Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 10 July 2001 Issue:
PAWPRINTS, FOOTPRINTS & ANIMAL CHATTER
by Judith Marie Gansen
Caring For Animals Means We Must Also Care For Our Planet
I have always loved being close to nature and have been an organic gardener for many years now. Since moving to the country about 13 years ago I view every day as an opportunity to learn about the rhythm and balance of nature that God (or whatever religion you choose or don't choose) teaches us. Whether approaching nature from a completely scientific or a spiritual viewpoint, we can all see that nature has been designed with a superb system of checks and balances so that everything flourishes.
Humans often look down on creatures they believe are "less" than us. In viewing them with such disdain they can then justify the killing of them for their fur, hunting them for their bodies to eat or body parts like ivory to sell, or developing land without regard for their homes we destroy in the process. What we don't realize is that by harming the environment we are killing ourselves along with other living creatures who also call earth their home. I believe animals all have a purpose -- we just haven't learned what all of their purposes are yet. While honeybees pollinate over 90 cultivated crops as well as wild plants, other species of living things do as well -- bats, butterflies, moths, birds and other wildlife. People scorn squirrels for only remembering some of the nuts they bury--or are they nature's tree planters?
Like many people, I would grab for the can of bug spray to solve a problem with a bug, spray my plants with all kinds of garbage because corporate America told me I needed to do so to be a good gardener and heaven forbid if I allowed dandelion in our grass. It is an ugly weed isn't it? Or is it a wonderful herb that has been provided to us rich in nutrients and good for both people and animals! It also happens to be a food of one of my favorite birds, the Indigo Bunting. They are important to farmers and fruit growers as they eat many harmful insects -- grasshoppers, aphids, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, etc. The first time I saw one with that deep blue color it just took my breath away! My observation is that plants and trees that are greatly needed by living creatures tend to be fast and furious reproducers -- the fact that they are prolific does not appear to be an accident.
My sister watched in horror once after a lawn company sprayed the neighbors' yard as several birds staggered and became il l-- apparently they forgot to read the "keep off the grass -- chemicals applied" sign. The "good" news is the neighbors don't have any dandelions. The bad news is they also have fewer birds to enjoy. Perhaps too much chemical was applied or perhaps that species of bird was too sensitive -- in any case, was it worth it? Cumulative amounts of toxins build up in the bodies of wildlife and at times kill them. Things like some mouse poisons can end up in the food chain because the mouse may die outside and then be eaten by another animal who can then be eaten, etc.
Business in our country is essential -- it provides jobs, keeps our country running and prosperous and some businesses even donate to charities. It helps us build the American Dream. But sadly its advertisers often tell us we are "not okay" unless we look like models or movie stars, drive a certain car or have a green carpet for a lawn. Brainwashing by advertising. The reality is everything in nature has already been set up to work for us--we don't need corporate America to "improve" nature. We remove a dead tree on our land and it takes away a home for a woodpecker. We spray pesticides on our food and flowers that are connected to cancer and other diseases. We dump all kinds of toxins in our water. These actions in turn harm our wildlife. How much more evidence do we need before we change? I don't need to provide readers with all the good research that is out there -- contact any good environmental group to get the scientific background and the TRUTH.
Beyond Pesticides / National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, A Marine Wildlife Direct Action Organization
Natural Resources Defense Council
Greenpeace International Homepage
We live in the country and I see neighbors burning outside -- some burn wood in the winter for heat and the stench fills the air. In our woods, the air becomes trapped--it is called an "air inversion." My family can't breathe and one of our dogs (all of which are indoor dogs) developed a fatal lung problem. Those of us with allergies get sick and our siding gets filthy. Our clothes stink from smoke. Ironically, one of the reasons we moved to the country was for cleaner air! What does this constant exposure to smoke do to the lungs of wildlife that live here with us? And why do we put up with this, so someone doesn't have to bother recycling their newspapers? I understand that some people can't afford other forms of heat and so they burn wood, but others have a choice. It is a sad fact that lung diseases like asthma are skyrocketing -- what's more important to you, leaving your kids lots of bucks or a clean world so they don't get cancer and clean air so they can breathe? I guarantee you the money will mean nothing if they get cancer -- I lost both parents to cancer as well as several relatives and friends. Many cancers have been linked to environmental pollutants. The animals who live in our homes are developing, suffering or dying of cancer at frightening rates. Yet every year thousands more chemicals are introduced into the marketplace to be sold. I recently read in a magazine of one lawn chemical that has been banned but the law doesn't go into effect for many months -- in the meantime thousands of people will use it in ignorance and further harm our precious wildlife and environment. Carpeting is loaded with chemicals -- if you get new carpeting keep windows open as much as possible for as long as possible although the first 24 hours are the most important. The same for the "do it yourself" inexpensive furniture some of us use -- many household items "outgas" toxins. Greenpeace not long ago put out information concerning things like some baby toys and the toxins in some of them from the plastics they are made from -- in toys for babies!!
When we first moved to the country I began to wonder what happened to the drain opener after it left our house. Could it get into the groundwater -- our well? People who live in cities or subdivisions can become far removed from nature as I was and often don't think of these things. Since I switched to organic gardening and use environmentally friendly remedies any child can play in our yard and go barefoot without fear of being exposed to a toxin. Birds can feed there without getting ill from toxic chemicals. The dogs can play without me worrying that the pads of their feet may absorb something that can cause illness -- this has been documented. I needn't fear for their health if they choose to munch some grass. We have bat houses to control our mosquitoes in the woods and they do a super job! We have many species of toads and frogs flourishing who care for my gardens without even asking for a health care plan or salary. In many parts of the world toads and frogs are disappearing or developing deformities at a dangerous rate and it is believed they are absorbing toxins through their skin and being poisoned. Will we be next?
Every spring and summer my bug eggs arrive by mail. I sprinkle them around my plants ("good" bugs are bugs like ladybugs, lacewings, etc.). Our birdbaths are both ground baths and pedestal style--you can buy inexpensive plastic ones or make your own--contact a nature center. They are filled with water to attract more "good" bugs who need water to survive (of course the birds need them too!). The damaging bugs eat your plants to get their water but not if the good bugs get them first! I flush the birdbaths daily to get rid of any mosquito eggs and to keep the water fresh. We have 13 birdhouses on our acreage and one by each garden area. Have you ever seen how hard a mother bird works to feed those babies? It makes you appreciate Mothers' Day even more! All insects that won't bother your garden or have a chance to reproduce. This is why intelligent farmers often place birdhouses by their fields.
Two of my favorite places to order from or for helpful info on our environment:
(these folks helped me out with MORE information than our own county health department or other governmental agencies concerning a gasoline spill close to us and our fear for our well water as well as testing for radon in our home, and numerous other times--I can't ever thank them enough)!
Co-Op America Green Pages
Gardens Alive! Environmentally Responsible Products That Work
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply - Organic Garden and Farm Supplies
I recently was looking through a book on the history of outdoor farm enclosures and fences and it showed a photograph of "hedgerows" which were used in Europe originally around fields. Their wonderful purpose was to harbor good insects and birds who at the appropriate time come out and feed on the insects in the fields. Natural, free and environmentally safe insect control! Ingenious. They are being taken down.
Before I was married I lived in some old apartments. Every year, termites came out of the shower floor drain and behind the kitchen sink. Every year a company hired by the apartments came to spray and even drilled holes in the cement floor to put the chemicals down under the slab. I noticed I would develop headaches after the spraying so I asked if the chemical they used was dangerous. I was told it was EPA approved and safe. Being naturally distrustful and skeptical, I chose to trust what my body was telling me and take myself and my little dog and leave and stay with my Mom for a while. About 7 years later the chemical Chlordane was banned by the EPA as it was believed to be linked to cancer. Thank God for my skepticism or both myself and little Pandora could have been statistics. Yet I read about and see people every day who insist on trusting the government or worse, business, to protect us. Ask the folks who lived by the Love Canal if they trust their health to our government or business.
I appeal to those of you still grabbing for that can of insecticide to give natural ways a chance. Use exclusionary methods (sealing around pipes, electrical, etc., using sealing foam, mesh wire for rodent problems, etc.) to keep unwanted critters from invading your home -- makes it more energy efficient too so you save money. I keep books on natural and alternative solutions to problems -- or get the info from the library or the net. If one way doesn't work, I try another. There may be some other reason for your first try not working -- don't give up. You can always go to chemical solutions if all else fails. I have spoken with entomologists at universities and even they don't always agree on insect behavior -- the natural world unfortunately isn't studied enough because there is no money in it. How terribly sad and tragic. Please give wildlife and our world a chance to return to health. You wouldn't like it if someone came and dumped a truckload of toxic chemicals in your living room, would you? Then let's stop defiling the only homes the animals have!
For any question on the environment as they have also been so helpful to me, call:
1-800-320 APIE (American Public Information on the Environment) or call your local nature center.
The Chemical Manipulation of Human Consciousness
ATSDR - 1997 CERCLA Priority List of Hazardous Substances (n=275) http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/97list.html
Please don't let you, your loved ones or the animals become a statistic. Remember the three R's--Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Whether you are a high school dropout or a Ph.D. -- never stop learning! If you can, volunteer to help kids with reading so they never stop learning! Remember if you choose to donate to any environmental organization to check them out financially (do they pay those very high salaries, have highly paid consultants)? And check with Animal People or some other humane organization to be certain their official position is not to kill animals or harm them. If you invest you can choose investments for our future (check out the Pax Fund - Pax World Funds http://www.paxfund.com/ and there are others).
Rodale Press (my favorite publisher)
Rodale - Home
Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening
The Healthy Home by Linda Mason-Hunter An Attic to Basement Guide to Toxin-Free Living
By Debra Lynn Dadd:
Nontoxic, Natural & Earthwise and The Nontoxic Home & Office
There are many other books available. It may seem time consuming at first but learning about these issues will allow you to live cheaper, safer and healthier. It will give children and animals a better chance to fight off disease because their bodies won't be busy fighting off toxins from pollution too. Speak up, take a stand and don't allow the irresponsible element of corporate America dictate our world to us!
Judith Marie Gansen Staff:
Animals in Print
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