About the Issues
photo by Larken Bunce
Ecological medicine begins with the assumption that human and environmental health are inseparable and that we can't be well until the planet is well. It follows that nothing used in healing and healthcare—medicines, supplies, the practices used—should cause damage to other species or to the ecosystem.
We're a long way from reaching that goal, but the fact that more and more people are choosing natural products and alternative practitioners makes it clear that more people do want medicines that are safer and less toxic, that don't hurt us or the earth.
No one wants an I.V. tube leaching phthalates into their child's bloodstream. And yet, in the moment when our child needs that I.V. to stay alive or to get better, we'll take what we can get. In that moment, concerns about the environmental or social impacts of the medicine fall away, and all we want is to end the pain and find the cure.
While it is one thing to look for and demand the most natural and safest medicines and medical practices when we are well, in an emergency or when the situation is more serious, we're far more likely to take what works and not ask a lot of questions.
photo by Larken Bunce
So while consumers of medicine, like consumers of food and toys and cosmetics, do play a role in bringing about change, healthcare is also unique. Change must also come from the industry itself, from those working inside the system—doctors, nurses, administrators, clinicians, medicine makers, and suppliers of medical products—so that we as patients don't have to make choices between healthcare that is toxic and no healthcare at all.
These changes are happening and awareness is growing. We can help by educating ourselves, supporting the organizations and work that are effecting change, and helping to spread the word.
Great websites and books with articles and information about ecological medicine, toxins, research on environmental causes of different illnesses, and efforts to reduce toxins particularly in the health care system are available. Below are a few places to start. Each of these sites will take you to many other individuals and organizations doing important work on human and environmental health. Also see our links page for more resources on environmental health.
- Ecological Medicine: Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves (The Bioneers Series), ed. Kenny Ausubel. Sierra Club Books. 2004.
- Health Care Without Harm
- The Health/Toxics page on the Environmental Working Group's site
- Science and Environmental Health Network