Look after nature so nature can look after us
09 July, 2020
We all care about the people around us and are concerned about the increasingly bleak reports about our planet’s health. This illustration aims to help guide concerned clinicians in deciding on their response. We have a lot on our plates already, but we also have the potential to make changes that have a big impact.
It is important to see the challenges ahead as what they are. The issue is not just global heating, although reducing emissions must remain an utmost priority. However, so must the protection and rejuvenation of the world’s beautiful and biodiverse ecosystems. These give us air to breathe and food to eat as well as being able to counter some of the effects of global heating.
This is a climate and ecological crisis.
The NHS unfortunately undermines some of the wonderful work it does. Its emissions, waste and pollution negatively impact health outcomes.
What can we do about this?
- Firstly just seeing and then communicating to others the effect of the natural world and, sadly also, of its destruction, on our physical and mental health is an intervention in itself. The climate crisis is a health crisis.
- Neglect, disconnection, waste, pollution and destruction are all bad for population and planetary health. The opportunity here is that the reverse is also true. As we invest in ‘greener’ solutions they frequently have positive impacts on mental and physical health.
- Raise awareness about the waste, destruction and pollution linked to healthcare and the supply chains we use.
- Integrate sustainable healthcare principles into QIP to ensure our clinical pathways reduce their negative environmental and social impact.
- Promote and support solutions that benefit health AND nature, at local, national or international level.
- For example active transport and renewable energy
- Embracing the role of nature in our own self-care or in our work is an evidenced based and low carbon approach to improve wellbeing.
- Time in nature can have a positive impact on our stress response, emotion regulation, social interactions, memory, attention, impulse inhibition, imagination, creativity, and sleep.
- Specific green care interventions improve mental health outcomes, therapeutic relationships and nature connectedness.
- Advocate for and get involved in protection of the natural world, and equal access to it, as a public health strategy.
- Being in nature engenders nature connectedness – an emotional feeling of connection and relationship – which has benefits on wellbeing and results in people being more likely to preserve and spend time in these environments.
Written by Dr Catriona Mellor. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.