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Why A Different Approach Is Needed This Holiday Season And Beyond

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 11, 2017. 

Last week, the conservation group Sea Legacy (co-founded by Canadian-born photographer and marine biologist Paul Nicklen and his partner Cristina Mittermeier, also a conservationist, photographer, and writer,) released a video of a starving polar bear, aiming to draw attention to an issue that is not new but is getting increasingly worrisome: the impact of climate change on wildlife and the environment, human life included, since we are, truly, but a piece of the big puzzle we call life.

The video was shared on social media, and the heartbreaking reality the Sea Legacy team was confronted with was discussed in the news. In a nutshell, shorter winters and the melting of the sea ice causes more polar bears to go hungry, as they are forced to spend more time on land instead of replenishing their reserves by going after seals, an activity for which they need sea ice.

Other scientists concur. Nick Lunn, a researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada, recently warned that climate change may be wiping out the subpopulation of polar bears near Churchill, Manitoba, in 20 to 40 years. Occurrences such as a bear swimming underwater for more than three minutes (almost three times longer than normal) while stalking his prey, only points to the same issue: increased starvation, which also causes many hungry bears to walk into cities in search of food. Aside from climate change, polar bears and other Arctic creatures are affected by persistent pollutants which affect their nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems.

The reactions to the photos and video of the severely emaciated bear were diverse, and some, to be honest, rather shocking. Some called it tragic, and vowed to change their ways to reduce their carbon footprint, others said these conservationists are opportunists trying to push their own agenda (I have a hard time with the ridiculousness of such statements) spreading fake news about the climate, while this is a perfectly normal reality, i.e. wild animals starving to death or being diseased. Yes, you can shake your head.

The bleeding hearts accused the team of being cruel and filming the bear instead of feeding it (as if that would save it, or the rest of the bears threatened by the same fate.) Others went as far as to say that this kind of news ruins their weekend.

The reason I picked this topic to write about is because of the incoming reports on wildlife disappearing at a rate we are not prepared to accept. According to the WWF conservation group, we have lost approximately 60 percent of wildlife since 1970 (which is not that long ago) and by 2020 (which is too darn close) we will see two thirds of them gone. Due mostly to human activity, the WWF report said. Alarmists, some may conclude, yet other studies and direct evidence brought by scientists and conservation photographers point to the same.

Recent reports by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) draws attention to a few species that are either endangered or threatened due to human activity interfering with their natural cycles, or altering their habitat, which drastically decreases their numbers and in some cases, such as the great northern Caribou herds, pushes them closer to the tipping point (a nice way to say extinction.) Add some species of salmon to the list too, some of trout, migratory birds, and Monarch butterflies. The list is long and getting longer, and the main culprits are interrelated: climate change and human activity.

While I wholeheartedly agree that this cavalcade of troubling environmental news is upsetting (including the ever-increasing plastic and garbage issue,) more so as we approach Christmas, it is important that we not only talk about it all, but that we keep talking about it once the new news is old news.

In many retail stores the lineups are a sight to behold already and seasonal merchandise is choking the shelves. Some of it, mostly plastic, will add to the landfills, soon after the season’s over. We can hope (and help as much as we can) that those who truly are in need, such as the 18.3 percent of children who find themselves below the poverty level in British Columbia (17 percent Canada-wide), will have their needs taken care of. Past the Christmas season too, until no child is found to live in poverty – now that’s a good wish to wish and help come true.

Aside from that, if we can take the stories of our ailing world to heart and give the gifts that matter the most to our loved ones, which are time and presence, while reducing our consumption and material gift footprint to a minimum necessary (donating instead to those in need for example,) I can see that as enabling a much-needed Christmas-and-beyond miracle: our own survival in a world that needs us to pay attention to more than immediate comfort and the next thing to buy.

We can shrug or ignore reports of wildlife suffering or disappearing because of human activity and climate change, or we can start a long-awaited conversation that may see the tide turning in favour of life. Choosing the latter has no dire consequences; on the contrary. It means choosing a better future. Choosing to continue to ignore the signs we see everywhere – animals disappearing, extreme weather phenomena, severe wildfires, that is akin to playing Russian roulette at a time when playing games is not something we can afford.

The Place To Be When There’s Nowhere To Go

Monday, July 16. The air is white and heavy this morning. Last night’s air was the same though a breeze was raking its long windy fingers through it trying to disperse it. I greet the morning the same way I do every day, trying to tell myself the world is just the same, just smokier…

I try to take my mind off the fact that the air I breathe in has small unfriendly particles I cannot see but are present nonetheless, so I can still be grateful for the day ahead.

I try to take my mind off the fact that there are hundreds of wildfires burning throughout the province, displacing thousands, ripping them out of their homes and making them travelers to nowhere for a while. Wherever I look, I am captive in a white world that seems to end nearby, and it’s only the distant noises that remind of the reality wildfire smoke is trying to steal away.

I am not surprised that wildfires have sprouted with such adversity. It has been said by many, that our world is changing in ways that we will not able to predict, or withstand, for that matter, with much grace. In fact, grace has little say when fear steps in. It resurfaces when people hurry to help those in need, which I see plenty of here these days. The innocence of a world where shelter was taken for granted has been lost, but something else gets rebuilt instead. Hope through open arms.

I try to remember that the resilience of the human spirit is stronger than any fire, but taking another breath in reminds of a simple truth: I am not in control. Neither of us is. We are still at the mercy of forces that dwarf us. It’s truth that today’s comforts coax us into underestimating (ultimately a self-harming societal habit.)

I will try today, as I do every day, to remember that I still hold the gift of life within, thick smoky air notwithstanding. I will try to remember that when it feels like the sky is falling over, white and suffocating, I should stay within the boundaries of now, rather than try to make sense of what comes after.

I will try to remember today that holding hope is the way out of fear. Blue skies will surface.

Thursday, July 20. It rained last night, on and off. More is always needed. The plume of smoke that made the city its home was temporarily chased away by rain pelleting in large drops. Salvation delivered in buckets of rain water. Adequately so, the message is written in the clouds above: water is precious.

The sky this morning was a beautiful blue with white clouds stuck to it in carefree patterns. Pup and I took our morning walk near the Golden Sands, as our family has come to call the area near the airport. The river runs on one side, and on the other side a field of green embraces my gaze, hungry for vivid colours and starved after many hazy days.

It’s the simple things that count, the refrain comes back again and again. Clean air. My breathing has turn shallow over the last few days, as if to avoid putting my body through the stress of having to deal with the many particles invading the air. It’s in your mind, some might say. You see the smoke and you feel like breathing is impacted. If only. Smoke is real, dense at times, and it presses on your lungs in a merciless way that is spelled out as ‘shortness of breath.’

Today’s air is pure (informally peaking) in that visible sense that is comforting. There is more stormy weather chasing us as we walk along; pup sniffs rain-accentuated patches of canine wonder along the path, and I keep taking my camera out for another shot. Beauty sublime. Humbling. I wish it were possible to release all these shots of colour and wonder in the days that follow when the smoke returns. Like you release butterflies, you know.

We walk through the trees through a parade of mosquitoes which I am breakfast-on-the-go to; mucky sinkholes, hungry bugs and snapping branches cannot thwart a happy heart though. The air is clean, it matters most.

We reach the water edge, sand pours in my sneakers from all sides and I stay connected to all that I feel, mosquito bites included, because the sky is blue and my eyes are glued to it, to the hills I can see so clearly, and to the stormy clouds that roll up in a chase behind us. The pup runs in and out of the water, exhilaration left as paw prints on the narrow beach.

I am present. Humbled by how easily I can breathe, and by how nothing else matters. It reminds of the obvious. Clean air is where it starts. Life, that is.

The wildfires will continue for a while. Tomorrow might be smoky again and breathing will not come easy, again. The back and forth creates awareness, I hope. That we need to have the essentials in place. Clean air. That we need to think our collective lives and choices better to keep air, water, and soil pirates away and dwindling. So we can be. Humbled by blue skies and able to breathe. Will we?

The Time For Trade Offs Should Be Behind Us

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on July 17, 2017. 

It’s a smoky morning in Kamloops and about to get smokier still, judging by the large plume riding down the North Thompson. I took the dog out for a walk but we’re both slowing down our usual pace on days like today. It’s more work to take each breath in. I think of people struggling with respiratory disease on a good day (my youngest included). It is only mid-July and summer is still unfolding as we speak. More wildfires to come.

Will next year be the same? Worse? Better? How about the one after? That we cannot foresee the future, let alone create a better one, is a sobering thought. At the same time, one could argue, we do have a say in what is to come. With some margin for error (and growing every year,) but still.

So, the smoke. Particulate matter is hell on earth for all of us. More coming as fossil fuel consumption increases and the resulting greenhouse gases causes temperatures to increase.

More dust and particulate matter coming if the extraction sector continues its forays into the underground riches. Case in point here in Kamloops: the Ajax mine.

City council is about to cast their decision today. A relevant step. I have stated where I stand on a few occasions: a firm no. There is not enough money in this world to buy health or a mouthful of fresh air. I know what it’s like not being able to breathe from watching my son fight to breathe on more than one occasion.

I cannot picture adding the dust and increased amounts of exhaust gas from mine traffic to the city air on a day like today. Jobs are needed, that is true everywhere. But the trade-offs are to be considered carefully. Now more than ever.

If a hundred years ago, or even more recent in our history, we had enough clean environment to spare (I stubbornly believe there never is ‘enough’ clean air, water, and soil to spare), we are now seeing the results of that way of thinking in many places around the world, our own country-wide backyard included.

Industrial developments that put a community’s health and well-being at risk ought to make people rethink priorities. Mines without solid safety standards in place end up costing a community more than all the jobs combined. Examples abound, more so in a province like ours where the lax mining standards have been costly, socially, and otherwise. Hence the need for objectivity and a clear vision of the future, no pun intended.

It’s been said repeatedly by our governments, provincial and federal, that decisions on mines, liquid natural gas operations and pipeline construction are done with science in mind. ‘Facts-based decisions’ is the refrain that keeps on coming to remind us of the soundness of the decision-making process.

In case of the Ajax mine, science reports came back rather unequivocal. Not in favour, that is. In other cases, such as Mount Polley Mine, science seems to be employed as a weapon of betrayal (presently, treated wastewater is dumped in the lake, as per our former government’s decision following a ‘science-based’ process. The initial spill cleanup has not happened yet.)

The human population is growing, hence the need for more. Emphasis on ‘need’. We are making use of wants though, more often than we should, and we do that in ways that prove detrimental to our own well-being: our environment is polluted in the process of extracting resources, manufacturing goods, transporting them, and in the process of disposing of them. Garbage is at an all-time high on land and in the oceans, and, much like the human population, on a growing trend.

We’re bulging at the seams, yet more is produced, and more developments are underway. Life is not a one-way street, where you leave stuff behind as you go. It is a circle, and in true circle fashion, everything is engaged on a trajectory that keeps returning to the starting point. We’re part of it too.

We know, factually speaking, that our environment is aching; it has been for some time. Helping a community thrive while considering possible deleterious health effects of a local economic project is where the balance stands. The time for trade-offs should be behind us, because no matter how you stack it, money can never buy health, no matter how much of it you pile up.

It’s All Connected And Life Depends On It

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops on June 26, 2017. 

A few things have happened in the last few days. The Rae Fawcett Breast Health Clinic at RIH is now officially open in Kamloops, after being active for a month already, providing women with streamlined care, from examinations to diagnostic. A beautiful example of putting money to good work – the Fawcett family has donated $1 million towards the centre.

This comes as positive news after the recently released study by the Canadian Cancer Society. The report predicts that 1 in 2 Canadians will develop cancer during their lifetime, and 1 in 4 will die because of it. Can you say dire?

The report states that the rather dark predictions have to do with with aging. An aging population is indeed subject to more chronic disease, that is what we learn. With a catch: the report places old age past the age of 50. Wait, that is not that old, I can hear many say. True. Life does not take a downturn after you turn 50. Not if lifestyle choices include healthy eating, exercise, and stress-busting strategies of some sort, be it volunteering, reading, gardening, making time for precious family time, you name it.

When I first learned about cancer, I also learned that if a person lives long enough, they’ll eventually develop the dreaded disease simply because the cells in their body age.  The DNA ages too and that induces changes that translate into the ultimate cellular havoc we all know about. Yes, all true, except that ‘old age’ in this case was placed closer to 100 than at the halfway mark like mentioned above.

So, many will say, that refers to the older people. Young ones are safe then? I wish I could say yes, yet before the young population feels relieved, here’s some sobering thought bites:

  • Cancer is often intertwined with lifestyle choices: radiation exposure, smoking, unhealthy food consumption which leads to obesity, combined with lack of physical activity. Genetics plays a role as well, that is true, but giving ourselves to fate alone would be disempowering to say the least
  • Young people and even children do develop cancer, and the rates of cancer in kids under the age of 19 have been increasing over the last decades. That treatment and survival chances have also gone up is true, but that does not change the increased rates.
  • In many types of cancer, the risk of recurrence can be significantly lowered by daily physical exercise. Moderate intensity, that is, and performed for a certain length of time, benefit both body and mind, mood if you prefer, a definite helper in beating cancer
  • Our world is getting more chemically loaded by the day. Of the chemicals that are found in our homes, work places and in the great outdoors, especially in various bodies of water, many are found to be carcinogenic, or potentially carcinogenic. Exposure matters. ‘Nuff said.

It so happened that the latter is made more relevant by news pertaining to events such as the Mount Polley spill disaster. As of April 7, 2017, the BC Ministry of the Environment has granted permission to Mount Polley Mining Corporation to transfer their mining waste water into Quesnel Lake. Entertaining the thought of having to drink water from what used to be a pristine source, but is now laced with many chemicals from the spill, which was never fully cleaned up to begin with, is enough to make one shudder. Yet people will.

It will take years to see the unfortunate consequences of drinking polluted water years from now. That water was deemed clean and safe by government official through environmental assessments that might or might not be biased, and by the corporate management team who likely gets their drinking water from a different source, only adds to the controversy and the wrongness of it.

Kamloops has been in the decision trenches regarding the Ajax mine for a few good years now. We’ve heard it all and then some, the pros and cons. In the wake of the report that the Canadian Cancer Society released, I feel compelled to say that in every decision we make, as individuals, or as communities, health should be first on the list. Truly, we have nothing if health is affected.

Should a mine or any other project be built, strict safety standards closely monitored by a government that has the best of its citizens in mind, that would allow for an economic boost without the risks. If priorities other than health crowd the list, we will simply get used to getting dire stats, shrugging once we have digested the news and opt for… well, adapting, which is what one radio show host was suggesting as a solution for dealing with climate change.

Adaptation is a wonderful gift that the living world is blessed with, but there’s only that much we can stretch the concept until it becomes another nail in the coffin. And until proven otherwise, no scary-sounding stats will make a corporate heart bleed and turn a compassionate eye towards the community its profits come from.

It comes down to every one of us getting the facts and making individual and community-wide decisions that will ultimately enhance quality of life, long-term, for everyone. That’s partly how I think a cancer prediction-beating strategy could work.

The Land, The People and The Economy

Originally published as a column on NewsKamloops on Friday March 4, 2016. 

On Tuesday night I was part of a group of people who gathered at TRU to watch the documentary ‘Fractured Land’ featuring Caleb Behn, an indigenous young man who is both a lawyer and an activist. His Goliath is the fracking industry in the BC Northeast and the possible development – unless something happens to halt the project – of the site C dam, which will add more insult to the injury already hurting the area.

It was hard not to shift in your seat as the show drew to an end and left everyone wondering what the best way to do things is after all. People have a love-hate relationship with fossil fuels, more so in the areas where the consequences of taking them out of the ground is seen in declining health, an increased rate of birth defects and also in the way their immediate natural world is affected.

Is leaving everything in the ground the solution? That’s naiveté at its best. Not because it is a bad idea but because we are still dependent on fossil fuels and the industry will not hang its hat any time soon. A smooth enough transition to renewable energy sounds commendable but… our leaders are still talking pipelines, fracking wells are still being drilled and an environmental black-eye like site C dam project is still to become reality.

The recent Paris meeting COP21 had many nations, especially island dwellers who are literally in harm’s way, trace the lines in the sand in regards to what temperature increase their now fragile worlds can tolerate before tipping point(s) becomes evident. That is, in less palatable terms, the point of no return.

But once the colourful sparkles of fireworks died off and the champagne glasses were put away, the New Year came with some uncomfortable surprises. It’s getting hot, scientists warn, and it’s getting shifty, weather pattern-wise, as is the case on the East coast. At the time of this writing on Thursday, March 3, the latest measurements showed that the average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have pushed through the 2 degrees Celsius above the usual (normal) values.

You know it’s getting hot when the Iditarod organizers have to haul in snow to make up for the missing white matter. That’s snow proofing and it cannot do more than be a Band-Aid solution.

That uncomfortable shifting in one’s seat again. But all is not lost. If it’s hot in one spot only many will carry on with their lives as if nothing is happening. If it’s hot in most places, people start to notice and action follows. There’s hope.

Luckily the dreary news coincides with the wrapping up of the Globe 2016 Leadership Summit in Vancouver. The conclusions included plans to phase out coal, reduce the methane emissions generated by the oil and gas industry and a province-specific carbon pricing scheme.

It sounds optimistic though the pipelines stay for now, which is not optimistic. Nor is the existent dialogue between the present government and oil companies regarding Arctic drilling, but if enough eyes are on it, perhaps public consultations will become a must and thus we will have a chance to speak up.

We are but a country among many contributing to the rise in greenhouse gases and though our contribution is low compared to other countries such as the US and China, the undeniable reality of intersecting economies should understandably push our present leadership towards finding solutions to reflect the present environmental challenges (yes, trade partnerships signed by the previous and present government can get in the way).

But there is a bright side too. Climate change has become a topic, a hot one and not just in environmental circles. Dialogue brings hope and it brings solutions.

Protecting the environment does not have to be the deadly enemy of economic growth, our PM Justin Trudeau said not long ago. The green energy sector can create jobs while honouring the commitment towards our beautiful blue dot, and it can assist, at a large scale, our transition to renewable energy sources that will see us on a more hopeful trajectory as a planet.

One thing is clear though. Economic growth can easily transition into being powered by greed rather than morals pertaining to the benefit of us all, and when it does, ill effects become ignored or concealed. Here’s to hoping that we have learned enough from the past and present in order to make the future a better one where greed need not apply, not if survival is intended.

As for doing something at an individual level, I have been told repeatedly, that will not help much. True, but it will save us from occasional despair and it will lead to a shift in how we think at community level, which counts.

A Few Issues I Am Struggling With

Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday June 27, 2014

I choose to call them blunders of our times, if you’d allow me. Here’s a sample:

Locally, the school dilemma. On Monday, the decision was made regarding Stuart Wood Elementary. It will be moved on McGill Street, starting with September 2016.

One of the main points made during the meeting was that this is done in the best interest of children. The school, being an old heritage building and such, requiring lots of costly upgrades, is not suitable for children: not safe enough, not big enough. Fair points, reiterated as a justifying monologue since a dialogue at that point was thought to create a bad precedent. Dialogues inviting to brainstorming create good precedents; democracy relies on dialogue and feedback.

The big issue of not having a community school just got bigger. Children cannot walk to school anymore, a good chunk of downtown liveliness just went out the window. I cannot help but wonder about students who might arrive at the bus stop too late because life tripped them that particular morning and about the increased pollution due to increased traffic on Columbia Street.

Air pollution has been declared a carcinogen by the World Health Organization last year. Allergies and asthma in children are at an all-time high, and particulate matter is already an ugly guest in Kamloops. Increased pollution in our city is not in the best interest of children. Clean air is.

But clean air is becoming a precious commodity, whether we like it or not. And it will only get worse if we put more cars on the road, drive more and idle more. Which we do, every day. An ‘idle-free city’ status reinforced by law is long overdue.

Locally and globally, the plastic dilemma. I see it as I walk around town, I see it when we go camping, and there are reports of oceans being covered in plastic while becoming depleted in fish.

At the same time, retail stores abound with plastic products, with even more coming whenever a holiday is approaching. We allow for the manufacturing of a plastic forest that prevents us to see the real trees…

Plastic is a great invention and incredibly useful, but not all and not in the amounts present nowadays. Much of it also affects human health, children most of all. Just to put things in perspective, approximately 280 million tonnes of plastic are produced yearly and recycling touches but a mere 15 percent.

At the same time, pipeline and mine decisions circle overhead like a bunch of hungry crows and it feels like the only thing worth doing is making a circle the way elephants do, putting our young in the middle so they’ll be protected no matter what. Are we? Are they?

Globally and locally, pesticide use. They are still around, those discreet ‘notice of pesticide use’ on lawns here and there. Desert or not, we want our lawns green and lush.

Pesticides are also used widely because that’s how you grow food for many, we’re told.

Well, food is plentiful in every grocery store, so plentiful in fact that it gets thrown out. Pesticides are known to affect human health, children in the first place (a fresh off-the-press study connected pesticide use with autism) and they are killing bees. Without bees there is no food. If we add climate change to the equation, also affecting crops, it doesn’t look pretty. Abundance has an expiration date when not backed up by sustainable agriculture.

One of my biggest dilemmas, though, is this: there are chemicals present in our world, some very toxic and many independent studies proved it.

Yet the people who are in the business of promoting their use, designing marketing schemes to dress them up and shrugging off any evidence of harm even when being thrown in front of them, I just wonder how do they live their days knowing that what they do affects people’s lives irreversibly. Self-justification is a powerful tool all people use, but it can only go so far. If a conscience is present that is.

Here’s truth that cannot be denied: the sun sets on the western horizon in everyone’s world, everyone’s crops are affected the same way when bees die, and all children eat and breathe chemicals if chemicals are present. It invites to sharing responsibility, a desirable state-of-being, able to throw off the best-designed PR justifying haze before it engulfs our brains.

As for that stubborn belief that I hold onto, it’s this: we can do better, I am sure we can.

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?

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