You might have heard about the Earth’s tipping points or “boundaries” in our planet’s natural systems. A team of 28 internationally renowned scientists identified how breaches to these boundaries are leading to irreversible changes, threatening the quality and sustainability of the resources we depend upon for food, water, and the life-sustaining air we breathe.
To date, four of the nine planetary boundaries have been crossed: climate change, biodiversity, land-system change, and the global nitrogen cycle (the other five are ozone depletion, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, freshwater consumption threshold, and atmospheric aerosol loading). The evidence for these breaches is seen in changes taking place in the air, land, and water systems:
- changes to, and loss of, animal and plant biodiversity and extinction
- soil, air and water pollution creating undrinkable water in populated areas
- polar ice cap melting, creating changes in land-masses, sea level and air temperature, resulting in a trickle-down effect on how we farm, pest insurgency, food availability and sustainability
- failure to meet food and energy needs due to inadequate or ineffective development of water and land resources
How do these changes affect human health?
- increases in food and waterborne disease
- increases in disease carried by wildlife
- movement of wildlife, bringing disease into populated areas
- widespread food insecurity and increased cases of malnutrition
- rising rates of cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness, and diabetes
- shifts in weather patterns, leading to natural disasters
Every day, we have opportunities to make Earth-friendly choices. Here are some ideas:
Go Green When You Clean. Choose eco-friendly cleaning agents. From dish detergent to laundry detergent and the soap you use to wash your car, many brands offer “green” alternatives to their standard cleaning products. Consider learning how to make your own eco-friendly products.
Use Renewable Energy. Solar power, water power – if you live in an area where these are available, there’s likely a tax benefit to installing sources of renewable energy.
Shorten Your Shower. Take showers instead of baths to prevent water waste. Set a timer for a shorter shower.
Weatherize Your Home. Be sure your home has proper insulation. Check for leaks around doors and windows, which will drive up energy use and costs. See if your power provider offers a household “energy audit.”
Grow Your Own Food. Growing food helps save money, reduces the environmental cost of factory farming, and gives the whole family an “agri-education.” No yard? Container gardens are great for herbs, berries, some varieties of tomato and pepper. Many urban communities offer a community garden plot for lease and the cost is often less than what you would pay for produce for a season or two.
Eat Organic, Seasonally & Locally. When you can, choose organic and in-season foods from local farms (Community Supported Agriculture-CSA) to support your local economy.
Go Meatless on Mondays. Just one day a week, decrease meat consumption by using a plant-based recipe.
Reduce your Food-print. When grocery shopping, opt for products with the least packaging. This may mean buying off-brand. Also, buy products that come in reusable glass jars. Bring your own reusable bags or containers to the store, including for use at the bulk food bins. Reuse leftover food in next-day meals.
A simple Google search on easy ways to reduce your impact on global warming will introduce you to dozens of ideas and resources. Also, check with your local energy companies for resources and programs they offer. Healing the planet, and sustaining our resources is a global effort that starts in our own homes and communities. Together, we can do more.
- CDC.gov “Climate Effects on Health.” https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/default.htm
- StockholmResilience.org. “The Nine Planetary Boundaries.” https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries/planetary-boundaries/about-the-research/the-nine-planetary-boundaries.html
- “Four of The Nine Planetary Boundaries Now Crossed.” Stockholm University: Sustainability Science for Biosphere Stewardship. Accessed on 14 June 2020. https://www.su.se/english/about/news-and-events/press/press-releases/four-of-nine-planetary-boundaries-now-crossed-1.218003
- Bridgewater, Peter, ReÌgnier, M. & Wang, Z. Healthy Planet, Healthy People A Guide To Human Health And Biodiversity (2012). Secretariat Of The Convention On Biological Diversity, Montreal.
- Berger, John J. Climate Peril: The Intelligent Reader’s Guide to Understanding the Climate Crisis (2014) Northbrae Books.
- Rider, K. “Wake-up Eco Zombie.” Om Times magazine, online. https://omtimes.com/2013/01/wake-up-ecozombie