In conclusion, it is true that asking tough questions does not always yield comfortable answers, and as such many people have become so afraid of the harshness of truth that they hide inside the safety of the mainstream narrative. The research presented here represents a call for a move away from the generally accepted narrative endorsed and perpetuated by the patriarchal systems which control the current state of life on this planet. These systems are oppressive and utilitarian in nature, and in fact move all life away from true equality by embedding and perpetuating structural models of dualistic division which are the foundations of all disconnection and subordination. This research project has sought to establish a connection between human health and the health of the environment, through both academic research and the creation of, and reflection upon, a digital artefact including a blog detailing the process, data visualisations, and a piece of data journalism combined to form a website. Sourcing, comparing, and analysis of data from various mainstream sources, and using that data in combination with digital tools to create data visualisations which frame and roadmap a compelling narrative with the goal of bringing to light these connections.
Narrative framing has brought meaning to data and data visualisations which do not speak clearly for themselves; the narrative is the connection, and links the theoretical foundation to the representation of data. In combining data with language, a bridge of illumination has enlivened static data, and narrative has been made more than just opinion. While the use of quantitative data has proved less than ideal, there is potential for a deeper exploration of this topic through the future collection of qualitative data which could provide more of a real-life aspect to this area of study. The lack of obvious visual conclusiveness in the final data visualisations, while arguably a failure of this project, can still be seen as a building block towards further research, using different datasets, first-hand data, or different methods of data visualisation and digital exploration.
The realisation that data is incapable of speaking for itself has been a fundamental aspect of learning from this project. Data is dead and flat on its own; it requires human interaction to give it meaning and clarity. This has presented a philosophical challenge due to the assumption that humans and nature should be considered distinct from data; and that lived experience is essentially much more valuable than the reduction of real lives to numbers. While data is reductive, it can become the means by which pertinent issues are brought to light, once there is effective human interaction with it. This realisation has brought value to the idea of data and data collection in general, even when accepting that data gathered from within patriarchal systems must be representative of those systems.
The systems challenged in this paper have an impetus of their own, they are often continued and endorsed unconsciously, because it is the only model available to those existing within their confines. However, those who are engaging and participating in patriarchal systems of oppression without critical thought and self-awareness are actively yet subconsciously endorsing specific narratives and belief systems and assimilating them into their worldview through their participation. This continuance of oppressive systems and ways of living also affects others, because these worldviews impact behaviours which in turn impact other humans, animals, and nature. Neo-liberalism, as a patriarchal political and social ideology exemplifies the shift in responsibility to the disconnected individual at the expense of the interconnected whole, and the prioritisation of individual rights over collective responsibilities. This same ideology has elevated corporate, economic goals at the expense of responsibility to nature, promoting mastery and utilisation rather than harmony and respect. These hierarchical priorities are grounded in the dualistic oppositional forces which underpin patriarchal systems. These dualisms are dehumanising, because they disconnect humans from their essential interconnected nature.
Data demonstrated that country by country spending on healthcare does not necessarily correlate with better health for the population. The United States and Australia both showed high percentages of their populations were at risk of the poor health outcomes associated with being overweight. These countries both had high healthcare spending. Correlating these figures with greenhouse gas emission data for The United States, and Australia showed a consistency; high greenhouse gas emissions and high prevalence of overweight within the population. 2014 expenditure on healthcare in the United States was $2985748000000, ($9402 per capita). 72.8% of the male population, and 62.9% of the female population were considered overweight in that year. Over-weight is associated with poor health, yet clearly high spending on healthcare does not equate to healthy people. If the focus of spending was shifted to remedy lifestyle related health problems there could be vast savings for healthcare. Investment in infrastructure to provide a healthy living environment, less chemical exposure and a more nutritious diet would provide a solid foundation for true health. Correlating the degradation of human health with environmental degradation, the data showed that the United States produced 6,488 million tonnes of C02 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, equating to almost half the emissions for the OECD in the same period. Comparing this key indicator of environmental degradation with an unhealthy population measured by prevalence of overweight, one of the most significant contributors to ill health, there are clear links here between the treatment of the environment and the health of the population. Data for Australia showed a similar pattern and correlation, where again the hypothesis was proved correct, there is indeed a statistical connection between environmental degradation and poor human health.
Data for Japan showed considerably lower rates of excess weight in the population. 28.8%, and 18.8% of women; some of the lowest rates worldwide, with per capita healthcare spending and greenhouse gas emissions at less than half of the United States. Japan therefore has healthier environment and a healthier population. Considering the huge health implications of an overweight population; when the population is not healthy, health spending increases in the pursuit of health, but from an outside-in perspective, treating the symptom rather than the cause. Directing spending towards the 90% of non-biomedical factors which impact health outcomes could shift the focus to the causes of poor health, which could have profound effects on the quality of human lives.
There are clear parallels between the capitalist model of medicine and the degradation of human health, and the capitalist model of growth above all at the expense of the environment. These twin dominations of ‘outside-in’ biomedical concepts of health and ‘inside out’ concepts of natural health with ‘progress first’ capitalism and ‘life-first’ environmentalism correlate, both in terms of research and when looking at data. Capitalist medicine does not result in healthy people, capitalist progress first systems do not result in a healthy environment, and when looked at together, these two issues of skewed priority stem from a disconnection from nature, and a disconnection from self-aware responsibility. An interconnected sense of self would prevent these dominations in its essential shift from a rights-based to a responsibility-based model of being, which naturally understands the complex holism of all life on Earth.
Human health and the health of the planet are intrinsically interconnected; necessarily inextricable. Ecofeminist theory stands up to statistical analysis, however, at a time when environmental and health concerns have never been more relevant, the required paradigm shift needs to move far beyond theory if there is to be any lasting change. There is a conflict in using mainstream, secondary data to argue for systemic change, because the methods used to explore this topic may not have been philosophically or practically appropriate when considering the subject matter. What ecofeminism argues is self-evident, as has been shown here, but what is needed to move forward into a new paradigm of equality and connection is a stripping back of the power structures themselves, so that humans and nature can live in true balance, respect, and harmony. This goal, if realised, would naturally lead to improvement in health and wellbeing for humans, animals, and nature, and would be an approach which looked at the root causes of oppressions and sought to remedy them for the sake of all, rather than sacrificing the quality of existence of all for the benefit of the few, and the systems they serve.
Every person has a responsibility to think critically about what they are doing and why, to seek out their own truths and to peer beneath the facade of the mainstream narrative. Being open to discovering uncomfortable truths and engaging in constant critical thinking could help humanity to be saved from its own passivity. The epidemic apathy of the age of information is blocking the prevention of man-made disaster and atrocity before or during the event, even though humans are more informed and aware than ever before. Awareness of this democratised access to information means perpetuation of these systems becomes a matter of choice; to be informed and aware and to act accordingly, or not. This is an issue of responsibility, linked to the need for an interconnected sense of self. The solutions that are being offered from within the systems of oppression are wholly inadequate; what is required is a complete shift of perspective into embracing this new challenge of self-awareness and responsibility, which will begin the process of a truly equal existence for all life on Earth.