Challenges for health in the Anthropocene epochBMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l460 (Published 04 February 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l460
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The foremost intervention which I can help effect, and which my patients are interested in, is that of dietary change away from artery clogging, cancer inducting, and other common chronic disease causing animal product heavy diets to that of a whole foods, plant based diet. This addresses climate change in a major way whilst making us healthier. This has been proven by many many large scale epidemiological studies (EPIC Oford, Adventist health studies etc) and interventional studies eg those on heart disease reversal by Dean Ornish and Calswell Esselsteyn, on diabetes by Neal Barnard an so on.
I consult on helping people change to a plant based diet or to address their health issues with it. For which I can tell you it works very well. I started consulting formally few months ago after doing it in my GP work for a few years, and am already busy seeing people who have found this information out in their own way for health , environmental or animal ethical concern reasnos. , bypassing the medical profession usually, which is largely stuck in traditional and largely ineffective old paradigms and advice of nutrition and lifestyle, and for which not enough time nor resources are available. I am soon holding seminars and immersion courses to help people in more depth similar to my Australian and US colleagues do (wholefoodsplantbasedhealth.com.au)
Diet - nutrition, and eating a plant based diet , is the elephant in the room in medical management of these chronic diseases which are sinking health systems. It holds the key to slashing our chronic diseases , healthcare costs and environmental burden of our current diets. It should be on the table during every consultation. It sounds so simple many people can't believe it, as did I not initially, now I see people weekly who reverse cholesterol, bloods pressures, weight, put autoimmune conditions into remission, and improve wellness. Please pay heed to this crucIsla topic, I would love to tell you I more about it. Behaviour Change is possible , effective and rewarding. I am glad after 20 years in medicine I have found my Why.
Competing interests: No competing interests
I am convinced that the human species is “doing its worst” for the health of the planet (though I am not persuaded that there is such a thing as the Anthropocene Epoch, attractive sounding though it is).
But let us look at some “criminal” acts of mankind.
1. The pursuit of planetary travel by USSR, USA, CHINA, INDIA.
Would Prof Haynes and colleagues agree that this activity, howsoever benign in intentions, is a malignant invasion of the universe?
2. Nuclear science - be it the bomb or the rocket propulsion for ostensibly peaceful purposes.
No one has yet invented a means of safe disposal of the products. Yet, USA, Russia, China, Japan, France, India, etc are blithely continuing in this activity.
3. Climbing summits. Every year the world puffs up its chest as yet another mountaineer wastes millions of calories in useless summiteering.
Enough to start with. Perhaps Prof Haynes and colleagues will tell me if I am wrong? If I am right, would they please start a movement? Thank you
Competing interests: A desire to see the planet survive for my descendants.
As Haines and colleagues note, Humanity can flourish within certain planetary boundaries. To 'flourish', populations need a certain background of mental wellbeing and, especially when faced with dramatic changes in their environment, mental resilience. Fearful, poorly understood events (like a catastrophic flood or epidemic ) not only threaten health, they can undermine a population's capacity to respond: through panic, scapegoating, social disorganisation - and internal conflict. Only today I was reading in the new Oxford Textbook of Public Mental Health about the public health implications of social disorganisation and violence (e.g. the 11,000 terrorist attacks reported in 2015). However, the same Textbook also demonstrates that we are learning quite a lot about mental resilience, too. If our descendants are to survive and adapt through the Anthropocene, Humanity must nurture that dimension of resilience across all ages and in all communities.
 Haines A, Scheelbeek P, Abbassi K. Challenges for health in the Anthropocene epoch. BMJ 2019;364:l460.
 Caan W. Robust well-being. Journal of Public Mental Health 2016; 15: 141-49.
 Caan W. Chekhov’s Corner: “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster. Journal of Public Health 2015; 37: 744-745.
 Stewart-Brown S. Resilience and well-being. Pages 503-511 in: The Oxford Textbook of Public Mental Health. Oxford, OUP, 2018.
Competing interests: I was involved in the Global Sustainability Institute (see Caan W. An unhealthy planet creates climate refugees. So What? 2017; 9: 6-7).