The So-called Wise Apes

November 3, 2012

Flooding in NJ from Hurricane Irene

A couple of years ago, I read a study indicating that, for those diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes and other major chronic illnesses, it took an average of three hospitalizations for complications from the disease before patients finally accepted the diagnosis and began following their doctor’s recommended medical regimen.  Some people, of course, accept the diagnosis and regimen quickly and learn to live normal lives within the restrictions the disease places on them, while some never do – and pay the ultimate price.

Other studies over the years have shown that the reasons for this non-compliance are, not surprisingly, varied and complex.  Some of the reasons are:

The patient, while superficially accepting the diagnosis, may have trouble internalizing the presence of a disease that can radically alter how they see themselves, especially if diagnosed at a stage when they do not yet feel “sick”.

The patient doesn’t understand, or hasn’t been made aware of the chronic nature of a disease they must learn to live with for the rest of their lives.

The regimen may be too complex for them to handle without outside assistance.

They may receive conflicting information about the disease or treatment from others whom they trust that “lets them off the hook”, so to speak.

I was reminded of these studies again this week, as hurricane Sandy headed up the east coast and, pulled inward by a low-pressure storm system from the west, wreaked havoc on parts of fourteen states, nine of them among the most heavily populated in the country – especially the states of New York and New Jersey.

Forty years ago, in their Limits to Growth report, the Club of Rome diagnosed the world with several serious and chronic diseases, warned us of the consequences of these on the world’s economic health if they weren’t addressed and prescribed a regimen to avert or mitigate these coming disasters.  Among the “diseases” were overpopulation, resource depletion and anthropogenic climate change.

Over the last twenty to thirty years we’ve had a stream of increasingly dire reports on climate change from universities, national agencies such as NOAA and international bodies such as the IPCC.  Last month, Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer, issued a report indicating that climate change had caused a five-fold increase in weather related disasters here in North America alone over the last thirty years.

Yet here in the United States, we are still arguing over whether climate change is even real, ignoring pleas to “take our medicine”.  Seven years ago, we were rushed to the emergency room with hurricane Katrina, a 250-mile wide storm that decimated the city of New Orleans and much of the gulf coast.  Last year, severe droughts and forest fires in the south and southwest, another hurricane, Irene, with severe flooding along the east coast and huge winter storms across the northeast and mid-eastern states sent us scurrying for treatment again.  This year, increasingly devastating fires in the west, severe to extreme droughts across nearly fifty percent of the country and, last week, the thousand mile wide hurricane Sandy have landed us in the emergency room once more – sicker than ever.  And, I suspect, for many of the same reasons as the patient with the chronic disease who refuses to take his medication or stick to his regimen.

At what point do we finally wake up, look around and say, “You know, the doctor’s right.  I’m sick and I’m going to have to swallow my pride, take my medicine, quit eating all this fossil fuel crap that’s clogging my arteries and sending my blood sugar sky high and deal with this.”

There’s an old adage, that “the third time’s a charm.”  Will it be?  Or, will we continue to dally and dodge until we wind up in the cemetery of history with nothing left to our children and grandchildren but an increasingly hostile environment that will inevitably lead to the end of our reign as homo sapiens, the so-called wise apes.

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15 Responses to The So-called Wise Apes

  1. Cordelia J. says:

    Well said! I’m going to be forwarding this to everyone I know. Most of the people I know, though, understand that this is the situation. But perhaps this will be forwarded to some non-believers who will relate to the analogy of denial of one’s personal well-being under threat. As you said, until we’re flat on our backs with no way out of the hospital room will some of us understand that the disease, indeed, does exist. Thanks for cogently providing an avenue to understanding. I hope more will be listening and believing…before it’s too late.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Cordelia, welcome to the blog and thanks for your kind comments. I, too, hope the emails get forwarded to people who might benefit. There’s so much profit in denial. My hope is that the big insurers, who are beginning to reel with the punches, will start throwing money behind the politicians who do recognize what’s going on and raise hell with the ones who don’t. Money talks.

  2. graveday says:

    Some Sandy stricken hospitals were unable to provide care because their backup generators were in basements that flooded. Not very wise, that.
    Cemetery of history, here we come. The very fact that we have a presidential candidate who believes more in his magic underpants than climate chaos is my proof.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey Grave, yeah, you would have thought, that after last year’s east coast hurricane and flooding, someone might have thought to move those generators – just in case.

      LOL, I don’t think magic underwear is gonna save him. Talk about denial!

    • simon says:

      I presume you’re referring to NYU Langone Medical Center whose generators were placed in the basement. It doesn’t make sense to anybody with an engineering background, only to the accountants who saved some money for the generous philanthropist who donated $200millions for it.
      If you research it a bit you’ll find that Kenneth Langone was hospitalized with pneumonia at said medical center the night it lost power. In the middle of the storm he, along with everyone else, had to be moved to another hospital. I wonder if it crossed his mind…the irony…if only there had been a little bit more to place the generators high above ground level, like every other bldg with generators in NYC…

  3. Old Horseman says:

    Problem with both the personal wellness and the large-scale situation is that the Professional Doctors prescriptions and regimens are often counterproductive as well.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey Hoss, good to hear from you. Well, there’s entirely too much pressure on doctors from big pharma (and from the over-advertisted-to patient as well) to try the latest, big profit med/treatment. But there are some basic regimens such as diet, exercise and a few “tried and true” medications that work pretty well in most cases – especially if the disease is diagnosed early. The trick is two fold, I think: to get the patient to stick to a routine that’s working and to get the doctor to listen to you and adjust it, if it’s not working.

      Part of the problem, also, is that all that advertising has conditioned people to expect effortless miracles when there are, in actuality, damn few of them available.

      Nice to hear from you.

  4. graveday says:

    My wife says god answers all prayers but usually the answer is no.

    • theozarker says:

      LOL, I think we answer our own prayers and the answer is usually no because (1) deep down inside we know it was really a dumb idea in the first place, or (2) we wanted a quick, easy answer instead of a slow, hard one. 😀

  5. eugene12 says:

    Long time ago, I learned information rarely leads to behavior change. The vast majority of people only learn through personal experience. A few learn quickly, a huge number learn very slowly and a small number never learn. I believe we’re facing problems that are coming on way, way faster than our ability to learn. We are, very much, still locked into magical thinking ie somebody, someplace has the solution coupled with Americans can do anything. It’s a deadly combination.

    A few of us have seen this coming for a long, long time. We’re the ones called “doomers”. We may turn out to be realists.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Eugene, I’m afraid you’re right. Most people have to get smacked around by reality a few times before they make the connections. And yeah, most of us doomers just got tired of all that smacking around and finally took the hint.

      My mom used to tell me, when I was being a frustratingly slow learner, “You know, I buy you books and buy you books and all you do is chew the covers.” 😦

  6. Charlie says:

    The problem with the chronic disease diagnosis bit is the “doctors” are in it for the money, and make more money the sicker you get. That’s why I researched and set my own insulin levels, scream for needed blood work, and fending off the “doctor” trying to shove every pill down my throat that’s not necessary because the hot drug rep just walked out of the office before my appointment. I’ve been taking care of my own type I diabetes for 11 years now with no complications. My blood work isn’t always the best, but that’s how it is. Every disease has an ebb and flow.

    • theozarker says:

      Hi Charlie, welcome to the blog and thanks for your comments. While I, too, subscribe to the “it’s my body; I’ve lived in it for X number of years and I intend to have a say in what you want to do with it” school of thought, there is a responsibility on our part that goes along with that. I do think it’s unfair to dismiss the “chronic disease diagnosis bit” as a they’re in it for the money scam because they “make more money, the sicker you get.”

      Of course they do. The older and more broken down your car is, the more money your mechanic makes off of it, too. We, like the car, inevitably reach a point where we “tend toward entropy”. That’s a fact. And trying to ward off the effects of entropy (especially if we haven’t bothered to take very good care of the body or the car) is a very expensive proposition.

      Since entropy always wins in the end, there is a necessary tension in the demand that doctors “do everything possible” to keep us healthy and prolong our lives (or our deaths, depending on the way you look at it) and the costs of those demands – whether on our finances or in loss of control over our own lives. There are only so many things medicine and its “wonders” can realistically do to slow that entropic process and only for a relatively limited time, especially if we don’t do our part to take care of our own bodies. I think at some point we just have to grow up and accept that.

  7. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time listening to hidden agendas. ‘Limits to Growth’ immediately sounded like ‘Carrying Capacity’ and resulting political memes. So when I hit ‘Search’ on ‘Club of Rome’ I had an immediate flag.
    This group was organized in 1968 by the Morgenthau Group for the purpose of accelerating the plans to have the New World Order in place by the year 2000. The Club of Rome developed a plan to divide the world into ten regions or kingdoms.

    In 1976, the United States Association of the Club of Rome (USACOR) was formed for the purpose of shutting down the U.S. economy gradually. The Technetronic Era Henry Kissinger was then, and still is, an important agent in the service of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, a member of the Club of Rome and the Council on Foreign Relations.
    Kissinger’s role in destabilizing the United States by means of three wars, the Middle East, Korea and Vietnam, is well known, as is his role in the Gulf War, in which the U.S. Army acted as mercenaries for the Committee of 300 in bringing Kuwait back under its control and at the same time making an example out of Iraq so that other small nations would not be tempted to work out their own destiny.

    I don’t know how much you have heard about ‘Post Normal Science’ or ‘Scientism.’

    The IPCC, however, is a source with its own known platform. i.e. It is a UN department tasked with popularizing a scare to drive a global Carbon Tax or equivalent payable to the UN.
    Since its origins, the IPCC has been open and explicit about seeking to generate a ‘scientific consensus’ around climate change and especially about the role of humans in climate change

    BTW It is NOT ‘anti science’ to questions postulations and prophecies. Rather it is an essential component of Scientific Method, which functions on debate and contestation. But : you cannot disprove the postulates of ‘climate science’ simply because any so called ‘evidence’ is not available .. or has dubious provenance in that it conforms to Authority rather than argument. Lists of rebuttals in fact are known as Talking Points : and are an established trick of debate and propaganda. Saying that is of course rather thin by itself.
    Observe and wonder at the confusion which results from a political postulate forcefully applied to ‘science.’

    It is a war … with casualties

    • theozarker says:

      Hi John, welcome to the blog. I’m not much on big conspiracy theories, being more inclined to go with one version or another of Ockham’s Razor and most conspiracy theories don’t fill that bill for me. As for the Club o f Rome, I don’t know whether you read the original Limits to Growth, or any of their subsequent publications or not. Certainly your “red flag” article that you linked to seems to have little basis in reality as far as I’m concerned. Their original premise, that future economic growth would be limited by factors such as finite resources, especially oil, and environmental degradation was/is a sound one. I suppose the fact that the club was and is composed of political, business, economic and scientific “elite” could be turned into an elaborate conspiracy, but the much more likely explanation to me is that, as elite, they were interested in keeping that status and the fact that all the indications were that these natural limits to infinite growth in a finite world might challenge that ability was (is) alarming and needed to be pointed out and, if possible, addressed in a timely manner.

      As for the IPPC, the Hulme -Mahony article quoted by in no way challenges the science of AGW, or its seeking of scientific consensus per se, only points out dangers and weaknesses the scientific community sees in the way the IPPC deals with that information – legitimate areas of concern as far as I can see, but in no way fodder for a vast conspiracy against mankind.

      And I agree with the contention that what is being called “post-normal” science (if you mean the increasingly cozy financial relationship between some entities such as corporations, governments, etc. and science) is dangerous. We should always
      “questions postulations and prophecies” of science. This is what replication, peer
      review and disproof or verification and, in fact, the entire chain of scientific methodology is all about. So for you to dismiss thirty or forty years of peer reviewed and well-replicated scientific evidence from a wide range of different scientific disciplines
      which verifies that AGW is occurring, by saying ” you cannot disprove the postulates of
      ‘climate science’ simply because any so called ‘evidence’ is not available .. or has dubious provenance in that it conforms to Authority rather than argument” seems rather presumptuous. It isn’t the IPPC or the UN or the political machinations of various governments that gives AGW its “authority”. It is the scientific method itself that gives it that authority. As with any scientific theory, even those that have been well verified by peer review and replication, it will always be subject to revisions as new data becomes available, but that in no way changes its current validity. You can’t just dismiss an entire body of evidence for a scientific theory because “authorities ” try to use it (or squelch it) for their own advantage. If you did that, the entire body of scientific inquiry would have to be cast aside since, from its inception, someone or another (the Church – which once controlled all higher education from which scientific inquiry came – comes to mind) has tried to bend science to their own will.

      I do appreciate your taking the time to respond to my blog post and hope that I have given your point of view equal consideration. Thanks for posting.

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