Speaker: Rupa Marya & Raj Patel

How Our Systems Prime Us for Chronic Illness

When academic, best-selling author, and filmmaker Raj Patel and physician, musician, and activist Rupa Marya joined to write a book together, the result was a deep dive into how our economic, political, and social structures fan disease, often invisibly. “Inflammation is the body’s appropriate response to damage, or the threat of damage,” says Marya. “We’re learning that the social, environmental, and political structures around us are tuning the immune system to sound out the full range of inflammation.”

Patel adds, “Capitalism primes our bodies for sickness.”

In Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice, released in August 2021, Marya and Patel arrive at a new systems level of diagnosis that incorporates history and the pathologies of power, offering treatment options to heal people and the planet.

Rupa Marya, MD, is an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where she practices and teaches internal medicine. She’s co-founder of the Do No Harm Coalition, a collective of healthcare workers committed to changing social structures that impede health and wellbeing for different groups of people; and the founder and executive director of Deep Medicine Circle, a worker-directed nonprofit committed to “healing the wounds of colonialism through food, medicine, story, learning and restoration.” Working with her husband, the agroecological farmer Benjamin Fahrer, and the Association of Ramaytush Ohlone in their ancestral territory, she is a part of the Farming Is Medicine project, where farmers are recast as ecological stewards of rematriated land and food is liberated from the market economy.

Her work in social advocacy has earned her trust from indigenous communities where she lives, in Ohlone territory and in places where she has served, such as Lakota territory. In 2016, she was invited to Standing Rock to assist with medical response to increasing state violence toward indigenous people protecting their sovereign land in the face of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Outside of her medical work, Marya is a gifted guitarist, singer, and composer. Her band, Rupa and the April Fishes, mixes styles -- from jazz to punk to reggae -- and spans multiple languages. Her music explores themes of climate justice, ecology, politics, culture, and the impact of violence and racism on people of color. She lives with her husband and two sons in the Bay Area where, at the invitation of Lakota elders, she is helping to develop a clinic to “decolonize food and medicine” at the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic and Farm.

Raj Patel, PhD, is an author six times over, a filmmaker, and an academic. He is a research professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, a professor in the university’s department of nutrition, and a research associate at Rhodes University, South Africa. Patel credits an upsetting encounter witnessing an adolescent girl carrying a crying infant while begging on the roadside during a family trip to Mumbai in his early childhood as a formative experience that led to the big questions that shaped his life.

Those questions never left him, and prior to his writing and academic work, he worked for the UN, the World Bank, and the WTO to explore possible solutions to poverty, hunger, and inequity. Later, he would become a fierce critic of those very same multilateral institutions, and has been tear-gassed on four continents protesting against them. Yet today, he serves on the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems and has advised governments worldwide on the causes of and solutions to crises of sustainability.

Among Patel’s books are Stuffed and Starved, which examines the inequities of the world food system wherein a billion are obese even as another billion starve; the New York Times bestselling The Value of Nothing, which critiques the free market’s notions of value, especially with regard to fundamental needs like clean water, housing, and health care; A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things, which details how capitalistic distortion of environmental, social, and health costs of goods has devastated society and the planet.

As a filmmaker, Patel recently co-directed a documentary on climate change and the global food system called The Ants and the Grasshopper, which follows Malawian women impacted by climate change as they travel the United States and attempt to convince Americans of the reality of the global threat.

Please join Rahul Brown and Andrew Kim for this illuminating conversation with two trailblazers dedicated to deep consciousness and deep medicine for healing the earth and all her people.

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