Health In Individuals, Communities, and Ecosystems

Western culture perceives the connection between poor health of individuals, communities, and ecosystems as “the poverty-environment nexus” (Uitto 2019 SDE:55). It sees a correlation between the risk of conflict and warming climates with changing rainfall patterns, as well as a correlation between environmental degradation and the spread of pathogens with pandemic potential (Uitto 2021).

Consider these three statements:

  • An individual human being’s health is an emergent property of the complex living system of cells, tissues, and organs that constitute a person.
  • A society’s health is an emergent property of the complex (dynamic and nonlinear) living system of communities, schools, support services, families, and all the other kinds of connected nodes of relationship that constitute a society.
  • An ecosystem’s health is an emergent property of the complex web of connections between the animals, plants, microorganisms, waters, air, soil, stones, and other things that constitute an ecosystem.

Questions to facilitate your conceptual weaving process:

If an ecosystem is not healthy — for instance, if its waters are polluted with chemicals — how might that affect the cells or organs of an individual human being who lives in that ecosystem?

If an individual human being’s health suffers due to polluted waters in the larger ecosystem, how might this impact that person’s employment and personal finances, education, family relationships?

If a number of individual people suffer ill health due to environmental pollutants in the ecosystem where they live, and it impacts their productivity and financial health, how might this impact the community of family, school, church, and so on of which they are a part?

When people and communities experience major stress of the kinds you’ve just considered, do you think they might do things that impact their own ecosystem in negative ways as they begin to experience a sense of helplessness or panic?

What do these points, taken together, tell you about the relationship between unhealthy land, unhealthy people, and unhealthy societies?

Indigenous Ceremony can, depending on what type it is, help to heal Place, Community, or an Individual. If Ceremony is done for the Land’s healing, what impact would this have on the people who live there and the communities of which they are a part?

Many social or community ills resist change. The same is true of many individual health problems. If programs aimed at reducing obesity in individuals or drug use in a community fail to effect change, what alternative pathways to healing do you see in the relationships you’ve just laid out?

How do these thoughts influence the way you think about “the poverty-environment nexus”?

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