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Heal the Earth, heal ourselves

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A fringe of life is developed by nature for all living things – including man. All life forms follow nature’s commands except man, who has found ways of ignoring them. The sun, the moon and the stars would have disappeared long ago… had they happened to be within the reach of predatory human hands. A very good morning to one and all. Today I’m here to share my views with you on the topic “when we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.” I have come to believe that the physical destruction of the earth extends to us, too. If we live in an environment that’s wounded–where the water is polluted, the air is filled with soot and fumes, the food is contaminated with heavy metals and plastic residues, or the soil is practically dust–it hurts us, chipping away at our health and creating injuries at a physical, psychological, and spiritual level. In degrading the environment, therefore, we degrade ourselves. … The reverse is also true. In the process of helping the earth to heal, we help ourselves.

If we see the earth bleeding from the loss of topsoil, biodiversity, or drought and desertification, and if we help reclaim or save what is lost–for instance, through regeneration of degraded forests–the planet will help us in our self-healing and indeed survival. Healing the Earth, our Mother, is something that is more urgent than ever and, hopefully, it is not too late. It is, however, very much true that by healing Mother Earth we will also be healing ourselves and society. No society that is in constant combat with the natural world can every be a happy one. We have to work with the mother Earth. Only that way can we ever have a harmonious society where everything is in balance. The Earth is in the trouble that it is in because of the way that modern man has treated her and for some reason it seems that much of it has to do with human arrogance rather than ignorance.

But we conquer Nature at our very peril for, should we succeed, it will be our death and the death of, more than likely, every living thing on Earth. Man has gone in for wholesale destruction of species, often because some were interfering with his activities, while others were exploited to the brink of extinction or to extinction. The same has been done with the Earth’s resources, whether it be wood, minerals, etc. and in the pursuit of profit from those sources entire areas have been clear felled and otherwise destroyed and/or poisoned. The destruction of the rainforests for hardwoods and farming and the destruction of the Appalachian Mountains for coal where entire mountain tops are blown off are but two examples. The overfished seas and poisoned oceans are another. This is sometimes due our needs and often due our greeds. These impact our lives and often our health. It reduces the availability of fresh food and water. It interrupt communication, utility, and health care services. It also contribute to carbon monoxide poisoning from portable electric generators used during and after storms.

It increases stomach and intestinal illnesses among evacuees and also contribute to mental health impacts such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some other health issues include:- 1. Increased risk of heat related illness: Global warming has steadily increased the earth’s temperature and given rise to extreme heat waves during summer. In India, the summer of 2010 has been recorded the hottest summer so far, where temperatures in various parts of the country touched 50°C (122°F). The impact is so worse that a recent study estimated that in near future rise in heat-related deaths due to climatic changes would outweigh deaths due to cold spells in winter in some countries. ‘About 1.2 million deaths per year due to heat-related illnesses have been reported worldwide and the risk is found to be greater in children,’ says Dr Sonia.

2. Increased respiratory illnesses: Warmer temperatures in urban areas have increased the demand for electricity to run air conditioners, further increasing air pollution and emission of green house gases. Extreme heat along with air pollution has also increased cases of allergic asthma over the years. ‘Lung capacity in children has decreased greatly. And looking at the rate of increase in temperature and pollution, the burden is expected to increase in the next few decades,’ she says.

3. Increased risk of injuries: Melting glaciers have led to an overall increase in sea level and cause extreme precipitation events. This has elevated the frequency of wind and rain storms in some parts of the world. And in any natural disastrous calamity like storms, the number of injury related deaths increase.

4. Infectious diseases on the rise: ‘Higher temperatures are optimum for growth and multiplication of some infectious organisms like Salmonella and other bacteria causing food poisoning. They can cause gastrointestinal problems and even death.’

5. Water borne diseases: Heavy rainfall and floods cause sewage to overflow and contaminate fresh water bodies. This increases the risk of water borne illnesses. Infections like gastroenteritis, diarrhea shoot up with every major climatic change.

6. Increased cases of vector-borne diseases: Man-made sewage pools and environmental changes serve as an open ground for breeding of mosquitoes. This is the main reason why we are still struggling with implantation of effective preventative measures for vector-borne disease like malaria. Today in India about 2 million cases of malaria are registered every year.

7. Cardiovascular deaths: It may be surprising but there seems to be a strong link existing between extreme heat and cardiovascular diseases. Studies have found that fluctuating temperatures (extreme cold and heat) increase hospitalization frequency due to heart related disorders. Particulate matter and increased ozone concentration exerts unwanted stress on the heart and blood vessels giving rise to a range of heart illness including deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolism and blood vessel dysfunction.

In order to change this approach serious reeducation of the great majority of people is needed. Only that way can we bring about the changes that are required in order to change the course on which we are sailing at this very moment.

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