We can all be leaders with a small ‘l,’ and achieve great things together. The linked article by Bill McKibbon makes the point that great leaders from history weren’t all ‘Leaders’ during their time of action and that change requires many leaders with a small ‘l’. [link]
Having many voices sharing ideas and concerns may help lead groups to consider a wider variety of possible strategies for building a healthy and sustainable future .
My name is Jennifer Depew and my voice is based on experience as a health professional helping women and families with their normal and special health needs. My voice is also based on personal experience as a patient with chronic illness and mental health diagnoses. I became concerned over the years by the increasing number and severity of health issues that I witnessed people struggling with in their own health and that of their children. As my own health worsened I had to become more of a self advocate because my autoimmune thyroid symptoms weren’t identified by diagnosis until recently. Avoiding food triggers helps me keep the autoimmune disease in remission but it is very restrictive diet. Economic health is difficult without individual health.
And an individual voice doesn’t count as much as the people’s collective interests and motivation. Campaign funding reform is needed to prevent corporations from being able to corrupt the actions of elected officials through large donations. Prior to the Citizens United decision a large corporate donation wouldn’t have been allowed.  In my opinion corporations can’t vote or speak and therefore don’t deserve a financial voice in the political campaign process. It is we, the people, who need to remember that it is we, the people, who vote or we risk our leaders becoming more influenced by short term corporate interests than by the long term needs of the nation. Privatizing contracts for the delivery of healthcare, education, prison and military services turns our citizens into products of the quarterly profit margin.
These days we are all somewhat affiliated with the big industries, but I can be cautious about trusting political commercials. Corporate donors and political action committees can try to persuade with negative or positive advertisements but it is illegal to buy votes. Ultimately it is the voters who count. We need to think for ourselves and fact check before believing every commercial message.
My experience is in the field of preventative health education with a focus on helping women grow healthy babies and children. In my experience as a patient with autoimmune disease and as a health professional I have observed that health is created from food not just from patent medicine. It seems likely that the economy will struggle unless we have more healthy people to support it than sick people in need of care. The rapid increase in rates of obesity, diabetes and autism in the US suggests to me that a change occurred in the environment or in the food supply because evolution simply isn’t that rapid – it doesn’t seem like human physiology would change based on where you live or on what job you perform. 
Six million bats died from a fungal infection across the American continent over the last few years  and bee colony populations have also been difficult to maintain. The problem with bee colony disappearance was found to be due to the combination of malnutrition and exposure to pollutants leaving the bees more susceptible to infections. Beekeepers have increased the number of colonies in an attempt to keep up with the numbers of bees that continue to be lost to disease. 
Bats are mammals that may primarily eat insects, depending on the species. If the bees are in trouble then likely other insects are also at risk. We do not eat insects but genetically we are similar and the combination of malnutrition, pollution and infection is likely affecting our health as well. Agricultural workers risk developing acute or chronic disease possibly from the combination of exposure to the chemicals and malnutrition. The body needs adequate fluid and electrolytes to remove toxins from the body. Workers in hot sweaty conditions need adequate breaks to replace the water, sodium, potassium, and magnesium that are necessary for the kidneys to remove both the toxins that are a normal part of physiology and also any extra toxins from the agricultural chemicals.  Children who grow up areas where agricultural chemicals are regularly used are also more at risk for birth defects or for developing chronic disease. 
Humans are mammals at the top of the food chain, if the base of the food chain is at risk then we at the top need to figure out why and stop the underlying problems. We can not vacuum up excessive herbicides from the soil or from the ocean but we could apply less to our farm fields in the first place and put more humans to work on the farms instead. If our food industry is creating an environment that cannot support wildlife and wild plants then in the long run it is likely to not support human life very well either.
Sustainable farming practices such as the use of aged compost for fertilizer helps protect the microbial health of soil.  The use of petroleum based herbicides and pesticides may be adding to the acidification of ocean water due to acidic runoff from farm fields seeping into the groundwater and reaching the ocean. Policies that promote use of more organic farming practices could help both businesses, the environment, and individual health. Petroleum based fertilizers are an added expense and some types of weeds are becoming resistant to commonly used but toxic herbicides. Long term health of the soil may also be more at risk. Nitrogen fixing microbes are essential for converting the nitrogen found in soil into a form that is usable by plants. Excessive use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides may be interfering with the nitrogen fixing microbes, which may lead to an increasing need for petroleum based fertilizers, leaving the farmer buying and applying more and more chemicals to farm fields, which then may seep into the ocean and increase the acidity of the oceans even more. 
This planet is precious and I have faith that we can work together to protect it but we have to admit there are problems occurring and that changes need to be made now, in the present, in order to prevent worse problems later.
Building a sustainable future for our planet is a long term goal for all of us. We share the planet so taking good care of it and each other makes good sense. Efficient use of resources includes recycling materials such as compost, plastics and other reusable resources, but it should also include taking better care of our people, our human resources, mild malnutrition combined with exposure to pollutants may be leaving humans more susceptible to chronic disease or increased risk of genetic changes occurring prenatally.
Different voices in a discussion can help bring a diverse range of ideas to help us grow as individuals and as a global society. A varied team can also help assess the quality of old routines or policies. My experience is in prenatal and early childhood nutrition and the goal of any society includes supporting the growth of healthy humans. Without health we have too few workers and too many people in need of long term care.
Preventative health education and reduced chronic illness would also help the planet by reducing the need for invasive and costly medical procedures and non-reusable, non-recyclable supplies. Reducing the amount of medications and food additives in use might help the health of individuals in the present in addition to helping sustain the health of the environment long into the future. We don’t know how the combination of many chemicals and medications interact within the body.
Adequate mental health care and preventative health care services could help save money while also helping more people lead productive lives. Individual and group services could be provided at preventative health care centers. Inadequate mental health services has left more people in need of help, at risk of becoming prisoner in a system that is likely to be over crowded and to provide limited rehabilitative care. [1, 2] Filling prisons has become be a for profit industry with governmental contracts that agree to make payments if the number of inmates falls below a set quota.  Did tax payers vote about guaranteeing to pay profits for partially empty privately owned prisons? Or about use of prisons in place of adequate mental health care? Privatization may not be better for the prisoners either. A food supplier to the private prison system in the state of Michigan were found to have a number of violations of their contract and were fined but the fine was quietly forgiven. 
Preventative health screening also might help identify individuals whose physical or mental health symptoms are due to a treatable nutritional deficiency rather than a mental health condition that would respond to standard mental health care treatments. Symptoms that are actually caused by a nutrient deficiency are not going to be resolved by using a medicine that is just trying to modify the symptom. Only treating a symptom leaves the real problem unidentified and leaves the body trying to survive in a malnourished state.
Old policies and the use of some common food additives may be costing us both money and health. The free amino acid, L-glutamate, is frequently added to foods to improve the taste however for some individuals it may affect the health of some organs and possibly increase risk of developing diabetes [8, 9] and dementia . Fluoride has been found effective for reducing cavities when used as a topical rinse or in toothpaste. However providing fluoride in the water supply or as supplemental tablets may also increase the risk of developing chronic illness or hypothyroidism later in life. The long term effects from fluoridation of municipal water supplies may not be well understood. The original dental research dates back to the 1950’s and the policy may impact health more than was anticipated at the time. Fluoride provided topically to a child’s teeth would be protective against cavities with less risk to the thyroid gland and general health. Preventing chronic diseases from developing in the first place could save individuals from suffering and save health care dollars.
Reclassifying the medicinal herb, cannabis, from a Schedule One drug to a Schedule Three drug would better represent the research that has found it to be beneficial for a variety of health conditions. Reclassifying the plant as a Schedule Three drug would also allow researchers more freedom to study the herb for health benefits rather than limiting research to studying the toxicity or addictive properties of the plant. Reclassifying the herb as a Schedule Three drug would still allow each state to address the legality of use for individuals or patients.  The inaccurate classification of the plant also limits research and use of the non-euphoric strain, hemp, which has value for food products and in the production of more environmentally sustainable building materials. Hemp cultivation is legal in nine states and eleven more have legislation pending.  [Global Commission on Drugs – Report -Sept. 2014]
Time invested in reviewing and updating guidelines now could help save us all time in the long run and improve our quality of life.
The chemicals that we add to our foods, water supply, or to our bodies eventually can end up in the world’s water supply anyway. Our health and future are connected to the health of the environment. Protecting the Earth is simply good sense, we can’t just go to the store and buy a new planet.
Let’s take good care of our planet so that it can continue taking care of us.
/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./