The Post-Antibiotic Era

Speaking of changing in increments, most of us learn in increments as well. Schools don’t teach first graders algebra or math equations for good reason. By the same token, as adults we usually accept certain ideas and truths more fully if they come incrementally. The first exposure to a new idea or occurrence may spark an interest—only to fade soon thereafter because of a lack of continuing information to back it up. But the next exposure has you saying, “You know, I’ve heard of that before.” And by the third and fourth exposure it’s no longer a new idea—and may be a subject that you now consider well-grounded. That was my experience in what is called the “post-antibiotic era”, which many Americans have not yet heard of, although as a society we have already entered it.                    

Several years ago I read an article in Acres USA (a monthly eco-farming publication I subscribe to), in which Fred Walters (the editor of Acres) interviewed a microbiologist who had a convincing well-researched theory about a coming era of antibiotic resistance that, according to him, will totally change status quo healthcare as well as the expected human lifespan throughout the developed world.   While I found the article interesting—and plausible—I passed it off as a years-down-the-road slim possibility—likely because I had never heard of it.

And this may be why I passed it off. Our family’s approach to personal health has, thus far, been removed from conventional medicine — with the exception of a few dentist visits over the years — and fortunately, we haven’t had any major trauma events making hospitalization necessary. To say the least, we have found a world of alternative healthcare in herbal medicine, chiropractic care, functional medical practitioners, home births, and above all, FOOD. Therefore I passed of the antibiotic resistance idea rather lightly.

However, about a year ago, my health-passionate friend John Amrein, gave me a book (thanks, John, that book has been enjoyed many times over). The book is titled The Big Chicken, and while conventional chicken production may be the hinge on which the subject swing, the book is a detailed description of the rise, abuse, and fall of antibiotics in the developed world, and how the post-antibiotic era will affect us all. The author, Maryn McKenna, an independent  journalist, covers the subject thoroughly from the mid-1940’s to 2017 when the book was published. Written in a very matter of fact way, this is not a the-sky-is-falling-in rant based on science fiction, but a boots-on-the-ground report pointing to the demise of modern day antibiotic use as we know it. For me, reading her book was an eye-opener to what goes on in today’s agriculture on a daily basis, and was very thought-provoking as to the direction of our modern day food and healthcare system. Maryn also published an excellent  TED talk on the subject, that, in my opinion, is a must-see for all sane citizens of today’s society.

Coincidentally, while re-reading parts of the above-mentioned book recently, I received a post from Joel Salatin’s blog The Lunatic Farmer on the same subject, although from a slightly different angle, which included predictions that in a mere 30 years, antibiotic-resistant illness will surpass cancer in death toll, costing the global economy $100 trillion. To read this blog post, click here.