I’ve noticed a few troubling trends lately – a correlation between obesity and dementia, a correlation between pollution and obesity, and a correlation between pollution and diseases like Parkinson’s and ALS. It’s like the world is conspiring to get back at us for everything we’ve done to it.
If pollution, particularly air pollution, is leading to an increase in obesity as well as neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and ALS, and if obesity is leading to an increase in dementia, then we’ve got some serious problems ahead.
Because air pollution isn’t going to get better anytime soon.
Yes, we’re slowly transitioning to renewables like solar and wind, and eventually we’ll be producing far fewer emissions, far fewer particulates. However, that day is still many years away. And in the meantime, we’re continuing to expose ourselves to these toxins.
Almost everyone’s blood now contains microplastics, which can travel around the body and lodge in the organs. These microplastics can limit our red blood cells’ ability to transport oxygen. They can end up in the heart, lungs and brain. And they can take hundreds of years to completely decompose, meaning they’ll far outlast us.
Larger pieces of plastic can be eliminated through the bowels, but the tiniest bits remain inside us, potentially changing our genetic makeup over time.
And it’s not just air and water pollution. Now a study has linked light pollution to diabetes – finding that people who live in areas with the most exposure to light at night have a 28% higher prevalence of diabetes than people living in areas with low light at night. Apparently, exposure to light during the night raises the body’s blood glucose levels and leads to a higher risk of insulin resistance.
Further, noise pollution creates problems as well. It can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep disturbances and stress in addition to the expected hearing loss. There’s almost no place in the world you can go now without hearing sounds created by man. Perfect silence is a myth.
So, what can we do about it?
Obviously, not much by ourselves. It took billions of us to change the planet for the worse. And it will likely take billions of us to change it for the better. That has to start with a few of us, and then a few more and a few more until change becomes irreversible.
First, we need to practice conscious disposal of whatever we want to rid ourselves of. Instead of just tossing an item in the trash, we need to think about whether there’s a better way to remove it from our lives. Can it be recycled? Donated? Gifted to a friend or relative?
Second, we need to work at lowering our usage of electricity, gas/oil and water. Even aside from the impact on climate change, increased usage of these utilities results in an increase in particulates in the air and water. If we can keep the temperature in our homes a degree or two lower in the winter and a degree or two higher in the summer, that’s another step in the right direction.
Third, we can turn off our outside lights at night, or if that’s not possible, at least use LEDs and make certain to point them at the ground instead of allowing the light to reach the sky.
Fourth, we can minimize our driving and other vehicular travel. Combine trips or put off errands until we need to do them so that we’re not wasting time in the car. Avoid rush hour when possible. Consider whether the trips we’re planning are really needed. Do we have to fly somewhere on vacation or can we make a staycation enjoyable enough?
Fifth, pick up litter when you happen across it and dispose of it properly.
Sixth, never flush medications down the toilet, where they get into the water supply and cause harm to animals, which eventually cause harm to us.
Seventh, buy less, and when you do buy, look to places like consignment stores or other second-hand stores if you can.
Eighth, spend time in the woods, or at least in a quiet spot in the park, around trees if possible, where you can soak in the relative silence and recharge your batteries.
Ninth, eat healthier and exercise more. That will make you feel better, and set a good example for others. Plus, processed foods require more energy to make.
Tenth, forgive yourself for failing at times because we all know we can’t be perfect all the time. But if we take small steps, we can eventually make bigger and bigger strides, and get closer to where we need to be.