Posts Tagged ‘chemicals’

Doomsday Preppers: Donna Nash

Next up is Donna Nash from Utah, owner of a vaguely religiously-themed prepping business called ArkReady.
She’s prepping for obsessed with a worldwide pandemic, probably of some kind of flu. In between scenes of her trying to convince the neighbors of this contingency (and to take one of her pre-made pandemic buckets) are shots of her wiping down doorknobs and countertops, spraying aerosol chemicals in the house, and dusting the floors. She has one of those houses that looks like it’s straight out of a magazine—the kind that looks like it isn’t lived in. She reminds me of a magnet my mom used to have stuck on the refrigerator that said, “Boring women have immaculate homes.”

I also think it’s kind of ironic, that she’s afraid of some killer super-resistant strain of the flu, when she’s practically hosing down her house with hand sanitizer. I’d be really curious to know how often her kids get sick—because growing up in an antiseptic, sanitized environment, I would bet they have all sorts of asthma and stuff. The only thing her OCD cleaning is doing is creating stronger germs and weaker kids. Hell, I grew up practically licking dirt off the floor, and aside from the odd reaction (being barefoot most of the time, I step on a lot of bees; turns out I’ve developed an allergy over the years—it happens.), I go to the doctor about once every five years. Of course, eating dumpster food is always good for the ol’ immune system, too.

I have the feeling that the producers try to push the folks on this show to do at least one thing to make them look completely crazy. In this case, it’s to get Ms. Nash to have her family do a ‘pandemic drill’!—putting on masks, goggles, hairnets, plastic gowns, foot covers, the whole deal—and then go outside. Well, wouldn’t you know there’s a neighbor watching them?

The Practical Prepper ‘experts’ determine that she needs an alternate location, in case her house becomes compromised, or something. Like, somewhere to make a fresh start that will need brand-new equipment to survive, and they know just the folks to get her outfitted…themselves! She knows what’s up (probably thinking, “I came on this show to get free publicity for myself, not for you guys!”) and says that she doesn’t need a bunker, thank you very much. Which is fine, but if you’re going to have to stay sealed up in your quarantine house for weeks or months, you’d better have some food stored up, and I didn’t see anything edible, just shelves and shelves of medical supplies.

Surprisingly, the show suggests that according to the World Health Organization, a devastating flu pandemic is inevitable. It’s surprising, because every other event these people are supposedly prepping for has been denied by the producers (“Scientists put the likelihood of a Yellowstone eruption at less than .0001 percent!”, etc)—most likely as a way to make the subjects look paranoid, or something like that. Saying that a global flu is inevitable is the closest thing to an endorsement this show has made yet.

For future reference, I am not Donna Nash. Please stop leaving comments asking for pandemic kits. If you’re really interested, I link to her business in the very first sentence of this post.


Doomsday Preppers: Jules Dervaes and family

Here we have another guy from Cali, this time preparing for the collapse of our industrial food system.
He says our reliance on GM  crops (not to mention petrochemicals) puts our farming model at the mercy of superpests, which—thanks to the monoculture of our totalitarian agricultural system—could destroy a harvest, driving up the price of food and thereby leading to hyperinflation.

In this scenario, fuel and electricity could become a luxury, and so as the narrator describes, “[their] strategy to live without…is to live without.” And good on them—plain living for the win!

To combat the shortsightedness of the food industry, he and his children have taken it upon themselves to try and grow as much of their own food as possible. And they’ve definitely succeeded— especially on less than an acre of land—as Jules rattles off a most impressive breakdown of their harvest: beans (188 lbs), carrots (38), cucumbers (241), onions (109), peas (115), peppers (113), tomatoes (958!), and 500 pounds of salad fixings, plus some comically large squashes. And I’d say it’s a safe bet that their produce is of the heirloom, organic, non-GM variety.

Basically, their system is what the city farmers call SPIN farming (Small Plot INtensive)— which is a great way to get the maximum amount of produce out of a limited amount of space.  By wisely utilizing vertical space instead of growing horizontally, they’ve turned their backyard into a permaculture ‘edible forest’. They also keep a menagerie of ducks, goats, chickens, bees, and fish for eggs, dairy, honey, and meat, plus a cat for pest control. In all, they have a pretty sweet self-sustaining spread.

As their car runs on old french fry oil, the expert appraisal is simply, ‘get a diesel generator’. This is the only problem I can see with this family’s plan: like a lot of biodiesel folks, their source of fuel comes from restaurants—so I guess it’d be hard to resupply post-disaster. Although it looks like they only use the biodiesel in the old Mercedes, I guess the experts want them to get a generator so they could use their extra fuel to keep their lights on, or something.

No mention of weapons or defense/security, although as gardeners they should have plenty of sharp metal things on long handles, and since they are part of a co-op, there’s a ready-made community to lend a hand in defending the ol’ homestead if need be.

After three episodes, I’m starting to notice a trend on this show: the ‘preppers’ who have low-impact, actually sustainable strategies focused on fresh foods (Chris Nyegres, the Harrisons, and these guys) are also the ones who don’t fixate on guns and ammo (or conversely, the guns-and-ammo preppers’ strategies are always focused on hoarding/stacking buckets of prepackaged, processed food up to the ceiling!). They’re also the ones I have a hard time labeling as ‘preppers’, because if something bad were to happen, I can easily picture these folks continuing to live pretty much like they do already.

For what it’s worth, this is another example of the show profiling people who aren’t just random preppers off the street. I mean, Jules Dervaes has his own page on Wikipedia.

Eco-friendly pest control tip of the month:


The Green Man Says: YOU are built to be a hunter-gatherer.

part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.

November, 2009.
This week, let’s talk about food.  Most “go green how-to” articles will tell you to shop locally at farmer’s markets, to choose organic, pesticide-free produce, and eat ethically-raised, free-range meat.  This is fine, but for a poor college student, it’s Expensive!  Yes, pesticides in food are bad, but I believe that what are even worse are the foods and drinks which are essentially nothing but chemicals.  Don’t even get me started on corn syrup.  Have you looked at an ingredients list recently?  A box of my roommate’s chicken-flavored pasta and rice has almost the same things in it as a pouch of instant vegetable soup.  What the heck are thiamine mononirate or disodium inosinate or maltodextrin?  The reason these exist is preservation: our current industrial food system means that food packaged in California might be shipped to Maine, where it may sit on the shelf for months; the mysterious additives ensure a long shelf-life.

As an Anthropology student, I’ve a whole lot of my time at Transy talking about pre-agricultural societies.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that humans have never been healthier than we were about 20 or 30,000 years ago.  After that, we discovered agriculture, and it all starts to go downhill.  You see, back in our good ol’ hunter-gatherer days, our diet was varied, we got plenty of exercise, and we sure weren’t eating corn or bread.  Take a look at The Food Pyramid (the 1992 one most of us grew up with, the one with horizontal layers, not that weird new one where everything radiates from the top).  According to it, the foundation of our diet should be “6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta”: these didn’t exist until humans settled down, started farming, and built cities.  The switch to agriculture led to nutrient deficiency and modern diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity (not to mention social stratification, organized religion, and state warfare).

So what can you do?  I’m not saying that you should immediately revert to a hunter-gatherer diet (but if you want to try, get ahold of me and we’ll talk), and I’m definitely not advocating the status-quo diet of soda and Doritos.  But start small—cut out the Twinkies and Gatorade.  Try eating in the style of our ancestors, snacking on fruits, nuts and berries throughout the day, with one big, varied supper at night.  Fiber and meat are great; a bit of dairy (another post-agriculture invention) now and then is good; even Ramen is fine, but pitch the flavor packet and throw the noodles in a hearty stew of meats and vegetables.

There’s a very different way of thinking that comes along with a healthy hundred thousand-year old way of eating.  You start to feel more HUMAN.

part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.

April, 2009.
Because this Saturday (April 11) marks the seasonal return of the Lexington Farmer’s Market (downtown in the park at Cheapside), this week I’m going to talk about food.
You might think that this really only applies to folks who aren’t on the meal-plan, but it’s still good advice for the rest of you to keep in mind.

Some of you might be not even be aware that your food choices have a huge effect on the planet, but believe me, they do.  Right now, our food choices rival transportation as the human activity with the greatest impact on the environment.

So, you ask, what’s causing all the problems?  The short answer is: industrial farming practices…this means meat and pesticides.

Much of the meat we buy at the supermarket is grown in ‘factory farms’, where animals are pumped full of drugs and hormones (cows, pigs, and chickens get 70% of all antimicrobial drugs in the US) and fattened up on an almost-all-corn-or-soybean diet (consider that 95% of the world’s soybean harvest is eaten by animals, not people!).  Animal rights aside (I’ll let the Bambi-lovers at PETA deal with that) this system of farming is very inefficient: it takes about 33% more fossil fuel energy to produce a calorie of beef than would a calorie of a potato.  Eating lower on the food chain is much more energy-efficient…that’s what The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is all about.

Growing plants isn’t much better; farmers spray their crops with nasty herbicides (to kill weeds) and pesticides (to kill bugs) that get washed off into the groundwater; it doesn’t help that some of these chemicals are known carcinogens—anyone remember DDT?

Besides the chemicals used, there’s an even bigger side effect of large-scale farming: international food trade and the glut of heavily-processed and packaged foods has distanced most people from what they eat, both geographically and psychologically.  People think that food just magically appears on the supermarket shelf, instead of being driven or flown thousands of miles to get there.

So as an eater, what can you do?  The three biggest changes you can make:

1) Re-evaluate your consumption of meat.

2) Select food produced without agrochemicals.

3) Buy locally grown food.

The latter two can easily be accomplished by walking down to the Farmer’s Market.  You’ll help support the local economy, burn some calories (instead of gasoline), eat healthier, and help farmers get a fair price for their products.

As for myself, I don’t eat meat because I’m a poor college student.  But the next time I get a hankerin’ for some animal protein, I’m going after one of these tame city squirrels.

part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.

March, 2009.
I’m willing to bet that most people never think twice about the various substances they expose themselves to on a daily basis.  Have you ever tried reading the ingredients list on a bottle of shampoo or shower soap?  I don’t want to scare anybody, but I did some research on some of the chemicals used, and it turns out that there’s some really intimidating stuff in there.  For example, Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid tetrasodium salt (Tetrasodium EDTA, for short)—while not believed to have carcinogenic or mutagenic effects—“may be toxic to upper respiratory tract, skin, eyes” and “can produce target organs damage” as a result of “repeated or prolonged exposure”, which sounds an awful lot like science-speak for shampooing your hair everyday.
Polyquaternium 7 is another chemical used in many of the various goops we use to keep ourselves smelling clean.  While this ingredient doesn’t seem to have any obvious toxicity issues and is supposed to be biodegradable, then why is it advised to “Prevent surface contamination of soil, ground & surface water”, and “Avoid disposing to drainage systems and into the environment”?  I feel we are not getting the full picture.  (If you’re curious about chemicals in the products you use, I encourage you to do your own research; search for a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet).
So if the hygiene products we are exposed to on a daily basis may not be the best things for the health of the environment or ourselves, what can we do? Luckily, there are alternative products out there.  If you walk down Limestone to Sqecial Media, you will find a great selection of all-natural hygiene products like soaps and shampoo (plus, you will be supporting local business!).
While it may be true that environmentalists like knowing which ingredients in your shampoo will kill you, choosing alternative products doesn’t mean you are restricted to the three traditional earth-friendly smells: lavender, patchouli, and “natural”.  Natural products have a wide variety of fragrances, and best of all you can always be sure what they will smell like—you won’t find any ambiguous, faux-natural names like “Ocean Breeze” or “Spring Rain”.
Feeling really adventurous? You can even go one step further, and do away with commercial products altogether.  Try a baking-soda-paste for shampoo and rinse with apple cider vinegar—you may smell a bit like a potato chip but your hair will be much healthier.