Imagine if scientists came up with an inexpensive, easily administered way to decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity by 25 to 35 percent. It would create a sensation and, if patented, would be worth billions. But there's already a free and simple way to achieve this: exercise.
The human body evolved over millions of years, long before cars, escalators, laptops and remote controls. It's built to expend effort. Gas-powered vehicles enabled us to move over long distances or get somewhere quickly, but they're bad medicine when they're used to go two or three blocks. Our lives are easier but not necessarily healthier. It's time we put more thought into keeping our bodies active and well, minimizing sickness.
Fitness increases your chances of staying well, but it's not a guarantee. We still have much to learn about the ways in which genetics and environmental conditions affect health. After the first human genome survey was completed in 2003, we thought DNA sequences would reveal the secrets of disease and speed development of treatments. But despite trillions of dollars spent on research, many cancers are still unsolved and we've learned that only a few diseases—such as cystic fibrosis, Huntington's chorea and sickle cell anemia—are the result of only one gene.
Most conditions result from the interplay of heredity and environment. And because many genes each add a small bit to defects like cancer, heart disease and dementia, magic bullet cures are elusive. Meanwhile, health care costs show little sign of stabilizing and increasing obesity and an aging population will drive them higher.
Health is about risk management. We can't choose our parents, so there's little we can do about the hereditary component of disease unless you subscribe to the promise of technological engineering like gene splicing and editing. But we can influence external factors, like diet, exercise, habits and environment.
Consider air, water and food.
We need air every minute of our lives to ignite the fuel in our body to give us energy. We suck two to three liters deep into the warm, moist recesses of our lungs. Our alveoli are smeared with surfactants that reduce surface tension and enable air to stick so oxygen and whatever else is in that breath can enter our bloodstream. Carbon dioxide leaves our body when we exhale. Lungs filter whatever's in the air. Deprived of air for three minutes, we die. Forced to live in polluted air, we sicken.
We are 60 to 70 percent water by weight. Every cell in our body is inflated by water. Water allows metabolic reactions to occur and enables molecules to move within and between cells and, when we drink it, we also take in whatever's in it, from molecules like DDT and PCBs to viruses, bacteria and parasites.
All the cells and structures of our body are molecules assembled from the debris of plants and animals we consume. If we spray or inject food plants and animals with toxic chemicals and then consume them, we incorporate those chemicals into our very being, sometimes passing them on to our offspring before they're even born.
We put effort and money into searching for disease causes. But screening toxic effects of thousands of new molecules every year is painstaking and expensive, so most are never tested. Often, mirroring genetic effects, different molecules, each harmless on its own, may collectively create a problem. Research is beginning to show that even diseases with genetic components, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, can be triggered by pesticide exposure. When we consider the vast array of chemicals spewed into air, water and soil, predicting those that may interact with each other and our genetic makeup to create health problems is difficult if not impossible.
Our health is tied to air, water and food from the soil. That means we should keep them clean and stop dumping toxic wastes into them. Our health is also improved by exercise, which should be part of the way we live. Outdoor exercise is especially good. As the David Suzuki Foundation's 30x30 May Nature Challenge demonstrates, connecting with nature is beneficial for physical and mental health. Caring for ourselves and the biosphere would pay many times over in improved health and happiness.
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By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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