The Social Politics of Being Green

Syndicated
I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about toxins.  Mostly, it seems that the topic finds its way to me rather than me seeking it out, and that could be a result of the heightened awareness in the US of just how many chemicals we come in contact with every day.  Whatever the reason, I'm doing my best to examine the issues as rationally as I can without freaking out.  The difficulty for me comes when I bump up against cultural or societal standards that don't jive with what I'm learning - especially in a social setting - and I'm not sure how to proceed.

Goslings
Image: Robin Loznak via ZUMA Press.


A few months ago I decided to toss all of my antiperspirant/deodorants and go looking for more 'natural' products.  I had been reading about more and more studies investigating links between aluminum and parabens (both present in the majority of antiperspirant/deodorants) and breast cancer. While there is no 'definitive' evidence yet, the fact that more than half of all tumors found in breast tissue contain either parabens or aluminum or both was enough to make me hedge my bets and find something else.  I did this quietly (although I also replaced both of my daughters' old products with more natural ones and explained to them that I felt like it was better to use more natural products than man-made chemicals) and haven't tried to convince any friends or family to do the same.  I don't want to be obnoxious or presumptuous.

For years now I have bought mostly organically grown foods and avoided milk that is produced by cows who are treated with growth hormones. I spend the extra money for grass-fed beef and free-range, organic eggs and shop as locally as possible.  Again, this is a lifestyle change I have made personally and I don't go out evangelizing or pushing these choices on anyone else for the most part.  One notable exception to that is that I will occasionally share my views with like-minded friends on Facebook, either by 'liking' something they link to or mention or supporting a particular company.

I do feel as though it is challenging to find evidence that is concrete one way or the other in many instances. It often seems as though choosing sides is the American way and once you've decided which team you're rooting for, you have to believe every single thing they say. More often than not, I try to err on the side of not messing with Mother Nature and eschewing products that contain things I'm unsure about.

Ultimately, I don't support companies like Monsanto because I think genetically modifying food products is a recipe for disaster. We may think we've tested these ideas, but we can't know what will happen generations down the line. I agree that finding ways to keep the global population healthy is important, but in my experience, shortcuts almost always lead to disaster down the line.  Manipulating the balance of the ecosystem by giving some plants and animals a leg up over others could (and often has) come back to bite us in the butt.

But I don't like to get in to conversations about these kinds of things.  Especially with people who disagree with me.  Not because I am unsure about the evidence I have for my ideas, but because I am unsure that there is any way to know definitively until it's all over and done.

I will not get my girls vaccinated for chickenpox or HPV. Won't. They also don't get an annual flu shot.  Neither do I. At the risk of sounding like a paranoid consipiracy-theorist, I don't trust the medical model that tells me to put chemicals I know are toxic (yes, they do still use thimerosal - aka Mercury - as a preservative in vaccines) in to my body or the developing bodies of my kids.  
 
I wish I could say that I am 100 percent certain that vaccines are responsible for many developmental delays and disorders such as autism. I can't. But I think the science that points in that direction makes sense - and I do have a degree in biology with a minor in chemistry, so I have some credibility there.  And I do think that the vaccine manufacturers and the AMA as a whole have a vested, non-impartial interest in continuing vaccine practices.  And I'd rather not look back 25 years from now and regret that I didn't listen to my gut.

Do I want to cite studies and get in to a war of words with someone who is convinced I'm wrong? Nope.
Will I continue to make decisions I think are best for myself and my family? Yep.
Will I come to the defense of others who want to do the same? Absolutely.

So what about developing countries? What about organizations that are doing their best, in an altogether altruistic fashion, to prevent disease in third world countries? How do I support their mission if I don't believe in the way they go about it?  I would love to say I fully embrace the Gates Foundation. But they are firmly connected with Monsanto and dedicated to vaccinating practices.  I love the notion of mosquito nets and tried-and-true contraception/family planning methods.  I can't get behind planting GMO corn and soybeans in a vulnerable country and giving possibly-toxic vaccines to a vulnerable population.  Therein lies the rub.

I do take advantage of many of the conveniences of modern life, many of which I know are not good for the planet (my car, plastic garbage bags, cat litter) or myself (Advil, maxi pads, ice cream). I am not naive enough to believe that I don't benefit greatly from some of the things chemists have concocted over the years.  But I am doing my best to avoid doing more damage than I ought to, both to myself and the planet at large.

So, as much as possible, I will keep my mouth shut and go about living my life the way I think is best. You may wrinkle your nose as I walk past you on a hot, sunny day because my armpits aren't fresh-pear scented, and you may get pissed off that my kid shows up to your school without the full complement of shots, but if you disagree, please just acknowledge my right to make my own choices and do your best to avoid vilifying me for it.
 

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