A recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the University of California shows that climate change is affecting our health and becoming a public health crisis. As our environment continues to deteriorate, it’s important to understand the complementary and interconnected nature of human health and environmental health. They’re two sides of the same coin. They go hand in hand.
Human And Environmental Health Go Hand In Hand
We are each a tiny piece of protoplasm in the biosphere. The biosphere is the web of countless living beings plus the earth, air and water. With every breath, every bite, every sip and every touch, we take the environment into our bodies. Our bodies are totally constructed from the environment.
Our bodies are occupied by more than 10,000 microbial species. These bugs contribute more genes responsible for human survival than humans contribute. Each of our cells contains hundreds or thousands of mitochondria, the cell’s “energy factories,” which may have evolved from engulfed bacteria. Through our DNA we’re connected to past humans and other species stretching back eons; our offspring might connect with future generations and new species. What we do and what we experience can change our genes, and we can pass these changes along to future generations.
Substances move around in our world more readily than we might think. When we breathe, eat, drink, and touch contaminated air, food, liquids and other objects, we take in contaminants. When polar bears have toxic flame retardants, pesticides, PCBs and fluorinated chemicals in their bodies, you can bet we do too. If our food has been sprayed with pesticides that rip apart the guts of insects, we’d better suspect the same could happen to us when we eat the food. We are not as different from other species as we may think. We share 47 percent of our genes with fruit flies.
Our lifestyle choices broadcast impacts throughout the biosphere, impacts that tend to be universally positive or negative. When we purchase foods grown using pesticides, we damage the climate, air, water, soil, farm workers and countless other non-target organisms (such as pollinators upon which our food supply depends). On the other hand, when we eat organically grown food, we and our interconnected world become healthier.
Delusion of Disconnection
Despite facts to the contrary, Westerners cling to outdated beliefs. Journalist Lynne McTaggart, author of “The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe,” explains, “Up until the present, biology and physics have been handmaidens of views espoused by Isaac Newton, the father of modern physics. Everything we believe about our world and our place within it takes its lead from ideas that were formulated in the 17th century, but still form the backbone of modern science — theories that present all the elements of the universe as isolated from each other, divisible, and wholly self-contained. These, at their essence, created a world view of separateness.”
More recently, physicists have a new understanding.
What they have discovered is nothing less than astonishing … Human beings and all living things are a coalescence of energy in a field of energy connected to every other thing in the world. — Lynne McTaggart
Take this worldview of separateness, add entrenched religious concepts and misconceptions about evolution, and what do we end up with? Nuclear weapons, a collapsing life support system, and erroneous — usually unconscious — assumptions that drive self-defeating behavior:
- Each of us is separate from everyone and everything else.
- The human species is separate and very different from other species.
- Humans are superior to other species. Other species derive their value solely from serving humans.
- We are so clever that we don’t need nature.
- We can deplete resources and contaminate air, water, soil, food and consumer goods without fear of consequences.
- Because we live mostly in our heads, we can make physical health a lower priority.
Consequences of Western Assumptions
Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of good stuff happening. But our current trajectory ends badly. Environmental consequences of our self-defeating delusions include catastrophic climate disruption, air pollution, dying wild plants and animals, contaminated water, depleted water supplies, acidified oceans, ravaged forests and fisheries, and degraded and eroded soil. Almost any one of these disasters could doom our species, but we now face them all, simultaneously.
December 14, 2017
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Human health mirrors the ongoing environmental damage. We are really not such a happy and healthy bunch. In 2014, 60 percent of adult Americans had at least one chronic disease or condition and 42 percent had multiple diseases. Toxic chemicals and poor diet are linked to many chronic diseases. Chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and kidney disease are leading causes of death in the U.S. Chronic diseases are the leading drivers of health care costs in the nation; the cost of treating them accounts for almost one-fifth of the U.S. economy. One in 6 Americans takes psychiatric drugs, mostly antidepressants, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Solutions for Saving Ourselves and Our World
A toolbox of solutions is available now — for use at every level, from the individual to the international — for saving our biosphere, our health, our society, and our future. We must upgrade our thinking to embrace science and eliminate beliefs that are just plain wrong. Once we reject our delusion of separation, we will treasure our environment. If we recognize the fallacy of hierarchical, warring-factions thinking, we might choose a more cooperative, more enjoyable approach to life. We’ll have to replace one-thing-at-a-time thinking with holistic views that consider the interconnected puzzle pieces.
The Most Important Solution: Upgrading Our Health
The most important — but by no means only — solution is for each of us to optimize our health by:
- Eating clean, whole, real foods
- Keeping hydrated
- Sleeping adequately
- Detoxifying our bodies
- Enjoying life
- Connecting with other people and with nature
Optimizing our own health enhances the health of everything around us. It grows us into more effective change agents. The healthier we are, the more time, energy, creativity, optimism, agency and money we can offer. When we’re healthy, we can do more, and do it better.
We must advocate for our health.
Transform More, Faster and Better
Thanks to global efforts, transforming our way of life to one that is survivable, sustainable and more enjoyable is already underway. But worsening health and environmental problems prove we’re not transforming fast enough. Emphatic feedback from the universe says, “Aim higher.” Transforming ourselves and our world will be easier than we may think, due to the power of interconnections.
Nationally known author, researcher and health advisor Dr. Dean Ornish says, “Paradoxically, sometimes actually it’s easier to make big changes than small changes, even though that’s counterintuitive. Because when you make big changes you feel so much better so quickly.” Similarly, Dr. Mark Hyman, author of “The Blood Sugar Solution,” reports that his patients tell him, “I didn’t know how bad I was feeling until I started feeling so good.”
When we upgrade the health of our own little pieces of protoplasm, we send positive ripples through the rest of the biosphere. We become powerful agents of change. We help to create a new era of human and environmental health and prosperity.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.