Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I Married a Peace Lily

Dear everyone,

Life's still been good on this side of Montreal. I hope things are going well for all of you. I just met a man whose mother lived to be 115 years old. She grew up in the countryside of Iran, but hailed from India. According to her son, one of the most striking aspects of her character was that she slept outside almost every night of her life. She had a little spot on a balcony, probably in spite of the comments of her wee strangeness. Living in the countryside probably didn't hurt. She died on the first night that she slept inside after years of outdoor slumber. I forgot to ask why she was inside. The doctor said her death was due to an exhausted heart. I wonder if her life was prolonged because she showered in star photons every night. And to think that, yesterday, I adamantly denied being a hippy...

Recently, I became really surprised at how I paid almost no attention to air quality, even though I'd die in minutes if I didn't have the right kind of air. Sources say we breath in 6-10 litres of air every minute, or about 13,000 litres a day. If you do the math, 500 ml per breath, 12 times per minutes, etc., it works out. And alas, all the industrial garbage that's being pumped out on a daily basis isn't going anywhere special but into the ocean of air around us. Again, they still haven't figured out how to jettison this stuff into space. Luckily, it looks like plants are continually saving the day for us by breaking down chemicals into smaller molecules that they can consume.

Did you ever think that the subtle irritation in your airways or eyes was caused by volatile organic compounds coming from the breakdown of synthetic material your house? Me neither, till recently. It looks like NASA did experiments on this kind of thing 25 years ago, after discovering all the garbage astronauts were breathing in from the high-tech materials in their spaceships. Apparently some plants eat chemicals like benzene, alcohol, acetone, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde for lunch.

Here's a link to some related reading:

Here are some plants that are supposed to be good at cleaning the air: (based, I'm assuming, on one of the NASA scientists' books--B.C. Wolverton's "How to Grow Fresh Air" With a name like that, he must be the coolest scientist ever.)

peace lily
dracaena (Janet Craig, striped)
areca palm
lady palm
bamboo palm
rubber plant
English ivy
Boston fern
Pygmy date palm
fig alii
corn plant
golden pothos
florist mum
gerbera daisy

Here's a few others that were mentioned: schefflera, bromeliads, orchids, aloe, tulips, azaleas, cyclamen, spider plant (not as strong as people think at cleaning air), Chinese evergreen (grows stronger with exposure to a chemical).

Let me know if any of you find out any more tidbits. Forget about adopting a houseplant.

Marry one.
Marry many.
Plant polygamy.

Next stop is a book called "Self-Help for Closet Hippies".

Everything I've said may be wrong.

Love, Ian

(originally posted on Sept. 9, 2006, on

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