According to a recent study, climate change is responsible for approximately one-third of heat-related deaths between 1991 and 2018. 1 billion people could be living in areas where physical labour is harmful, even in the shade, by the second part of this century. In some areas, wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, exposing big populations to harmful smoke.
As we walk through clouds of smoke, coughing and struggling to breathe fresh air, trying to make sense of the uneasiness and discomfort, we seem to forget that this is our doing. The majority of today’s health issues are a result of deteriorating environmental conditions and climate change.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that the world must restrict temperature rise to 1.5C to avoid catastrophic health effects and prevent millions of climate change-related deaths. The climate catastrophe has the potential to reverse fifty years of gains in development, global health, and poverty reduction, as well as to exacerbate current health disparities between and within people.
Climate change is responsible for deaths and illnesses caused by extreme weather events such as heatwaves, storms, and floods, as well as food system disruptions, a rise in food-, water-, and vector-borne diseases, and mental health difficulties. In fact, many of the social factors that determine human health, such as livelihoods, equality, and access to health care, as well as social support structures, are being weakened by climate change. Women, children, tribal communities, poor communities, migrants, elderly populations, and those with underlying health issues are among those who are severely affected by climate-related health concerns.
The climate crisis has burnt a hole in our pocket too; around 12% of the world’s population spends at least 10% of their household budget on health care. We may be oblivious to the harm caused by pollution, deforestation, and other anthropogenic activities, but if we take a moment to reflect on our lives, we may be able to see how it affects every aspect of our existence.
We’ve turned a blind eye to what’s crumbling behind us due to heated competition and the drive to outdo one thing with another. In the midst of all of this progress, we appear to have forgotten that a healthy environment is essential for healthy communities, that the state of our environment has a direct impact on our moods, mental health, and physical well-being, and that our progress and development will be short-lived if the environment around us is in desperate need of support.
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Years of destruction to our environment and natural wonders have resulted in the current climate disaster and global warming. Needless to say, repairing and recovering from the years of harm will take years. We must alter our lifestyles, reflect on our behaviours, and commit to a life that thrives on man-environment cohabitation.
We began planting trees in 2010 with the sole intention of beating the menaces of climate change. Because of the increased green cover, we have witnessed an improvement in the health and well-being of local populations. With this in mind, and considering the number of people who visit hospitals on a daily basis, we were eager to introduce the ‘Trees for Wellness’ project. These trees were planted on the AIIMS Deogarh hospital campus in Jharkhand for the many patients and visitors who come here in the hope of bettering their health.
Trees and greener settings have been related to less negative thoughts, depressive symptoms, improved emotions, and enhanced life satisfaction. For years now, we have been living a life focused on progress and advancement, a life centred on health care costs, a life concentrated on neglecting our natural environment. Its time for us to take action for our planet; we can be the forerunners of a better world if we recognise that our actions can have a domino effect. We’ve seen how a single insensitive action can set off a cascade of negative consequences in the environment. Now, let’s see how conscious and eco-friendly actions can begin to improve the world around us.
Supriya Patil is Head of Partnerships and Projects at Grow-trees.com. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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