Laureen Rama

Laureen Rama

Calgary is my home more than anywhere else, even though I’ve lived around the world. I lived here as a child and have lived here most of my adult life. I’d like to continue living here.  A pesticide bylaw would make that much easier for me.

In April 2005, I experienced an over-exposure to chemicals. I moved into a house that had just been painted, the carpets cleaned, and the many curtains dry-cleaned. I quickly developed symptoms of what some call “multiple chemical sensitivities” and others “environmental illness.”. My body seemed to want to protect me from any chemical.  So when I was exposed to any chemical, the ancestral part of my brain would kick up the “fight or flight” response.  My heart would start beating faster, muscles would tense, I couldn’t mentally focus on anything but doing something about the situation, I’d get very edgy and irritable, and would seem panicky.

I had to give up most of my work in public teaching and consulting, because I did not have the mental focus to do it.

Pesticides were my biggest challenge during the summer. When my next-door neighbour had her lawn sprayed by a supposedly environmentally-friendly lawn care company, I went out to ask the two operators what they were spraying. The one guy said it was all organic. The more experienced operator said that they spot sprayed the weeds with chemicals. Once they started spraying, even though I closed all the windows in my house, I was reacting within minutes. I was working on writing a major consulting report, and couldn’t continue. So I packed a bag and moved to my parent’s for two days until
my own house was bearable. The neighbour was furious to hear that the lawn care service had used chemicals at all - she had asked for the organic option. She cancelled the service.

The last two summers, I’ve had to be very flexible to work around the pesticide use in Calgary. When the spray trucks come to do lawns in my neighbourhood, I take those days to do errands or work in other parts of the City. When my neighbours spread Weed n’ Feed granules on their yards, I have had to go camping deep in the mountains to be away from the pesticides. For a couple of weeks last summer I missed a number of family gatherings because they were at my sister’s in the community of Beddington.  All the grass on the boulevards in Beddington had been blanket sprayed and their condo complex was also sprayed. When I drive around Calgary, I try to avoid the roads that I know have recently been sprayed with pesticides.

I have hardly ever used pesticides in my life and I certainly don’t now. It is challenging to have my summer life so governed by other people’s use of pesticides.

To stay sane and constructively use the manic energy I had,  I started doing my lifelong passion and hobby intensively - landscaping with perennial flowers. I re-did the yard I lived in, and the yards of friends and family.  People kept suggesting that I do it as a business, so I did and loved it. Now I work in designing and installing natural landscapes  that incorporate hardy, low water use plants and are beautiful. I also consult with people on how to care for their yards organically.

I am much healthier now and only have to use my awkward respirator mask part of the time. I look forward to the time when I can move around Calgary freely, with a clear mind, and normal heart beat, able to smile at neighbours and friends. Having a pesticide bylaw will make a huge improvement to my quality of life and the quality of life of so many in Calgary.