The Inseparable Health Of People And The Earth

The health of the earth and the health of human beings is inseparable. This is brilliant news, but I didn’t always see things that way!

A personal crisis

I spent many years battling with my mental health. I went through long periods of depression and anxiety, desperate to find a cure for my inability to cope with life. 

Climate Change didn’t feel like some abstract concept that came up on the news every now and then. It felt deeply personal, and I woke up in cold sweats thinking about the ancient viruses escaping the permafrost. 

Wildfires in Australia, deforestation in Borneo, ancient woodland getting ripped up in the UK to built HS2. I would cry my eyes out as another whale washed up on the beach with a belly full of plastic bags, and physically cringe when I saw hedgerows getting ripped out in the fields beside my home. 

There is nothing better for my mental health than spending time in the great outdoors.

A radical change

I knew that I cared deeply about the state of the earth, but I never realized how intertwined the health of the earth and the health of the human really is. It took a radical shift in my lifestyle to get to that place. 

I spent 3 long months wild-camping in Scotland, then moved into my off-grid transit van conversion powered by solar. Against a backdrop of Europe’s last remaining scraps of wilderness, something became crystal clear to me. 

We simply cannot separate the health of human beings and the health of the natural world. We cannot hurt the world without hurting the people in it, and we cannot heal the world until we have healed our own hearts and minds. 

I don’t just mean this in a spiritual sense, but in 100% practical terms. 

To protect the earth is to protect the human heart

Tragic choices

Like when we choose to spray our GMO crops with pesticides instead of supporting local farmers in a way that allows them to grow organic food. The pesticides are linked to a 25% higher rate of cancers, and they are one of the biggest contributing factors to the ‘insect armageddon’ which is eliminating pollinating insects from the face of the earth. 

Pesticides are so widely used, by the way,  that we can find them in the bodies of living fish, in jars of honey,  in the falling rain, and even in human breast milk. 

Or like when we allow single-use plastics to keep being made. Not only do we see whales, dolphins, and seabirds die with stomachs full of plastic, but we also find toxic microplastics in every level of the food chain. We find ourselves poisoning the earth, and poisoning the food on our plates in equal measure. 

Or like when we choose to buy cheap clothes that will only be worn once before going in the bin. Not only is fast fashion one of the biggest polluters in the entire world, but it also comes at the human cost of slave labour, and contributes to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by air pollution each year.

All so we can buy cheap ‘disposable’ dresses that keep wreaking havoc with the natural world, bought with long hours of our life spent in jobs that most of us hate!

In many ways it’s tragic.

We are destroying the earth, and we can’t even say that we are benefitting from it. The outcome of our way of life is polluted water, polluted air, and polluted soil. It is climate change and melting permafrost unleashing deadly ancient viruses and massive weather events. 

But it’s not just our physical health that relies on a thriving natural world. Our mental health needs a healthy planet too.

We need the ocean far more than the ocean needs us.

When we destroy the last scraps of woodland, we don’t only destroy the habitat of insects, birds, and mammals. We also destroy the very places that so many of us find instrumental in maintaining good mental health. 

When we get too caught up in the addictive infinity pools of Social Media, it isn’t just our own mental wellbeing that suffers either. I have seen people trample the nests of rare birds so they can get a better picture of them to upload on their Facebook profile.

Hashtags of #girlinthewild and #lovenature are calling too loudly for people to hear the sound of eggs being crushed underfoot. 

We don’t have to despair though, this is good news!

Making the right call

What a joy to know that every single time we make the right decision for our own health, it is the right decision for the health of the earth as well. 

When we decide not to clean our own homes with harsh chemicals and bleaches, we also decide to protect the earth from unnecessary poisons and plastic bottles. When we decide not to take a short distance flight to the next destination, we decide to slow the heck down and savor the journey. When we decide not to use weedkillers in our garden, we can choose to protect our families from cancers and protect the food web from collapse. 

Each little choice that we make to heal ourselves and heal the world matters!

When approached with love, healing for the human and the planet are both possible

Treading water

But it isn’t always easy to make the right decisions for ourselves and for the planet. It can be hard to make the kinder decision when we are hurting too much, or when the connection between ourselves and the earth has become too faint. 

Sometimes we just have to keep treading water in our stormy lives and hope that we can hang in there for one more day. That is OK.

There is no place for judgment or hatred in the path to healing. We just have to do our best, and understand that everyone else’s best will vary depending on circumstances way beyond their control. 

When the world feels like it’s too much to bear, it’s alright to just do your best to keep going. One day the sky will clear and you will be ready to start out on this journey. 

But isn’t it hopeful to remember that every single time we do right by ourselves, we are doing right by the earth as well? 

We cannot separate the wellbeing of human beings and the earth we live in. For better or worse, we are in this together!

I hope you enjoyed this article!

Here are some awesome books that inspired me along the way:

Or perhaps you would like to read more from my blog:

Additionally, I run a Highly Sensitive Book Club for sensitive people with a love for the written word.

If you would like to get an email whenever I publish an article, you can also sign up for that below:

Thank you to Florian Roquais for the photos! You can buy some of his awesome prints here.

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