Brian T. Johnstone

my little space here on the web

Taking Back our World


In recent years I have been reading a lot books and viewing a number of documentaries that address critical issues affecting our world–the environment and the people living in it.  I’m struck first by Rachel Carson’s seminal environmental work Silent Spring (published in 1962) which exposed, for the first time, the true dangers posed by chemical pesticides and herbicides.  Poisons, like DDT, dieldrin, and lindane, all of which were being marketed and sold to farmers, communities and individuals to treat pests and unwanted weeds.  The trouble is that the powerful companies producing this stuff, while so quick to tell us of the supposed beneficial properties of these chemicals, never stopped to tell us of the potential risks.  No.  I doubt they wanted that known.  Carson’s book changed the world.  She, of course, was made the target of a campaign which aimed to dismiss the “theory” of the “balance of nature,” to discredit her research, and to keep the public safe from her toxic words.  In fact, the chemical companies’ response to her work backfired and the direct result of her work was the creation of legislation to protect the environment and ban or limit the use of certain toxic chemicals.  Carson challenged a very powerful sector of our society, one so routed in exploiting the capitalist system.  She challenged the hubris of the scientists who created the chemicals as well as the unscrupulous economy that sold it.  Her work is still important to us today.

And why?  Because the world is far more toxic and far more sucked up in exploitation than ever before.

OK.  Here’s a list of works I’ve recently read or watched that show we’ve still got a long way to go before we achieve an equitable, just, and sustainable world:

  • Buhner, Stephen Harrod. The lost language of plants : the ecological importance of plant medicines to life on earth.  Chelsea Green Pub., 2002.  (exposes the dangers of pharmaceuticals to our health and the environment; advocates the benefits of herbal medicines)
  • Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, vegetable, miracle : a year of food life. HarperCollins Publishers, 2007. (exposes the true costs of our food system, of eating out-of-season, of transportation of food; advocates the benefits of eating locally and producing your own)
  • Sicko. Directed, written by Michael Moore ; produced by Meghan O’Hara, Michael Moore. The Weinstein Company, 2007. – (exposes injustices of the US’s for-profit health system; presents social healthcare systems in place across the world)
  • Super size me. Written and directed by Morgan Spurlock. New York : Hart Sharp Video, 2004. (exposes the health dangers of fast food and the advertising machine that keeps it running; discusses the benefits of purging fast food)
  • Gore, Albert, An inconvenient truth : a global warning. Paramount Classics and Participant Productions, 2006. (exposes the true costs of our use of oil and details the adverse environmental changes that have resulted; advocates ways to reduce usage)
  • A Sense Of Wonder two interviews with Rachel Carson. Written by Kaiulani Lee. Sense of Wonder Productions, 2008. (presents biography of Rachel Carson, exposes dangers of chemicals, advocates continued change)
  • Consuming kids : the commercialization of childhood. Written & directed by Adriana Barbaro & Jeremy Earp. Northampton, Mass. : Media Education Foundation, 2008. (exposes exploitation of children as a consumer group, advertising targeted to children, changes in US laws stripping FCC and FTC of powers to regulate; advocates less consumerism, promotes childhood imagination)
  • The story of stuff. Written by Annie Leonard. Free Range Studios, 2007. (exposes the unsustainability of consumerism; advocates reducing consumption and waste)
  • Smoking teeth=poison gas. International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology, 2005. (exposes the dangers of mercury—a neurotoxin—in amalgam tooth fillings; advocates banning them)
  • Poisoned horses. Written by Cathy Justus; Wayne Justus; Lennart Krook; J William Hirzy. International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, 2008. (exposes the lack of benefits to tooth health and the toxic properties of adding fluoride to water; advocates banning the practice).
  • Plus a host of research into these and other topics, including childhood vaccines, as well as research into other ways of doing things and of ways to get better in touch with the environment and one another.

In conversation, indeed in this post, I sound to some like a nut.  But I ask you, why not challenge the system—the socially accepted norm?  Why follow the path of least resistance?  Why support the system?  The system needs consumers, sure, but it doesn’t need thinking people—you.  So why support it?

The system itself is supported by experts (people with PhDs, MDs, MBAs, etc.) who study everything from planned and perceived obsolescence to human psychology in order to suck you in, exploit you, and make a fat, if unethical, profit.  The system continuously and purposefully trashes the planet, passes the true costs on to others, and destroys lives.  It is a system of destruction overdrive.  While today there is much talk today of the “economic crisis” and I submit that we do not have an economic crisis.  What we have is an economic meltdown as a result of an ethical, moral, and spiritual crisis.

Why continue to suck down the products of a sick system and tell me I’m weird to suggest diet soda is poison, that I’m a fanatic because I avoid high fructose corn syrup, that I’m somehow abnormal because I don’t watch television, that I’m anti-social because I want to home-school my child, that I’m socialist because I think for-profit healthcare is inhumane, that I’m endangering society because I refuse vaccines for my child, that I’m conceited because I buy locally produced organic milk in reusable glass bottles, that I’m paranoid because I don’t buy processed food or food with artificial preservatives or eat at fast food restaurants, that I’m a beatnik because I raise chickens, that I’m the social radical or the ultraconservative, that I just don’t fit so shut up please.

And yet, there is a growing movement.  A burgeoning movement of people who reject the system, who want to change the way they live in order to live happier, healthier lives, and hope also to change others through advocacy.

Some of the above films in particular have been viewed among groups of likeminded individuals.  Discussions have been held among perfect strangers with whom an instant kindred spirit was felt.  Last night, for example, Jenn Reidy, hosted—via Brave New Theaters—a screening in her home of Consuming Kids.  It is so good to find networks of support.  So I thank you Jenn and those who attended last night.  Thanks for you conversation and fellowship.

There is much work to be done.  There are many conversations to have.  One way in which I will contribute is to create a bibliography/videography of resources here in this web log (under the Nature page) to be a growing resource.

Speak up for yourself, your fellow man, and your planet!


3 thoughts on “Taking Back our World

  1. Hey Brian!
    You must read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollen. It is very informative on how exactly American farming/food production went awry. It is thoughtful and well written. It tells the WHOLE story, and even warns you about the feel good, but often dubious, labeling of organic foods. I have to be honest that I haven’t finished it –ya know, kids are really cutting down on my reading time– but it would fit in well with your reading list in this post.

    • Thanks Katie, and what a very timely suggestion. That very book (on CD) is in my car now just waiting for me to have a listen.

  2. Diet soda is a poison. Aspartame is an exitotoxin that is commonly used as rat poison. Aspartame eats holes in your brain and actually makes you fat.

    Do you know how aspartame is made? Get ready for this. Aspartame is made from…

    …the feces of E coli.

    I couldn’t make that up if I tried.

    Check out my blog for more information about how bad aspartame and other toxins are for you at

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