The Bee’s Knees

I’m watching “Morgan Spurlock: Inside Man” on Netflix, and as always, he puts together thoughtful pieces about the things we should be concerned about as humans and consumers. I mean, I really enjoyed the episode from Season 3, “Morgan the Matchmaker” because, duh, dating; but there are others that really speak to my sense of responsibility to the earth and to other humans.

For instance, also from Season 3, Morgan explores trash in Episode 6, “United States of Trash.” I try not to create loads of trash. I recycle tons of stuff. But as careful as I try to be, I still generate the equivalent of a Walgreen’s plastic shopping bag of trash every week. I learned something new. Specifically, you can take those glass jars with the metal closures and rubber ring around the lid for a tighter seal to the grocery store with you and have the meat department deposit the meat IN THERE instead of packaging it, even if it’s “just” the paper. Guess what? There’s also less of a chance of cross contamination if it’s in the sealed glass jar rather than in the paper (which you might insist on wrapping in another plastic bag). Also, if you wash your glass jars in food safe dish soap, you aren’t going to pick up chemicals (like you do in containers that are half or all plastic). What amazed me the most was that the family of 4 saved 40% off of their monthly grocery bill by bringing their own containers.
I can no longer drive and stash my reusable bags in my car, but I still make it a point to bring them with me when I do my own shopping. Any time we can leave a little less plastic in the world is best, but even I know I must get better about my own consumption.

Season 3, Episode 7 is “Honey Bee-Ware.” I remember when the big study was put out about how scientists were really excited about figuring out why hives were dying out in great numbers, and they firmly believed it was the result of these little mites that were invading the bodies of the bees and then effectively decapitating them. Something about zombie bees, blah blah blah.

Really, the concern should have been focused on pesticides and herbicides. Morgan interviewed a Harvard researcher who had indisputable proof that the deaths were related to the use of (trace) amounts of neonicotinoids. The popular product “Roundup” has glyphosate, also known to cause just as many problems after being researched. When the European Union found out about the results, they immediately banned those chemicals.

The problem with the U.S. is that we allow ourselves to be guinea pigs for everything – food, cosmetics, cleaning products. We assume that our responsibility and our concern falls only within the U.S. borders, and we’ll take care of “it” later after a number of decades have passed and we suddenly have a large percentage of the population sporting eyeballs from their ears or some weirdness like that. But our trash is in the world’s oceans. We eat poisoned food, use 110 chemicals a day in cosmetics ranging from toothpaste to eyeliner to soap, and we leave smears of chemicals around our kitchens and bathrooms that we would never dream of putting in our mouths, but that’s where they end up anyway.

I mean, think about it: Would you put that Chlorox wet wipe in your mouth and suck on it like a pacifier? I’m guessing not, but somehow you have convinced yourself that it’s safe putting it on every surface you can find. Nothing is really clean unless it’s been passed over by harsh chemicals, right?

<sigh> This brings up the whole discussion about superbugs, but I’m going to think about that one a little longer before I cover it.

My new diet to combat my Lyme bacterial infestation has to be all organic (no chemicals, hormones, artificial anything), and I can’t have any dairy, gluten, soy or sugar. The “Honey, Bee-Ware” episode reminded me that there is a non-profit group in the U.S. that is trying to counteract the stupidity of the FDA and EPA and make us smarter consumers. Now that I think of it, I like the idea of not dipping my apples in a bowl of Roundup before chowing down on them. I try to buy organic when I can. I have already changed all of my cleaning products to be environmentally-friendly, and 90% of my cosmetics have been changed as well (I just have one eyeliner that I have a hard time giving up just because it’s the only one for me that doesn’t smudge, which is important to me because it makes up for the eyelashes I’m missing).

I made these changes about eight years ago after I wrote a paper and gave a presentation on the Environmental Working Group‘s database “Skin Deep” (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/). I still have a hard time convincing people that they can find great stuff for their teeth and skin and hair that isn’t going to give them cancer or screw up their hormones, but I keep trying.

I was thrilled to see EWG add a cleaning database about four years ago: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners

Lastly, EWG has a handful of databases dealing with food issues. Think of it as an adventure to be the best you can be, like you’re in the food army or something. http://www.ewg.org/foodscores
http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
http://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-s-dirty-dozen-guide-food-additives

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Why I Don’t Pray

On Twitter, amid the hundreds and hundreds of posts flying around on my feed last night, one stuck in my mind, and it still galls me. It said something to the effect of, “Even if you aren’t religious, you can still offer prayers in support of Paris.”

I didn’t want to get in a war of words (or 140 characters or less) with a stranger, especially when there are bigger, badder things to be worried about. However, it’s enough of an issue with me that I would like to point some things out.

First of all, prayer is an integral part of religion. Any religion. If I’m not religious, that means that I don’t believe in religion, and therefore I don’t believe in prayer.

Second, religion is based on arrogance. Let me qualify that statement by explaining that every person thinks the religion they follow is the “right” religion, and believes that every other religion is the “wrong” religion. The monotheistic religions we hear about the most – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – are only a portion of what peoples’ belief systems are based upon. There are something in the neighborhood of 4,200 religions being practiced today. Which one is right?

Third, religions are created by humans. I’m sure you’ve heard of people saying they are going to “create their own religion” or “start their own church.” This is how all belief systems are born. Each faction comes up with its own rules and rituals. Think about Scientology: It was created by a former Navy guy who wrote science fiction. I mean, c’mon – what the hell is a “space opera” anyway??

Fourth, religions rely on mystery and lack of education. Leaders are always touted as knowing more than the rest of the followers. They are always revered for being more “blessed” than everyone else too. This is how religions continue to thrive. Think about the infamous Warren Jeffs and his “flock” – they all believe that he is some sort of prophet, and they hang on his every word. None of the kids growing up in the group know how to read or write properly and have memorized church elders as their only education. Obviously this is a famous group often singled out for its cult-ish behaviors. Pull back a little and look at all of the religions with the same eyes, and realize that leaders and organizers rely on the followers not questioning anything, or if they do, always circling back to the idea that the leaders know best. With all of the scientific discoveries we have made in the past century, how can anyone still believe in a virgin birth?

Fifth, believers tend to assign human characteristics to the objects they worship. For example, all of us have heard, “God will be angry” or “God will be sad” if we do certain things. Says who? We do. That’s right, humans.

Sixth, non-believers are not amoral. I don’t steal, I don’t cheat, I don’t kill other people or intentionally harm other creatures. I live a pretty upstanding life, and that is without following one or two particular religions and relying on them to be my conscience. Here’s something interesting: In some areas of South America, before Christianity was introduced, there was less crime because everyone lived under the same code and worked together to make a harmonious community. It was truly shameful to steal or kill. After Christianity, crime became more prevalent – because they started believing that “God would forgive them.”

Seventh and last, what has prayer done for me? People offer to pray for me all of the time, and I thank them because it makes them feel better. I’ve been signed up for continuous prayer circles, many times, with or without my knowledge or consent. But this is what it boils down to: If I get better, then it was “God’s will.” If I don’t get better, I either didn’t believe hard enough, didn’t pray enough, or it was “God’s will.” With either outcome I have no hand in whether I get better or not. Honestly, I think that the idea of praying has allowed people to become lazy. They can post on Facebook or Twitter that they’re praying for the people in France, or for praying for starving children in third world countries, or for gun violence to end, but then they don’t actually do anything. They think it’s enough to say that they’re praying and it magically elevates them to being better people.

Do I believe in God? That topic is best saved for another time.