It’s dizzying to watch the NASDAQ and S&P500 reach all-time highs while a rising tide of Americans face evictions and layoffs. Our beloved Boulder County community is not immune against vacancies along Main Street, as local eateries and other small businesses face increasing odds of making it through another month.
It seems that everything we read and see and hear contains this unsettling form of cognitive dissonance. From certain angles and narratives, there still seems to be plenty of abundance, resources, and money going around. But change the vantage point even slightly and big cracks come into view—along with a sense of profound instability and unsustainability in most if not all of our societal industries, institutions, and infrastructures.
Our systems of healthcare, education, childcare, agriculture, criminal justice, law enforcement, media, energy production, etc… all seem to be in need of rather significant overhaul. And Covid-19 has laid bare and/or accelerated many other simultaneous pandemics: the concurrent pandemics of chronic disease, obesity, addiction, meaninglessness, the percentage of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, and so on.
Many with whom I’ve spoken over these past months carry hope that the vaccine may come just in the nick of time and the government bailouts will hopefully carry them through, yet there is a looming sense of vulnerability. After Covid-19 when will the next pandemic hit? Or the next climate change induced crisis, large-scale cyber-attack, or power grid outage?
We’ve faced many great challenging times as a nation before, and indeed as a species. And each time, the path to overcoming those challenges is the same: we come together in order to survive, adapt to new conditions, and ultimately find ways to flourish with even greater abundance.
I’ve been thinking a lot about specifically how and in precisely what kind of ways we might “come together” as a community in order to support and uplift those amongst us who are suffering most acutely, while simultaneously igniting a chain reaction that helps all of us be more healthy and more resilient. In fact, I am involved in helping to build a new kind of marketplace designed with exactly this aim in mind. It is called Ravel Health, the marketplace for a new vision of healthcare.
The premise is simple:
So first, what are these “health and resilience-generating endeavors”?
They are all of the local projects, companies, organizations, operations, and ventures devoted to salutogenic enterprises.
‘Salutogenic’ is a term that defines the sources, origins, and roots of health and wellbeing. If we step back and ask who it is that has the most primary and most fundamental impact upon our health, it is not us physicians and other prescribers of pills and potions. It is without doubt those who provide us with food that nourishes our bodies while also nourishing our soil and cleaning our air and water.
Every second grader knows that “we are what we eat”, yet we have allowed our society to subsist on low-quality, disease-promoting food which lies at the root of all of our concurrent pandemics—notably including Covid-19 which disproportionately targets and takes the lives of those suffering from various “co-morbidities”, many of which can be traced directly to the life-long effects of an unhealthy diet.
If we want to celebrate and support those among us who have the greatest potential impact upon the health and healing of our community, who simultaneously care for the land in such a way that will ensure our children and their children have abundant natural resources, and who enable our communities to be more resilient by not being forced to import 100% of our food, then we should look no further than to our local organic farmers, ranchers, beekeepers, and CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture). We should look to those who use the principles of permaculture, biodynamic agriculture, and natural food production instead of the industrial methods which are contributing mightily to nearly all of our contemporary diseases and causes of death.
For example, the increase in the use of the most commonly sprayed pesticide, glyphosate (which has been exponentially rising since the 1970’s and which is now present in most of our urine, breast milk, and rain) runs in direct parallel with the rise in autoimmune, allergic, and many other chronic diseases. And the rise in cheap, processed, sugary foods runs in direct parallel with our skyrocketing rates of obesity and related metabolic conditions.
How different would the SARS CoV-2 pandemic be if we were a well-nourished nation?
While we’re able to feed more people with modern industrial agriculture, it comes at a massive cost to our economy, our health, and our quality of life. Related to Big-Ag is the commercial meat industry which is too often cruel to animals and its profits are frequently in poor alignment with the nutritional quality of its products.
But it’s not just what we eat, it’s also the personal care products we use to brush our teeth and wash our skin, hair, and clothes—much of which are concoctions of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and known carcinogens such as phthalates, parabens, and diethanolamine. It is also the packaging that contains everything we buy, as well as the clothes that we wear, given that the fashion industry is one of the leading environmental polluters of all.
How can we support the transition toward systems of production of food, goods, and services which harness sophisticated innovations in science and technology while operating in coherence with nature?
Here is our golden opportunity to accomplish a truly omni-win scenario:
Many of our friends and neighbors here in Boulder County and nationwide are already doing the heavy lifting for us. They are building companies that are not just socially conscious, ethically-run, B-Corp and LEED-certified, and so on. They are also illuminating the way toward our personal health and wellbeing, toward clean air, water, and soil for all of us (and for the generations who come after us), and toward a stable, sustainable, and resilient future for everyone. They are the producers of local honey, milk, eggs, meat, produce, soap, toothpaste, fabrics, clothing, hard goods, reusable packaging and containers, building supplies and materials—all of which are made in coherence with nature. They’re also our local farm-to-table restauranteurs.
It is a matter of pure mutuality. We need them in order to be healthy and in order for our children to be healthy. And they need us in order to survive in an era in which a single individual is about to become a trillionaire while wealth and resources are siphoned from communities around the globe, and so many of our local businesses, local organic farms, and local producers of consciously-made goods are facing bankruptcy.
We can’t blame Amazon and Facebook for all of our problems. We are willing (though often unwitting) participants in an economy which operates on the basis of a complex array of incentives which do not have our wellbeing in mind, far from it. And we lack any reliable system of organizing or prioritizing products, goods, and services on the basis of Salutogenesis. But we can learn a lot from these tech titans (as well as Netflix, Dollar Shave Club, most gyms, all insurance companies, and an increasing number of successful retailers, etc.) in terms of profitability.
So, what is their not-so-secret sauce?
It is dependable, reliable, recurring monthly revenue from subscription-based financial models.
Simply put, our local health-promoting businesses would be far more financially resilient if they incorporated a monthly membership structure into their revenue model. If 200 people pledged to spend $100/month at a local farm-to-table restaurant each month for a year, this would provide the restaurant with a guaranteed income of $20,000 each month. They could continue on with attracting customers in their usual way, but the recurrent $20K would go a long way to avoid lay-offs and closures, as well to protect an important sales channel for the local farmers. And in return for that investment, those 200 people would receive delicious food of the highest quality with which to nourish their bodies—dine in or take out, as the circumstances allow. They would also be playing a vital role of supporting sustainability and resilience within the community which they call home.
We are now facing a stark choice. Either we come together and thoughtfully listen to what our key local health and wellness-generating business owners need in order to survive—and support them and help them solve those problems. Or we let them wither away under the financial pressures of the pandemic.
I can see a future replete with many thriving local micro-economies of such businesses blossoming across our state and our nation. These are the very businesses that we need to ensure our survival, never mind our thriving, over the coming decades.
Evolution often progresses in an upward spiral. As we evolve, we naturally turn back recursively to old ways of doing things, but with fresh perspectives and more advanced technology. In medicine we are becoming increasingly interested in rediscovering indigenous ways of healing to incorporate into our modern armamentarium of tools. Similarly, in agriculture as we bear witness to the multivariate risks of industrial monoculture farming, we are leveraging newer, cleaner, and more sophisticated technologies to integrate with means of food production that are inherently more aware and in coherence with the intricate webs of life which comprise our dynamic ecosystems, just as in times past. As we study everything from the soil biome to our microbiome, and from the mycelium to the pollinator networks, we are becoming increasingly aware of the vast interconnections and of the dire consequences of over-regulating and forcefully disrupting nature itself.
The only way to avoid the various well-documented civilizational collapse scenarios is through more innovation and diverse prototypes. Business as usual won’t get us there, and we’re not smart enough to know ahead of time what new strategies will work. But running a wide range of “salutogenic” experiments in different markets and in various environments will teach us a great deal about what might work.
This momentous time that we are living in—a time that some have described as “The Great Transition”, and “A Time Between Worlds”, and a “Liminal Society”, is not the time for one size fits all, top-down, centralized solutions within entrenched industries (such as healthcare and agriculture) that have operationalized the problems we now face. New thinking and new ideas are needed. Micro-experiments of local, community-based solutions to our various deep systemic problems hold the seeds of the solutions for our future. The question is, how do we nurture those germinating seeds while they are still young, fragile, and vulnerable?
Sure, we can wait for someone like Andrew Yang to implement some version of government-directed Universal Basic Income (UBI) so that local salutogenic innovators and those devoted to providing healing products, goods, and services to our communities who are financially vulnerable are able to regain a foothold. But how much better would it be if we identify them in our own communities ourselves and focus our attention on supporting their viability in solidarity with our highest collective values and interests—and do so now?
It is time to have a new conversation about health and healthcare. Waiting for us to get sick before doing anything is the way the old paradigm works, and the results are plain to see. Just look at graphs which plot how much we are spending on healthcare against how much sicker we’re getting. We need to build a future together in which we intentionally set out to support our health and wellbeing throughout the entire arc of our lives. It is time we clearly identify the necessary elements for health and wellness, and recognize how closely they’re connected to our land, our overall community resilience, and our capacity to withstand future stressors and shocks.
Imagine a new kind of marketplace for healthcare based on the principles of Salutogenesis (built alongside the existing insurance-based “healthcare exchanges” which are only designed to provide sick care with drugs and surgery).
Imagine being able to purchase the best local healthcare in one place, replete with all of the essential elements for each of us to thrive: top primary care and major medical plans to be sure, but also the leading local bodyworkers, nutritionists, counselors, and coaches. And, integrated into the platform, a marketplace for natural personal care products, locally grown produce and herbs, free range organic eggs, meat, honey, etc.
Imagine everything we need to be truly healthy—all in one place. All available for convenient subscription memberships to help us stay on track with our health.
Imagine if how we paid for our healthcare directly and explicitly provided crucial financial support to the most important salutogenic enterprises in our various local communities and eco-systems.
Imagine a new healthcare marketplace which is no longer a mere money-making machine for predatory mega-corporations that are based far away from our communities. Instead, a marketplace which is a de facto UBI for those fragile but essential sectors of our local economies, those which are most vital for our short- and long-term health, wellbeing, and community resilience. A kind of UBI that depends not on incessant infusions of capital from government or philanthropic grants, but rather is provided by the local neighbors who have the most to benefit from those endeavors.
Imagine a new healthcare marketplace like this existing in many local communities nationwide, built in alignment with the particular resources available within each ecosystem and customized to fit their particular local needs.
We absolutely need drugs and surgery (the new burgeoning innovations in biotech including nucleic acid therapies, among many other developments in the pipeline, will be revolutionary) and we’re incredibly fortunate to have access to them when we need them, but they’re not enough to turn our trajectory of unsustainable healthcare costs and skyrocketing rates of chronic disease around.
We are building the necessary infrastructure for a novel salutogenic healthcare marketplace devoted to creating abundance even during times of apparent scarcity. The technological backbone is built to scale across diverse communities nationwide, while being customizable to each one. If you are interested in helping us or would like to receive updates, please email firstname.lastname@example.org