A soon-to-be-published study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found bioaccumulated pharmaceutical drugs in the tissue of salmon in estuaries in the Seattle area, including “sertraline, triclosan, estrone, fluoxetine, metformin, and nonylphenol.”
Which makes salmon an excellent choice for depressed, germ-phobic, prediabetic women who don't want to get pregnant now but want children with birth defects eventually.
Now, as a health advisor, I will be sharing this information with my clients and students who ask about the relative health benefits and risks of wild-caught salmon.
But even if I could get everyone to stop eating fish, it wouldn't solve the public health problem.
I studied public health in grad school. The more I've seen, the less sure I am about the dividing line between public health and individual health. Is it even possible to be a healthy person on a sick planet?
As Charles Eisenstein points out, when the public health threat is external to ourselves (a terrorist, a virus, a foreign dictator), the government and media mobilize to publicize and combat the threat. But when it's us doing it to ourselves (or us doing it to fish, who then do it do us when we consume them), these stories tend to be ignored, buried, denied, downplayed, and quickly forgotten.
We love the “command and control and dominate” solutions that seem so appropriate to viruses, terrorists, and dictators: quarantine, starve, bomb, vaccinate, etc.
But we can't use those approaches to solve issues like pharmaceutical drugs in waste water getting into our food supply, or lead-laced water being piped into our inner cities, or unstable weather patterns leading to droughts and floods and failed crops.
If you stop to think about it, you may come to the same conclusion as Charles Eisenstein: that the domination strategies don't really work against terrorists, dictators, or viruses either. In fact, these phenomena usually come about as unintended consequences of our attempts to dominate nature and others.
And back to the microcosm: we've “dominated” diseases in the medical model for the past 70 years or so. The result of our antibiotic war against bacteria has been an epidemic of resistant “superbugs”like MRSA. The result of the chemical war against cancer has been a death rate that hasn't budged in 40 years. The result of our pharmaceutical war against diabetes and hypertension is a nation with 50% of adults diabetic or prediabetic, and 67% hypertensive or prehypertensive.
It's time for humans to evolve a new relationship with the earth and each other. (Actually, it's quite an old relationship, but it needs a modern twist.)
We need to be able to see systems. To see patterns. To see leverage points.
Otherwise we're just chasing the bubble of wallpaper around the room, creating new problems (and worse ones) while we attempt to solve the old ones.
That's a tall order, but each of us can (and must) start with ourselves.
Once we identify and adjust the underlying patterns in our lives that lead to disease and dysfunction (from diet and lack of movement to poor posture and paucity of social relationship), and we experience real improvement – only then can we truly believe that there are alternatives to “command and control and dominate” out in the wider world.
As within, so without.