What Have We Done to the Earth

IF my memory serves, this was a line from a Doors song. I was the first Earth Day (April 22, 1970) coordinator at my high school and used The Doors as a soundtrack to illustrate a slide show of pollution throughout my hometown, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My interest in all things environmental began then and continues to this day.

That’s why I was very interested in an article written by Patricia Espinosa and Richard Horton and published on October 31, 2017, by TIME magazine: Study: Climate Change is Damaging the Health of Millions of PeopleEspinosa is the executive secretary of UN Climate Change and Horton is editor-in-chief of The Lancet, the widely respected British medical journal.  Going to the primary sourceThe Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change, brings up 14 dense pages of commentary and facts on how climate change is impacting every living being on Earth. It’s sobering reading, my friends.

Climate change is adversely affecting the health of millions worldwide through drought, Photo by Alex Gindin on Unsplashwildfires, flooding, extreme heat waves and extreme cold. We have seen how that impacts people and animals in our own country through coverage of flooding from Texas through Florida, and the many wildfires in the far West. Other nations are also hit hard by climate change, but we don’t usually hear about them from US-centric media.

Many other climate-related effects are potentially lethal, too. Changing weather patterns also spread disease as mosquitoes and ticks expand their habitat farther and farther north. Allergies are more common, severe and last longer than when I was young. Unpredictable weather patterns–too much or too little precipitation and heat waves–reduce crop yields across the world, leading to nutritional deficiencies and famines. As always, the greatest burden falls on the sick, the elderly and children.

I must say that I’m feeling pretty good about where I live right now. (OK, maybe a bit smug.) Major storm tracks that tear from the Rockies through the Great Plains miss us by hundreds of miles. We are far away from potential earthquakes and massive flooding. Summers are warmer for longer periods than when I was young; the gardener in me loves that I harvest tomatoes into October. However, northern Wisconsin gets caught in a cold dip in upper air currents coming down from Canada that keep us chillier than most of the country in winter, so it evens out.

We all know what needs to be done to keep our tiny blue marble in space hospitable so our grandchildren can thrive–reduce fossil fuel use and reuse/recycle everything we can, among others. That reuse/recycle thing can be problematic if your chronic illness involves something that has to be landfilled, though. Anyone have uses for my hubby’s discarded oxygen tubing? (Don’t get me started on how much plastic, one-use medical waste goes into landfills.)

Perhaps you are too sick or disabled to do much at all. Remember growing a bean, sprouting a sweet potato or growing an avocado in a plastic cup when you were in elementary school? You can do it again, no matter how sick you are. Send your caregiver (so what if you are your caregiver) to a big box store and buy a small indoor plant. Start a garden next spring, even if it is just one tiny tomato in a pot on your fire escape. Healing happens when connecting to nature, no matter how tiny your effort.