Environmental author to speak in Bellingham

Published on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 by Jake Lunden

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David Boyd's newest book Dodging The Toxic Bullet is available for $16.96 at Village Books

Author David Boyd will share advice on avoiding environmental toxins in everyday products and living a longer, healthier life on April 22 in Bellingham at a live recording of The Chuckanut Radio Hour. The Earth Day-themed edition will be recorded at at the Crystal Ballroom of the Leopold Retirement Residence, 1224 Cornwall Ave. at 6:30 p.m. The event will also feature music from the Whatcom Sound Vocal Jazz Ensemble and poetry from Jeremy Voigt.

In his latest book Dodging the Toxic bullet: How to Protect Yourself From Everyday Environmental Health Hazards, Boyd presents workable strategies to living longer, healthier lives by using non-toxic products, breathing cleaner air, eating healthier food and drinking cleaner water. The book provides easy-to-follow advice for people seeking a healthier and more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

Boyd, who co-authored David Suzuki's The Green Guide, said that while environmental hazards are taking a substantial toll on the health of North Americans, many of these health impacts are preventable.

"Through simple actions as citizens and consumers we can protect our health, take better care of our children, and achieve a cleaner, greener environment," Boyd said.

Boyd brings a positive, proactive message of measures people can take to better their lives, offering more than a list of "don'ts" and gloomy predictions of the planet's future.

"People are tuning out the prophets of doom and are far more interested in realistic solutions that cultivate a sense of hope for the future," Boyd said. "I've studied nations across the world, from Sweden to Costa Rica, to find compelling examples of positive synergies between improving our health, protecting our environment, and ensuring a better future for our children."

The book challenges the notion that living an environmentally sensitive lifestyle brings more financial costs to consumers, noting that natural alternatives to items such as cleaning products are actually cheaper. The book looks at these costs on and individual and societal level, noting the trade offs of the many choices people make. For example, while eating a diet comprising whole foods rather than processed, refined and fast foods may carry a slightly higher short-term cost, Boyd argues it is offset my a longer, healthier lifespan and reduced health care costs. A production of Village Books in Bellingham, The Chuckanut Radio Hour is a monthly radio show recorded in front of a live audience, and features music, poetry,  author interviews and more. Past guests gave included authors Sherman Alexie, Garrison Keillor and Rick Bass.

Q: What do you hope to communicate through your book and through your talk in Bellingham on April 22?
DB: My three key points are that environmental hazards are taking a substantial toll on the health of North Americans, that these health impacts are preventable, and that through simple actions as citizens and consumers we can protect our health, take better care of our children, and achieve a cleaner, greener environment.

Q: We live in an era of "greenwashing" and myriad misinformation aimed at well-intentioned consumers. Does the book cover strategies for people to keep themselves better informed about the goods they use or consume?
DB: Greenwashing can only fool those who lack the information to debunk that kind of nonsense. My book offers people the knowledge and tools to see through false promises. A key piece of the puzzle is knowing who to trust. There is a mountain of evidence that industry lies, subverts science, and puts profits ahead of people--from tobacco to lead to asbestos to chemicals to plastics to vehicle manufacturers. Understanding that history helps folks develop a healthy skepticism about corporate claims.

Q: What are some areas where Canada is leading in consumer safety regarding toxins, and what are some areas where the U.S. is leading? What about compared to European countries?
DB: Canada and the U.S. are both light years behind Europe in protecting human health from toxic substances. We have weaker rules governing air quality, contaminants in drinking water, pesticides on our food, using hormones and antibiotics in raising livestock, and weaker laws governing toxic substances (both in manufacturing and consumer products). One noteworthy Canadian exception is Bisphenol A (used in myriad plastic products, but with extensive adverse health effects), where Canada was the first country in the world to prohibit its use in baby bottles. The US used to be a world leader, decades ago, but can no longer make that claim.

Q: What are some of the greatest misconceptions about environmental toxins you've come across?
DB: One big misconception is that a toxic substance measured in parts per billion can't possible harm a healthy human being. And yet toxic chemicals can be compared to prescription drugs that everyone understands can trigger or prevent conception (e.g. Cialis or birth control pills) in concentrations measured in parts per billion.

Another misconception is that over the past 40 years all of the major environmental health problems in the US have been solved. On one hand, there have been some inspiring successes, such as the elimination of leaded gasoline and lead paint. On the other hand, more than a hundred million Americans live in areas where air pollution still threatens their health, likely shortening their life expectancy. Millions of Americans have tap water that violates federal standards.
 
Q: Do you feel the mainstream environmental movement has moved from a movement based on a reduction of consumption to one based on environmentally-conscious consumption?
DB: Realistically, we need to do both – reduce our overall pressure on the planet and shift to greener alternatives. It's a false hope to believe that you can build a 6,000 square foot home for a family of four, or that all seven billion people on earth can live in two car families, even if they're both electric cars. But the silver lining is this – in pursuit of happiness, the ultimate human objective, less stuff is actually better. The happiest people in the world are Costa Ricans, whose life expectancy is longer than Americans yet whose per capita income and ecological footprint is about one-quarter of the average American. 

Q: Your book presents proactive solutions to avoiding toxins, whereas other environmental media present more of a list of "don'ts." Do you feel people become overwhelmed doom-and-gloom message and dire predictions found in other media regarding environmental matters?
DB: Absolutely. People are tuning out the prophets of doom and are far more interested in realistic solutions that cultivate a sense of hope for the future. I've studied nations across the world--from Sweden to Costa Rica--to find compelling examples of positive synergies between improving our health, protecting our environment, and ensuring a better future for our children.

Q: To what degree are the strategies in your book accessible to people with limited financial resources? I.e., some of our readers would assume that all environmentally-friendly cleaning products cost significantly more, or that shopping at a farmer's market or an organic co-op vs. a chain grocery store would be cost prohibitive.
DB: The idea that living an environmentally friendly lifestyle is expensive is wrong on many levels – from the individual to the societal. You mentioned cleaning products – environmentally friendly products like vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and hot water are far cheaper than the hazardous cleaning products most people use (and that are a leading cause of poisonings in the US). Food is another good example – eating healthy whole foods including fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, beans, legumes, and nuts is healthier (for you and the environment) than a diet heavy in meat, processed foods, and fast food. It might cost a little bit more in the short term but will definitely save money over the long-term by lowering health care expenses. People who eat less meat or no meat tend to live longer, healthier lives. That strikes me as a bargain.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at Village Books or online at brownpapertickets.com. One free ticket is included with each pre-event purchase of the book, at Village Books only. Because the recording will begin at 7:00 p.m., Village Books requests the audience be seated by no later that 6:45 p.m..

For more information, visit www.villagebooks.com or call 360/671-2626.