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Allison Walter

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What is more important: Our drugs or our ecosystems?

Originally created to support human health and treat illnesses, pharmaceuticals are being scrutinized as a new class of water pollutants with potentially devastating effects on our ecosystems. Drugs including antibiotics, anti-depressants, birth control pills, and painkillers have been detected in our water sources. The remains of these drugs enter water systems through industrial waste, medical facilities, household toilets, and other methods of disposal. They then pass through sewage treatment facilities and into groundwater, irrigation systems, and waterways from lakes to oceans.

Numerous studies suggest that pharmaceutical wastes pose a significant environmental threat. For example, commonly used anti-depressants and birth control pills are being blamed for reducing fish sperm levels in lakes. Many aquatic and terrestrial organisms rely on fish for their own food and survival; therefore these drugs can be detrimental to biological diversity. Scientists are concerned that traces of pharmaceuticals in our water sources can be linked to abnormalities ranging from frog mutations, inter-sex fish, to an increase in cancer and behavior changes in aquatic organisms.

With the rise of global drug consumption, how much responsibility do the pharmaceutical companies have to protect the environment? How much responsibility do we have as individuals to stop taking these drugs if they cause harmful effects on the environment? Do the benefits we gain from drugs outweigh the long-term and irreversible impact they may have on our ecosystems?

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  • May 7 2012: Part 1 of 2

    Hello all. I hope I am not too late with this comment. I appreciate that Allison has concern for the interconnections between things, and it is this kind of thinking and seeing, this conscious way of being in consideration of others and our world in all that we do, that really is the solution to the question that has been posed here.

    We all now live together in an integral globalized world. All levels of society--whether in politic, economics, healthcare, ecology, etc.--exist today on a day to day basis in ways of interconnection and interdependence. Yet, how many of us truly understand this global, interconnected reality we are all living in together, and how many of us live our lives accordingly? It is this understanding of our integrality that humanity--as a species on this planet that is a part of nature and not above nature and its laws--needs to come to, in order for attitudes and behaviors to flip and turn toward resolution, which is basically from our selfish egoism to compassion and care for each other and our world. Through globalization, nature itself has conspired to cause humanity to shift from being concerned with "me, me, me," to reaching outside of ourselves and caring instead for our global "we."

    If you'll consider this for a moment: I don't think the question you are really asking at its core, is about drugs or ecosystems at all. These are merely surface symptoms that have arisen in our world from a deeper root cause.

    Everything that occurs, everything that we see outside of ourselves, is a projected reflection of our social relationships with one another. The health or lack in these social relationships is the root cause for every thing and every issue.

    Part 1 of 2

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