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August 4, 2022 — 10:33 AM
Our series Healthy Planet, Healthy You explores just how tightly human health and environmental health are intertwined—for better and for worse. Each month, we’ll share the latest news on how nature can rejuvenate us on one hand and damage our health when it’s not cared for on the other. We’ll end with timely tips and tools to help you care for your environment so it can care for you.
1. Nature smells evoke childhood memories—but in a very nuanced way.
Most of us can point to a favorite smell in nature—be it the salty air of the coast or the petals of a beloved flower. Our reactions to these smells, it turns out, could be tied to early memories more than we realize. A new study in Ambio: A Journal of Environment and Society found that when people set out into wooded areas around the UK during different times of year, they reported that the smells often evoked memories of childhood activities. Smell perception also changed seasonally, with people reporting that winter smells impacted their physical well-being while summer smells were most often linked to emotional, spiritual, and global well-being. (Read the research here.)
2. Heading out to green space during pregnancy could have great health outcomes for mom and baby.
Beyond boosting the mental and physical health of adults, green space also seems to be a positive force for unborn babies. The latest example we have of this is a study out of Iran that found that newborns whose mothers spent more time in green space during pregnancy (and kept greenery around the home in the form of indoor plants) tended to have lower blood lipid levels, a sign of healthy cholesterol. (Read the research here.)
3. Want to ease stress? Head out into the garden, or make some art.
In a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE, healthy women tried their hands at either indoor gardening or art-making for one hour twice a week for four weeks. Even in this relatively short period of time, women reported improved mood and less perceived stress and anxiety following both activities. Time to get that herb garden started? (Read the research here.)
4. Yet another scary part of glacier loss: ice has its own microbiome.
As if rising sea levels and heightened storm surges weren’t enough, science is now uncovering yet another threat of melting glaciers. After sequencing the genome of glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau, researchers are suggesting that these glaciers hold ancient and unfamiliar microbes, which could pose a threat to humans and animals if unlocked and released into the environment again. (Read the research here.)
5. These will be the biggest threats to our food systems in the near future.
A new report called on the expertise of food security scholars to predict the top 32 threats to our food systems over the next two decades. Based on probability and potential impact, it appears that increased demand for water will pose the greatest risk, followed by heat waves, droughts, income inequality, and political instability. (Read the research here and check out a summary here.)
Monthly focus: Support strong climate policy.
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In case you haven’t heard, it’s been a huge few weeks for climate policy in the U.S. After a lot of back and forth, the Inflation Reduction Act, also referred to as the Reconciliation Bill, just got one step closer to becoming law. If passed, this bill would make it much easier—and more affordable—to invest in alternative energy, buy electric vehicles, and retrofit homes to be more energy efficient. The bill also includes a fee on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and puts $60 billion towards environmental justice reform.
In short, this bill has massive potential to move all of the U.S. towards a greener and healthier future, and experts predict it could cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by the end of the decade. It isn’t a done deal, though, and it’s expected to be put to a vote next week. If you support the bill, consider calling and/or writing to your Senators to tell them so.