World Earth Day: Restore Our Earth.
International Mother Earth Day 2021.
Today is World Earth Day, also known as International Mother Earth day. A little over 50 years ago, over 20 million concerned Americans took to the streets, advocating for better protection of the environment. This gave birth to a global environment movement to restore the earth which is now celebrated every year. I can relate to this.
Gone with the wind?
It was a bright and sunny day. There was no hint of rain. Suddenly the wind began to howl like an enraged banshee. Standing up, I moved around the house swiftly, shutting windows and closing the doors. The unrelenting wind was followed by thick rain droplets that tore off huge branches from the trees in my yard before my very eyes. An electricity pole went down. There was chaos all around as objects were hurled back and forth. A few hours afterwards, the wind calmed down. We went out to inspect the damage. Some roofs had come off within the neighbouring vicinity. A number of walls came tumbling down. Thankfully no life was lost.
Trees are man’s friends.
On a positive note, however, someone pointed out that the trees in front of my residence had helped to avert destruction from the raging wind. Aptly referred to as “wind-breakers”, the beloved trees fought doggedly to prevent our roof from being blown off. My mind went down the memory lane to several years back when my Dad decided to plant trees in front of our cottage. This was after a similar windstorm had meted out even worse destruction on our place of abode. We lost most of the house roofing that day.
Love Our Earth…
The trees raised up from Mother earth played this meaningful role exactly a month ago. I love trees. I love green grass. I love nature. Nature is God’s gift to mankind. Considering the ‘help’ the trees rendered, we should plant more of them. But are we planting trees? Are we conserving nature?
This week, I listened to Desmond Majekodunmi, a renowned Nigerian environmentalist and conservationist say passionately, “Show your love for God by protecting the environment”. That caught my attention. Is there really any need to protect or conserve our environment? Are there any health benefits?
It goes without saying that our cities have been transformed into high tech, fast-moving industrial centres characterised by air pollution and pollution of our water sources. More cars lead to more fumes; more refineries lead to more chemicals. Trees are pulled down constantly and land reclaimed for refineries, factories and housing. Human activity has been demonstrated to fuel climate change and the environment crises from global warming.
Nature has thus suffered an enormous blow from changes in land-use, deforestation and in some regions of the world, illegal wildlife trade leading to extremes of weather, floods and forest-fires.
Here are some health statistics and facts from the World health Organisation:
- 25% of deaths globally are attributed to working in unhealthy environments.
- 12.6 million people are estimated to have died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment in 2012, the greatest burden existing in low- income and middle-income countries such as Nigeria.
- Environmental risk factors include chemical exposures, radiation, climate change and various forms of pollution.
- These environmental risk-factors contribute to over 100 diseases, called environmental-related diseases.
- Non-communicable diseases lead to 65% of environmental-related deaths and are primarily linked to air pollution.
- The top causes of environmental-related deaths include heart disease, stroke, cancers and respiratory infections.
- Children less than age five and older adults between 50-75 years bear the worst brunt of unhealthy environments.
- Man-made changes to nature “can increase contact and transmission of infectious (zoonotic) diseases from animals to humans”. COVID-19 is a prime example.
A few things can be done deliberately to encourage a healthier environment where we can breathe. These include the following actions:
- Conserve water. Avoid waste water. Finish the water in your water sachet.
- Buy less plastic.
- Avoid throwing things away. Reuse shopping bags. Recycle your trash or dispose it properly.
- Plant a tree or something green in your vicinity to help save energy and clean the air.
- Switch off your lights when not in use. Use long lasting bulbs. These actions reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Avoid toxic chemicals which can pollute our water waterways. Opt for nontoxic chemicals at work or home.
- Our government can assist in reducing traffic congestion by improving road networks leading to less air pollution.
- Drive less. Walk more. Bike more using a bicycle in a safe environment. This is both healthier for our bodies and as well for our environment.
- Educate yourself and others on safe environments (I am doing that right now).
- Volunteer to clean up your environment and even the beach. It is estimated that up to 1.4 billion pounds of trash ends up in the ocean annually.
In the words of United States Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption”. Yes, its up to us to ‘keep and till’ the land God has given us. In so doing, we will free ourselves from the onslaught of environmental-related diseases which are simply brought on by our unhealthy lifestyles. Let us restore our Earth and also our health.
Dr Ore Taiwo Makinde is a Consultant Family Physician and Board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician. She is passionate about encouraging everyone to make healthy lifestyle choices that promote longevity and an improved health-related quality of life.