The connection between environmental health and personal health
By Laura Batson, ND, and Aline Ribas, PhD, CSR-P, ISSP-SA
In the span of three years, the Ottawa region has experienced the devastation of record flooding. Add to this the impacts of tornadoes in late 2018, on top of summers of extreme and deadly heat and winters with erratic freeze-thaw, and you'll agree that climate change is now unequivocal for Ottawans. These climate disruptions pose serious threats to our health and well-being, from the spread of disease vectors, cardiovascular disease, harmful algae bloom, to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. We are now dealing with constant ‘climate anxiety’ and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.
Fortunately, Ottawa leaders are no longer complacent about the climate crisis. Last week, Ottawa’s city council declared a ‘climate emergency,’ joining a growing number of Canadian municipalities that have adopted similar declarations, including Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, and Kingston, as well as a host of other communities worldwide. This is a critical first step towards building a robust, healthy, and resilient city - one that we’ll need to withstand the many climate disruptions we have yet to face.
Securing collective resilience starts with building personal resilience. As individuals, in order to build personal resilience, we need to move beyond a reactive approach to our health. A proactive approach restores personal agency in our own health, leading to resiliency and the prevention of disease. This approach also benefits planetary health and our collective resiliency. For example, when we eat local organic foods and walk or cycle to work, we build physical resiliency and health in our bodies, while also contributing to the health of the planet by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. When we engage in mindfulness practices such as breath work and yoga, we increase our ability to be present and mentally resilient in our day-to-day lives, while also increasing our presence and resiliency with others in the face of catastrophic challenges such as natural disasters.
Educating and empowering people to have personal agency towards individual and collective resiliency is a mission that Amani Health holds with high regard. Restoring our personal ability to secure our health and well-being will not only build personal resilience; it will restore our ability to live within healthy communities and will bring greater resilience to this one beautiful planet we call home.
Watts N., Adger W.N., Agnolucci P., et al. (2015, June). Health and climate change: Policy responses to protect public health. Lancet, 386:10006, 1861-1914. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)60854-6/fulltext