I wrote recently about how we as individuals and families need safety nets and support from extended family and society around us. What’s on my mind the most is that of all the issues we as families (and in my case, being the mother and “home manager” of a family of six) face, it’s impossible to fix them all or deal with them all on our own.
As just one example, I have many concerns about public education, but I can’t change them alone; I can only try to speak up when I can and get involved in the big picture (higher levels) in what are fairly limited ways at this stage of life. I also have decided I am not capable (mentally, mostly) of home-schooling my kids, so I send them to public school and try to be involved and aware at the school level.
Health is another big topic. Health care and health coverage systems are a part of that. I’ve written a little about that and found one book really a great overview and resource: Catastrophic Care, by David Goldhill. Another issue we face that is part of our health is that of our food supply. Obesity in the U.S. and in other developed nations is a huge problem, and one I’ll admit I personally struggle with. (And might I point out that I exercise daily and cook healthy meals at home almost daily, and I’m STILL significantly overweight. What about all those out there who don’t exercise at all, who don’t cook, who eat junk food, etc.?) Yes, there are some “obvious” issues, such as the easy availability of food that’s bad for us, sedentary habits, and the heavy marketing and research done by large food corporations (just read Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss: Yikes!). But there are also more insidious things going on with our food supply that are affecting everyone: hormones and antibiotics and other fatteners being fed to the animals that we eat for meat, pesticides, and even sugar substitutes (just to get a taste of these problems, read a recent article on Salon).
If we’re having a hard time as a country educating individuals and families about healthier ways to eat, just putting together balanced meals at home with vegetables and lean proteins, etc., as well as getting people to just move more, it’s going to be a pretty hard sell to get everyone to eat organic and/or locally produced food, including dairy and meat, which either costs more money and/or takes an extra trip (or two or three), to get to farmers markets or specialty stores. Again, I consider myself to have the motivation, interest, and time (as well as a decent income) to be able to shop well and cook well on the first count. But I admit I balk at spending three times or more the amount on produce and meats and dairy to get foods that supposedly come without coatings of pesticides or added hormones or antibiotics, though that would certainly be ideal.
There are possibly some alternatives to the above pricey/time-consuming options for me and others who might have the time and at least a little extra cash to put towards them, such as growing your own food (if you have the time, the space, the know-how, etc.), contributing to raising a community garden, or just shopping local. But these options, again, are ones that are going to work when education efforts get past just the simple things of getting people to eat better, cook, and exercise.
No, this goes back to our society as a whole, including how our government is involved in regulating (or not overseeing) our food supply. It’s becoming more clear and more substantiated that these pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, plastics, etc., are contaminating our food and introducing all kinds of chemical problems into our bodies, making us fatter and just less healthy, maybe causing cancer. But government is slow to regulate and corporations are certainly not going to change of their own accord unless we as consumers really get educated and speak up with letters/phone calls to these companies or at the very least speak with our wallets by not buying their products. But that latter option leads again to this issue: what are average Americans going to buy if most of the big food producers aren’t providing healthy food? Most can’t afford organic or specialty stores.
As a mom and home manager, I am daunted and sometimes overwhelmed by all that is wrong and all I have to “protect” my family from, all that I need to “fix” or address in some way. What about all those others who don’t have even the luxuries of time and some extra money that I have? I feel a responsibility to do all I can not just to make life better for my own family, but for them. But I don’t have THAT much time or extra cash.
Yes, government can and must do better. Companies can and MUST do better to be responsible to consumers. Those with greater wealth and time to do good can do better to help those who don’t have what they have. Each of us can do a little something to spread the word, to raise awareness about whatever issues we’re facing, and to just speak up and let our voices be heard: voice our discontent, ask for specific things to be changed and improved. It comes back to my starfish post: I can’t save everyone, but by doing a few small things, they might add up to saving at least a few others. Give back by doing just a little, just whatever you can do.