Irish Doctors' Environmental Association (IDEA)
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
RIO + 20 submission by the Irish Doctors Environmental Association
Commitment to Sustainable Development:
Instead of acting like predators on the earth, the human species will act as
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
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.
SOME HIGH PRIORITY SYMPTOMS & RECOMMENDATIONS
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.
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).
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
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.
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
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.]
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
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
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
? 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
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
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