Clueless with cancer

As I wrote the title of this post, I felt a little bad, but not nearly bad enough to discontinue putting these serious thoughts on paper, so to speak, on this overcast, rather gloomy Sunday morning in California.  Not two days ago, I was down on the lower half of our property, letting our juvenile pups run around and get some fresh air.  As we walked towards the fence that borders the street, I saw a red 4×4 utility vehicle with my older female neighbor, Patty, driving, their elderly golden retriever Tommy on the middle seat and Mark sitting shotgun.  Mark, who is riddled with devastating bone cancer, had his old flannel shirt on, a smile on his face, and a three-foot sprayer wand in his hand.  As the threesome cruised along their curbline, Mark vigorously sprayed commercial-grade herbicide from his lethal contraption, as he has probably done multiple times a year for the whole of his life.  I immediately had several thoughts flood my mind – ‘Holy shit, that is disgusting!’, ‘Where are the dogs?’, ‘Are we downwind?’, and ‘I hope that shit doesn’t get on any of us or our property’.  Thankfully, he disarmed himself as they approached and they pulled over to chat for a moment.  Tommy and our pups played for about five minutes, Mark gave me the regular dreary update about his health status (just finished more chemo, feeling pretty terrible, but hanging in there), and I enjoyed a couple minutes with the two very sweet, but sadly clueless, neighbors in my life.

It breaks my heart that there isn’t an easier way to tell those you care for about things that matter or impact them.  Case in point – I want to scream from my rooftop to Mark’s that the chemicals he is using are poisonous, not only to him and his family but also to his poor dog, the deer who eat our grass, the rabbits who run through our open fields, and our suffering honeybees who pollinate our flowering hillsides in spring.  I also want to tell Mark about all of the recent court cases involving cancer patients winning their suits against Monsanto/Bayer, in which a judge determined the plaintiff’s cancer was caused by their exposure to the noxious product RoundUp.  Although it is sadly too late in Mark’s case, because he almost certainly cannot cure himself of his brutally aggressive disease, it pains me to think of someone ignorantly exposing themselves and those around them to something that is harmful, to say the least.  I also do not want that stuff anywhere near myself, Hugo, the dogs, or any of the other lovely creatures out there.

Sometimes there is a part of me that just wants to share what I know with those around me, regardless of how they interpret or digest it.  And that’s not to say I know a lot but I am conscious of what I use in my home, on my body and in my small world on our three-acre plot of earth.  That is all I have control over in this world so I make every effort to make smart, healthy and earth-conscious decisions wherever I can.  Because of my knowledge and consciousness, I want to help others, which in turn helps the rest of the world.  I wish I could just email them and tell them not to use certain products, with a detailed explanation as to why, but unfortunately, a lot of people (Mark and Patty included) would not only look at me sideways but they would also retort with ten reasons why spraying is better (cheaper and faster than manual labor, kills all of the weeds for the whole year, etc.).  I know the reasons because I have heard them before and when I do hear them, that is usually when I stop talking because clearly the battle isn’t worth having.  Especially between two sets of neighbors, one of which is fighting for their life, with an herbicide sprayer in hand.

Eat & Support Organics: For you, the animals and the planet

My husband Hugo and I have repeatedly experienced scenarios with coworkers and friends where they question why we eat organically.  When we sit with these people at lunch and they catch a glance of a drink or packaged item of food, we are often questioned regarding what it is and where its from.  Their aggressive line of questioning is often summed up with an awkward, uncomfortable look of relative disgust, since we are obviously the weird ones who eat strange things.  In addition, if we happen to say we bought the delicious and healthy item at Whole Foods, their look also encompasses a sprinkle of ‘you wealthy little snob who shops at the expensive grocery store.’

As I type up this quick synopsis of how almost every encounter with those around us at snack time goes, I realize, even more than before, how crazy this uneducated behavior truly is.  Both Hugo and I were not raised in an area or around people who were so confrontational and unfamiliar with quality sustenance.  And honestly, this shit gets annoying because we eat organically for a variety of reasons, none of which the majority of people understand.  After awhile, I get tired of being asked what I’m drinking (kombucha), explaining what it is and why its delicious and nutritious, and then receiving a rude look and snarky comment.  In my opinion, those who are eating conventionally deserve the scowl, seeing as the farming process degrades the earth, the involved animals, and our bodies.  I guess I could go on about this forever and I do truly wish I had more, well organized time to retort when confronted.  In the end, my intentions are to educate others about my personal, multi-faceted love for organics and why it should be important to everyone.

First off, growing and producing organic food is the only sustainable, long-term approach we should have and need to have.  With the bulk application of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides, conventional farmers are killing their overworked soil, allowing lethal run-off into our streams, rivers and oceans (which in turn contribute to algae blooms), and killing our bees.  Our poor honey bees – the mass army of soldiers who pollinate nearly all of our food, therefore enabling us to eat and survive as a species – are dying at a rapid and alarming rate, primarily as a result of exposure to the main, cancer-causing ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate.  It is disgusting, scary and widely used by ignorant people everywhere and, in turn, honey bees nationwide are meeting a sad, toxic fate.  While I could write about our declining honey bee population all day long, please read more via my included links.

Second, raising organic meat and planting and harvesting organic produce is the only ethical and healthy way to farm.  Organic standards for animals require the livestock to be free of antibiotics and hormones and to be fed a strict diet of organic feed.  In addition, the majority of organic meat producers also provide lovely quarters for their animals, which include large outdoor areas, access to grass and fresh air, and living conditions that do not include overcrowded, factory-style barracks.  Of course all of these variables are dependent on the type of animal and the farm’s location on the globe.

Finally, eating organically is good for you!  When fruits and vegetables, as well as meat, dairy and everything else we ingest, is humanely raised without synthetic pesticides and other chemicals, the antioxidant level is drastically higher, the taste speaks for itself and the human being actually consuming it is not coating their insides with carcinogenic sludge.  Case in point – Dr. Mercola attests to increased antioxidant levels and the Pesticide Action Network explains pesticide accumulation in our bodies.

I will never forget the car ride with my mom from a short few years back that is forever ingrained in my photographic memory.  While driving home from a long, relaxing day at the beach, during one of her many trips to visit Hugo and I on the opposite coast from her, we took the scenic route through the massive expanse of citrus farms just west of our house.  While winding through this particular farmland in the late afternoon, off to the right of the car we both observed one of the more disturbing things I have seen – a man wearing a full-body, hazmat style suit, face mask and boots spraying chemicals on a crop.  Although our observation only lasted for a brief moment as we passed by, the image was forged into both of our minds and we continue to talk about how sad and frustrating it was to see.

To think of just how much and how often pesticides are sprayed on conventional crops is beyond troubling because my heart hurts for the school kids who are inhaling the fumes and being coated with the particulate mist downwind from these commercial farms.  My heart hurts for the farm workers who may not be educated on the effects of exactly what they are using on a daily basis, or maybe they are yet they need the income and are willing to take on the extreme health risks from exposure so they can provide for their families.  My heart hurts for the cows, pigs, chickens and every other innocent animal who is pumped with hormones or antibiotics, or both, to increase their size, up their production and keep them sickness-free, since they are overcrowded and not taken care of, thus leading to poor health and zero immunity.  When the herbicides run into the ground water or enter a farmland adjacent stream, slowly flowing into larger bodies of water and eventually into the ocean, they pollute our oceans, kill those who live there and contribute to deadly algae blooms.  My heart hurts when beaches are closed and fish are floating dead to the surface.  And finally, my heart hurts to think of a developing baby being exposed to mass amounts of pesticides as their uneducated mother eats our mass-market fast food around the clock, polluting her body and the blood supply to her unborn son or daughter.  In the end, my heart just hurts.

So, given my thoughts and raw emotions behind why I care so much about organics, it really makes me both mad and sad when all of these people I engage with at work or in public either have no idea about what it means to eat organic or they scoff at the idea of a quality, non-toxic item costing $1 more.  Their lack of manners, common sense, and brain cells astounds me but, regardless, I will always continue to explain what kombucha is, tell them where I bought it, and say, with a big smile, that it tastes delicious.  I’ll do this probably until the day I die because you never know, maybe my rambling about the honey bees might just change someone’s mind.