Saturday, March 22, 2008
The world economy may well be headed for the “Mother of all course corrections.” Economists use the term “course correction” to talk about things like the overall direction of the economy, changes in economic policy, changes in the specific plans of a major corporation, or a group of businesses forming a segment of the economy. Think of a corporation deciding to focus its marketing on the aging ‘baby boomers’ as a course correction. A nation trying to create a more favorable balance of trade by reducing or increasing tariffs would be a policy course correction. These are conscious decisions aimed at affecting some part of the economy or market.
The term, “course correction” is rarely used regarding consumers. You will hear reports of consumer spending, consumer confidence or consumer preferences, but not “consumer course correction.” The implication is that while consumers might respond to economic conditions by either spending or saving more, consumers are not thought of in terms have having any kind of unified consciousness like a corporation. Their decisions are seen as a reaction to something, rather than a planned and coordinated response to direct a change in the economy. According to standard economics, if credit is tight, the consumer spends less and if credit is loose, the consumer racks up their credit card balances. The consumer is seen as sheep who are led by their collective noses by mass advertising and they will buy just about anything if the marketing is done right.
Historically, this has been true. Consumers have jumped at the latest fads, fashions and gadgets in a system designed for perpetual consumption. Credit has flowed freely and the consumer has almost enjoyed its courtship with corporations. Awards for best commercials attest to this marriage and ads for new products and ‘sales’ are read religiously. The shopping frenzy around holidays is an embarrassment. The consumer is the follower that has been led by the nose by big corporations.
We are all familiar with the status of the current economy. The sub-prime mortgage crisis is playing havoc with businesses and consumers. Oil prices have and will continue to climb robbing precious dollars from the already precarious economy. Food prices are rising and banks and lending institutions are scrambling for survival. The Dow, which is really based on only 30 companies, is trying desperately to stabilize. All in all, not a pretty picture as consumer confidence wanes and retail sales decline. Keep one thing in mind, all of this economic uproar is because you, the consumer, are not buying as much as ‘they’ want you to. Our economy is based upon buy, break and throw away and buy again. It is here that a “consumer course correction” may occur.
Could this be the end of the Age of Consumption? Is it possible that the light at the end of this economic tunnel is that the consumer will finally ‘decide’ what it wants rather
than being ‘told’ what it wants? As prices for the basic, food, clothing and shelter continue to skyrocket, reckless consumption will have to come to an end. This is a positive event. The planet is hurting. We are raping it of its resources, destroying the natural balance and web of life and altering its climate. In the wake of growing natural disasters, the time of reckless use of resources to feed an insatiable business appetite must come to an end. Remember, the bottom line of business is to get you to consume for the sake of consumption. It has nothing to do with socially conscious or ‘green’ buying. However, the consumer will soon find itself in a position to dictate what it wants for products. Consumers will have to make choices between disposable garbage and products of true and lasting value. The consumer can demand quality and chemical free food. The consumer can demand high mpg, non-polluting vehicles. The consumer can demand the elimination of poisonous plastic food containers. The consumer can demand products that last and that are made according to high safety standards. The consumer can demand a rapid change to alternative, clean and renewable energy resources.
How does the consumer cause a course correction? It merely spends it money on those items that meet socially responsible goals. The consumer can only buy those products packaged in glass. They can buy the higher, albeit foreign, mileage cars. They can stop wasting money on poor quality fast foods. It can stop taking their children to worthy events and activities and save gas. After a while, pressure will build for change.
They can stop attending social functions and meeting and hearings. By using their spending and their time in a socially conscious way, the consumer can take control of the economy.
All of this may sound like wishful thinking. But as the dollar is reduced in value and as travel becomes too costly, decisions will have to be made. The economy will never again be ‘business as usual.’ The consumer cannot afford it and the planet cannot afford it. Does this mean suffering and sacrifice? No, it means that the consumer will soon be in a position to do what politicians and businesses have been unwilling to do, to create a sane and rational world where humanity and nature live in harmony and balance.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
No matter where we turn or what we study, we keep coming to the same conclusion; we are poisoning the planet and all that dwells here. The recent study by the Biodiversity Research Institute in Gorham, Maine found that bird eggs for “every” part of the state contained a virtual cornucopia of toxic chemicals. This was found in every habitat from city to remote forests. Chemicals found included those from stain resistant carpets (PFCs) to DDT which was banned decades ago. One researcher said, “I am absolutely convinced that I have all these toxins in myself. I’m starting to really wonder what other compounds are out there.”
Other recent reports have cited the dangers of plastic bottles to the health of children and adults leading to places like San Francisco trying to ban certain plastics found in children’s toys and drinking bottles. A study conducted in 2005 in Washington found, “Every person tested had at least 26 and as many as 39 of the toxic chemicals we looked for in his or her body. This pollution in people came from everyday activities and products.” The recent debated safety of Phthalates comes to mind as this substance was found in the test subjects. One of the conclusions reached was that, “… the toxic chemicals in our bodies are cause for concern because they can lead to health problems such as infertility and learning deficits.”
A similar 2007 study in Maine reached the same conclusions as those on the opposite side of nation. According to the Lewiston Sun Journal article in June of 2007, “The chemicals that found their way into people included phthalates, used to soften hard plastics; PDBE, a widely used flame retardant; and perfluorinated chemicals, used in protective and stain-free coatings. Three of the chemicals - arsenic, lead and mercury - are known to be toxic to humans, but others like phthalates are unregulated. Thus, it's unclear what level is considered safe.”
Recently women in Washington, Montana, British Columbia and Oregon were studied to determine the levels of flame retardant PBDEs in their breast milk. Levels found ranged “from 6 to 321 parts per billion - and the numbers are thought to be doubling every two to five years.” An article on the study noted that, “The problem is there are 80,000 to 100,000 chemicals placed in the marketplace without any testing to determine their effects on humans; PBDEs replaced a chemical previously found to be toxic."
Stories continue to emerge regarding toxins in shellfish and sea mammals and there are the never ending articles about chemicals and hormones found in our food and the toxic toys from China. From a health viewpoint, it is clear that we are filling our bodies and those of our children with chemicals which are responsible for a wide ranging list of diseases and symptoms. It is known in biology that one of the leading causes of biological mutation is environmental stress on an organism. We are obviously being stressed and it is anyone’s guess as to the impact that these toxins will have on the future health of humanity. Conclusions are not encouraging and it should be clear that if you poison the planet, its vegetation and wildlife, there can be little doubt about what we are doing to ourselves.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Many are destroying our children with poison and they are doing it legally! If the scenario that follows represents your way of life, then you are doing it, too. You have a baby and feed it milk in a warmed up plastic bottle. You give it plastic teething toys to bite on. All of its toys are made from plastic and they frequently find their way into baby’s mouth. After a certain amount of time passes, the child graduates to a “sippy cup” which is also often heated. Cereal and mashed fruit and vegetables are heated in a plastic bowl. When you take the child out its food is packed in plastic containers. It is given water and milk from plastic containers. As a parent on the go, food is often quick heated in plastic containers in the micro wave. In school, all of the food products consumed are bought and stored in plastic. The hot dog is topped with condiments, all packaged in plastic. All of the food products in the house are in plastic containers. If this is your life, you are poisoning your child and yourself.
The average consumer has been led to believe that all of these plastic products are safe. The plastic producers claim they are safe and the government has sided with big money. There have been some stories in the news about the danger of some plastic products but as a whole, the industry still maintains that their products are of little or no danger. There are, however, some keys pieces of information that has not received adequate news coverage. According to a study by the University of Rochester, many plastic products contain endocrine disruptors. These disruptors get into the system by drinking out of plastic bottles and they mimic the action of female hormones. Called polyethylene terephthalate, this substance increases female hormones in boys and leads to increased risk of cancer and early onset puberty in girls. The average boy today has a sperm count half that of his grandfather.
An early red flag about the dangers of plastic was raised in 1999 by ABC’s 20/20.
Bisphenol A, (or BPA), was the chemical singled out in this particular. In laboratory tests, Consumers Union found that small amounts of the additive BPA leach out of the plastic baby bottles and end up in babies milk. “The effect that is of concern here is a disruption of the developmental process. This could affect intelligence. It could affect behavior. It could affect learning ability. It could affect reproductive ability, fertility many years after the exposure occurs." One cannot help but wonder if the growing ADHD epidemic is connected to the use of plastics.
In an article by Jeremy Jacquot called, “Chemical Found in Plastic Linked to reproductive disorders,” BPA has for the first time been linked to female reproductive disorders in a strongly-worded statement released by 38 scientists and published online in the journal Reproductive Toxicology. “After reviewing close to 700 studies, the scientists determined that people are regularly exposed to BPA levels that exceed those harmful to lab animals — singling out infants and fetuses as the most vulnerable. The statement was accompanied by a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) study that found that uterine damage caused by BPA exposure in newborn animals might predict a host of reproductive disorders in women — including endometriosis, cystic ovaries, fibroids and cancers.”
In December 2007, CNN’s Health Watch noted that, “There is little dispute that the chemical can disrupt the hormonal system, but scientists differ markedly on whether very low doses found in food and beverage containers can be harmful. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sides with the plastics industry that BPA-based products do not pose a health risk.” The report noted that, “With more than 6 million pounds produced in the United States each year, bisphenol A is found in dental sealants, the liners of food cans, CDs and DVDs, eyeglasses and hundreds of household goods.
Citing multiple studies in the United States, Europe and Japan, the chemicals industry maintains that polycarbonate bottles contain little BPA and leach traces considered too low to harm humans.
But critics point to an influx of animal studies linking low doses to a wide variety of ailments -- from breast and prostate cancer, obesity and hyperactivity, to miscarriages and other reproductive failures.” The report noted that Phthalates, found in everything from PVC (water pipes) to shampoos also has a link to a full slate of diseases and birth defects. A recent CDC study showed that phthalates were found in a test group that they studied and that levels once touted as safe, were, in fact, not. According to the CNN report, “Studies have shown that BPA leaches out of polycarbonate containers and metal cans, and have linked exposure to BPA to cancer, impaired immune function, early puberty, obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity, among other problems.”
According to an article in the California Chronicle, “More than 150 government-funded studies have shown health effects in animals at extremely low doses of BPA--sometimes 2,000 times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) safe levels.
This flies in the face of conventional wisdom when it comes to establishing a so-called "safe level" of exposure to BPA. According to the Environment California report, the assertion that harm can be caused only by high levels of a chemical is outdated thinking. If not revised to take into account the latest findings, such thinking could result in great harm to public health.”
The U.S. government seems to stand alone on the poisoning effects of plastic. Japan and the E.U have now banned certain plastic containers and the San Francisco, Maryland and Canada have joined the anti-plastic movement. It all comes back to, who do you trust? There is little doubt that these plastic products are killing us and poisoning our children. Our government has been silent as it wants “more testing.” All one has to do is to talk to any school system and ask them about behavior problems. Have we just become a nation of poor parenting, or is there something more sinister occurring? Add to this issue other environmental stresses placed on our youth by poor nutrition, fast foods, high energy drinks and environmental degradation and there can be little doubt that we are poisoning our children-legally.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
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Dr. Capista received his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology from LaSalle University and went on to earn his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) from Temple University School of Dentistry in 1976. He completed a general practice residency at Philadelphia General Hospital.
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