We are experiencing an epidemic rise in childhood diseases. What are the implications for their survival as we slide past peak oil and go into permanent energy decline?
Every parent wants to do the best they possibly can to prepare their children to deal with and overcome the obstacles and struggles they will face in adult life. That is the best they can do. They can't fight their battles for them. They can only ready them to fight their own then set them free to do so. The simple reality at this crucial point in human history, however, is that by preparing our children for the world in which we now live, for the struggles we have had to face in our own lives, we are in no way preparing them for the world in which they will live most of theirs.
It is our children who will bear the brunt of the devestating impact from the world we and the hydrocarbon generations before us have created. They will have to survive the fallout from peak oil, resource depletion, climate change and global warming, aquifer depletion, global pollution, species destruction, top soil loss, critical overpopulation, rampant globalization, the probability of economic and social collapse including a progressive decline in our health care system, the increasing possibility of resource wars using nuclear and biological weapons and more. The evolving world they will be thrust into in their adult lives will be as different from today as our world is, not from that of our parents but rather from that of our great-great-grandparents.
We must not fall into the easy trap of teaching our children or allowing them to be taught to become dependent on our current high-energy, resource-wasting lifestyle which is both unsustainable and will not be available to them possibly for the greater part of their lives. The insidiousness of advertising, among other factors, that targets our children and tries to lure them into that world means the battle to prepare them for a very different world will be doubly difficult. But it must be done. A chip off the old block otherwise will very likely end up as kindling for the fire of societal destruction.
Probably never in the course of human history has there been the possibility of such a tumultuous change in global society from one generation to the next. Another comparable dramatic shift resulted in the cargo cults when primitive, stone-age societies suddenly met the modern world and built crude idols of the flying machines that landed in their forest clearings and disgorged into their midst strangely clad white men with talking boxes and fire sticks. These are, of course, comparisons of opposites. The cargo cultists were suddenly thrust forward toward the modern world. Our children will be just as suddenly disenfranchised from it like Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden.
So just how do we prepare our children? What if we prepare them for the wrong world? How will they fit in then? No one knows exactly how the future will unfold or when. We never do. Our children spend twelve to twenty years getting an education to help them make their way in the world. There are no guarantees that the education they receive will be suitable to the world as it exists when they graduate and take their first steps into the job market. I have met a lot of college and university graduates driving cabs and standing behind retail counters. There is even less guarantee that it will sustain them through a long life dominated by energy decline and global warming.
Iin a future that will be shaped by oil and energy decline and global warming, the greatest preparation that our children are going to need is good health. And that is an area where we are failing them badly. We are, sadly, experiencing an epidemic rise in childhood diseases over the past several decades despite massive increases in health care expenditures. Most of these conditions will have serious health implications as our children mature and age. It is almost guaranteed that as they progress through their adult lives deeper into the post-peak-oil/energy world the high-tech, high-energy health care system and various levels of social safety net that we take so much for granted will go into serious decline.
This is not restricted to one or two health conditions. Type 2 diabetes, formerly considered adult onset diabetes, is becoming increasingly prevalent among children as young as ten and even younger [(1) (2) (3) (4)]. Childhood obesity, an underlying condition to many other diseases and debilitating health conditions, is still increasing at epidemic rates [(6) (7)]. Childhood asthma has been increasing dramatically now for several decades [(5) (15) (16)]. Autism is reaching the level of a national emergency [(9)]. Pediatric MS (Multiple Sclerosis) has been termed a silent epidemic [(20) (21) (22)]. An icreasing incidence of birth defects has been linked to pesticides, herbicides and industrial chemicals [(11)]. There are arguments that our ubiquitous use of flouride, primarilly in our drinking water, is a contributor to an increasing incidence of Down's Syndrome [(10)]. These are some of the main culprits but by no means all.
Considered together, these represent a dramatic increase in the numbers of those who are going to have an increasing difficulty coping in a world changing dramatically
due to oil and energy decline and global warming. As the global economy falters and perhaps collapses during their lifetimes, the medical system on which they will most certainly continue to be dependent will also falter and may also collapse. In a society increasingly fighting a struggle for survival the desire to support the medically needy will probably be stressed to the limit.
This trend, however, can, in my opinion, be reversed. There are clear underpinnings to these dramatic increases in juvenile health problems. Corrective action can be taken for most of these underlying contributors. One of the primary contributors is the dramatic rise in childhood obesity [(6) (7)]. Much corrective action is already being undertaken but clearly much more needs to be done since this problem is still on the increase. In "The spread of childhood obesity epidemic" [(7)] the core of the concern is spelled out. "A major concern regarding childhood obesity is that obese children tend to become obese adults, facing an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, orthopedic problems and many other chronic diseases."
Another primary contributor, unfortunately, has very few options that we can pursue as individual parents. That is pollution [(5) (10) (11)]. That does not mean that we should do nothing. Much of the contributing pollution is caused by our use of fossil fuels. That contribution will begin to decline when we reach peak oil and peak energy but clearly there are strong arguments for beginning to scale back our use of fossil fuels now. That burning of fossil fuels is also the primary contributor to human induced global warming so scaling back our use of fossil fuels can help reduce the potential impact of global warming for our children and grandchildren.
Our fixation on women's breasts as sex objects and the attendant reduction of breast feeding is also a serious contributor to this dramatic increase in childhood health problems [(12) (13) (14)]. The confered immunity made possible by colostrum has already been largely lost to several generations. Those generations thus far, however, have had the benefit of antibiotics and a very advanced medical system to keep them healthy. Our children and grandchildren will not be as fortunate.
Perhaps the most serious contributor, however, and potentially the most controversial, is our misguided attitude toward bacteria. We are sterilizing our children to death. We are seriously degrading the development of their immune systems through our attempts to protect them from germs and bacteria [(15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (23) (24)]. The bacteria that children encounter making mudpies in the back yard and rolling around in the dirt and playing on the floor at home are, in fact, major and often primary agents in developing our children's immune systems. When we use antibiotics, whether as medicine or in the form of cleaning agents, we kill far more good, beneficial bacteria than we do bad bacteria. And in striving for that sterile environment and our overuse of antibiotics we weaken the very immune response that antibiotics are intended to strengthen, leaving our children more vulnerable to the impact of pollution, chemical toxins and more.
We can undo much of the damage that we are doing to our children's health that is making them increasingly vulnerable in the face of the serious impact energy decline and global warming are going to have on our society. If we truly want to prepare them as best we can for their future it behooves us to start doing so now. Too many of these health problems will endure and possibly worsen in their adult lives seriously affecting their future survivability.
Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Adolescents
Type 2 diabetes increasing dramatically among kids
Asthma and Air Pollution
The spread of the childhood obesity epidemic
Increasing Incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism 99: A National Emergency
Fluoridation & Down's Syndrome
Birth Defects Caused by Herbicides, Insecticides, and Industrial Chemicals that Disrupt the Endocrine System
What is colostrum? How does it benefit my baby?
Mimicking microbial 'education' of the immune system: a strategy to revert the epidemic trend of atopy and allergic asthma?
National Jewish Medical and Research Center Expert Says Bacteria By-Product Found in Household Dust May Protect Infants from Asthma Later in Life
Bacteria: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Good Bacteria Gone Bad
How 'good' bacteria could counter overuse of antibiotics
A 50-year follow-up of the incidence of multiple sclerosis in Hordaland County, Norway
Pediatric (Childhood) MS
Childhood MS: A silent epidemic?
The Antibiotic Alternative