What does it take to make us believe? This is a question I ponder on many levels, in many areas of my life. What makes us believe something we read or see or hear? Why are we skeptical of one statement and not another? Is it a gut thing? Or a heart thing? I think maybe it’s a trust thing.
I need to trust the source from which the information comes. I don’t trust Fox News, pretty much any politician, the check-out clerk at Wal-Mart, or the passionate volunteer on the phone. I don’t trust the crazy right-wing driven blogs or the looney-tunes left-wing e-newsletter. In fact, most times I don’t trust information I’m given until I’ve poked and prodded and tested it myself.
We have an electric fence in our horse pasture. I tell all the kids who visit that it will shock them, but there are always those who must find out first hand.I remember touching fences myself when I was a child. I’d lay a long piece of grass to the wire and listen close. I’d hear that little zzzzpt and know that, yup, it’s hot.
Eight years ago, when my youngest child developed an autoimmune disorder seemingly out of the blue, my world shifted. My heart cracked wide open and my beliefs about what was safe and good and healthy all became suspect. Life seemed more fragile. Almost overnight I saw the world and our food supply in a completely new way. I didn’t trust anything that came in a package or out a drive-thru window. My motivation grew out of a desperation and pain that was all new to me. I would do anything to heal my child. I entertained all manner of wacko experts and obscure studies and stifled my skeptical soul. But sometimes the information I gathered made sense.
Some of the changes I made to our diet and lifestyle felt like coming home; they felt right to my core. When I talked to the people who worked at Sonnewalds, our way-before-it’s-time healthy grocery store, I listened carefully to what was said because every person I spoke with shone with health and looked twenty years younger than he or she was. We visited an alternative doctor who had successfully treated a friend’s teenager’s rheumatoid arthritis. I wrote down everything the doctor said and bought every book he recommended. Within weeks of the changes we made, I was seeing a difference in our health, behaviors, and energy. So I went back for more.
But I wonder if my son had not gotten sick in the first place if I would have ever come to this place where we are now. The cover of Time last week declared, “Eat Butter – Ending the War on Fat.” This, after forty years of butter wearing the label of guilt and death. The alternative doctor we visited eight years ago told me that butter was not the enemy and recommended that we eat all the fat we wanted, including beef and pork and even whole milk. He (and plenty of others) had already been preaching that for decades. Why had no one listened? And why are they listening now?
It’s frightening to me that our nation can behave like a herd of sheep. This country claims to be built from the ground up by independence, open-mindedness, and freedom. Yet for forty years we blindly followed the nutritional advice of a second-rate scientist who was passionately wrong. Even as we grew fatter and sicker, we let the food industry dictate our dietary guidelines as determined by their bottom-line. There were people arguing all along that fat and red meat and dairy were not the enemy - artificial ingredients were, but their voices were not heeded.
Today I read in the news that children have a 60% higher risk of having autism if their mother’s were exposed to pesticides while pregnant. Yet, in 1998 researchers in Arizona had already concluded that children exposed to pesticides experienced signficant developmental and neurological deficiencies when compared with children who had not been exposed. Why did it take a study at the University of Califonia to convince us? How many children could have been spared a lifetime of autism if the media and the rest of us had embraced the warnings fifteen years ago?
Monsanto claimed they could solve the world food crisis by selling their special seeds and pesticides. They, of course, would grow grossly wealthy and powerful at the same time. Organic Gardening and the Rodale Institute has been shouting the dangers of pesticides since the 70’s, creating test gardens that proved plenty of food could be grown naturally without destroying the soil or polluting the air. Bloggers, columnists, and even a few politicians have been prophesying all along that we need to change our ways before we make our planet unliveable. Despite their convictions and efforts, these people have been ignored, sidelined, and even ridiculed. Why? What makes us trust one voice over another?
Obviously, there is a tipping point, as Malcolm Gladwell so artfully explained. When will we get serious about eliminating GMOs, food dyes, pesticides, toxic cleaning products, and artificially created foods? How much evidence do we need? How sick do we have to get and how much do our children have to suffer? How many people have to die or have their homes or crops destroyed before we believe in global warming enough to do something about it? How long until the great waste clogging up our oceans and city streets and lives reaches a level that makes us change our behavior? Are we lazy, stupid, or just plain afraid?
I hate to be so negative on a beautiful morning, but I do worry that we are not so much a frog slowly being heated in a kettle as a snowball blindly racing down a mountain. I’m getting ready to launch my precious children into this big wide world. I only pray they will not reap the consequences of our apathy and inaction.