At the Intersection of Individual Health & Public Policy
Thus the first contradiction: In a publication that leans almost exclusively positive, how do we talk about anger in relation to everyday horrors?
We see awakening as a call to fulfill the awesome potential of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. Implicit in this is that awakenings are individually experienced and positive in nature, at least in the results if not in the process. But sometimes awakenings are collective in nature, sparked by some perceived outrage. Venomous reactions to the students embody the most obvious contradiction: The United States is anything but united.
Nevertheless, a more interesting contradiction is my Facebook feed. The political postings of many friends reflect the deep divide in this country. But other friends never post about politics. They are relentlessly positive, always encouraging and affirming all that is good within ourselves and the Universe. They are likely to offer thoughts and prayers given horrific events, and are sincere in believing that praying is the best thing they can do, even though they, too, may take political action.
Then there is a contradiction inherent in this publication, one perhaps unwittingly laid bare by this month’s lead article. On one hand, we seek to inspire, encourage and empower readers to take individual action to enhance their physical, emotional and spiritual health. But this month’s lead article, subtitled “Why a Warming Planet is Harming Our Health,” is about a fundamental, omnipresent negative factor that impacts us greatly, yet is far beyond our individual control: the environment.
Indeed, in a recent New York Times article, Pagan Kennedy asserts, “The greatest gains in longevity have occurred not because of personal choices but because of public sanitation, clean water and the control of infectious diseases.” She points to the outlawing of leaded gasoline as an example: “Average lead levels in our blood dropped by more than 80 percent.”
How do we resolve these contradictions? One year ago I wrote about an individual’s growth potential at the intersection of ideas: The article was about organic farming and spirituality. This month, the relevant intersection is between the health of individuals and public policy.
Activity at this intersection is awakening us to the necessity and potential of citizenship. As Anand Giridharadas wrote in a recent Huffington Post piece, “The burden of citizenship is accepting that what is neither your fault, nor your responsibility, may be your problem.” In other words, true citizenship serves others.
So the pediatrician Samantha Ahdoot, profiled in our lead article, became a climate-change activist because of the climate-related symptoms she sees in her patients. Similarly, Kennedy says, “I’m calling Congress and donating to organizations that work for environmental justice...When it comes to staying alive, we’re all in it together.”
What “all in it together” shouldn’t mean is that we accept the ultimate sacrifice of some because our public servants refuse to act. “They (teachers) shouldn’t have to tell me they would take a bullet for me,” says Annabette Vellines, a student interviewed by Noah. Her solution is spot on: Vote for those who care and will make an effort.
How we choose to eat, exercise and heal is essential to our health. But gun violence is a public health issue that we cannot address individually, as are climate change, the regulation of harmful and unhealthy substances and even the societal norms that govern how we interact and treat one another. Degrading any of these degrades our ability to develop and maintain good health.
Thus, our role as citizens is to sufficiently love ourselves, our fellow humans and the truth, enough to be mindful at the polls. We can respond to those who deliver laws and policies that destroy our health and our environment’s capacity to sustain good health with love as well—by enabling their enjoyment of early retirement.