Today we’re going to get serious as, well… cancer.
Most who have looked into the harm of plastics will have heard at some point about the links between plastic and cancer.
Last month for World Cancer Day (and National Cancer Prevention day in the US), leading health and environmental experts, including Dianne Cohen from the Plastic Pollution Coalition, were in a panel discussion in Washington DC that looked at how we can reduce risks for Cancer by promoting healthier lifestyles and environments.
Less Cancer Board Members (l) Veronique Pittman, Bill Couzens, Stormy Stokes Hood
National Cancer Prevention Day February 4, 2013 Capitol Building, Washington, DC
The links between plastic and cancer have been discussed for quite some time, but recently more and more clarity is being provided about these links – and it’s becoming quite conclusive how very direct these links are.
We also know that cancer rates have skyrocketed in recent decades, and are projected to continue to do so unless we make some serious changes to our diet and lifestyle choices. With what we now know about links between plastics and cancer, I’m going to suggest that those diet and lifestyle choices need to include LESS plastics – less plastic packaging, and prevention of plastics going into our waste stream, and into the environment where they are also entering our food chain, through worms, and through fish.
Cancer doesn’t JUST restrict itself to class, ethnicity or income level – however we also know that the lower to middle income groups suffer with the highest rates of cancer, and that this is both linked to lifestyle AND to access to appropriate health care. So again, I find myself reflecting on what this means to me within a Māori context, in light of the fact that we also suffer the highest cancer rates in Aotearoa. Our health systems pose serious barriers to our people being able to access early diagnosis and health care. Those structures do need to change but structural change of the kind that we need takes a long time.
Meanwhile – here’s what we can do. We can make healthier choices for ourselves, our whānau, and our manuhiri. We can recognise that we are a PART of nature. That when we pollute nature, we pollute ourselves and make ourselves (and our children/future generations) more vulnerable to cancer. We can promote that within our whānau and communities so that the message spreads, and more of us are making better choices.
So, while we’re talking about raising awareness, and cancer – here’s what else I’m doing:
So shaving your head is big, for women… and it’s big, for Māori too. We have all sorts of cultural and spiritual attachments to our hair. One of our most commonly known stories of haircutting was that of Taranga, Mother of Maui who fished up the North Island – who, believing Maui was dead as a baby, cut off her hair, wrapping it around him and casting him to sea (hence his name Maui-Tikitiki-a-Taranga, “Maui, of the topknot of Taranga”).
“Taranga” by artist Robyn Kahukiwa – see original in gallery here.
Through such narratives we can see the cultural attachment and significance of our hair, as Māori. Hair cutting is a form of grief expression, and had many other spiritual uses as well. I was having this discussion with a dear sister the other evening. We spoke, over skype, about the meaning of hair, about hair as a shield, about vanity, and perception, and identity – and how all of it was influenced and framed by our hair. We were discussing whether or not I could, or should, go ahead and shave my head to raise funds and awareness for cancer (and also, importantly for me this message goes hand in hand with the links between plastic and cancer). In the middle of this I get an email from a friend whose 9 year old daughter Liv has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. This is Liv:
Isn’t. She. An Angel.
So I hung up from my sister and started chatting with my friend about Liv’s battle, about the battle they are all, as a family, fighting alongside her. I honestly have no words for the respect and admiration I have for Livia and her family. I recalled fighting that battle alongside my father, and seeing through his final days… and the many other people in my whānau that have fought this horrid disease. I thought of all the young children just like Liv who are spending their days in hospital right now, and their parents who sit, lives on hold, breath held, by their sides. I wept a lot that night… and I realised – my hair’s big but in relation to THAT… it’s not THAT big. It can go. If it can raise some money to help ease a family’s load through this journey they are facing, it can go. If it can bring more awareness to the links between plastic and cancer, it can go. If it can make someone who DOESN’T have a choice about keeping or losing their hair feel better, it can go.
Now…. MY PLASTIC TALLY FOR FEBRUARY! It’s not been a great month… I kept getting couriered things and each time they arrived in a plastic bag I’ve saved the bubble wrap for a little project I have in mind (will show you when it’s done).
Weight: 40gms Yep… an INCREASE on January
The bulk of it is due to me still working the plastics out of my household from last year (shampoo and conditioner is now all gone, as is the sugar from last December’s baking blitz).
A few bottle tops (that’s fast becoming my achilles heel, so going to make a concerted effort to have my drink bottle topped up with yummy lemon-honey water).
Receipts… always receipts…
and the aforementioned courier bags.
MARCH, COME AT ME! I’m going to aim to half that weight this month.
Mauriora everyone. xo