Your Wellbeing Comes from Sustainable Healthy Environment
We talk about our health and wellbeing as a separate topic from sustainability or environment. In our mind, things about wellbeing are directly connected to our security today while “sustainability” or “environment” is still far away in the future. In real world though, everything is connected to everything else, and we cannot discuss them separately. What we do about environment today, good or bad, will come back to us in a couple of days or 20 years depending on what it is.
For example, oxygen in the air is one of the critical resources for all of us to stay alive. Without enough of it, we will be dead in 3 minutes. If the air is polluted, we will be sick.
To keep our body healthy, we need clean air. To keep the air clean, we need to understand how nature works and adjust our lifestyle. We now understand trees and ocean make oxygen. SO, we need to find ways to live while caring their health.
Let’s look at closer how sustainability and environment are deeply connected to our own wellbeing.
Understand Your Wellbeing
The meaning of wellbeing can be personal and subjective, but it is the combination of long-term, sustainable feeling good and functioning well. Positive emotions such as happiness and a sense of purpose. Ability to cope with normal stresses, be productive, and contribute to your community.
The meaning of wellbeing is so broad! Let’s discuss each aspect of wellbeing to understand better.
We often confuse excitement or pleasure with long-term happiness. When you buy new dress, go holiday, or get a promotion, you get a spike of enjoyable emotions. But it doesn’t last very long…
We all have some stresses and challenges in our everyday life. Easy way to put them aside for now is having a party, go shopping, or watching a movie with some pop corns. But if you think these are what make you happy, you have to keep chasing one after another endlessly.
Have you noticed these external things can never fulfill inside you? In fact, 75% of people in developed countries said they are satisfied with their quality of life, but the level of unhappiness and depression is high. So, how do we get happiness, not just temporary excitements?
Focus on the present moment
Have you been thinking “I will be happy when I lose 10kg and look slimmer”, “I will be happy if I had money to buy the dress, a pair of shoes, and the bag”, or “I will be happy if I can get a million dollars, but I don’t think I can”. You are spending so much time and energy to worry about the things may or may not give you the happiness. Why do you believe you will be happy if you had those conditions? Your happiness shouldn’t depend on them. Same as you are trying to find the reason that the new dress can make you happy, you just need to find the reason that you already have what you need to be happy. They exist inside you!
One of best ways is to practice gratitude. Appreciate for the “normal”. For example, you have clean water anytime you want from a tap in your house. You will notice how important it is when you don’t have water coming out from the tap.
When you start realizing the real value of “normal”, the way you see and treat it will change. Still not convinced? You may be comparing to what your friends have.
Recognize your feelings
In our current society, there are many great entertainments such as TV shows running 24 hours, computer games, junk foods, alcohols, and more. It is easy to numb pains, stresses, and other negative feelings. We all have negative feelings come up every day. They are part of our life, and they are either not good or bad. You do not need to get rid of them.
When you have undesired feelings, pause, and feel it, then find out where it came from. Why are you feeling this way? Is what you believe true? When you know more about the feeling, it is so much easier to be hopeful because you can see the next step to solve it.
When we are in a group and feel interconnected, you feel like we all are a part of something bigger than just ourselves. You might have an experience that a group of ordinal individuals could accomplish a goal that you never thought was possible. A group of people can support each other and get through difficult times or challenges. The wellbeing of others and communities is very important to your own wellbeing because it has a big influence on you every day.
Remember, this is not limited to only a group of humans. In the environment we live in, we have communities of all kinds of species from invisible microbes to huge whales. We live with them.
You already know meeting your friends in person is the best way to connect and enjoy a time together. I strongly suggest you go outside and spend time in nature to build a connection with nature itself. You will suddenly find many more friends.
You already know that clean air, water, and food are the most important things to keep our body healthy. Only when you have those, regular exercise, good sleep routine, and others can improve further. That is why understanding how the quality of air is affected by our activities, or how water circulates, or how vegetables and meat are produced is so important. When you have good information, you can make better decisions.
Air we breathe
If we had a time machine and could go 2.8 billion years ago, there was no oxygen. Oxygen is now about 21% in the atmosphere that makes lives on the earth possible. Tiny blue-green algae appeared and started producing oxygen as a biproduct of photosynthesis. Algae is still the largest producer of oxygen today. We don’t know what it looks like if the oxygen level is 10% rather than 21%. But warmer earth’s temperature and less forest cause the oxygen level to drop.
What can we do to keep the air quality?
- Reducing consumption of any items can reduce the chemicals and gas come out from industrial production processes. Waste disposal and recycling processes also release chemicals and gases.
- Be good to any living things including tiny creatures. Ants and other little creatures keep the soli healthy and make plants thrive. Algae in the ocean make up to 80% of the total oxygen.
- Drive your private cars less often
- Stop smoking
Access to clean water
It is impossible to imagine our life without clean water. We need it to keep our body hydrated, clean our body, grow food, and more.
Because water doesn’t disappear, just circulates from ocean to sky to land, it is considered as a renewable resource. The total amount of water on the earth barely changes. But we should treat “clean water” as the most precious resource. Because…
- The underground water we have been using is almost empty globally. Nature takes about 3000 years to purify water.
- We have technology to make drinking water from sea water. However, this comes with some limitations and consequences. The contaminated sea water during the process will circulate and come back to us later.
- We have no control on weather. We cannot make rain falls when we need.
What can we do to conserve clean water?
- Save water wherever you can. Having a shorter shower, using multi to cover vegetable patch, etc.
- Avoid disposing of wastewater close to natural water sources. For example, wash a car next to grass area so that wastewater doesn’t get into the storm water drain.
- Avoid using pesticides and fraternizers
- Use rainwater
Our food comes from nature. Without healthy soil, water, and suitable climate, it is very hard to produce nutritious food. Most of us living in a city have never been a farmer, never seen how animals are processed to become meat for us, or never seen how commercial fisheries operate in the middle of ocean. I strongly encourage everyone to learn about those. Even if you are cooking fresh meals at home and rarely eat junk food, you need to know if the fresh ingredients are safe and nutritious. Also, the food should be grown in sustainable ways so that future generations can have them too.
Organic foods are getting popular. “Certified Organic” means it was grown in a way closer to natural processes such as using crop rotations and composted animal and green manures.
Did you know conventional food can have the same level of nutrients as organic food? Then, why we should support organic farmers even though organic produces are more expensive to buy?
- Lower pesticide residue: Organically grown produces have lower levels of pesticide residue compare with the ones grown using conventional methods
- Organic farming has a much smaller carbon footprint than conventional farming
- Conserve and builds soil health. You may think we always have more than enough soil. However, more than half of the soil has been lost in last 150 years from deforestation and intensive farming practices. Soil erosion and degradation in the United States alone costs the country about $37.6 billion in productivity losses per year.
- Replenish natural ecosystems for cleaner water and air
- GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is prohibited in organic farming
Air, water, and soil… They are the planet’s most underappreciated natural resources. Yet, their health is the foundation for every lives. Conventionally produced food is cheaper because the cost of the lost natural resources is not included. This is same as cheap plastic price. Oil production is heavily subsided by governments around the world by using taxpayer’s money. And the plastic price doesn’t include the cost to recover damaged ecosystems.
What can we do about safe and healthy food?
- Learn how the food was produced. I trust people can make better decisions with better information.
- Grow your own food
- Avoid GMOs in conventional foods. If you choose organic foods, they are free of GMOs.
- Choose a variety of food from a variety of sources
- Choose seasonal fresh foods
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables well
Your wellbeing is not only about financial security, having good friends, and access to a variety of food today. As our life became easier and more convenient, we are now disconnected from the places where foods are produced, waste is disposed of, and home of other species. We need to put efforts to learn about the connection between ourselves and what’s happening behind the scenes. Because the most critical resources for our wellbeing such as clean air and water are impacted by our own everyday activities. In the real world, everything is connected to everything else. What we do today, good or bad, will circulate in the environment and come back to us.
The Origin of Oxygen in Earth’s Atmosphere - https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/origin-of-oxygen-in-atmosphere/
Soil Erosion 101 - Erosion 101: Everything You Need to Know About Soil Erosion | NRDC
Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well-being
Organic vs. Conventional Farming - https://rodaleinstitute.org/why-organic/organic-basics/organic-vs-conventional