Your immediate reaction is likely to be: “Sustainable from what perspective?”
First consider how our collective life styles impact the planet. We use thousands of gallons of gasoline each year; we buy many cars and trucks; we buy many home appliances, including computers and music electronics; we use sophisticated and expensive medical tests. We generate LOTS of trash, even though we recycle most of our glass, aluminum, and plastic containers – not realizing that much of what goes into the recycle bin ends up in the trash dump.
From the planet’s perspective these practices are not sustainable,. Non renewable resources (e.g., petroleum and minerals) are being consumed at prodigious rates. Our grandchildren and their children are unlikely to have such a wealth of resources to enrich their lives. The streams, lakes, and oceans are being polluted with trash that is killing the fish and mammals; pristine lands are being trashed and destroyed.
Second consider the question from a personal perspective: how our personal life styles impact our health, and therefore, our ability to lead active lives into middle age and beyond. Often we lead sedentary lives, without regular exercise; we eat an unbalanced diet; we may consume excessive amounts of alcoholic or high-sugar drinks. One day in middle age – or sooner – we notice that the body of our youth that we cherished (or at least tolerated) is deteriorating and no longer able to do what we want it to do. Our children may be overweight and suffer from illnesses such as asthma. (Asthma is the most frequent cause of children’s absence from school.) We are generally aware of these non sustainable habits, because they are so visible. But there are other parts of our life style that are far less evident.
We unknowingly ingest, inhale, and absorb by contact hundreds of toxic substances that are invisibly dispersed throughout the environment. Several independent tests have shown that people are contaminated by a hundred to two hundred toxic chemicals. DDT and PCBs continue to show up in blood samples, even thought both chemicals were banned in the U.S. forty years ago! What do these foreign chemical do to us? They degrade our immune system (which guards against infections), they interfere with the delicately balanced hormones that regulate all aspect of our biological processes, and they cause cancers. The bottom line is that these foreign intruders degrade our health, and because they take years to accumulate, the damaging effects to our health often do not appear until middle age.
If a person wants to sustain a healthy body well into middle age, it is important to tend to all aspects of their life style. The next post will describe the multiple assaults on everyone’s health by a variety of toxic chemicals in the environment.