Looks like I have to save the world again.
I feel like today’s post may be a long one. There seems to be so much despondency in the world that I wish to address. Mind you, Barack Obama says it has always been like this, it is just that we never had Facebook to keep us continually informed before. On the bright side it has come to my attention that there are a huge number of people trying to make things better. There are the heroes who go to the darkest most dangerous places of the world to try and make a difference and end up getting killed or imprisoned, but there are also the heroes that are making small changes to the world around us that barely anyone ever notices. In the end I wonder which will end up creating the longest lasting difference. I like the Tibetan Buddhist approach; it will all work itself out eventually, lets just wait and see.
However, I guess that is kind of point number one on my saving the world score today. For all the harm in the world there is also someone somewhere who is trying to fix it, they are just not all that newsworthy. Besides which, if you knew about all the good stuff then you wouldn’t need to go out and buy yourself treats to cheer yourself up, the economy would fall, and big fat suited men wouldn’t be able to enjoy the finest cognacs… as much as they would like. Rest assured there is good stuff going on.
But don’t grow complacent. People are sorting things out but it is a big world and it needs a lot of people to help fix it. Point number two on my world saving scale is that people don’t worry too much about trying too hard themselves because they think one person can’t make enough of a difference, but one person times a billion can. While that might sound a bit preachy, it is actually beneficial for the individual more than it is for the world. That’s right, being selfish enough to boost your own smugness with good deeds probably helps you more than the world. The improvement in your own emotional health has been shown to be dramatic. If however you do genuinely care about the world more than yourself do not fret because if everyone selfishly boosts their own smugness by doing good deeds the result will be a better world as well. How is that for a win win situation.
When it comes to substantive problems one of the worst at the moment is that people are hungry. A rise in poverty is causing a great deal of people to need food banks. Whilst there are a lot more poor individuals out there than most of us feel confident enough to help there is a way in which we can do it through selfish self interest if we all get behind it. It is nice that the way I have in mind also saves us money, it improves our health through helping us exercise, helping us eat better, and helping us avoid harmful chemicals. If you haven’t guessed, this is a gardening blog post.
Number one on my list of fears at the moment is related to GMO food. I say related because GMO food has the potential to really help the world and everyone on it. If a plant was genetically modified to have a massive yield despite the weather and soil conditions not being as great as they could, and there were no side effects then this can only be a good thing. The problem for me is that currently the number one genetically modified crop being tried out is Roundup resistant maize. The first problem with this is that being Roundup resistant it becomes possible to soak this crop with Roundup in order to kill all the weeds that might grow around it. Now while I may be able to think of many reasons why killing the weeds might not be the best plan, such as the fact that any pests now have no choice but to eat the maize, leading to necessity for greater use of pesticides as well, or the fact that this will diminish the biological diversity of the soil and necessitate the need for more chemical fertilisers, it is actually the Roundup itself that bothers me most.
Roundup is a herbicide and as someone who has suffered from digestive disorders due to imbalance in intestinal flora it has worried me that traces of it on food can kill the flora in the intestines. I have seen charts that show a correlation between increased use of Roundup and increased hospital visits from people who have conditions involving the digestion. I have also seen correlations between the heavy use of Roundup in third world countries and the increased depression and suicide of the poorly educated farmers there who do not take precautions against exposure. If you want to find this information a Google search can easily uncover it. At some future time I may seek out the links but do not have the time today.
As far as I am concerned I am not too bothered by artificial fertilisers. A lot of them seem fairly innocuous, though I have no doubt there may be a few harmful ones. Pesticides bother me less than they might bother other people. Recent testing has shown that there are foods coming into our country that contain banned pesticides such as DDT. The most recent report showed leading tea brands which contained a number of banned pesticides and permitted pesticides in higher than permitted quantities. I think that this sort of thing is more of an exception and I don’t think it is as worrying as the herbicides. Mostly because people assume something intended to kill insects is going to be more harmful to humans than something intended to kill weeds. It is the herbicides that are not worried about that may get through in the kinds of quantities that may be problematic.
For this reason I have taken to growing food. This has a number of obvious benefits. It keeps me healthy and young to keep having to plant seeds and dig holes. When research has shown that every additional hour of sitting in a chair after hour number one can knock 20 minutes off your life expectancy then gardening is a good idea if you would like an extra five or so years of life. It has the benefit of exercising my mind. An active mind has been shown to keep one alive and more healthy as well, how else do you think judges keep working into their 80s? Learning different varieties of plants and their properties is far better mind exercise than sitting and watching NCIS marathons, which I have not managed to stop doing. I need to visit doctors far less often because many of the things that ail the population are caused by things in their diet. The blind faith that people have in modern medicine is akin to the faith that people used to have in religion or magic. Whilst medicine is taking a scientific approach, it is still in the stone age compared to our technology. While you can run experiments on computers in a matter of hours dependent on what you want to know, it may take years to run an experiment involving a human’s health. Not to mention you would need hundreds of humans in the experiment to be sure and there are also ethical problems with human experimentation, and the impossibility of being able to conduct the kind of pure science one can conduct in the laboratory, and the fact that if you could then it would be largely irrelevant to understanding what happens in the world outside the laboratory. Almost all modern medicines are derived from things that grow outside in our gardens. Generally the garden variety is healthier than the distilled and amplified chemical variety.
If everyone was out there then everyone would be working their physical fitness, learning and stretching their brains, eating fresh food that maintains all its vitamins in the minute or two it takes to get from the garden to the front door. Surprisingly even those who prefer to grow floral gardens rather than vegetable gardens are still growing huge numbers of things that can be eaten or used in some way that can benefit your health. I remember hearing about one person who worked in a health food store and he was always amused by the fact that people would come in and spend several pounds on a bag of chamomile teabags with its associated CO2 equivalent in packaging and delivery, when right outside the door of the shop there was loads of organic chamomile growing wild and fresh. If we cultivated our knowledge we would all be saving a few quid at his shop.
A big problem of our disconnect with plantlife is that fewer and fewer people have gardens now. Fewer people consider it a necessity, they are quite happy to move into apartments or town houses. If more people insisted on gardens then it would benefit those who did not make the cost savings associated with having a store of free food right outside their house because gardenless properties would drop in price. Our selfishness therefore has begun to help those who do not garden straight away as their rent drops. As we no longer need to buy so much from the supermarkets it means that the supermarkets will need to become even more competitive and drop their prices more to try and maintain the sales they currently enjoy; our selfishness once again helps those without gardens. If less food is being delivered and packaged because we don’t want it then the environment benefits; our selfishness is beginning to save the planet. If the environment is not deteriorating at the previously expected rate then more money that was being used to save the planet can be diverted into improving public services; our selfishness in smugly growing our own food for our own health and enjoyment is just causing no end of good in the world. With millions of gardeners growing their own food and saving their own seeds the number of vegetable varieties will increase as new varieties adapt to different climates and become ever more developed for size, flavour, etc; it looks as though even if we fail to fix climate change we will have plenty of plants that have adapted to it, thanks to our selfish insistence of saving money by growing our own food and seeds.
Like I said before, if only one person tries to make a change then of course there is no change but if everyone tries then solutions are not far away. The important thing is to realise it is not a chore or a pain, it is something that will make you feel happier, more accomplished and healthier. What I have outlined in this page is not enough to save the world on its own, but I’m not Superman and I think that it is enough of saving the world to satisfy me for one day.