Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘ecology’

Framing Health in a Context of Interconnectedness

It’s a terribly chilly day here in Olympia. I’ve spent most of the day at my desk, drinking puerh tea, brow furrowed in intense contemplation over some aspects of my developing thesis. I’m exploring the question of the contribution of ethnobotanical knowledge & practices to public health and I face a number of challenges. And chief of these challenges is dealing with the conceptual frame and definition of health itself.
There are many ways to define health and the cultural variations are plenty. Here are some:

World Health Organization. 1948. Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization.
The first lines of the Preamble declare, “in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, that . . . [h]ealth is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Dubos, René. 1959. Mirage of health. New York: Harper & Row.
Health is “the expression of the extent to which the individual and the social body maintain in readiness the resources required to meet the exigencies of the future.” Read more

Ecological Medicine and the Grey Area of Individual Treatment and Systemic Change

In my academic life, I’ve taken an interdisciplinary approach when considering human & ecological health. Because of the way that knowledge is fragmented, playing within the bounds of one discipline confines my understanding to that portion of the whole system. None of the disciplines gets the full picture; they are not meant to. It’s deliberate and purposeful fragmentation, now inappropriate for the complex challenges that the planet faces.

The term ‘ecological medicine’ was coined in 2001 by Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. Ken Ausubel, founder of Bioneers, has really engaged in this field. He describes some basic tenets (extracted from here):

  • The first goal of medicine is to establish the conditions for health and wholeness, thus preventing disease and illness. The second goal is to cure.
  • The earth is also the physician’s client. The patient under the physician’s care is one part of the earth.
  • Humans are part of a local ecosystem. Following the ecopsychological insight that a disturbed ecosystem can make people mentally ill, a disturbed ecosystem can surely make people physically ill.
  • Medicine should not add to the illnesses of humans or the planet. Medical practices themselves should not damage other species or the ecosystem. Read more

Key limiting factor for human development?

According to Paul Ehrlich, the key limiting factor for human development on this planet as a whole is the inability for our environment to handle our waste products. Watch the video at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Thought provoking, whether you agree or disagree with him.