Bleeding at the Roots
Functional medicine claims digging into the roots as the heart of the specialty, and I would argue this is true too of #wellness, in that we have to dig into what is most authentic to who we are and truly identify our roots. Many of us, I would argue, are bleeding at the roots however, in that we have embraced a world that is not authentic to us, a reality or narrative that is not serving or even honoring to who we are and in doing so, not only do we create our own traumas and chronic disease, but we neglect the earth, from which we were born, and we neglect our own vitality. We are out of touch with the seasons and the cycles of life; we have forgotten the natural world from which we belong. Women in particular have detached from the beauty of their natural rhythms, their transitions. We have lost our relationship with the land and other creatures around us, and in the deepest sense, even ourselves.
More and more I am recognizing how disembodied we have become and how so many of us bury our emotions, denying our hurt, seeking only to be stable, consistent, unchanged, even numb. Our lack of connection to the earth and animals has allowed us to not feel responsible so that we see climate issues and animal cruelty as someone else's burden. We read about the devastation, the statistics, but we do little more than shake our heads and agree that something should be done. Our disconnection from ourselves allows us to assume the misconception that one of us will draw the short straw with regards to disease and we have little control over this outcome. We can then engage in toxic behaviors with a sort of dare to our own destiny, reassuring ourselves that we only live once so diving into recklessness is honoring our right to happiness. Is this really the path though?
Black Friday is a disheartening example of the mayhem we have let consume our peace. Remember Brave New World and how it was a crime against society if one didn't sufficiently consume? The simple lifers were gun down, which ultimately didn't work, so a mass advertising campaign was adopted to condition children from their youth, creating a new society. This was entirely fiction when I was a highschooler; today, this is our reality. We are bombarded with #advertising. We are desensitized, institutionally educated, and easily persuaded.
Global economic systems are founded on a requirement for continually rising consumption in order to avert economic collapse. Growth is the ultimately goal of our modern world which is measured by how fast we can consume the natural world, destroying ecosystems which sustain life. We don't consider where these products come from, how they were manufactured, what was sacrificed or even harmed in the process. We toss away trash, purchase items just in case or just because they may be of use someday. We fail to consider the industrial wastelands or the fossil fuels that are burned during their manufacturing. We don't think about the vast #toxic landfills. We just keep consuming.
We compare ourselves to the Jones based on our accumulation of stuff and we believe this makes us feel happy. A significant amount of literature shows us that materialism is a cause of #anxiety, depression, and broken relationships. We freeze within our homes as we become buried beneath and among our possessions.
Tar Sands & Toxic Waste
This year really brought light to the consequences of oil and gas exploration and development, particularly within the Canadian territories. Alberta has great rivers which drain down from the Rocky Mountains and out into the watershed of the Arctic Ocean and these rivers are surrounded by an enormous diversity of botanicals and wildlife, among which are a number of now-endangered species. These animals and plants depend on the natural ecosystem established within the land to survive, but the expanding gas and oil mining efforts, all endorsed by the Canadian government, has left vast toxic scars across the previously unspoiled lands.
The by-products of strip-mining or open-pit techniques, the thick liquid waste, cannot be recycled. It is therefore, held in open man-made "ponds" which are toxic to aquatic organisms and mammals, but now cover a surface area of around 170 square kilometers holding more than 720 billion liters of toxic waste. Experts estimate by the year 2040, toxic ponds will cover more than 310 square kilometers. These pollutants migrate into the surrounding soil and surface water and ultimately into the ocean and air. First Nations communities live downstream from tar-sand sites and fight endlessly to cease this travesty as they have found increased incidence of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis and rare types of cancer which are believed to be due to the toxic waste which is leaching into waterways.
We are resorting to ever more excessive methods of energy extraction today in our pursuit of progress than ever before. In many areas of the world, including the UK which offers more priority to health than our own country, energy companies are legally allowed to frack deep beneath homes, without the owner's consent. This is a rather extreme approach to oil and gas drilling utilizing hydraulics to inject highly pressurized water mixed with a soup of highly toxic chemicals and sand into a well creating a chemical reaction in effort to open the rock so its natural gasses escape. A fracking mindfield typically contains thousands of wells, each full of toxic chemicals, and there is no known way of disposing of this contamination so our grand and drinking-water, even air, becomes polluted.
Not having cable has been such a blessing for our family, but I remember watching the late night educational programs about children starving around the world and how only a few cents a day could help feed a starving child. As a young adult, I sponsored more than ten children a month, paying almost as much as my mortgage to provide healthcare, education, and protection to various children throughout the world. The irony was never lost on me that while I did invest significant funds to support these children, I was investing so much more to pay for my kids chicken nuggets from the local fast food restaurant, along with their enormous portion of fries and their oversized fizzy drink. Advertisements for these chain restaurants run right alongside those of starving children as if the cable network's producer lacks all empathy, but maybe this is where we are as a society. We throw away a third of all the food produced in our country - 1.3 metric tons while 870 million people in the world, one in eight, are suffering from chronic undernourishment. Over one billion people go to bed hungry every night.
This topic along causes me great distress. The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past forty years - my lifetime - as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers. We pollute and destroy their habitats. Mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and arthropods are all impacted by our behavior as humans. More than twenty years ago, it was estimated that we are causing the extinction of up to 140,000 species per year; I can't bear to hear the number we are eliminating from the planet today. We are so utterly disconnected.
Currently, law instructs companies to put their shareholders interests first. This means profit is the priority, at essentially all costs. Our healthcare system is evidence of the flaws in this mindset. A law though that prioritizes the Earth and our own health and happiness, would first and foremost do no harm. Profits would follow. Can you imagine a world in which the law would prevent corporations from investing in business practices that cause harm to people and the planet? Read that again. Our current model, in the United States, for business practice is to prioritize essentially above all else, profit provided for the shareholders even if this sacrifices the Earth and the health of people. Businesses would not have to close if expected to raise their standards, they would simply need to reinvent themselves in a way that was honoring to life. We need moral courage. Ironically, it is a crime to intentionally launch an attack knowing it will cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment during wartimes, but during peacetimes no law exists.
Two-and-a-half centuries of industrialization and explosive population growth has left the biosphere in a perilous state. The oceans are warming. The glaciers are disappearing. We are destroying on larger scales. We have massive soil depletion and extensive deforestation. All of these actions disrupt the natural cycles of our planet. Climate scientists worldwide are using increasingly apocalyptic language. This devastation is found within the tropics and among the poles. Small islands and large continents are impacted, wealthy and poor. The oceans are rising. Clear evidence demonstrates that human activity is primarily responsible for this runaway climate change, yet reckless consumption continues and the population is growing.
It is completely #pathologic to destroy the earth with which we depend for life. We carry the Earth's minerals in our blood. We depend on its bacteria from the soil to digest our foods. We would not survive without the oxygen produced by the plants in our ecosystems. Iron from the soil is carried through our blood allowing us to use the oxygen created by plants so our cells can live and produce energy. How crazy it seems to me to hear people talk about taking a trip into nature as if they are an outsider; with every breath we declare our kinship with nature.
We have lost touch with the sense our ancestors offered us in being part of the natural world, of living in our bodies, embracing the cycles of the seasons, being fully present in time. We don't even recognize ourselves within the stories of previous generations. We are lost within a modern world of industrialism. We are numbing out, making bad decisions politically and corporately. We've lost balance between our masculinity and femininity, having minimized our feelings. We have failed to manifest our authenticity. In doing so, our intellectual and rational sides have dominated our behaviors and this disconnect with our feelings has caused an imbalance. If we could allow ourselves to properly feel, we could feel the Earth's pain. We would move to protect the animal kingdom. We may even heal ourselves.