Green frustrations and positive actions

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OUR ENVIRONMENT
by KATHARINE FLETCHER


OUR ENVIRONMENT
by KATHARINE FLETCHER

Everywhere we look, environmental issues and degradation can seem overwhelming. Here are just a few depressing topics… and yes, we are culpable, myself included. And, I’m offering a few solutions, too. We can all play our part in creating a healthier world, right here at home. So take a look, visit some of the events and farmers’ markets in our wonderful region this summer, and let’s have a transformational summer, everyone.
Plastic waste
“For starters,” there’s the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that island of our plastic waste floating in the Pacific Ocean. If you want to get even more depressed about plastics, listen up. Did you hear about the dead whales whose stomachs were filled with plastic bags? Marine (and terrestrial) wildlife is perishing because of our plastic discards.
But people still buy one-time-use plastic disposable razors. Women use menstrual tampons that have plastic applicators. “Everyone” uses plastic straws, Styrofoam cups, “clamshell” packaging… the list is endless.
Personal action: Let’s make a household commitment not to bring one-use-plastic items into our homes. Can we stop purchasing one plastic item a week? And, let’s take our own bags to the grocery and other shops.
Habitat loss
Habitat loss threatens some wildlife’s very existence – from pollinators through to turtles. Loss of animals’ and plants’ territory is a huge issue, from widely varied causes: from stripping our cottage shorelines of native plants (mistakenly considered “weeds”) so we have a sandy beach, and raking clams and other lake species from the shallows so we don’t cut our feet; from chemical spraying of agricultural fields where ditches and groundwater may be/are contaminated; or from forests cleared for housing /industrial developments where land is denuded of any native plant species and replanted with lawns and hybrids, or paved.
Personal action? Avoid using herbicides and pesticides. Plant native plants in your garden beds. Grow plants such as milkweed for Monarch butterflies. Want to learn more about native gardens? Visit Beaux Arbres in Bristol, where Trish Murphy and Michael Peterson are raising native plants. And, attend the Gardens and Gifts Tour of six gardens in the Pontiac on August 5 & 6. These special days, you can talk to gardeners who are employing various organic and native-species gardening techniques.
Real Food
Everyone on Earth shares two elemental life requirements: clean food and water. These days, people are eating more and more “fast”, processed foods and simultaneously, more and more people are allergic to food additives. Meanwhile, many of us are asking what inputs are used in the agricultural industry when food is planted, grown, and harvested. I am concerned when human biowaste and/or “unclean” compost is spread on agricultural fields (practices used throughout the world in countries like China and Canada). I’m also worried about glyphosates ending up in food…  And of course, I am absolutely outraged when animals being raised for human consumption are cruelly mistreated.
If that’s not enough, I am also concerned when water in our Outaouais region is unsafe to drink, cook with, or bathe in.
Personal action? Grow your own food without herbicides and pesticides. Whenever you can afford it, buy organic food, and purchase it strategically. (Apparently organic strawberries are a good option because so many chemicals are used when they’re grown in the agri-food industry, for instance. Ditto with potatoes, although organic ones are hard to find.) Buy locally, where you know the farmer who has raised the animal or crop. Go to local farmers’ markets such as Bristol Farmers’ or Old Chelsea Market, to meet your very own neighbour-producers and incorporate their foods into your family’s meals.
Transformation: Positive action
We can all be overwhelmed. I know I am, often. However, we can choose to act. A clear benefit to purchasing local foods, for example is not “merely” the benefit of purchasing fresh, organically raised produce. As we prepare and cook our meals “from scratch”, we are cooking in the company of friends and family, and sitting down to eat, as a group. This means we are teaching our children healthy eating and engaged communication skills.
Have a great if not a delicious summer, everyone!