LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Learn from the past for a better future.

Photo by Gexydaf | flickr.com

I was reading a fairly interesting article in a grassroots environmental magazine when a light bulb began sizzling above my head.  It was an idea so simple that I can’t understand why we didn’t come up with it before………oh wait! We did…..and then money-hungry politicians and businessmen decided to take the reins of society into their own coin-drenched hands.

Here’s the story: about 20 000 years ago, hunter-gatherer societies inhabited most of the world.  They had an egalitarian lifestyle and got most of their exercise from walking, running, and of course hunting and gathering.  They were healthy…..it’s debatable whether they were healthier than we are, but they sure had better values, morals, and principles.   This was true because they only used what they needed to survive, which basically means that they didn’t cut down acres of land to build things like malls and spas.    

Even though they may have had garbage disposal issues, we sure haven’t escaped from that problem; there’s only so much that we can bury underground or ship off to less fortunate countries.  Why have we become so cold and careless?  Let me explain it in the most simplest way: we eat too much, spend too much, and stress too much. 

As a Canadian society we eat far too much.  Proof? Well, if we need to use nitroguanidine pesticides to ensure that we kill every possible insect that comes within a 30 minute radius of a crop, than we clearly need more food than we can functionally produce. These chemical pesticides can persist within soils for up to 500 days, acting as a toxic defence mechanism against beneficial earthworms, beetles, and insects.  These little buggers are really important for the health of the soil as well as for the health of most terrestrial ecosystems.      

Although there is no scientific evidence that foods laced with neonicotinoids will harm humans, why is the EPA allowing this type of pesticide on food crops anyway?  I mean, should we really be eating pumpkin seeds that are so full of poison that they kill every single bug that dares to take a bite?

I suppose that the reason we have to use pesticides is because money-hungry businessmen have decided that we need to produce the maximum amount food possible to feed our mouths…..mouths that never cease to become satisfied.

And now some proof from the meat perspective.  Ever heard of factory-farm raised chicken? The basic story is that we require so much meat to gratify the carnivorous part of our brains that we have opted to raise millions of animals in a confined space barely large enough for them to move around.

The main problem with this type of structure is that because the animals (particularly chicken, turkey) are being housed in really stressful accommodations, they are developing disease and transferring them to us. 

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK have discovered that high levels of the stress hormone norephinephrine in chickens makes campylobacter (a disease causing bacteria) more prevalent, aggressive, and mobile in humans

As the top culprit of food-borne illnesses, campylobacter infects more than 2.4 million people per year, killing about 124.

The bacteria live within the intestinal tract of healthy birds, passing from animal to animal via common water sources and feces.  It is then transferred to humans with the consumption of poultry products. Primary symptoms in humans include diarrhoea, cramping, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever within days of exposure.

The bottom line is that the health and welfare of the chickens is a significant factor in the proliferation of the bacteria.  The stress hormone caused rapid campylobacter growth, increasing its virulence and gut permeability (gives the bacteria an easy way out of the gut and into the chicken’s meat)

Not only does this research show that the management of farms is critical to the health of both animals and humans, it shows that we wouldn’t have had to resort to factory-farms had we not started consuming beyond our means.

I’m not saying that we should stop eating. I’m not saying that we should band together with our neighbours to form a hunter-gatherer society. What I am saying is that we should be a bit more cautious of what/how much we are eating. I’m guilty just as well as anyone else, but I think it’s time that we as a country decided that enough IS enough. We should be demanding healthy farm practices, pesticide-free crops, and lives with less stress.  If this change is not for a movement toward a more sustainable earth, at least do it for the sake of your intestines!