Our individual health is directly impacted by our planetary health. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE

OUR PLANETARY HEALTH: The power of connection – we’re all in this together

Nadine Clark

Special to The Record

Earth Day, on April 22, approaches. Mother Earth, our rare and precious life-support system, is in great need. The past 200 years of human-driven forces have recklessly damaged this living system.

Since 1988, 71 per cent of global emissions are attributable to just over 100 companies. Our biosphere that nourishes all life is changing rapidly. If we choose ‘business as usual’ and do nothing, the prognosis is grim. This is our time to act, to rebalance planetary health and rebuild a legacy for our children. This year’s Earth Day theme is ‘Restore Our Earth.’

Our individual health is directly impacted by our planetary health. We can positively influence the power of this connection. At the local level, and across generations, each action makes a difference. It starts with education and intention to do what works. Attending to what makes a healthy life and community is the key. We must build our resilience to adapt and to mitigate the health impacts we will face in the coming decades of unprecedented ecological change.

We are all in this together, we can learn to adapt by listening to the lived experience and ingenuity of our elders.

We can engage the energy and drive of the youth in generating innovative solutions by supporting the initiatives of the newly formed Comox Youth Climate Council. Cumberland Community Forest Society is hosting an Earth Week Festival April 19-25 – offering online and real-world events to connect with the natural world, and inspire protection and restoration.

To do so, we need to help people in our community adapt. Humans have an innate resilience to survive. They work together in co-operation, as a co-creative force. This is doing what works. It requires commitment, flexibility, and resourcefulness. Indigenous community members of the K’omoks First Nation model this collective health behaviour. Their voices carry the Indigenous ways of knowing about the air, lands and waters of this traditional territory. They are the caretakers of the ‘land of plenty’ since time immemorial.

Undeniably, our health and that of Earth’s natural ecosystems are causally linked. The health benefits of a green economy will include better mental health and healthy child development, better physical activity levels, decreased heart, lung and infectious diseases, decreased injuries, and the development of communities that are co-operative, inclusive and more socially just. Among healthcare professionals, the Healthy Recovery Plan put forth by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) recommends investments and regulatory measures that protect human health by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Internationally, President Biden is holding a Climate Summit on Earth Day 2021 that will be attended by Prime Minister Trudeau. The climate urgency is palpable, the goal is to set more stringent targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by all major world emitters. We can hold governments responsible to legislate industries to act sustainably. We can thoughtfully realign our economics with planetary and individual health to build a future that is inclusive, prosperous, and resilient through diversity.

Right now, we need to course-correct for our planetary health, and fortunately, we already know what to do. Effective solutions to the climate crisis are well researched by Project Drawdown. Our individual actions form spheres of influence that lead to human flourishing. Their ripple effect can be seen at a community level, and eventually, extend to a global level.

Let us align our health with the right actions that will have the greatest impact on restoring our earth. Earth Day is an invitation to all humans to recommit with ardour to our planetary health through the power of connection. Will we heed the call?

Nadine Clarke R.N. is a member of the Comox Valley Nurses for Health & the Environment www.cvhe.org​

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