Photo by Clarke Sanders on Unsplash
By Kellie Mox
People across the globe are increasing their focus on the environment, and rightly so. The change in global climate patterns, referred to as climate change, is concerning. Mother Earth is home to plants, animals, and of course, humans; but it’s also a living, breathing being in and of itself. It, as much as any of us, deserves to be cared for and nurtured so that it can heal and flourish.
Many of us take care of the planet by some combination of limiting single-use plastics, avoiding factory-farmed meat, gardening and composting, carpooling, recycling, and installing solar panels. A Google search of “ways to fight climate change” reveals numerous articles overflowing with suggestions. Yet when I did this search, none of the articles I found mentioned the idea of taking care of our own health as a way to take care of the planet.
This struck me, because I believe the health of our internal environment — our bodies, hearts, and minds — has a profound impact on the health of our external environment. That is, human beings and the environment are intricately interconnected. Not only does our physical presence have an impact on ecological balance, but also the quality of our physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs impact our behavior, which in turn affects the natural world.
Certainly, most people understand that the opposite is true — that the quality of the environment has an impact on human beings. Beyond the obvious examples of air quality and toxins in our drinking water or food, research shows that environmental factors like sunlight exposure, noise pollution, weather, and the built environment all have an effect on health outcomes. But when I searched for information about how our personal health affects the health of the planet, strangely, I turned up few results.
I don’t know why this concept is such a rare idea. Maybe humans have lost touch with their sense of interconnectedness. While many indigenous cultures and spiritual traditions honor our connection to nature, Western industrialized culture doesn’t typically revere the natural world as the giver-of-life that it is. I’m reminded of Joaquin Phoenix’s words during his recent acceptance speech at the Academy Awards:
I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world, and many of us, what we’re guilty of is an egocentric worldview — the belief that we’re the center of the universe. We go into the natural world, and we plunder it for its resources …
I believe interconnectedness can be viewed scientifically, spiritually, and ethically. We can understand our interconnectedness simply by witnessing the impact of behaviors like pesticide use on the health of plants, animals, and humans. We can remember that we are made from the same elements and atomic particles that make up the natural world; our bodies are sixty percent water, after all. Women’s cycles ebb and flow with the moon when they’re not chemically or structurally altered.
We can also understand interconnectedness as a spiritual experience, a sense or a knowing that we are one with each other and the environment. Some of us may feel this connection in our bodies when we’re in nature, or feel a sense of disconnection when we’ve been removed from it. We can also understand interconnectedness as an ethical concept: we, as consumers of nature’s bounty, are morally responsible to the ecosystem that we are a part of and benefit from. Maybe as our sense of interconnectedness grows, we can better understand how our own healing plays a role in fighting climate change.
A New Perspective
Gardening, recycling, car-pooling…our behaviors can have a direct impact on the environment. But our decision to engage in these behaviors is driven, in part, by the quality of our inner environment — what we feel, think, and believe.
Consider these examples. We might not care about the environmental impact of our skin care, makeup, or diet supplement choices if we’re thinking habitually self-critical thoughts. If we feel too depressed or unwell to shop for and cook a locally-sourced, whole-food meal, we may instead choose the less environmentally-friendly fast-food options. If our body is suffering from chronic pain or fatigue, we’re not likely to bike or walk to work, opting instead to drive a car. If we believe, as Phoenix suggests, that we’re the center of the universe rather than a co-conspirator in its evolution, we’re not likely to care about how our plastic use affects the environment, let alone change our consumption of single-use plastic.
To be clear, our decision to engage in planet-healing behaviors may also be driven by systemic challenges. That is, disparities in our healthcare system create a barrier to health behavior change for those who don’t have the same resources, support systems, or knowledge as more privileged groups. If healing ourselves helps to heal the planet, we need to make it easier for all people to tend to their physical, mental, and emotional health.
It’s clear that the environment has an impact on our health and that our choices have an impact on the environment. But if we don’t look at how and why we make those choices, we’re missing an important piece of the puzzle. I believe that in order to heal the planet, we must also heal ourselves. Walking into nature and remembering our interconnectedness may be one place to start.
Kellie Mox catalyzes revolutionary healing for women through powerful conversations and whole-health mentoring. She is passionate about authentic, meaningful connections – to self, others, and the world – and believes that healing flourishes when we strengthen these connections and embrace our wholeness.
Kellie is a certified coach and a student of homeopathic medicine with a master’s in health behavior & health education. She works with women virtually and in-person from her home base in Ann Arbor, Michigan.