By Guest Blogger Becky Duignan, LEED AP
Time moulds our faces as if they were wet clay; the way I, as a child, used to shape the red, moist earth on the side of the road beneath where the wild Daises and Black-Eyed Susan grew. It would become small stars or flat disks, but soon the childhood creations would dry up, crumble between my young, terracotta-stained fingers, and return to the roadside. Such is the nature of soil; and not only do I accept that now, but I appreciate it.
Time has yet to allow me another memory equal in textural quality as that of which I just recalled, and I fear that this is because the earth’s riches have become severely commoditized almost to the point of “no return” while I have grown… just as the memory of the brilliant copper and dusty umber of my beloved wild flowers has become increasingly hazy in my mind.
Soil helped raise me. It taught me respect. I admired it with the same infatuation a warm child finds in twirling its mother’s hair around a chubby finger. It soaked up my sweat, my blood. It trembled with my laughter and seemed to never want to leave my skin. Soil is a symbol of harmony, as is the act of utilizing it. Similar to the sun and the sea, all creatures on Earth share it for the common purpose of survival. It is through this commonality that I have been able to shape various life decisions, including the personal resolution to monitor how soil is being manipulated for food production, and how continuous changes in agriculture affect our lives.
The perversion of food products being widely distributed to the general public has reached a crescendo; either your food is fresh or it leaves a metallic aftertaste as a result of a “chemical cocktail” created in your system by pesticides, food additives, and heavy metals (Kyra Therapy, 2007). The deterioration of health will be rather slow, yet the passing of time will make it perfectly evident that the options for what can be consumed today are not adequate. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the majority of chemical aids used to quicken the timeline of production and size of produce have ample negative effects on human nervous systems (U.S. EPA, 2009). “Conventional farming” has become synonymous with acts such as slicking wheat with Organochlorine Insecticides and dousing corn with Pyrethroid Pesticides, adversely affecting not only our soil, but also air and water sources (U.S. EPA, 2009). No idea what these chemicals are? I didn’t know either, until one day I came to my senses and thought, “there is NO way a tomato can be THAT large…” and thus began my research.
Now, the prevailing debate over whether or not farmers should receive rewards for being increasingly responsible while raising crops has escalated to the point where international organizations are drafting preliminary guidelines to promote the use of alternate aids such as microbial pesticides (Flesher, 2009). At the same time, endless debates persist over agribusiness and chemical companies creating genetically altered seeds to withstand drought (Reuters, 2009), destroy troublesome insects (Segelken, 1996), and resist disease (GMO Compass, 2006). What is the right thing to do, and why?
While these efforts may help ease the hunger of a growing population, how long are we going to be able to endure while continuously having to invent solutions for plights we create ourselves? Salvation from our earth’s decomposition most likely won’t be realized from the harvested results found within a Petri dish; it could come from an intellectual revolution, a reassessment of human priorities, and a much belated allocation of common sense. While there are no clear answers, these are solely the lonely thoughts of a consumer who has been self-educated in the art of (trying) to eating right.
Becky Duignan is an Interior Designer and a Varied Artist. She is a LEED-CI Accredited Professional and an avid volunteer for various non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and New York Cares. Her major passions in life are art & travel; and she has been lucky enough to visit over fifteen countries in an effort to understand various cultures and needs around the world. Her professional interests are the renovation and reuse of existing space or materials, environmental health, ethics and human rights, research, expressionism, and creative writing.