Our challenge, as we consider the interface between environment and health, is to see our environment and ourselves as one, and to understand that there is no path to fulfillment for any one of us that does not intersect the path to fulfillment for the rest of us. Acknowledging this creative source of interdependence, this brotherhood and sisterhood, compels us to have respect for this creation and for each other. This respect can spur us on to an effective advocacy that moves us from individual concerns to concern for all and that deals not only with effect but with cause.

A story illustrates this point. In a village at the foot of a river, people lived peacefully, in harmony with themselves and the environment. One day a woman saw a baby coming down the river screaming, and she called for help. The men came running, jumped in the water, and saved the baby. They took the child to a warm place and gave him everything he needed.

The next day another baby came down the river. The villagers did the same thing, day after day. Finally, they organized a children’s committee; they got the United Way. They did everything they could to take care of the children coming down the river from the mountain day after day. One day, someone said, “I quit. I’m not going to participate in this.”

“But you can’t! We’ve still got babies coming!” others protested.

“Yes, I know that. I’m going up the mountain to see who is throwing these babies in the river. I’m going to see if I can’t put a stop to it.”

That is our advocacy—to fathom the root causes of harm to our environment, and ultimately our health, and to work as one human family to treat those causes and not just their symptoms.

I am pleased that the series of regional workshops on rebuilding the unity of health and the environment has begun here in the Southeast. I believe that the Southeast can lead the nation on this issue. I think that the warmth of our area matches the warmth of our hearts as they flow with respect for the creation.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement