We live is an society where we accept an incredible level of wasted intellectual capital — creative intelligence threaded into a seeming infinity of projects such as creating more and better sensors to detect threats to our health and well-being — the terrorists are coming; the aliens are coming!! Problematically, this mindset also creates an absurd dualistic approach to our immediate environments.
On the one hand, we are bombarded with offers for products that promise to bolster our immune systems. Clearly, there are threats all around us from both the normally resident array of bacteria and viruses, and possibly also from covert threats such as those of which we are constantly reminded by public-service announcements (PSAs) pumped over the airwaves. Apparently, the combined message of these immune-bolstering product commercials and PSAs is that we should prepare ourselves against such normal and abnormal threats by depending upon the sophisticated biological system that has evolved for that purpose . . . but only if we strengthen it with supplements (which, of course “have not been evaluated by the FDA, yada yada”).
Remarkably, today's manufacturers are also enthusiastic about selling us cleansers that purport to kill the common bacteria in our environment. Strip our kitchens and bathrooms bare of every form of microbial life. After all, apparently, those other corporations who wish to sell us immune-system bolstering products are selling us a bill of goods; for our immune systems are clearly defenseless against the microbial world surrounding us. How can we have possibly made it to this point in evolutionary time with all these attacking vermin in our kitchens?
So where’s the middle ground, if there indeed is one? Probably not anywhere in the vicinity of either of these messages, I fear. First of all, it was because of those “vermin” and their evolutionary interactions with us and all the other organisms in their milieu that we evolved with the immune system that we, in fact, are blessed with. Evolution is, of course, contextual, as is everything else involving biological systems (excepting, apparently, human sociology). And the greater point about bacteria, immune systems, and the current mania about each of them, is that the problem ain’t coming from our kitchens, Martha, it's coming from the fact that by and large, a huge percentage of the planet’s population does NOT HAVE ANY KITCHEN, with a sink, with a faucet --- WITH CLEAN DRINKING WATER. When you're drinking water contaminated by the feces of humans and their animals, you have some serious bacterial exposure; and there is no kitchen or bathroom cleanser known to man that is about to correct that situation. Furthermore, a child’s semi-developed immune system is not going to be able to put up a decent fight, immune-bolstering food additives, notwithstanding.
Are Americans and other first-world societies just a tad insularized from the central issue here . . . perhaps? Duuuh, ya think so?
Consider this message from the nonprofit group, Water Advocates: http://www.wateradvocates.org/ :
“More than 1.1 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.6 billion people lack even basic sanitary facilities. Diseases caused by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation remain humanity’s most serious public health threat, causing 80% of the sicknesses in developing countries and annually killing between 2 and 5 million people, mainly young children.”
As a corollary to global climate change, which is likely to only exacerbate this problem because of its projected tendency to increase desertification, we are plainly screwed with the clean drinking water situation on planet earth at this moment in time. So let's cease being ugly Americans, stop supporting the idiotic, and for the most part (with a few exceptions), probably useless claims of immune system enhancement, and likewise, cease our support for the ridiculous number of dollars plunked down on the kitchen and bathroom cleansers. Vote with you're wallet — and with your pen and computer keyboard. Write your local and national politicians, and suggest that clean water become a priority in several fashions. First of all, pass and enforce statutes that require developers to demonstrate adequate water supplies before they are allowed to continue building commercial or residential units. Second, suggest that research into affordable technologies for converting brackish and contaminated water to drinking water be supported aggressively in state and congressional delegations. Several such nanotechnological initiatives are on the brink of successful application (particularly at our tax-dollar-funded national laboratories), but most of our politicians probably don't know enough about them to know that they need more-aggressive support and further engineering development. We all must be teachers; educate yourself, educate them.
Here are 2 links to those nanotechnology initiatives --- happy learning:
click here volunteer with your time and your wallet. In addition to Water Advocates, check out the completely volunteer-based, Global Water group: http://www.globalwater.org/ . The Sierra Club’s clean water page is likewise a good one: