When the first transition of Fall started a few weeks ago not uncommon to see students on campus sneezing and sniffling. I was not alone in when my throat stated hurting and I joined the ranks of the sickly. This was not the first time I had strep, or Streptococcus pyogenes and I recognized my symptoms  immediately. What was more upsetting was knowing what the treatment was for this ailment- antibiotics.

Antibiotics are regarded as the height of accomplishments in modern medicine. If we break down the etymology of the name we get biotic meaning “pertaining to life” and anti, meaning “against”.  Antibiotics kill any infections bacteria that make you sick, but it kills blindly. This violent act of medicine causes a cascade of health problems and environmental degradation.

Where do antibiotics come from? The active components in antibiotics originated from the natural world, many times from plants. Scientists identified the bacteria-resistant chemicals in herbal plants, isolated those chemicals, artificially reproduced them in a lab, and increased their strength 100s of times. Why is this bad? Let’s compare this method with analogist practice- monoculture farming. When farmers plant only one type of crop, they lose the many benefits of diversity. One of these benefits is how the crops genetic diversity protected them from bugs and disease.  Today we practice monomedicine. When we borrow a single chemical from nature, we lose hundreds of other diverse helpful chemical components already included by Mother Nature. Using just one compound opens the door for bacteria to become immune to the antibiotic, creating something stronger and untreatable.

Penicillin, the world’s first antibiotic, originated from a mold. It was adopted commercially for treatment of infection in 1939. Ten years earlier, Alexander Fleming, the father of penicillin’s discovery, had already expressed his concerns. He reported that numerous bacteria strands were already becoming resistant to the drug. As use of penicillin became more widespread, this trend continued until penicillin was hardly effective. Because bacteria create a new generation every 20 minutes, it can rapidly evolve to become completely immune to any antibiotic drug.

The use of antibiotics is bigger than human health. The largest percent by mass of antibiotics used goes into the business of agriculture, fisheries and factory farms. The conditions that our food is produced under, which demand this high amount of antibacterial support, is a much longer topic for a different day. Instead, I want to focus on where the antibiotics go as waste. The antibiotic ridden waste of farms combines with our pharmaceutical waste, washes into waterways, and causing detrimental effects on ecosystems far and wide. Drug resistant super-bacteria are found in most riparian areas and oceans today. In addition to the spread of new disease, the anti-life drugs kill beneficial microbes and bacteria in soils, disturbing a delicate balance that supports all life.

Consuming antibiotics, as a byproduct in your hamburger or in prescribed pill compromises your health. Like the soil, our bodies are filled with beneficial bacteria that help us stay healthy. As I read about my step throat infection, I was interested to learn that the Streptococcus bacteria live in our throats usually.  This strand of strep wards off the colonization of the harmful Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria which makes us sick.

In an effort to reduce my environmental impact, and to keep myself healthy, I looked for alternatives cures for strep throat. I found in Stephan Buhner’s Herbal Antibiotics: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug Resistant Bacteria a mired of natural treatments to try. I choose a tincture of Echinacea  angustifolia, which I took every hour for 2 days until I was happily cured!

Melanie Weber-Sauer

How can YOUR eating habits combat climate change?

Everyone always says that being a vegetarian is way too hard and that they could never give up their meat. That’s what I thought, and now I have been a vegetarian for the last six months, and it was one of the easiest transitions I have ever made. I initially made this switch for health reasons, but after about the effects of the meat industry on our climate, I figured out that I was not only doing good for my body, but for the world as a whole. Check out these statistics, and you might just change your mind too!

If every single American went vegetarian for just one day, we would save 100 billion gallons of water, which is enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months. We would also save 1.5 billion pounds of crops that are normally fed to livestock. This is enough food to feed the entire state of New Mexico for more than one year. We would also consume 70 million less gallons of gas that is normally used to transport the meat over 2,000 miles everyday. We could spare 3 million acres of land, which is a land mass equivalent to the twice the size of Delaware. Looking at these statistics alone, think of how we could save our world by going veg.

We could not only save on natural resources, but we could prevent a lot of climate issues that are happening as we speak. By not eating meat for just one day, we would prevent the exertion of 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. We would prevent 3 million tons of soil erosion and save $70 million is the resulting economic damage that comes from the soil. Each day 7 tons of ammonia emissions are let out from the meat industry, and we could prevent this pollutant from contaminating our air by just changing one meal! The most convincing statistic to me is that if every American skipped one meal that contained chicken in it every week, we would be doing the equivalent to taking half a million cars off the roads of the United States.  Researchers at the University of Chicago have proved that switching from a standard American diet to that of a vegetarian one is more effective than buying a hybrid car.

Looking at these affects of just one day going meatless, think of how many changes we could make to our world in a week. Knowing these statistics and seeing how much of a difference you could make on Mother Earth by simply changing your eating habits. It’s not that hard, trust me, you can do it!

Written By: Emily Griffin