20 May 2010

Too Clean

There's the old saying that a little bit of dirt is good for you. Turns out that's actually true. Studies are now showing that our desire for a totally sterile freakishly clean living environment could be causing problems down the line, leading to immunological problems, and ultimately allergies, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases. The WSJ has an excellent article on the subject.

Over the past decade I've observed a change in cleaning products, as well as an explosion of new brands and advertising claims. The main selling points these days seem to be one of two things: "Now kills XX% of germs!" or "Biodegradable and phosphate free! Unscented! Hypoallergenic!"

As a kid I remember cleaning products being simpler. Granted they contained things we now know to be toxic and dangerous. But this preoccupation with sterilizing our surroundings seems to have gone a bit overboard, and is now endangering the health of the next generation. Another dimension to this problem is the prevalence of antibiotics used in soaps, shampoos, body washes, hand gels, and of course in our food (a Grist article details the food issue nicely). We are a nation of clean freaks, but our penchant for being beyond squeaky clean (perhaps screamingly clean?) has given rise to two distinct problems: a lack of dirtiness which later causes disease, and the rise of the resistant super bacteria which ALSO causes disease. Double trouble.

On a More Personal Note

I'm almost finished putting in the garden, and will soon be growing far more vegetables than my partner and I can reasonably eat (so I'll be giving a lot away to the rest of my family). My partner is also involved in a sustainability project for a university class, and has decided to build a chicken tractor from recycled materials. To make it even better, the tools we're using were checked out from the North Portland Tool Library (rather than buying everything ourselves). Saves money AND everything gets re-used week after week. We make an effort to be sustainable in our everyday life. But all of this has really gotten me thinking...

What does it REALLY mean to be sustainable?

I'll tell you what it means: everything in your life must be one hundred percent recyclable, and all energy used must be one hundred percent renewable.

And why is this the ONLY way to be sustainable? Because if we create anything that cannot be recycled, using non-renewable energy, we lose. We lose the matter used in the items creation, we lose the energy used to create it, we lose the mass used to create the energy. We lose these things, and if they come back around at all, it will be in a form we likely cannot utilize. At some point, we will run out of matter. We will carve up our planet in search of resources which we will transform into wondrous things, resources which will never return to their natural state, and will forever be lost to us.

Our planet is a finite thing. Get that through your head.
Finite. Limited. Fixed. Restricted. Determinate.

Stop pretending our world is endless.