Just Because It Was OK In The Past Does Not Mean That It Still Is.

February 10, 2009

How many times have you tried to explain why you are eating organic/going green/using cloth diapers, only to have someone tell you that “we ate food with pesticides our whole lives, and we turned out fine“? A few times? A lot of times? Never? Well, if you are being more conscious of your life choices and their effects on yourself and your world, I am sure you have encountered the naysayers that tell you that you are being overly cautious for no reason at all. However, I have a problem with that line of thinking, as if we use the past as a measurement for everything we do today, we are in big trouble.

For instance, do you remember when towns and cities were busy spraying DDT every evening during the summer to try to get rid of mosquitoes? It was believed to be OK for use around humans for many, many years, until Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962. The book discussed the environmental impacts of the spraying of DDT and “questioned the logic of releasing large amounts of chemicals into the environment without fully understanding their effects on ecology or human health“. Silent Spring resulted in a large public outcry that eventually led to most uses of DDT being banned in the US in 1972. We wouldn’t say that just because we survived being sprayed every evening that DDT was still OK, would we? We learned about its toxicity and discontinued its use. Would you now knowingly get sprayed by it? Didn’t think so.

Another biggie is the increase in spending on organic fruits and vegetables and those people who say they are a waste of money because we have always eaten food that was grown and sprayed with fertilizer and pesticides. Well hey, sign me up if we have “always” eaten food with toxic stuff on it! And actually, that’s not true. The rising use of these awful fertilizers, pesticides and some GMO’s has really been in the last 50 years or so, which directly correlates to the rise in human diseases and ailments. 50 years is not long enough to even know the extent of any damage this stuff is doing to us, but I for one am not willing to be a guinea pig for the pesticide industry. If you have a choice between choosing an item that was grown naturally and organically or an item grown with toxins, which one would you pick? And be honest – would you really choose the one sprayed with chemicals knowing what we know now? Just because we ate them before doesn’t mean you should be eating them now; we know better.

The same rules apply for so many different products and chemicals: Bleach was once considered the be-all, end-all cleaner, but now we know just how toxic bleach is. Parabens, long-ignored chemicals in our cleaning and body care products, are now suspected of causing cancers and other human diseases. Going back even further, cigarettes were once promoted by doctors – and we aren’t so stupid to believe they are still good for us. I once stuck my finger in a light socket by accident – just because I survived does not mean that it was A. good for me or B. fun. We grow, we learn, we adapt. And since we are learning that the way we have been eating, cleaning, living, and traveling is doing a lot of damage to both ourselves and our world, it’s about time we make the changes necessary to clean up our act. It’s OK to grow and learn; it’s part of being human. So the next time someone asks why you bother to do X, Y, or Z, tell them this – “Just because it was OK before does not mean that it still is”. For me to think otherwise is to feign ignorance, and is not something I can accept.

Filed in: Green • Tags: , , ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (21)

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Amen. I get really tired of people telling me that they have done something their whole lives and they’re fine. Yeah, fine now. What about 10 years from now?

  2. Adam Shake says:

    I always ask myself “How are you vested in not changing?” There has to be a reason why people won’t change. Either they are afraid of change, or they live in such a way that to believe what we are espousing, would be hypocritical for them. Nobody wants to be a hypocrite, so they will build false claims, assumptions and prejudices so they dont “have” to change.

    It’s not until we break through that barrier, convincing them that changing is better than lying to themselves and others, that we will see positive change.

    Thanks for this post. You’ve really got me thinking.

    Adam

  3. david says:

    Totally with you on that Elizabeth!

  4. Yes! Thank you for this post! Doctors used to go straight from performing autopsies to helping women give birth without washing their hands, giving rise to the theory that childbirth was dangerous (and it was, but not so much because of childbirth in and of itself). We learn new things all the time, let’s GO with this information, not stick with the old just because we were lucky enough to make it through unscathed.

  5. Excellent post! According to the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) 20,000 new chemicals have been introduced into American commerce since 1976. Just because we did something in the past, doesn’t mean there aren’t NEW dangers associated with NEW chemicals now. I always wonder what people hope to gain by criticizing those who are trying to make better choices for themselves and their families. I am becoming frustrated with people who tell me that “it’s stupid” to buy organic food or non-toxic cleaners for my house.

  6. Thanks, David, for the post link. I just read the article — it sounds like it was made for the frustration I just expressed in my last comment. . . I would imagine you’re right, that people do feel guilty on some level and probably fear being ridiculed themselves if they were to try greener practices. Thanks again.

  7. Penny says:

    Thanks for this. I thought I was the only one who gets derision for my lifestyle choices. I don’t tell anyone why I don’t eat meat or dairy, buy local andorganic, bike for all local transport, cold wash – air dry clothes etc etc, because I’m tried of being told I’m a either a fool or a saint (I’m neither).

    The one that seems to get people most riled up is my refusal to ride in cars/planes when there’s a perfectly good bus/train service. I won’t be a car driving enabler for someone too fancy or lazy to ride the bus. I do mourn the loss of visiting all the countries I’d hoped to see in my retirement, but to live simply so that others may simply live seems way more important.

  8. david says:

    Good for you Penny for sticking to your goals!

  9. FFB says:

    These same people who love the past also refuse to accept the rapid growth of cancers and obesity. They don’t want to believe in causality. I was reading in the book UltraMetabolism that we still have traces of DDT and other pesticides in our blood today!

  10. Theresa says:

    It’s so easy to dismiss something rather than deal with the facts and fix it. You’re right – no, it wasn’t done that way in the past like it’s happening now. Milkmen used to deliver fresh milk on one’s doorsteps straight from the farm. Now we purchase processed milks from giant corporations frow dairies hundreds of miles away. Most of our foods are processed, preserved, GM’d, injected with additives so that it will last longer in transport (from far away) and stay longer on the shelves.

    I don’t remember microwaving chicken nuggets, french fries, hot pockets, or drinking juice from a box when I was a kid. Kids today think french fries are a vegetable and don’t know what green vegetables are. Tomatoes used to have taste, now their genetically modified to look good and taste like water.

    We can’t ignore that giant corporations are changing the way we eat and purchase our foods. They are doing things to our foods without our knowledge. Why do we tolerate genetically modified foods?

    Is it a coincidence that the rate of autism has increased, our youth are physically maturing sooner, as well as a host of other increasing diseases and ailments? When I lived in Europe, that does NOT have gen. mod. foods I noticed teens did not develop as quickly as their American counterparts. With all the hormones added to the American food system (beef, chicken) it’s no wonder that we’re bigger and sexually developed sooner.

    You are what you eat and Americans are being sold subpar food from giant food corporations. We’ve allowed them to change our foods and dictate what we buy, eat, and feed our children.

  11. David says:

    Great points Theresa. It really is sad what we have allowed corporations to do to our food, and what we have started doing to ourselves. Food should be the #1 thing we keep “sacred” as without it, we wouldn’t be here!

  12. David says:

    Fantastic comment AJ. I am with you on the “Oh my gosh, what if this is not Organic”“We might die if we eat it”¦” – we get that all the time too!

  13. AJ says:

    @Penny: I understand completely. I just do my thing and quietly go on…however my DH has a hard time keeping his mouth shut, lol, and likes to stir things up. My first reaction is I wish he would just be quiet and not broadcast all the alternative ways we choose to live, but then I think that there is nothing wrong–in fact everything absolutely right– about it so there is no shame…but I hate to get into long involved conversations to justify my actions.

    Our whole family raises their eyebrows or have big question marks over their heads when they learn that we don’t use traditional cleaning products, don’t use the toxic hba products, make our own laundry detergent, hang dry our clothes, don’t use the microwave, etc. but little by little they are coming around. They are seeing the benefits of our choices. We don’t get sick anymore. With 3 kids always bringing stuff home from school we used to catch everything coming and going but not now. (I recommend ACV for almost everything under the sun, lol)

    This summer at a family get together, my Dad made chiding comments like “Oh my gosh, what if this is not Organic–We might die if we eat it…” I was not amused. But I held my tongue and went on. He really is not the berating type, and I am not sure if it was really targeted at me or just the public in general since there has been such a buzz about it (Yay!) lately…but it was disheartening still the same. This is the same Dad that while I was growing up would tell me you don’t need that Pop, or would tell me how bad the makeup was for my skin when I was a teen and just wanted to fit in…now I completely understand.
    But now he is the one who won’t stop buying the HFCS laden soda or YooHoo. What changed over the last 20 years? If anything things have gotten worse!

    I am torn alot of times because I wish they would take me seriously, for their own health’s sake, but I refuse to preach or lecture. That is as bad as when they ridicule us. I just wish people would wise up and realize all the toxic chemicals that are in EVERYTHING. Simplicity. That is the key. I try to stop and think “Now what would my Grandmother used for this, back before you could go to the store and browse through 500 bottles of chemical goop?”

  14. David says:

    I lived in LA for 14 years – it is not green at all. People like to pretend, and some people are doing their part, but CA is not green.

  15. Penny says:

    I’m taking the train to San Diego (from Vancouver) next week to do a bike tour of the desert. The ‘must bring’ list from the tour company included a cel phone, ‘polypro’ (whatever that is) biking shirts and nylon biking jerseys. It seems that you now can’t get ride a bike without all sorts of stuff I don’t have. It’s a wonder that I’ve managed without for so long! Luckily I’ll be able to explain away my patched assortment of sport consignment store bikewear on being Canadian….

    The end of the tour only drops off at the airport or hotel car park. Any alternative mode of transport isn’t accommodated. Seems like California isn’t as green as we’re lead to believe!

  16. David says:

    Very true, LA does have some funky looking “clouds”!

  17. Diane says:

    LOL David,

    CA has lots of “green”. I was there years ago at a convention. As we drove out of ??Anaheim I think to visit a friend (who had moved there from NJ (northern, so not so bad), I looked back and was amazed to see this greenish yellow cloud over the city. It was the darn freakiest thing I’d ever seen.

    I grew up in a small GA city and now live in Richmond, VA. We have several “air quality alert” days during the summer heat and humdity, so we’re certainly not living in the lap of great air, but I’m not sure there is a green cloud floating over our city yet. Mainly b/c we’re more business than industrial in this area. And until recently, we actually had lots of farmland at the outer edges of the city (now taken over by blacktop and HA!, the irony of ironies, little communities designed to house work/shop/live all in te same place. Yeah, whatever) It’s still suburban and every family owns 2 cars, including us, b/c we bought where we could afford, which did not included all those ammenities. But we still do our share of reduce, reuse and recycling as much as we can. That’s how I found this site today!

  18. david says:

    Thanks hourback, just fixed the link :)

  19. hourback says:

    Right on!!! Would like to have these as flash cards on my mobile phone so I will be prepared whenever the heathens start talking smack. ;-)

    P.S. The link about bleach toxicity doesn’t work for me.