ECOLOGICAL PUBLIC HEALTH, EPIGENETICS AND EXPOSOME THEORY
Our campaign is informed by Ecological Public Health, epigenetics and exposome research strands that reveal how our synthetically altered environment is changing human and non-human animals at an intergenerational level through epigenetic, genetic and endocrine disruption, and that any healing of the human body needs to go hand in hand with healing of the environment. The exposome model has been described as an ‘integrated science of nurture’ that helps to ‘fulfil the promises of the Human Genome Project’ demonstrates the ‘imbalance in the nature nurture interaction’ and the ‘interactions between our genes and our environment that determine health and disease’. This emphasis on the 'environmental influences and associated biological responses throughout the lifespan, including exposures from the environment, diet, behavior, and endogenous processes' intersects closely with the focus of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, as well as related medical initiatives aimed at tackling the health fallout of global environmental and climate change events, Planetary Health, and One Health.
Significantly, the current global pandemic, Covid-19, has been described as having arisen in part from a failure to respond to the message of the Ecological Public Health model and, in particular, entrenched human-environmental imbalances that include the erosion of nature and biodiversity. Moreover, in order to fulfil the aims of a balanced Planetary Health agenda, it is understood that ‘a total rethink of society, the economy, and our stewardship of the natural environment’ is going to be necessary.
Crucially, these approaches have shattered old nature:nurture divisions, by emphasizing the ‘permeability between humans and their environment’ as reflected in the ways that both interact to alter gene and endocrinal behaviour. The western medical view of the self-contained human body impervious to its surroundings is now seen as ‘distressingly porous and vulnerable’ to both the physical and socio-cultural landscape in which humans live.
Both the epigenetic and exposome models have obvious relevance for environmental activism and for bringing ‘green’ agendas into mainstream political activism. This is because they demonstrate most effectively that injury to the environment, of which climate change is but one outcome, can no longer be dismissed as something ‘out there’ that does not impact on human wellbeing unless one is affected directly by extreme weather or environmental events. Conversely, as we alter our environment, so too are our bodies being changed and damaged through endocrinal and epigenetic alteration. Such an understanding is inherent to Pesticide-Free Cambridge’s quest to get toxic pollutants removed from our environment.
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"The singular and self-contained body of the early 20th century came, by the
end of that century to seem distressingly porous and vulnerable to the modern landscape."