Healing Climate Change Holistically
Categories: Ecology & Sustainability Excerpt Health & Healing
Excerpt from The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis by Brendan Kelly
Tags: Brendan Kelly Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture Climate Change
Healing Personal, Cultural, and Ecological Imbalance with Chinese Medicine
Virtually everything we hear about climate change is from our usual, Western perspective. Most of the discussion about the crisis of global warming focuses on external issues: calls to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase carbon sequestration, buy and eat locally, and challenge continuous economic growth. These remedies are undoubtedly important, but if we were to look at climate change from a different vantage point, we can see how what is happening in the environment around us is also happening within us. In particular, we can understand that the severity of climate change speaks to deeper and more wide-reaching philosophical and spiritual issues.
The essential importance of stepping outside our usual view of the world to look at the climate crisis is that the transformation we now need requires us to see clearly the consequences of our personal and cultural beliefs. Maintaining the usual perspectives about what signifies a life worth living, how we view nature, and how we treat sickness will continue to lead us down the same path we’re on. This path has not only led us to a place of dramatic climate destabilization, it has also had similar, deep-reaching effects on all aspects of our lives.
For thousands of years, Chinese medicine has understood the world holistically. From this Eastern perspective, all of our organs are interconnected, and the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of our lives are linked together. Developed over millennia, Chinese medicine recognizes that this holism within us is a reflection of interdependence in the world around us. Not only are we connected to other people and to our culture, we are inseparably connected to nature.
The chapters that follow blend the external focus of environmentalism—Western science, policy issues, and regulations—with the internal focus of Chinese medicine—personal health, balancing Qi, and diet. From this new, combined perspective, climate change and its literal realities, such as melting ice caps, dying forests, and floods, can be understood as a symptom of deeper issues—both within us as individuals and within our country and culture.
The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis unfolds Chinese medicine’s stance on symptoms: they are messengers trying to get our attention. Symptoms of all kinds and severity—within us or the climate—communicate that something is out of balance. The more severe the symptom, the more urgent the message. In my ten years of clinical work as an acupuncturist and herbalist, I’ve found that it’s common to see patients who have multiple symptoms. Rather than look at each of these issues in isolation, Chinese medicine treats symptoms as interconnected. Applying this diagnostic perspective to our planet, the chapters that follow discuss climate change as a form of sickness and offer several interconnected, deep-reaching remedies.
The big-picture perspective that Chinese medicine offers readily lends itself to not only addressing issues with our own personal health but also the condition of our culture. A crucial aspect to the holism of Chinese medicine is that the big picture and the little picture are very similar. In other words, what’s happening within us individually is a reflection of what’s happening in our culture, and vice versa. Extending this view to the scale of the planet, it’s clear that Chinese medicine has much to offer to the discourse surrounding our rapidly warming and destabilizing planet. As has been written about extensively, the climate is warming due to greenhouse gases and burning fossil fuels. Given its well-developed and insightful understanding of sickness and root causes, an Eastern perspective on the Western science of climate change helps us see patterns in the vast amount of global climate data.
In the treatment room, a practitioner of Chinese medicine looks for patterns and connections of different symptoms and diagnoses. Similarly, when we look at the data on climate science through the lens of Chinese medicine, we can see a clear pattern of what is happening to the planet. In particular, the planet is warming rapidly as its ability to maintain a cool and stable climate is decreasing.
Chinese medicine’s ability to see clear connections that might otherwise appear separate comes from being a medicinal tradition based on nature.…
The holism embedded in Chinese medicine allows us to see that the dramatic changes we’re experiencing in the climate are mirrored in the imbalances of our own individual lives and in the United States. What an Eastern view of the climate crisis offers is the opportunity to understand the root causes of our rapidly warming planet. Rather than being like fish that can’t see the water all around them, in applying Chinese medicine to climate change, we have the opportunity to examine clearly the imbalances arising from how we view the world. This is good medicine not only for the wellbeing of the climate but also a potent remedy to help lead us back to health.
Excerpted from The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis by Brendan Kelly. © 2015, North Atlantic Books.