Lately I've been studying the use of herbs and native plants as food and medicines. I'm reading a great book called "The Village Herbalist: Sharing Plant Medicines with Family and Community" by Nancy and Michael Phillips. Plants are the longtime medicine of the people. They are local and available to all who can forage or have a small plot of soil to grow in. The wisdom is passed on through generations and communities, not expensive medical schools.
Our predominant health care system is the medicine of the corporations. It views all illness as isolated failing body systems, rather than as a whole person who doesn't feel well. According to the book 70 to 80 percent of people who go to the doctor have nothing wrong with them that couldn't be cured by a vacation, a pay raise or relief from everyday stress. But go to the doctor we do, rather than address the bigger problem of an unfulfilling and stressed out life. There we hand over our power to the experts once again and demand an instant fix. We are so disconnected from our own ability to heal. Of course I'm grateful for modern surgery and antibiotics when they are really needed. But my friend Heather pointed out in her last cartoon (http://thecowgoddess.com/) that the C-section rate in the US has jumped again, all the way up to 29%. It's indicative of how medicalized and dangerous our health care system really is.
Before the widespread adoption of western allopathic medicine as the "norm", people relied heavily on plants to help them heal. The previous 100,000 years or so are now called "alternative" medicine. But more and more people have begun using herbs, and many people, native Americans among them, never stopped using them. People are growing them in window boxes, foraging for them in fields, and buying them all packaged up neatly from large herb companies.
So this brings us to the action of the day: the Bureau of Land Management wants to triple the amount of pesticides sprayed on public lands in the West next year. Yes, they actually already spray tons of the toxic crap on public wildlands. Poisons rain down every year on the wild plants and animals and fish and soil and they want to dump even more. Their stated reasons are to reduce wildfires and protect ecosystems from invasive weeds. But Californians for Alternatives to Toxics says the BLM can control unwanted vegetation, including many invasive species, without the use of toxic chemicals. Read more about that here: http://www.alternatives2toxics.org/invasivespecies.htm
Spraying 18 different pesticides over 932,000 acres of public lands will result in direct, indirect and cumulative effects to the environment and human health. Water quality and soil productivity may be reduced to unsafe levels. Non-targeted vegetation like native healing plants and important habitats for endangered wildlife (terrestrial and aquatic) will all suffer greatly from the proposed toxic dousing. Native peoples would be specifically exposed to risk during plant gathering practices. The workers applying these hazardous chemicals would be particularly at risk. Everyone who enjoys the parks and trails would also be at risk. For more information on the toxic dangers of pesticides please see CATs¹ website at http://www.alternatives2toxics.org/.
It's a really bad plan. But it's not set in stone yet and YOU can weigh in on it. The BLM is taking public comment until January 9th, 2006. The BLM's Draft PEIS for Herbicide Vegetation Treatments is available in electronic form at http://www.blm.gov/nhp/spotlight/VegEIS/ .
To provide written comments write to:
Brian Amme, Project Manager BLM
P.O. Box 12000
Reno, NV 89520-0006
Comments may also be faxed to 775-861-6712, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
CATs is supporting Alternative C, the no herbicide use alternative. There's a sample letter below. I borrowed heavily from the CATs sample letter. Feel free to copy any and all of it.
Re: BLM Programmatic EIS for Herbicide Vegetation Treatments in 17 Western States
Dear Public Official,
I have recently learned of the proposed herbicide spraying on BLM lands in the western states. As a user of public lands, I am writing to express my outrage about the large amounts of poisons proposed in these plans. I ask you to do everything in your power to stop the use of pesticides on our public lands.
I am concerned that the BLM will be more than tripling its current herbicide use, using both aerial and ground based methods, over forests, rangelands, grasslands, and aquatic natural areas, totaling 932,000 sprayed acres annually. I do not approve of this excessive and irresponsible toxic chemical spraying and especially of the use of such persistent and mobile chemicals, including known developmental and reproductive toxins. Several of the herbicides proposed do even not have products currently registered for use by the California by the Department of Pesticide Regulation.
These chemicals will do irreparable damage to the natural surroundings and public lands I enjoy. These ill-conceived spray plans will negatively impact water quality, soils productivity, native vegetation and wildlife (terrestrial and aquatic), native peoples (during cultural plant gathering practices), workers (those applying these hazardous chemicals), not to mention members of the public who use and live near these lands. These plans are unnecessary and unsafe for both human and environmental health.
Public land management should be based on long-term ecological health, the best science available, and should err on the side of safety and conservation. I am troubled that massive amounts of extremely toxic poisons are being justified using peoples fear of catastrophic wildfires and invasion of invasive species. Non-herbicide vegetation treatment options are available.
The proposed actions appear to meet financial needs of chemical companies and other large corporate interests, rather than support ecological integrity and public interests.
I urge you to support Alternative C, the no herbicide use alternative, in the Programmatic EIS. I strongly urge you to utilize alternative, non-chemical treatment methods. Please use the power of your office to help put an end to these toxic spray proposals in our public lands and protect our forests, rangelands, and watersheds.