living seems to be associated with a moderate to high risk of cancer. It should not be like that.

The only big problem with all of these issues is that there are no big bad monsters with clearly defined contours for us to point at. Invisible chemicals used extensively and in high amounts to the financial benefit of industrial giants are not an easy enemy to defeat. Books have been written and environmental scientists are working hard at gathering evidence that the environment suffers and we will suffer with it but somehow we are a bunch of die-hards who are playing hard to get.

The environment is changing slowly and that gives us reason to say “maybe it’s not that bad after all…” Hardly a good thing. It makes it easier for naysayers to persist in denial, and it makes it easier for many to turn a blind eye. But it also makes it difficult to make changes down the road when we’ll realize the ill effects but by then we’ll be too far in the game and, from many an industry point of view, too costly to change anything.

So what are we to do? For one, become aware of what’s around us. Documentaries, independent studies and talks by people who put human health and the environment before anything else are a great starting point in becoming aware.

Imagine a world with a motto like: Proceed if safe for humans and all forms of life on Earth and the environment.

We come into this world with nothing and we leave like that too. We are thinking, empathetic beings who know right from wrong. I choose to believe that deep down most of us are like that.

Assessing and reassessing our priorities, our needs and wants and also, taking into consideration the needs of others is a matter of maturity. From sharing a home to inhabiting the (only) planet, everyone’s actions will becomes collective consequences. Today’s actions will shape everyone’s tomorrow. I think a good tomorrow would suit everyone.

What do you think?

 

 

 

The Aftermath: Keeping Halloween Fun For Kids

Picture this: a dummy resembling a person fallen to the ground is placed in front of a garage door to look as if the head has been crushed by the door — blood on the door and suggestive puddles on the pavement included. It looks as real as you can imagine. Anything more would be the real thing.

A neighbour calls 911 and a discussion ensues.

It happened in more than one place. Comments abounded. The majority were a reverberation of, “Come on, it’s Halloween!” and praised the creativity of the displays. A matter of opinion.

Others argued that we shouldn’t allow for something that creates fear or unease.

One such commenter was told to look the other way if she couldn’t take it, while another who suggested we should return to what Halloween used to be (goblins, ghosts, black cats) was deemed a witch and told, “What did they do with witches back then? Burn, witches, burn!”

Feeling uncomfortable yet? Intolerance of a different opinions punctuated with implied violence is never a good thing.

Halloween is one spooky day, everyone agrees, but suggested violence — to the extreme, in this case — can stir negative emotions that are not conducive to good fun. Most commenters suggested that children would be the first ones to find the display funny because they know what Halloween is about.

I disagree. Creepy and horrifying is not funny. Normalizing violence is not acceptable. Halloween or not, some boundaries should not be crossed.

Our 92-year-old neighbour reminisces about Halloweens that were not about zombies and severed crawling hands. “Halloween is for kids,” she said. Jack-o-lanterns and decorations, trick-or-treat if they wished, but horror was never part of it.

Children nowadays are exposed to myriad stimuli that may or may not be appropriate for their level of understanding. They seem to know more, but knowing is not the same as understanding.

Children’s brains need time to grow and rushing serves no one. They need time to learn to make the distinction between fake and real.

Present-day Halloween décor is different from what it used to be. Children, young and old, get a big dose of gore, dismembered bodies and zombie action, on top of the old-fashioned ghosts and skeletons, which seem tame by comparison. Save for the last items, I am not sure children can take the above-mentioned in the expected stride. Some will, some won’t.

One way to honour human nature is to not desensitize children to violence. In my youngest son’s class, some kids still believe in the tooth fairy, while they also talk about watching clips from movies like Chucky and Candyman.

If violence happens out of the Halloween context, children are referred to counsellors for help. Parents have a hard time explaining it. Violent images in the news can shock children. We know that.

Movies have parental guidance warnings for a reason. Not only is the plot geared toward a mature audience, but the horror elements and sexual references are clearly not to be seen, let alone understood, by children and tweens.

I watched 20 minutes of a scary movie once. I was already an adult, yet it made me cringe.

I grew up with very little television. We played outside and read. But here’s an interesting thing: many of my favourite books included sword fighting (Alexandre Dumas) and gunfights (Karl May’s books describing the Wild West). I was never uneasy or scared. The violence wasn’t gratuitous, though.

I am trying to raise my boys the same way. We have always been outside a lot, around our yard, town and on road trips. We read books depicting times past and present and the heroes within — real or fantasy. Ditto for movies.

They never feared “monsters” under their beds — until this year, that is. My youngest now struggles when night approaches.

He was told about a bad guy who comes and kills you in your sleep. Some kids at school talked about it. The name is Candyman. Just the product of someone’s imagination, we told him. He knows, but fear has stuck for now. Having our home broken into recently doesn’t help.

As a result, he is ambivalent about Halloween. Excited about the dressing up part, troubled about the anticipated scary, possibly gory, décor and costumes he might see that day and the stories associated with them.

It shouldn’t be this way; it should be fun — kiddie-appropriate jack-o-lantern, goblin and ghost fun. After all, like our 92-year-old neighbour said, “Halloween has always been fun for kids.”

We should keep it that way.

Originally published as a column in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday, November 2, 2013. 

To Be Mindful. A Reminder

Two toddlers died a couple of weeks ago as a result of being forgotten in cars that got too hot in the sun. It is the kind of news that makes your insides roll in a tight ball, whether you are a parent or not, but more so if you are one.

The events are isolated, one could say, but not isolated enough. To say the issue is debatable is an understatement. That parents or caregivers forget babies or toddlers in cars, some experts say, it’s a brain glitch. But, others say, it is unconceivable. Sad reality: It happens.

No parent is without fault and parenting is one challenging journey, everyone agrees. We make mistakes, we stumble, often we think we’re doing a good job just to lose our footing shortly after and find ourselves at the bottom of the hill, ready for a new climb, ready to make it better the next day. Just like it should be.

But this goes beyond parenting mistakes. It allows no trying again to make it better next time. One cannot imagine the pain those parents experience, whether they are the ones who forgot the children or another caregiver.

While every case is different, courts often decide no further charges, since the consequence of the deed itself is the worst punishment; nothing can come close to the pain left by the disappearance of a child and under such gruesome circumstances.

To judge is not the answer and really, who wants to cast the first stone… The reason I have a hard time defining this as a brain glitch though is out of fear that when we accept such things as possible mistakes, then they will happen.

But here’s the big question is: How is it possible? Are we too busy, too overscheduled, too absent from the present moment? If we put a child in the car seat, how could we forget to take her out? If a child is in the car, are we not to acknowledge her presence like we would a grown-up’s?

What rush could cause us to leave the car without even taking a look back? What about the instinctual pull that keeps us connected to our children from the moment they are born, a must in keeping them safe?

Somehow this issue crosses the parenting realm boundaries though.

It is a stark reminder to be mindful. To be where we are when we are there. It’s becoming a thing of the past with each day that passes nowadays.

Stretched between various communication and entertainment devices, busy jobs, various appointments and social obligations, the mind does its best, but multitasking is a dangerous game to play when children’s well-being is at risk.

To be where we are with all that we are means to make the best of every passing moment. Whatever it is that you are doing at a particular moment, be honest with yourself and stay committed to being immersed in that moment, no exception.

When sharing a moment or few with another human being, our loved ones first of all, we owe it to them to be there. In early childhood our children are mindful. When they explore the world outside, they stare intently at all living creatures, they spend enough time to really see it.

When we read to them or tell them a story, they envelop us with attention, they keep track of words and story thread. They are there, listening, cuddled to us and living that moment. We should do the same.

Life is not kind at times. There’s deadlines, stern bosses and obligatory phone calls. We are tired and the mind wanders. Being mindful is often a challenge.

But we cannot afford to be anything less, and we cannot settle for mindlessness, the price is too high and it will ultimately rob of all moments to follow, or rather the capacity to enjoy them.

To be mindful has great rewards and while we cannot change the world or slow down its pace, we can adjust ours. Better yet, let’s make it a team effort to truly make it work. Let’s not allow anyone’s pain to become but a news item, and anyone’s memory to slip out of life with no proper heeding and learning from. We can all help prevent future mistakes of this kind.

Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on July 13, 2013

The trouble with good looks…

Every time I see those little plaques advising about pesticide use on lawns, I cringe. If something comes with a warning, it should be used sparingly and only if there’s no other way. More so when it affects children. Bees and other helpful critters too. And we need them all.

We want our lawns green and lush and pest-free and make it all happen fast if possible. Cosmetic pesticides can do that, but they have an ugly side that bothers enough people to make them an issue, yet not enough to ban them.

In Vancouver lawn lovers face excessive rain, stubborn moss and the occasional grubs that crows found so appetizing that they turn entire yards upside down looking for them.

Here in Kamloops we have hot summer days and no rain. We need lots of water to maintain decently green lawns, plus figure out the dandelion dilemma. Irony has it that dandelions are good health allies though…

The Canadian Cancer Society together with other health, environmental and animal welfare organizations are calling for a ban on cosmetic pesticides.

Used to improve the appearance of green spaces, public or residential, pesticides are known to affect human health and the environment. Unnecessarily so, because no degree of lawn perfection can motivate the use of substances that are potential causes of childhood cancers such as leukemia.

Cosmetic pesticides affect many critters that help our gardens, from visible ones, such as bees and earthworms, to invisible ones, like soil bacteria.

There truly is no decent reason for choosing perfect lawns over health.

The Canadian Lung Association advises against them too. As a parent of a child with environmental allergies and asthma, I find their position reassuring. Something is being done, or will be, because people care.

Children nowadays are exposed to more chemicals than ever before.

Indoors or outdoors, we all breathe, eat and absorb chemicals on a daily basis. Some substances are very harmful, others less so. With some we have no choice, with others, such as cosmetic pesticides, we do but don’t always exercise our options in a way that favors health. Children are most at risk because of their developing bodies and the time spent close to the ground.

Whether pesticide-treated or cared for with integrated pest management solutions, children find lawns equally appealing and inviting. Playtime is not conditioned by perfect lawns.

Children like soft grass as much as they like digging holes in the dirt and playing with muck. If we desire lawns for our children to play on, they should be free of chemicals. Just because we don’t see something it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Just because something is approved for use it doesn’t not mean that it’s harmless.

Chemicals like cosmetic pesticides that are associated with health risks such as cancer or endocrine problems and are not a need to improve but a want, shouldn’t be used. There are enough situations where chemicals are used to prevent diseases or save crops, or fight various pests. Be it so, we should use them on a “need to” basis.

Adults like their lawns green and lush and their gardens pest-free and there is nothing wrong with either if safe alternatives are used to achieve that. Some work better than others and some may take longer to work. But human health and the environment are not affected and that is what should always come first.

Many of the conveniences and nice-looking amenities that we surround ourselves with have a hefty price tag attached to them, often times less visible or not immediately anyway, and often we choose to skip checking it up close because then we might be forced to choose and assume the responsibility of having made that choice.

As I often tell the boys, if I only have to choose for myself, I consider pros and cons and choose accordingly. Whether short or long term, my choice will affect only me (though in all fairness, there are very few choices we can make that only affect one person.)

If I have to make a choice that will affect other people, whether they are my family, my friends or complete strangers, I put even more thought into it, and safety considerations come first. I expect others to do the same when they make choices for me and other people; it means having a civil conscience.

All we have to do is look back at the many examples of things gone wrong with chemicals used over the years. In many cases people had the luxury of saying “we did not know it was (this) harmful.” Nowadays we come across many deleterious substances but choose to ignore their ugly side because choosing the safer side it’s often inconvenient or it takes more time, money and energy.

The old “you can have your cake and eat it too” is a lie. Really. It’s high time we make safer choices. Greener too, in this case (pun thoroughly intended.)

(Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on June 1, 2013)

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