Let’s cut some carbon out of health careBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5553 (Published 06 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5553
All rapid responses
Your editorial is into a very serious matter this time. Good that you
are going global. I am reminded of the global cooling threat published in
the 1970s. Alarm bells rang loud and clear that we were in for the next
ice age then! All that happened at that time was that the Northern
Hemisphere ground temperatures had fallen by just 0.5 degree centigrade!
Between 1964 and 1972 there was a decrease of 1.5% sunshine hitting the
USA. It was said to have taken the globe "about a sixth of the way
towards the ice age." In Great Britain the cooling had shortened the
growing season by just two weeks. They predicted then that the famine was
imminent. Scientists and thinkers (BMJ did not write an editorial, though)
suggested covering the arctic ice cap with black soot.
Now the threat is opposite, it is global warming. We are very good
at predicting the unpredictable future, as doctors. (BMJ 1991; 303: 1565-
68) This world does not fit into our scientific logical thinking following
the Laws of Deterministic Predictability. Uncertainty is the only
certainty. Science changed in 1925 with Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty
principle. Although we still call physics as physics, it is not the same
at all. Science has to change a lot and there is NO science of human
being. The best support for this comes from that beautiful book by Edward
Wilson- Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge- where he says:
"Without instruments humans are trapped in a cognitive prison; they
are like intelligent fish wondering about the world outside, they invent
ingenious speculations and myths about the origin of the containing
waters, of the sun, the stars above and the meaning of their (own)
existence. But they are wrong, always wrong because the world is too
remote from ordinary experience to be merely imagined."
Another great scientist, former Director of the Max Planck Institute in
Munich, Hans Peter Durr, says it much more succinctly thus: "With
instruments also mankind is in cognitive prison. Using science we now have
sophisticated ignorance; but we are not anywhere close to the truth. The
word world has a Germanic root "wer-ald" which means a world seen by human
beings. That is not the reality."
So much for the new future threat of global warming. This planet is
such a small speck in the universe that the environment around will have
its own controlling mechanisms. How do we otherwise explain the global
cooling threat that our scientists posed a couple of decades ago to be
turned upside down to the global warming threat so soon? It is worthwhile
checking if this has any business interest at all driving it? We get
prizes and Nobel very easily if we get on to the global warming bandwagon,
sometimes even with wrong data!
A house holder driving a battery driven Prius to the supermarket will
be undoing all the good that she has done to reduce global warming by
buying beef! Cows mainly and sheep and other cud chewing animals-so
called ruminants- are the worst polluters of this world and they
contribute much more than all the carbon emitting industries and the motor
vehicles on the road. The exhalation, the farts, and the flatulence and
belching of these animals along with their excreta contain so much methane
that can warm this planet much more.
Measure per measure the cow's fart can be twenty five times more
potent in warming the planet compared to carbon emissions! We could ask
all the people to eat only Kangaroo meat in place of ruminants' meat as
the former does not emit any methane, thanks to its peculiar digestive
physiology. Wonderful world indeed! We have also ignored the evaporating
water vapour from the seas warming the globe!
Even our therapeutic efforts seem to be based on similar
sophisticated ignorance with all our instruments. I am reminded of what
Goethe wrote in Faust, centuries ago:
"I have, alas! Philosophy,
Medicine, Jurisprudence too,
And to my cost Theology,
With ardent labour, studied through.
And here I stand, with all my lore,
Poor fool, no wiser than before."
Competing interests: No competing interests
If medical organisations (such as the BMA) could cut out some
clinical conferences, it would be helpful.
If our Government would stop tearing down old hospitals and building
new ones, it would help even more. In the days of my youth (half a century
ago) I worked in some hospitals of an even more ancient vintage. Examples:
Battersea General in SW11, Gulson in Coventry. I also worked in the "state
of the art" Royal Gwent in Newport, Mon.
The ancient hospitals provided as happy and healthy a working
environment for the staff as the new one. As far as I could judge, the
care for and the treatment of the patients was equally good in the afore-
mentioned ancient and modern hospitals.
If doctors, nurses, managers and politicians could examine their own
motives for seeking old hospitals to be erased and old hospitals raised,
they might help the patients and the planet. To smash a hospital aged
twenty-five years or less is.........
Competing interests: Getting old
Today we use more disposables than ever, and we spend fortunes on dealing with dangerous waste. Industry lacks any economic incentive to use re-usable, recyclable materials. Carbon could be saved if industry was forced to take its disposables products back after use and deal with the waste. If this happened then producers would take into
account the possibilities of re-use of materials and the costs of
Competing interests: No competing interests