Thursday, August 26, 2010

Real Life Tao - Simplify

One of the themes that runs throughout the writings attributed to Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu is the call to lead more simple lives. When we start adding layers of complication, it becomes that much easier to fall out of balance. When we become estranged from the natural processes of life, suffering and misery are soon to follow.

Many people view the "back to nature" movement as being incredibly naive. The very thought of getting out of our cars, growing our own food or using herbs to treat illness and disease seems so antiquated. Hey, these are modern times, they say. We have developed all sorts of technological wonders to further and enhance the human experience.

Unfortunately, while we too often focus exclusively on the tangible benefits of our technology, we either look away or don't see the costs we have wrought. Two recent articles, one on AlterNet and the other on CommonDreams, will provide apt illustrations of what I'm referring to.

It turns out that many of the cosmetic products used in the western world aren't half as healthy as we've been led to believe.
Numerous chemicals that are legally used in personal care products are untested, inadequately tested, or even proven harmful, but few are as widely used and as unnecessary as the endocrine disrupting chemicals triclosan (an ingredient in 75 percent of liquid hand soaps) and triclocarban (most commonly found in deodorant bar soaps). Scientists have recently found a number of new reasons why these chemicals should not be used in consumer products. In late July, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) brought a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), calling on the FDA to ban triclosan and triclocarban from soaps and body washes.

Together, triclosan and triclocarban are widely used in antibacterial soaps, body washes, deodorants, lip glosses, dog shampoos, shave gels, and even toothpastes. They are found in brands as familiar as Colgate, Dial, Lever 2000, and Vaseline. Although they have been used for several decades for their antibacterial and antifungal properties, studies and even the FDA recognize that they are no more effective at preventing disease than regular soap and water. In other words, they serve two real purposes: allowing companies to market personal care products as "antibacterial," and contaminating the waste stream (and, ultimately, the environment)...
In the above cases, it turns out that what is being sold as a benefit to humankind concurrently is a danger not only to ourselves but the environment we live in! In the case of soap products, if we each followed the simple procedure of using an unadulterated bar of soap, we are just as protected against bacterial infections and we would cause far less ecological damage.

The other article concerns a known AND fully legal pesticide that, it turns out, may lead to problems with male sexual development.
Male rats exposed before birth to low doses of the weedkiller atrazine are more likely to develop prostate inflammation and to go through puberty later than non-exposed animals, finds a new study conducted by federal government scientists.

One of the most common agricultural herbicides in the United States, some 80 million pounds of atrazine are applied across the country every year to control broadleaf and grassy weeds in crops such as corn and sugar cane. It is the main ingredient in about 40 name-brand herbicides.

"Atrazine is a staple product for producers, who use it as a critical tool for weed control in growing the vast majority of corn, sorghum and sugarcane in the United States. Use of atrazine fights weed resistance, reduces soil erosion and increases crop yield," according to the Triazine Network, an association of growers and researchers.

But atrazine and its byproducts are known to be endocrine disrupters that are persistent in the environment, making their way into both surface water and groundwater supplies...
In situation after situation, humankind's obsession with trying to manipulate and control Mother Nature tends to lead to unintended consequences. What often is viewed as beneficial in one narrow area causes untold numbers of problems in other areas.

How do we find ourselves in one mess after another? I would submit that the chief reason is our attempt to compartmentalize the world; we continually fail to see the connections. When one part of the organism of life is changed, it alters the connections to and with the other parts. It is when these downstream alterations are not taken into consideration that we land ourselves in trouble!

You see, this is why the simple life is so advantageous for all concerned. You get to know intimately the local environment and you live your life within its fabric. Small changes that are made flow more easily with the life around you and we are better able to understand how these small changes will affect the overall organism.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

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