“Life creates conditions conducive to life.” – Janine Benyus
As many of you who follow my blog articles may have realised, I have become captivated by Professor John McMurtry’s life work. His book, The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: From Crisis to Cure, has provided a unifying framework of meaning and understanding of all of the degenerative trends of our time. What you may not know, is that for over a year, I have been trying desperately to translate the medical concepts from my training from the level of the individual life host up to the social and planetary levels of life organisation. And by trying to do so, it was hoped that we would be better able to understand the pathogenesis of these degenerate trends, and be able to convince our policy and decision makers on what steps need to be taken at the local, regional and international levels so as to prevent and rehabilitate the social and planetary pathologies in our midst.
What I have just come to realise is that the difficulties I was having in accomplishing this goal had to do with a preconceived assumption that was a major mental block in going forward. That concept has to do with what we in the profession call, the natural history of disease. As explained by the CDC:
“Natural history of disease refers to the progression of a disease process in an individual over time, in the absence of treatment. For example, untreated infection with HIV causes a spectrum of clinical problems beginning at the time of seroconversion (primary HIV) and terminating with AIDS and usually death. It is now recognized that it may take 10 years or more for AIDS to develop after seroconversion.(43) Many, if not most, diseases have a characteristic natural history, although the time frame and specific manifestations of disease may vary from individual to individual and are influenced by preventive and therapeutic measures.
Figure 1.18 Natural History of Disease Timeline
Timeline shows state of susceptibility, exposure, subclinical disease in which pathologic changes takes place, onset of symptoms, followed by usual time of diagnosis, clinical disease, followed by recovery, disability, or death.
The process begins with the appropriate exposure to or accumulation of factors sufficient for the disease process to begin in a susceptible host. For an infectious disease, the exposure is a microorganism. For cancer, the exposure may be a factor that initiates the process, such as asbestos fibers or components in tobacco smoke (for lung cancer), or one that promotes the process, such as estrogen (for endometrial cancer).”
What I had not realised before but am more acutely aware of now is that something very profound has been left out from the above description! The two pivotal questions which must be asked to fill in this gap in our understanding are: 1) What determines the appropriateness and sufficiency of exposure to or accumulation of factors for the disease process to begin, and 2) what determines the susceptibility of the host to those factors in the first place?
What if the environment is what determines both: 1) whether there is appropriate exposure to and/or accumulation of factors sufficient for the disease process to begin and 2) whether or not the host is susceptible or not? What if the environment is not natural and IS the origin of diseases (pathogenesis), and not the factors themselves or the host? Then would it not be better to refer to this pathogenic process as the unnatural history of diseases, as now diseases would be seen as normal responses to unnatural environments? Could it be possible and worthy of further exploration then to discuss, in contradistinction to the unnatural history of diseases, the natural history of health which is now predicated on there being natural environments that are responsible for the natural origins of health (salutogenesis)?
What if health is the natural baseline that has been selected for over billion years of creatively adaptive evolutionary design and the wisdom of nature was such that life beings co-created the environmental conditions conducive to the resilience, sustenance and regeneration of other life beings? Since each life being is dependent on and adapted to their evolved developmental environmental niche cohabited and supported by a network of other organisms in the same web of life, then any interference by forces from without by natural disasters or from forces from within by a given species, would disrupt the balance and harmony in nature and cause diseases at the individual and population levels. Is it possible that except for unpreventable natural disasters, humans are responsible for interfering with and creating abnormal environments that fostered unhealthy ecological relationships that made the maladapted life hosts maladjusted to otherwise benign agents?
What would be the implications of this shift in perspective? Can this shift help in overcoming the mental block I had in translating pathologies from the individual level of life organisation to the social and the planetary levels? Before humans evolved with the cognitive abilities and their tools to change their environment on a large-scale, the only forces that were disruptive were natural disasters, and hence pathologies, when they occurred, were natural in origin. The population sizes were kept in check by climatic events, predator-prey relationships, and by the carrying capacity of their natural environments. It was only when we were able to band together in large numbers and change our environments to such an extent and indulge in rituals and institutions supported by life-blind narratives, that we disrupted the natural relationships among other life beings and the carrying capacities of their environments. It was then and only then that pathogenic human interference birthed the myriad of human, social and planetary diseases!
As a result of being oblivious to this perspective, the entire edifice of the medical establishment has been directed to intervening (after the damage has already been done) with the pathologies created (on a perpetual basis) by our man-made pathogenic environments which have forced us into the unending wasteful consumption of resources in order to prevent and treat diseases. We should now focus on how we interfered with the natural salutogenic planetary environments in the first place and how we can now co-create salutogenic rituals, institutions and narratives which would now harmonise and cohere with our planetary life support systems. These would then form the basis of a salutogenic social support systems which can now mimic and capitalise on the networks, flows, diversity, resilience and regenerative capacities of all life. We would then be able to reverse the social and planetary degenerative trends and shift the baseline of human activities back to how they were before our human interference began. Thus life can be reset and regrounded to continue on its natural life trajectory of health to more coherent and inclusive harmonious relationships as humans now regroup to co-create more social and planetary environmental conditions conducive to more life.
Reproduced from: The Fallacious Germ Theory
Reproduced from: Personal and planetary health: We need a salutogenic approach!
Reproduced from: Salutogenesis – an introduction
Resources on Salutogenesis
Studying Health vs. Studying Disease – Aaron Antonovsky. Lecture at the Congress for Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Berlin, 19 February 1990.
The Handbook of Salutogenesis: Comprehensive overview of salutogenesis and its contribution to health promotion theory
Editors: Mittelmark, M.B., Sagy, S., Eriksson, M., Bauer, G., Pelikan, J.M., Lindström, B., Espnes, G.A. (Eds.) http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319045993