Consumption Gumption – April 21, 2008

“The means by which we have outdistanced the ends for which we live, our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the era of instant gratification, solving our sustainability issue is like kicking the ball forward each time we attempt to pick it up. It keeps getting pushed further down the road. Defeated, the resolve to create a better world is numbed and instead we have focused on ourselves. The commercially-promised happiness is as elusive as the brief satisfaction of ownership.

The cost of consumerism has not been rewarding. We have been mesmerized with unnecessary wants, and relieved with a side order of short-lived consumables. Our consumer culture places blinders on us, preventing any glimpse of hope that exists outside our personal space. Our participation in the ecological havoc has become as harmful as that of the industries excavating raw materials. We are encouraged to make ourselves feel better rather than make the world feel better; this also makes the economy feel better.

From birth to our final descent, our lives are caged in by the insanity of capital growth. We support the capitalists with our life-exhausting dollars, making our contribution to a bigger and more expensive economy. The corporate dinosaurs, already too top-heavy not to tumble, have been living on a tax-subsidized life support system and resuscitated with bailouts. Our social policies are tied to the industries’ will, weakening our rights to economic gains. If we view our spending habits as our vote in the ‘democracy of economics’, each dollar should demand and show support for responsible corporate behaviour.

Nature’s relevance has taken a back seat to this delusion: “Economic vitality will take society towards prosperity.” When the resources run out, what will the growth feed on? Growth without limit is cancerous, and the economy is no different. Our unhindered development will continue until we get our consumptive obsessions under control. The destruction begins with the industry’s extraction, but continues with our support.

Oscar Wilde asks, “What is a cynic?  A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Nature can grow back, but financial growth needs fostering. Our products, created with built-in economic deficiencies, always leave room for improvement to guarantee further growth for the producer. Termed ‘planned obsolescence’, industry growth is based on short-lasting products that are replaced or upgraded frequently[1]. Rather than make products that can be recycled back through the industrial process, more than 90% of our disposables end up at the landfill; a cradle-to-grave cycle[2].

A proper functioning product won’t break down nor need upgrading; this is economically inefficient in the market of growth. As William McDonough and Michael Bruangart state in Cradle to Cradle (2002), “to eliminate the concept of waste means to design things – products, packaging, and systems – from the very beginning on the understanding that waste does not exist[3].” Cradle to Cradle uses the concept of eco-efficiency, where industry and the system of growth replenish, restore and nourish the rest of the world[4]. We must demand what we want for products: clean, sustainable and repairable.

Our energy use, emissions, and global living standards are draining our resources and mutating our atmosphere. Each year the average middle-class family has four million pounds of material moved, mined, extracted, shoveled, burned, wasted, pumped, and disposed of to feed their manic consumption[5].  Even more shocking: To keep up with the West, developing countries are destroying themselves in their attempt to live the way we do. However, their population is frighteningly larger than ours. We must lead by example and curb our unbridled spending. We must show others how life should be, rather than what the West has done.

Our interconnection with the natural world becomes more obvious each day as we are ravaged by earthquakes, floods, oil spills and health pandemics. Our treatment of the Earth has left her no choice but to bite back. The only remedy is to reduce our impact on Nature, and work with rather than against her. With plenty of alternatives for running our world, their current relevance depends on how well they fit with the current economic framework. When industry claims that cleaner techniques are not economically viable practices, then we must change the system so we can embrace these products.

No rule states that smarter production will reduce our selection. In Biomimicry: Innovations Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus describes this new science as “the conscious emulation of life’s genius.[6]”  Biomimicry researchers are looking for ways to produce our materials without needing a high input of energy. Examining plants, animals and minerals, they are creating materials and processes that, for example, can replace our dependence on petrochemical plastics with biodegradable, long-lasting natural polymers. Biomimetic processes require less machinery and use materials that can either be returned to their place of origin, or broken down and reused in another production process.

In the age of speed, instant gratification is the sole reward of our consumer actions. Occupied by mindless entertainment and celebrity gossip, our hope has relied on our credit card going through. Wading through the glut of waste peddlers, we move further away from improving our social environment. We strive for an unreachable happiness.

How long does something sit on the shelf before the reason for purchasing it is forgotten?  How long have you owned something to be admired before you needed that next best thing?  Emotional contentment will not come through our possessions.

German film director Gottfried Reinhardt is quoted, “Money is good for bribing yourself through the inconveniences of life.”  All this insatiable craving breeds stress and health problems: We work too much, owe too much, and want too much. We are working, on average, a full month more each year than they did in 1969[7]. We’re cutting our vacation time so we can pay for the stuff we have on credit; our stuff is cutting into our fun time, too.

When did the madness begin? When did we forget Nature’s importance and shut ourselves off in our homes?  The Cleavers showed us everything that life could offer; we can blame our consumption addiction on the Beaver.  In Affluenza, John de Graaf reports how, since commercial television’s grand entrance in 1957, the average level of happiness in Western countries has been in a steady free fall[8]. This is what an intellectual diet of fear, conspiracies and one-liners will do to you.

American journalist Sidney J. Harris once wrote, “A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from his past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.” We have tranquilized our ambition, eroding a social ravine and filling it with our commercial waste.

Media viewership has rewired our social circuitry. Television is miraculously efficient for the marketing industry, providing twenty-four hour access to that obsessively selfish little nub in our psyche.

The thirty-second commercial spot costs the same amount to produce as the twenty-minute sitcom being sponsored. Spending $10,000 per second producing commercials, companies are luring us to buy all things that we didn’t ask for[9]. The $217-billion-a-year advertising industry has been growing at “a rate more than twice the average rate of the economy as a whole[10].” It pays to mangle our minds. Applying their psychological know-how and technological wizardry, we are dazzled into unleashing our credit.

Philosopher Arnold Schopenhauer (1788-1860) once said, “Man never feels the want of what it never occurs to him to ask for.” The airwaves have mesmerized us into wanting, unsustainable creatures. The marketers’ psychology has manipulated us into believing that the promoted (and unreachable) lifestyles on TV and in ads are the norm that everyone lives; we just have some catching up to do. So goes the race after the Joneses.

By enhancing our vanity, we paint an exterior imitating a person that we wish to be. We have become too good at making ourselves feel better; it’s like going through everlasting adolescence. When most of our vanity objects take a bite out of the environment and chop away at our lifeline, then our self-praise chips away at our future’s certainty. If we focus on enhancing our inner qualities, then our outer qualities are enhanced through natural admiration rather than superficial.

In earlier decades, subliminal messages were flashed into our subconscious telling us to spend money on the tricky vendor’s product. Once caught, they quickly jumped to another, much darker, way to lure us in. On average, we spend of two years of our lives watching commercials, zoning out to the economic glow emitting from our plasmas[11]. These enchanting signals have lured us into isolated close-proximity lives; first was the headphone, then along came Bluetooth. Now we can all walk around muttering to ourselves. In military terms, technology has ‘divided and conquered’ the population into docile narcissists.

Western culture’s fear, paranoia and desire have reinforced our hoarding mentality. We have been led astray, conditioned to these habits of greed and coveting. While we want our stuff to be admired, we won’t display it for fear of theft. Instead, it fills our homes, yards, basements, and storage facilities. The enjoyment of our stuff is put aside by our fear of losing it. Rationalizing this attachment, we have become disconnected from our social environment. We miss the point of happiness and joy: they are derived from sharing, not hoarding.

Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881) noted, “The man who has no inner life is the slave to his surroundings.” If our personal economic status measures our place in society, then community involvement becomes irrelevant. Looking first to our own needs and safety places our surroundings not as a part of us but as competition. Where is the safety when we can’t trust the people around us? Sustaining communities requires communication; we must step beyond our comfort and draw our neighbourhoods back into our lives. This may require missing your favourite show.

To improve our world, first we must ask, “What shall we become?” We must move past idolizing our possessions; our stuff doesn’t make us, our words and actions do. Regaining our social cohesion requires disconnecting the media’s influence and focusing on our personal relationships.

Gaining a sense of optimism is our first step towards bettering ourselves. We must take back control of our daily lives and become mindful of what our spending supports. To simplify our lives we must stop filling our individual space with stuff, and either find uses for what we already have, or look for ways that someone else could use them.

If a lop-sided economy says we aren’t living up to our full spending potential, how does digging up more debt benefit us? If we question our consumptive impulses and realize that our lack of happiness is not from a defect in a product, then we can seek out the true source of happiness out in our communities. Let time be soaked up with friends and family, not commercials and fiction. We don’t have to buy something to get a smile; we need everybody around to keep it in place.

The moments of greatest happiness should not involve entering your PIN number on the debit pad. Happiness is possible without our favourite shows having to script it for us; it is created from the people around you, not in a room full of stuff. Turn off your television and open your doors. Invite friends and neighbours in rather than talk show hosts and canned laugh tracks. Happiness is built upon from security and comfort, and its cheapest source is outside our front door.

[1] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 148

[2] McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (New York, North Point Press, 2002) 27

[3] McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (New York, North Point Press, 2002) 104

[4] McDonough, William & Braungart, Michael, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (New York, North Point Press, 2002) 78

[5] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 90

[6] Benyus, Janine N., Biomimicry: innovation inspired by nature (New York, Perennial, 2002) 2

[7] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005)42

[8] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 23

[9] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 155

[10] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 155

[11] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 154


Kamikaze Cuisine – July 21, 2006

I remember when the more food my money would buy, the more “value” I thought I was getting. Surviving for years on instant meals and junk food, I figured that a calorie was a calorie; as long as I ate, I had enough energy to fulfill my day.  If this food was my fuel, my engine was running on filthy diesel; while my energy was sufficient, my health was not.

The media reports how we are wiping ourselves out with violent crime, intolerable cruelty, and blind rampages. Deflecting our attention like masterful illusionists, they dish out stories of physical abuse and disaster, applying a slight-of-hand that diverts our attention away from the real killers: diet and disease.

We have allowed our insides to be pierced by the corporate blade sponsoring and serving up our favourite shows. When we eat garbage, we feel like garbage; when we eat well, we live well. Yet, that last commercial has me craving a candy bar.

Industries, using their chemical mastery and mass production, have conjured up an endless market of new, novel, and untested chemicals to put in our food and disposable products. In Affluenza, John DeGraaf states, “There are over 75,500 synthetic chemicals used in consumer products, agriculture and industry; 8,000 more in both cosmetic and food additives; plus a total of 25,000 in cosmetics, where less than 4% have been tested for safety in humans[1].”

Choosing the convenience factor over nutrition sacrifices our health, typically in response to living on tighter schedules. Convenience stores shorten the wait between meals, extending the health care wait-lists as our waistlines expand. The “7-11 diet”, made mostly of sugar, salt, fat, preservatives and additives, provides cheap and quick satisfaction. The cost of convenience is paid with our health, our children, and our future.

Even some of our “healthy” food and produce contains toxins that leach into it through industrial fertilizers and environmental pollutants. Stain-repellents, plastics and Teflon particles move from our food wrappers and cooking utensils into our microwaved or fried food…all toxic and persisting in our bodies. In fact, the packaging that protects our food from spoiling has sabotaged our health; something the petrochemical industry would like to keep hush-hush, succeeding thanks to some powerful lobbying.

How much effect do these toxins have on our bodies? How are the fortified nutrients measuring up with our health? These chemicals, not properly processed, and are usually stored elsewhere in the body, typically our liver or our fat cells. Like a computer virus, these chemicals invisibly chip away at our health while providing the illusion that our bodies are holding together. A deadly cocktail brews inside.

These biological and chemical concoctions scatter through our body and create unexpected ‘synergistic’ reactions within. Our mutated diets deteriorate our wellbeing as the chemical buildup approaches our body’s maximum tolerable toxic level, or chemical body burden. Frighteningly, our children’s still-developing systems are bombarded with these unnatural chemicals, stunting their hormonal, physical and mental development. When our children are educated about nicotine and alcohol, the health authorities should also discuss the risks involved in the choices of food they eat. This nutrient deficiency makes them predisposed to developing ADHD, asthma, overactivated hormones (reaching puberty by age eight), childhood diabetes and cancer[2].

 If we don’t change our dietary habits, we are priming our children to develop neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS; diabetes and cancer never leave the list.

While our health is consumed with pseudo-food, billions of dollars in medical expenses and medication attempt to balance it out. The Canadian Institute for Health Information estimates that, in current dollars, our total health care expenditure was $131.4 billion in 2004, $139.8 billion in 2005, and $148 billion in 2006[3].

Our diet burdens our health care system as disease statistics climb and our livers crash. The statistics and the dollars confirm it: We can either continue this cultural hara-kiri or move towards a healthier and more ingredient-aware society. Our health is organic, and how we behave will either support or destroy us.

Surviving on a nutrient-deficient diet shows a need to re-evaluate our time; stepping away from the instant meals is recognizing the body’s importance. Turning your back on processed and fast food benefits your health immediately. With the proper fuel, your body becomes healthier, more energetic, and creates a fitter mind.

If you are what you eat, you probably don’t want to be a ‘pentathenol’. If you reconsider the products labeled with unpronounceable ingredients and multi-syllable concoctions and, instead look for items that your grandmother cooked with, you will take a big step towards reversing the damage inflicted by the Western diet. The example that you set for you children is the example they will set for your grandchildren.

What if you turned your back to the marketing lures and supported a healthy lifestyle instead? Living in a capitalist society, your only affirmative action is to spend our money wisely. Following the law of supply-and-demand, when you demand more of the ‘expensive’ items, and as the supply meets the demand, the higher production lowers the cost and increases its availability and affordability. When demand falls for the cheaper goods, their price eventually climbs back up to their unsubsidized price. What you bring to the checkout lane is currently your only voice in this lopsided ‘democracy of economics’; in that sense, you hold more power than the corporations are comfortable with. The healthy food needn’t cost more; you just have to want it more.

Tougher government regulations and standards cannot impact your health as much as how you choose to live. Regardless of what policies are created, no law will make you live longer; that is your decision.

What option do you have instead of accepting whatever the market supplies? To regain your vitality, start respecting your inner body rather than decorating the outer. Begin with what you eat. Start by supporting products that promote health and longevity rather than those siphoning nutrition from your food and deconstructing your well-being. As a consumer in the supply-and-demand chain, the time has come to demand: “Detoxify what we eat!”

Buying local produce introduces riper and cleaner fruit and vegetables with a higher nutrient content into our diets; when the body receives the proper nutrients, it craves less food. Planting a garden rewards you with the purest and freshest food, as well as building a connection to your plants and land.

The example is anchored in the home, where healthy eating habits should be introduced. How your family lives should include your children’s input, so include them in defining your healthy lifestyle and help reinforce their choices to eat well. Food eaten together also strengthens your sense of community; a tradition lost to the drive-thru lane that originated with the TV dinner.

Gathering around the table and enjoying a meal with each other, once as common as a coffee break, has become more of an occasion than a habit. Sharing food connects you with those you share the meal with, as a symphony connects the audience to auditory unity. Anything of value must be shared, and once the joy of sharing with your neighbours and friends is experienced, it’s hard to resist doing it again. By building this appreciation of your food and community, you are setting an example benefiting your health, family and wellbeing.


[1] DeGraaf, John; Wann, David; Naylor, Thomas H., Affluenza (San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler, 2005) 101


[2] Fitzgerald, Randall, The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health (New York, Dutton, 2006) 78


[3] Hurtig, Mel, The Truth About Canada (Toronto, Emblem, 2009) 10


Recriminalizing the Underground – January 2, 2006

Attention Canadians! It’s time to face the puzzling issue of decriminalizing marijuana.  Our current laws are a burden on the justice system, jails and society, leaving us to pay yet another bill for the police, judges, lawyers, prisons and guards. In numerous ways, we’ve had smoke blown in our face.

Every grow-op bust reported is a mere snowflake on the tip of an iceberg when viewed on the national scale. The anti-drug force would go broke taking down all the grow-ops. From the other side of the legal fence, a busted grow op is like removing the competition and opening more ground for expansion. It provides more market power for the survivor.

Americans have fought the War on Drugs since Ronald Reagan laid down the law back in the Eighties. As a result, between 1980 and 2002, more prisons were built and the number of prisoners tripled, the majority for drug violations[1]. Canada has over 600,000 citizens with criminal records for marijuana possession[2]. Think of how many prison cells that would fill.

When we label cannabis a narcotic, we equate it with heroin, cocaine and crack; this is like listing both Dickens and Penthouse under the same category of literature. Cannabis is not physically addictive nor is it known to incite riots, let alone a squabble. When smoking a joint causes less damage than downing a bottle of beer, how did marijuana become so reviled?

Marijuana has never killed anyone. All illegal drugs kill around 800 people a year[3]. Meanwhile, terminal diseases from the legally sanctioned substances, such as tobacco (killing 45,000 people a year) and alcohol (12,000), are acceptable. The health system kills over 106,000 people each year through adverse drug reactions[4]. Even aspirin causes over 10,000 hospital admission in Canada each year. Still, pot is the devil.

Cannabis actually provides medical benefits amongst its many other uses. In Reefer Madness, Eric Schlosser writes how “Dr. Lester Grinspoon, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, provides evidence that smoking cannabis can relieve the nausea associated with chemotherapy, prevent blindness induced by glaucoma, serve as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients, act as an anti-epileptic, ward off asthma attacks and migraine headaches, alleviate chronic pain, and reduce the muscle spasticity that accompanies multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and paraplegia[5].” Not bad for a villain.

Hemp has health benefits when eaten as a seed, it creates fabric stronger than denim, provides fiber for paper and can be distilled into fuel. It grows quick, plentiful and easily(it is a weed), making it a very economically feasible crop. How many forests could be saved, using a commercial crop that costs less and is more sustainable than the monoculture fibres we depend on?

The economic offshoots from hemp production could replace our use of pulp lumber without rebuilding factories. Hemp fiber allows local production of textiles and clothing. And grow ops could be utilized to build the economy rather than drain it.

Cannabis is correlated with narcotics and weapons, the more lethal corrupters, because it is traded for those greater evils in an underground barter system. It is a pawn in the drug war, cultivating it here and shipping it to the States. The Canada-US border surveillance unnecessarily focuses on marijuana rather than the more lethal dangers. If this ‘currency’ were legally available, bought and tendered over the counter like cigarettes, the criminal world would be less able to afford to transfer narcotics into the country. It would be like trading aspirin for cocaine.

Legalizing marijuana benefits society two-fold: First, it would incapacitate the underground economy that depends on its sale. Second, the collected taxes from the legal crop could fund the battle against narcotics; better yet, add funding to mental health services and take the real victims out of the drug trade. By turning our back on this cash crop, we are wasting tax dollars on a war that builds up the enemy rather than near any end.

Societies who have legalized marijuana do not fall into disrepair, like doomsayers say.  These citizens grow up respecting its use, in a similar way that alcohol has been accepted since the Prohibition ended; not everybody drinks alcohol, but it’s available.

If we are concerned about our safety, focus on the people affected by the problem rather than the ones that are selling on the corner. The self-medication prevalent in street life is not a nuisance, but an indication of a damaged community. We can fix a community problem easier than a global one.

It is time to blow away the smoke and demand a justice system that enhances society and reduces crime.  Legalize marijuana so that authorities can start cracking down on substances that really are killing us: narcotics.

[1] Mate, Gabor, MD,In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction (Toronto, Knopf Canada, 2008) 275

[2]Mulgrew, Ian, Bud Inc.: Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry (Random House, Canada) 190

[3] Mulgrew, Ian, Bud Inc.: Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry (Random House, Canada) 191

[5] Schlosser, Erik, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market (New York, Mariner, 2004) 16

Reclaiming the Cookie Jar – August 5, 2008

ImageProsperity, that is the Westernized version, is not all that I thought it was. When our digital fossils are examined, will they reveal a history of wisdom and taste? Our media, technology and medical knowledge should improve our grade, so long as they pay no heed to an episode of Entertainment Tonight. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.” Destroy all copies of Judge Judy and Jerry Springer, now!

As dreary the picture is that the media portrays, there is hope for making humanity act more like humans. Our world will change, and we can direct the process ourselves. However, relying on our keyboards and votes to do it will not suffice. Hope is that rare glimpse of sun on the stormy media seas, the feel-good stories. Our community is the lifejacket that keeps us afloat until the clouds blow away.

Western culture revolves around the monitors. We interface the couch, grab the remote, and let the screen and speakers flicker our emotions. Is this an indicator of what life lies beyond our home? The only timeslot our lives run on is between birth and death, the life in between is anything but scripted. So how can a little boob tube weaken the survival of our community?

Those favorite shows have highjacked our interests and hobbies of time. Squeezed between work and organized play, our creativity lacks the room to breathe. The television’s perversion of reality and rehashed plot lines degrades the imagination, while the bureaucratic rule-following assists in lobotomizing our creativity. Music, literature, and the arts are to be produced and interpreted by everyone; they are the indicators of culture.

Our recliners and remote controls siphon the capacity for action. The television, every living room’s coddled intruder, soothes us in the consolation of ignorance. Our media consumption stifles our lives, leaving individuals and societies unsure how to fit in while watching a world of reality shows and doomsday news. We use a fully-sponsored time slot to nourish our minds with sound bites and commercial enticements.

How can we imagine a better world when accepting what is televised as the only truth? We deserve better, yet do nothing to earn it. We are force-fed the ‘instant success’ of mass-produced pop stars, politicians and moguls sprouting from the mediascape. Our goals are set beyond reach and the returns are devastating.

We learn that the purpose of life is to find happiness, then lose focus and vitality each time it eludes our grasp. Is happiness supposed to be graspable? Perhaps by holding on to it for too long, it dies in our hand. Happiness cannot be delivered through a pill, yet we miss it like an addiction. We try ridding ourselves of it once it starts reeking of depression.

Happiness is not a “blankie” to hold onto for protection, it is a pet that comes around when we need it most, or least expect it. When the symptoms of the other emotions arise, our doctors, dealers and liquor store clerks can, if not make us smile, tranquilize us. When we narrow our focus on perpetual happiness and villainized the remaining gamut of emotions, the depth and meaning of all are weakened.

Assurance of a world not so wearing cannot come from our possessions, ornaments and enhancements. Our stuff cannot provide happiness any more than it can a hug. We know, deep down in our gut, that our wants are not the things bombarding our airwaves and store shelves. Our hopes are for a world that we need not hide from.

History had no Internet nor Blackberry to spread ideas. Now we have amazing social networking capabilities, so long as we see it as a tool and not a solution. Online blogs and texting can nudge us into face-to-face interaction. Without this, when mediated through the liquid diodes, a vital aspect of dialogue and subtlety is lost. Our high-tech note passing permits unclarified assumptions and misconceptions to be taken as fact. Community was not formed over a phone line and, in all likelihood, will not be formed through the media.

The interdependence of society mimics Nature’s intricate tapestry. Everyone and everything with which we interact affects our choices and actions; likewise, the opposite way. To understand where each of us are coming from, the best direction will become obvious. Share and spread each of your ideas, hopes and trials. Once unified behind an idea, the human species has an endless capacity to thrive. We can push away from the cultural inertia, but it involves looking away.

Global problems are solved using creativity and blind faith. A room full of optimism convinced groups and citizens to step into the uncertain, forming countries and democracy. Our ingenuity is revealed in humanities’ greatest creations. Democracy empowers us to form community.

Seventeenth century writer François de La Rochefoucauld is quoted, “If we resist our passions, it is more due to their weakness than to our strength.” Our stunted growth erodes communities, and we have no societal Prozac to make this problem go away. Our digital anonymity cannot be the sole voice of our demands.

Hope is a room in which we must gather, not some elusive destination. Solutions to our dilemma exist, but not while the cookie jar keeps getting pushed out of reach. To take ownership of our community, we must take part in creating it. We must reach a consensus, agreeing on which causes we should prioritize.

Our systems have always changed, redefining our freedoms and traditions as we evolved. An inviting society focuses on their personal lives and their interaction with all life. But that interaction takes on various forms and has a wide array of good and bad implications. In the end, the choice comes to: Which room do you want to live in, the one with hope or the one with the television? And, by the way, I found the greatest prosperity in my relationships.

Food, Our End-All and Be-All

ImageI want to talk about food. And our health and the market and all the bad things we’re allowing to happen to us. For starters, what is the purpose of food? Is it fuel or maintenance? Sustenance or a filler? I consider it a lifeline. It’s up there with water and air.

Back in the sometimes-over-glorified olden days, we hunted and farmed for our sustenance. Then the economy jumped to the front of line and rearranged how we live. The cost of running a farm increased while the price of their crop dropped, leaving little option but to sell the family farm. Along comes Big Agriculture, taking over the land for monocrops and livestock feedlots. Our once-fertile soil became a fertilizer junkie, the water got polluted, and the quality of our food got poorer.

Much of the monocrop was not for human consumption, not directly. The livestock have to eat too, so our once-fertile soil was replaced with cattle-chow. This worldwide demand for meat led to an assembly line of cattle rearing. Starting life in a feedlot, our beef is stuffed ass-to-cheek with their neighbours, spending their entire life in trampled manure dust. This opens the door for disease transmission, which spreads like wildfire. To fight this, the cattle are given antibiotics, needed or not, along with a fix of growth hormones and steroids. Apparently this meat is all harmless, unless the processing plant’s hygiene exposes us to more deadly pathogens.

Eventually, we devolved to the convenient life and our homemade meals became microwave-ready, from a can or out of a box. Sure the convenience was a good thing, but what were we really eating? The ingredients had more multi-syllabic words than actual food. What were these chemical concoctions added to our food, on top of the sugar, fat and salt? Preservatives, artificial colours and flavours, anti-gelling agents, and a multitude of other discoveries that keep the food looking edible when you open the package.

Unfortunately, the food industry deemed nutrients the enemy and kill them all off before the processing of our food items. The nutritional part of food is the living part, also meaning it is the dying part which causes food to decompose. This did not sit well with the marketing department so they fixed it. All they need do is create even more chemical concoctions to ‘fortify’ our food, calling them synthetic vitamins.

The food industry’s latest ploy is genetically modified organisms (GMOs), some great concoction that they refuse to either advertise or label. Odd. Basically, GMOs are cereal foods, animals, fruits, and vegetables on steroids. They allow the food industry to emphasize any trait they want to create mutant food. This, too, is apparently harmless. Kind of like the ‘dwarf’ wheat variety, which we’ve been eating for years, whose apparent side effect is a deadly allergy called celiac disease. What might the other crops do to us?

What could possibly be the side effects to ingesting all these Frankenfoods? Have you checked the stats on our children’s behaviour problems? How about the obesity epidemic? Liver disease, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease; the list is frightening. Of course, it fuels more than just our body, but also our mind.

The brain relies on receiving the proper chemicals to fuel it, affecting our perception, thoughts and emotion. If it is perpetually denied its proper nutrients, not the chemical facsimiles, it can trigger a lifelong sentence of mental illness. Stress, anxiety, fear and suspicion are states especially emphasized through our media, again creating a potent mental concoction.

Who can we rely on to dig us out of this mess? Big Pharma has all the answers and more! They have treatment for all the diseases (the profitable ones), disorders and DSM diagnoses. There may be some side effects, but they have something to cover that. Yet, here again we are ingesting more chemical concoctions into our body.

Here’s the thing. Our bodies are built quite well, ready to handle a whole lot of blows. All it requires is the right fuel. When we fail to do this, our bodies realize that these synthetics and GMOs aren’t what it had evolved to live off of. The liver sorts most of this out, but it has its limit. In fact, our body has one called the chemical body burden.

When the liver comes across these foreign substances, it has three options: trash it, pocket it, or pass it along to the fat cells.  Recall that most of these are chemical concoctions. Now the body already does its own chemical magic on our food, but what happens when these pockets of chemicals are mixed with other chemicals, or pharmaceuticals? This food may be tested safely on its own, but what about these interactions, called synergy? More disease?

Of course, our bodies excrete a lot of these mixtures and are put through our sewer systems. So the water goes through a cleansing, killing off bacteria and pathogens, but the system cannot clear out all of the chemical mess. Add that to the pesticide residue on our vegetables, and the cleaning agent and fire retardant found in the fats of supermarket meat. Our diet of pretty packaging bares the chemical echo of the cattle feedlot dinner. Are we really what we eat?

How do we know what to demand in a land of so much supply? Maybe we’re looking in the wrong place. Perhaps we should check out the local farmer’s market, or a farm stand, or even plant a garden. If you buy true organic produce, it is pesticide-free and picked fresh while at its peak nutrient potential. True organic meat is humane and drug-free. Big Industry is looking for ways around this as we speak, hoping to take the market as its own.

Whole foods require preparation. You may need to reacquaint yourself with some kitchen gadgets. Cooking is a joy that was shuffled back as an interruption to our busy lives. Perhaps spending more time in the kitchen might lengthen your life. Is that can of the same-ol’-same-ol’ or microwave dish really that convenient? This is what it means to vote with your fork. Food is more than a statement, it’s your wellbeing.