by Dr Patrick Quanten MD
Poverty and disease go hand in hand. We all know that! Having just finished the twentieth century we know, from our own experience, that it is civilization that is saving our lives. We don't need any more proof. We are sure.
But are we sure enough to be able to face the facts?
Indeed, within the Western culture the twentieth century provides us with a lot of information regarding the influence of poverty on people's health and it would be wise not to waste the opportunity to record our observations for prosperity.
Comparing the beginning of the century with the end, it is plain to see that overall the population in the Western world has risen out of poverty, at least by the standards and conditions that were generally reigning at the beginning of that century. Over that same period of time, there is a definite decline in childhood mortality, infectious diseases and tooth decay, which has given rise to the statistics leading us to believe that the general life expectancy has increased dramatically over that period. Looking at the available data in detail, however, shows a more modified picture. As childhood mortality has decreased dramatically the overall figure for the average life span has shot up, whilst the average adult longevity figure has stayed the same. The life expectancy of an adult (35 to 40 years of age) did not alter significantly between the beginning and the end of the twentieth century. There is in these statistics of course no mention about the quality of life in old age and a possible difference occurring over those one hundred years.
Authorities have been quick to claim the glory for the increased health that came with the crawl out of poverty. Advances in medicine are hailed as "lifesavers" and any diversion from this slogan is crushed with an intensity that reflects the anger of a wounded animal. Why would the authority be so feisty about any challenge to its claim? If it tells the truth, nothing will prove them wrong; if it believes it tells the truth but isn't quite sure, then they should welcome any evidence that helps them to understand and discover the truth; but if it knows that it is telling lies, it has only threat and oppression at its disposal to keep anyone from discovering the truth.
From Poor to Good Health
In order that we can understand the relationship between poverty and poor health we need to define poverty. Not being able to afford a car, for instance, may be regarded as a sure sign of poverty in certain circles, but it does not directly affect one's state of health. So what is the kind of poverty we are referring to?
A global look at the health status of different populations shows us very quickly that not having much to eat or not having a great variety of foods may be regarded by us as "poor" people, but it certainly is no indicator for poor health. There are many groups of people all across the globe in similar conditions with no sign of the kind of diseases that are rampant in the West and with very little illness in their midst. This means that our general perception of "poor" diet is not accurate, and indeed many statistics have shown that during the Second World War, when there were serious food restrictions, the population as a whole in the UK was much healthier than it is today.
Poverty means lacking something. It is the filling in of the "something" that allows the word to be used in a great variety of situation.
When we want to relate poverty, or the missing of something, to matters of health we need to be more specific in our observations as to what exactly is missing when our health declines due to poverty.
- Poor water quality would be one factor. As we have introduced a supply of cleaned water to large numbers of the population, thereby drastically reducing the drinking of well water, we have seen a significant improvement in health. Very often well water had been contaminated, which had reduced the quality of the water. This was more frequently the case after we started using artificial fertilisers on the land which would drain into and accumulate in the ground water. Similarly, streams that for centuries had carried fresh water down into the fertile valleys collected contaminants from upstream and deposited these more and more in the lower valleys, rendering the water unusable for consumption. However, fresh spring water, especially high in the mountains remained untouched and civilizations continued to rely on the high quality spring water as their life support system. (Also see "Does Water Cause Cancer?")
- Linked with the poor water quality is obviously the poor sanitation. Large numbers of people, creating huge amounts of waste in a relatively small space, contaminate their living environment with rotting materials. In time, these decaying materials are going to infiltrate ground and water in significant quantities to degrade the quality of the natural environment in which these people live, putting health at risk. (Also see "Fertile Ground")
- Having poor air quality is an other factor in poverty. Not only do we see health deteriorating when we put people in conditions where they breathe very poor air quality such as down the coal mine or in cities surrounded by heavy metal industry (first industrial revolution, early 20th century), but we even try and use pure air as a treatment for certain diseases such as tuberculosis and rickets. Even today we can see significant differences in statistics showing larger numbers of breathing related diseases, migraines and allergies in heavily air polluted areas.
So, as long as we have pure natural water, pure air and good sanitation we should observe good health within our population. And indeed, some of the healthiest tribes have been found to be living in extreme conditions, either hidden away in the jungle or far up inaccessible mountain ranges. The air is pure; the water is clean; small groups, very often semi-nomadic, ensures that waste is spread over a fairly large area all year round, leaving the land to recover fully and well within its capabilities.
What about other communities that have a longevity far outstripping our own, yet living in very unhealthy conditions of polluting industries, restricted diets, heavy smoking and high alcohol consumption? - We'll get back to them later. But first:
From Good to Poor Health
Nature does not provide the three requirements for poor health. In Nature, the air is pure for us to breathe and live in. The water is clean for us to drink and cleanse our systems. The natural recycling process, whereby all waste is broken down and re-entered into the cycle of Life, is total and leaves all areas revitalized.
But if Nature provides us with all the right ingredients for a healthy life, what is it that spoils it all?
In one word, pollution!
What is pollution? - Anything that makes impure, unclean.
What is it that will make Nature's produce impure? And how can this be achieved?
It happens basically in two different ways. On the one hand, Nature will become unclean when the natural processes are becoming overtaxed; when the burden becomes too heavy. In other words, when the waters will have to wash away too much rubbish; when the trees will have to convert too much carbon dioxide; when their is too much rotting material left on the ground.
Secondly, when the materials that need to be cleaned away are alien to the natural processes, or are presented in a concentrated form which Nature cannot deal with fast enough. Washing chemicals down the river, spewing heavy metals or dioxins into the air after burning man-made materials are just a few examples of this process. These products will linger for a long time and in ever increasing quantities, changing the balance of the environment forever.
Under these circumstances of pollution the quality of the essentials diminishes, leaving all living creatures to adapt to the new environment. Animals and plants that have a short life and a high turnover rate are more likely to adapt quicker and more successful. This is one reason why insects are on top of the pile or, if you prefer, why bacteria, viruses, parasites and the like are winning the battle against sterilization and detergents. They are ever ready to change whatever needs changing in order to make the most out of their surroundings. Human beings, in contrast, will need several generations to make the adjustments and depending on how fast the changes are upon them, they will struggle to keep pace.
Now then, knowing that pollution will create a worsening environment for us to live in, affecting our health in a negative way, why would we allow pollution to happen in the first place?
From Poverty to Excess
What is it that drives man to want to change an environment in which he can live quite happily? What is it that makes him want more?
Unlike the inhabitants of the animal kingdom, the consciousness of their human counterparts is what makes them different. It is the awareness of ourselves, as being different from the rest. It is the awareness of a free will, of having a choice rather than just an instinct. It is the awareness of "the bigger picture", rather than the instinct to just be part of it.
It is this consciousness that allows humans to make judgments, conscious choices. This is where the trouble starts, but it is also where a very interesting journey begins.
Living amongst his fellow humans, happily on what Nature provides for them, there will be one who wants more. A human somewhere will be figuring out how he or she can become better, richer, cleverer, more influential, or anything else that might set him/her apart from the rest. It is here that greed starts, fuelled by the ego.
Once you start to open up to the idea that you could be increasing your harvest by using something different, be it a tractor instead of an ox, a fertilizer, a greenhouse, or a genetically modified seed, you introduce a difference into society that can never be leveled out again. The effects of it can never be totally eradicated. Tomorrow can never be the same again. It is this drive for more and better by the individual that creates the imbalance and starts the im-purification process. If one area of life is stimulated to become more, then it is always another area that has to provide the extra and thereby is becoming less. One can only stimulate the growth of certain crops by taking more of certain nutrients out of soil, thereby overall depleting the nutritional balance of the soil.
Once this "more" becomes the accepted standard, then we all want more and the depletion of natural resources increases dramatically. This depletion distorts the whole of the balance within the natural processes. Just one simple example. If it takes one hundred years for a tree to grow big and strong, then cutting it down to burn it in your fireplace will have wide-reaching effects. Not only will that one tree only warm you for a very limited period of time, which means that you will need more and more trees to achieve your goal, but you will also be depleting the very source of your heat, as it takes far longer for a tree to grow than it takes for you to burn it. Besides that, once the tree has been cut, it no longer breathes for you, and as trees are the lungs of the earth producing the great majority of oxygen in the atmosphere, you will be running out of oxygen soon and the levels of carbon dioxide will increase. Furthermore, the shade the tree provided on the ground allows water to be retained in the upper layers of the earth's crust, encouraging a wide variety of plant and animal life. Once the tree is gone, the ground is directly exposed to the sun, warms up significantly and dries out, reducing and altering life upon and in it forever. So, by cutting down the tree to warm yourself, you have not only deprived the bird of a home, you have also reduced the earth's oxygen levels, created more deserts and increased the earth's temperature. And what's more, you have created the need for more trees to be cut down because the fire has made you warmer and more comfortable, something you would like to continue.
As we make our lives more comfortable, we grow accustomed to the comfort that breeds a feeling of luxury. We become afraid of losing this feeling. Once we produce more food, we can eat more food, and we begin to like more food. Once we produce force-fed products, as we do in horticulture and farming, we impoverish the very soil that these products are produced on. Life-stock, vegetables and fruits lose their natural balance as certain aspects of their beings are more valued than others (looks, taste, size, smell, colour). They may contain the very chemicals that have pushed them to grow bigger or that have protected them from infection or infestation, but they certainly will hold a lower life-force. As they have not been allowed to absorb their natural environment in their natural growing process, the natural balance of life-enhancing food has been disturbed and distorted. As the growing process in all its aspect is no longer a completely natural and balanced phenomenon, the resulting crop is significantly different from the all-natural one. For instance, natural sunlight can either be substituted by some form of central heating or at the very least can be filtered through glass panes. A lack of natural direct sunlight will leave plants and animals vulnerable to diseases as they end up with a weakened resistance. Dr Richard Hobday has extensively investigated the relationship between lack of direct sunshine on our skins and the arrival of diseases such as rickets and tuberculosis. What is now a proven fact as far as humans is concerned has been long since known about plants.
As we are now starting to consume poor quality food (also see "Healthy Food"), we have a craving to eat more because we are no longer well nourished by the foods we do consume. We start to eat in excess. This phenomenon is only observed in the civilized world and repeats itself in all of history's civilized societies. Every time we observe an increase in degeneration of body and morals when the higher level of society increases its wealth, sophistication, and needs, and in general terms wallows in excess.
Life is becoming easier, which leaves more time for leisure and games, for fun and parties, for food and consumption. The easier life becomes, the less fulfilling it becomes. The artificial replacements for natural movement and work are not providing the same satisfaction and generally are leaving people under-nourished in their search for satiation. This in turn drives them to have more, in a desperate bid to fulfill their needs. Consumption increases all the time; so does dissatisfaction in the consumer. And here we see both sides of this development.
As consumption grows and grows, the depletion of natural resources increases all the time, leaving less and less for the future, as well as completely destroying the natural environment that has created those resources in the first place, thus leaving virtually no hope for future recovery. As the living quality of our world decreases rapidly, we not only increase consumption, thereby fast-tracking the destruction, but we also deplete our own inner resources because we are lacking the replenishment from our living environment, as it no longer contains the necessary balance for its own and our living needs. In short, the world becomes ill and we become ill. The world no longer has the capability of dealing with its own natural processes as some vital resources have been removed; and we no longer have the inner strength to withstand the conditions we live in, as our vital resources have been depleted and we are no longer nourished by the poor quality that generally exists within our lives. Our environment has changed so rapidly because of our insatiable hunger for more, that we haven't had the time and the know-how to adjust our lives to the new circumstances.
A world that lives for excess, that has made "excess" the norm, has only one way to go. It is on a direct road to hell. Excess is per definition out of balance. Nature only survives as a balanced system. Within Nature we see excesses too, both in natural disasters and in terms of too much of certain foods being produced in certain places at certain times. There is, however, a big big difference. Nature ensures that excess in any shape or form is only short-lived. The feast of berries that make monkeys drunk in jungle only lasts for two weeks in the year, and then it's back to "normal". Floods, drought, volcanic eruptions and others are all short-lived events in the earth's history, and all are leaving behind the seeds of new life. Human excess only has eye for "more"; taking more, that is, not giving more.
We should heed the words of Mahatma Gandhi. There is enough in this world for every man and woman's need, but not enough for their greed.
A Last Word
If we seriously want to understand what health is all about and what makes it decline, then we first need to comprehend the mechanism that underpins it.
True health is only found where there is an honest balance and harmony within the habitat. This means that, whatever the individual living circumstances such as climate, soil, water supply and natural resources, people can only be healthy if they live in harmony with those surroundings. When the whole ecosystem vibrates in tune, which means that there are no discordant notes, everything within it will get the most out of it, and that includes humans. So, even when the living conditions are pretty "poor" and "unhealthy", one can still live a healthy life providing one is in harmony with the surroundings. This can be achieved through taking nourishment only from the living things within that environment and through contentment and satisfaction with that environment. Having respect for the living conditions and the sustenance it provides and looking after it will ensure a positive return through the harmonization of all energies.
Poverty, in the sense of a decline and destruction of this ecosystem, is an obvious reason for the decline of health, both of our living surroundings and of ourselves.
However, excesses, whereby we disturb the balance of the system by selective over-"harvesting", will equally disrupt this harmony. This in turn leads to the impoverishment of the natural vibrations and the decline of life.
Over-eating, over-producing, over-pampering, over-civilizing, over-organizing, over-working, over-resting and over-stimulating are all examples of ways we render our lives poorer. By working extremely hard to better ourselves in one way, we tip the balance and overstrain the system till breaking point. This manifests itself in illness.
When we study undisturbed natural habitats, not only do we find a place for everything in there, predators as well as prey, but we also see a distinct lack of excesses. At any given time there may be excesses such as animals eating too much or flooding, but none of these are sustained for any length of time and will be, in a natural way, compensated for. This teaches us that it isn't the occasional indulgence that will destroy the natural balance, but that the culprit is the ongoing stress that such a situation puts on the environment that will change it irrevocably.
A culture that thrives on excess is bound to change its ecosystem by sucking the life out of it at a rate that cannot be sustained. The altered environment then in turn no longer can maintain the life the way it used to, and survival, both for the individual and for the species, will depend on their ability to change with the environment. Whilst this process is in full swing we will see a massive increase in disease and ill-health, which is a physical expression of the disharmony and turmoil within the energetic field creating that specific ecosystem.
Poverty and excess, the extremes on the scale of Life, both result in total chaos, responsible for the death and destruction of Life as it is know at the time.
Life in all its forms is sustained by moderation in all its aspects. Human greed diverts from this middle ground and leaves both poverty and excess in its wake.
If you are looking for health, look for moderation in all aspects of your life.