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Category Archives: Current Issues
We are experiencing a change of seasons here in the Pacific North West. A few mornings ago, I saw the first sign, a covering of dew on grass that has been as dry as dust for five months. It’s a welcome change for the earth, since the trees and gardens have been craving moisture.
We humans too, can’t help but react. There’s a mild feeling of excitement as we anticipate the events that arrive with winter—more connections with family and friends, more social events, indoor activities like cozying up to the fire, reading new books, going to movies, and of course, Christmas.
It has been a tough year. We’ve had shocking election results. We’ve had the re-emergence of Nazism, We’ve had the threat of nuclear war, we’ve had unprecedented natural disasters, and now we may witnessing our closest neighbor self-destruct.
Magazines, newspapers and books are rife with hateful articles, we don’t dare turn on the television news, and social media is exploding with angry posts.
We are suffering from insomnia like never before, therapists report a steep increase in new patients and we hear that millions are taking antidepressants.
I’ve always been interested in herbs, even before Simon and Garfunkel sang about Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme in their evocative song, Scarborough Fair. In 1999, I took a course from Don Ollsin, who created The Herbal Healing Pathway and once owned an herbal dispensary, Self Heal Herbs, in our city. From him, I learned to recognise herbs, appreciate their healing properties, and even make medicine.
All that winter, while taking lessons, and searching fields and forests for healing plants, I dreamed about developing a second career in the field of herbal medicine. But that wasn’t to be. Corporations had just discovered that there was serious money in making and selling herbs. Within a couple of years, pharmacies and grocery stores were selling these products as fast as they could shelve them. The world of herbs, carefully nurtured by teachers like Don, had become commercialized, never to be the same again.
In a few weeks, I’ll be lining up, along with about 35% of the Canadian population, to receive the flu shot. In doing so, I’ll be ignoring the bad press, the less than 50% prevention rate, and the physical discomfort to do this. Why? Because, as I grow older, I’m discovering that I can’t rely on my immune system to do the splendid job it did in the past to protect me from the millions of pathogens that come my way all fall and winter.
Up until 2 years ago, I never gave the flu a thought. Ominous suggestions that the ‘elderly’ were susceptible to illness and disease seemed at best, ageist, and at worst, insulting. I was in excellent health, I looked after myself—a weakened immune system couldn’t happen to me.
By now, if you are over 65, you might be experiencing subtle changes in your health as you age. You might find that you are taking longer to recover from a cold or flu, and you need to rest longer after you exercise or do a chore. You may notice other subtle changes, like patches of eczema on your skin, or ridges on your fingernails, or pervasive physical and mental fatigue. Normally, you shrug off these symptoms—you’re just grateful that you are not suffering from some drastic illness, and decide to leave well enough alone.
If you are one of the shoppers who breezes past the organic section of your local grocery, opting for crisper, fresher looking produce at a cheaper price, you are not alone.
Yet organic food, once the domain of ‘hippies’ and other edgy groups, is slowly drawing in more and more consumers. Despite the claim that organic is not necessarily more nutritious, (and certainly costs more than conventionally produced food), consumption of organic produce is skyrocketing.
The main attraction in many cases, is a desire for optimum health—that feeling of energized well-being and vitality we all strive for. Unfortunately it’s a state often disturbed by allergies and food intolerances, a weakened immune system, and a vague, hard-to-pinpoint awareness of feeling “not quite right”. We know now that toxins exist in our food, enter our environment and remain in our bodies for years. And it’s increasingly harder to ignore studies (Is Buying Organic Worth It? Columbia University, May 31, 2013) that say that the presence of pesticide residue is five times higher in conventional food than in organic food (38% versus 7%).
Ask any Millennial what they’ll live on when they retire, and they’ll look at you with a blank stare. First off, they are young (oldest are 35), so age 65 seems a lifetime away. Secondly, most of them are occupied with just getting by, an outcome of living in the gig economy, in which saving is unlikely. And we (the Silent generation and older Boomers), were like that too—someone out there would look out for us, things would turn out. Furthermore, most of them are convinced that retirement with a pension is a thing of the past.
With its promise of lifting people out of poverty and ending the need for food banks, the Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) sounds radical, and even subversive, an invitation to create a shiftless, dependent population—but it may be an idea whose time has come.
This is not a new thought—Thomas Moore wrote about it in Utopia, (published in 1516), in which he explored some of the problems of society. Observing the stern measures that were being taken against thieves, and recalling a conversation with John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, he wrote:
I have a cliff garden. Yes, it is exactly that—a garden perched on a cliff, 30 or so feet above a quiet street bordering the harbor.
I don’t own the garden. That would be impossible, given that I live in a condo. How it came about is a long story, but I’ll give you the short version.
Several years ago, our six story 25 year old building was restored, resulting in piles of building debris everywhere, and a general disturbance of the grounds.
The strip along the outside of our ground floor condo was an eyesore, and since no one came forward with a solution, I offered to clean it up. I’ve had lots of gardening experience, so I felt confident in starting this project.