Picture this: It’s a dark and stormy night (isn’t it always?), and the streetlights have all gone out. You hear a suspicious rustling just ahead of you. Skin prickling, hairs standing straight up on your neck, you cautiously step forward. Suddenly, you see a winged shadow flicker across the broken drifts of moonlight. Where’s Buffy when you need her? Then it dawns on you that it’s not so likely that there are actual vampires dwelling in Chicagoland streets…could what you’re sensing be a bat? And if it is—is there valid reason to be afraid?
Gauging the Fear Factor: The Most Misunderstood Mammal
If you are afraid of bats, you’re not alone. There’s something about them that has long inspired fear in humanity, from folkloric connections to bloodthirsty vampires and even Macbeth’s witches to the more benign concerns that they’ll mess up our hair. These days, reason dictates that those things are more old wives tales than truth.
And yet…the fear lives on. Why? Tim Sullivan, the Curator of Animal Behavior at the Brookfield Zoo, hypothesizes that people fear bats because they look so different from most mammals, thanks to their almost (okay, actually) spooky wings.
With apple season in full force, and dreams of cider, pie and other fall favorites dancing in our heads, we wanted to know: is the crunchy fruit still a healthy pick? In this era of pesticides, does “an apple a day” still keep the doctor away?
Some argue no, at least when it comes to apples not grown organically. The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that works to protect public health and the environment, ranks the apple number one in its 2011 Dirty Dozen list—the aka, never-eat-these-items-when-they’re-not-organic-or-else list.
And this list is based in science, not public opinion. EWG came up with the rankings after analyzing results from 51,000 USDA and FDA tests between 2000 and 2009. According to the study, 92 percent of apples tested contained two or more pesticide residues—after being washed. And as a category, apples were treated with 56 kinds of pesticides—far more than most produce. So what? Well, many lab studies point to the health risks of too much pesticide exposure. Even the U.S. EPA says pesticides can cause problems such as birth defects, nerve damage, and cancer.
All in all, it’s a pretty doom and gloom sort of outlook for the non-organic apple. So we thought, no big deal, let’s just buy locally grown, organic apples. Buying local means we save fossil fuels used in transport, and buying organic means we’re supporting biodiversity and public health by keeping toxic pesticides out of our bodies and our soil. Right?