Celebrating Earth Day Is Not Enough
Each year communities around the globe have found time to recognize Earth Day and so it was the case last month too. I received many reminders of the upcoming festivities, parades, and local clean-ups in honor of Earth Day 2022. We even had a lofty theme – “Invest In Our Planet,” but somehow the celebrations rang hollow to me this year. Earth continues to endure our brutalizing activities. No human or nation is pared from global warming, polluted air and water, urban sprawl, and climate change to name just a few environmental threats. It seems we have little to celebrate and lots to mourn.
If we do not care about the health of earth, do we care about human health? Climate change does more than melt glaciers and warm oceans – it causes more heat associated illness, increases exposure to pollutants and allergens, and even shifts the population of disease carrying insects and disrupts vector ecology. And while worsening health care outcomes are obviously connected to a deteriorating planet, they are further exacerbated by who you are and where you live. Ironically, it is the socioeconomically disadvantaged who contribute the least to climate change, yet they feel its effects the earliest and the most. People of color tend to experience the greatest proportion of environmental contaminants and inherit the worst health problems associated with this exposure. The latter is further compounded by poor access to health care. Thus, zip code can play just as vital a role in your health, as does the ozone layer.
So, to address the many intertwined facets of environment and how they each contribute to human health HEAL crafted our mission and vision and set out to educate especially our students on environmental health and involve them in projects that can produce healthier environments locally and globally. And, as I celebrated Earth Day this year, I felt I needed to do a bit more. I hope to raise awareness on topics related to environmental health, both positive and negative, through this blog. Because we cannot change something we know nothing about, and we most certainly cannot do it alone.