So, it’s official. I have a “bad” back. A very competent neurosurgeon told me the other day that “you have structural issues”. Indeed I do. This all started after I went hiking with my family in late 2009 and experienced a burning pain in my legs, followed by numbness and teeth-gnashing lower back pain. A series of tests ruled out circulatory problems (thank goodness) and other internal stuff. “How bad is it, Doc?” I asked. Well, an MRI revealed a bulging disc, mild spinal stenosis and a synovial cyst. I guess I am not a spring chicken anymore, after all.
The center that I went to get this great news had a great name too-Rebound– and it got me to thinking. In mulling over the state of our economy and the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I suggest that those situations are representative of “structural issues” that require therapy of sorts. The economy appears to slowly be on the “rebound”, while the prognosis for the other (the Gulf spill) will still require more study to determine the full extent of the damage. Common among these two situations and my back is a call for change, to think more sustainably. In other words, considering the economy and the environment as linked systems requires a deeper, holistic, de-siloed way of thinking.
By taking a triple bottom line perspective, the “people, planet and profit” elements that constitute sustainability will be better served and long term value realized. This post is about hope, about renewal and rejuvenation- please read on.
The spine is not only the foundation for our entire physical structure but also house the nerves that radiate to each organ and every minute part of the body. Spinal nerves especially control the functional processes of all our bodily tissues and structures. My back problems are not so bad that surgery will be involved. But the experience will require making some adjustments in my exercise routine, losing weight (again!) and stretching more.
The key to back health is in strengthening the “core” muscles- and having the “mojo” necessary to keep on plan and stay motivated, even when things look really, really bad. If I follow my plan, I expect to “rebound” from my injuries stronger than before.
In the case of the economy, I have just completed reading “The Great Reset” by Dr. Richard Florida, Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. In The Great Reset (http://bit.ly/cDbWWG), Dr. Florida explores the parallels of the current Great Recession to the Long Depression of the 1870’s and the Great Depression of the late 1920’s and 1930’s. Florida argues that ‘these periods of “creative destruction” have been some of the most fertile, in terms of innovation, invention and energetic risk-taking in history, and this is what sets the stage for full-scale recovery.’ Florida argues that great crises are opportunities to remake or “rebound” our economy and society and generate whole new epochs of even greater economic growth and prosperity. Among these new forces and energies will be:
- new consumption patterns
- new forms of infrastructure that speed the movement of people, goods and ideas
- ‘mega-regions’ that will drive the development of new industries, jobs and a locally based way of life.
I am also am reading Plentitude, by former Harvard University economist and current Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor. Dr. Schors book (http://bit.ly/cnbG8n) argues that society needs to make some big changes from the “business as usual” model of economics. In a world economy traditionally valued based on gross domestic product (GDP), Dr. Schor explores the economics and sociology of ecological scarcity (food, water) and rising costs of goods and services (energy, transport). In addition, she explores the factors that have led to the scarcity in incomes, jobs, and credit. Plenitude puts sustainability at its core. The book presents a vision that suggests finding new sources of wealth, implementing green technologies, and strengthening locally based economies, all of which can lead to a more economically secure, ecologically sensitive and sustainable world.
Both books offer promise that a redirected focus on community-based, environmentally-centric and technological efficiency and innovation can (and must) be the “rebound” catalysts that drive economic prosperity.
The current, devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill and ecological crisis in the Gulf of Mexico presents a great set of uncertainties and human-induced risks not realized before in terms of scope and magnitude. My earlier posts on the Gulf spill spoke to the issue of risk management and contingency planning and how such scenarios can be managed better (Risky Business: Why Better Risk Management Can Protect Lives & the Environment- Part 1 http://bit.ly/aRDeJj). But this discussion focuses on ecological damage and on resiliency of natural environments.
The 1979, spill from Mexico’s Ixtoc 1 offshore well in the Gulf of Campeche is proof that the environment has a “stunning capacity to heal itself from manmade insults” (http://bit.ly/djoDkO). This huge spill surprised marine biologists and ecologists in terms of the speedy recovery of the heavily impacted Bay of Campeche ecosystem spreading into south Texas. However, there are major differences in the depth and location of the Ixtoc and Deepwater Horizon spills, and other natural phenomena that aided in the Ixtoc spill recovery rate. These differences may not bode well for the Louisiana coast. Case in point- the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. Studies in the mid 2000’s showed that 15 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, “some fish and wildlife species injured by the spill have not fully recovered” (http://bit.ly/d2VEaZ). Researchers noted some uncertainty of what role oil plays in the inability of some populations to bounce back.
Ecosystems are dynamic and ever-changing. This changing dynamic flow continues its natural cycles and fluctuations at the same time that it continues to recovery from impacts of spilled oil. As time passes, separating natural changes from oil spill related impacts becomes harder to distinguish. So time will tell, and after the well is finally plugged (and it will be plugged) and the last drop of oil spills, the long term ecological “rebound” will begin.
Like the distressed economy and like the gulf coast mess, my back will “rebound” to a healthy point that is hopefully sustainable. Mark my words. It’s said that “good health is not an event, it’s a lifestyle”. This holds true whether we are talking about our bodies, the economy or our planet.