Through the Cracks – Epilogue


She Talks To Angels – The Black Crowes

She never mentions the word addiction
in certain company
yes, she’ll tell you she’s an orphan
after you meet her family

she paints her eyes as black as night now
pulls those shades down tight
yeah she gives a smile when the pain comes
the pain gonna make everything alright

says she talks to angels
they call her out by her name
oh yeah, she talks to angels
says they call her out by her name

she keeps a lock of hair in her pocket
she wears a cross around her neck
yes the hair is from a little boy
and the cross is someone she has not met
not yet

says they all know her name

she don’t know no lover
none that I ever see
yet to her that ain’t nothing
but to me it means, means everything

she paints her eyes as black as night now
she pulls those shades down tight
oh yeah, there’s a smile when the pain comes
the pain gonna make everything alright, all right


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI sat in Starbucks reading my books, most purchased from the Chapters bookstore laid out behind me. My education started there. With the aftermath of the madness behind me, I hit the books to learn whatever I could about PTSD. A sorry absence of literature was available, so I read up on the wider spectrum of mental health and addiction. This led me to neurology, and then uncovering the deceptions of the pharmaceutical industry (Big Pharma). Continue reading Through the Cracks – Epilogue


Shotgun Democracy – May 30, 2013

democracy06The world is at an uncertain point. It makes it tough to determine a direction when the economy collapses, democracy crumbles, and the environment strikes back. Our food and medication are killing us, our technology’s a mystery, and we don’t know who to believe anymore. Wow. What a mess.

What’s one to do but stash your money under the cushion, unplug the world, plant a garden and load the shotgun for protection from ‘the others’? That or simply unplug your television, that cretin filling our minds with crime, corruption, disasters and disturbed people. But aside from the news, we watch quasi-reality shows, celebrity gossip and cute pet tricks to engage the mind. This makes for quite the mental diet.

While engaging in this act, we munch on candy bars, salty snacks, sodas, beer and whatever other convenience is tossed our way. With meat and produce making us sick or killing us, there’s always the comfort in knowing that these processed foods are rarely the carriers of illness. Okay, aside from obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The common link here is industrial processing, the art of taking real, live food and squeezing the life out of it. It’s those live qualities that can limit a product’s shelf life, after all. So, our physical diet is a matter of inflating us with chemically-derived nutrients, preservatives and coloring, amongst many others. Great.

Unfortunately, such a lifestyle will be detrimental to our health. Our beliefs and emotions feed on our senses, our mental health on what we ingest and inhale. On this premise, junk food, television and our habits are some of the top suspects murdering our health. We do have the health industry to fall back on, so long as you can sum up your life’s worth of problems in fifteen minutes. Surgery and prescriptions are their typical solution, as profit margins shrink if too much time is needed to one patient’s therapy. So that’s out.

Science has advanced our lifespan. We’ve discovered many lifesaving techniques, helpful pharmaceutical drugs, and taken the ‘dis’ out of disabled. It has also created nuclear weapons, deadly viruses, and horrific destruction. But when will we go too far? What ethics allow us to genetically alter our food and wantonly destroy our ecosystem in the name of progress? What good is a naked Earth to the future generations? Is this bettering us as humans, or that certain top percentage fattening their bank accounts?

Have our values truly sunken down to the least common denominator, being the almighty buck? What would we do without the media, food, agriculture, and technological industries? They appear to have us by the short and curlies, but luckily we have democracy on our side. Surely our government will protect our privacy, food, health, water and safety! Their protection is the reason why we don’t need shotguns to protect our possessions. Right?

These Keepers of the Great Canadian Household seem more interested in playing with their industrial friends that tending to the kids. While playing dice with our tax dollars, hoping to strike it big and provide a lasting legacy, they appear to be losing our lot piece by piece. Their focus on the economy has created a struggling citizenry, as the costs are picked from the pockets of our education, health care and social services. I don’t see how a new set of fighter jets is going to help the struggling Canadian citizen, but I guess everyone needs new toys.

So is the economy as vital as we’re told? After all, it provides us with our electronics, produce, food, petroleum and various other distractions. Our government grants and policies provide industrial relief to continue employing us to tear apart our house. The pharmaceutical industries are making obscene profits by providing us with magic bullets, then others to counter the effects of that magic. It empowers a handful of media giants to determine how we view the world, no matter how ‘truthy’ it is. It empowers six food corporations to run the farm and grocery store. At the center of all this is the bank, weaving the web of power while pulling the economic puppet strings. We are the entranced audience, feeding the web.

How do we get our house in order? It’s not a service we can get delivered. We have to mop up our local environment, sweep out the entrenched politicians, and scour our municipal, provincial and federal policies of industrial favoritism. This is no small feat, and those in power are unlikely to be the ones to do this. Now, this will have an impact on your consumption and lifestyle, but it really is about making the choice of transitioning now, or facing the inevitable impact later. Sorry to be a doomsayer, but the economy is the least sustainable of all. The ripple of the 2008 crash can be a global recurrence, and we should set up some disaster preparedness. If we take back control of the economy, we no longer need be threatened by it.

Economies were borne of a local need. These needs still exist and can continue no matter what size the economy. Our skills and expertise are already solely local provisions, sold at an hourly wage. We have the knowledge and intelligence to exist apart from the surrounding world, which is important if transportation ceases operability when the oil runs out. Time banks, where an hour of my skill is worth an hour of yours, have sustained communities throughout the world. Local currencies and co-op programs, requiring the participation of community retailers, have helped communities plug the leakage of dollars to out-of-town head offices and built up local businesses. There are alternate ways to determine our value.

The basis of our wellbeing is what we ingest, everything else is icing on the cake. Supporting the local food movement may be our first great step to embracing a positive future. The plants help our environment breath, replenish nutrients to the soil, and fulfil our nutritional needs. The backyard, community and rooftop gardens are blossoming as the gardener has regained her connection with the environment, and rewarded with a bounty of healthful food.

Entertainment was once packaged in the form of barbecues, dinners and a game of cards. Local plays and performances primed our imaginations, and local bands brought our community senses together. Our lives were defined by our community more than our fashion sense and television programming. Sadly, local arts and culture are in need of resuscitation after being steamrolled by the commercial empire. It is our community that provides our identity, the industrial detritus homogenizes it.

Once it’s all settled down, our solution appears obvious. Disengage from your cable, wi-fi and cell phone and re-engage with your community. The people around us provide identity, not our possessions. Our abilities determine our worth, not the sliding scale of the economy. Our knowledgeable choices determine our health, not our ability to decipher which advertisement speaks loudest to our psyche. Hope, far from lost, stands front-and-center with each step we take to control our lives. Let’s put away our shotguns and start building our own web.


Prescribed Addiction‏ – March 10, 2008

Do you feel down and sluggish? Are your feet itchy? Do you have second thoughts while standing in a crowd of twenty to fifty? Does sneezing make your eyes twitch, and stiffening the muscles on the tip of our right little finger? There’s probably a pill that can fix you.

Amazing medication advertisements urge us “to ask your doctors today” about the benefits of tomorrow. Thinking we are healthy, we discover that some vague symptom we have is being advertised on an infomercial. With the marketing department’s imagination, these symptoms instantly conjure up a wide market of ‘sufferers’. To the industry’s benefit, more drugs are then prescribed to counter the original drug’s side effects. The prescription numbers grow and the dosages increase.

Canadians spend over $20 billion on prescription drugs each year.[1] This is the pharmaceutical industry, or Big Pharma’s, cut of our health care spending. Not denying the necessity to some lifesaving drugs, but in 2002 the top ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 earned a profit of $35.9 billion. The remaining 490 businesses earned a grand total of $33.7 billion, including banks and petrochemical industries.[2] We may have a drug problem. These numbers indicate that we are overmedicated and must wean off of Big Pharma’s monetary overdose.

The industry pawns its cures upon the masses. As Dr. Marcia Angell writes in The Truth About the Drug Companies, Big Pharma is the chief informant keeping both the public and doctors up-to-date on the latest-and-greatest illnesses. The psychotherapist’s bible is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, presenting a psychological lock for every pharmaceutical key. The first version, published in 1917, was a sixty-five page booklet; the 1994 DSM-IV, was 886 pages[3]. That’s a whole lot of sickness and a whole lot of fixes.

Of course, a cure would be great for the federal health budget, but it prescribes doom for the pharmaceutical industry. Our psychological and physical health are of secondary importance to increased stock returns for their investors. A cure equates lost business for Big Pharma; it doesn’t promote a growing economy. It is equivalent to killing off the customer, which is more profitable when done slowly.

The legal drug dealer runs on an exponential cycle of consumer dependency, not unlike narcotics. We are test beakers to the pharmaceutical marketing department, ingesting chemical concoctions and living out the mixture’s effects. So, where would we be without Big Pharma? Aside from some life-saving products, probably healthier and saner.

[1] Reynolds, John Lawrence, Prognosis: The Current State and Shaky Future of Canada’s Health System (Toronto, Penguin, 2008) 54

[2] Angell, Marcia, M. D., The Truth About the Drug Companies: How they deceive us and what to do about it (New York, Random House, 2005) 11

Misjudgment of Policy – June 20, 2009

Trusting the policies to cure society’s ills is like letting your doctor’s prescription pad heal your ailment. Our leaders would rather blame our shortfalls on the declining economy than accept the responsibility for creating policies that drive society towards a brick wall. The only vehicle that sustains us is getting trash by the joy-riding corporate hooligans. Our planet’s life-providing gifts are being nudged aside for the productive efficiency that feeds our consumptive happiness.

We are filters to the economic flow; a consumer’s identity is a mere cog in the economic machine. Income and debt drive the forces of our lives. Our forefathers fought and died for our credit-driven lives, and, for this, indigenous cultures were assimilated or destroyed. Freedom and choice are more dependent on a person’s economic status than on their rights; the justice system is living proof.

Rather than fight to retain a free society, we let our economic and political systems dictate our life’s purpose. The recent economic meltdown left those with no family or friends left to depend on to sink into lives of further deprivation and struggle. The needy victims lost even more ground in the crash than those with cushioning to fall back on.

This desperation is bred into the lives of impoverished children and, likely falling into homeless drug addiction, contributes to the ongoing underground activity. On the street, the homeless receive feigned smiles and endless excuses for not having spare change. We claim no blame that they chose to be stranded on the streets.  Only when we become the victim to the crimes of the deprived do we get angry at the symptoms of a failing society. This reaction distracts us from seeking out the cause.

Society boils into an uproar to cuts in health care and education, yet remains warily silent to similar cuts in social services and mental health care. We hope these won’t affect us. Our failure to acknowledge each other on the streets breeds the inequalities. Our idleness is partial to blame for society’s ills. We remain comfortable believing that our leaders will repair our society. We are defined by society, when we should be steering the way towards how we wish to live.

How can we lay claim to society’s highlights without accepting blame for its shortfalls? Citizen-driven innovation shifts society. It establishes procedure and realizes a need, as it did with post-World War II production, as well as desegregation, and women’s rights. Once in place, government stepped in and made these shifts into policy. As a community, we must define the priorities, and repair the social rift that is hinders our true progress. It is the action, not the policy, that determines our direction.

Suspicion or Survival – June 12, 2009

activism02A brooding force drains society of security, trust and camaraderie. Apathy destroys our communities; it allows us to take the easy way out. Apathy is apparent in our election turnout, and illustrated on the faces of people living on the streets. The homeless are viewed as faceless social smears, facing chronic desperation that leads to thievery; their social deprivation has evolved into a dependency that we see as leaching the system.

The governing bodies of our institutions are ill-equipped surgeons, bandaging society’s scars rather than fixing them. Though we accept our place within the system, we continue to blame the corporations, government and underground economy for our endangerment. Human habit, namely fear, has developed and maintained our list of global worries.

How our world functions is interdependent on the social, economic and environmental disruptions; nothing we can control. We fail to acknowledge that we perpetuate the erosion of our civilization each time we blindly pay into this faulty economy. We have access to control only what happens within our personal bubbles, although those bubbles can’t fight back the greater authority of society.

Why rely on the brilliant minds of science and economics to bring forth a majestic solution to our social problems? The healing process, independent of the all-consuming Federal budget, begins with our participation. True freedom is not possible if we merely focus on controlling that within our personal space. Our institutions need our guidance and re-definition so they once again will benefit society. Our duty is to open up to the surroundings and poke past those bubbles. Discover the common link existing with our environment, both natural and social.

With mounting suspicion, our attention is occupied on protecting our possessions rather than helping those whom our security relies on. Communication with surrounding neighbours has weakened, yet as members of a community, our world demands our involvement. Our failure is evident in the reflection of our communities’ efforts; our report card reveals a failing grade. We lost eye contact with one another, forgetting the importance of refreshing our social input.

Society thrives in a strong community, necessitating cooperation and understanding from each of its citizens. We rely on our surrounding population for our survival and must start supporting each other. Disconnect the invisible tether of technology and acknowledge the presence of the life around you. Facing one another and communicating eye-to-eye will open the space to live with each other. A unified community will move forward, providing solutions to the greater concerns of our survival and prosperity.

Mute Democracy – October 30, 2008

Chinese citizens face possible prison sentences for challenging the Communist regime, yet they’re demanding changes to their country’s policies. They want to clean up the air, water and energy production; have spoiled their food, misused their land and damaged their health. Most of us cannot imagine living under such a regime.

In the Western free and democratic society, we have no Tiananmen Square, Berlin Wall or Apartheid, though the latter was modeled after our Department of Indian Affairs. Our forebears united to advocate for desegregation and equal rights; they fought wars to keep tyranny at bay and retaining our social freedoms. Our freedom, as vital as shelter and mobility, has lost its value.

Those industries determined to prevent the collapse of our ecosystem need our support. We have failed to fire up the burners, to bring forth a clean energy era. We toothlessly gnaw at the senile environmental and economic policies while lobbyists tear apart the land. The hoarding and quest for the fast buck have skewed our values, viewing necessary long-term projects as being too expensive and unnecessary. This suppresses the sustainable technology from reaching the market, where our demand fails to be made.

These dirty energy manufacturers mesmerize us as we sit upon the couch. They sponsor our favourite shows while sending out their lobbyists to hound the decision makers. The government fights out an energy policy as lobbyists, looking to back their destructive agenda, perpetuate the pessimism and flex their economic might at the dazzled politicians. The longer we, as citizens, remain motionless, the deeper we sink into the rising tide of global erosion.

Our votes are our say in how we want the world to run. It makes us feel worry-free because someone else is taking care of it. When we fail to take action, expect the bare minimum of results. This inaction is common to pessimism, intimidation, and ignorance.

We hope, through our elected few, that we will be directed towards a green and sustainable future. This codependency on our elected officials must end. We have become cynical about our true democratic strength and skeptical of our actions’ staying power. When the system doesn’t support us, we must change that system so that it will.

From a distance, we have watched less-democratic governments bow or succumb to their society’s will. The oppressed are tasting freedom; the voice of a few became the voice of the majority. We can flex our democratic muscles and push towards the crucial clean-energy era, where there at least appears to be a little more glory than grime.

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.

A.C. Stark

Holding The Planet to Reason, Not Ransom

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