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The connections between ecological and human health

Essay 2004 7 Seiten

Umweltwissenschaften

Leseprobe

Table of Content

1 Ontological rejections and semantic illusions
1.1 Human Health
1.2 Ecological Health

2 Human health in context
2.1 Taking an ecological perspective
2.2 The delusion of perfect health and its connections to ecosystems
2.3 Globality and socio-economic connections to human health

3 Summarizing closing words and outlook

4 References

1 Ontological rejections and semantic illusions

(i) From 'what' to 'how' questions: Questions of the type ' What is/are the nature/the connections of/between such and such?' contain archaic neglected residues. They insinuate that one heads out 'in the world' and will find 'the nature of or the connections between such and such'. The author emphasises the need to overcome such a naïve realistic-ontological worldview and to take a more linguistic-constructivist approach. One does not discover god-given essences or connections, but rather humans construct worldviews according to their available technologies, cultures, and aims. Thus, this essay will try to answer the question ' How do certain authors write about the connections between human health and ecological health?'.
(ii) Semantic illusions: Taking Nelson Goodman seriously, the question can be divided into several sub-questions. The definite article in the notion 'the connections' seduces one to assume that there is a definite set of connections. Rather, it is the case that by different authors different connections are named. And actually, what does the term 'connection' mean? Linguistic connections between the terms 'human health' and 'ecological health' could be that both terms (a) contain the word 'health', (b) consist of two words, or (c) that they differ in the amount of letters. In order to try to give more 'substantial' connections between human health and ecological health, it is necessary to investigate what these terms mean, or to put it in a more appropriate way, how the (academic) community uses, applies, or employs these terms.

1.1 Human Health

If one wants to award meaning to the term 'human health', it is advisable to distinguish between the health of individuals (i) and the health of whole populations (ii).

(i) Individual health is described by the World Health Organisation as "not just the absence of disease or infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing" (McMichael 1993, p.57). Obviously, one has to scrutinize further what could be understood by physical, mental, and social well-being and how it could be measured. Ultimately, only the single individual herself can give further particulars.
(ii) Health of a population refers to the average state of health in a society. The indicators to measure the health of a population are infant- and maternal mortality, as well as life expectancy (e.g. McMichael 1993, p.58). Moreover, McMichael (2001, p.328) states that population health "can be understood as a criterion of the population's social, cultural and economic performance, and of its stewardship of the natural environment".

1.2 Ecological Health

'Ecological health', 'ecological integrity', or 'ecological equilibrium' are phrases that are used arbitrarily and indiscriminately, but have only a limited formal and agreed definition. This will be shown by the following:

Firstly, and it is paradigmatically circular, the Faculty of Forestry (2004) describes ecological health as "both the occurrence of certain attributes that are deemed to be present in a healthy, sustainable resource and the absence of conditions that result from known stresses or problems affecting the resource." Secondly, Rapport et al (1998) define the term 'ecological health' as somehow related to 'vigor' (activity, metabolism, or primary productivity), 'organization' (diversity and number of interactions between systems components), and 'resilience' / 'counteractive capacity' (system's capacity to maintain structure and function in the face of stress) (cited in: Harris/Hobbs 2001, p. 196). They conclude by stating "the need for more detailed development of ecosystem health indicators" […] "that do more than provide vague general indicators of structures or processes" (ibid, p.200).

As long as one is not willing to work with insightful and multi-layered 'definitions' of such kind that 'define' ecological health as the presence of healthy resources, one has to examine thoroughly the corresponding (ecological) language systems in which terms like the given above, as well as for example (neighbourhood, global, dynamic, bounded, cyclic, trajectory) stability, resiliency, constancy, elasticity, persistence, resistance, inertia, equilibria, carrying capacity, etc. are explained in detail and clear indicators are given. This can just be named as a desideratum, but can not be done in this essay. Instead, all the attention is drawn to look at the phenomenon 'human health' within particular contexts.

The health of populations has always been determined by fluctuating environmental and

political fortunes, along with an overlay of cultural practices and social values.

McMichael 1993, p.78

[...]

Details

Seiten
7
Jahr
2004
ISBN (eBook)
9783638340564
ISBN (Buch)
9783656687061
Dateigröße
490 KB
Sprache
Englisch
Katalognummer
v33624
Institution / Hochschule
Murdoch University – ISTP - Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy
Note
HD
Schlagworte
Ecology Society Human Health

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Titel: The connections between ecological and human health