Ecological Medicine eBook

In light of the pandemic, we’re releasing a free downloadable pdf of our 2004 Bioneers book: Ecological Medicine: Healing the Earth, Healing Ourselves, which could hardly be more relevant right now.

Ecological medicine is a unifying field that embodies the recognition that human and environmental health are one notion, indivisible. It’s also a metaphor for the healing process intrinsic to life that applies to both ecosystems and our bodies. Modern medicine’s separation from nature is at the root of many tragedies, both human and environmental, and the current pandemic is an object lesson in how disastrous that disconnection is to us as a society and civilization.

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The idea of Ecological Medicine originated in the late ‘90s with Carolyn Raffensperger of the Science and Environmental Health Network, who became a long-time Bioneers speaker. Her work had increasingly focused on the Precautionary Principle: “Better safe than sorry,” – “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – “a stitch in time saves nine.”

Founded in the Precautionary Principle, Ecological Medicine shifts the emphasis from the individual to public health; from treatment to prevention (foresight); from nutrition to the food web and farming systems; from a human-centered viewpoint to one of biodiversity and the ecosystem services that are foundational to health and healthy economies.

The great health advances of the nineteenth century had little to do with medical care and everything to do with strategic public health measures. Diseases were dramatically controlled by a collection of societal changes, such as maintaining clean water supplies and quarantining the sick. The result was a steep decline in diseases.

For many people, a personal health crisis is often the transformational doorway into the awareness that none of us is immune to the assault of environmental harms compromising our health. We cannot ultimately solve our personal health challenges without healthy ecosystems, prioritizing public health, and reframing medicine as a public good, not a for-profit industry.

This pandemic presents exactly such a transformational moment. Ideas can be more powerful than even entrenched economic, political and philosophical systems. Ecological medicine is an idea whose time has come. This book is an anthology of visionary voices surveying the principles and practices of this critical shift in paradigms, practices and societal design. May it be so.

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“You are about to read a collection of thoughtful essays on medicine and health—not just personal health but planetary health, and not just medicine in the ordinary sense but medicine as an enterprise that encompasses the totality of human experience.” – Andrew Weil M.D.

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