Better Living Through Chemistry?

Tulips- WheelbarrowOnDeck

It occurred to me recently that since World War Two, when so many chemicals were developed for the war effort, that we have been systematically taught to believe that “chemicals” are the answer to all our problems and that scientists are gods. “Better Living Through Chemistry”. That was when farmers were all taught to use chemicals as fertilizer (they used to make bombs with those chemicals), and as “weapons” against any and all pests and diseases. Most are based on petroleum.

Do you have an ache or pain or any minor or major physical problem? Ingest a chemical and it will make you feel better. It won’t actually cure the problem – but will make you feel better for the moment. Do you have mice in your cabinets, rats in your hen house, bugs in your bean plants? There’s a chemical for that.

LemonDayliliesToday every three minutes of TV advertising includes a minute or more telling you to ask your doctor for the latest drug. I know people who are fairly new to gardening and I see them stressing out over any and every small thing that happens in their garden and rushing to find a “cure”. And they also head to the doctor at the first sign of any new (often momentary) dysfunction or discomfort of their body.

We have been carefully taught to support our chemical companies. So carefully that most people by the time they are my age are on several prescriptions, and their medicine and kitchen cabinets, and garden sheds are filled with chemical-laden products. I have had two different experiences with nurses recently during “wellness” check-ups who expressed amazement and envy at the fact that I don’t take any drugs. I realized in thinking about it that it wasn’t that I hadn’t been prescribed drugs – but that I chose not to take them. Truly – I think perhaps all you might have to do is read the list of side effects. Two of my friends did this recently and decided against taking drugs they were prescribed.

FloweringQuinceIt’s not that I have never had reason or occasion to use chemicals in my garden. It is that I have chosen not to use them. You may say that I just never had the problems that you have had – and that may be true. I am not a farmer earning my living from what I grow. Or suffering from some awful physical problem. Things are not black and white. When my husband was dying slowly from a chemically caused fatal disease I was offered an anti-anxiety drug for the terrible pain in my head caused by my stress. It truly helped get me through… So I recognize that there are moments in time when a chemical might be your saving grace.

But what has happened to us is that we have forgotten that – given time and the right support – our bodies and our gardens will heal themselves. I have gardened without chemicals since 1962, in all sorts of climates and conditions, and had lots of physical challenges over my many decades of life. I find that if I look for it I can nearly always find an alternative action to using chemicals. As soon as we throw a chemical at a problem we create an un-natural imbalance in a system that is already stressed – be it body or garden. What usually happens then is that we are offered yet another chemical to overcome that imbalance – and – well you can see where this is going.

ComfreyOnHugelOne of the challenges is that we have been trained over time to expect quick results and perfection. Instant gratification and blemish free fruits and veggies… Nature doesn’t work that way. Nature is a little messy and responds more slowly. It always corrects imbalances in the system but it might take years instead of days, and we are too impatient to wait.

I have noticed here on my land that the more diversity I have achieved, the more frogs and dragonflies, birds, bees, native pollinators and predator insects become part of my system – the less problems I have.

Perhaps it would help to remember that we are so incredibly ignorant of how things work – how our bodies function – how plants and animals and nature function. And how it all interacts. I realized early in my 20’s when I began studying nutrition – that every “expert” had different ideas on the subject. This is still the case. I found, though, that there were always a couple things they all seemed to agree on – and still do. And that was that the more whole and natural (un-processed, un-sprayed, etc) the food is or your diet is – the better. The same goes for gardens. The closer to imitating nature you get the better your garden will be and do.


That’s really a very simple rule to follow. Whole and natural the way nature created it. It makes decision-making much simpler. You have the perfect guideline to hold up to every action you are about to take. Anything you put in or on your body or your children’s or pet’s bodies – or in or on your garden plants and soil should be as close to the way nature designed it as possible. Perhaps we need to let Mother Nature be our guide instead of Dow Chemical.



  1. I’m sorry to hear about the distress you must have felt when your husband was dying.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly regarding chemicals, anyway.


  2. I will not rant, but will say that my doctor is happy to prescribe medication for my embarrassing prostate concern that an older guy should not discuss with a lady, (although I do not know what a prostate is). He knows nothing about herbal remedies; EXCEPT for ‘medicinal’ marijuana. He does not even want to prescribe it for my condition; but only because ‘everyone’ wants it.


  3. Interestingly enough a few years back my father had a prostate problem and I suggested that he take Saw Palmetto in capsules… He sneered at me (lovingly)…. Then a couple weeks later HIS DOCTOR suggested that he take Saw Palmetto! My dad was much more open to my silly suggestions after that… You might look into this one… maybe it will help whatever is going on… 🙂


  4. Good morning – I came here after clicking on your name on Tony’s site and oh my goodness. Good morning! Such a WISE post. This is marvellous. I loved how you said we don’t know enough about our environments and our bodies to throw chemicals at everything. That quick fix is so seductive. Yet we can choose not to succumb. This was a great and passionate piece of writing – thank you! c


    • Thank you for your comments Cecilia! You’re so right about the “quick fix” being so seductive… that’s so very true. I just read a wonderful interview with Stephen Buhner (author of The Lost Language of Plants, and The Intelligence of Plants…) where he was talking about the problem with antibiotics and super bugs and how many thousands of people are now dying in hospitals from bacteria they contacted there, bacteria that we created, in essence, through the indiscriminate use of antibiotics for every little thing… We really need to find a different way of dealing with all these things…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh you are so right- I have not taken antibiotics in thirty- two years. I am my own experiment in living without medical help. I have never been sick so there has been no reason for doctoring which makes it easier. I will find that interview- thank you for the recommendation. C


  5. They say that people who live on farms – around farm animals – have a much more diverse and healthy “biome”. We have killed off so many of the normal micro-organisms we should be living with – that actually help us stay strong and healthy and balanced, by becoming an “anti-bacterial” society – afraid of what we call “germs”… but often are the very things that keep our world in balance.
    Thanks for all you do to inspire other folks to live a simpler life — people seem to learn better by the example of others than by their words… but add the words to the example and you have a winning combination… 🙂


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