Chemicals, Kids and what we as parents butt-up against as we try to raise healthy children in a toxic world.
[Adiva & Tataria climbing trees at The Dreaming Festival]
Sitting in the kids space at the Sydney Organic Expo watching Adiva and her new found friend Beth play with baby animals and dig with their hands in fresh compost, I thought a great name for a book would be ‘Raising Free Range Kids’. Perhaps my next book? Or a chapter at least?
It got me thinking about how it is that we have cultivated a culture of ‘battery kids’ or an industrial kid factory. We produce and market, more processed, preservative packed, low nutrient food for our kids than any other time in history. Then we fatten them up (often unintentionally) on these food products#, drug them*, and then put them in cages (professionalized/instutionalised structured and supervised environments) where we train them to be good citizens, dependant consumers, compliant workers. And like the battery chickens in cages where 10% or so do not endure the stress and simply die (which is built into the cost of production), I think about the rising mental health rates among our young people, depression, anxiety disorders, body image issues, and suicide.
I also think about the confined spaces of battery hens which necessitates the use of pharmaceuticals – one of the only reasons contemporary hen cities aren’t plague-ridden is the modern antibiotic. It reminds me of the childcare worker who told me that the childcare centre she works urged parents to vaccinate their children for the very same reason. ‘Kids in confined spaces can get sick’ she said, ‘So I don’t tolerate families who don’t vaccinate’. In fact, many schools currently do just that, regularly administering kids their dexamphetamines (ritilin) and routinely injecting flu vaccinations, rubella, and the HPV vaccination.
It makes me think about the blindness to the cruelty, the lack of soul it takes, to build (feed) an industrial kid factory in this way. And yet the fine line (and almost contradiction) of the economic impulse to take this path, because it also needs enough industrial kids in the industrial factory to grow continue to support this system.
I look around the expo at many of the small stall holders. It makes me realize that vegetariasm/veganism/the raw food movement /homebirthing/ homeschooling/ the organic movement doesn’t seem like an unreasonable response to the existence of such an evil. It gives me faith that alternative food systems/birthing systems/education systems are rising up on the margins.
I think about the vigilance people extend to investigating the credentials of their house cleaner or their accountants, but rarely extend that same kind of vigilance to the people growing our food (the same can be said for assisting us with birthing our babies). I think there would be nothing better for the integrity of our food chain than the gaze of the consumer on the very farm in which our food is grown. To ask the farmer directly about the crops she grows, or the way he treats his animals. This implies, as Michael Pollan says ‘…not only a new kind of food producer, but a new kind of eater as well, one who regards finding, preparing, and preserving food as one of the pleasures of life, rather than a chore’ (Omnivore’s Dilemma, pg, 259). I think that this can be said too of raising our children.
What would the world look like if we opened the cages and let our chicks fly free? Got out of their way and scattered them some natural, organic sustenance when they needed it.
I know the chicks in my would come back laden with grimy covered clothes, berries stains on their faces, dirt under their finger nails, a collection of special rocks and seed pods, scratches from climbing trees or building a cubby house, a head filled with imaginary friends, and an exhausted, yet light-filled heart. I know this, because when we holiday on a farm, or at our beach house, and we get out of their way, and they come back this way. This is what it is to raise Free Range Kids.
* We have witnessed a significant rise in the rate of diagnoses and prescription of psycho-pharmaceutical drugs over the last decade. Over 50,000 Australian children are now on prescription drugs (Boon & Rosemary, 2002) Australian consumption of dexamphetamine rose 592% between 1991 and 2005, while consumption of methylphenidate rose 490% (Ritilin) in the same time period. [Shaw, Mitchell and Hilton, 2000]. Also consider that 40 million prescription drugs are taken by Australians each day. This is just over 2 pills are taken per person (Men, women and children) per day.
#Childhood obesity in Australia is rising at an annual rate of 1%, a trend which suggests that half of all young Australians will be overweight by the year 2025 (National Obesity Taskforce, 2005)
We spent the weekend at the Sydney Organic Expo amongst a pulsating sea of stall holders, selling organic produce: cheeses, skin care products, pulses, legumes, wines, chocolates, raw foods, probiotics, cloth nappies. I participated in a compost making workshop, hung out with baby animals, and presented two presentations to a packed audience about kids and chemicals.
I talked to many. Learnt a lot.
I met a man previously twice his size, 150 kilos, with cancer. He’s now quite different. ‘Cancer’ he said, ‘was a gift. Without it I would never have understood the importance of living enzymes, potent, fermented probiotics, or found the raw food movement. The cure’ he said, ‘is getting back to nature. It’s as simple as that. Given the right environment and the right nourishment, the body always heals itself’.
Talking to this man reminded me of a presentation by Czrelle, the maker of our fermented, predigested probiotic, InLiven (and the gluten free version Fast Tract). ‘The body is innately able to heal itself’, he said. ‘Cut your finger and it might take a few days to heal, but heal it will. Your finger (body) instinctively knows how to heal itself. Take away the element of time and people would be in awe of their wondrous bodies. The miracle of them’.
This too can be said of pregnancy. Pregnant women don’t have to get up everyday and think “grow baby…grow baby’” No. Our bodies innately know how to do this. It’s the same for producing breastmilk and for birthing. The best advice I had from a friend leading up to my birth was, ‘Get your head out of the way Sarah, your body knows how to do this’. And do it, it did!
At the expo I also met Jen who had recently overcome Crones Disease by using the ancient techniques of fermentation and of eating the whole foods people ate 100 years ago. ‘Think about dogs’ she said. ‘They instinctively know what they are doing. They bury their bones. They know their bodies need fermented foods and burying their bones starts the fermentation process. They dig them up when they need them’. ‘Fermentation is natures gift’ , she explains, ‘before we started adding preventatives’. This got more thinking more about fermentation and I vowed to follow-up with my Weston Price Foundation friends who are avid supporters of fermentation.
Another woman at the expo told me about a recent study with monkey’s at the Copenhagens Zoo. ‘The researchers put a pile of organic banana’s in their enclosure and another pile of ‘conventional’ banana’s,’ she told me. ‘And what did the Monkey’s do? They firstly ate the organic banana’s, skin and all. Then they went to the conventional banana’s. Peeled of the skin and ate banana inside’. Amazing!
I ate quinoa salad and raw dark organic chocolate, drank lots of fermented probiotics with spirilina and chlorella, convinced Jason to buy a super-duper Vitamix, ordered a copy of The Makers Diet which was recommended by plenty of people, made friends with the acai stand guys who gave me lots of freebie juice to keep me energised through the expo, presented two presentations at Speakers Corner and met wondrous people afterwards, signed lots of copies of my book, talked to many about their skin, their guts, their bodies, sold plenty of certified organic Miessence products and gave out an equal amount of samples. I met an earthy woman who came to my talk wearing an awesome t-shirt. It read – Stay safe. Stay home. Homebirth. I wanted one. And at the end of the weekend I bought my parents organic bree and rice crackers for them to snack on in their hotel. This was a thankyou gift for caring for our two chicks while we worked at the expo.
We will be there again next year!
Our friends at the National Toxics Network and WWF released a list of Australia’s most dangerous pesticides, more than 80 of which are prohibited overseas because of the risks they pose to human health and the environment. The list includes 17 chemicals that are known, likely or probable carcinogens, and 48 chemicals flagged as having the potential to interfere with hormones. More than 20 have been classified as either extremely or highly hazardous by the World Health Organisation yet remain available for use on Australian farms.
“Australians are at risk of being exposed to a dangerous cocktail of poisonous chemicals, many of which have been prohibited in other countries due to their risks to health and the environment,” said WWF spokesperson Nick Heath.
“Surely Australian farm workers, wildlife and ecosystems deserve the same level of protection as those in Europe or the United States.”
Jo Immig from the National Toxics Network said the list was evidence that Australia’s chemical regulatory system was failing to keep people and the environment safe from dangerous pesticides.
“European pesticides regulation is founded on a precautionary principle designed to give human health and the environment the benefit of the doubt,” Ms Immig said. “Here in Australia we have the opposite, where chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer and other health problems remain on the market for years.”
Mr Heath said the list was a warning that Australians were not being adequately informed of the risks associated with harmful pesticides.
“The pesticides regulator must recognise that while Australia may have unique wildlife and different farming conditions, the chemistry of these dangerous pesticides is the still the same. If smoking causes cancer in the US, it will also cause cancer in Australia – it’s the carcinogens that matter not the country,” Mr Heath said. “The list demonstrates just how far we are lagging behind the rest of the world. It’s time for us to catch up and give Australian farmers safer and better choices.”
Go to the National Toxics Network website to download the Toxic Pesticide Hit List
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