‘System failure’ may be one of the most concise descriptions that captures the current catastrophic decline in both planetary and human health. Accordingly, any unilateral or even limited technology-based interventions that intend to resolve environmental or human health crises, are unlikely to be enough on their own. System failure demands system-based solutions, ones that go well beyond the provision of new technologies.
In his keynote presentation for the European Congress for Integrative Medicine on Sunday 7th November 2021, sustainability scientist, Rob Verkerk PhD, examines some of the systemic changes that are now needed to resolve the parallel crises we face, involving economic, political and social systems, including ways of encouraging sustainable changes in human behaviour. In his presentation, which he has recorded for our ANH audience, he references metrics that allow us to better measure our effects on these systems as well as considering the advantages and disadvantages of centralised and decentralised approaches.
Defining the problem
When we try to solve a problem we must first define the problem.
Cutting carbon emissions is analogous to saying let’s treat a newly emerged infectious disease with an antigen that represents a very small part of that pathogen - in this case part of the receptor binding domain of a coronavirus spike protein. But why are both of these strategies at risk of being unsuccessful in the long run? Because they ignore both the complexities and the socio-politico-ecological context of the problems. In many cases, even the problems themselves are not clearly defined in the minds of those trying to advocate solutions.
For example, the planetary ecological crisis is often defined as a Climate Change problem. It’s much more than this as we are amidst a cataclysmic ecological mass extinction event that is mediated by human activity, habitat destruction, chemical and radiofrequency pollution, and modern human lifestyles. Accordingly, it’s not just about reducing CO2 emissions. It's also about reducing the rate of deforestation - that’s happening at a rate of 36 football fields per second, every second of every day - reforestation, tree planting or improving the capacity of land - particularly agricultural land or oceans - which both sequester CO2. So we must redefine the problem around the myriad ways that humans have devastated ecological resources, microbial communities and, in the process, over-exploited ecosystem services. We have to re-appraise land use, and better understand how social, industrial and political systems can co-exist with rather than abuse nature. We need to rethink human values and our desire for expansion and human greed. Many have bought into accepting increasing centralisation of power that goes hand in hand with a ever more globalised world. Perhaps without sufficient consideration of how more decentralised power structures and communities would work, with better adaptation to the needs of their people and regional environments.
The terrain - the foundation for balanced systems
This brings us to the terrain and the interface with human health. As against 'germ theory, 'terrain theory' argues that it's all about the health of our bodies; if the body is well and balanced, then ‘germs’, which are a completely natural part of life and the environment, will in the most part be dealt with appropriately by our immune system without causing serious sickness. Humans remain the most complex system about which we are aware. We’re not machines. As we continue to learn from epigenetics, our bodies, and even our immune systems, respond phenotypically to their specific and unique environments. Within us are thousands, even millions, of interlinked processes and systems. These form the terrain, the ‘ground’ on which we’re built and function.
Hence, ANH-Intl's Ecological Terrain is where our human terrain and ecology (and the environment) meet. Forming a system of 12 distinct yet interconnected areas (domains), health care should aim to balance each of these domains to allow the optimal function of the individual within its community or environment. When all 12 domains are in balance, the opportunity for disease to manifest is removed. When one or more domains is found to be out of balance, assuming it's picked up early enough, balance can be re-established before the imbalance turns to disease.
As Rob asserts in his presentation below, the social, political and economic instability caused by the current pandemic is providing us unique and improved opportunities for bringing about a deep, systemic, change. Many actors on the planet today also see the crises we face as an opportunity for change (hence the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset), but it is for the world’s population to decide what kind of future makes more sense, for future generations. In our book, this future has to be about better integration with the natural systems from which we’ve originated and on which we are dependent. We see a very bleak future ahead if we are to buy into disconnecting ever further from nature and relying on a flawed notion of the superiority of human technology over nature.
Please enjoy Rob’s re-presentation of the lecture he gave at the European Congress for Integrative Medicine this last weekend. Please also share this article and video presentation with others who may need a more positive vision to focus on right now. YouTube link: https://youtu.be/onBQgeOkW68.
Read more about the Great Health System Reset
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your voice counts
20 November 2021 at 4:32 am
This is an unique presentation that addresses our global ecological and human health problems together, as one. It is the ultimate helicopter view of the world's problems. It is well structured, easy to follow & understand, and makes perfect sense. I'd challenge anyone to find fault with the reasoning, since all of it has a vast amount of scientific research and consensus to back it up.
Rob has gone much further than most, in putting all the pieces together and explaining clearly why they should be looked at as a whole, instead of the far more common approach of trying to tackle each one individually in silos - and failing to put them into context. He explains the relationships and offers ideas for further research and analysis to deepen our understand of the causes. Thank you, Rob.
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