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What We Don’t Know is Staring Us in the Face

Ignorance is blissfully kiling us, and today I’m rather angry about it. I just finished reading three articles in The New York Times regarding water safety, two of which affect you and me directly. Here are the links:




Yet in the face of these realities, relatively scant attention is being paid to this ongoing calamity. Rather, we have federal funds from taxpayer dollars fueling distant killing fields and providing for a robust bonus season on Wall St. And since business-as-usual is profitable within the food, agricultural, banking, insurance and pharmaceutical industries, go buy some stock and all will be well.

Okay, deep cleansing breath, as I try to bring it down a notch. But, as soon as I think of a really interesting correlation, my anger returns. Thirty years may seem “forever” to my teenage children, yet it’s within my lifetime and so I call it recent history. It seems that 3 decades ago we were healthier as a general American population. Since then, the rates of increase in breast cancer, leukemia in children, obesity in all age groups, and asthma have grown significantly, if not exponentially. There are many factors contributing to this phenomenon; please consider these two: 1) since World War II over 80,000 new chemicals have been produced with fewer than 20,000 thoroughly tested for health impact or toxicity to living beings. 2) Many diseases, like cancer for example, take years to develop in the human body.

So, how does Kenya and cholera fit into this article? Cholera is a water borne disease that causes severe diarrhea which, untreated, can be fatal within days. Africa_poverty-383x480Kenya is suffering from a major drought, which tragically forces rural families to reach for whatever hydration they can find, including bacteria-filled water. Interesting to note that the last chronicled outbreak in the USA occurred 100 years ago in New York City, when an infected immigrant teen arrived by ship from Naples, Italy. Authorities quarantined the vessel and the disease was contained to 15 cases, 8 being fatal. Note that by this time in America, sewer systems and water treatment facilities were well established. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Kenya and many other countries on our planet. But, that’s another topic for discussion. Back to my anger.

Where Kenya is challenged by severe drought and lack of thorough infrastructure, the United States is burdened by water abundance and aging sewage treatment facilities. The results are the same, although timelines are dramatically different. The disease of cholera reveals itself and kills innocent victims, often within 36 hours. Cancer, on the other hand, can develop over 36 years in the human body, and then be fatal. In the mean time, corporate profits preclude human wellness. National focus is steered towards phantom terrorism and celebrity shenanigans rather than highlighting our shared responsibility to care for each other at every level. Imagine if the hundreds of billions wasted on waging war were spent on improving lives– by thoroughly policing those responsible for water treatment and food production, by removing the need for profit as the primary motive, and by bringing honor and gratitude to one’s daily motivations, rather than fear and protection.

The time is now and we are all responsible for energizing change. Our sustainability as a species depends on taking greater care of the abundance the earth provides. Awareness of our shortcomings, as individuals and as a nation, can eventually lead to betterment. In terms of water, the immediate solution is quality filtration of all taps in the home. As for food and body care, read labels and know what you are putting in and on yourself (safe to suggest that if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, your body might not benefit). The inevitability of death allows each of us to care for our ourselves and others with love and compassion. This is the ultimate opportunity staring us in the face.

5 Responses to What We Don’t Know is Staring Us in the Face

  1. keiren

    December 22, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I have not so much anger as a sense of bewilderment as to how we allow this to happen? Not only have we not tested the majority of chemicals that are spewing out of the laboratory onto our beautiful mother earth…But what about the unknown synergistic effects of multiple chemicals? We haven’t even started to test combos of chemicals- 1+1 could equal a very serious chemical cocktail. What about this hundred mixed with that thousand? What are we doing? We are allowing all of these untested chemicals into our environment- chemicals that take thousands of years to break down. How do we let chemical companies get away with that? Who is looking out for the planet? How did the lobbyists get that job?

    • JamesOConnor

      December 24, 2009 at 1:17 am

      As I’m sure you agree, there is good news amidst the bewildering madness. Slowly, oh so painfully slowly, more people are waking up to the faultiness of our ways as a species. Mama Nature is going to be fine. Humans as a going concern are in trouble, and awareness to this reality is growing, thankfully.
      At some point in our relatively recent earthly history, survival by harmony & alignment with Nature was subsumed by survival via profit and misanthropy. Chemically speaking, it’s reasonable to believe that mass chemical production had “progress” in mind, which equaled profitability, at the expense of thoroughly understanding long term risks. Politics used to be administered by religion, and now the new religion owning government is money and large corporations.
      Having said that, I remain optimistic about our future. We are problem solvers. Once the truth is revealed, there is no turning back. Certain individuals must become the beacons for change, and accepting that role is a large undertaking and responsibility. I’m in, with both feet. Peace.

      • golightlystore

        January 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm

        I attended a lecture on green chemistry. I learned that chemists in college had a language requirement, but not a toxicity or environmental req. Things are changing though (geee…finally!) and chemists are now considering the environment along with other traits such as effectiveness, cost etc. See: http://www.epa.gov/gcc/pubs/pgcc/presgcc.html

  2. Michael Mark

    December 13, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Hi James, your article highlights the fact that we meet water at many different levels, but maybe they’re not as different as we think. On the one hand, lack of treatment systems and infrastructure result in increased risk of cholera, but on the other hand modern infrastructure brings a whole host of additional challenges (perhaps also of significant risk, although slower in development).

    I think every level will work better when we recognize water is a living system- it has a certain ability (under optimal conditions) to respond to its environment, and to nurture its environment. When we make respect for living systems fundamental, and honor their interwoven complexities, we will achieve much more beneficial and healthier results, whether in our homes or in challenged ecologies and economies worldwide.

    • JamesOConnor

      December 14, 2009 at 10:27 pm

      Michael, thanks for your thoughtful comments, and I thoroughly agree with you. As I mentioned in previous posts ( of which I welcome your review & comment), awareness is the first step towards change. Then comes willingness. When fully developed, modern society, say, starting with America, bring REVERENCE to the view and perception of water, its understanding and use will be altered for the better.
      I look forward to reading your articles as well. The science of water fascinates me. The paradox of water boggles my mind, for example, it can energize both life AND death (as can air, fire and earth for that matter). But most importantly, consuming healthy, high pH water is a direct threat to today’s societal, corporate-sponsored norms.
      I smile and realize that my next article is formulating in my response to you…;-) so I’ll leave it there. Be well and stay hydrated.