One of the first things you realize about Borneo is how difficult it can be to land a plane. On my first trip there, our plane circled the provincial capital of Palangkaraya for a half hour before a window in the smoke opened long enough to land.Nature has taken it’s toll.
Borneo is burning — and the consequences in nature are widespread.
Every year more than 2 million acres [almost 810,000 hectares] of Indonesian rainforest are destroyed. Between 2000 and 2010, nearly a quarter of Borneo’s diverse peat forests and their rich soils were drained, burned and cleared.
Before this trip, I’d known of the plight of orangutans, thousands of which have died as their forest habitat disappears. I also knew about the outsized role that clearing of these forests plays in driving climate change. I was less prepared for the impact that damage to these ecosystems has on human health.
For me, the burning forests were a nuisance to my visit. For the locals, they were a matter of life and death.
Though it’s hard to track the number of deaths from these fires and their long-term impacts, airborne particulates from previous fires here were associated with a 5- to 25-fold increase in cases of pneumonia alone, a disease consistently one of the biggest causes of death of both the elderly and young children in the region.
Burning forests are not the only health threats to the island’s people. Borneo’s rivers are plied by barges scouring river sediments for gold. The process they use releases tons of mercury into the rivers where families catch fish and practice aquaculture. Mercury contamination damages riparian ecosystems and results in smaller, more toxic catches for thousands who depend on rivers for their food security and livelihoods. Parts of the Kahayan River harbor more than twice the legally allowable level of mercury.
I left Borneo with a heavy feeling in my gut. In other places there’s warfare, or HIV, or other headline-grabbing atrocities that capture our attention. Yet the sad truth is that a shocking amount of human suffering comes from far less sensational things, such as the silent scourge of environmental degradation and ecosystem loss, which destroy opportunities for healthy and productive lives.
In Borneo, it is the slow burn of peat forests and steady contamination of mercury that quietly, but gravely, threaten the communities living there.
The idea that the natural environment is important to human health isn’t new. It was foremost in Hippocrates’ mind (yes, that Hippocrates) more than 2,000 years ago. But compared to our reactions to other important factors for human health — consider the many public health practices we’ve implemented over the centuries as we’ve learned how disease spread — societies have done very little in the way of sensibly managing ecosystems to protect our health.
One reason we may have neglected our natural lifelines for so long is that we didn’t know just how closely human health is connected to our environment. But that’s rapidly changing thanks to recent scientific advances.
PROTECT AN ACRE
When we burn trees, we destroy Earth’s air filters, water towers and medicine cabinets. Your donation helps protect and restore vital forests.
I recently worked with a team of scientists and public health researchers on a study of the links between ecosystems and human health. The evidence we know of, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, connects ecological health to a surprising range of human health dimensions:
Nutrition. Nutritional deficiencies account for many of the leading causes of death and disability globally, especially for children. With insects, birds and bats pollinating about 1 in 3 food crops worldwide, nature role in pollination alone is essential for a big portion of nutrients and calories in the human diet. Meanwhile, fisheries and wild animal populations are key sources of nutrients for billions of people. Without wild game, children in Madagascar would experience a minimum 30% higher risk of anemia — increasing their risk for sickness and death in many ways. The global decline of wildlife poses a nutritional crisis for many, with the worst impacts felt by those unable to replace wild food sources with domesticated species or fortified foods.
Disasters. Healthy mangroves and other coastal barriers defend communities against coastal storms. Researchers estimated one cyclone in Orissa, India would have killed 3 times as many residents had mangroves not buffered their villages. Global loss of mangroves, reefs, wetlands and dunes places in harm’s way millions who live near the world’s coasts.
Evidence is mounting that the ecosystems in our nature we’re destroying are important for a range of vital human health needs. But countries, communities and families don’t have equal ability to deal with these impacts.
In a wealthy country, low fish catch might result in an altered menu or a shopping inconvenience. In another country it could be a matter of life and death. Indeed it is often the world’s poor — those with few alternative food sources, with less public infrastructure, with limited health care and insurance — who feel the most immediate brunt of environmental losses.
But is money a panacea? In 2013, Singapore, a nation with one of the world’s most productive economies and most admired healthcare systems, found itself choked by smoke from burning forests in neighboring Indonesia. The nation’s otherwise moderate air quality reached “hazardous” levels for the first time ever, and residents flocked to hospitals with cardiopulmonary illnesses.
In the United States, the potentially debilitating Lyme disease afflicts thousands annually, while West Nile virus killed nearly 300 Americans in 2012. For both diseases, researchers have found higher risk of infection in places where diversity of native animal species has been reduced. Mounting evidence supports the theory that a higher number of species can “dilute” the harmful impact of those few species most effective at transmitting disease.
I write these words from a hospital in Austin, Texas. My father experienced a life-threatening infection earlier in the week, by a form of bacteria resistant to nearly all forms of treatment. Thankfully his condition is now improving. As I watch him getting back to cracking jokes and talking about his grandchildren, I notice the antibiotic in Dad’s IV: vancomycin. I remember that it is one of the world’s precious few “antibiotics of last resort.” And I think of its humble origins: a handful of rich soil from the remote forests of Borneo.
Earth’s biodiversity is, in fact, a remarkable storehouse of compounds and innovations that has provided more than half of all commercial medicines, and may harbor undiscovered cures for cancer, malaria or the next emerging infectious disease.
As we destroy the nature, Earth’s forests, reefs, wetlands and other ecosystems, we light a fire to our storm barriers, our air filters, our water towers and our medicine cabinets, all at the same time. But we can turn this around: Stewarding nature would unleash a powerful, vital force in sustaining human life.
The notion that nature is dying and suffering can be prevented has been a driving force in medicine and has completely transformed human existence. We’re rapidly learning about the health consequences of ecosystem loss, and the countless life-saving benefits that natural ecosystems give us. How much longer should we wait to use that knowledge to save and improve human lives?
Will Turner is chief scientist at CI. Follow him on Twitter at @WillRTurner.
Changing The World With Kindness, Justice, and Peace.
Can we change the world with kindness, justice, and peace? Is it possible? How can these three words help in changing the world? Try to think about it, actually, these three words were connected to each other. If one of them being practice, automatically the other two will get along too. Peace, what do you know about peace? To translate it with word, peace means a situation or a period of time in which there is no war or violence. How can we achieve peace? Rationally we can achieve peace by having a sense of responsibility and appreciation. Each of us has that responsibility to be concern of and we must take that responsibility, as for an easy example that I can take is, by keeping the city clean.
Nowadays on the television, the issues of garbage problem is becoming serious, why do you think it happens? Because we lack a sense of responsibility, the same as the sense of appreciation we can take the same example. If people have that sense of appreciation they would make sure that they’re not condemning the clean and beautiful city because they appreciate what they have and will make sure that it were taking care of. Just imagine if everybody has that sense of responsibility and appreciation problem can be avoided and every activities will run smoothly, and when everything runs smoothly it will bring peace to everybody, don’t you think so? How about justice? As we know justice means fair treatment. Being just is a good value of a character because it can prevent hatred and revenge. Justice also brings the people together because it creates a good relationship between the people, it can prevent unsatisfactory which can create revenge among people. It will improve the security of a country and keep the citizen happy.
The hardest part that usually hard to do by certain people is kindness. There once a story of kindness which happened to a doctor during he was still a little boy when one kind lady gave him a glass of milk at a time that he was so hungry and the lady feed him without asking for any payment, and that day was remembered until he became a successful doctor. Until one day he met that lady again, and she was sick, so he repaid her by giving her a treatment for her illness and paid all the charge of the treatment. From this story, we can see how kindness can really affect someone deeply. Because deep down we know this one thing: What matters in this life is more than thinking for ourselves. What matters in this life is helping others lived, even if it means giving something of what you have. Pure kindness can actually motivate a person, that’s why they’re always a saying which said. “Don’t do evil to the evildoer” because it only brings more problems but if we brought kindness to them, they might change! Even kindness is something that difficult to do but actually it always came back to us. Changing The World With Kindness.
Kindness is a quality of being kind and it will throw away the selfishness in our selves, at the same time justice and peace will come along, why? Because a kind person will always love justice and also peace, now we can see that kindness was the most valuable value that we must have in our self in order to experience justice and peace. But how all these three values help in changing the world? It’s easy! Kindness brings justice and peace and what else that better than that? When everybody has a kind heart, treat others fairly and have a sense of responsibility and appreciation what else that more precious than that?. If all these are practice, I believe, problems can be easily solved and there will be no reason to be a war in this world, isn’t that looks like changing the world? There are saying that good to always be reminded of which said, “We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience”. So why not start to change in order to experience more good value in our life and at the same time might help to change the world?
Once upon a time, there was a bird in a cage who sang for her merchant owner. He took delight in her song day and night and was so fond of her that he served her water in a golden dish. Before he left for a business trip, he asked the bird if she had a wish: “I will go through the forest where you were born, past the birds of your old neighborhood. What message should I take for them?” The bird said, “Tell them I sit full of sorrow in a cage singing my captive song. Day and night, my heart is full of grief. I hope it will not be long before I see my friends again and fly freely through the trees. Bring me a message from the lovely forest, that will set my heart at ease. Oh, I yearn for my Beloved, to fly with Him, and spread my wings. Until then there is no joy for me, and I am cut off from all of life’s sweet things.” The merchant traveled on his donkey through the dense forest. He listened to the melodies of many birds. When the merchant reached the forest where his bird came from, he stopped, pushed his hood back, and said, “O you birds! Greetings to you all from my pretty bird locked in her cage. She sends tidings of her love to you and wants to tell of her plight. She asks for a reply that will ease her heart.
My love for her keeps her captive with bars all around her. She wants to join her beloved and sing her songs through the air with a free heart, but I would miss her beautiful songs and cannot let her go.”All the birds listened to the merchant’s words. Suddenly one bird shrieked and fell from a tree branch to the ground. The merchant froze to the spot where he stood. Nothing could astound him more than this did. One bird had fallen down dead! The merchant continued on to the city and traded his goods. At last, he returned to his home. He did not know what to tell his bird when she asked what message he had brought. He stood before her cage and said, “Oh, nothing to speak of no, no,”
The bird cried, “I must know at once.” I do not know what happened,” said the merchant. “I told them your message. Then, one of them fell down dead.” Suddenly the merchant’s bird let out a terrible shriek and fell on her head to the bottom of the cage. The merchant was horrified. He wept in despair, “Oh, what have I done?” He cried, “What Have I done? Now my life means nothing. My moon has gone and so has my sun. Now my own bird is dead.” Merchant opened the cage door, reached in, and took her into his hands gently and carefully. “I will have to bury her now,” he said; “poor thing is dead.” Suddenly, the moment he had lifted the bird out of the cage, she swooped up, flew out of the window and landed on the nearest roof slope. She turned to him and said, gratefully, “Thank you, merchant master, for delivering my message. That bird’s reply instructed me how to win my freedom. All I had to do was to be dead. I gained my freedom when I chose to die.”So now I fly to my beloved who waits for me. Good-bye, good-bye, my master no longer.” “My bird was wise; she taught me the secret,” the merchant reflected.
Moral:If you want to be with the ones you love, you must be ready to give up everything, even life itself. And then, you will win your heart’s desire.
The Caged Bird’s Escape is an empowering story of dying to live. Be Thankful To God is another motivational story.
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Next autumn, when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying in a “V” formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. If we have the sense of a goose, we will stay in formation with those people who are heading the same way we are. When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing, and another goose flies point.
It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs, whether with people or with geese flying south. Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. What message do we give when we honk from behind? Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot, and falls out of the formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies; and only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their own group.
We actually can learn something by just learning the habitat surrounding us, but we are usually too busy to notice all that.
The Sense of A Goose is an inspiring story. Another uplifting story is The Cracked Pot.
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Students are constantly learning how they can make a difference in the world to help the environment.
There are classes and clubs focused on various social issues, and these places teach students how they can change these issues. One popular cause that has been popular in recent years is the helping the environment and preserving our resources.
There are several ways that you – yes, YOU– can help the environment and this planet we call Earth.
What you do makes a difference! Need proof? Calculate your environmental footprint to see how much impact just one person has one the world’s resources, and adjust accordingly.
Plastic grocery-type bags that get thrown out end up in landfills or in other parts of the environment. These can suffocate animals who get stuck in them or may mistake them for food. Also, it takes a while for the bags to decompose.
Whether you are shopping for food, clothes or books, use a reusable bag. This cuts down on litter and prevents animals from getting a hold of them. There are even some stores (such as Target) that offer discounts for using reusable bags!
These bags are useful for things other than shopping as well. I have heard of people using reusable bags when they move!
If you forget your bags at home, buy a new one. Better yet, keep a couple bags in your car so you never leave home without them (just make sure you remember you put them there)!
If you are in a position where you need to use the plastic bags, reuse them the next time you go shopping, or use them for something else. Just do not be so quick to throw them out!
There are some states that are outlawing or charging extra for using plastic bags. Using reusable bags helps the environment AND your budget!
2. Print as Little as Necessary
We have all had that teacher that wanted us to have a copy of every single reading when we come to class, or that professor who wanted a hard copy of the ten-page paper that is due next week. These are fine but it seems as if they do not understand that using so much paper is detrimental to the environment.
What can you do? Ask your teacher if you can bring a laptop or an e-reader to class so that you can download the reading onto that and read it from there. If not, print on both sides of the page to reduce the amount of paper used.
If you need to turn in a long paper, ask the professor if it is okay to print on both sides of the page and explain why you’re asking. Most teachers care about the environment as well and would be willing to allow you to do so.
Recycling is such a simple thing to do, but so many people don’t do it. Many garbage disposal companies offer recycling services, so check with the company you use to see if they can help you get started! It is as simple as getting a bin and putting it out with your trash cans for free! In this way you can already help the environment.
Also, check with your RA to see if recycling options are offered in your dorm.
Another way to recycle is to look for recycling cans near trashcans. Instead of throwing recyclables in the trash with your non-recyclables, make a point to take an extra step to locate recycling cans around your campus.
4. Use a Reusable Beverage Containers
Instead of buying individually-packaged drinks, consider buying a bulk container of the beverage you want and buying a reusable water bottle. Not only will this help the environment, but it will also help you save money since you are buying a bulk container.
Many campuses offer water fountains designed for drinking as well as for refilling reusable water bottles. Make use of these fountains throughout the day when you finish off the initial beverage. Why not help the environment?
Along these lines, many restaurants offer reusable containers for drinks. If you go to a certain place a lot, consider buying one of these containers to help minimize waste.
A lot of coffee shops even offer a discount to customers who use a reusable container for their drinks. Starbucks, as an example, offers a small discount for customers who do this. Saving the environment and money? Win-win.
5. Don’t Throw Your Notes Away
At the end of the semester, students are often stuck with notes they don’t need anymore, especially from GenEd classes that had little, if anything, to do with their major.
The good news is that teachers that teach GenEd classes have to keep their material consistent with guidelines from the college/university. This means that students next semester will be learning basically the same material you learned from a class.
If you took great notes, ask your teacher to connect you with students in a future class so that you can give them your notes. These notes will help students by being able to read what they are learning in the words of another student. It is beneficial to read things that are worded differently than what the teacher said. You may need to find a student on your own, depending on the teacher’s load for the semester.
It will feel great to help others taking the same class! You can list your notes on online college boards. While some may be willing to buy the notes at a price, it will feel just as good giving them your notes for free since you are helping them out!
Also, other student organizations may appreciate notes. At the community college I attended, the Veteran’s Club had a separate building for resources. They had an area for textbooks used by students, and they could check the books out for a semester, and many people would bundle notes in with the books. Ask around to see if any organization has something like this.
If you can’t find anyone to give the notes to, at the very least, recycle the paper you used.
6. Save Electricity!
Use energy-efficient light bulbs instead of regular bulbs. They last longer, which will save you a bit of money (every little bit helps on a college budget, right?).
Make you turn off lights, the TV, and other appliances when you are not using them.
Lower your air conditioning or heat when it’s not necessary. This is especially true for between seasons. Open your windows in the early fall or layering your clothes in the early fall. In this way you can help the environment.
7. Save Water
Water is wasted more frequently than we can see. Turn off the faucet as you are brushing your teeth. Don’t turn your shower on until you’re ready to get in and wash your hair. Limit your water usage as you wash dishes. Changing old habits will be good for to help the environment and your wallet!
8. Avoid Taking Cars or Carpool When Possible
Cars are harmful to the environment. Taking public transportation, walking, or riding a bike to class are better options that help the environment and your budget, as well as getting some exercise in!
If you do need to use your car, compare schedules and places of residency with those in your classes. You can split the cost of gas and have alternating schedules for who drives when. This is cheaper than everyone driving separately and you’ll be closer with friends!
I live in the US right now, and recent events led me to believe that I live in a bubble. No, not the bubble that had anything to do with the election (because frankly, I am sick and tired of talking about that). The environmental bubble.
I live in a subset of the population who composts even though we live in a city where it is far from convenient to do so. I have lists of CSAs in my area and my friends swap reviews on how diverse they are (read: how much kale we will have to eat if we sign up).
The other day, when a yoga student asked me, “Is eating meat bad for the environment?” I realized that the bubble was real.
By no means am I suggesting that I am the next superhero of the environment (although that would make for an excellent Halloween costume). However, I like to believe that many of us, when equipped with information, will do the right thing. Here are the top 9 things you can do to save the planet, with or without a green cape:
1. Stop eating meat (or at least reduce it).
The Environmental Working Group found that red meat is responsible for 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse emissions as common vegetables and grains. If the grain fed to livestock were fed to people, we could feed 800 million people! Reduce your footprint and go meatless.
2. Stop eating dairy.
This has some of the same bleak statistics as mentioned in point one, as well as the fact that it takes a lot of feed to keep a dairy cow alive. 66% of all crop calories goes to cows, and cow farts account for 28% of all methane emissions related to human activity. Yes, I just wrote cow farts.
3. Change your car driving habits.
We don’t all have the luxury of walking everywhere, but vehicles are the biggest compromise to our air. Those tailpipes are at street level, where we can inhale the polluted air directly. Consider a world where you carpool, Uber, walk, or take public transit more often.
4. Notice how you use water.
We have a lot of water in Canada, but we also use a lot of water, and 65% of what we use is in the bathroom. Have shorter showers. Don’t leave the tap running when you’re brushing your teeth. Buy an energy efficient showerhead. It all helps.
5. Reduce the amount of paper in your life.
Do you know that 40% of the world’s commercially cut timber is used for paper? This endangers natural habitats and uses a ton of water. Since it has become inexpensive to print, we do it without thinking. And lest you think you are paperless, think about your bank statements, the paper towels you use to clean the countertops, the junk mail you haven’t opted out of and the way you wrap your Christmas presents. There are many areas where each of us can help to lessen paper production.
6. Use a refillable water bottle and reusable lunch containers.
Bottled water and throw away packaging is wasteful. Landfills are overfilling with water bottles alone. It is also estimated that 3 litres of water is used to package 1 litre of bottled water. It is time to splurge on bottles and BPA lunch packages that will last. Failing that, a mason jar never hurt anyone, except perhaps your desire to not be seen as a hipster.
7. Be mindful of what you throw in the trash.
From kitchen scraps that can be used to make stocks to items that can be recycled, our trash should be less full the more aware we get. Channel your inner grandmother and see how many times things can be reused or re-purposed rather than simply thrown away.
8. Bag it yourself.
Before venturing out on your next shopping trip, make sure you’ve some reusable shopping bags with you. Plastic bags are a huge threat to marine life, and they’re an inconvenience to the environment. Reusable bags are the way to go!
9. Borrow or fix rather than buy.
Buying throwaway fashion is detrimental for the environment – 1 kg of fabric generates 23 kg of greenhouse gases! Start thinking about keeping what you own and become more discerning. Darn your socks and sew on new buttons. Borrow clothes if you find you are in between sizes.
There is a direct link between our consumption choices and the environmental challenges facing us – with consumerism accounting for 60% of greenhouse gas emissions.
While some of us fortunate enough to choose the source of our coffee beans and attend farmers markets have started to make the connection between consumerism and the present environmental crisis, there is a still a need for more information about how our daily behavior affects the vitality of the environment.
Over the past two decades, green consumerism has emerged as a new form of consumption, offering a way for consumers to incorporate our political and social values into our patterns of consumption. It also opens up a space for collaboration where individuals, companies and local and federal governments can work together to improve the environment for everyone.
Consumption as Civic Duty
For centuries, consumerism has been a topic of conversation. In Ancient Greece, Plato condemned consumption as a threat to the human soul. In many European states during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, consumption was considered a waste of money that could have been used towards local resources. And in his 1759 book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith wrote that humans consistently garner more items in their life because the accumulation of such objects allows for life to be “grand and beautiful and noble.”
More recently, with a recession looming in 2007, President Bush told reporters at a news conference, “. . . I encourage you all to go shopping more.”
Our New Civic Duty to Be Green
The linking of consumption to civic duty echoed by President Bush is undergoing a transformation from more is better to the idea that consumers can use their specific contributions to the economy to shape the economic and political landscape. The “citizen-consumer” can support their values and the issues they care about by purchasing goods that reflect those same beliefs.Rising concern regarding environmental destruction led to an expansion of the “citizen-consumer” and a steady increase in demand for eco-friendly products. According to a Nielsen survey from 2015, 66% of global consumers from 60 countries are willing to pay more for goods that have a positive social and environmental impact—up from 55% in 2014.
What Impact Earth Law Would Have
Earth continues to degrade despite decades of environmental law so the laws need to evolve. Earth Law provides an innovative solution: an ethical framework that recognizes nature’s right to exist, thrive and evolve – enabling nature to defend these rights in court, just like corporations can. Earth law protects nature the way corporate law protects business.
Viewing nature as a resource to be owned and used has contributed to the disconnect between pursuits that are valued by people such as buying a new car or taking a vacation, and the types of behavior that also prioritize the health and well being of the natural environment. Earth Law can bridge this divide by providing stronger protections for nature such that consumer habits, construction projects and transportation balance the needs of nature and humans.
Darlene May Lee is Executive Director of Earth Law Center, which works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. She works to build a force of advocates for nature’s rights at the local, state, national, and international levels. Connect with Earth Law Center on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Read all of Darlene’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.