Sunday, July 24, 2016

Small things can spark a war.

After a cursory Saturday visit to the gym, my friend and I get down to breakfast at the nearby diner. This is a nice ritual of friendship, practiced over years.  We know the waitstaff, they know us.  This last visit, however, instead of my usual quiet reserved self, I Jekyl-Hyde-d the waiter.  I spoke out, I engaged, stepped outside the friendly social parameters of waiter/ waitee.  I revealed my parentage: Mom.  She was probably Yahweh in another life, but regardless, she retained the Right to Be Righteous in her last one.  Mom always knew what was right, and never ever hesitated to reveal that information.  She was a bonafide Moral Compass. 

So, this biblical DNA came home to roost as we sat in the nice diner having mediocre good crappy breakfast grease.  I saw plastic, and I simultaneously Saw Red.   I can't believe the things that come out of my mouth when it comes to plastic (and politics).  But having in my head the prediction that, by 2050,  half of everything in the ocean would be plastic, some synapses started snapping somewhere inside.  All the warning survival instincts in my bloodlines started shouting alarms.  My heart hurts for the planet, for the people, for the resources.  My blood rushed at that moment, and I became a spokesperson.  I started in on The Plastic at our table.  My friend leaned back in her seat to be further from me, I thought, but she did not tell me to clam up, and I think she's really in agreement. 

Most people are becoming very aware of the rape and pillage of the environment--mostly by technology, mostly by the U.S. and China, and mostly by human-induced climate change.  Plastic has its own horror stories.  Walk into ANY store in the U.S., and not only do you see plastic items for sale everywhere you look, but everything is encased in plastic.  Everything is disposable. There are mountains of it, buried in the oceans and under the earth.  AND NONE OF IT HAS GONE AWAY SINCE IT WAS DUMPED THERE. 

All the debris currently clogging the waters of the planet threatens the life of the increasingly-stressed ocean life, from corals to whales.  And increasingly, as fish become harmed, overharvested, and reproduce less, this means less food in the chain for us top-feeders.  As well as heartbreaking loss of fellow live creatures to keep the balance of life on the planet.  Creative minds have found ways to use plastic, recycle it, re-use or reconstruct it.  But the re-use's still get tossed someday. 

Hope, however, always exists, in some really unexpected places: Some young man in Denmark has invented a sweep that might be the answer to clean up the ocean (1).   And some researchers have found that an existing type of mealworm actually breaks down plastic so it isn't even plastic anymore!(2)  Not even tiny little life-threatening microbeads remain as plastic once these mealworms eat it. AND, and the mealworms are still able to reproduce on this diet. You have to wonder if evolution provided this escape hatch for the planet, eons ago, in a kind of time loop.  I truly hope so, because that means there might be more in the arsenal than we know of at this point. 

So when the waiter in the diner handed me a straw, I said, "I don't believe in using straws, because they are a huge contributor to landfill and environmental pollution."  He looked at me a second, processing the shift in his routine, and shrugged.

"Okay, " he said, and stuck it back in his pocket.

I said, " You could just eliminate straws altogether and let people drink out of glasses."  I demonstrated doing just that.  He shrugged again and shifted his feet.  He was filling in for a waitress and wanted to get back to important stuff as soon as possible. 

I pointed at the little bowl of plastic-packaged creamers and jelly, and said, " Those are plastic. You could use little metal or china creamers, and jelly pots."

He sighed and said, " Yeah, I don't make the decisions, you'd have to talk to my Dad."
I said, "You're right.  I will write up a letter and bring it next time.  But you get an opinion, too."
He smiled and said his favorite word, "Yeah."  He took our order to the cook. 

No one was saved, but I realized I could do much better than harass the waitstaff.  Why can't socially conscious restaurants--and there are many--share plastic-free business savvy? Myself,  I'm going to make up little cards encouraging restaurants I eat at, and patrons in the restaurant, to go for LOW PLASTIC.  There are a lot of ways to do this, and some are very simple.  One of my favorite restaurants uses cardboard take-out boxes instead of evil Styrofoam (if you don't bring your own container, which is a doable option.  Or just order less food, because the global food shortage is going to kick in one of these days.) Most people would really LIKE to change their plastic habits, but it is so engrained that we don't know how.  We will need to start a grassroots movement, a ripple effect, of information.  We can start by Just Saying NO to Plastic.  Grassroots works. All we have to do is START.

And there's the DNA thing.  Survival instinct. Dad was a Marine in WW2.  Trauma to the parent resurfaces in the child. Fighting for the planet is an evolutionary battle, it requires sacrifice and changes that we won't want to make. Mom's morals, Dad's actions.  All our ancestors fought, and handed us the evolutionary skills to survive. We have racial memory.  We have sophisticated and technological survival resources.  We are recognizing the issues.

We can fight to reduce the use and acceptability of all forms of plastic.  Hit on the waitstaff at diners.  Set an example by doing.  Practice plastic-free living (3).  Fight in the diners, fight in the streets, fight on the internet (4) .

We Can Do It.

1. Mealworms may help reduce plastic waste:
2. Teen Invents Ocean Clean-Up:
3. My Plastic Free Life --a terrific wonderful blog!!  And there are other resources on living plastic-free.
4.  Paraphrasing the probably most famous  and inspirational fight speech EVER,  Winston Churchill's call to Britain in WW2:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I just read an article suggesting that: to embrace cold weather is to love cold weather.  That's what people reportedly do in the upper reaches of Norway--Tromso to be specific--where the sun barely glimmers from November through February. In chilly, sun-filtered Michigan, interesting to think of a frozen town in far-off, exotic Tromso, Norway.  There, in a twilight kind of sky, heavily-bundled persons ski out windows, drink hot cocoa, and do snuggly things under furs.  All very communal and friendly (1).

Novembers have always been dear to my heart.  Today, that's eating beef kidney stew, surfing the Net, and swilling hot, black tea. But November has taken on added meaning for me, the last couple years.  Now, it's also a harbinger of Winter as a Suck-The-Life-From-Old-People change. Getting older changes things.  Things like my body, specifically. Those changes don't ease in, either.  Last November, I watched my face and skin dry out in a matter of a few days when temperatures plunged and humidity disappeared.  And there are the aches and twinges, building up.  It has dawned on me that those aches and twinges are not going away.   Ergo arthritis is a permanent part of my life.  And here it is, November again.  That means more wrinkles and stiff joints.  Which builds character.

I read about the Happy Norwegians and wonder about their arthritis status in the cold months.  The study about Tromso did not go there.  So I Google "international arthritis rates " and find this interesting chart, which I can't figure out.  But it clearly shows that all countries will give you arthritis (2)

Apparently, arthritis thrives everywhere on the planet, whether or not the weather is cold.  Moving to Australia might or might not make a difference, according to the chart which I can't read.  Possibly people in Australia are physically active enough to keep arthritis at bay, but not enough to damage joints. It's hard to tell.  If you figure it out, let me know.

I do herbs, stretch, walk around town, do some gym. Every effort helps.  Movement is life, they say, and I believe it. But those things won't stop changes, just ease them.  Maybe without changes, we'd all lose interest.

I visualize ageing people in Tromso, scooting out snow-bound windows on sled or skis.  With hot grogg in one hand.  I'll adopt Tromso's plan and slide into changes.  Easier on the joints.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Cultural Re-Programming is a Large Task, Which Requires Research

Such a day. Only 11:30 a.m. and already I've saved bits of The World. Saving The World has to be done in bits, it's the only way.  Unless you surpass Moses, who could only face down the immense Glory of God in a burning bush metaphor. Too much info burns out the circuits.  Fortunately, I'm armed in my overwhelming mission with Mom's certainty that she was Always Right, and with Dad's ability to sit at the kitchen table and talk to himself.  We all have unique superpowers.  The laptop is a requisite weapon, the Internet my supernatural helper, and a sense of humor essential. 

I've put in my 2 bits today, via Facebook's Baker's Creek Heirloom Seeds blog (1), against the pending threat of unlabeled Genetically Modified foods. BCHS is a radical group in the Ozarks of Missouri, which protects heirloom seeds and speaks out about food issues in the States. They posted this article about unlabeled GM food, which I found frightening enough to share with as many people as I can (2).

It's easy to attract angry people on FB blogs, by posting an opinion.  I've researched this.  Sometimes I think I shouldn't express an opinion on a public forum.  But public opinion tends to be expressed most vocally by radical minorities; a lot of moderates just don't speak up, perhaps knowing that eventually all issues fade into the background as new ones arise. I'm sure I've said a lot of stupider stuff when I was younger, myself, so I have a certain amount of sympathy for protestors and younger, inexperienced stupid people.  But I also feel that, like Mom, I have to set things straight.  Its my responsibility as an older, and formerly more stupid, person to perpetuate the species by helping them see things straight.  I am old enough to remember the thalidomide horror from the 50's (3), Agent Orange defoliant from Vietnam (supposed to be safe for people, huh?), and the recent (like today) FDA renewed, upgraded, warning that Ibuprofen and it's ilk can be fatal (4).It makes good sense,  if the Powers That Be screw up even once in a while on chemical malfunctions, to be skeptical of anything they say.  Lifting advice from an article which I read and then lost, Nature is a slow-moving force.  Give it a good 50 years of testing before messing with any tweaks of it.  In addition to the uncertainty of the source, type, and reliability of testing on GM foods (or any chemicals marketed to the public; like um Roundup, recently after MANY YEARS declared the murderer of Monarch Butterflies) a great many sources have also suggested that palms are being greased to deny and forbid GM labeling.  Being an American citizen, I believe these sources have a point.  Some companies are probably paying big bucks to get their GM food products sold.  Marketing did the incredibly unthinkable practice of fracking no good, because of all the places in Oklahoma and Texas where the ground is caving in and stuff. A great many people eyewitness that it is, in fact, a bad practice.  So GM companies say, " skip trying to convert the public, just vote against labeling foods GM or OR GM-free.  Let them eat it all, and don't tell them which it is."  I can only hope that there are some lawmakers who also have Mom's ability to be Always Right, and invoke it, soon.

What I have come to realize about Being Right and Saving the World is that it requires more than just eye-opening counter-information.  It requires the leadership abilities of Franklin Roosevelt, who talked the country into WW2 by using a fire hose metaphor.  It requires the otherworldly scientific ability of a Carl Sagan, with turtlenecks and galactic-sized facts. 

Most of all, it requires Herculean Cultural Re-Programming.  The ability to divert a couple rivers and clean out the Augean stables, in a manner of speaking (5).  We, the People of the U.S., tend to believe what our doctors tell us, what TV advertisements claim, what the FDA advises, and other things that do not come directly from Always Right sources who care for our physical well-being.  Its a joke that in the U.S. we have so many choices, so much available to us, that we can afford to make choices.  And we can make stupid choices and get away with them.  For a while, til they catch up.  As I argued with one FB blogger, giving GM food to starving people in other countries is a moot argument for not labeling GM food--starving people in other countries will take anything to not starve, even our crap.  Monsanto, or some other chemical company, should consider offering free birth control along with GM products, if they really want to help people.  Which they don't, they really want to make a profit.  Am I right?

So I have a lot more sympathy for Mom these days.  Being Always Right means swaying opinions, sorting out all kinds of screwed-up thinking, taking flak from dissenters.  Mom didn't worry about backing up Right with facts, however.  Her kids had to do what she told them, period. I on the other hand acquired a degree which compels me to at least make a passing effort to get some facts and line them up.  I am not keen on giving space to opposing opinions, however; that training fell on barren soil.  But here's where Dad genes come in:  I talk to myself a lot, chew things over as he put it, until the smoke clears and things come together.  Which I hope, with practice, will give me an FDR edge.

There are a lot of issues besides GM to re-program The World on.  The whole plastic, illusory lifestyle of the U.S. needs some shakedown.  What with growing conviction by even nay-sayers that the Earth is undergoing a 6th Mass Extinction, precipitated by humans (our era gets to be called the Anthropecene in honor of us fucking things up, almost exclusively), the Augean Stables of cultural programming needs to be cleaned up, fast.  I left my day job to save the planet, so I'll keep plugging away.  I'd appreciate suggestions, especially for useful public-swaying metaphors.  I'm just no poet. 

Here's a helpful assignment in the meantime:  Boycott individual Bottled Water Bottles. 
Next assignment:  Composting is fun and easy.

1.  Baker's Heirloom Seed Company.  Radical stuff on this blog, they get really aggressive about GMOs in particular.  It is fitting that they are headquartered in the Ozarks, which is as good a place as any to headquarter a Green Revolution and call down government stupidity on Food and Drugs. I follow them on Facebook, had some extended violent disagreements from people posting on their blog who( undoubtedly) work for Monsanto or it's subsidiaries, and feel that GMOs shouldn't be labeled.  So I had to block several of them from my FB, hopefully preventing future Monsanto-sponsored reprisals on GM-labeled supporters.

2.  July 20, 2015,  The top story, on glyphosphates, is scary enough, but if you're game read them all, and never never eat GM foods.  Knowingly.  Which might be tough if legislation is passed to forbid labeling in the U.S.   This makes me think of Aspartame, which is also really harmful to health and which other countries like Japan never took up with.  the U.S. embraces aspartame and now is hedging on its safety.  Sheesh, like imbibing huge amounts of any chemical is fine with sheep.

3. Thalidomide, and heroine Frances Oldham Kelsey

4. AARP is good info.  Who knew Ibuprofen was bad for seniors?  I didn't.

5. Hercules and the 5th Labor