June 7, 2021- I read an article, in the current issue of National Geographic Magazine, about a sizable number of Old Colony Mennonites, settling in rural, forested areas of Mexico, and clearing huge swaths of the forest, so that they could plant Transgenic (GMO) soybeans. The process includes aerial spraying of glysophate-a poison that has been shown to lead to metastasized cancer, when ingested through air and water. There has been conflict with the indigenous people of the region, the Maya, who have used the land for small farming and to raise bees. The Mayan bees have been dying off, since aerial spraying of glysophate began. The Mennonites say they have bees that can thrive, despite the presence of glysophate.

I have friends in Pennsylvania who are Mennonites, and who are committed to keeping the Earth both productive and in a relatively pristine condition. They are horticulturists, and much of their produce is raised in greenhouses. I am not aware of any widespread use of glysophate in their operation. So, the NGS account set me to thinking: Why are the settlers in Mexico so adamant about their mission?

People being creatures of habit, with deeply engrained genetic memory, it helps to trace the residential patterns of a group. The Old Colony Mennonites came from grasslands of central Europe and Russia, via Germany, and settled in the prairies of central and western Canada. They are accustomed to large farming operations, worked by large families. They are also given to hard work, relying on Biblical Scripture for guidance and practicing prudent business. A treeless prairie is turned into productive cropland, with relative ease, compared with the forest-which, whether tropical or temperate, is alien land. Thus, with no regard for any value the rainforest may have, the trees are cleared. The land becomes grassland, or cropland.

This has been repeated since the first nomads emerged from the steppes of Central Asia, millennia ago. The treeless land of their origins formed both their mindset, as to the status of the environment and as to the approach that should be taken towards any environment that differed from their native grasslands. Forests were meant to be cleared; deserts were meant to be irrigated; mountains were meant to be either terraced or laid low. The Old Colony Mennonites are no different, in that respect, from all who migrated before them.

That said, there remains the one thing that could lay both them, and their neighbours, low: The poison, that their interpretation of Scripture says is essential to maintaining their way of life. Glysophate has been shown to lead to several cancers, most commonly Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. While only a longitudinal study, of the people of Campeche and Tabasco, will likely convince the leadership of Old Colony that this practice is dangerous, such intransigence is going to cause harm to the very people for whom the leaders say they are engaging in large-scale farming: Their children and grandchildren. Even if the leaders can claim to be unconcerned about their neighbours, an unlikely scenario, for them to be blithely placing crop yield, profit and Manifest Destiny over their own families’ lives, proceeds from sublime to ridiculous.

We can debate the merits and pitfalls of transgenic farming for days on end, but the use of pesticides that are deadly to all life should no longer be up for discussion: Mexico, along with most other civilized nations, has banned the use of glysophate. Predisposition to dominance aside, it is time for the Old Colony members to stop its use, and seek to use methods of crop protection that are not lethal to humans, or bees.



November 25, 2016, Chula Vista-  Son is steadily healing and uses a “space boot” on his left foot, so he’s more mobile than a month ago.  Still, this is not the time for him to go back to full-on hiking mode, and this weekend will find me taking short, but beneficial walks, as I did this afternoon, on a loop of Rice Canyon Trail and the parallel Rancho del Rey Parkway.  It was fitting that I began at Discovery Park and ended at Explorer Park, both named by children of Chula Vista, and geared towards families.

Another aspect of the day was that I finished re-reading “The Celestine Prophecy”, a novel which speculates on the evolution of the human spirit.  It postulates nine insights, which are summarized at:

There is an interesting mix of profundity (the insights and the challenges they present) and hokum (“The Mayans went to a specific spot near Iquitos, in the Peruvian Amazon, and built pyramids”; Peruvian agents broke into an American scientist’s home and stole his copies of the first two insights).  Nonetheless, each of the insights is compatible with my own Faith.  What is also true, though, is that the state of human consciousness described by the ninth insight is probably a good thousand years in the making. We could easily achieve the goals described by the first eight, in the meantime.

I am particularly interested in the notion that children deserve more respect than many are willing to give them.  Adults are seen by Redfield as exemplars and mentors, not as controllers. Also, speaking about anyone in the third person, when they are present, is correctly viewed by the author, James Redfield, as an onerous practice.  So, too, is the notion that an authority figure is needed to interpret Scripture to the laity.  This cornerstone of the concept of clerical primacy is challenged by Redfield, in the nine insights, and is the basis for the conflict in the story.  The near-infantilization of the human race is viewed as outmoded and evil.

I have gone through many of the personal growth dilemmas presented by Redfield, including a host of what he calls control dramas (Intimidator, self-pitier, interrogator and aloof).  Entire decades have seen me in self-pity mode, and a fair amount of my life has found me aloof.  There is also his concept of “addiction to another person”, which he views as a misguided attempt to unite a person’s male and female sides, by attachment to a person of the opposite gender.  The eighth insight prescribes a person finding those two sides, and making peace with both, within oneself, and being a platonic friend to members of the opposite gender, first, rather than “rushing into romance”.

So, much of what is found in these pages is what many of us are already doing in our lives.  It would have a fine thing, though, if I had realized, and practiced, these concepts, a long time ago.