Is Nature Fighting Back?

One late night sometime last September, I happened upon an M. Night Shyamalan thriller/sci-movie called The Happening, which features people committing suicide for no apparent reason. At first, people think that it’s some kind of biochemical terrorist attack on Central Park that is spreading quickly along the eastern seaboard. Eventually, a Philadelphia science teacher (Mark Wahlberg’s character) notices that whenever there’s a large group of people around, the plants around them release a toxin which makes people want to kill themselves. People are scrambling to leave the city and into the rural areas, but it seems that the toxin has reached the country as well.

Just when things start to look hopeless for everyone, a scientist suggests that based on the number and severity of attacks, and assuming that this toxin is similar to other kinds of natural toxins like ocean algae, there will be a peak sometime the next day and then the toxin will fade away into nothing. It turns out that the plants/trees are warning us to stop killing them with our pollutants/waste and to take better care of the earth or we will end up literally killing ourselves.

It wasn’t a great movie (it got too preachy towards the end), but it did get me to think that maybe Shyamalan was onto something. Could there be a link to the increasing number of food allergies and the severity of seasonal allergies with our use of pesticides and other biochemicals? Are we slowly killing ourselves at the expense of eating “prettier” but less tasty fruits and vegetables as well as enjoying weed-free/grub-free lawns?

In yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, there was an article about a weedkiller lingering in drinking water for weeks. Atrazine, an agricultural weedkiller, is sprayed on farm fields across the Midwest. It’s spread heaviest on cornfields and is one of the most commonly detected contaminants in drinking water. According to the article, “Studies have found that exposure to small amounts of the chemical can turn male frogs into females and might be more harmful to humans than once thought.” Even more frightening—”researchers are increasingly identifying atrazine as an endocrine disruptor—a hormone-like substance that can affect development and the reproductive systems of humans and wildlife.” And wouldn’t you know, results from tap water tests in the communities that use atrazine show spike in the presence of atrazine in the groundwater during the spring “to levels that some studies suggest could post health risks; but the public is rarely notified.”

Note: atrazine is not allowed to be used in Europe because it contaminates groundwater, yet why is it allowed here?

The fact that it’s commonly used in cornfields really bothers me. Corn is such a major part of our lives—feed for chickens and livestock, plastics, high fructose corn syrup (much of our processed foods and drinks), snacks, fillers for medicine, cooking oil, and more. Shouldn’t we be more concerned about figuring out ways not to poison ourselves through using pesticides on such a pervasive grain?

If anything, it’s more argument for me to try eating more healthily (no more processed foods) and start avoiding foods made with corn or fed with corn, which means I should really start thinking more seriously about veganism—or at least a more vegetarian lifestyle. Definitely a shift to eating mostly organic is in order.

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2 thoughts on “Is Nature Fighting Back?

  1. Actually you cutting out processed foods may be the best bet. But eating only vegan would only make things worse. I’d say you should keep eating meat.
    I’m interested in where you live? Is it in farm country? We here in farm country are not having problems with Atrazine in our water. Perhaps your Atrazine comes not from farm fields, but from a factory.
    Some are finding chemicals that are so called endocrine disruptors, but most university studies are not finding that to be true.
    Regulations for Atrazine use are very strict. Levels that are used on farms have gone down dramatically in the last 20 years. Newer, less toxic, more efficient, chemicals are used today that do not linger anywhere for more than a few days.
    Our food system today is the safest it has ever been. Food problems that were common in our grand parents youth are not found at all today.
    Many are suggesting that we have more allergy problems because we live too cleanly today. Our bodies need to get out into the dirt and get exposed.

  2. The Chicago Tribune article was citing atrazine levels in certain Illinois rural communities. Although it doesn’t directly impact the water in my area (I live in the NW suburbs of Chicago), I worry about contaminants in the food supply in general.

    I think the food that our grandparents had probably tasted better because they weren’t so bioengineered/chemically “enhanced.” I can’t remember the last time I had a strawberry that really tasted like one.

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