DEAR READERS: Nicholas Black Elk, a holy man of the Oglala Sioux, wrote: “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers; and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere -- it is within each of us.”
It is such spiritual vision that inspired Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s philosophy of “reverence for life” -- a universal concept of ethics that could reconcile altruism and egoism by advocating and upholding respect for the lives of all beings. Schweitzer wrote, ”Ethics is nothing other than Reverence for Life. Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality: namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting and enhancing life, and to destroy, to harm or to hinder life is evil.”
Reverence for life is the moral compass for those values that act like genes, influencing our perception, cognition and behavior. Humane education in grade school and bioethics in high school and college would be the best investment in securing a life of meaning and purpose for all, and a safer and more sane society better able to resist totalitarianism and constrain consumerism. To see the living world as a communion of subjects and not a collection of objects, as my friend the late Father Thomas Berry was fond of saying, is an important evolutionary step. Our mutual mentor, Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin -- a Jesuit theologian, philosopher and paleontologist -- saw this step as the point “when humanity will realize that biologically it is faced with a choice between suicide and adoration.”
Basic education in self-care and health care -- from good nutrition and Hatha yoga to baking your own bread and making your own dog food -- is seeing significant progress thanks to people who choose to embrace the basic principles of One Health in their personal and professional lives. (For more details, visit onehealthinitiative.com.) I see an emerging generation of informed consumers and kitchen anarchists demanding organic whole foods so the world will be made green again.
I hope that, from the COVID-19 pandemic, greater international collaboration will be established -- especially in prohibiting wildlife trafficking, live animal markets and animal factory farms, which are the main sources for such pandemics. The healthier our environment, the healthier our immune systems, cognitive functions and children.
(The full “Musings” series is posted, with supportive reference citations, at drfoxonehealth.com.)
DEAR DR. FOX: Your recent “Musings” piece referring to our present-day dilemma in this country was spot on! In all my 88 years on this planet, there has never been so much hate, greed and delusion. My hope is that the Biden crowd can rectify most of the obvious transgressions of the previous administration and proceed to important things like climate science and human well-being. -- C.H.S., naturalist, Bonita Springs, Florida
DEAR C.H.S.: Your words of support are much appreciated. It is challenging in these times, but an ethical imperative no less, to speak truth to power in order to avert corporate hegemony and authoritarianism. I like to think we can yet evolve and embrace trans-species democracy. Respect for all life is the hallmark of a truly civilized species.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)
PROTECTING NATURAL BIODIVERSITY PROTECTS PUBLIC HEALTH
The risk of infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans rises in areas where natural forests are wiped out. Researchers found that, from 1990 to 2016, increases in outbreaks of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases were linked to deforestation. The effect was present even where trees remained but biodiversity was lost, such as at palm-oil plantations. The loss of predators and habitats allows disease-carrying animals, such as mosquitoes, ticks and sandflies, to flourish, say the authors. (Full story: The Guardian, March 24)