Wednesday, April 22, 2015
image via: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/392798398721675108/
I heard on public radio part of a program Monday about how much time children are spending outside. They cited a study that claimed children nowadays spend only an average of 14 minutes a day outside. 14 minutes a day! Most parents specified a fear of abduction for the reason why they don't let their children play outside but research has shown that there are only a little over 100 child abductions per year as opposed to over two thousand child deaths while being in a car with their parents. Latch-key kids are told to come home, stay inside, and lock the door. When children are allowed out to play, they are bundled up in all sorts of protective gear with adults present to mediate any arguments that may come up or to immediately come to the rescue of any child in distress and yet unsupervised play is how children learn leadership skills, problem solving, develop courage and self reliance. It is how we learn to compromise and cooperate, build muscles and lean strong bodies. It is how we learn about the world.
Tuesday I saw an article on FB about how our Western culture is killing off our gut bacteria. Comparisons with indigenous peoples with no exposure to modern medicine, food, and culture show that they have 50% more ecological diversity in their microbiome. Our western guts have lost species that help metabolize carbohydrates, that act as prebiotics, that communicate with our immune system. As cultures become more 'western', they begin to lose gut bacteria species and start suffering from chronic illnesses connected to the immune system. We may be living longer but we aren't living healthy as the long list of pharmaceuticals advertized on TV points out. I've been compiling a list over the last several months...28 and counting.
Our microbiome is acquired by contact with the natural world, not by living in a sterilized environment. Certainly clean water and sanitation is important for healthy life but we develop our immune systems, especially as children, by being exposed to germs and dirt. It's not just our general health that is affected by our lack of contact with the natural world. There are microbes in the soil that have a direct effect on our feelings of well being and general contentment. We are not separate from this earth.
We have insulated ourselves from the outdoors. We make our homes air tight and sterilize them with anti-bacterials, conditioning the air so that it never varies and never lets in fresh air. We have covered the ground with concrete. We don't even let it get dark and the resultant light pollution means there are generations of people that have never seen the Milky Way.
We are animals that evolved in the natural world and yet we are trying to separate ourselves from it. We are the culprits in the largest extinction of life forms on this planet since the dinosaurs. We have poisoned our air, our water, our soil, and our food. Our oceans are full of trash. We have destroyed countless ecosystems and now the planet is heating up at an alarming rate.
What does this mean to us? We may be living longer, but as mentioned before, we are not living healthy. We suffer from depression and obesity and other chronic illnesses from the lack of nutrition in our food and contact with the earth. We have become insane with fear and hatred and suspicion.
So, on this Earth Day, go outside. Take your shoes off and walk barefoot in the dirt and grass. Plant something. Sit by a river or stream and just listen. Establish a brush pile or a wild space in your yard. Nurture nature.
You will feel so much better for it.