Are we our own worst enemy?

Sunset in the West

Last month I wrote about the UN study that warned of the continued risk of global warming, climate change and my surprise that this issue wasn’t being taken more seriously. Since then we have heard from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding the overuse of antibiotics and that it has created resistance globally. We have seen several celebrities promoting books or their own documentaries on healthy diets or the diabetes/obesity epidemic. Then finally on May 6th the White House released their report on climate change and how it will affect the different regions of our country. I view all of these issues interconnected and related to the Industrial Revolution.

The Industrial Revolution made its way to America approximately 150 years ago. During this time we saw advancements in every area including transportation, medicine and technology. Within the medical realm Edward Jenner and his work on an immunization to eradicate the small pox virus began what became the foundation of today’s immunology. Later in the 1800’s scientists began to discover and implement the use of different antibiotics including the widely known and accepted penicillin. Around this time we saw major growth in transportation as well with the growth of the railway. The railway changed the way people and foods were able to move about the country. This new way of transporting food changed how and what people living in urban areas were able to consume. There were also the technological advances with machinery being able to complete tasks that were done by hand, many of these advancements continue to happen today. Don’t get me wrong I am grateful for the Industrial Revolution, if it hadn’t happened I wouldn’t be able to sit here typing this on a computer while being able to stay at home and take care of my child in an air-conditioned home. I do think that the Industrial Revolution is what has caused a nation and world of connected yet disconnected people. Let me explain.

The railway* opened up the possibility of moving more people and food throughout the country. It also created challenges for farmers about how to get their food moved around while also keeping it safe to eat. This challenge became an opportunity for a middle man to come in and create a process to keep the foods safe. One process created was refrigeration which kept meat and vegetation fresh longer. Companies also started developing ways of processing foods with chemicals or salt that would help them last longer. This change in the food industry has created a society that is disconnected from the farmer and from the source of our food. How many people know that brussel sprouts grow on a stalk or that basil is a finicky herb that likes specific growing conditions? The majority of society wants to walk into a grocery store and get what they want for the cheapest price they can. There is little thought into the challenges that a farmer might have in growing things. The pressure for farmers to produce large amounts of food at a low cost has also created growing practices that require tilling of the land. Something that few people may realize is that when you till the land it releases carbon dioxide, one of the major contributors to climate change.

As scientists progressed through this revolution, society has enjoyed many advances in medicine which helped us live longer and more comfortably. One of the dramatic changes was the development of antibiotics which helped to keep people alive if they had a major infection, but they also became widely used for minor infections or as protection against getting infections. Also, because of the demand on livestock farmers to produce more for a lower cost they have used antibiotics to help keep animals healthy until they are slaughtered, this means that we are ingesting small amounts through our foods along with anytime we are prescribed them. In the World Health Organizations recent report this overuse of antibiotics has now created a situation where simple infections are no longer treatable. The report sites that gonorrhea is untreatable in 10 countries. Scientists have also worked on chemicals to help farmers combat weeds and bugs to help increase their crop sizes. Just as microbes have changed to avoid destruction by antibiotics, weeds and bugs are adapting to withstand the use of pesticides and herbicides. It seems that humans are the only ones not adapting to our changing world.

Humans have made huge advancements in the world developing faster better ways of transportation, and communication. We have improved our medical opportunities helping people that once would never have a full life be able to experience years of health. Unfortunately we aren’t working with our planet to help us continue to grow. No matter how fast a plane can fly, or a computer can operate they will never replace our need for fresh water and food. The medical community is never going to create a way for us to survive without natural nourishment. It is time to take back responsibility for our health and the health of our planet. We need to help the earth to heal by allowing farmers to use organic practices. We should also try to slow down and grow a garden, spend time in nature. We also need to give our bodies time when we are sick to heal naturally. By working with our environment we can evolve along with the microbes and planet around us.

* Countryside Magazine – Food and the fast track – by Jerri Cook Volume 94 number 5, 2010

Herb Gardening – Rosemary

Rosemary 4-2014

As I shared in my last gardening article Florida has taught me a whole new way of gardening. It is hard to say what my favorite herb is, but if I had to make a list rosemary would definitely be near the top. Rosemary is an herb that grows well in poor soil that likes good drainage. These are conditions that I don’t have in my yard therefore I do a lot of container gardening. Over the last three years Florida has had above average rainfall not ideal for rosemary. It is also fairly tolerant of cold weather being hardy to 20°, which made this a great herb to grow in Northern Nevada.

I found some interesting folklore and legend about rosemary. According to legend rosemary got its name from Mother Mary as she rested during her escape to Egypt she was sheltered by a rosemary bush. While resting she threw her blue cape on the bush to dry and the white flowers turned blue so the plant became known as “the rose of Mary”. Part of Greek folklore includes that a sprig of rosemary placed under a pillow will ward of evil spirits and bad dreams. It is also said that dried rosemary laid in bed will ensure faithfulness.

Since discovering that my older son was allergic to several antibiotics I began studying natural ways to keep us healthy and time and again rosemary was an herb I continued to come across. Rosemary is known to have stimulant, astringent, and diaphoretic properties. It has calcium, diterpenes (plant compounds), antioxidants (vitamin E and flavonoids) as well as caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid. All of these combine to make rosemary mildly antibiotic and antiviral. Research has been done to find many more potential benefits of including rosemary in your diet. (The Way of Herbs, and The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth)

Being in the middle of allergy season my home often smells of rosemary, because of its strong aroma it is great for clearing the sinuses. Whenever a cold is coming on we add a few drops of essential oil to our bath which helps relieve congestion and cough. Due to the stimulant properties you can lift your afternoon “fog” by spraying some in the air near your desk or better yet spray it in your hair, it might stimulate hair growth. Always consult a physician or natural health practitioner before using herbs medicinally.

Rosemary can be added to many of your favorite sauces and soups, because of its distinctive flavor it is general used to enhance meat dishes. With summer quickly approaching you might want to try this chicken salad with rosemary for your next picnic.

Chicken Salad with Rosemary

3 celery ribs, 3 cups, cubed, cooked chicken, ½ cup mayonnaise, ½ cup sour cream, and 1 tbsp, finely chopped, fresh rosemary

Thinly slice the celery and combine it in a bowl with the chicken. Blend together the mayonnaise, sour cream and rosemary then pour over the chicken and celery stirring until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Every day I am learning more about the joys of gardening and the benefits of using the things that I can grow to keep my family and I healthy and well fed. I would love to hear about your favorite herb, what do you enjoy most?

Global Warming, Hoping I make a difference.

Garden

As a stay at home mom I am either chasing my toddler around or watching PBS shows like Sesame Street, but I do try to watch the thirty minutes of national news at night just so I can keep up on current events. On Monday night there was a brief story about a UN study regarding global warming and the risks that we are facing if we don’t make changes. The interviewee mentioned that although we have had a challenging winter 2013 was the warmest on record and that this trend will continue to occur unless humans make changes. Then the news moved on to the next issues of the night.

Ski Resort

Although we have heard about global warming for years this brief story pointed out the scientific predictions of years ago with warmer temperatures and harsher storms are beginning to happen. I have watched the news a little more deliberately the last few days to see if there would be any follow up and haven’t seen anything. I guess following the conscious uncoupling of Gwyneth Paltrow or Nick Cannon using white face to promote an album are more important than the long term sustainability of our planet. Since the television news was not going to provide me with any more information I found some quiet time while my son was sleeping to search the internet and found an article with the details of the UN report.

As I read through this article I was amazed that global warming has taken such a back seat in our daily discussions. Within the report it says, “Increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts.” It also points out that climate change will help create new pockets of poverty and “hotspots of hunger” even in richer countries, increasing inequality between rich and poor. As I sit at home watching commercials about the starving children in other countries and celebrities asking us to donate money I think about this issue of global warming and think back to the devastation in New Jersey and Oklahoma recently, yet it isn’t being talked about on a national stage and I realize things aren’t going to change in our country until these celebrities are effected on a personal level. I rarely get involved in political debates, but one thing that I do appreciate about our current first family is that they are trying to teach people about the importance of growing their own food. Unfortunately they do it with the help of a large staff and the help of tax payers which the average American doesn’t have.

On a daily basis I live my life chasing my son, gardening and trying to live a life that will help maintain the health of our planet. I know that this will help teach my son about the importance of “green” living, but I worry that unless society changes my lifestyle isn’t going to help the next generations.