The Conscientious Consumer: Our Best Weapon Against Climate ChangeHelke Ferrie December 1, 2006
The snake curled around a staff is known the world over as the symbol for medicine which originated in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), where some five millennia ago it was revered for its demonstration of the immortality of life by apparent rebirth whenever it shed its skin.
The staff was a tree then, and snake and tree combined represented the symbol of the god, Ningishzidah, the “lord of the good tree”. He furthered and protected civilization, which the ancients understood very well depends on trees for shade, their stabilization of the water table, fruit, and the many uses to which culture puts wood. By his grace, human life was thought to flourish and the deserts of the Middle East were transformed into forests and fruitful agricultural land. He also offered protection against those destructive powers of nature that buried cities in sand storms or caused villages and towns to be abandoned because of drought.
Modern Iraq was once largely green and covered in date and pistachio forests, until over-irrigation and human warfare returned the land to desert – in which some four thousand years later humans found oil, the source of a very different kind of culture.
Ningishzida evolved over a couple millennia into the emblem of the ancient Greek god of medicine, Asklepios, and the tree become his staff. Today, the survival of civilization is still always personal and collective because culture depends on how we understand and intelligently interact with our physical environment – and on how we treat what our health and survival depends upon: water, soil, air, plants, animals, and each other.
During the course of the seven million years in which humans evolved, spending most of that time as hunter-gatherers, the climate was hot and humid, interrupted occasionally by some regional ice ages. Only some 20,000 years ago seasons developed, and with them plants that thrive at different times of the year. The last 10,000 years are a tiny island of climatic conditions stable enough to support human civilization; we only very recently developed agriculture, then villages with pottery, weaving and architecture, and finally cities and the ability to share the great works of human imagination in literature and art. Then the invention of the wheel allowed people to trade and communicate all over the planet.
This long glance back reminds us that we have been through a lot already, and that the debate about Global Warming is best seen as a huge challenge. We seem to have come full circle and face “the lord of the good tree” (see extended web version for background), who demands a creative and subordinate relationship to nature. Disobedience will destroy us. The metaphors of conquest, man-against-nature (and woman cheering him on from the home’s hearth) are finally quite useless. Our personal and global survival will only survive if we work for nature. Like every catastrophe in life, the Global Warming debate provides us with a great opportunity.
THERE ARE CURRENTLY THREE VIEWS ON GLOBAL WARMING
1) British scientist James Lovelock, the author of the Gaia concept which proved the reciprocal interrelationship between all geophysical and life systems on Earth, takes the catastrophic view in his important book, The Revenge of Gaia, that the rapidly increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere, initiated by the Industrial Revolution and caused by all activities involving combustion, are changing the global climate in irreversible ways. Because all chemical systems on Earth amplify in a potentially runaway manner, due to the feed-back loops we have passed a point of no return. All that is possible, Lovelock believes, is an “orderly retreat” by reducing CO2 emissions to save at least some of Earth’s biodiversity and “a few interbreeding couples” in those areas of the planet where life can still be sustained. Pollution is of minor importance.
2) The former US vice president Al Gore is a prophet with a solution. In his documentary movie “An Inconvenient Truth” he provides a masterful analysis of how our CO2-producing activities cause all that pollution that threatens the very existence of life on Earth. He interprets the science as providing humanity with an opportunity to switch to non-polluting sources of energy (solar, wind etc.). For him change and clean-up are possible, but the world must unite to pursue this common purpose in order to avoid irreversible climate change and disaster.
3) Maverick scientist and renowned journalist, British Viscount Christopher Monckton, emerged in November as a fascinatingly clever and most annoying skeptic. He points out that throughout the known record of millions of years of climate change, Global Warming always happens first, and CO2 levels rise afterwards with time lags ranging from 400 to 1,200 years. (CO2s are also increased by volcanoes, forest fires and other chemical reactions.) There is no doubt in Monckton’s mind that humans are producing lots of very unhealthy CO2s, but the climate is not necessarily changing any more than it has done in the past; his supportive evidence from mainstream science is most impressive. CO2s must be reduced, clean energy must be the top priority, population growth must be checked, he asserts, not because of global climate change, but because our CO2-producing way of life is completely destructive to humans. He insists the focus should not be on a common enemy – Global Warming – but on repentance.
These three views have great merit and are all important to consider carefully. Lovelock’s scientific achievements notwithstanding, he has a view that can easily lead to paralyzing despair. He is also abysmally ignorant about the CO2-reducing effects of organic farming and bio-identical therapies in medicine, both of which he dismisses as nonsense without providing any support for such a dismissal. (Great minds are vulnerable to great blind-spots – they are human after all.) He recommends the bizarre solution of switching everything to nuclear power. So here, the choice is between choking to death on CO2s or being eventually nuked.
Gore and Monkton, though they disagree on causes, do agree on the need to change our attitude toward all that our lives depend upon. No other creature on earth carelessly destroys its own niche and all that is in it to support its survival.
CONSEQUENCES ON HUMAN HEALTH
Ultimately, the Global Warming debate is medical – and medicine is rapidly becoming environmental medicine and nothing but. Our CO2 producing economy has increased asthma incidence five fold in children since 1980, and environmental pollutants cost the North American health care systems an estimated $15 billion annually (EHP July 7, 2002). Synthetic corticosteroid therapy, itself a CO2 generating industry par excellence, has proven to be a failure according to the Canadian Respirology Journal (November 2004). More than 200 diseases are now known to be caused by pollution, all ultimately CO2-derived poisons or nutritional deficiencies (The Independent, UK, November 14, 2004).
The US Center for Reproductive Biology has shown that environmental toxins, all of which are created by CO2-producing technologies, cause inheritable changes in our DNA so the toxins our grandmothers were exposed to determine the disease that can be triggered in us (Science, June 3, 2005).
The US government reported recently that 93% of the entire population is seriously deficient in vitamin E – a direct function of long-distance food trade which requires nutrient-depleting methods of preservation and CO2-producing packaging as well (NHANES 2004). This vitamin is key to the control of all biological inflammatory processes which give rise to cancer, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases.
The US government, the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization have all produced thoughtful analyses of how climate change is likely to affect human health for individuals and in entire populations, and how best to deal with these developments (EHP September 9, 2006, CMAJ September 19, 2000, WHO reports 2005).
What is significant in all these efforts is that the environment – that finite and highly sensitive fish tank in which we all live – and pollution finally take centre stage. The climate will change – with or without us. Indeed, the message is that we must all think like physicians, so that everything we do is focused on preserving, conserving, protecting, and nourishing all that makes Life possible. The Golden Rule must be expanded to make us understand that whatever harm and exploitation we visit upon the planet, we also visit upon ourselves.
WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR OUR PLANET
These suggestions not only save you a lot of money, but also help to reduce CO2 and inevitably help to improve population health.
1) Change your light bulbs to energy efficient ones (“cork-screw” type) to save power.
2) Put a timer on your hot-water tank (e.g. off at 9 pm, back on 6am) to save power.
3) Learn how to reduce energy consumption efficiently and affordably, read Smart Power and The Renewable Energy Handbook both by Bill Kemp (www.aztext.com)
4) Keep tires inflated optimally to increase fuel efficiency.
5) Drive less: every gallon of gas saved keeps 20 pounds of CO2 out of the air.
6) Avoid packaged materials – buy in bulk.
7) Adjust thermostat by 2 degrees (up or down, according to the season). May save up to 2,000 pounds of CO2 annually!
8) Plant a tree, if you have a garden, give one for Christmas to friends with gardens.
9) Turn off all electronic devices when not in use (DVD, TV, computers etc.)
10) Use synthetic oil for your car engine to increase its efficiency.
11) Buy a hybrid car, or Smart Car, or a Diesel-fueled car with the new energy-saving and pollution reducing systems, if you are in the market for a new car. (See advertisement on page 66 for the Mono Mag fuel conditioning system that can increase fuel efficiency by a minimum of 10% and reduce emissions by 50%.)
12) Become politically involved according to your level of energy and your area of interest: locally or nationally, support Greenpeace, the Sierra Legal Defense Fund, Council of Canadians, Friends of the Earth. Visit your local MPP and MP and ask them what the heck they are doing to help stop CO2 emissions! An excellent source for information in politics, science, grassroots movements etc. is the Canadian magazine Alternatives (firstname.lastname@example.org, or 1-866-437-2587)
13) Hang out your laundry outdoors on a clothesline or indoors over radiators (improves humidity in the house as well). If using a dryer, use it at half its suggested drying time to have it dry but not hot and full of static.
14) Buy an ENERGY-STAR appliance if you are in the market for a new washer, dryer, toaster etc. etc.
ECO FRIENDLY AND CANCER PREVENTIVE STRATEGIES
The following is merely basic information; discuss your personal requirements with a naturopath or an ecologically-minded doctor. These recommendations (for planetary and personal health) are also all cancer-preventive!
• Take minerals every day to ensure you absorb all available essential nutrients from the food you eat and to systematically detoxify daily intake of environmental pollutants.
• Take daily extra Zinc, Selenium, Potassium and Essential Fatty Acids (i.e. Cod Liver oil – not from farmed fish! – and vegetable-derived oils such as Udo’s Oil) to protect against infections of all kinds (the flu shot does no protect!) and to provide your cardiovascular and immune systems with the extra help needed to handle climate and environmental toxicity fluctuations. Best companies: Flora, Sisu, St Francis, New Roots, Organica and NOW.
• Take Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) and Vitamin C (natural sources only). Vitamin E deals with all inflammatory processes, C is both a chelator of toxic minerals as well as essential to cell division and repair, cardiovascular health, immune system function and more.
• When the weather is hot your body uses more Potassium, Magnesium, and your adrenals and thyroid need support, so take Pantothenic Acid (B 5) for adrenals and Kelp for thyroid support.
• If you must endure traffic jams, take a couple of capsules of Glutathione and Alpha Lipoic Acid before hitting the highway. You will arrive at work or back home with your brain still functioning at optimal levels.
• Do not drink or bathe in tap water – use a filter.
• Do not use fluoridated toothpaste and get rid of mercury-containing amalgam dental fillings.
• Avoid all sources of chlorine. If you swim, form a group of like-minded people and ask the authority in charge of the pool to change the filtration system to a non-chlorine type. Alternatives exist.
• Use only bio-degradable, non-scented cleaning materials for dishes and laundry. (No commercial detergent, water-softeners, anti-cling sheets etc. Use bio-degradable liquid materials instead – all of which are far more cost effective as they contain no fillers; vinegar is the ultimate softener and anti-cling substance!)
• Don’t take pharmaceutical drugs, except in absolute emergencies. Consult a naturopath, avoid doctors, forget the annual check-up which basically supports CO2-producing industries and unnecessarily stresses Medicare.
• Eat organic.
• Become a vegetarian with the occasional egg, cheese or fish on the menu to ensure vitamin B12 supply, and don’t fall for the low-fat nonsense.
• Adjust the Canada Food Guide to the known food science: double the recommended intake of fruit and vegetables, cut cereals, starches, and animal products at least in half.
• J. Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia, Oxford, 2006
• J. Krop, MD, Healing The Planet One Patient At A Time, Kos Publishing, 2nd edition, 2004
• K.-G., Wenzel, MD & R. Pataracchia, ND, Earth’s Gift to Medicine: Minerals in Health and Disease, Kos, 2005
• D. Rapp, MD, Our Toxic World, 2005
• C. Gerson & M. Walker, The Gerson Therapy, Kensington, 2006
• S. Rogers, MD, Detoxify or Die. Prestige Publishing, 2002
• Christopher D. Cook, Diet for A Dead Planet: How The Industry is Killing Us, New Press, 2004
• Thomas F. Pawlick, The End of Food, Keystone, 2006
• R. Pelton & J. LaValle, The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs, Morton, 2004
• G.E. Christianson, Greenhouse: The 200-year Story of Global Warming, David Suzuki Foundation, 1999
•Viscount Christopher Monckton’s writings and debate with Al Gore are accessed by Google directly or through the UK’s Sunday Telegraph website.