This Medico-Chemical or Petrochemical post is one in a sequence of Politics of Care posts that explores the interface between our ability or inability to Care for our environment and ability or inability to Care for our health and the health of the most vulnerable amongst us.
One of the problems getting in the way of a recognition of the disaster now unfolding within Health is that those concerned about the environment misunderstand health and propose options that will backfire on climate change – see The Controlled Healthcare Opposition.
Equally, the environmental movement cannot succeed while it focuses just on the wider environment. Famines and droughts in Africa just don’t cut it for the rest of the World and probably not even for the rest of Africa. But a Drug Wreck to a woman’s child, or to her parent (husband is a different matter) brings home to her exactly what is wrong with the way we are managing our technologies and techniques more immediately than famines in Africa or anything else can.
For the Green movement, the Petrochemical industry is the bête noire. Exxon is held up as an example of a company that knew climate change was for real half a century ago yet ploughed on regardless. See Exxon and Climate Change Denial Timeline.
The histories of the pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries are so closely intertwined that it doesn’t make sense to think one might be a bête noire and the other not.
The discovery of Mauveine in 1856 triggered the emergence of a pharmaceutical industry and turbo-charged the growth of the chemical industry – see The Creation of Psychopharmacology.
Mauveine gave rise to the phenothiazines, one of the first of which, Methylene Blue created the idea of a Magic Bullet. The phenothiazines contributed to the development of the first antibiotics, anti-malarials, antihistamines, antipsychotics, antidepressants and many more drugs.
Mauveine also created the idea of dyes for clothes, for foods and everything else that has color in it. This transformed the chemical industry, opening up the possibility of creating new wants in consumers that the industry could meet. What could be wrong with adding color to life (and to food)?
Nothing we thought – for a long time. Its neat to be able to turn rivers Green for St Patrick’s Day. Food was where concerns first began.
Over the last 50 years, the reputation of the Petrochemical Industry has plummeted. It has become the Fallen Angel. If we are to restore Eden, we need to beware its temptations.
In contrast, for Green and progressive politicians and anyone promoting sustainability, the Pharmaceutical Industry, while doing some pretty egregious things, has still seemed like a Good Angel – the kind we believe when they bring us Tidings of Great Joy.
The divisions between Good and Evil in the Chemical Universe map onto comparable divisions many Religions are built on. Worse again, rather than our Chemical divisions being toned down to secular proportions, we seem to be embracing wilder and wilder dichotomies. See the Religion of Technology.
This is most clear within Pharma and perhaps most chillingly in the case of Stimulant drugs used for ADHD. Used on the street, stimulants are demonized as intensely destructive, leading to a violence and homicide that made them controlled drugs, but the same drugs now given on prescription to children get viewed as close to vitamins.
The harms that come from giving these drugs to children – the predictable prescribing cascades and nearly as predictable premature aging – just don’t seem to show up on medical or even parental radars (See Gray Hair, Rotting Teeth, Semi-Blind and Dementia).
Richard deGrandpre has a great book on all this The Cult of Pharmacology that tries to make sense of our preparedness to split drugs into good and bad. Our tendency to split is one that pharmaceutical companies avail of in close to 1984 Big Brother fashion. It enabled them almost overnight to transform the benzodiazepines from ridiculously safe into one of the greatest menaces in peacetime – Let Them Eat Prozac.
In The Crack-Up in 1936, F Scott Fitzgerald said – it is the sign of a sophisticated mind to be able to keep two contradictory thoughts in mind at the same time and still retain an ability to function.
Doctors used to be sophisticated. You have to be able to hold two contradictory thoughts in mind at the same time when aiming at bringing good out of the use of a poison as they once did.
Vets are probably more sophisticated when treating our pets than our doctors now are when treating us.
Most of us and our doctors now prefer to think that when s/he gives us a medicine s/he is giving us a Sacrament – something that can only do good. Where’s the harm in adding Sacraments to Life? Daily if possible.
Where’s the Good Angel?
The Good Guys (Progressives, Greens, Liberals, Socialists etc) began life split – see The Controlled Healthcare Opposition. For them Health was and has been and is an arena relatively supposedly spared from the depredations of the petrochemical industry. If there are harms to our health, they come as a spill-over from petrochemical poisoning.
While this splitting remains in place, Progressive, Green, Liberal, and Socialist Health policies will sabotage their environmental aspirations.
Populist parties are at present more likely, either by accident or on purpose, to fracture the expert consensus in Health that is pushing relentlessly toward technical solutions to both our health problems and our environmental problems.
MedicoChemical or PetroChemical below challenges this splitting. Send us your proposals to add to the list.
(Re lines 2 and 3 in the Table, the key detail to know is that around 1980 we were taking even less than one drug per day on average. There was no such thing as polypharmacy. This is changing at an astonishing rate – driven by progressive parties).
|Medico-Chemical Industry||Petro-Chemical Industry|
|Life Expectancy Falling||Temperature Rising|
|Over 45s on 3 Drugs Daily and Rising||1.5 C Rise and Rising|
|Over 65s on 5 Drugs Daily and Rising||2.0 C Rise|
|Health a Distribution Channel for Drugs||Cities a Distribution Channel for Cars/Oil|
|Salvation lies in Techniques - Innovation||Salvation lies in Techniques - Innovation|
|Polluting Rivers & Lakes||Polluting Breast Milk|
|Risky Fake Chemicals||Risky Fake Chemicals|
|Research Ghost-written||Research Ghost-written|
|No Access to Research Data||No Access to Research Data|
|Drug Wrecks grow GHP||Chemical Spills grow GDP|
|Sense about Science|
|Efficacy trumps Safety||Efficacy trumps Safety|
|Doubt torpedoes Safety||Doubt torpedoes Safety|
|Pharma CEO today|
|Petro-Chemical CEO today, Pharma tomorrow|
|Corporate Defender Law Firm No 1||Corporate Defender Law Firm No 1|
|Greatest Density of Fake Science on Earth||Second Most Dense Fake Science on Earth|
|Regulatory Capture||Regulatory Capture|
There is a striking overlap between this post and posts about Ghosts in the Clinical Trial Machine on RxISK this week and next.
It would be as easy to distinguish between Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee