Years ago, I was in the bank when a local rancher’s wife walked in. She started informing both the teller and myself of her current health issues: high blood pressure, high stress leading to ulcers, and high cholesterol. She said her doctor had put her on five different pills to manage these issues, and she had started experiencing side effects from these medications, such as dry cough, frequent urination, and acid reflux. She was laughing and rolling her eyes at the fact that she had to “go back in to the doctor and get another pill or two” to alleviate the new symptoms.
After a moment, I spoke up and asked what dietary changes her doctor had recommended.
“None, thankfully,” she said.
“But…you can actually treat all of those issues safely and effectively, without any of the side effects…by changing your diet and using a few herbs,” I said.
This woman immediately began waving her hands in the air and shaking her head saying “Ohhhhh no no no! No thank you! I’ll stick with what my doctor says, and I prefer my medicine to be clean! I am a big fan of civilization!” She was laughing incredulously as she said it.
I wasn’t mad. Her feelings are not her fault. Our minds and our bodies are so colonized, so “comfortable,” that we have forgotten about our connection to Mother Earth, to the water, to the plant nations, the other animals, and to each other. We have a deep-seated fear of the outdoors, the wild, and anything that is not pre-washed, wrapped in plastic, and stamped “safe” in a factory.
It takes as much as nine liters of water to produce one liter of Coke. This “upside down” structure is destroying our planet… and it is killing us. So….why? Why Twinkies? McDonald’s? TV dinners? Breakfast cereal? Why do we think we need breakfast cereal? Think about the process that goes into making a box of Lucky Charms. Consider the oats and sugarcane at the beginning of the process. Think of all the herbicides, pesticides and genetic modification that it took to produce the oats and sugar that go into a box of Lucky Charms. It takes HUNDREDS of gallons of water to make a single box…not to mention the gallons of fossil fuels that are needed to plant, harvest, ship, and process the first two ingredients. Think about the brown people, most of whom are paid pennies a day, to brave toxins in the air and soil all around them. Think of the massive facilities in which the oats and the sugarcane are refined…all of the fresh water that is used to strip them of any nutrition…fry, bake, boil, beat, dehydrate, bleach, and extract, them until they don’t even chemically resemble what they once were.
Once the oat flour and refined sugar get to the Lucky Charms factory, they will be molded in to cereal that is literally 40% sugar, dyed with five different toxic food dyes and then mixed with modified corn starch, corn syrup, dextrose, gelatin, calcium carbonate, artificial flavor, sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, salt, calcium carbonate, and trisodium phosphate…each with its own complicated and lengthy process of creation. All together, these ingredients provide no nutrition or benefit, so in order for Lucky Charms to legally be considered a breakfast cereal (instead of a candy,) General Mills has to add , zinc, iron, vitamin C, niacinamide, vitamin B2, vitamin B1, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E…each synthesized in a lab with its own exploitative process using thousands of gallons of fresh water.
We don’t even think about these processes or the human beings who have sacrificed their freedom, health, and lives to make us crappy food. We just consume, consume, consume until our abused bodies give out. We have been bred to not resist. We have been bred to not question the cycle of birth, illness, and death.
That’s why I couldn’t get mad at the rancher’s wife. Being woefully ignorant is a bragging right in a nation where liars rule. Two years after I saw her in the bank, she died of congestive heart failure at the young age of 52. She still had kids in high school.
The solutions to to these issues are simple: we must stop being part of the destructive consumerist cycle by growing, foraging, and hunting our own food and we must demand that industries stop exploiting our water, land, and people to make foods and pharmaceuticals that destroy our bodies and our planet.
It really is that simple. Once we start paying attention to the damage that our unbridled consumerism is causing to our bodies and our Mother Earth…when we realize that we are dooming our children to the same cycle of illness and disconnectedness…we will start making changes.
Start right now. Wherever you are, go outside and find some dandelions that haven’t been sprayed, wash them, and throw them in to the eggs, soup, or casserole that you’re making today. Then, the next time you’re in the grocery store, only purchase items that look basically the same as they did when they were originally plucked, picked, squeezed, or cut from their original source.
No one expects to make drastic changes over night, but you can make small changes starting today. The health of our children, the water, the land, ourselves, and our Mother Earth depend on it.
By Linda Black Elk
Linda Black Elk Linda (Catawba Nation) is an ethnobotanist specializing in teaching about culturally important plants and their uses as food and medicine. Linda works to protect food sovereignty, traditional plant knowledge, and environmental quality as an extension of the fight against hydraulic fracturing and the fossil fuels industry. She has written for numerous publications, and is the author of “Watoto Unyutapi”, a field guide to edible wild plants of the Dakota people.