Why the Planet is Sick

ISIS Press Release 13/08/08

Prof. Peter Saunders reviews Stan Cox. Sick Planet. Pluto Press, London, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7453-2741-9 £45.00. , ISBN
978-0-7453-2740-2, £14.99 (paperback) pp219.

Familiar territory with a new slant

There are currently many books on the harm that is being done to our health and to our environment. Most of them cover much the same ground: chemicals, agribusiness, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and so on. This is no bad thing; every author manages to find some new information or put a new slant on things. There is also no shortage of new outrages coming to light, as regular readers of SiS will know.

In Sick Planet, Stan Cox covers a lot of familiar territory and highlights points that others have missed. His targets include disease mongering (the practice of convincing people that they are suffering from some ailment that requires a drug), the marketing of unnecessary food products such as bottled water, the pollution caused by overuse of fertilisers, the hazards of fluoropolymer chemicals such as Teflon, and more.

Because he has spent substantial time in India, he is able to describe some of what has been happening there. The dangers to health caused by the pharmaceutical industry in developed countries are given wide coverage in the popular media; but we are not told about the serious damage being done in the Patancheru area of India where so many of the world’s bulk drugs and intermediate compounds are made. There, sickness rates are more than double the national average, and good farmland is uncultivated because the groundwater has become unfit even for irrigation.

As Cox will convince you if you do not already know, much of what is happening to our planet is due to human ignorance and greed, expressed through the agency of big corporations and with the connivance of governments. Of course ignorance and greed are common human failings, and this might lead us to conclude that there is little we can do to save ourselves. Cox disagrees, and this makes him go beyond what most other writers on the subject have done.

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