Safe Farms, Safe Homes…(turning back before we hit the COLLAPSE…)
Every time I talk to someone about the COLLAPSE…whether it’s caused by climate change or the deteriorating health of the human race or the degrading environment around the developing and consuming world, I hear one of these responses:
- “But that comes along with development, it will happen, don’t we need to develop?”
- “No, all these are passing phases, a technology will come that will change the course.”
- “Yes, it’s frightening, “society” has to change, but what’s the use of me alone changing?”
These and other arguments, stem from the simple fact that most of us now are closely related to those actions that are poisoning or destroying the earth, directly or indirectly: meaning, we may be actually doing it or we may be funding or promoting it, and hence we are forced by conviction or vested interests to fanatically question the COLLAPSE. Two things we forget. One, that our actions hurt the earth, at the micro level (like pollution, loss of water availability etc.) and the macro level (climate change, elimination of species etc.). Two, that this impact is eventually and almost imminently going to affect our life and life support systems – our air, water, food, natural resources and hence our homes, offices, parks, roads, mobiles, laptops, vehicles…everything that we use to support ourselves simply becomes a dangerous source or cause of the COLLAPSE. True, we are seeing an ever increasing number of families suffering from a whole range of problems, starting from the lack of basic needs like food and water, to major health problems making this society look from the surface like an “upward mobile” one but in reality highly depressed and morbid. And we are also seeing people fighting on the streets for access to basic necessities, even while we know for sure that such resources are being exploited – acquired, hoarded, monopolised – by the very very few ( let’s remember the 1% vs. the 99% struggles in many parts of the world ). And lastly, look at the reflections of all these crises at the macro level. The worst effects are already there – climate change on one side, and degraded and chemically poisoned natural resources and humanity on the other. We are living on a planet whose daily demands from each one of us is increasing at increasing rates, and in the process of production to satisfy these demands, we are degrading, depleting and poisoning the planet, totally blind to the fact that a) we have only one planet – earth and b) that we have only one capital – nature.
Let me point out to you a very worrying fact…
Which is the most polluted river in the world?
Factually, we have such a range of choices – Citarum River in Indonesia, the worst, competes well with the Ganga and the Yamuna in India, and not too far off are some from the developed world – the Yellow River in China, the Mississippi in the USA…The list could be easily as long as all the rivers flowing in all the major cities and towns of the world. And why are they polluted? With what? Factory waste, city drains, urban waste disposals, pesticides, fertilisers and so on…in fact in all of these rivers together, humanity has detected as many toxic chemicals as have probably been invented or formulated. Many of these rivers are also drains of the throw-away culture – the convenient, packaged, one-time-use-and-throw plastic material that’s become so “important” in our lives. Obviously these rivers are not any longer causes of natural disasters, for which the whole world is so worried. These are purely man-made (read with the gender!) disasters. Now, how does all this affect us? One long term study being done by the Centre for Disease Control in the United States tells it all – they have been monitoring the chemical contamination in human blood and tissues, and have come up this year with the Fourth Report on Human Exposure to Chemical Contamination. The study found that every new born American could be contaminated with 287 chemicals, all of which should not be there at all in the first place. And of these 287 chemicals that they detected in the umbilical cord blood, 180 is known to cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. And the list and studies are being updated periodically. Almost all these chemicals are industrial chemistry products, produced intentionally as a product, or unintentionally as a by-product, but invariably turns up in some consumer good that we use – starting from pesticide and chemically produced and preserved food, to your home and body care products, kitchen utensils, paints, construction materials, fabric and clothes, furniture, toys,…the list is long and shocking…it could simply be everything that we use! But the point is that these toxic materials are a direct result of what I would like to call a convenient ignorance (simply “I didn’t know! Or I don’t have the time!! That’s all!!” ) or a casual arrogance (simply “Why should I care?”) of the modern human race. And as late as 2010, the American Presidents’ Cancer Panel came up with another shocking report. It was one of the most rattling reports that any Presidents’ Panel has ever brought out. It found that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated” and strongly urged President Obama “to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.” They found that about 41 percent of all Americans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime, and about 21 percent will die from it! If this is the situation in the well regulated and monitored US, can you imagine what the situation is in a chaotic country like India!
Coming back to the metaphorical question – Which is the most polluted river in the world? Beyond those streams that flow to give life and water to millions of people across the world, there is a stream that flows within each of us – our own blood stream! And our bodies. And these today are possibly the worst polluted, carrying such a decoction of chemicals, all waiting in there, ticking, to one fine day turn our healthy lives into cancers, endocrine disruptions, neurological disorders etc, maybe now, maybe generations down the line. Just like this wonderful blue planet, our home, is on a ticking time bomb, so also are each one of us…waiting for it to happen.