This week, I was invited to speak at the Robert Clack Comprehensive School in Dagenham East, near London. I was invited because Luka Radovic had organised a day on healthy living for an audience of more than 200 students. Normally, I associate schools with a lot of noise and chaos but the students came into the hall in silence and in an orderly fashion – I was very impressed. Here the teachers and students seemed to value stillness, silence and order.

Health is a word we generally relate to physical condition, which in turn we relate to healthy living, but there can be no personal health in a sick society, and there can be no social health on a sick planet – so personal, social and environmental health are totally interconnected.

The National Health Service in Britain spends almost a £1bn a day on medicine, doctors, consultants, and nurses and yet there is not enough money, doctors or medicine to keep everyone healthy and happy, and yet no-one asks why there is so much ill health. Not only do we spend £1bn a day on the National Heath Service, we also spend money and resources on private healthcare – so we have to ask why we have so much illness and why there is an increasing number of cancer cases, heart problems and mental depression.

Britain is the 4th largest economy in the world and yet, if we can not have a healthy society with healthy individuals, what is the use of all this wealth and economic growth? If wealth does not bring well-being then what use is such wealth?

Society is suffering ill health because our environment is suffering from ill health – the environment is sick because of our commercial activities. What we call ‘economic growth’ is in fact a growth in waste and a decline in the health of natural habitat. When we put our waste and rubbish into plastic bins to be taken away by vehicles to landfill sites, we think the waste has gone away, disappeared – but it has not. It is sitting somewhere causing pollution and disease. If our land is polluted, water and air are polluted, so what likelihood do we have for a healthy society? If society is living in a rat-race suffering from stress and pressure then what hope do we have for the health of individuals?

The way to healthy living is to shift from quantitative economic growth to quality of life, food, water and air – to shift from craving to contentment and from greed to gratitude. Healthy living is not only a matter of physical health – spiritual and psychological health is an essential foundation upon which we can build physical health. But the modern mindset separates personal and physical health from psychological and spiritual health. We separate personal health from social health and we separate social health from ecological health. This disconnection leads to increasing illness in society.

This is what I said to the young students at Robert Clack Comprehensive. I was impressed at how receptive they were to these ideas of holistic health and they want me to visit their school again. Luka Radovic told me that the students found my comments the highlight of their day!