The Health Story of the 80ís  
by Bruce and Barbara Small

Sunnyhill, The Health Story of the 80ís  was published in 1980, 
but remains a relevant story of one familyís journey
through environmental illness to health.  
The book is dedicated 
ďTo the many people whose doctors think they are crazy.Ē  

The excerpts below are from the conclusion to the book.

One of the reasons why things do get worse is that people refuse to believe that things are getting worse.  Each person has his own status quo, and finds it hard to believe when anything changes that.
Private File    November 19, 1970

THE PROBLEM OF ECOLOGICAL illness will very likely get worse through this decade, the 1980ís.

The idea that thousands of others may be following the same path is disquieting enough.  But something more brings us uneasy feelings, a sense that something is wrong that is much bigger than any one of us, something that none of us can hide from.

We have the feeling that many people are working desperately to ignore what is happening around them.  There are at least as many who want to avoid reaching the conclusions that their eyes and ears will lead them to, as there are people who take the world as it is and are waking to the fact that things are happening that must be changed.

We see fear.  People who have watched us changing our lives, who have seen both the lengths we have had to go to, to feel well, and the unbelievable improvements that have resulted, are becoming uncomfortable.

And indeed they should feel uneasy.  Because if our story is true, and if there are many others the same, something is very, very wrong.

Accepting our experience means that the world that we all grew up with is not as it seems.  It means that all the objects around us that we thought were benign and inert are in fact very active participants in our lives, giving off minute amounts of gases that enter our lungs and our blood.

It means that the chemicals we add to our food and our water, the perfumes and deodorants and creams and ointments that we use on our bodies, the curled-up leaves that we place between our lips and set fire to, the little red and yellow pills that we take in the morning, the cars that we drive and the sofas that we sit on, can all bring pain as well as happiness.

Not for everybody, but for some and maybe for a majority.  For many people, the implications are just too big to handle.  Even when evidence comes out in black and white or is obvious in their children, people find it hard to accept.

Surely it couldnít be the simple colour red in the simple sugared cereal that is making our children wiggle and run and scream and bite uncontrollably.  Surely it isnít the pleasant herbal smell that is supposed to make us appealing and open our lives to love and sex, that is causing our loved ones to become so irritable and depressed, so uncaring and disinterested.

Surely it isnít the magic white pill that keeps us from conceiving children that would bring on the pains, the fatigue, the high blood pressure, the seizures and the blackouts.  Surely it cannot be the sweet smell of the contraceptive cream that is causing him to lose his desire, that is giving her that uncomfortable, burning feeling.
Surely it cannot be the clean white flour that is causing all those overweight pounds that refuse to leave, or the gentle cowís milk itself that is causing all those ugly rashes on the baby.

Surely not.

 is what we hear, over and over.  It is an inconceivable trick, that the world around us should ever turn against us.  And those that suggest it must be mad.

The world generally is in trouble, mostly because it has not had or taken the time to think situations out carefully.
Private File    December 28, 1970

WE WILL NEVER KNOW for sure what role ecological illness is playing in our society until we begin to question everything around us, to test both our surroundings and ourselves.

The effort will be worth it if even the smallest fraction of the growing tides of people searching for answers discover that environment does play a role in their problems.  Each one of these tides has been found to be related to other difficulties in society.  Even the slightest relief afforded by changing our environment could have enormous benefits.

Our countryís medical costs have risen greatly in the past decade.  They will continue to rise until we practice preventive medicine and adopt healthier lifestyles.
The growing problem of hostility in North America is a cause of great concern.  Delinquency and crime are constant threats that everyone would like to see decreased.  There is evidence that this kind of behaviour can often be related to ecological illness too.

We see in many areas a decline in the quality of workmanship that goes into our goods, a deterioration in our attitudes in service to others.  How much is related to the atmosphere we work in?  How much could be gained if people felt more like working, and were able to think more clearly from day to day?

Our world is so interconnected that every problem affects another.  Ecological illness makes people less capable as human beings.  That cannot help but be costing us a great deal as a society.

Your biggest problem at every step has not been technical.  It has been social.
Private File    August 31, 1973

I WAS EDUCATED AS a scientist.  The simplest problems we face are scientific, and we see many people working on them, trying again and again until they are solved.  But some problems are deeply human - deeply ingrained in our minds, our habits, and our culture.  I know we have encountered a human problem whenever I see people stop trying new things, stop experimenting, stop questioning things around them.  It is usually a sign of trouble, and often big trouble.

Ecological illness may be the simplest disease around.  It is easily diagnosed, it is easily confirmed, and it is subject to simple and often dramatic experiment.  If chemicals make someone sick, it is easy to prove.  Give them more, and see what happens.  Take them away entirely, and see what happens.  Give them one at a time, and see what happens.  If someone is sensitive to chemicals, it will show up.  And it will show up again and again.

But we have seen people who have watched the demonstrations, watched their wives feel miserable when exposed to their tobacco smoke, watched themselves feel better when they are away from their house full of rugs and appliances, watched their children turn into monsters when they eat certain foods.  Yet they choose to live as before, suffer the same problems, and cause others to suffer.
If ecological illness were really such a simple disease, it would have been out in the open long before this and long since solved with the weight of wealth, science and technology that we bring to bear on other problems in society.

If you suggest an idea to people that is different from their own (particularly one that concerns their way of life), they will immediately become defensive, just as we do if someone suggests an idea to us that is threatening.
Barbaraís File    June 7, 1973

THEN SUDDENLY THERE MUST be something deeper to it than that.  And there is.
Ecological illness has not been solved because we are dependent on the things that are part of the problem.  We thought they were part of the solution.  This is the heart of the matter, an addicted society that clings to many of the things that are causing many of its ills.

An addictís world is a consistent one.  Its logic is rock solid.  This is why it is so hard for many of us to believe that the world we fought to acquire is starting to turn bad on many of us.

Pills cannot be part of the problem, because they were meant to solve the problem, and they do.  If a pill takes away your headache, there is no need to look farther.  If it comes back, take another.

Food is for feeling good.  If you feel bad, eat.  If you feel better, there is no need to look farther.  If you feel bad again, eat some more.

Coffee is for keeping us working.  If you slow down, have a cup.  If you feel better, get back to work.  If you slow down again, have some more.

Television is for relaxing us.  If your mind races and you feel uncomfortable, or if you have no energy for anything else, turn on the tube.  If you feel more comfortable, there is no need to look farther.  If you like it, watch some more.

Material things are for making us feel good.  If you feel down, buy some.  It feels good.  Buy some more.  If, sitting among them, you feel down again, it is not because you have them; it is because you donít have enough of them.  Buy some more.  If that helps you relax, there is no need to look farther.

The pattern is so universal that no one can avoid it.  Here at Sunnyhill the stimulus is the same, though the responses have changed.  If we get a headache, we go outside to get some air, or we stop eating food until we find what caused it.  If we feel down, we change our surroundings until we feel good.  But instead of going shopping or eating out, we stay home to feel better.

The only difference between us and millions of others is that what used to work doesnít work any more.  The pills stopped helping, and started hurting.  We needed more and more food to stay high.  The coffee started giving downs instead of ups.  The alcohol stuffed me up instead of relaxing me.  Buying things only seems to make matters worse.

Our biggest fear is that the clock is running out on many others.  It has already run out for thousands of our children.

And this is the paradox.

As long as what we are doing to ourselves feels good, it makes sense to us.  As long as the coffee and the pills work, there is no need to look further.  But no one ever warned us that they would not work forever.

Telling someone that everything he uses may someday stop working is like saying that everyone you ever depended on will let you down at once.  But that is what it is like.  For thousands the world will keep on working, at least long enough.  For thousands more, the many who are not stepping forth, banding together, experimenting with the surroundings, and changing their lives, the old world just stopped working.

Take time to decide what really is most important to you and everybody.
Private File    January 19, 1970

I FEAR FOR MY own generation that is just now starting to take the reins of power in the vast organizations that control our lives.  I fear that for many of them, time will start to run out, as it ran out for me, leaving them incapable of doing the kind of thinking that we need so desperately in this complex world.  I fear that for countless others, the decline has already started, and their goals and ideals are becoming confused and buried instead of strengthened and refined.

I fear for our young ones now, the many who are having difficultly even focussing their energies on one small task for a short time, who seem so driven in a hyperactive frenzy that we can scarcely imagine them keeping hold of their own scattered lives, let alone guiding others along rational paths.

And I fear for the many generations young and old that no longer have the energy to get up and do the things they want to do in life, to take control of their own destinies and plan where they are going rather than float with the tide.

What can reach our generations lost?

We may reach some who know the dream is no longer working for them, who know something is wrong and are searching for answers as we did.  They will be the ones who have lost enough to hurt, yet have enough energy and mind left to think their way through and fight for a solution.

But people have shown that they will give up many things before they will fight, and the danger is that all of us may give up so much before we look around that we no longer have the strength to do anything about it.

Certainly there is a set of very private yet very common everyday problems that tie people in knots, and which are generally not exchanged either within a family or between close friends.
Private File    December 13, 1970

TO BEGIN WITH WE must learn the full truth of what we are up against.
Our first priority must be to break the generations-old conspiracy of silence that surrounds our health.  Too many of us grow up accepting our daily ills as unchangeable, assuming they are part of life for everyone.  We discovered to our surprise that they are not.  Not everyone lives with headaches and stomachaches and depression and pain.  Healthy people do not lose their energy and their ideals before the age of thirty.

Unless we begin to think and talk and debate about these things, we will never realize what is open to us, what real health is like, which problems are changeable and which are not.

Modern medicine is partly responsible for this conspiracy.  Our drug-oriented culture tends to silence our symptoms before we find their cause.  Our problems are buried but not solved, and they come back sooner or later.

But most of all, many of our doctors are trying to shift the blame onto us.  If they cannot quell our symptoms, then we can only have made them up.   What cannot be understood must originate in our minds.

As ecological illness shows up more and more, it presents to our doctors the most baffling array of symptoms imaginable.  We have met many patients who have proved for themselves that their problems can be triggered by exposures in their environment.  They now control their way of life and avoid many of the troubles that plagued them before.  But there is not one among them who has not been told by one or more doctors in the past, that it might be all in their mind.  Experiment has shown otherwise.

None of us wants to risk being called crazy.  So we are quiet, and suffer in silence.  We dare not even admit to ourselves what is really happening.

Our hope is that the time has come to speak openly, for people to talk and compare notes, to begin to question whether there might be reasons and solutions for the ills we have been taught to cover up.

We ask people to begin to listen to themselves and others without judging, to take in what they hear and look for patterns and connections before they form conclusions.  For only when we can discuss our ills openly, without fear of being labelled weak or deranged, will the truth come out.  It will take time.  We offer our story as a beginning.

Only when both options are available to try can we properly choose which is best.

BUT THAT ALONE WILL not be enough.  No one can truly gauge the effects of his environment unless he has alternatives.

We cannot know what dirty air is doing to us until we have clean air to try.  We cannot tell what food additives and pesticides are doing to our children until we find clean food to give them.  We cannot learn what water contaminated with industrial waste is doing to our minds until we get purer water to drink.

And as an addicted society, we cannot expect change until we prove that new ways of living work better than old.  We will not give up the foods that lift us up, the drugs that calm us down, and our tobacco and coffee and tea, unless there are real substitutes that make us feel better, not worse.

This is societyís challenge.

For everything in our lives, we need some more options.  We need manufacturers who will make cars that donít pollute, rugs that donít smell, and packages that donít poison our food.  We need farmers who will grow more food without chemicals.  And we need industries to find better ways of handling their wastes.  Only when both options are available for us to try, can we properly choose which is best to live with.
Here at Sunnyhill, our lives and those of others around us show that there is much to be gained, that it is well worth the effort to help people try new ways and test for themselves.

But for us, Sunnyhill was not an alternative - it was a necessity.  For the most part, it will serve those who have no choice left, who must change their lives or give them up.  May it serve as a reminder for the many who have not yet reached that stage, and a plea to the healthy.  They can help create better alternatives for all of us, and for generations to come.


Reprinted with permission.  Thank you to Bruce Small.  
Sunnyhill is available from .  ISBN number 0-920858-007.