8. The Dark Side of Growth
The mechanistic Cartesian world view has had a powerful influence on all our sciences and on the general Western way of thinking. The method of reducing complex phenomena to basic building blocks, and of looking for the mechanisms through which these interact, has become so deeply ingrained in our culture that it has often been identified with the scientific method. Views, concepts, or ideas that did not fit into the framework of classical science were not taken seriously and were generally disdained, if not ridiculed. As a consequence of this overwhelming emphasis on reductionist science our culture has become progressively fragmented and has developed technologies, institutions, and life styles that are profoundly unhealthy.
That a fragmented world view should also be unhealthy is not surprising in view of the close connection between 'health' and 'whole.' Both these words, as well as 'hale,' 'heal,' and 'holy,' derive from the Old English root word hal, which means sound, whole, and healthy. Indeed, our experience of feeling healthy involves the feeling of physical, psychological and spiritual integrity, of a sense of balance among the various components of the organism and between the organism and its environment. This sense of integrity and balance has been lost in our culture. The fragmented, mechanistic world view that has become all-pervasive, and the one-sided, sensate and 'yang-oriented' value system that is the basis of this world view, have led to a profound cultural imbalance and have generated numerous symptoms of ill health.
Excessive technological growth has created an environment in which life has become physically and menially unhealthy. Polluted air, irritating noise, traffic congestion, chemical contaminants, radiation hazards, and many other sources of physical and psychological stress have become part of everyday life for most of us. These manifold health hazards are not just incidental byproducts of technological progress; they are integral features of an economic system obsessed with growth and expansion, continuing to intensify its high technology in an attempt to increase productivity.
In addition to the health hazards we can see, hear, and smell there are other threats to our well-being which may be far more dangerous because they will affect us on a much larger scale, both in space and in time. Human technology is severely disrupting and upsetting the ecological processes that sustain our natural environment and are the very basis of our existence. One of the most serious threats, almost totally ignored until recently, is the poisoning of water and air by toxic chemical wastes.
The American public became acutely aware of the hazards of chemical waste several years ago, when the tragedy of-Love Canal was reported in front-page stories. Love Canal was an abandoned trench in a residental area of Niagara Falls, New York, that was used for many years as a dumpsite for toxic chemical wastes. These chemical poisons polluted surrounding bodies of water, filtered into adjacent back yards, and generated toxic fumes, causing high rates of birth defects, liver and kidney damage, respiratory ailments, and various forms of cancer among the residents of the area. Eventually an emergency was declared by the State of New York and the area was evacuated.
The story of Love Canal was first pieced together by Michael Brown, a reporter for the Niagara Gazette, who then went on to inspect similar hazardous-waste dumps throughout the United States.' Brown^s extensive investigations have made it clear that Love Canal was only the first of many simitar tragedies that are bound to unfold during the coming years and will seriously affect the health of millions of Americans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 1979 that there are more than 50,000 known sites where hazardous materials are stored or buried, and less than 7 percent has received proper disposal.2
These enormous amounts of hazardous chemical waste are a result of the combined effects of technological and economic growth. Obsessed with expansion, increasing profits, and raising 'productivity,' the United States and other industrial countries have developed societies of competitive consumers who have been induced to buy, use, and throw away ever increasing quantities of products of marginal utility. To produce these goods - food additives, synthetic fibers, plastics, drugs, and pesticides, for example - resource-intensive technologies were developed, many of them heavily dependent on complex chemicals; and as production and consumption increased, so did the chemical wastes that are inevitable byproducts of these manufacturing processes. The United States produces a thousand new chemical compounds a year, many of them more complex than their predecessors and more alien to the human organism, while the amount of annual hazardous waste has increased from ten to thirty-five million tons over the past decade.
As production and consumption accelerated at this hectic pace, technologies appropriate for dealing with the unwanted byproducts were not developed. The reason for this negligence was simple: while the wasteful production of consumer goods was highly profitable for the manufacturers, the proper treatment and recycling of the residues was not. For many decades the chemical industry dumped its wastes into the ground without adequate safeguards, and this irresponsible practice has now resulted in thousands of dangerous chemical dumpsites, ^toxic time bombs' that are likely to become one of the most serious environmental threats of the 1980s.
Faced with the grim consequences of its methods of production, the chemical industry has shown the typical corporate response. As Brown shows in case after case, the chemical companies have tried to conceal the dangers of their manufacturing processes and of the resulting chemical wastes;
they have also covered up accidents and pressured politicians to avoid full inquiry. But thanks in part to the tragedy of Love Canal, public awareness has increased dramatically. While manufacturers proclaim in slick advertising campaigns that life would be impossible without chemicals, more and more people are realizing that the chemical industry has become life-destroying instead of life-sustaining. We can hope that public opinion will exert increasing pressure on the industry to develop proper technologies for treating and recycling waste products, as is already being done in several European countries. In the long run the problems generated by chemical waste will become manageable only if we can minimize the production of hazardous substances, which will involve radical changes in our attitudes as producers and consumers.
Our excessive consumption and our strong emphasis on high technology not only create massive quantities of waste but also require huge amounts of energy. Nonrenewable energy, derived from fossil fuels, powers most of our production processes and with the decline of these natural resources energy itself has become a scarce and expensive resource. In their attempts to maintain, and even increase, their current levels of production, the world's industrialized countries have ferociously exploited the available resources of fossil fuels. These processes of energy production have the potential to cause unprecedented ecological disturbances and human suffering.
Exorbitant use of petroleum has led to heavy tanker traffic with frequent collisions, in which huge amounts of oil are spilled into the seas. These oil spills have not only polluted the most beautiful shores and beaches of Europe, but are also seriously disrupting the marine food cycles and thus creating ecological hazards that are still poorly understood. The generation of electricity from coal is even more hazardous andmore polluting than energy production from oil. Underground mining causes severe damage to miners' health, and strip mining creates conspicuous environmental consequences, since the mines are generally abandoned once the coal is exhausted, with huge areas of land left devastated. The worst damage of all, both to the environment and to human health, comes from the burning of coal. Coal-burning plants emit vast quantities of smoke, ash, gases, and various organic compounds, many of which are known to be toxic or carcinogenic. The most dangerous of the gases is sulfur dioxide, which can severely impair the lungs. Another pollutant released in the burning of coal is nitrogen oxide, which is also the main ingredient in air pollution from automobiles. A single coal-burning plant can emit as much nitrogen oxide as several hundred thousand cars.
The sulfur and nitrogen oxides emanating from coal-fired plants not only are hazardous to the health of people living in the plant's vicinity but also generate one of the most insidious and completely invisible forms of air pollution, acid rain.3 The gases thrown up by power plants mix with the oxygen and water vapor in the air and, through a series of chemical reaction, turn into sulfuric and nitric acids. These acids are then carried by the wind until they collect at various atmospheric gathering points and are washed down to the earth as acid rain or snow. Eastern New England, eastern Canada, and southern Scandinavia are heavily affected by this type of pollution. When acid rain falls on lakes it kills fish, insects, plants, and other forms of life, eventually the lakes die completely from acidity they can no longer neutralize. Thousands of lakes in Canada and Scandinavia are dead or dying already; entire fabrics of life that took thousands of years to evolve are rapidly disappearing.
Ac the heart of the problem, as usual, lies ecological shortsightedness and corporate greed. Technologies to reduce the pollutants that cause acid rain have already been developed, but the corporations that own the coal plants are vigorously opposed to environmental regulation, and they have the political power to prevent stringent controls. Thus American utility companies have forced the Environmental Protection Agency to relax emission standards for the old coal-fired plants in the Midwest, which continue to send vast amounts of pollutants downwind and are expected to be the source of 80 percent of U.S. sulfur emissions by 1990. These actions are based on the same irresponsible attitudes that bring the hazards of chemical waste. Rather than neutralizing their polluting waste products, the industries simply dump them somewhere else, without caring that in a finite ecosystem there is no such place as 'somewhere else.'
During the 1970s the world became acutely aware of a global shortage of fossil fuels, and with the inevitable decline of these conventional sources of energy in sight, the leading industrialized countries embarked on a vigorous campaign for nuclear power as an alternative energy source. The debate about how to solve the energy crisis usually focuses on the costs and risks of nuclear power, as compared to those of energy production from petroleum, coal, and oil shale. The arguments advanced by government and corporate economists, and by other representatives of the energy industry, are usually heavily biased in two ways. Solar energy - the only energy source that is abundant, renewable, stable in price and environmentally benign - is said to be 'uneconomical' or 'not yet feasible,* in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary,4 and the need for more energy is assumed unquestioningly.
Any realistic discussion of the 'energy crisis' has to start from a broader perspective than this, one that takes into account the roots of the present shortage of energy and their connections to the other critical problems facing us today. Such a perspective makes apparent what may at first sound paradoxical: What we need, to overcome the energy crisis, is not more energy but less. Our ever increasing energy needs reflect the general expansion of our economic and technological systems; they are caused by the patterns of undiffer-entiated growth that deplete our natural resources and contribute significantly to our multiple symptoms of individual and social illness. Energy, then, is a significant parameter of social and ecological balance. In our present, highly unbalanced state, more of it would not solve our problems but would make them worse. It would not only accelerate the depletion of our minerab and metals, forests and fish, but would also mean more pollution, more chemical poisoning, more social injustice, more cancer, more crime. What we need to overcome our multifaceted crisis is not more energy but a profound change of values, attitudes, and life styles.
Once these basic facts are perceived, it becomes evident that the use of nuclear power as an energy source is sheer folly. It surpasses the ecological impact of large-scale energy production from coal, which is already devastating, by several orders of magnitude, threatening not only to poison our natural environment for thousands of years but even to extinguish the entire human species. Nuclear power represents the most extreme case of a technology that has got out of hand, propelled by an obsession with self-assertion and control that has reached highly pathological levels.
In describing nuclear power in such terms, I am referring to both nuclear weapons and reactors. It is an intrinsic property of nuclear technology that these two applications cannot be separated. The term 'nuclear power' itself has two linked meanings. Tower' has not only the technical meaning of 'source of energy,' but also the more general meaning of 'possession of control or influence over others.' In the case of nuclear power, these two kinds of power are inseparably connected, and both of them represent today the greatest threat to our survival and well-being.
Over the past two decades the U.S. Defense Department and the military industry have succeeded in creating a series of public hysterias about national defense in order to be granted regular increases in military spending. To do so military analysts have perpetuated the myth of an arms race in which the Russians are ahead of the United States. In reality the United States has been leading the Soviet Union in this insane competition, ever since it began. Daniel Ellsberg has shown convincingly, by making available classified information, that the American military knew it was vastly superior to the Russians in strategic nuclear weapons throughout the 1950s and early 1960s.5 American plans, based on this superiority, contemplated first use of nuclear weapons - in other words, initiating a nuclear war - and several American presidents made explicit nuclear threats, all of which were kept secret from the public.
In the meantime the Soviet Union has also built up a massive nuclear force, and today the Pentagon is again trying to brainwash the American people into believing that the Russians are ahead. Actually there is now a balance of power; equivalence in armament is a fair description of the current situation. The reason why the Pentagon is again distorting the truth is that it wants the American military to regain the kind of superiority it had from 1945 to about 1965, which would enable the United States to make the kinds of nuclear threats it was making then.
Officially the American nuclear policy is one of deterrence, but a closer look at the present American nuclear arsenal and at the new weapons being designed shows clearly that the Pentagon's current plans are not aimed at deterrence at all. Their only purpose is a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union. To get an idea of the American force of deterrence-it is sufficient to consider the nuclear submarines. In the words of President Jimmy Carter, ^Just one of our relatively invulnerable Poseidon submarines - less than two percent of our total nuclear force of submarines, aircraft, and landbased missiles - carries enough warheads to destroy every large and medium-sized city in the Soviet Union. Our deterrent is overwhelming.'6 Twenty to thirty of these submarines are always at sea, where they are virtually invulnerable. Even if the Soviet Union sends its entire nuclear force against the United States, it cannot destroy a single American submarine; and each submarine can threaten every one of its cities. Thus the United States at all times has the power to destroy every Russian cny twenty to thirty times over. Seen against this background, the current increase in armament clearly has nothing to do with deterrence.
What American military designers are now developing are high-precision weapons, such as the new cruise and MX missiles, which can strike their targets from a distance of 6,000 miles with highest accuracy. The purpose of these weapons is to destroy an enemy missile in its silo before it is fired; in other words, these weapons are to be used in a nuclear first strike. Since it would make no sense to aim laser-guided missiles at empty silos, they cannot be regarded as defensive weapons; they are clearly weapons of aggression. One of the most detailed studies of the nuclear arms race which comes to that conclusion has been published by Robert Aldridge, an aeronautical engineer who formerly worked for the Lockheed corporation, America's largest producer of weapons.7 For sixteen years Aldridge helped to design every submarine-launched ballistic missile bought by the U.S. Navy, but he quit Lockheed in 1973 when he became aware of a profound shift in American nuclear policy, a shift from retaliation to first strike. As an engineer he could see a clear discrepancy between the announced purposes of the programs he was working on and their intrinsic design. Since then Aldridge has found that the trend he detected has continued and accelerated. His deep concern about American military policy led him to write his detailed report, which ends with these words:
This study, like Ellsberg's, shows clearly that the military's new weapons, contrary to what the Pentagon would make us believe, no longer increase American national security. On the contrary, the likelihood of nuclear war becomes greater with every weapon that is added.
In 1960-61, according to Ellsberg, there were American plans for a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union in case of any direct military confrontation with the Russians anywhere in the world. This was the only, and inevitable, American response to direct Russian involvement in some local conflict. We may be sure that such planning is still going on in the Pentagon. If it is, this means that in response to some local conflict in the Middle East, in Africa, or anywhere else in the world, the Defense Department intends to initiate an all-out nuclear war in which there would be half a billion dead after the first exchange. The entire war could be over in thirty to sixty minutes, and almost no living thing would survive its consequences. In other words, the Pentagon is planning to extinguish the human species as well as most others. This concept is known in the Defense Department as 'mutually assured destruction^, its acronym, very appropriately, is MAD.
The psychological background to this nuclear madness is an overemphasis on self-assertion, control and power, excessive competition, and an obsession with 'winning' Ч the typical traits of patriarchal culture. The aggressive threats that have been made by men throughout human history are now being made with nuclear weapons, without recognition of the enormous difference in violence and destructive potential. Nuclear weapons, then, are the most tragic case of people holding onto an old paradigm that has long lost its usefulness.
Today the outbreak of a nuclear conflict depends no longer on the United States and the Soviet Union alone. American nuclear technology - and with it the raw materials to make nuclear bombs - is being exported all over the world. Only ten to twenty pounds of plutonium are required lo make a bomb, and each nuclear reactor produces four hundred to five hundred pounds of plutonium annually, enough for twenty to fifty atomic bombs. Through plutonium, reactortechnology and weapons technology have become inseparably linked.
Nuclear technology is now being promoted especially in the Third World. The aim of this promotion is not to satisfy the energy needs of Third World countries, but those of multinational corporations extracting the natural resources from these countries as fast as they can. Politicians in Third World countries often welcome nuclear technology, however, because it gives them a chance to use it for building nuclear weapons. Current American sales of reactor technology abroad guarantee that by the end of the century dozens of countries will possess enough nuclear material to manufacture bombs of their own, and we can expect those countries not only to acquire the American technology but also to copy the American patterns of behavior and use their nuclear power to make aggressive threats.
The potential of global destruction through nuclear war is the greatest environmental threat of nuclear power. If we are unable to prevent nuclear war, all other environmental concerns will become purely academic. But even without a nuclear holocaust, the environmental impact of nuclear power far exceeds all other hazards of our technology. At the beginning of the so-called peaceful use of atomic energy, nuclear power was advocated as cheap, clean, and safe. In the meantime we have become painfully aware that it is none of those. The construction and maintenance of nuclear power plants is .becoming ever more expensive owing to the elaborate safety measures imposed on the nuclear industry by public protest; nuclear accidents have threatened the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of people; and radioactive substances continually poison our environment.
The health hazards of nuclear power are of an ecological nature and operate on an extremely large scale, both in space and in time. Nuclear power plants, and military facilities release radioactive substances that contaminate the environment, thus affecting all living organisms, including humans. The effects are not immediate but gradual, and they are accumulating to more dangerous levels all the time. In the human organism these substances contaminate the internal environment with many medium- and long term consequences, Cancer tends to develop after ten to forty years, and genetic diseases can appear in future generations.
Scientists and engineers very often do not fully grasp the dangers of nuclear power, partly because our science and technology have always had great difficulty dealing with ecological concepts. Another reason is the great complexity of nuclear technology. The people responsible for its development and applications are all used to a fragmented approach and each group concerns itself with narrowly defined problems. They often ignore how these problems interrelate and how they combine to produce a total impact on the global ecosystem. Besides, most nuclear scientists and engineers suffer from a profound conflict of interest. Most are employed by the military or by the nuclear industry, both of which exert powerful influences. Consequently the only experts who can provide a comprehensive assessment of the hazards of nuclear power are those independent of the military-industrial complex and able to adopt a broad ecological perspective. Not surprisingly, they all tend to be in the antinuclear movement.9
[n the process of producing energy from nuclear power, both the workers in the nuclear industry and the whole natural environment are contaminated with radioactive substances at every step of the 'fuel cycle.' This cycle begins with the mining, milling, and enrichment of uranium, continues with the fabrication of fuel rods and the operation and maintenance of the reactor, and ends with the handling and storage or reprocessing of nuclear waste. The radioactive substances that escape into the environment at every stage of this process emit particles - alpha particles,(Alpha panicles are compounds of two protons and two neutrons. ) electrons, or protons - that can be highly energetic, penetrating the skin and damaging body cells. Radioactive substances can also be ingested with contaminated food or water and will then do their damage from within.
When considering theheatth hazards of radioactivity, it is important to note that there is no 'safe' level of radiation, contrary to what the nuclear industry would have us believe, Medical scientists now generally agree that there is no evidence of a threshold below which radiation may be said to be harmless;10 even the smallest amounts can produce mutations and diseases. In everyday life we are continually exposed to low-level background radiation, which has been impinging on the earth for billions of years and which also comes from natural sources present in rocks, in water, and in plants and animals. The risks from this natural background are unavoidable, but to increase them means to gamble with our health.
The nuclear reaction that takes place in a reactor is known as fission. It is a process in which uranium nuclei break into fragments - most of which are radioactive substances - plus heat, plus one or two free neutrons. These neutrons are absorbed by other nuclei which, in turn, break up, thus setting in motion a chain reaction. In an atomic bomb, this chain reaction ends in an explosion", but in a reactor it can be controlled with the help of control rods, which absorb some of the free neutrons. In this way the rate of fission can be regulated. The fission process releases a tremendous amount of heat that is used to boil water. The resulting steam drives a turbine that generates electricity. A nuclear reactor, then, is a highly sophisticated, expensive, and extremely dangerous device for boiling water.
The human factor involved in all stages of nuclear technology, military and nonmilitary, makes accidents unavoidable. These accidents result in the release of highly poisonous radioactive materials into the environment. One of the worst possibilities is the melt-down of a nuclear reactor, in which the whole mass of molten uranium would burn through the container of the reactor and into the earth, possibly triggering a steam explosion that would scatter deadly radioactive materials. The effects would be similar to those of an atomic bomb. Thousands of people would die from immediate radiation exposure; more deaths would occur after two or three weeks from acute radiation illness; large areas of land would be contaminated and made uninhabitable for thousands of years.
Many nuclear accidents have already happened, and major catastrophes have often been narrowly avoided. The accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harris-burg, Pennsylvania, in which the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of people were threatened, is still vivid in our memory. Less known, but not less frightening, are accidents involving nuclear weapons, accidents that have become more and more frequent as the number and capacity of those weapons have increased.3' By 1968 there were more than thirty major accidents involving American nuclear weapons that came close to an explosion. One of the most serious occurred in 1961, when an H-bomb was accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina, and Five of its six safety devices failed. That one safety device protected us from a thermonuclear explosion of twenty-four million tons TNT, an explosion one thousand times more powerful than that of the Nagasaki bomb and, in fact, more powerful than the combined explosions of all the wars in human history. Several of these twenty-four-million-ton bombs have been dropped accidentally over Europe, the United States, and other parts of the world, and these accidents are going to occur even more frequently as more and more countries build nuclear weapons, probably with much less sophisticated safety devices.
Another major problem of nuclear power is the disposal of nuclear waste. Each reactor annually produces tons of radioactive waste that remains toxic for thousands of vears. Plutonium, the most dangerous of the radioactive byproducts, is also the most long-lived; it remains poisonous for at least 500,000 years. (The half-life of plutonium (Pu-239) - the time after which one-half of a given quantity has decayed - is 24,400 years. This means chat if one gram of plu ionium is released into the environment, about one-millionth of a gram will be left after 500,000 years, a quantity which is minute but still toxic.) It is difficult to grasp the enormous length of this time span, which far exceeds the length of time we are used to contemplating within our individual lifetimes, or within the lifetime of a society, nation, or civilization. Haifa million years, as shown on the chart below, is more than one hundred times longer than all of recorded history. It is a time span fifty times longer than that from the end of the Ice Age to the present day, and more than ten times longer than our entire existence as humans with our present physical characteristics.(The ancestors of the European races are usually identified with the Cro-Magnon race, which appeared about 30,000 years ago and possessed all modern skeletal characteristics, including the large brain.) This is the length of time that plutonium must be isolated from the environment. What moral right do we have to leave such a deadly legacy to thousands and thousands of generations?
No human technology can create safe containers for such an enormous time span. Indeed, no permanent safe method of disposal or storage has been found for nuclear waste, in spite of millions of dollars spent during three decades of research. Numerous leaks and accidents have shown the shortcomings of all current devices. In the meantime, nuclear waste keeps piling up. Projections by the nuclear industry anticipate a total of 152 million gallons of intensely radioactive, 'high-level' waste by the year 2000, and while the precise amounts of military radioactive waste are kept secret, they can be expected to be enormously larger than those from industrial reactors.
Plutonium, named after Pluto, the Greek god of the underworld, is by far the most deadly of all nuclear waste products. Less that one-millionth of a gram - an invisible dose - is carcinogenic. One pound, if uniformly distributed, could potentially induce lung cancer in every person on earth. Given these facts, it is truly frightening to know that each commercial reactor produces four hundred to five hundred pounds of plutonium per year. Moreover, tons of plutonium are routinely transported along American highways and railroads and are flown into airports.
Once created, plutonium must be isolated from the environment virtually forever, since even the tiniest amounts will contaminate it for eons to come. It is important to realize that plutonium does not simply vanish with the death of a contaminated organism. A contaminated dead animal, for example, may be eaten by another animal, or it may decay and rot away; its dust scattered by the winds. In any case the plutonium will remain in the environment and will continue its lethal action, on and on, from organism to organism, for half a million years.
Since there is no hundred-percent-safe technology, some plutonium inevitably escapes when it is handled. It has been estimated that if the American nuclear industry expands according to projections made in 1975, and if it contains its plutonium with 99-99 percent perfection - which would be something of a miracle - it will be responsible for 500,000 fatal lung cancers per year for about fifty years following the year 2020. This will amount to a 25 percent increase in the total death rate in the United States.12 In view of these estimates, it is difficult to understand how anybody can call nuclear powe" a safe source of energy.
Nuclear power also creates many other problems and hazards. They include the unsolved problem of disassembling, or 'decommissioning' nuclear reactors at the end of their useful lives; the development of 'fast breeder reactors,' which use pkitonium as a fuel and are far more dangerous than. ordinary commercial reactors; the threat of nuclear terrorism and the ensuing loss of basic civil liberties in a totalitarian 'plutonium economy'; and the disastrous economic consequences of the use of nuclear power as a capital- and technology-intensive, highly centralized source of energy.13 The total impact of the unprecedented threats of nuclear technology should make it abundantly clear to anyone that it is unsafe, uneconomical, irresponsible, and immoral: totally unacceptable.
If the case against nuclear power is so convincing, why is nuclear technology still promoted so heavily? The deep reason is the obsession with power. Of all the available energy sources nuclear power is the one that leads to the highest concentration of political and economic power in the hands of a small elite. Because of its complex technology it requires highly centralized institutions, and because of its military aspects it lends itself to excessive secrecy and extensive use of police power. The various protagonists of the nuclear economy - the utilities, the manufacturers of reactors, and the energy corporations ('Energy corporations' is an appropriate term used by Ralph Nader to describe the oil companies which have extended their business into all branches of the energy industry, including (he supply of uranium and plutonium, in an attempt to monopolize energy production.) - all benefit from a source of energy that is highly capital-intensive and centralized. They have invested billions of dollars in nuclear technology and continue to promote it vigorously in spite of its steadily growing problems and hazards. They are not prepared to abandon that technology, even if they are forced to ask for massive taxpayer subsidies and to use a large police force to protect it. As Ralph Nader says, nuclear power has become in many ways Americans "technological Vietnam.'14
Our obsession with economic growth and the value system underlying it have created a physical and mental environment in which life has become extremely unhealthy. Perhaps the most tragic aspect of this social dilemma is the fact that the health hazards created by the economic system are caused not only by the production process but by the consumption of many of the goods that are produced and heavily advertised to sustain economic expansion. To increase their profits in a saturated market, manufacturers have to produce their goods cheaper, and one way of doing this is to lower the quality of the products. To satisfy customers in spite of these low-quality products, vast sums of money are spent on conditioning consumer opinion and tastes through advertising. This practice, which has become an integral part of our economy, amounts to a serious health hazard because many of the goods produced and sold in this way have a direct effect on our health.
The food industry represents an outstanding example of health hazards generated by commercial interests. Although nutrition is one of the most important influences on our health, this is not emphasized in our system of health care and doctors are notoriously ignorant when it comes to questions of diet. Still, the basic features of a healthy diet are well known.15 To be healthy and nutritious, our diet should be well balanced, low in animal protein and high in natural, nonrefined carbohydrates. This can be achieved by relying on three basic foods - whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Even more important than the detailed composition of our diet are the following three requirements: our foods should be natural, consisting of organic food elements in their natural, unaltered state; they should be whole, complete and unfragmented, neither refined nor enriched; and they should be poison-free, organically grown, free from poisonous chemical residues and additives. These dietary requirements are extremely simple, and yet they are almost impossible to follow in today's world.
To improve their business food manufacturers add preservatives to food to increase its shelf life; they replace healthy organic food with synthetic products, and try to make up for the lack of nutritious content by adding artificial flavoring and coloring agents. Such overproce&sed, artificial food is heavily advertised on billboards and television, together with alcohol and cigarettes, those other two major health hazards. We are subject to barrages of commercials for 'junk food' - soft drinks, sweet snacks, high-fat foods - which have all been proved unhealthy. A recent study in Chicago that analyzed advertising by food companies on four television stations concluded that'on weekdaysover 70percent, and on weekends over 85 percent of food advertising is negatively related to the nation's health needs.' Another study found that more than 50 percent of the money spent for food advertising on television is used to promote items closely linked to the most significant risk factors in the American diet.16
For a large number of people in our culture the problems of an unhealthy diet are compounded by excessive use of drugs, both medical and nonmedical. Although alcohol continues to cause more problems for individual and social health than all other drugs combined, other kinds of drug abuse have become a significant threat to public health. In the United States aspirin alone is now consumed at the rate of 20,000 tons per year, which amounts to almost 225 tablets per person. But the biggest problem today is the excessive use of prescription drugs. Their sales have soared at an unprecedented rate, especially during the last twenty years, with the strongest increase occurring in the prescription of psychoactive drugs - tranquilizers, sedatives, stimulants, and antidepressants.18
Medical drugs can be extremely helpful if used intelligently. They have alleviated a great deal of pain and suffering and have helped many patients with degenerative diseases who, even ten years ago, would have been much more miserable. At the same time countless people have been victims of overuse and misuse. The overuse of drugs in contemporary medicine is based on a limited conceptual model of illness and is perpetuated by the powerful pharmaceutical industry. The biomedical model of illness and the economic model on which drug manufacturers base their business reinforce each other because they both reflect the same reductionist approach to reality. In both cases a complex pattern of phenomena and values is reduced to a single overriding aspect.
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest industries whose rate of profit has remained very high throughout the past two decades, outranking the rates of other manufacturing industries by significant margins. One of the outstanding characteristics of the drug industry is an excessive emphasis on differentiation of basically similar products. To a large extent research and marketing are devoted to developing drugs that are perceived as distinctive and superior, no matter how closely they resemble competing products, and huge sums are spent on advertising and promotion to establish a drug's distinctiveness far beyond any scientific justification.19 As a consequence the market has been inundated with thousands of redundant medical drugs, many of them only marginally effective and all with harmful side effects.
To study the ways in which the drug industry sells its products is highly instructive.20 In the United States the industry is controlled by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, a policy-making body that influences nearly every facet of the medical system. The PMA has close ties with the American Medical Association, and a large amount of the AMA's revenues comes from advertising in its medical journals. The largest of these periodicals is the Journal of the American Medical Association, whose apparent purpose is to keep physicians informed about new developments in medicine but which in fact is largely dominated by the interests of the pharmaceutical industry. The same is true for most other medical journals, which according to reliable estimates receive about half their income from advertising accounts with drug companies.21
This strong financial dependence of professional journals on an industry - a unique characteristic of the medical profession - is bound to affect the editorial policies of these journals. Indeed, numerous examples of conflict of interest have been observed. One involved a certain hormone called Norlutin, which was found to have harmful effects on some fetuses when taken during pregnancy.22 According to a report in the March 1960 issue oftheJAMA, these side effects of Norlutin occurred 'with sufficient frequency to preclude its use or advertisement as a safe hormone to be taken during pregnancy.' Yet in the same issue and for the next three months the journal continued to run a full-page advertisement for Norlutin with no reference to its possible side effects. Eventually the drug was taken off the market.
This was not an isolated event. The AMA has consistently neglected to inform physicians sufficiently about the adverse effects of antibiotics, which may well be the drugs most abused by physicians and most dangerous to patients. Unnecessary or negligent prescription of antibiotics has resulted in thousands of deaths, yet the AMA provides unlimited advertising space for antibiotics with no attempts at a disclaimer. This irresponsible advertising Is certainly not unrelated to the fact that, next to sedatives and tranquilizers, antibiotics provide the largest advertising income for the American Medical Association.
Pharmaceutical advertising is designed specifically to induce doctors to prescribe ever more drugs. Naturally, then, these drugs are described as the ideal solution to a wide variety of everyday problems. Stressful life situations with physical, psychological, or social origins are presented as diseases amenable to drug treatment. Thus tranquilizers are advertised as remedies for 'environmental depression^ or 'not fitting in,' and other drugs are suggested as convenient means to 'pacify' elderly patients or unruly school children. The tone of some of these ads, which are addressed to doctors, is absolutely horrifying to the lay person, especially when they advertise the treatment of women.23 Women suffer disproportionately from drug treatments; they take over 60 percent of all psychoactive drugs prescribed and over 70 percent of alt antidepressants. Advertisements often advise doctors in blatantly sexist language to get rid of female patients by giving them tranquilizers for vague complaints, or to prescribe drugs for women unhappy with their roles in society.
The influence of drug manufacturers on medical care extends far beyond journal advertising. In the United Slates the Physician's Desk Reference is the most popular reference book on drugs and is consulted regularly by more than 75 percent of the doctors. It lists every drug on the market, with its uses, recommended dosages, and side effects. Yet this standard work amounts to little more than straight advertising, since all its contents are prepared and paid for by the drug companies and it is distributed free to every physician in the country. For most doctors education about current drugs does not come from independent and objective pharmacologists but is provided almost exclusively by the highly media-conscious and manipulative producers. We can gauge the strength of this influence by noticing how rarely doctors use the proper technical terms when they refer to drugs; instead they use, and thus promote, the brand names made up by the drug companies.
Even more influential than its manual and Journal advertising is the pharmaceutical industry's sales force. To sell their goods these 'detail men' saturate doctors not only with smooth sales talk but also with briefcases full of drug samples, plus every imaginable promotional ploy. Many companies offer physicians prizes, gifts, and premiums in proportion to the amount of drugs prescribed - tape recorders, pocket calculators, dishwashers, refrigerators, and portable TV sets.24 Others offer week-long 'educational seminars' in the Bahamas with all expenses paid. It has been estimated that the drug companies collectively spend an average of $4,000 a year per physician on promotional ploys,2S which amounts to 65 percent more than they spend on research and development.
The influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the practice of medicine has an interesting parallel in the influence of the petrochemical (Petrochenucals are chemicals isolated or derived from petroleum.) industry on agriculture and farming. Farmers, like doctors, deal with living organisms that are severely affected by the mechanistic and reductionist approach of our science and technology. Like the human organism, the soil is a living system, that has to remain in a state of dynamic balance to be healthy. When the balance is disturbed there will be pathological growth of certain components - bacteria or cancer cells in the human body, weeds or pests in the fields. Disease will occur, and eventually the whole organism may die and turn into inorganic matter. These effects have became major problems in modern agriculture because of the farming methods promoted by the petrochemical companies. As the pharmaceutical industry has conditioned doctors and patients to believe that the human body needs continual medical supervision and drug treatment to stay healthy, so the petrochemical industry has made farmers believe that soil needs massive infusions of chemicals, supervised by agricultural scientists and technicians, to remain productive. In both cases these practices have seriously disrupted the natural balance of the living system and thus generated numerous diseases. Moreover, the two systems are directly connected, since any imbalance in the soil will affect the food that grows in it and thus the health of the people who eat that food.
A fertile soil is a living soil containing billions of living organisms in every cubic centimeter. It is a complex ecosystem in which the substances that are essential to life move in cycles from plants to animals, to soil bacteria, and back again to plants.26 Carbon and nitrogen are two basic chemical elements that go through these ecological cycles, in addition to many other nutrient chemicals and minerals. Solar energy is the natural fuel that drives the soil cycles, and living organisms of all sizes are necessary to sustain the whole system and keep it in balance. Thus bacteria carry out various chemical transformations, such as the process of nitrogen fixation, which makes nutrients accessible to plants; deep-rooted weeds bring trace minerals to the soil surface where crops can make use of them; earthworms break up the soil and loosen its texture; and all these activities are interdependent and combine harmoniously to provide the nourishment that sustains all life on earth.
The basic nature of living soil requires agriculture; first and foremost, to preserve the integrity of the great ecological cycles. This principle was embodied in traditional fanning methods, which were based on a profound respect for life. Farmers used to plant different crops every year, rotating them so that the balance in the soil was preserved. No pesticides were needed, since insects attracted to one crop would disappear with the next. Instead of using chemical fertilizers, farmers would enrich their fields with manure, thus reluming organic matter to the soil to reenler the biological cycle.
This age-old practice of ecological farming changed drastically about three decades ago, when farmers switched from organic to synthetic products, which opened up vast markets for the oil companies. While the drug companies manipulated doctors to prescribe ever more drugs, the oil companies manipulated farmers to use ever more chemicals. Both the pharmaceutical industry and the petrochemical industry became multibillion-dollar businesses. For the fanners the immediate effect of the new fanning methods was a spectacular improvement in agricultural production, and the new era of chemical farming was hailed as the 'Green Revolution.' Soon, however, the dark side of the new technology became apparent, and today it is evident that the Green Revolution has he'ped neither the fanners nor the land nor the starving millions. The only ones to gain from it were the petrochemical corporations.
The massive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides changed the whole fabric of agriculture and farming. The industry persuaded fanners that they could make money by planting large fields with a single highly profitable crop and controlling weeds and pests with chemicals. The results of this practice of single-crop monocultures were great losses of genetic variety in the fields and, consequently, high risks of large acreages being destroyed by a single pest. Monocultures also affected the health of the people living in the farming areas, who were no longer able to obtain a balanced diet from locally grown foods and thus became more disease-prone.
With the new chemicals, farming became mechanized and energy-intensive, with automated harvesters, feeders, water-ers, and many other labor-saving machines performing the work that had previously been done by millions of people. Narrow notions of efficiency helped to conceal the drawbacks of these capital-intensive fanning methods, as farmers were seduced by the wonders of modern technology. Even as late as 1970 an article in the National Geographic presented the following enthusiastic and utterly naive vision of future agriculture:
The reality, of course, was far less encouraging. While American farmers were able to triple their corn yields per acre and, at the same time, cut their labor by two-thirds, the amount of energy used to produce one acre of corn increased fourfold. The new style of farming favored large corporate farmers with big capital and forced most of the traditional single-family farmers, who could not afford to mechanize, to leave their land. Three million American farms have been eliminated in this way since 1945, with large numbers of people forced to leave the rural areas and join the masses of the urban unemployed as victims of the Green Revolution.28
Those farmers who were able to remain on the land had to accept a profound transformation of their image, role, and activities. From growers of edible foods, taking pride in feeding the world's people, farmers have turned into producers of industrial raw materials to be processed into commodities designed for mass marketing. Thus corn is converted to starch or syrup; soybeans become oils, pet food, or protein concen (rates; wheat flour is made into frozen dough or packaged mixes. For the consumer the tie of these products to the land has almost disappeared, and it is not surprising that many children today grow up believing that food comes from supe rmarke t shelves.
Farming as a whole has been turned into a huge industry, in which key decisions are made by 'agriscientists' and passed on to 'agribusinessmen' or "farming technicians' - the farmer farmers - through a chain of agents and sales people. Thus farmers have lost most of their freedom and creativity, and have become, in effect, consumers of production techniques. These techniques are not based on ecological considerations but are determined by the commodity market. Farmers can no longer grow or breed what the land indicates, nor what people need; they have to grow and breed what the market dictates.
In this industrialized system, which treats living matter like dead substances and uses animals like machines, penned in feedlots and cages, the process of farming is almost totally controlled by the petrochemical industry. Farmers get virtually all their information about farming techniques from the industry's sales force, just as most doctors get their information about drug therapy from the drug industry's 'detail men/ The information about chemical farming is totally unrelated to the real needs of the land. As Barry Commoner has noted, 'One can almost admire the enterprise and clever salesmanship of the petrochemical industry. Somehow it has managed to convince the fanner that he should give up the free solar energy that drives the natural cycles and, instead, buy the needed energy - in the form of fertilizer and fuel - from the petrochemical industry.'29
In spite of this massive indoctrination by the energy corporations, many farmers have preserved their ecological intuition, passed down from generation to generation. These men and women know that the chemical way of farming is harmful to the land, but they are often forced to adopt it because the whole economy of farming - tax structure, credit system, real estate system, and soon - has been set up in a way that gives them no choice. To quote Commoner again, 'The giant corporations have made a colony of rural America.'30
Nevertheless, a growing number of farmers have become aware of the hazards of chemical farming and are turning back to organic, ecological methods. Just as there is a grassroots movement in the health field, there is a grass-roots movement in farming. The new organic farmers grow their crops without synthetic fertilizers, rotating them carefully and controlling pests with new ecological methods. Their results have been most impressive. Their food is healthier and tastes better, and their operations have also been shown to be more productive than those of conventional farms.3' The new organic farming has recently sparked serious interest in the United States and in many European countries.
The long-term effects of excessive 'chemotherapy' in agriculture have proven disastrous for the health of the soil and the people, for our social relations, and for the entire ecosystem of the planet. As the same crops are planted and fertilized synthetically year after year, the balance in the soil is disrupted. The amount of organic matter diminishes, and with it the soil's ability to retain moisture. The humus content is depleted and the soifs porosity reduced. These changes in soil texture entail a multitude of interrelated consequences. The depletion of organic matter makes the soil dead and dry; water runs through it but does not wet it. The ground becomes hard-packed, which forces farmers to use more powerful machines. On the other hand, dead soil is more susceptible to wind and water erosion, which are taking an increasing toll. For example, half of the lopsoil in Iowa has been washed away in the last twenty-five years, and in 1976 two-thirds of America's agricultural counties were designated drought disaster areas. What is often called 'drought,' 'wind breaking down the land,' or 'winterkill,' are all consequences of sterile soil.
The massive use of chemical fertilizers has seriously affected the natural process of nitrogen fixation by damaging soil bacteria involved in this process. As a consequence crops are losing their ability to take up nutrients from the soil and becoming more and more addicted to synthetic chemicals. Because their efficiency in absorbing nutrients this way is much lower, not all the chemicals are taken up by the crop but leach into the ground water or drain from the fields into rivers and lakes.
The ecological imbalance caused by monocropping and by excessive use of chemical fertilizers inevitably results in enormous increases in pests and crop diseases, which fanners counteract by spraying ever larger doses of pesticides, thus fighting the effects of their overuse of chemicals by using even more. However, pesticides often can no longer destroy the pests because they tend to become immune to the chemicals. Since "World War II, when massive use of pesticides began, crop losses due to insects have not decreased; on the contrary, they have almost doubled. Moreover, many crops are now attacked by new insects that were never known as pests before, and these new pests are becoming increasingly resistant to all insecticides.3
Since 1945 there has been a sixfold increase in the use of chemical fertilizers and a twelvefold increase in the use of pesticides on American farms. At the same time increased mechanization and longer transport routes have contributed further to the energy dependence of modern agriculture. As a result, 60 percent of the costs of food are now costs of petro- Х leum. As the farmer Wes Jackson puts it succinctly: 'We have literally moved our agricultural base from soil to oil.'33 When energy was cheap, it was easy for the petrochemical industry to persuade farmers to change from organic to chemical farming, but since the costs of petroleum began their steady climb, many farmers have realized that they can no longer afford the chemicals they now depend upon. With every enlargement of farming technology the indebtedness of farmers increases as well. Even in the 1970s an Iowa banker remarked quite frankly, 'I occasionally wonder whether the average farmer will ever get out of debt.'34
If the Green Revolution has had disastrous consequences for the well-being of fanners and the health of the soil, the hazards for human health have been no less severe. Excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides has sent great quantities of toxic chemicals seeping through the soil, contaminating the water table and showing up in food. Perhaps half the pesticides on the market are mixed with petroleum distillates that may destroy the body's natural immune system. Others contain substances which are related specifically to cancer." Yet these alarming results have barely affected the sale and use of fertilizers and pesticides. Some of the more dangerous chemicals have been outlawed in the United States, but the oil companies continue to sell them in the Third World, where legislation is less strict, as .the drug companies sell dangerous prescription drugs. In the case of pesticides all populations are directly affected by this unethical practice because the toxic chemicals come back on fruits and vegetables imported from Third World countries.36
One of the principal justifications for the Green Revolution has been the argument that the new agricultural technology is needed to feed the world's hungry. In an age of scarcity, so the argument goes, only increased production will solve the problem of hunger, and only large-scale agribusiness is able to produce more food. This argument is still used, long after detailed research has made it quite clear that the problem of world hunger is not at all a technical problem; it is social and political. One of the most lucid discussions of the relation between agribusiness and world hunger can be found in the work of Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins,37 founders of the Institute for Food and Development Policy in San Francisco. Extensive research has led these authors to conclude that scarcity of food is a myth and that agribusiness does not solve the problem of hunger but, on the contrary, perpetuates and even aggravates it. They point out that the central question is not how production can be increased, but rather what is grown and who eats it, and that the answers are determined by those who control the food-producing resources. Merely to introduce new technologies into a system marred by social inequalities will never solve the hunger problem; on the contrary, it will make it worse. Indeed, studies oftheimpact of the Green Revolution on hunger in the Third World have confirmed the same paradoxical and tragic result again and again. More food is being produced, yet more people are hungry. As Moore Lappe and Collins write, 'In the Third World, on the whole there is more food and less to eat.'
Research codirected by Moore Lappe and Collins has shown that there is no country in the world in which people could not feed themselves from their own resources, and that the amount of food produced in the world at present is sufficient to provide about eight billion people - more than twice the world population - with an adequate diet. Nor can scarcity of agricultural land be considered a cause of hunger. For example, China has twice as many people per cultivated acre as India, yet in China there is no large-scale hunger. Inequality is the main stumbling block in all current attempts to fight world hunger. Agricultural 'modernization' - mechanized large-scale farming - is highly profitable for a small elite, the new corporate 'farmers,' and drives millions ofpeopleofftheland. Thus fewer people are gaining control over more and more land, and once these large landholders are established they no longer grow food according to local needs but switch to more profitable crops for export, while the local population starves. Examples of this vicious practice abound in all countries of the Third World. In Central America at least half of the agricultural land - and precisely the most fertile land Ч is used to grow cash crops for export while upto 70 percent of the children are undernourished. In Senegal vegetables for export to Europe are grown on choice land while the country's rural majority goes hungry. Rich, fertile land in Mexico that previously produced a dozen local foods is now used to grow asparagus for European gourmets. Other landowners in Mexico are switching to grapes for brandy, while entrepreneurs in Colombia are changing from growing wheat to growing carnations for export to the United States.
World hunger can be overcome only by transforming social relations in such a way that inequality is reduced at every level. The primary problem is not the redistribution of food but the redistribution of control over agricultural resources. Only when this control is democratized will the hungry be able to eat what is produced. Many countries have proved that social changes of this kind can be successful. In fact, 40 percent of the Third World population now lives in countries where hunger has been eliminated through common struggle. These countries do not use agriculture as the means to export income but rather use it to produce food first for themselves. Such a 'food first' policy requires, as Moore Lappe and Collins have emphasized, that industrial crops should be planted only after people have met their basic needs, and that trade should be seen as an extension of domestic need rather than being determined strictly by foreign demand.
At the same time, we who live in industrialized countries will have to realize that our own food security is not being threatened by the hungry masses in the Third World, but by the food and agricultural corporations that perpetuate this massive starvation. Multinational agribusiness corporations are now in the process of creating a single world agricultural system in which they will be able to control all stages of food production and to manipulate both food supply and prices through well-established monopoly practices. This process is now well under way. In the United States almost 90 percent of vegetable production is controlled by major processing corporations, and many farmers have no choice but to sign up with them or go out of business.
World-wide corporate control of food production would make it impossible ever to eliminate hunger. It would, in effect, establish a Global Supermarket in which the world's poor would be in direct competition with the affluent and thus would never be able to feed themselves. This effect can already be observed in many Third World countries, where people go hungry although food is grown in abundance right where they live. Their own government may subsidize itsproduction and they themselves may even grow and harvest it. Yet they will never eat any because they are unable to pay the prices resulting from international competition.
In its continual efforts to expand and increase its profits, agribusiness not only perpetuates world hunger but is extremely careless in the way it treats the natural environment, to the extent of creating serious threats to the global ecosystem, For example, giant multinational companies such as Goodyear, Volkswagen, and Nestle are now bulldozing hundreds of millions of acres in the Amazon River basin in Brazil to raise cattle for export. The environmental consequences of clearing such vast areas of tropical forests are likely to be disastrous. Ecologists warn that the actions of the torrential tropical rains and the equatorial sun may set off chain reactions that could significantly alter the climate throughout the world.
Agribusiness, then, ruins the soil on which our very existence depends, perpetuates social injustice and world hunger, and seriously threatens global ecological balance. An enterprise that was originally nourishing and life-sustaining has become a major hazard to individual, social, and ecological health.
The more we study the social problems of our time, the more we realize that the mechanistic world view and the value system associated with it have generated technologies, institutions, and life styles that are profoundly unhealthy. Many of these health hazards are further aggravated by the fact that our health care system is unable to deal with them appropriately because of its adherence to the same paradigm that i& perpetuating the causes of ill health. Current health care is reduced to medical care within the biomedical framework, that is, centered on acute, hospital-based, and drug-oriented medicine. Health care and the prevention of illness are perceived as two different problems and, accordingly, health professionals are not very active in supporting environmental and social policies that are directly related to public health.
The shortcomings of our present system of health care result from the subtle interplay of two tendencies, both examined in some detail in previous chapters. One is the adherence to the narrow biomedical framework in which the relevance of nonbiological aspects to the understanding of illness is systematically denied. The other, no less important, is the pursuit of economic and institutional growth and of political power by the health industry, which has heavily invested in the technologies that emerged from the reductionist view of illness. The American health care system consists of a vast conglomeration of powerful institutions, motivated by economic growth and lacking any effective incentives to hold down health costs.38 The system is dominated by the same financial and corporate forces that have shaped the other sectors of the economy, forces that are not primarily interested in public health but that control virtually all facets of health care - the structure of health insurance, the management of hospitals, the manufacture and promotion of drugs, the orientation of medical research and education, and recognition and licensing ofnonmedical therapists. The dominance of corporate values in this system. is evident in the current debates on national health insurance, in which the basic patterns of power are never questioned. That is why none of the schemes currently under discussion is likely to satisfy the health needs of the American people. As one study of health care in the United States has noted, 'Just as federal defense appropriations subsidize the military-industrial complex, national health insurance will subsidize the medical-industrial complex.'39
The aim of the health industry has been to turn health care into a commodity that can be sold to consumers according to the rules of the ^free market' economy. To achieve this purpose the 'health care delivery' system has been structured and organized like the large manufacturing industries. Rather than encouraging health care in small community health centers, where it can be adapted to individual needs and practiced with an emphasis on prevention and health education, the current system favors a highly centralized and technology-intensive approach that is profitable for the industry but expensive and unhealthy for the patients.
The present 'health establishment' has heavily invested in the status quo and is vigorously opposed to any fundamental revision of health care. By effectively controlling medical education, research, and practice, the health industry tries to suppress all incentives to change and to make the current approach intellectually and financially rewarding for the medical elite that directs the practice of health care. However, the problems of rising health costs, the diminishing returns from medical care, and the increasing evidence that environmental, occupational, and social factors are the primary causes of ill health will inevitably force change. In fact this change has already begun and is rapidly gaining^momentum. The holistic health movement is active both within and outside the medical system, and is supported and complemented by other popular movements - environmental groups, antinuclear organizations, consumer groups, social liberation movements - that have perceived the environmental and social influences on health and are committed to opposing and preventing the creation of health hazards through political action. All these movements subscribe to a holistic and ecological view of life and reject the value system that dominates our culture and is perpetuated by our social and political institutions. The new rising culture shares a vision of reality that is still being discussed and explored but will eventually emerge as a new paradigm, destined to eclipse the Cartesian world view in our society.
In the following chapters I shall try to outline a coherent conceptual framework based on the new vision of reality. I hope it will help the various movements in the rising culture become aware of their common ground. The new framework will be profoundly ecological, compatible with the views of many traditional cultures and consistent with the concepts and theories of modern physics. As a physicist, I find it rewarding to observe that the world view of modern physics is not only having a strong impact on the other sciences but also has the potential uf being therapeutic and culturally unifying.
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