Archive | May, 2012

Keeping our nest clean

9 May

Oil spills in the oceans; skyrocketing rates of asthma and allergies, digestive disorders, obesity, rises in autism; a small continent of plastic bags floating in the Pacific Ocean; honeybees dying off at alarming rates.  I don’t need to go on- you may have an inkling of the scope of our planet’s woes.

You may also subscribe, as I do, to the notion that our actions, words and thoughts have an impact on our environment.  Please don’t be so overwhelmed by the enormity of our problems on this planet, that you become incapacitated and just shrug your shoulders, thinking that there’s nothing you can do! Every action, large or small, sets off a wave, a ripple effect, that can have a huge impact ultimately.  Take the bees, for instance.

We don’t rely upon honeybees for just our honey:  “About one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination.” (www.msnbc.msn.com/…/declining-honeybees-threat-food-supply/)  Although it turns out that Albert Einstein probably did not say, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left”, he should have said it!  It seems clear that our actions have an impact, whether we acknowledge it or not- and in this case, the proof lies in what the bees and other creatures are telling us.

Finally, someone has come up with an explanation for the bee die-off, or “colony collapse disorder”:  neonicotinoids.  Let me quote from the Longmont Times-Call article from Sunday, April 22, 2012: “Scientists and beekeepers now say the problem has many sources, including the growing use of a relatively new class of pesticides…Based on the evidence…at the epicenter are the neonicotinoids.”  Recent studies have shown that even low doses of these pesticides affect the bees’ ability to find their way home to the hive.  As Beth Conrey, president of the Colorado State Bee Keepers Association says, “A bee without a colony is a dead bee.”

So, how can we help the bees and thus help ourselves?  Because these neonicotinoids are used to treat corn seed, and the chemicals penetrate the entire corn plant (making the pollen toxic to bees- and, I might add, to you!), you can help by purchasing organic corn for your table, and organic products in general.  Even corn syrup made from corn which was treated will retain toxic traces of this chemical- and if you look on the labels of the food you buy, you’ll see that corn syrup is in a large percentage of it!  It is that yucky corn syrup which some beekeepers unknowingly feed their bees during the winter, effectively poisoning them.

Another thing you can do is to refrain from using pesticides and herbicides.  “But what about those pesky weeds and insects?”, you ask.  Consider this: the world and its inhabitants are so interconnected, that what we do to our environment, we eventually experience ourselves.  The bee die-off story illustrates this in an obvious way; would you purposefully feed your children poison?  Of course not, but that’s what we’re doing by using these toxic chemicals in our own “nest.”  So, look at sites on the web like http://www.livestrong.com which offer information about alternatives to chemical pesticides.

If you must use pesticides, make sure they don’t contain neoniotinoids.  The british website http://www.soilassociation.org has a list of products that contain these chemicals, as well as other chemicals to be avoided.  They also are active in getting these products removed from shelves by writing to retailers and asking them to stop carrying them; there’s a letter on this site that you can copy and send to your local retailers.  I will write my letter to my local school district and city, asking them to examine what they use and to use an alternative.

While I’m on my soapbox, check out these sites, too: Pesticide Action Network (www.panna.org), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s webpage on integrated pest management or IPM -http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/ipm/.

We can have a positive effect on the health of ourselves and our planet!

 

 

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