The Environment and Our Health

CONTENT: This page includes information on climate change, the associated Australian drought and references to natural disasters such as bushfires. It also contains links to posts discussing mental health and suicide, entwined within explorations of environmental determinants of health.

Our health is governed by the environments we are exposed to, and in the present day our actions and those of the people elected to lead us, are placing these environments at threat. It's not difficult to equate that a healthy planet leads to environmentally healthy people, but when we're considering the implications of an unhealthy planet it gets a little more complicated. This is a major cause of anxiety and stress for many people, and I absolutely feel incredibly overwhelmed a lot of the time by the lack of action our governments are taking, and the environmental crimes large corporations are allowed to get away with lawfully. 

A clear way to explore the impact environmental changes have on populations is to consider the flow on effects of behaviours, actions, and phenomena. For example when a pollutant is added to a water source, such as a river, the outcomes are far spread, in that they alter or impair the ecological biodiversity and sustainability of the waters entire reach. This includes:

  • The ecological health of the water itself , the river floor and the river bank, including downstream, upstream​​ and at the rivers catchment

  • The fauna inhabiting the water, such as fish​

    • Does the contamination impact fish populations?​

      • What is the impact of plummeting fish populations on the biodiversity of the river? ​

  • The people and fauna drinking from the water source

    • The impact on the people living in the region who now live with a dangerous water source

      • Can they financially afford to chose to buy water, or do they utilise the polluted water out of necessity?

      • Does the consumption of polluted water cause acute or chronic/lifelong health impacts?

      • What impact does this have as it passes through the system?

      • Does the consumption of polluted water impact sanitisation systems?

    • Does the contamination impact fauna populations?

      • What is the impact of declined fauna populations on the biodiversity of the river region? ​

  • The people and fauna consuming flora and fauna grown within the region of the water source​

    • In a globalised world this may be widespread​​

      • Does this contamination impact commercial agriculture?​

        • If so, how does this impact economic stability and the associated economic determinants of health within the region?​​​​​

  • Is the river a tourist destination? 

    • ​If so, how does the contamination impact economic stability and the associated economic determinants of health within the region due to demise of the tourist based economy?​​​​​

This method of thinking can work in both directions, and assists us in determining what the outcomes of our actions can be more broadly, and also acknowledge where problems stem from. I also find that it makes the topic of environmentally destructive acts easier to understand, and subsequently research and discuss in an educated way. 

Climate Crisis

Climate change is more than a politicised term, it's a scientific concept that explains what is happening to our planet as it evolves. The video below by National Geographic explains it much better than I ever could, so if you're not informed or need a climate change refresher course please watch. 

Given it is our own home that is under threat from climate change, I think it goes without saying that the burden applied to our health as outcomes of human caused environmental destruction are as diverse and broad as our ecosystems are. Last year I shared a blog discussing the implications of the current Australian drought on regional farming communities, which you can find below. This post also explains the drought, and how it is different from those historically recorded, which is a common trait for many environmental phenomenon we are seeing - increased global land and air temperatures, increased sea temperatures and levels, changes to global seasons, unprecedented flood and fire seasons...the list goes on. So what can we do? 

How we can help

Consume only what you need - Start by evaluating what that might mean and how you might achieve it. For example, a new outfit for every occasion is unnecessary, however, if you like to mix it up try purchasing ethically through reputable brands, or by choosing second hand options or a clothing hire organisation. This will work to alleviate the burden applied to our planet and other humans alike through the consumption of fast fashion, which you can read more about here: 'How Fast Fashion is Destroying the Planet'

With regard to food, if you can't grow your own, shop at fresh food markets rather than major supermarket chains to work towards decreasing the footprint your sustenance has. By supporting the local economy you're decreasing the impact your food transportation has on the environment, using less packaging and plastic, and are also more likely to be eating fresh seasonal produce (which has the added benefit of providing you with the nutrition you need for the season your environment is in). 

One of the tricky ones is bathroom and cleaning products as these are mostly chemical based and packaged accordingly, but there's options!

  • You can make your own: 20 DIY Natural Cleaning Recipes, Tips and Hacks

    • Or you can use white vinegar, which I use on EVERYTHING. 

  • You can find a local re-fill service - a quick Google search will tell you if this is something locally available to you

  • Use recycled paper products, from Who Gives a Crap

  • Use re-usable sanitary products such as fabric pads or a menstrual cup 

In the bigger picture, we should all be writing to our local federal MP's about the fact Australia continues to mine for coal and actively deforests our national vegetation, whilst simultaneously obliterating policies put forward to overcome the environmental burden applied by such practices. Encourage them to listen to the traditional owners of the land, and respect the knowledge they hold in caring for it. Let them know you're mad about it. Let them know how it impacts you and your community. Remind them that their wealth is worthless when we can no longer sustainably live here. Our health, and our home, depends on positive action, and it's important to remember that within our democracy we have the right to voice our thoughts and fears. 

Stephanie Says acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we live - the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. We acknowledge their Elders past, present and emerging. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land. 

Note: Stephanie Sayss is not run by medical professionals. This platform is an educational tool only, and not intended to be used for medical advice. Always seek the assistance of a doctor - this platform is intended to be used a tool to assist you in doing so.

All references are cited on the page they are relevant to. 

©2019 by Stephanie Sayss.