It all seems so logical.
The number of honey bees is declining, and we don’t quite know the (single?) reason. But, we need them as pollinators for many a crop, not least fruit trees. So, there’s work on creating pollinator drones as replacements.
Same with many a current health problem.
There is the challenge of metabolic syndrome, a major precursor to diabetes type 2 and further ‘diseases of civilization.’ So our medical technology is rapidly advancing and regularly called on to deal with its effects. Obesity is rising and fitness is falling, so we build more elevators and escalators and other mechanical transport to make things easier for those affected.
The slight problem is that, in all the caring and concern that is driving those ‘solutions’, we are going from a problem to a way of addressing (the effects of) this problem – in ways that don’t actually solve anything but only ameliorate the consequences.
Money is made off that which causes the problem as well as the supposed solutions (think ‘toxic food environment’ and diet pills), and we count our economies as growing (and are told that we ourselves are richer) for it. No change that would inconvenience us is necessary – and we don’t, all in all, think that enough people would want such change, even if it were for the better. Often enough, even where we could do something better for ourselves, we don’t change accordingly, excusing ourselves because it would be hard and, at the same time, supposedly too little to really change enough.
In addressing problems in this way, we are not solving them, though. We are, in fact, contributing to their increasing occurrence. The pesticides – and habitat loss, and other issues – affecting bee populations remain. There is even less reason to change diets as medicine can (seemingly) take care of the problems caused by current malnutrition. There is even less opportunity and necessity to move as the conveyances that move us proliferate.
We produce, in effect, what Daniel Lieberman (in The Story of the Human Body. Evolution, Health and Disease) calls dysevolution.
As he argues, “we frequently mistake comfort for well-being” (p. 320), and thus,
“[i]t is generally assumed and widely advertised that anything that makes you feel more at ease must be good, and people pay vast sums of money to avoid having to get too hot or too cold, climb stairs, lift, twist, stand, and more. Over the last few generations, our cravings for comfort and physical pleasure have inspired many new, remarkable inventions, making some entrepreneurs rich. But at the same time, some of these innovations promote disability…” (p. 343)
The inventiveness we have seen in medicine, e.g. when it comes to hygiene and public health (via vaccinations, water and air safety) has been wondrous, the tools we have created are impressive, but:
“Even more insidious dangers [than mattresses that are too soft, artificial light, antibacterial soap, ear buds turned too high] are those that superficially make your life easier but that actually make you weaker: escalators, elevators, suitcases with wheels, shopping carts, automatic can openers, and more. These devices are wondrous aids to bodies that are already damaged but potentially deleterious to those that are still healthy. Years of unnecessarily relying too much on these labor-saving devices can contribute to decrepitude.” (p. 345)
And, thinking back to the suggested pollinator drones that stand at the beginning of this piece, we are doing similarly problematic, dysevolving, things when it comes to the environment. From ways of changing them so as to make them more productive for human life, we have come to change – and all too often, destroy – them so as to extract a maximum private and short-term profit.
Subservient to the easy logic of the market, we (are made to) think that the superficial money ‘made’ from it makes it all good, but decades of relying too much on easy energy and simple extraction have contributed to increasing challenges for environmental health. Ecological functioning and diversity are threatened, especially in the longer term, while the ease and ‘efficiency’ achieved hides these insidious dangers.
Part of the trap of the obvious and easy, however, is this tendency to get caught up in the obvious and easy “necessity” of arguing against these non-solutions, in health as in ways of making a living, too. In the process, the non-solutions are given all the more attention, their simplicity still convinces when the alternative seems difficult, inconvenient, hard, and not all that positive. Since the focus is so strongly on arguing against the problems and their simplistic non-solutions, the attention is not going to the positives to be gained by really, radically, addressing the problems.
It is time to change the conversation, along with the doing, focusing on and practically bringing out the positives: There is strength to be gained in living less conveniently, and creativity – and futures – in making a life in ecohappy better ways that know enough and create better.
In the process, we could make ourselves and the world ‘healthier’, more diverse, more functional – and simply have it remain a more interesting place offering us, and future generations, better chances for really living, with work and purpose, pleasure and possibility.