Irish Doctors' Environmental Association (IDEA)
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Irish Doctors' Environmental Association (IDEA)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Chemicals (3 hits),

Full Submission

RIO + 20 submission by the Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA):

Commitment to Sustainable Development:

Instead of acting like predators on the earth, the human species will act as stewards.

Time is running out.

The Earth is the complex, living system that sustains our species. Living systems can die. There are a variety of life-threatening symptoms that stem from the systemic pathology that is afflicting our planet and undermining its capacity to maintain the delicate balance, which sustains life as we know it. The symptoms are well known as they make up the multifaceted crisis due to unsustainable development that we are addressing in Rio+20. As in treating any medical emergency, all life threatening symptoms must be treated while the underlying cause is diagnosed and treated. At present in most international negotiations, only some symptoms are recognized (by some specialists) while Business as Usual is trying to deny any problems or looking for quick-fixes so it can carry on as usual. Yet, what has this old-world view and ?business as usual? brought us? Look around our world. It has brought the break down of many systems, which have sustained us. It has brought conflict, poverty, terrorism, increasing cases of violent crime, climate change, and a rate of biodiversity loss that threatens mass extinction. Yet, we try to retain that old system and the perception that produced it while introducing or jiggling a few methods and technologies to find a quick fix. This is as helpful as shifting the furniture on a sinking ship.

If while treating the symptoms, we carry on allowing the systemic pathology to proliferate, the symptoms will continue to grow in both quantity and quality for they are only warning signs of an unabated underlying disease process. Here we offer a fundamental systemic diagnosis and treatment program as well as some recommendations for immediate symptomatic relief.


We are on the threshold of an evolutionary shift or change. As in all such cases, we, as a species, may make the necessary changes and evolve or continue business as usual into extinction. We know that our unsustainable development is a root problem but what is the source of our unsustainable development? Our perception of life: that we are fundamentally a mass of individuals usually collaborating in groups/nations to compete for whatever we can get from the earth, in whatever way we can get it to give us more comfort. The winners get the most and thrive and the losers get the least and can serve the winners in one form or another. This perception has worked for thousands of years but we are at a turning point in human history. Never before has our behaviour threatened our species with extinction.

It is our choice. We have all the knowledge, technology and energy required but do we have a system through which we can collaborate and direct all this to make the change? The required change is often referred to as a Paradigm Shift, which demands that we fundamentally change our thinking and perception so we can see beyond the mentality that we used to create these problems. The new paradigm that is dawning is based on the interdependence of all life as has been discovered over recent decades through our sciences. Throughout earth?s history, at certain thresholds, the evolutionary process has demanded life/energy to rise to more united complexity or be recycled through extinction. Humanity is now facing a ?supra-ordinate? problem that can only be solved through the collaboration and cooperation of all the participants (groups/nations). Unlike all previous problems facing humanity that could be solved by hierarchical group systems within a competitive framework of winners and losers, this one is a challenge that will either unite humanity to evolve from a mass of competing individuals, to work as one united complex system capable of overcoming the systemic threat or we will remain clinging to our separate competitive identities, unable to make the required evolutionary leap. Could this multi-faceted crisis that we are facing, be an evolutionary driver?


The context for all decisions with global consequences must be taken in awareness of the impact of any decision on the health of the whole system. It becomes clear that we as a species will either be winners, evolving safely or losers, as the earth and atmosphere loses capacity for homeostasis (dynamic state of equilibrium) and can no longer support the very fine balance of conditions (i.e. temp. pH, etc) in which human life can thrive. An ecosystems approach to human health, recognizing the interdependence of our health with that of the planet?s, is central to this crisis solution ? NOT a fabricated system of economics.


At Rio+20 we need clear concrete agreements that are legally binding together with a system to ensure implementation of them.

Most new technologies are more about business (profit for a few) rather than creating a better world. The Precautionary Principle, ?Look before you leap? is the most basic principle of well-being & survival that most parents teach their children. It puts human health within the ecosystem context, in the fore.

We do not address all of the critical symptoms because it would make this submission too lengthy. However, as the symptoms are interdependent the sample of recommendations below could also help alleviate other critical symptoms such as the loss of biodiversity and water mismanagement.

Climate Change:

Human health is at the heart of the issue because it is health that will deteriorate with increasing natural disasters, decreasing air quality, rising water levels, the anticipated increase and shift in communicable and vector borne diseases as well as the obvious problems associated with drought, malnutrition/starvation, forced emigration, conflict over resources etc. Tackling climate change by significantly reducing green house gas emissions (as per scientific requirements) is part of a sustainable future and needs clear concrete legally binding laws that will be implemented by nation states. The current concept of a green economy is still driven by a consumerist lifestyle (old paradigm economy) rather than the precautionary principle (sustaining life).

* Recommendation:

A green economy based on a new economic model, which would include environmental indicators, fully taking into account external costs.

Agreement to establish a world environmental court

Agreement on compliance and enforcement mechanisms, which will ensure effective environmental law.

Agreement on non-regression on environmental law, A global Aarhus convention and agreement on Principle 10. of the Rio Declaration

Health of humans and the ecosystems must be at the centre of a real green economy. Otherwise the new green economy may continue to prioritise profit-focused business. All mechanisms to lower green house gas emissions must be seen in full context of stewarding not ravaging Life.

Chemical Pollution:

Polluting Earth?s water, air, soil/food and our bodies has resulted in an escalating proliferation of a vast array of debilitating chronic diseases, cancers and allergies, amid other problems. Ironically, this is also costing the national economies vast sums in lost employment and taxes, healthcare costs, pollution etc.

* Recommendation:

The international framework on Chemicals management is a first necessary step towards a legally binding agreement, which clearly establishes that by the 2020 deadline, Chemicals will only be produced and used in ways that do not produce harmful effects on our health or environment.

Technology and the Precautionary Principle: in the Green Economy GM food crops and Hydrological Fracturing ?fracking? (for oil/gas) are examples of technologies that give short term monetary gains to a few (the winners), and cause long-term problems/crises for humanity, biodiversity and planet (the losers). Fracking fractures the earth?s geological layers, introducing and releasing both toxic Chemicals and potent green house gases into the earth, water and atmosphere. This is a major assault on a faltering planet. Increasing numbers of people are suffering from symptoms and conditions, associated with the exposure to a cocktail of toxins to which we are increasingly exposed. These toxins, by-products of our consumer society, usually accumulate in bodies and in the ecosystem and interact with one another to give unpredicted results ? the cocktail effect, which is usually more complex and toxic than when taken singly. Multi-systems illness is an umbrella category given to these conditions which are impacting not only on the individuals & their families lives but also on the greater socio-economic sphere, for the afflicted people can no longer function as healthy participants in life, and conventional medicine has been unable to help them because these conditions are relatively unknown and only recently started to proliferate. It is becoming increasingly apparent that these people may represent the ?canaries in the coalmine?.

Much recent research has identified Electro-Magnetic Frequencies (EMF) even at Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF) can add to the accumulating toxic burden on the immune system to which our bodies are exposed on daily basis. Like with many other new technologies, the Precautionary Principle was not followed and we have no idea how much this technology is impacting on our world and how to treat the problems it may create.


Put Precautionary Principle at the fore of acceptance of all new technology into commercial capacity. Put an immediate ban to all proposed violent assaults on Nature such as ?fracking?. We could tick many boxes within the sustainable development/green economy with wind, hydro (tide/current) and solar, but if we start fracking or going down the route of GM food/agriculture, it would reduce those attempts to worse than meaningless. It demonstrates that we don?t really understand or care about sustainable development; we are just playing business as usual with a green wash. Support the new field of Ecological Medicine in research and to train physicians so this growing number of patients can have medical treatment. Even with changes in our global system, the effect of the toxins will continue to burden immune systems for years to come.

Global Economy and Poverty

Poverty is the level of disempowerment that undermines the capacity of that/those person/s to sustain their health and well-being. It is not necessarily linked to money or the economy as such. Many peoples in the last century only discovered they were impoverished when they were told/educated that they were, because they didn?t use enough cash. The current model of Economic Globalization is proving to make the rich fewer and richer and the poor, poorer with vastly increasing numbers. As well as increasing economic disparity, it is responsible for the vast majority of the ecological and social destruction in developing countries.


Dissolve the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organisation and any other bodies that were created and work by the old defunct perception, which has caused these crises. Then create new ones that are products of the new paradigm/worldview based on interdependence and collaboration (i.e. equity, respect, etc)

These institutions represent the crumbling world view, and cannot help to solve our current crises for they are the major systems that prop up and drive ?Business as Usual?. We need totally different systems/bodies based on totally different perception, thinking, values, objectives etc.]

Food Production/Shortages

Our global economic system has been at the heart of this crisis not so much the food production, per se. Though after years of chemical biocides and misuse of soil, soil degradation and regeneration is certainly a looming issue. GM food crops are a solution made by and for the chemical companies that produce them. They will not feed the world or even increase yields sustainably over the long term, but will create enormous profits and power for a few who own the seeds, while unleashing unknown havoc on the Earth?s natural food production capacity.

It is well known in the international community that around 40% of food produced is wasted. Our food production model needs to be reviewed because it is patently illogical to be exporting and importing the same products around the world using enormous amounts of fossil fuel while poisoning the earth and destroying biodiversity.

Seen through the lens of a different worldview, this food system model would be recognized as totally inappropriate.


Few of the politicians seem to understand what is happening and how little time we have to make the necessary changes, or else they are constrained within a system that is desperately trying to survive and will not allow the necessary changes to be made. They are part, and often products, of the crumbling systems and people with fresh insight and understanding from a different perspective are needed: Ones who do not make decisions in order to save or repair failing systems but who can boldly initiate the new shoots from a unified species perspective to push through the dying old growth, for life to flourish.

The current supra-ordinate problem requires both a sense of unity (we?re all in this together) and everyone?s collaboration and commitment in order to solve it. A sense of division, hierarchy and competition will not solve it. This is why it necessarily requires first and foremost a change in our modus operandi. The whole system has to expand its perception so it can evolve into a new holistic system that works in harmony with the forces of life instead of competing and conflicting with them. Civil society should play a major role for they hold a range of expertise and are not bound by political or popular demand. Though there is a movement to include them it is totally inadequate. They are as yet disempowered to take any leading or pivotal role in critical negotiations. There are many people, NGO?s, think tanks etc. around the world who are already organizing and educating groups of civil society/ communities about the way forward. We need to create an integrated interdependent global system based on the new paradigm values to lead us from break down to break through.

? Update our education systems to teach how to steward the earth, contribute and thrive within a collaborative world.

? Prioritise creating systems to include civil society?s expertise and participation in solving the multi-faceted crises in a pivotal role.

? Create a world or international court for the environment that will ensure implementation of conventions and treaties etc.

? The rights of nature should be enshrined in every nation?s constitution (Equator has just done this).

Strong International Environmental Governance is needed. This can be achieved by reforming and upgrading an environmental body such as: UNEP with new responsibilities and resources, proposals include:

? Upgrade from a programme to a specialized agency

? Strong programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production under UNEP

? Further strengthen the Trade and the Environment activities of UNEP

? Further strengthen civil society participation in UNEP, i.e. by applying the Aarhus Convention Guidelines on ?public participation in international environmental policy processes?

? Upgrade the mandate of Panel of Natural Resources (under UNEP), to govern better the use of natural resources and the fair distribution of those.

Time Frame: Two things are propelling the urgent and necessary changes:

1) The speed of break down of the present system, both on the human systems (economy, food production, politics/security?) and the planet?s homeostatic (self-regulation) systems to maintain its equilibrium (climate/natural disasters, biodiversity loss?) .

2) The incredible speed of communication through internet/technology can act as a neural system for delivering messages through the human community/body. Used in conjunction with exchanging and interpreting knowledge to activate community mobilization at local levels, we could set up systems to change our impact on the earth much faster than anything humanity has previously done.

The old/Modern system should not be reconstituted or salvaged; it is rotten and is undermining our capacity to survive. What is at stake is the survival and health of the human species because the consequences of our current development model are undermining the ability for the Earth to sustain life as we know it. Therefore, an ecosystems approach to human health needs to be the central framework in the negotiations.

There is great reason for hope as people around the world are connecting to share information and ideas about what is working. Technology now allows for solutions to be communicated, improved or interpreted communally, within seconds around the world. Growing numbers are realizing what is at stake and are willing to make the changes, to be part of the solution. People are waking up, informing themselves because they want to help to make a better world.

Copyright (c) United Nations 2011 | Terms of Use | Privacy Notice | Contact | Site Map | New