by Bob Banner

For the official facebook page in memory of her life, it is here:

Selene Anema was my friend and lover for years. We met at a Buddhist sangha in San Luis Obispo. I vividly recall that a powerful beam of light shot instantaneously from her eyes to mine to capture my attention. (When I spoke to her about this years afterwards she had no idea that that had happened.) She studied Buddhism, esoteric Christianity and Sufism. She lived in the community that Reshad Field created around him. He was the author of the famous book about a Sufi wanderer called The Last Barrier (which is to be made into a film). She was sweet; an angelic otherworldly presence emanated from her soul. She loved her cats, loved gardening, always was reading something, whether it was Susan Griffin’s latest tome about eco-feminism or a new book on Fiber Art. She chanted and sang and the house was vibrant with the ecstatic sounds of world music. I learned about Baaba Maal, Toni Childs, Nasrat Fatah Ali Khan, Yousson D’our, Cheb Mami and a magical plethora of other divinely inspired musicians. I also learned to love yams, beans, kale, cauliflower and broccoli (and to grow them).

Selene would often lie on the couch for hours cutting, pulling, stretching and sculpting pieces of recycled fabric into wonderful pieces of fiber art. Later on she focused on water colors and created many exquisite portraits of her and her friends: her dogs and cats.

She committed suicide last month. She left a note saying she could no longer tolerate the pain. Selene Anema was an EI. EI stands for Environmental Illness. She was also labeled as MCS, for Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. She couldn’t tolerate what most of us take for granted living in “civilization.” She became allergic to gases emanating from new carpet, perfumes, fresh paint, barbecues, incense, gas lawn mowers, automobiles, pesticided vegetables and fruit, varnish, condoms, cologne, after shave, Bounce, household cleaners… and on and on….

She was what they call “a canary,” the term originating from the time coal miners went into the tunnels with a canary cage strapped atop their helmets. When the canary died, the coal miner knew to get the hell out of there. If human canaries start to die off because of the various toxins inherent in a fossil-fuel-based global world, we who are more adaptable may be next.

What many of us can tolerate when our immune systems are intact can go topsy turvy in days when the immune system falters. The plight of human canaries can be a harbinger of our collapse and demise.

Selene had to be diligent, alert, studious. Fortunately for her she was also a registered nurse in the state of California. Having a scientific background, she pursued many healing modalities, both allopathic and homeopathic. Was it Lyme disease or AIDS or Lupus or was it the water she drank in Mexico decades ago? Her life was spent pursuing the truth. But not just for herself. She networked with other canaries to help them discover the cause and methods toward healing. In fact, at her Memorial audio-conferencing a couple of weeks ago, there were 25 people on the line and many I hadn’t known. They were part of her invisible network of canaries.

She also worked with various health and environmental agencies to fight pesticides in school playgrounds as well as methyl bromide sprayings in strawberry fields throughout California. She consulted with Todd Haynes, filmmaker of SAFE (starring Julianne Moore) about a life of a typical housewife whose immune system became compromised one day when she entered the doors of her local dry cleaner, and passed out.

Selene was also very much involved in the stop-spraying- movement locally and nationally with her friend Linda McElver, Founder of the Canaries Foundation.

Selene immediately became friends with other canaries throughout the country because she listened to them and understood what they were saying. By contrast, the established medical system couldn’t and wouldn’t listen but always felt compelled to tell canary clients they were “sick in the head,” that they were just imagining such acute sensitivities and pain. Selene had to deal with this onslaught of closed-mindedness and ruthless denial about her and her growing network’s claims. Not only did she have to endure the medical establishment but the totally insane verdicts from her new-age friends who would religiously and fanatically tell her she was creating her own reality, that she was just being a victim and she ought to “wake up to the Light.”

I was devastated when I heard the news of her suicide. It just tore me up. Why a woman with such beauty, grace, brilliance and artistic talent could go away like so many other suicides who choose to leave this world. But do we really choose? Or when a world becomes so rigid and cold and dogmatic that it won’t at least listen to the canaries’ particular concerns, what is one to do? Is it just a matter of time? Selene kept track of her canary friends committing suicide. Where in the media have we been informed about this movement?

I loved Selene and still love her. At times I just break down and sob and sometimes I don’t even understand why. She was a precious gift to many friends (many invisible since the internet connected them) and touched us all deeply. I respect her decision to take her life. I know that she and I spoke about it and I know it took much courage for her to plan it out.

But if there were more acceptance of canaries, more useful networks and modalities of healing, more local community support of canaries and people who have EI or MCS or Lymes disease as well as a multiplicity of other maladies that will soon crop up with crises upon us. The emotional support for shut-ins in one local community can make all the difference. For example, when information about Selene’s suicide went out to a community where a woman spearheaded a network of support for various shut-ins, the volunteer rate shot up. Perhaps each person who reads this can find out where such a support is and if there isn’t one, possibly you can start one.

Bob Banner can be reached at [email protected] .


Pesticide Action
Don’t Spray:
Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs):
Steve Tvedten (non-toxic Pest Control):
Pesticide Action Network:

Selene Anema’s artwork websites:

Video of Selene’s artwork by Sonia:

Selene’s writings:


To view the trailer at this site, please visit:

For the official facebook page in memory of her life, it is here: