Have we forgotten the human being?
Holistic thinkers, philosophers and scientists—in antiquity, Epicurus and Hippocrates, and later Jacob Boehme, Rudolf Steiner, Konrad Lorenz, and more recently, the experts of the Club of Rome and the Club of Budapest, including current thinkers like Ronald Grossarth Maticek, Servan Schreiber, Gerald Huether and the young German social ecologist Maik Hosang—have always said it more or less clearly:
Man is a part of the whole, a product of genes, environment, habitat and lifestyle. And it is as an achievement of modern, democratic society—in addition to the equality of the sexes and races—and one of our main lessons that we must take care of our environment, our habitat—OIKOS and of the use of resources. We must take care of energy, clean water and the resources cycle like trash, garbage and recycling, in order not to poison this world of a growing population.
The experts and health politicians of the WHO (World Health Organization) have defined health in the famous Ottawa declaration like this:
“Health is a state of physical, mental-emotional and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease“. (A more than ever currently valid model.) In other words, health is a very complex process that depends on many personal factors. A great and modern mission statement, which does not say what it means in concrete terms. The largest independent study that has ever been done to determine what keeps us healthy came from the Canadian government. The Denver-Lalonde study is now a core module of the training of all health economists.
After evaluating the CVs and medical records of more than 100,000 citizens from Canada and Europe, this study came to the conclusion that the following are crucial for our health:
37% lifestyle, 24% environmental factors, 29% our genes and only 10% classical, curative medicine.
Speaking clearly, this means we can control ourselves about 60% of these factors by observing and analyzing lifestyle and environment. Also, the almost 30% determined by our genes are at least influenced by our behavior, when we know about their function.
Another scientific fact in this context is that we still have 99% of our metabolism, which has genetically influenced us in the Stone Age, and that the four blood groups are also our genetic label.
So—carefully calculated—if we assume that we can analyze half of our genetic dispositions, especially those genes influencing lifestyle and the immune system, which would account for 15% of our factors, this means that we can diagnostically analyze, rate and therefore manage 75% of our health.
In ecological systems of our environment you can find scientific laws, standards and regulations regarding how the quality of the water and the air, the exhaust gas amount, the insulation of our homes, power and energy consumption and hygienic conditions should be designed. The 10% of classical, curative medicine is also clearly regulated with conditions for approval of drugs, operations standards and the rules of statutory health insurance. But the environmental, lifestyle and genetic makeup, which is so crucial for our health, have never been regulated. Anyone could say or do what they thought, what they wanted. Even the term “wellness”, which was invented by American labor physicians and medical sociologists in the 1940, and the definition of the WHO Wellbeing & Wellness, were abused at will.
Always, new gurus and scientists who thought they had found a piece of truth fueled the debate, the media and market turnover—Mayer, Atkins, blood group diets and countless alleged knowledge about certain active substances in food supplements. Finally, the Cochrane Foundation, one of the few independent scientific associations, pulled the emergency brake in the spring of 2013 (see cover story, “The Vitamin Lie”, in Der Spiegel).
We now know:
If the ecosystem pond or river tilts by environmental factors, toxins, waste, and other usually human factors so that the fish die, and if we find out the reasons and causes which could tilt the ecosystem and stop these, then the self-regulation of that ecosystem is strong enough to get “rehabilitated”. And we humans learn from it and create laws, rules, standards and awareness for preventing further mistakes. The matter is complex, but doable.
And what about the most important product of this creation, the human, the result of 4 billion years of evolution?
Have we forgotten—influenced by many economic interests or through the drawers of science policy—that man is also an eco-system? The intestines in turn the greatest! Only that humans have—unlike the pond—fears, phobias, trauma, envy, jealousy, greed, sadness, love, joy, pride, disappointment, feelings? Yes, we are like a pond with feelings. So it is even more complex.
MAN IS THE MOST COMPLEX AND most endangered ECO-SYSTEM OF THE COSMOS.
As a guest of the ZEIT-Conference on “The Future of Cities” in Hamburg 2013, I have pursued a fascinating panel discussion reporting about the project “GREEN HOSPITAL” of the Asklepios Hospital Group in Hamburg. They talked about the carbon footprint of a mid-sized hospital which would match that of a small town with 12,000 inhabitants (just the everyday operation, not including its establishment). This enormous CO² pollution could be reduced through proper planning and management, a thoroughly honorable undertaking. Like the efforts of the EU and national politics to save energy in homes and especially with new, modern cars, etc.
But when I interjected in the discussion that the CO² footprint of a not necessarily overweight, person with diabetes II is, balance-wise, significantly larger than that of 2 SUV Porsche drivers (not to mention that of a cancer patient), the room became quiet, and the speakers Dr. Töpfer and Prof. Dr. Weizsäcker could not help noticing that we have the complex eco-system of the human being well out of sight.But they agreed.
When looking at the EU organic regulation it gets very obvious:
It is wonderful that the environmental movement has lead to an EU- and world-wide standard for organic food and farming, and that this awareness and the benefits have led to a growing market. Today, even discounters offer biological or organic food and its producers are strictly regulated in order to follow the organic production rules.
And its wonderful that a world-wide organisation like IFOAM Organics International, an NGO founded by independent political institutions 42 years ago is controlling, approving and coordinating ecological standards and regulations.
But, the rules take into account only the health of animals and plants, their welfare and the avoidance of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides and unnecessary antibiotics. A big step forward. However, this standards do not include any rules for the health of the people. Too much sugar, unhealthy fats, too many carbohydrates, the destruction of micronutrients (such as vitamins and phytonutrients, polyphenols, etc.) by transport, packaging, preparation and production. An organic salad or organic bean sprouts washed and packed far away usually has fewer nutrients than non-organic products from local farmers
Again, it is like this:
The human was unfortunately forgotten in the ecological process chain. The new ecological standard “EcoWellness” takes into account the health promotion of people, their well-being and ecological wellness. But this standard has finally been approved in October 2013 after 10 years of work by the IFOAM. Let us all hope that it will spread quickly. No wonder that the EU Commission calls for a complete revision of the organic regulation, but alone this is not enough. Even with these considerations, the most important meta-topic is missing: Ecological processes must aim at health promotion and disease prevention in humans.
The WHO has classified obesity as a pandemic and the number of diabetics will rise, and the number of cancer patients will increase by 70% over the next 15 years, if the lifestyle—and, in particular, the industrial diet—does not change, according the WHO. In addition, stress-related illnesses and depression, described with the modern word “burnout”, will also increase.
The cost to the economy and society, but also the “NOT FEEL”, the sickly, underdeveloped state of work and also the associated suffering of many people who fall into a chronic mode, are becoming an increasing problem.
Politics is now required to prevent an economic disaster because curative medicine and the health insurance system do not know or apply any sustained, systematic and result-oriented, certifiable prevention system. The problem will also be triggered by the demographic problem that we will have long-surviving patients facing a shrinking group of young people who have to finance that expensive system.
Moreover, there is another danger:
The stressors and changes caused by the ecological consequences of climate change. Although scientists have been sounding the alarm bells, neither science nor the government nor the economy have responded to the fact that the early signs of the now stationary climate change—the vicissitudes of the weather—are dangerous. The already existing threats to our immune system through environmental toxins and industrial food will rise due to the increasing extremes of climate, the frequent changes between hot and cold, dry and moist, low pressure and high pressure.
I am proud to belong to the INtegrated ART movement and Group. Their scientists and experts have created the parameters for diagnostics, systems, products and programs with their interdisciplinary competence based on ethical standards and in cooperation with the organization IFOAM. After many years of work, the ECOWELLNESS standard is now the first to introduce measurement and management of 75% of those previously unregulated gene areas, including environmental and lifestyle factors, into a certifiable scheme.
Cooperation with curative medicine is self-understanding and obligatory. But curative medicine alone cannot provide the necessary shift of paradigm to an ecological, medical prevention system by applying their existing rules, but this could be learned. Why not implement the new standard “Ecowellness” and its systems, tools and business models, within a company ,a hospital, a rehabilitation facility or a retirement home? And in Hotels and Airplanes for the traveling society?
It is time to earn on a business of staying healthy. Treating the symptoms is not enough. That is what they all do. The competition towards prevention will begin.
We all need to realign for a new ecological quality of life. The ECO system “human” needs all of us to survive joyfully.
Reinhardt Stefan Tomek