Are You What You Eat?

Yes, we know there’s a lot of plastic in the ocean. We’ve seen the news reports about plastic in whales’ digestive systems and sea life tangled in plastic waste. That’s the big plastic. The micro-sized plastic? We’re eating and inhaling it.

Plastic? In My Beer ! ? ! ?

A study published by the American Chemical Society reports that in a year’s time we consume about 100,000 pieces of micro-sized plastic, most too small to be visible. The study estimated that adult men, on average, would eat, drink and breathe in 121,664 particles during a year — that’s 333 per day — while women would take in 98,305 — 270 per day. The numbers are projected from more than 3,600 samples of items, including air, alcohol, bottled water, honey, seafood, salt, sugar and tap water.

The production of plastics still increases every year, so researchers are not surprised that it is finding its way into our food chain. The research is in its beginning stages and scientists speculate that our actual plastic intake is really much more than what they have found so far. Beef and pork, for example, have not yet been studied. Nor have processed foods which are likely to be a bonanza of plastics.

Plastic? In My Beer ! ? ! ?

Researchers say they do not yet have enough data to speculate on what this means. Maybe we’ll learn that eating plastic is good for us.

So far there is no Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for plastic.

Car-Sharing: First-World Problems

Dan Smith built a fence around the Mercedes 250 parked on the apartment property he manages in the congested Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle. The vehicle bears the logo of the car-sharing company car2go. Smith says the car is parked illegally.

Continue reading “Car-Sharing: First-World Problems”

Monuments: South and West

Some parts of the country, mostly in the South, are agonizing over monuments erected to honor and celebrate the Confederacy and its treasonous heroes. Some of that some are taking direct action, removing statues, most of which were put up in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Their purpose was to deliver a message to former slaves and their offspring that Reconstruction was over and Jim Crow ruled.

Meanwhile, out west, the San Jose City Council is pondering a proposal to install a monument in a city park celebrating the impact Silicon Valley has had on the world, if not on ethnic nor gender employment diversity. If the proposal passes an international competition will ensue for design of a suitably-grandiose sculpture.

The leader of the drive thinks $150 million is a reasonable amount for Silicon Valley’s monument to itself. Others are less than enthusiastic.

David Horsey, editorial cartoonist and political gadfly does not mince words:

“But the technological revolution has not been completely beneficial to civilized life. Hackers working for foreign powers threaten our security and democracy. Internet scammers and criminals steal our money and our identities. Social media distract us, mislead us and intensify outrage, division and extremism. Online pornography has opened a new frontier of misogyny and exploitation to any child who can log onto a computer.”

Some Good News about Bees

Marauding bees delayed for eighteen minutes the first pitch of a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. It was a rare show of strength for the beleaguered insect whose population has been on a precipitous decline over the past several decades. We once feared ferocious killer bees invading from Mexico; now we fear that fewer bees threatens our food supply.

You may worry about the rising price of your Honey Nut Cheerios. You should be even more concerned about pollination. Remember your ninth-grade science? It’s how plants have sex: plant pollen is transferred from the male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs to form seeds. Wind, animals and insects are the transfer agents. Bees may be the most important of the players in nature’s mènage á trois.

Bee pollination may be responsible for as much as 70% of food grown for humans, possibly 90% of the world’s nutrition.

Much study and speculation has gone into why fewer bees are at work. It could be the changing climate, or chemical fertilizers and pesticides. More recently, there is evidence that corporate monoculture – giant fields of a single crop appear to lessen bees’ interest in flitting from flower to flower. It seems that sexual boredom of bees is a danger to agricultural abundance.

Meanwhile in France, there was concern about the 180,000 bees living on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cathedral’s staff shared the honey the hives produced. Shortly after the fire was extinguished, bees were observed flitting around the still-in-tact hives. It is not yet known if most of the bee population came through the conflagration unscathed, but early signs are encouraging.

Decompose or Recompose?

Perhaps you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s death – imminent or far in the future – and what its impact will be, whether environmental or financial. The state of Washington has addressed your concern. Senate Bill 5001, pithily titled “Concerning Human Remains,” is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature. (Governor Inslee is quite busy these days running for President, you know.) If signed, the new law allowing the “natural organic reduction” of dead human bodies will take effect May 1, 2020.

A simpler term is “composting.” Rather than putting a body filled with formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals into a non-biodegradable casket and burying it in a crowded cemetery, or releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by incinerating it, the new law will allow after-life remains to decompose on their own and become part of the earth.

The new word is “recomposition.” A new organization is ready. Katrina Spade is founder and CEO of the firm Recompose, whose main purpose is the natural returning of human bodies to the earth after death. She is an advocate of human composting and has worked with scientists studying natural decomposition, including real-death testing in North Carolina.

Of course, some find this appalling. Conservative Catholics ask What about the human soul? and condemn recomposition as another example of disrespect for human life, equating it with abortion and euthanasia.

Serving on Recompose’s board is Caitlin Doughty, owner of Undertaking LA, a non-traditional mortuary in southern California whose declared mission is “to allow families to reclaim their rightful control over the death and dying process, as well as care of the dead body.” She has also gained YouTube fame with her series “Ask a Mortician,” using humor and plain talk to address myriad death issues, from the cost of funeral services to death denial.

Throughout the history of humankind, one wonders what are the relative numbers of deceased who were naturally composted, whether left lying on a battlefield or bulldozed into a mass grave or swept away by a natural disaster.

Ask a Mortician