HEALTH MATTERS: A time to remember the health of the Earth

Health Matters with Ryan Hunton

By: Ryan Hunton

You and I are well-acquainted with the Earth. 

From infancy to this present moment, it has held each of us close to its surface by its physical embrace – gravity. As a result, we have never gone very far from its side. 

There are seven billion of us humans today. Each of us is small in relation to the size of the planet. However, throughout the known universe, we humans are one of the Earth’s unique miracles of evolution and intelligence. 

Each one of us has the potential to accomplish wondrous things only through the Earth as our support and sustenance. 

Associate Professor of Religious Studies Bella Mukonyora said that some religions believe that we should treat the Earth like the body of God.

“Religion places the human in the context of nature,” she said. “We rely on the environment and are constituted by the same elements of nature.”

Part of being human, Mukonyora said, is to be intelligent to have the capacity to transform the world. 

Although each of us is small, if we can work together toward the common goal of taking care of the health of our planet our collective potential is great. 

Still, through human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels like coal, gas, and petroleum, the average temperature throughout the Earth has risen over the last two centuries. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency website, small and incremental changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to larger changes in precipitation patterns, ocean temperature, and sea level.

Much of this change in climate is caused by the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from industrial and personal activities. With the increased production of these gases, the planet becomes warmer – this phenomenon is known as ‘the greenhouse effect.’ 

Just as your personal health depends on your body’s ability to balance certain variables, the Earth’s health depends on a similar balance. The greenhouse effect is a sign of a developing imbalance.

One of the flaws of the current healthcare system is its over-emphasis on treating diseases rather than preventing them from occurring. Perhaps, this flaw also characterizes our treatment of the Earth’s health. We are more willing to react to problems rather than prevent them from occurring. 

In the interest of the health of our planet, we should integrate preventative steps into our lives such as conserving energy (spending less time driving), reducing waste (recycling paper and plastic) and being conscious consumers (buying local food and materials).

Each person has a role to play, but WKU Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan said that college and K-12 students have an especially big role to play in the future of our planet. 

“It’s about trying to figure out better ways to do things,” she said. “We want to be mindful about how we use our resources.”

Through small choices each day, each one of us will become better keepers of the Earth, the only home that we have ever known.