December is traditionally a very holiday-heavy month. From Christmas to Hanukkah to the revival holiday Kwanzaa to the Winter Solstice (the astronomical observation which became the inspiration for the original pagan celebrations that inspired what we now call Christmas) and Newton’s birthday (December 25 or January 4, depending on who you ask), no matter who you are, if you live in a Western-influenced society, you’re probably celebrating something this month. And if you’re celebrating a holiday, chances are, you’re probably buying a gift or two (or several dozen) for family and friends.
I discovered this mini-documentary recently, entitled “The Story of Stuff,” made by a woman named Annie Leonard, and I feel compelled to share it with as many people as possible. I think it’s very appropriate for the consumer-driven holiday season. It has inspired me to make all my gifts be as homemade and thoughtful as possible this year. Maybe I should just drop the idea of a having a thing represent the value of the relationships I have with others. Perhaps I should just focus on making time for the people in my life, instead of finding a thing for them. Or, if I feel compelled to hand a real, tangible object to someone as a token of my affection for them, perhaps I should make sure it’s at least going to be something they can appreciate for many years, rather than chuck in the garbage within a month of receiving it. It’s hard to articulate into words what I’m trying to convey, but I’m just really tired of the hectic consumer December holiday season, with all the expectations and guilt involved in making sure everyone has a gift, even if it’s a completely useless one. It focuses on all the wrong things: the pretense, the petty superficialities, the ego… And it generates SO much waste and environmental damage in the process.
Anyway, I know this post isn’t about breastfeeding, but the video called “The Story of Stuff” is very important and contains a tiny bit of breastfeeding information in it that is important to know. It mentions that breastfeeding is “the most fundamental human act of nurturing” and that it “should be sacred and safe.” I totally agree, of course. What the movie doesn’t show (but can be easily inferred from its content) is that formula, since it is a part of this artificial system known as the materials economy, also causes harm and exploitation (the factory-farmed dairy cows and the people who tend them are exploited, for example, and the metal used for the cans themselves had to be mined from some exploded mountain somewhere), and that we shouldn’t be surprised to find toxic chemicals in our formula because of the whole “toxics in, toxics out” phenomenon of manufacture.
For example, even though nobody thought of it for years, finally someone figured out that the linings inside most cans (including all cans used for infant formula) contain bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic plastic. Contrast the exposure of a human baby to BPA amounts from canned formula compared to the amounts typically found in breastmilk and there’s NO QUESTION that there are much higher toxicity levels in infant formula — in fact, if you compare all commercially prepared foods, even those for adults and canned infant formula, to human breastmilk, the one food that contains the least amount of BPA toxicity is human breastmilk. This fact may not be apparent from the film, and the mention that “the highest level of many toxic contaminants,” might sound like it’s the opposite of what I just wrote, but it really isn’t (not for bisphenol-A, anyway). The point of Annie Leonard mentioning the breastmilk is to point out that this materials economy violates the basic human right to have clean, pure human milk free from contaminants, not that breastmilk is any more poisonous than the rest of our intoxicated foodstuffs. Infant formula, as it turns out, is way more damaging to infant and mother health than breastfeeding, in the vast majority of circumstances, whether the infant formula is canned or powdered (as one of my previous posts pointed out, powdered infant formula has many health risks and disadvantages).
Here’s a teaser video of “The Story of Stuff.” If you want to see the whole video, you’ve got to go to www.storyofstuff.com. Once there, it will play automatically in the top half of your screen. Enjoy it. If I don’t write again this month, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Newton’s Birthday, Joyous Winter Solstice and Happy all other December holidays you might celebrate (whatever they may be)!
Annie Leonard: Brava! …For putting so much energy into making your project happen. It’s turned out great so far! Hopefully we can all come up with real solutions that honor and respect the environment instead of burning through it and shitting where we eat (so to speak). I hope many people see your work. It’s a giant step in the right direction.