This research project seeks to explore the hypothesis that human disconnection from nature is a result of patriarchal systems of power and control which make oppression and subordination an assumed necessity of human life, and a requirement for the effective functioning of human society. These systems are ruled by dualistic concepts and practices which separate humans from nature by embedding a disconnected sense of self, as sense of self apart from other life on Earth, which includes all non-human animals, and nature. The result of these power relationships is that parallel degradations in human health and the environment have caused a downward spiral in the quality of the existence of all of nature due to the prioritisation of economic growth and individualism over an awareness of the collective responsibility humans share with all of nature. Ecofeminist discourse provides the theoretical foundation for this work through its aim to uncover and remedy the root causes of the twin dominations of women and nature. Here, we seek to move away from the specific focus on women as essentially closer to nature outlined in ecofeminist literature, and instead focus on how the systems of domination themselves have created an environment of natural and perpetual oppression for all life, through the justification of subordination in language, practice, and behaviour.
The hypothesis will be explored through the creation of a website, including a blog, data journalism and data visualisations, and will investigate whether data can be used to express issues impacting human health and its connection with the health of the environment, through their relationships with patriarchal structures of power. (Coddington, 2014) argues that data journalism can liberate data, and underlines the need for universal rights to access unbiased, raw information and knowledge. The objective of this research is to use digital tools to interrogate the hypothesis through the creation of a digital artefact using WordPress as a content management system. WordPress will provide the digital foundation for this artefact, which will then be built on using open source data visualisation software; Tableau Public, Data Hero, and the World Bank data visualisation tool. Sourced data will be used to create data visualisations which will be framed with a written narrative, these will make up a piece of data journalism, published on the artefact-website, which will also contain a blog of the process, an introduction and overview of the subject matter, and links to the data used.
Environmental concerns have never been more relevant; the future of life on earth, or at the very least the enduring quality of that life, depends upon how these issues are addressed at every level (Haenn et al., 2016). The current environmental crisis is considered a predictable outcome of patriarchal culture, yet the issue of environmental pollution becomes almost secondary to the pollution of the human spirit (“STORIES OF STUFF: GARAGE SALE OF THE SOUL | Madame Pickwick Art Blog,” n.d.). These dual pollutions are inextricable, a model of living founded in an understanding of mutual responsibility rather than individual rights would seek to address this disenfranchisement of human awareness. There is current need for a rebalancing of these issues and a shift to a more holistic view of healthcare, economics, the environment, and the connections between human and Earth health.
The interconnected sense of self discussed by (Gaard, 1993) is indicative of an understanding of the reciprocal existence of all life, and the need for equality, freedom, and responsibility which underlines ecofeminist argument. (Bloodhart and Swim, 2010) find that systems of hegemonic power and oppression correlate with dominion over and degradation of ecosystems; connecting the twin dominations of nature and humans. The male-female, science-nature division within the history of medicine is paralleled with the subordination of women alongside the destruction of female lay healers manifesting as witch-paranoia, and argued to be representative of a deeper social, political and economic power struggle for control of health in society (Ehrenreich and English, 2010). (MacArtney and Wahlberg, 2014) discuss the highly gendered perceptions of complementary and alternative medicine users, linking with dualistic associations of the “masculine” with rationality and science, and the “feminine” with superstition and irrationality. The call for investment in relational human-nature relationships and broadly shared values which give rise to responsibilities for nature are discussed by (Chan et al., 2016), who underline the need for environmental decisions to be made with consideration for the reciprocal demands of all life. (Cabello, 2006), finds that these reciprocal needs are ignored by the widespread use of antibiotics in aquaculture, and presents evidence that this practice is damaging to fish, land animals, human health, and the environment. The impact of neo-liberal policies, which embody a patriarchal ideology by contributing to the demise of nature through the promotion of mastery and individualism and a move away from relational values indicate an entrenched patriarchal environment, where corporate and commercial lobbyists hold far more influence than ordinary citizens (Laverack, 2012). The push back against Big Pharma, and a discussion of ethical issues within the pharmaceutical sector (Gotzsche, 2012), illuminates the imbalance of power within capitalist healthcare, and the issues with prioritising profit over health.
Self-awareness (seen here as the understanding of the interconnected self as a vital part of the fundamental interconnectedness of all life) is the key to the connection between human health and the health of nature. This model of self-awareness is responsible, reciprocal, spiritual (in the sense of connection to life-force, chi, prana; the energy which illuminates all life), and actively involved in all aspects of life. Once humans understand and connect with this interconnected sense of self, their actions will reflect this awareness, which will organically create a society of freedom, equality, health, and vitality for all of nature. This research calls for a focus on individual human development of an interconnected and therefore expanded and responsible sense of self to inspire a shift in consciousness and awareness of place which will allow communion with, rather than dominion over, the natural environment and all life within it. While there has been research around planetary health (“Explaining Planetary Health | One Health @ Cornell,” n.d.) and a call for a new area of study (Myers et al. 2013), what is missing is the focus on true interconnection through connection to the self as an intrinsic part of the complex ecosystem. All these arguments set humans apart from nature. The focus is on the individual without understanding the need for that individual to situate their awareness within the responsibility-centred interconnected self.
What measures human wellbeing and health is key area of analysis for this paper. GDP, as a measure of annual economic output is a the generally accepted measure for human standard of living. This measure is associated with a better quality of life on the assumption that more money, more material things, and more profit for the country equates to a higher standard of living. Arguments that GDP is a useful measure of output and as a welfare indicator assume that people place value on higher levels of consumption in an absolute sense, not merely a relative one, and that choices made between leisure and labour are evidence of this assignment of value. This assumption allows economic growth to be prioritised above all else, and at the sacrifice of both human health and Earth health. Conflicting evidence indicates that the prioritisation of capitalist goals cause degradation of the environment (Kandasamy et al., 2014), and human health (Laverack, 2012), (Gotzsche, 2012). The outcome of this research project is the conclusion that human health and the health of the planet are, indeed, intrinsically interconnected. While ecofeminist theory stands up to data analysis, the required paradigm shift needs to move beyond theory, and into the arena of stripping back of the power structures themselves. This paradigm shift could lead to improvement in health and wellbeing for humans, animals, and nature, by looking at the root causes of oppressions and seeking to remedy them.