In many ways, the effects that the environment has on human health seem a little obvious. Still, there is a variety of different ways to think about their relationship that all underscore its importance. Here are some of those ways.
Biodiversity helps support resilience and nutrition.
A lack of biodiversity results in the loss of agricultural sustainability which threatens human security. According to the Cohab Initiative, “biodiversity is the foundation for human health.” Securing biodiversity means securing the goods and resources needed to sustain us.
Having genetic diversity is having resilience. This is particularly true among food crops. Research shows that a heterogenous farm is more likely to withstand disease, infestation, or famine as opposed to one that is homogenous.
The importance of genetic diversity expands even further into the lives of birds, insects, and animals. A healthy balance among members of a food chain reduces the risk of population imbalance. Which is good because it results in a decrease of food crops being eaten. Ultimately, helping farmers grow the optimal amount to support nutritional needs.
Lastly, a diverse gene pool lessens the likelihood of both hereditary and infectious diseases spreading. Biodiversity is a proactive tool for developing treatments and advancing medical knowledge. A wide array of diverse species provides more insight into the potential of medical developments and helps researchers pursue better medical options.
One’s proximity to nature can help boost their physical health.
There is all kinds of anecdotal evidence about how being out in nature feels good. You may have even experienced a sense of physical refreshment yourself.
But the evidence goes further than just anecdotal. Interacting with nature strengthens our physical and mental wellness. Research suggest that contact with soil correlates with a reduction in depressive symptoms and mood disorders.
The time spent outdoors and one’s proximity to nature has a well documented biological, psychological, and spiritual effect. In fact, shorter hospitalization periods, better health outcomes, and reduced anti-social behaviors are all linked with access to green space.
Sometimes the best evidence is its opposite. Perhaps you’ve experienced extra amounts of stress during weeks that have kept you in the office or indoors an exaggerated amount of time? Or maybe, instead of sun exposure you spend your days in artificial lighting, resulting in a lower sleep quality? Each are example's known to occur when individuals do not spend enough time outside.
There are broader social examples of this as well. Kids growing up in a dense, urban environment with limited access to parks, nature, and green space perform worse at school. In addition, poorer respiratory health and obesity is often linked to areas that are polluted and within food deserts. Children and adults with access to green space leads to an increase in their social wellness.
Food is one common link between health and the environment.
A persons diet is one of the few things that directly impacts a person’s health. Just like there are few things that affect the quality of food as the environmental conditions it grew does.
The use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers is linked to worse health outcomes globally. In rural Africa, many village mothers complain of how their children get sick after consuming chemically treated produce. In other countries like the United States, they demonstrate their opposition to chemically induced products by demanding organic products. When we introduce chemicals to the crops, me minimize their benefit.
There is a correlation between the condition of the environment and the quantity of food. In order to grow sufficient food, healthy soil, adequate rainfall, and a cover of trees are necessary. Crops grown in conditions that are detrimental to their health are detrimental to our health.
Therefore, we must make the small changes in our lives. Better environmental conditions increase the quality and quantity of food that rural farmers are able to grow.
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