Musings on whether our multiple crises facing people and planet have simpler origins linked to corporate greed and profit
It’s becoming ever more apparent that an ever greater number of people believe they know what to do to fix some of the world’s seemingly biggest problems. These include climate change, biodiversity loss, agricultural soil degradation, and spiralling chronic disease and rising infectious disease incidences. These are essentially all problems linked to ecology but, as you know, ecology is not high on the political agenda, consistently being trumped (deliberate pun) by the economic and political interests of the corporatocracy. So do we fail to make progress more because of a lack of will rather than a lack of answers?
One of the overarching problems is that those who control the narrative of how we should manage our problems have a different way of doing things that consistently appears to fail to rectify these problems that threaten both planet and people. The solutions being offered very seldom take into account the connection between the different, impacted systems and the ways in which human activity (or inactivity) affects them.
Talk to climate change scientists about what’s needed to prevent a 4+ degrees C average temperature rise. Talk to low carb researchers on what’s needed to avert the health crisis among the majority of the world’s population who are refined carb intolerant. Talk to agronomists who’ve spent a lifetime researching how synthetic fertilizers are killing living soils and making our food production systems among the most destructive to our planet. Talk to gut microbiome scientists who’ve proven that manipulating gut ecology by natural means is one of the most powerful medical approaches known yet remains outside the scope of mainstream medicine. Talk to scientists who relate the rampant degeneration of human health among diverse human societies to our inability to apply what we know about ‘health care’ to ‘healthcare’.
This last week, we talked to all of these people – between Oxford (UK) and Brussels (Belgium). Each of the experts understood the interconnections. All were deeply frustrated by the piecemeal tokenism being offered by ‘the establishment’ in an effort to resolve these issues that now threaten all life on the planet, including humans.
Read more about the interconnections, what they mean and some of our options.
Video intro by ANH founder
What the climate change scientist said
We attended a meeting of Extinction Rebellion (ER) in Oxford last Thursday evening. The meeting was hosted by journalist, author and environmentalist George Monbiot who celebrated the rapid, international growth of the ‘rebellion movement’ since its birth last year. He’d apparently been waiting more than 30 years for its arrival.
Its youthful rally-cry intends to wake as many as possible from their planetary-destruct stupor while also letting them know the importance of acting NOW to mitigate our current ecological emergency. ‘Acting now’ and Rebellion’s ‘rebel for life’ slogan refer in particular to the need for organised non-violent protest and civil disobedience. In that light, 15 April is the next big date for the diary.
The climate change scientist speaking to the packed audience of colourful, diversely aged, green-leaning folk (it was hard to spot anyone there who appeared to be from ‘the establishment’ camp) was Arctic browning researcher from the University of Sheffield, Dr Rachael Treharne.
Among the take home messages was the fact that many signatories to the Paris Agreement were set to break the 1.5 degrees C target set back in 2015. Given current trajectories, it’s looking like there’s a high likelihood the planet will experience an average 4+ degrees C temperature increase by 2100, which will be catastrophic ecologically.
Assisted by activist Zuhura Plummer, the audience was told repeatedly that it must act NOW. It just wasn’t made that clear what actions were required other than joining ER and engaging in protests. But the eager audience was left in no doubt that you should be prepared to be arrested if you decide to jump aboard. Governments must be forced to “tell the truth and act as if the truth is real.” Blocking bridges in peak hours – we were told – would make people take notice and join the rebellion. That’s what happens when people lose faith in those at the top and decide that having faith in the grassroots might be better for both people and planet. Added to that, history also tells us that rebellions have worked before. The main disappointment for us was that we just didn’t hear — that night in Oxford — was enough about what a coherent strategy for change might look like. Rebellion is one thing. But needing to be crystal clear with a common vision about what people should be aiming for is another.
What the agronomist said about climate change
Climate, the planet and its ecology are not the only things in crisis. So is agriculture – which, as it happens, is a major contributor to these problems. Roll forward 5 days to yesterday (19 March) and three presentations given to members of the ENVI (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) committee of the European Parliament, hosted by its vice-chair, Pavel Poc. First to speak was Dutch agronomist and ‘soil doctor’ Pius Floris, CEO of Plant Health Cure BV. Floris – who amongst other things has been busy bringing a Spanish desert back to life – had his audience transfixed as he explained how over-use of synthetic fertilisers over decades has become one of the main reasons that crop plants are losing their tolerance and resistance to pests and diseases (insects, mites, bacteria, fungi, viruses, nematodes, etc.) and so ‘need’ pesticides. Added to this, crops subjected to regular use of synthetic fertilizers can’t break down organic matter properly, or fix carbon, this in turn meaning agriculture contributes more than it should to greenhouse gas emissions. There are solutions, and they don’t involve genetic engineering or new chemicals. Find out more in a short film made by Puis’s team.
What the gut doctor said about agronomy
Second to speak in the European Parliament was German ‘gut doctor’, Netherlands-based Dr Ralf Abels, CEO at RP Sanitas Humanus. This is more familiar territory for the health creators among our readership. Our guts – a multi-functional organ composed of more non-human than human cells – is intimately involved with multiple key processes in our body, going well beyond digestion and assimilation of food. A healthy gut – including diverse communities of microorganisms – is vital to healthy immune function, and it plays a central role in our psychology, emotions and reactions to the outside world.
The change in our diets over the last few decades, in particular the consumption of more highly processed foods, eating food-on-the-go, substituting fats for refined carbs, eating at the wrong times of the day or night, eating too often, and not consuming enough fermentable fibre or microbiota-accessible carbohydrate (MAC) and polyphenols that are food for our gut microorganisms, is causing havoc. You could say, that’s the only big MAC that’s good for us! It’s the root of so much of our downstream disease, yet most people are not helped by the medical profession to rectify their gut health to restore other systems in their bodies.
What the sustainability scientist said about gut health and agronomy
The final speaker was ANH founder, Rob Verkerk PhD. Rob used the opportunity to explain to Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and their assistants, to show how crucial it is for citizens to become empowered. That means understanding the things that people are able to do to take control of their own lives, and not feel they are at the mercy of others, be they big governments or corporates. Rob showed how the globalisation of food supply, coupled with intensification of agriculture and the increased processing of foods has led to substantial decreases in the diversity of diets. He showed how multiple government surveys in the UK, Germany and the USA have shown how micronutrient-deficient substantial sectors of the population are, yet the government mantra of “you can get everything you need from your diet” continues to be repeated ad nauseam. It might be theoretically possible – but many of us we know fail to achieve this. And who decides what an adequate supply of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids or phytonutrients should be? Vitamins and minerals are the most well studied of the micronutrients and we know optimal levels are often much higher than the 'adequate' levels cited by health authorities that aim only to prevent overt deficiency diseases.
Just as agronomists have become focused on plant diseases – and dangle pesticides and fertilisers before our eyes as a long-term ‘solution’ – modern medicine focuses almost exclusively on human disease, not on human health or its creation. There needs to be a sea change in how we view how the world (human, non-human and abiotic) functions around us – and it’s becoming ever more likely that a top-down solution won’t be in the offing. There are just too many people out there who benefit from the status quo. And those who are benefitting don’t care about the state of the planet or the unnecessary suffering that many are enduring. They can’t give credence to approaches that work with nature and don’t cost much. To support such approaches would be economic suicide for them. So big corporates carry on buying their political support and the spiral goes on. It was good to get this out to the assembled MEPs.
Rob finished his presentation outlining the central elements of our blueprint project that focuses on how sustainable health systems, using ecology as the underlying language, can be created from the bottom-up. By design, the approach is about working with nature, not against it.
Breaking the cycle
We need to see if the youth-driven climate action rebellion will make significant headway. It presupposes that ‘the establishment’ will act in the planet and our best interest – or that people power and our choices as citizens can reshape the way economies run. It’s a very big ask, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If things move forward because of a people's rebellion, how will those in the driving seat of society feel about 'allowing' another win for non-violent protest and civil disobedience?
Fixing agriculture and our health is equally an ambitious challenge. In some respects it's complicated there being even less societal agreement on what’s best, given the power of messaging by the pharmaceutical-dominated medical establishment.
What more and more of us agree on, including the three experts who spoke yesterday in the European Parliament, is that nature – not the R&D arms of Big Business – is the custodian of the answers we so desperately need to resolve our current, interrelated crises. We really need — society-wide — to prioritise developing a much deeper understanding and respect for nature if we’re to get ourselves as well as our planet out of this mess.
And that’s right at the heart of everything we do at the ANH.
Please share this article, search our website and share some more. Help others who have yet to fully appreciate that it is through our deeper understanding of nature, including an understanding of human greed and needs, that we will find the keys to our future.