Johnny, a 12 year old living in Portland Maine awakens to the sound of his mother's voice, "Johnny, if I have to call you again I'm going to come in and yank your backside out of that bed." Johnny squirms at his mother's threat and buries his head under the pillow. He wants to block her out, as he wants to block out the time he will spend in school. His heart pounds as he thinks about the test he will have today.
Suddenly Johnny feels his body rolling to the right side of the bed to discover that by some miraculous means he was standing up. "Have I done my homework right?" he wonders with tightening stomach. Was he going to pass the tests that the school finds imperative to receive funding? Johnny had learned the school's motivation by hearing his father talk about it all the time.
If only they had enough money for private school, mom would often say. Johnny felt doomed at school and at home. Mom and Dad's resentful anger had become his. But, Johnny continues his routine. He will run down the stairs to devour a bowl of Captain Crunch before heading for the bus. Johnny visualized the box with all the nutritional information on the side. Captain Crunch was good for him.
Johnny is not the exception to the rule; he is closer to being the norm. Johnny lives in a world in which we are judged by test scores, productivity requirements, making the sale, or not being short on your cash register. Johnny is being primed for the "real world." His guts toil as he wonders unconsciously, "will I survive in the world?" Meanwhile, adding to the anxiety is the Captain Crunch cereal which Johnny unconsciously devours. Without knowing it, Johnny is devouring nothing more than a bowl of sugared corn products manufactured and shipped in such a way that degrades the air that Johnny breathes and the land that will produce the food for Johnny's children.
Johnny's life exhibits the short-sighted, quick profit motivation that we have. We refuse to look towards the future of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Do we continue allowing corporations to desecrate our environment, our health, and the health of our children and their children? What of Johnny's future? Johnny is already overweight. Why? Not because he eats too much, but because he is starving to death. Under-nourishment causes him to eat too much.
What lies ahead for Johnny?
For example, the mannerisms in which the Captain Crunch cereal is processed and grown are not sustainable. There are rows upon rows of genetically engineered corn that goes into the Captain Crunch. The standardized way it is grown is destroying the land that Johnny will one day require for his children's health. Because it is grown as a monocrop, with vast expanses of a single crop for its predatory bugs to prey upon, rather than as part of a diversified mix, it must be sprayed and the soil must be chemically fertilized to replace the elements that crop depletes. Plus, there is the sugar and other additives in his cereal which one needs a PhD in Chemistry to understand. Johnny is starving to death on empty calories. His body demands that he eat more to compensate. That is why he is overweight.
How do we help Johnny? Here are some of my recommendations:
(1) Change his diet. As much as possible, buy local fruits, vegetables and meats where you actually know the growers and know how they grow food. Educate yourself. Know your neighborhood. Where do the stores get their foods from? How is it grown?
(2) Grow your own food, even if you are in the city. There are small gardens in apartment buildings, even where Johnny lives in N.Y.
(3) Plan for Johnny's future. Ask what effect your behavior today is going to have on Johnny's health; and the health of the environment. Imagine how your actions are going to impact the 7th generation.
(4) If a food has something in it you need a PhD in chemistry to pronounce, don't buy it.
(5) Demand change in the systems in your life. If you can't change the system, get with people who can support you in creating an alternative system.
(6) Check out groups that facilitate sustainable living practices such as Permaculture Groups and Transition Town.
(7) Most importantly, remember that your behavior affects everything. Just taking a breath in and a breath out helps maintain the correct mix of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the atmosphere.
(8) Choose your thoughts, actions and deeds well"for Johnny's sake and the sake of his great-great-great grandchildren. You are important to all of us, and all of them.