Quantcast
Climate

The Yin and Yang of Cancer and Climate Change

Almost all of what we hear about cancer comes from our usual western perspective. Things like how smoking can increase the likelihood of developing the condition and how eating vegetables can reduce the chances. However, if we look at cancer from a different view, we begin to see that what’s happening within us is also happening in the world around us.

According to the American Cancer Society, for those of us now living in the U.S., one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer. And one in four men and one in five women will die from the condition. With a population of about 310 million, that’s 125 million cancer diagnoses and 72 million deaths.

Along with these extraordinary rates of cancer, there are voluminous amounts of data that demonstrates clearly that the climate is destabilizing. For several decades, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been documenting the worldwide research that shows conclusively that the planet is warming from the gases we’re releasing. More recently, data also indicates that the ability of the planet to maintain its coolant is also being affected.

Climate research now demonstrates that the well-documented warming is happening as the ability of forests and oceans to sequester greenhouse gases has been compromised. As we are losing the cooling affects of trees through deforestation, the oceans may have reached their saturation point in how much greenhouse gas they can absorb. In looking at the condition of the climate and the rates of cancer through the holistic lens of Chinese medicine, we can begin to see that rather than being two separate issues, they are similar issues happening at different scales.

For several thousand years, eastern medicine has understood the world holistically. In the treatment room, all of our organs are connected and the physical, mental and emotional parts of our lives are interrelated. Similarly, it recognizes that we are part of the world around us and that what happens within us is a reflection of what happens in nature. Looking at cancer and climate change from this larger vantage point, we can begin to see how both conditions have the same underlying cause.

Looking again at information provided by the American Cancer Society, all cancers start because abnormal cells grow out of control and can spread around the body. From my clinical experience treating people with a cancer diagnosis, the root cause of cancer fits well with the Chinese medicine diagnosis of Yin deficient heat.

Heat corresponds to over activity in organs and cells, which causes both the abnormal growth and the movement around the body. Yin is associated with water and fluids and is our internal coolant. When our internal heat increases, it can cook off our fluids, as would a pot of water left on a hot stove. Yin deficient heat means that our internal condition is inflamed both from the increased warmth and from the decrease of coolant.

Looking at the condition of the climate, Yin deficient heat is a very good description of what’s happening globally. The planet is warming—indicating heat. And the ability of the planet to keep things cool through the effects of oceans and forests is decreasing—indicating Yin deficiency. Rather than being two issues, the overstimulation of our cells internally and the rapid warming of the planet externally are mirroring each other.

In our era of climate change, with 40 percent of Americans projected to be diagnosed with cancer, an essential question is: Where is this increasing heat and decreasing Yin coming from? The answer is in how we see the world and as a result, how we live our lives. Fundamental to Chinese medicine is the understanding of Yin and Yang. As mentioned, Yin is associated with coolant and it’s also about quiet, peace, doing and having less, the small and the old. The other side of the Yin/Yang circle is about heat, being loud and active, doing and having more, the loud and aggressive and the new—all of this is associated with Yang.

Just as the planet and our cells are overheating, we often value the new over the old, doing over non-doing and more over less. And just as the cooling effects of forests and oceans are decreasing and our Yin decreases internally, we often value the loud over the quiet, the big over the small and the aggressive over the peaceful. The condition of the planet, the condition of our internal environment and our cultural assumptions all speak to the same condition—too much Yang and too little Yin.

An essential part of the deeper remedies to treat the incredible rates of cancer and our rapidly destabilizing climate is to revalue the Yin in all parts of our lives. The Yin of slowing down, doing less, wanting less and being quiet and peaceful internally. This contentment makes us less susceptible to buying more than we need, thereby reducing emissions. The cooling affect of Yin also reduces our heat internally, treating the root causes of conditions like cancer as well.

Brendan Kelly is the author of The Yin and Yang of Climate Crisis: Healing Personal, Cultural and Ecological Imbalance with Chinese Medicine. The co-founder and co-owner of Jade Mountain Wellness, where he currently practices acupuncture and herbalism, he has also been actively involved with local, regional and national environmental issues for 25 years.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

David Suzuki: How Nature Benefits Human Health

5 Ways to Prevent and Treat Cancer

Humans to Blame for Catastrophic Drought in California, Scientists Say

Show Comments ()
Sponsored

How Big Is Your Environmental Footprint?

If you want to make a positive change this Earth Day but don't know where to start, one of best things you can do is take an honest look at your environmental footprint. For instance, how much water are you wasting? How much plastic are you throwing out? How much planet-warming carbon are you producing?

Luckily, there are many online calculators that crunch through your consumption habits. While the final tally might be daunting, it's the first step in living more sustainably.

Keep reading... Show less
Shopping at farmers markets can help minimize your waste.

6 Simple Tips to Reduce Waste So Every Day Is Earth Day

Earth Day 2018 is focused on the all-important theme of reducing plastic litter and pollution. Of course, we shouldn't just reduce our plastic footprint, we should try to reduce waste in all shapes, sizes and forms. It's said that the average American generates a staggering 4 pounds of trash every day—but you don't have to be part of that statistic.

Here are six entirely manageable tips and tricks to help you cut waste.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

Favorite Product: Dr. Bronner's Castile soap

It's Earth-friendly, lasts for months and can be used as soap, shampoo, all-purpose cleaner and even mouthwash (but I wouldn't recommend that).

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Will Rose / Greenpeace

7 Things You Can Do to Create a Plastic-Free Future

By Jen Fela

We're celebrating a huge moment in the global movement for a plastic-free future: More than one million people around the world have called on big corporations to do their part to end single-use plastics.

Now we're taking the next big step. We're setting an ambitious new goal: A Million Acts of Blue.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular

5 Environmental Victories to Inspire You This Earth Day

Planet Earth is at a crisis point. Researchers say we have to begin reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 if we want to meet the temperature goals outlined in the Paris agreement and avoid catastrophic climate change.

The work to be done can seem overwhelming. A survey published this week found that only 6 percent of Americans think we will succeed in reducing global warming.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A fin whale surfacing in Greenland. Aqqa Rosing-Asvid / CC BY 2.0

Iceland to Resume Killing Endangered Fin Whales

By Kitty Block

Iceland seems to be the most confused of nations when it comes to whales. On the one hand it attracts international tourists from all over the world to go out and see whales as part of their encounters with Iceland's many natural wonders. On the other hand it kills whales for profit, with some portion of the kill even being fed to some of the same tourists in restaurants and cafes.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A.millepora in the Great Barrier Reef. Petra Lundgren, Juan C Vera, Lesa Peplow, Stephanie Manel and Madeleine JH van Oppen

Hope for Great Barrier Reef? New Study Shows Genetic Diversity of Coral Could Extend Our Chance to Save It

A study published Wednesday had some frightening news for the Great Barrier Reef—the iconic marine ecosystem is at "unprecedented" risk of collapse due to climate change after a 2016 heat wave led to the largest mass coral bleaching event in the reef's history.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
Lyft

Lyft Announces Carbon Neutrality Drive

Lyft will make all of its rides carbon neutral starting immediately by investing millions of dollars in projects that offset its emissions, the company announced Thursday.

The ridesharing service, which is part of the We Are Still coalition, provides more than 10 million rides worldwide each week. "We feel immense responsibility for the profound impact that Lyft will have on our planet," founders John Zimmer and Logan Green wrote in a Medium post.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!