This. Now.

Want to do something about climate catastrophe and pollution? This 2018 study puts consumer buying habits in the crosshairs. Turns out the shampoos, fragrances, and other toxic consumer products we buy and use so blithely emit enough volatile organic compounds to contribute a whopping 38% to the urban air pollution. This is almost as much as gas and diesel fumes, and much more than industrial sources. But these toxic consumer products comprise only 4% of the mass. This means your Axe body spray is probably doing more immediate and lasting harm to the air than a gallon of gasoline left uncapped. And that’s outdoors! Think about the effects of these chemicals on indoor air.

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From NOAA and the Air Quality Research Center at U.C. Davis: Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions, B.C. McDonald et. al. Science, Feb. 16, 2018.

Article about this study: Consumer, Industrial Products Overtake Transportation as Source of Urban Air Pollution. Download PDF of study here.


I’m ecstatic to hear of these findings, but as a person who is exquisitely attuned to symptoms of poisoning upon contact with thousands of consumer products, I could have told you this many years ago. I knew intuitively that consumer products made with volatile organic compounds (including fragrances and scented personal care products) were playing a much larger role in climate catastrophe–as well as dangers to public health–than most people would want to admit. And that what’s happening on our planet with pollution and climate change isn’t just due to the greed of corporations and governments (aka “those guys over there”), but also due to the gullibility and thoughtlessness of the average consumer. Every single freakin’ one of us.

But hey, I’m a “Cassandra in the Coal Mine” (people believe canaries and run for their lives–they don’t listen to human “canaries” at all). We were all talking about this 30, 20, 10, 5 years ago, and just yesterday too. You all don’t listen, at your peril.

Stop Buying That Shit

Think of the difference we could make if we all just stopped buying that stuff? We may not be able to do much about arson in the Amazon, but we COULD make a huge difference to our forests by not buying palm oil unless we’re sure it’s sustainably sourced.

In the same way, we have it in our power to substantially cut back on pollutants in our air, water, and soil (thus diminishing the chemicals which lodge in the bodies of your kids and all those cute forest animals and water mammals). Forget that bottle of fake strawberry body rub or “Juicy Lucy Mango-Citrus shampoo.” Save your cash instead for a nice evening out, perhaps at a restaurant with a “fragrance-free” policy so you can actually taste your food instead of another diner’s heavily applied “designer fragrance.” Or put it a college fund so your children won’t have to become indentured serfs at a One Percenter’s golf course or franchised BDSM dungeon in order to pay for their college education. (Not that I have anything against BDSM–it’s just that I don’t think sex workers are going to have many rights under such circumstances.)

Happy and Fierce

Thanks to this post in Linda Sepp’s excellent blog, Seriously Sensitive to Pollution, I made two happy discoveries yesterday. One was to Health Justice Commons, and through them, a link to the study above. Health Justice Commons also wrote THE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND THOUGHTFUL statement of support for people with multiple chemical sensitivities and environmental illnesses EVER.  I’ve become an instant fan of the organization.

And…because I’m now in the midst of my own thirty-year anniversary of multiple chemical sensitivity, which began during my pregnancy with my first child, I’ve finally simply had it. Up to here, in fact. I’m already socially isolated AF, with a declining career, and since my beautiful Trickster God is quite happy to support me in going all “Lokasenna” over this issue, I’m putting the rest of my sadly limited but bizarrely interesting life on the line. For this issue and a few others.

Someone just please take care of my cats when I’ve finally bit the dust after throwing myself repeatedly at windmills.

Hail Loki! Eco-Lokeans Unite!

 

 

 

I Has Cats

I don’t know how this “has cats” (or “has” anything) thing got started but there it is. I “has” ’em, and I’m about to have more. My Lokean “Dog Days of Summer” have turned into a Nile Flood of Cat Rescues (all praise to Bastet!). (Note: previous sentence contains nerdy references to traditions pertaining to the rising of Sirius).

Kia'i and Keola
Newest rescue kittens. Photo credit: L.S. Sides

Now, I already have (below, left to right), the peerless Popoki, the sweet and skittish Niblet, the curious Freya, and Varda the Valiant. The last three, all rescue cats. Niblet was a tiny little thing found between two boards in a back yard in Richmond, CA, and was fostered by a dear friend. When I saw his photo on her cell phone I realized he’d be the new companion for Popoki. Niblet and Popoki went Hawai’i with me, and back again, and seriously–their cat airline miles can go to some other luckless feline because they are NEVER setting paw on a plane again. Ever.

Freya was a just a kitten, dying of dehydration in the middle of Main Street in Upper Lake. She was scooped off the street and restored to health by a woman I’ll call Ruby, an exceptionally compassionate feeder and rescuer of cats. Ruby would not only feed the strays, but got as many neutered and spayed as she could, on her slim income. I met Freya in Ruby’s store, and I’d been thinking of getting a third cat, and suddenly here she was, in my arms.  Freya is the ultimate cat of curiousity–and a real diva besides. Popoki was slow to warm up to her (and still ignores her as much as possible) and Niblet (a male) was fascinated yet intimidated. Freya sits at my right hand, in the high chair my kids used to use, because otherwise she’d sit on my computer. Freya likes having her own throne…

Varda, full grown but only as large as a teenage cat, was a stray that inhabited the area under the office cottage I briefly rented in Upper Lake. She’s possibly a Bombay breed. She was being fed by a kindly construction worker and had become quasi-friendly. She’d had a twin brother, apparently, and the construction worker called them Jack and Jill. But one day the brother disappeared and the sister was left on her own. She still lived under the cottage and both the construction worker and I fed her. Then the cold winter winds began to blow. Little Jill became very ill, but was smart enough to actually go to Ruby’s shop for care. I guess the word on the street among Upper Lake strays was that Ruby was a dame with a heart of gold. (And that she was.) I told Ruby that if she could nurse the cat over the weekend, I’d get her to the vet on Monday and then adopt her. “Jill” became “Varda,” and after the usual two weeks of recovering from her respiratory infection and being sequestered in a spare room, joined my indoor cat family. (Varda is from Tolkien, another name for Elbereth, a goddess of the Elf pantheon.)

It took about a year for everybody to adjust to each other. Popoki, who has always been somewhat aloof anyway, still keeps to herself, mostly out of reach of the others. She’s over ten now and would rather ignore the social turmoil that Freya likes to create, because Freya gets in everybody’s face.

Meanwhile, Ruby had parked four of her cats in the woodshop that is now Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. She’d fallen on hard times, had to live in a tent on some land down the road, and wasn’t allowed to have her cats with her. Some stayed at her shop. This went on for a few months, then she and her partner decided to move across country with a van full of their other pets. At the last minute she asked if she could leave three of her cats behind, promising to send money for cat food every month. Well… I knew how that would go…but what could I do? Say “no” and have her take them to Animal Control?

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Arya, silver grey, celadon eyes, extra toes.

So Meowington (my dear, late, lamented Temple Cat), Khu (a Siamese), and the nameless grey female with extra toes (now called Arya), were left behind. Khu was adopted by people across the street. Meowington stayed on the premises and ruled the yard until the baby rattlesnake bit him. Arya stayed in the rafters for awhile then suddenly bolted, living rough under boards and decks and in bushes for a year until I gradually lured her back into my yard with lots of canned food. (Meowington used to chase her off). So now Arya is my outdoor cat companion and likes scritches, petting, brushing as much as she likes the regular grub. Should I take her indoors? I don’t know how she’d do–she is as skittish as Niblet in some ways, and very independent. Popoki would probably despise her–and me–and Freya would probably bully her. Arya’s never wanted to go back into the woodshed/Temple and doesn’t seem interested in my house either. But we’re just about at that point where I will be able to pick her up, put her in a crate, and get her to the vet for shots (Crystal had had her spayed long ago).

And now everything is about to change. Keola (“Life”) and Kia’i (“Protector”) are part of a feral family from a trailer park in “K-Ville,” halfway around the lake. They are currently sequestered in that spare room of mine, recovering from their own surgeries. I had thought their ears would be clipped, as I intended them for yard cats, but they weren’t. Now I’m not sure what to do. I figured, being kittens, that Arya would be less freaked about them–and better able to keep her position as Queen of the Yard.

But here’s the rub. My compassionate friend in K-Ville, who has been caring for the mother and her four kittens ever since they showed up in her yard, can’t find homes for the other three–Mama Bitzi, another tabby female kitten, and a fluffy white Siamese male kitten. They are facing extermination. The trailer park has rules and there have already been complaints about too many cats, and cat poop in other people’s gardens. My friend has to do something quick.

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Meme. Unknown source.

I can’t stand the thought of these animals being put down. I have a very big yard, with outbuildings and a wild hill behind me. None of my neighbors will be bothered by cat poop (downside: bear, foxes, wild cats…). And I like the idea of keeping the family together as long as everyone is spayed or neutered. (I had a similar gig with a multi-generational feral cat family that ruled the yard around my house in Pahoa, Hawai’i. Before I moved back to CA, I got them all spayed and neutered and moved to an animal sanctuary–along with a large donation.)

Anyway…I volunteered to take the whole family onto the property. My compassionate friend will get flea treatment for the cats, and have the other two kittens spayed and neutered.

My only worry is Arya. I don’t want her chased off “her” turf again by a new group of cats. I’ve worked too hard, built up too much trust, to have her go back to living rough. I’m trying to figure out how to make the transition easier for everyone involved, especially her. Meanwhile, my indoor cats are wondering about the strange smells coming from the spare room…

I’m asking for special blessings from Freya (the goddess) and Bastet. I has cats. Boy, do I has cats.

####

Surgery, Surgery

Let’s overshare, shall we? I got some unwelcome news the other day–though it wasn’t exactly a surprise–and sadly, I doubt my sojourn at an Adventist hospital will be anything like the video below. No medical staff in TERF bangs and black leather lab coats. No long-haired singing surgeons. And though the one I’ve got promised me two small tattoos on the inside of my colon, I doubt I’ll be sporting a teensy skull and crossbones in my “anatomy, anatomy… ”

Shucks. My own body is sooooo not “Zydrate” cool. And unlike the character of Amber Sweet in Repo! The Genetic Opera, I won’t be getting anything as simple as an eyelash transplant. Truth be told, I’ve got two different sets of surgical events coming up in my near future. The question at the moment is whether they can be done on the same day by two separate surgeons or not.

But there’s actually a point to this blog post–I’m not just sobbing into a witchy cup of herbal tea.

Surgery as a Liminal Space Challenge

If I have to go through this (and it appears that I do), I want more than the best possible outcome for my old lady body. I want my steel tempered and my temper adamant. I want my Will ‘o the Witch firmly in place, and a surfeit of crispy, creamy offerings tossed to the Guardians of all Thresholds, well in advance. I want to hallow the hospital ground and make like an earnest animist with the spirits of surgical instruments. And even though the Adventist god is not one of mine, I’ll offer respect there too. Pre-surgery hypnosis? That’s on my list. As of this moment, I am in training.

Organizing Preparation

In the next couple of days I’ll be creating a program based on physical, magical, mental, and spiritual steps I can take to prevail in this liminal space challenge. I’m not boasting here–I’m scared and I don’t want to be. I figure if I can approach preparation, surgery, and recovery with everything I’ve learned in my life to date, I can replace that fear with proactive, powerful mindsets and actions. I may fall short of the bad-ass triumph I imagine today, but I’ll certainly be much better off doing this than approaching my wyrd passively, as a “patient.”

So I’ll reaquainting myself with certain books in my library, such as Jason Miller’s The Elements of Spellcrafting and Aidan Wachter’s Six Ways.

Miller’s book contains a method for enchanting not just the larger goal (“a successful surgery and recovery”) but also every single step along the way. He writes:

“How enchantable is your body? How enchantable are your habits? How enchantable is your environment? These are questions to ask when we are doing healing magic. Magic, energy healing, and alternative medicine all help, but they are not going to rewrite your DNA, replace your gut bacteria, or remove the need for effort and change on your part” (pp. 40-41).

Exactly. Words to live by.

As for Wachter’s book, lots and lots of ways to work with the unseen beings and energies of what he calls “The Field.” I’ll be looking to this book (and others) for ways to court and nurture alliances, remove inner and outer obstacles to success and healing, and ways to call in the logistics and support help I’m going to need–that kind of thing.

Other practices that I’ll fold into this will include Ho’oponopono (the real kind), medical self-hypnosis, wards against fragrance and chemical exposures while in the hospital, enchantments for transportation and the highways, blessings and protections for my cats while I’m away, and so on.

Asking the Spirit World for Help

As I’ve said often, I’m a polytheist. I have some wonderful deities that I honor on an almost daily basis (sometimes I miss a day). And I work with and honor my ancestors and make offerings to the local wights. I probably need to get with the wights over there near the hospital, to ask them for safe harbor and safe passage. And there will be a lot of consultation and divination throughout.

There’s a lot to do. I also have to figure out medicare in the middle of all this.

But I do have time to over-prepare. After this blog I won’t be saying much more than what I’ve written today. I believe in secrecy during magic, in cultivating a quiet and determined mind. But I write this blog today because there may be the start of a roadmap here for someone else facing surgery or medical procedures.

The most important element is to approach each surgery as a liminal challenge, a rite of passage, and as an opportunity to “level up.” I expect to be even more of a bad-ass after this, with a much improved quality of life.

“May there be peace between us for all of our days.”

####

Ready for Reverence

Okay, so the neighborhood bear broke my favorite red flowerpot in the middle of the night and traumatized the geranium that was barely holding on. And the turkey flock who takes over my yard at least twice a day, pecking for bugs or raiding the outdoor cat’s food dish, scrapes and scratches the crab grass to bits (not that I much care). Flocks of quail skitter through as well, never any trouble. Someone spotted a family of foxes the other day, and so now I’m worried about the feral kittens I’ve just taken on…

As “difficult” as I might find my animal relatives from time to time (black widow spider, do you really need to make your web in the coil of my garden hose?) I am sure it’s nowhere near as difficult as they find me–us–humans. As a species we are clearly beyond insane and every single creature on this planet probably suffers from Post-Human Trauma Syndrome. I am not joking.

But I am pleased by my visitors, even the clumsy bear. And the earth is generous to me. I eat from this land. My neighborhood is fed by a spring–a real, living spring!–and I bless it every day. I feel emotionally held by the trees, mountain, and lake that I see from my window and greet each morning. And I believe that this act of greeting is what allows me to engage with them in a deeper way. This engagement leads to communication (I think) which engenders respect (at least on my end), which transforms into reverence (from me) for most of what’s around me. (I’m not feeling much reverence for the neighbors who were arguing loudly yesterday afternoon.)

As a child, I think I lived this way naturally. Then I forgot it for a long time. And now near the end of my life, I’m relearning and living this way again. I’m cultivating this life with devotional practices, so what I do can look a little quaint. I don’t mind. For a long time, I’ve been seeking some way to live reverently.

Yearning for Justice and an Earth-Reverent Life

Except for the uber-rich and the sociopaths who fancy themselves at the top of corporate and governmental “food chains,” I feel that many of the rest of us humans are longing for reverence. We want to get back into balance, back to a state of what the Kanaka Maoli would call “aloha ‘aina” (loving the land). We want people, plants, animals, and our planet to be treated fairly again. We need to learn how to deal fairly with all that is, ourselves.

I suspect that a yearning for an Earth-reverent life as well as justice are reasons that Mauna Kea and its Protectors (Kia’i) have become an international flashpoint this summer. Thinking and feeling people (not those who are lumpish with greed and glutted with power) see how bad it’s gotten and how much worse it can and will get. Unless… unless… unless we come together. Unless we learn how to make community again–if we live among people where such skills are rusty–and to include the Earth and its creatures in that community, as equals and stakeholders. We need a world where our mountains, forests, rivers, deserts, lakes, species, and oceans are “people” too, with legal rights. (Corporations are just golems. They shouldn’t have rights at all.)

The animists are right, you know. All matter is imbued with consciousness. Studies show…

As for justice, we also need to ensure that legal human rights are strictly observed as well, that the rights of indigenous and aboriginal peoples are upheld and strengthened. It’s a key element in the only positive future we can possibly achieve. The health and safety of every human, every creature on this planet, and the planet itself depends on our taking this very, very seriously.

And it’s imperative that those who make a request of a mountain or a lake–or an indigenous or aboriginal community–learn to take “no” for an answer, if that’s the answer that’s given. Because you know what? Consent counts. It really does. And no amount of wheedling or PR spin can change that. TMT guys are coming on like rapists, frankly, and their “you know you want it” approach to the mountain is disgusting to the rest of us.

This stunning short film, featuring Jason Momoa and a number of the Mauna Kea Kia’i, makes these issues abundantly clear, in case it wasn’t clear enough already.

Love of Place

Almost every Hawaiian mele (song) and oli (chant) is either about a beloved place, or includes references to beloved places. Almost every single one. Places aren’t “just” locations for family and community life, they ARE family. That’s as near as I can express it. I think I’ve got it nearly right.

Other examples of passionate love of place: I think of the French writer Colette, who wrote so movingly about the countryside of her childhood.

I’ve always been deeply affected by places I’ve lived, even if briefly. I attach to houses and landscape features very easily and mourn when I have to leave them.  Themes of exile and homesickness are strong in my life, and these feelings of longing are often unbearable. I still miss “Nemo’s Rock” in the Coronado tide pools and the houses on Loma Avenue and Loma Lane, not far from the beach. I deeply mourn the cottage across from La Jolla Cove (below) where I lived as a teenager (it’s now demolished). I remember the light and feel of the air in La Jolla so vividly that I’ve cried over it. Certain places where I’ve lived in San Francisco and Albany also still clutch at my heart. I dearly miss the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. I used to go there in the early morning, after dropping my first kid off at preschool, and sip green tea in the teahouse. Sometimes rain would dapple the koi ponds.

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La Jolla Cove House, several decades before I lived there. Next to the Red Rest and Red Roost beach houses.
Amy&PatHawai'i
The cinderblock apartment building in Honolulu. I’m with my little brother Patrick. 1959.

But the island of O’ahu gave me my first experience with exile and homesickness. When I was five I lived on Lipe’epe’e Street in Waikiki. Though my family was there for less than a year, the feel of the ocean water, the sand beneath my feet, flowers and trees, and the sight of the Ko’olau Range east of Honolulu, all were absorbed by my soul. Later, I must have buried my yearning for Hawai’i as surely as I squashed feelings of missing my father. I say that because my yearning roared to life when (1) I saw the Hokule’a voyaging canoe when it visited San Francisco, and (2) when I returned to the islands with a series of visits starting in 2000–first Maui, then Hawai’i island. On Maui and Hawai’i I experienced a bewildering assortment of numinous and healing experiences. These were  confusing because I have no genealogical connection to explain them. For many years, I felt like I was living with one foot in California, the other in Hawai’i.

I moved to Hawai’i Island in 2016, living on Mano Street in Pahoa for seventeen months. Even though I moved there with the expectation of being happy “at last,” it was a bad time for me. I had post-divorce crazies, terrible social anxiety and depression, frequent suicidality, and a longtime love affair gone wrong. But in that house on Mano Street, I began my inquiries into magic, refined my polytheism, and began to cultivate spirit relationships through devotional practices. It’s ironic. I’d prayed for so long to be allowed to move to Hawai’i, and once I was there, I prayed fervently for permission to leave. When I finally got my dismissal from the Powers there, I made the most costly and physically devastating move of my life.

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Mano Street, Pahoa. Hawaiian flag hung at the back of the garage. 2016.

But would it surprise you if I told you that now I miss my house and the Puna district? I miss the thirty-foot tall hibiscus trees dripping red blossoms on all three sides of my yard. I miss the ‘ohia lehua trees. I miss the spaciousness of my house, its high ceiling and large windows that looked out on jungle all around me. I miss my “difficult” and noisy neighbors: the shrill coqui frogs and gutteral cane toads. I miss picking up fallen coconuts; the “bathtubs” of morning rain dumped on my metal roof (which scared the cats until they got used to the noise); wild orchids and ti plants; the Ahalanui Warm Ponds (covered with lava now); the young coconut grove and view of the ocean from Kalapana, just across from Uncle Robert’s place. I miss driving the Red Road from Hawaiian Beaches past the “Four Corners.” I miss Mauna Loa and Kilauea. And yes, I miss Mauna Kea.

I believe it is natural for human beings to cherish the soil where they live, and to feel kinship with it.

So you see, Mauna Kea, is a cherished ancestor, as well as a beloved place, so how could the Kanaka Maoli ever consent to simply hand it over to people who have no reverent life at all? And why should the Kanaka have ever been asked this in the first place? Why should we ask them to break their hearts simply at the whim of a science that could go elsewhere?

Ku Kia’i Mauna

####

Loki: Proving the Poison

The fragrance industry, known to be irresponsible, has dared to name a toxic fragrance after Loki, a deity whose lore includes a horrific story of his sufferings from poison. Apparently independent perfumers on Etsy are following suit. Sigh… As a Lokean and as a person with environmental illness, I’m thoroughly appalled. My UPG? Loki, the arch foe of hypocrisy, would not be a fan of any of this.

Loki's Torment

For an ecological and spiritual take on this, see My Gods Are Fragrance Free.

And if you’re not convinced that fragrance chemicals equal poison, here’s some science. These are just a few of the studies and articles out there.


Fragrance and Essential Oil Toxicity: Recent Articles and Studies

List Under Construction. Check back often for new articles and studies. 


Early Articles, Information

Wallace, L., W. Nelson, E. Pellizzari, J. Raymer, AND K. Thomas. Identification of polar volatile organic compounds in consumer products and common microenvironments. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., EPA/600/D-91/074 (NTIS PB91182865), 1991.

Wallace, L. Human exposure to volatile organic pollutants: Implications for indoor air studiesAnnual Review of Energy and the Environment, 2001 26:1, 269-301

Kendall, J. Health Risks from Perfume: The Most Common Chemicals Found in Thirty-One Fragrance Products by a 1991 EPA Study. 1995. [Flyer based on Wallace, L. 1991 EPA study above and material safety data sheets.]

Wilcox, P.P. Addendum to Julia Kendall’s flyer, above. 1995.


More Recent Studies

Steinemann, AC. National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Feb. 16, 2018. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001272

[Quote from abstract] “Results: Among the population, 12.8% report medically diagnosed MCS and 25.9% report chemical sensitivity. Of those with MCS, 86.2% experience health problems, such as migraine headaches, when exposed to fragranced consumer products; 71.0% are asthmatic; 70.3% cannot access places that use fragranced products such as air fresheners; and 60.7% lost workdays or a job in the past year due to fragranced products in the workplace.” 

Steinemann AC, et al. Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2010. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002

Steinemann, A.C. Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29(1):32-38 · January 2009.
doi: 10.1016/j.eiar.2008.05.002

[Quote from Abstract]  “Fragranced consumer products—such as air fresheners, laundry supplies, personal care products, and cleaners—are widely used in homes, businesses, institutions, and public places. While prevalent, these products can contain chemicals that are not disclosed to the public through product labels or material safety data sheets (MSDSs). What are some of these chemicals and what limits their disclosure? This article investigates these questions, and brings new pieces of evidence to the science, health, and policy puzzle. Results from a regulatory analysis, coupled with a chemical analysis of six best-selling products (three air fresheners and three laundry supplies), provide several findings. First, no law in the U.S. requires disclosure of all chemical ingredients in consumer products or in fragrances. Second, in these six products, nearly 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were identified, but none of the VOCs were listed on any product label, and one was listed on one MSDS. Third, of these identified VOCs, ten are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, with three (acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and 1,4-dioxane) classified as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). Results point to a need for improved understanding of product constituents and mechanisms between exposures and effects.”


Public Health Advocacy Reports

Chemicals of Concern: Fragrance. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.[Long list of study references at end of article.]

Not Too Pretty–Phthalates, Beauty Products& the FDA. Environmental Working Group. July 8, 2002. [Long list of study references at the end of article. Download PDF of entire report.]


General Articles

The Addictive Power of Toxic Perfumes and Colognes, John P. Thomas, Health Impact News, May 29, 2019.

The article above references the 1991 L. Wallace/EPA study. The 1995 Julia Kendall handout based on the Wallace/EPA study names the narcotic chemicals commonly added to fragrance ingredients:

(1) ETHYL ACETATE (in: after shave, cologne, perfume, shampoo, nail color, nail enamel remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid) – Narcotic. On EPA Hazardous Waste list; “…irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract” …”may cause headache and narcosis (stupor)” …”defatting effect on skin and may cause drying and cracking” …”may cause anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys” “Wash thoroughly after handling.”

(2) LINALOOL
(in: perfume, cologne, bar soap, shampoo, hand lotion, nail enamel remover, hairspray, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, Vaseline lotion, air fresheners, bleach powder, fabric softener, shaving cream, after shave, solid deodorant) – Narcotic. …”respiratory disturbances” … “Attracts bees.” “In animal tests: ataxic gait, reduced spontaneous motor activity and depression … development of respiratory disturbances leading to death.” …”depressed frog-heart activity.” Causes CNS disorder.

Scent of Danger: Are There Toxic Ingredients in Perfumes and Colognes? n/d. Scientific American. 

New Data Reveals One-Third of All Fragrance Chemicals Linked to Human, Environmental Harm. Women’s Voices for the Earth. Sept. 26, 2018. [Press Release.]

Is your perfume making you ill? Science finds growing evidence that the scents in chemicals and cleaning sprays are causing cancer, headaches, and harming unborn babies. DailyMail, 2/22/18.

Meyer, R. The Air Pollutants in Your Medicine Cabinet. Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 21, 2018.

More to come.

####

Meowington, The Temple Cat, Is Dying

60088448_10217637063025595_997261981310255104_n-1On Tuesday, I pulled a weed in my yard, and found this–a baby rattlesnake curled in the warm earth. I placed a flowerpot (no hole in the bottom) over it and tried to find someone to come get it, for relocation. Of course, where there is one baby rattlesnake, there may be others. When the wonderful snake rescue woman arrived that evening, we found that the snake had somehow escaped from beneath the pot which I’d thought was far too heavy for such a little thing to move. We looked around, carefully, but did not find it under any nearby shrubbery or weeds. I hoped it had gone for good.

On Wednesday, as usual, I let Meowington out of Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, where he sleeps during the nights. Days, he wanders the neighborhood and guards my yard against other cats. But he can’t guard it against wildlife. My property backs up against a ridge of oaks and pines and wildness. (We’ve had a mama bear and two cubs wandering the neighborhood this week as well.) Yes, I was worried about rattlesnakes, but he made it through last summer unscathed and so I hoped for the best. I wish now I’d just kept him inside the temple that day.

By early evening I was calling for him, as usual, to come get his dinner. I called and called.

Meanwhile, I fed Grey Girl, the far more feral cat that–along with Meowington and one other–had been left behind on my property last year by a troubled couple who up and moved to Tennessee on short notice. I recall this with some resentment. I already have four indoor cats, and these folks basically dumped three of theirs on me, saying they couldn’t take them and would I feed them and yes they’d send money every month for food. I didn’t count on that money of course. I knew better. But perhaps I should have made them take these three “spare cats” elsewhere? But if I had, I wouldn’t have had the great pleasure of getting to know Meowington.

I called and called some more. And Meowington still didn’t come. I began to worry. And then finally I saw him tottering around the corner of the temple, a cobweb and a leaf stuck to his face. I brushed the leaf away and picked him up. He was shaking, breathing raggedly and hard. He kept trying to meow but couldn’t make a sound. Normally Meowington is an extremely chatty cat. He follows me around when I’m working in the yard. He’s also great at head-butting and adores tummy rubs. He’s also usually anxious for his meal, pushing his nose and mouth into the bowl as I dole out the food. But not on Wednesday evening. He was an entirely different cat, shocky, sick, unable to eat, though he was thirsty. I was worried he’d been bit, but I saw no blood. I set him down on a clean towel and left the temple to get a cat crate. I wasn’t sure who would be open for emergency care, but I was going to get him some.

Had he been bitten? Or had he been bullied by the big black and white cat who occasionally has it in for him? The only other time I’d seen him in something like this condition was after a fight with that cat.

When I returned, Meowington had somehow climbed up to the small storage loft in the rafters where I could not reach him. I tried to coax him down. He wouldn’t come. So I kept the food and water out, and left the temple with forboding, locking him in for the night. I half expected him to be dead in the morning. If was rattlesnake venom, I assumed his death would be quick.

Wrong.

The next morning (yesterday), Meowington was down on the floor again, waiting by the door as he usually does. I was touched that he made this immense effort, though he was still obviously in bad shape. He has always trusted to our routine, to his knowledge that I will always show up in the morning to feed him and let him out. I immediately put him in the cat crate, meaning to whisk him off to the vet at the earliest possible time. Unfortunately, the vet couldn’t see him until 3 PM that afternoon. That was yesterday. I kept him in the crate all day, with food and water, but he only ate a little. I showed up an hour early for our appointment, hoping we could be seen earlier.

When the vet assistant helped him out of the crate. there was a little blood. And when the vet examined him, there was evidence of a bite on his belly, with tissue already going necrotic. The vet explained that a bite on the belly was worrisome–that internal organs may be quickly damaged by the snake’s venom. Still, she gave me reason to hope. Some animals do recover, she said, and she laid out a course of treatment. She did not recommend the antivenin as she said some cats have bad reactions to it. We went for something more conservative (and less expensive): pain medications, antibiotics, laser treatment to improve healing.

I brought Meowington into the house and set him up with towels, food, water, and a litter box, in the shower stall since it was the only small, quiet area away from the other cats. They’ve only interacted with him through the screen door. I didn’t bring him into the household as he is very territorial and I was afraid he’d terrorize the other male cat, Niblet, who has been freaked out for a whole year about the two “extra” cats who joined our post-Hawai’i household. A month or two ago, I had Meowington neutered and got him his shots, in the hopes of finding him a new home–a one cat household where he could be adored and adoring to his fullest potential.

I wish I’d done things differently now. I wish I’d been more aggressive about finding him a new home. I wish I hadn’t let him out of the temple on Wednesday. And I wish yesterday that I’d had the courage to ask the doctor to just put him to sleep.

Because this morning he hasn’t eaten, drunk, eliminated, and he’s clearly suffering. He is lethargic, his breathing is ragged. I’ve been checking on him off and on, ever since I woke up. He wants to stay in the (unused) litter box, not the towel. (He used to love to roll around in the dirt!). I gave him more pain medicine. He vomited it up shortly after. I’ve pet him, stroked him, sang to him, and told him that it was okay to let go–that we’ve loved each other but that now it’s okay… he can go.

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Meowington, May 15th, in a final upright and seemingly perky moment. I am sorry, dear friend, we are going to have to part. I love you.

Dammit.

Sometimes I think we give our best love to animals, because they love us so unconditionally. We can give to them (if we give at all), without our stupid human complications getting in the way.

I love Meowington. I procrastinated about giving him up to another home even though I knew I should. I hoped yesterday that he could rally, could beat the venom. It was a selfish hope.

Later this morning, I’ll take him to the vet again–he was supposed to get another laser treatment–and then I’ll let him go.

I’ve asked Freya, Bastet, and Loki for the best possible outcome. I ask them now to ease his passage.

Rest in peace, cat.

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Meowington in his glory. Died at the vet’s office in Clearlake, CA shortly before 11 AM, PST. He was an awfully good cat.

 

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This blog takes a break from discussing the spectrosexuality survey to bring you an urgent public service announcement brought to you by Greta Thunberg.

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That Was Then, THIS is Now

When I was a child, caterpillars were a frequent sight. I played all day at tidepools at the Coronado, CA seashore and gently poked a lot of sea anenomes to make them close. I could catch (and release) small frogs at the pond on the local golf course–there were thousands. In many ways, it was an idyllic childhood even though my family was poor and my grandfather had died of a radiation-induced brain tumor after leaving the Navy, after witnessing the explosions at Bikini Atoll. Planes from North Island Naval Base flew over my tidepools several times a day, so I was never unaware of war.

But by the time I was twelve I’d become convinced that the planet had changed immensely since the last time I’d incarnated (yes, I really thought that way as a kid). I blamed television and radio rays, all modern things, and sensed a coming apocalypse. I thought it would happen by the time I was a legal “grup.” I was desperate to understand how to live my life on the earth in a healthy way. Alicia Bay Laurel’s Living on the Earth was one of my favorite books. (But I was also listening to the Velvet Underground’s first album so go figure.)

Soon teen hormones took over and I became interested in other things (including boys), such as feminism, working at a women’s clinic as a pregnancy counselor, and supporting La Huelga by leafletting for the grape boycott outside of supermarkets. Then life threw me several curve balls and I did not end up in a wooded hippie commune, as I’d planned.

I ended up…elsewhere.

In spite of my valid childhood concerns, I still don’t know how to make a fire or how to identify wild edible herbs in my area. I have no skills at all that would enable me to survive a day in the wilderness, let alone the rest of my life foraging in a semi-rural or urban landscape as an old woman living in a toxin-drenched, violent dystopia caused by the galloping climate disaster we are currently doing everything we can… to continue.

I’m more likely to end up on somebody’s plate, at that point. Waste not, want not.

So I could say to Greta Thunberg and all her generation, and to my children’s generation which preceeded hers, yes, I remember what it was like to be a young person who could see clearly that Western consumerism, pollution, and war were all features of an insane cancer that would doom us all, even the animals. And I didn’t understand why the grown-ups didn’t see what I could see. And yet, as an adult, I have not done enough.

Greta and her allies will probably not make the same mistake. They have much less time to waste on bullshit than I did and their analysis is more accurate.


Quote from Greta Thunberg’s address to the World Economic Forum last January:

“Some people say that that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is just another convenient lie because if everyone is guilty, then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame. Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”


I’m going to leave that right here for a moment. I’ll return to Greta later.

Ecology 101 in “The Pleasant Land of Counterpane”

I spent the last three days in bed, sick with a cold brought from the Eastern states by an air traveller. During that time I binge-watched Versailles and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and ignored the new Our Planet, even though my cats favor nature programs. (You see, as a mature citizen of the most unsustainable resource-guzzling nation on the planet, I still have that luxury, that privilege, of choosing entertainment over information.) But last night, “while I was sick and lay a-bed,” I watched the first episode. The lush photography of masses of penguins, sea birds, anchovies, and dolphins made me want to weep. The melting glaciers of Greenland, ditto. I knew what the message of the show would be and that’s partly why I didn’t want to watch it while ill.

Here’s an excerpt from a future episode, one about ants and fungi in the rain forest. It holds a cautionary lesson for human beings. In the beginning of the clip, ants farm fungi and keep it free of disease. And there’s a phrase thrown in about how the fungal crop may have benefits for human medical research. The the footage switches to a deranged ant climbing a tree, finally reaching the very end of one twig “high above the forest floor.” What happens next is an apt metaphor for how we human beings function in the face of our self-created planetary disaster. Of the pathetic ant and its fate, David Attenborough says:

“Something has taken control of its movements, like a puppeteer pulling at the strings of a marionette. There’s just one final act for which the ant has no choice. It must find a place to bite down, tethering it to the vegetation. With the ant in its death grip, a parasitic fungus, Cordyceps, erupts from its body… Finally the fruiting body of the fungus bursts from its head. From this bulbous container spores will be cast into the air currents where they will claim more ant victims…”

But other bugs also succumb to this parasite. The footage is horrifying. But Attenborough comments:

“The more numerous a species is, the more likely it is to fall victim to the killer fungus. Checks and balances like these means no one species can ever dominate, so protecting the jungle’s incredible diversity…”

Cordyceps is sometimes called a “zombie fungus” because it eventually controls the behavior, the motor movements of its host, forcing it to starve to death while the fruiting bodies mature enough to emerge from its body in order to release spores.

I have often wondered why human beings, collectively as a species, are so stupid and self-destructive? Why are we not organizing, rapidly and decisively? Even in a destructive context like capitalism, economic arguments support the wisdom of a “Green New Deal” and other initiatives. Why are we lurching, like mindless fungi-infected zombie ants, toward the very things which will doom us all? In spite of all, we humans clamp down our jaws, unable to speak out at the very edge of the precipice–a death grip of consumerism.

Even the ants have learned to recognize their infected colleagues and to remove them from the colony, as a means of survival. But we are not so wise. And our infections are both internal (habits, thoughts, ignorance, selfishness) and external (policies, power structures, faulty leadership, pollution, war). Our individual and collective inactions give Darwin the lie. We do not care about our own species survival. We only care about whatever feeds our greed.

Here’s another lesson, this one on indicator species and social ecology. This video of the late Michael Rossman was taken in front of the Berkeley Oak Tree Sit of a few years ago. In spite of the tree sit and protests, the oak grove–“a real forest” as Michael says–was destroyed to build a multi-million dollar student atheletic building right next to the CAL stadium, which sits on top of the Hayward Fault. Though it is on a smaller scale, it is another example of the kind of short-sighted, destructive policymaking that Greta Thunberg calls out so accurately. (And how Michael would have cheered for this young woman, had he lived to hear or read her words!)

Medicine for the Cordyceps Twins of Capitalism and Consumerism

Unlike the ants sick with Cordyceps, I do think we have some choices, still. Even now way  past the eleventh hour we can back away from our lemming rush off the edge of the precipice. We can choose individual change, systems change, and context change. The doctor is in and ze prescribes: Animism. The awareness that all matter is conscious, therefore humans are not the be-all and end-all and we don’t get to be nature bullies any longer.

Animism can be combined with the Precautionary Principle as a practical philosophy to infuse global and local policies and decision-making, as well as strategies to mitigate and reverse as many of the features of our climate catastrophe as possible (including species decline and extinction, fuel usage, etc.). When we can give and observe the rights of rivers, forests, etc. as “a legal person,” with the understanding that there really is a consciousness experienced by that thing or natural feature and that we are engaged in a communication with it on some level (whether we sense it or not), then we are on the way to correcting our destructive hubris.


Here’s a passage and quote from a good article about legal rights of natural features:

Contrary to popular misconceptions, legal rights are not the same as human rights, as corporations have enjoyed the rights of legal personhood for quite some time.

“I always find it interesting that people don’t seem to be challenged by the idea that a fictional thing like a corporation can have personhood, but that a natural resource, which is actually much more tangible, can’t,” Macpherson said. “I think that people are just used to what they’re used to, and over time as this becomes more common, and more people are pushing for it, the idea will start to seem less shocking.”


Artisanal Animist-Infused Threefold Social Order

And we could try this. Though Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a man of his time with serious flaws (dude was a racist), he had some interesting insights and did some good in this world (e.g. biodynamic farming and Waldorf Schools). His post-WWI Threefold Social Order is one of his more intriguing ideas. I am not sure that all aspects are reasonable or doable in the 21st century–a far more complicated era of multi-national corporations and our climate catastrophe–but I do like the idea of infusing animism into a simplied form of his reasoning, at least as a jumping off point for consideration.

Steiner was inspired by the slogan of the French Revolution, but he thought “liberté, egalité, fraternité” should be separately assigned to each of the three general realms of human life. He felt that the economic sphere should be based on brotherhood (and we need a more inclusive word for this, I know), that the legal realm should be based on equality, and the cultural realm should be based on freedom.

I can imagine combining a working philosophy of animism (consiousness of matter) with this idea in the following ways:

Infusing liberté (freedom) with animism in the cultural realm could result in a greater respect and engagement with animals, plants, waterways, landscapes, and other natural systems as culture-creating and culture-bearing in their own right. We could allow for and respect their cultures while purusing our own within that context.

Infusing egalité (equality) with animism in the legal sphere would inform decisions to grant legal personhood to more and more animals, rivers, habitats, mountains, etc.

Infusing fraternité (non-gendered familial comradery?) with animism in the economic realm could result in more considerate and less exploitive behavior with regard to other creatures and natural features, that they are recognized as fellow citizens of this planet as well as legal persons and that they have a stake in thriving in a sustainable natural economy. Humans would return to something more in harmony with the natural order of things and no longer see ourselves as completely entitled to everything we want, no matter what effect it has on anyone else. We would have to communicate with and treat with the other terrestrial intelligences on this planet.

So these are ideas to kick around as foundational as we pursue necessary practical strategies such as renewable energy, lowering our carbon footprint, ending military pollution, and so on.

Humans: Rouge Species or Lemmings and Zombie Ants?

Right now, it’s as if humanity acts on the rest of the Earth’s species just as the U.S. acts on the rest of the countries of the world: greedy, grabby, exploitive, entitled, endlessly destructive, and heedless of consequence. A rogue nation and a rogue species if ever there was one.

While everyone alive right now (especially in “developed” countries) must take individual actions to decrease complicity and perpetuation of climate change, the elders, thinkers, inventors of this world who are working on solutions to climate catastrophe (such as the folk who present at Bioneers conferences) need to quit patting themselves on the back as elite “thought leaders” (as so many do) and spend much more time in the trenches with young people such as Greta Thunberg. Pass on what you know. Get the kids access to conventions, forums, the United Nations, and executive board rooms. Use your own privilege to grant them as much access as possible to other thought-leaders, policy-makers, Use your platform to get their voices to the general public. (And make sure it’s not just white, cis kids either, okay?)

And in turn, each young person alive today could in turn represent a bee colony, a flower species, a forest, a mountain, or a stream, and as their representative give them a voice in conventions, forums, the United Nations…

Meanwhile, someone teach these kids how to make fire without a match, please. They may need this where we’re going.

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