Medical groups warn climate change is a 'health emergency'
June 26, 2019
From the Associated Press:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Democratic presidential hopefuls prepare for their first 2020 primary debate this week, 74 medical and public health groups aligned on Monday to push for a series of consensus commitments to combat climate change, bluntly defined by the organizations as "a health emergency."
The new climate change agenda released by the groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association, comes amid early jostling among Democratic candidates over whose environmental platform is more progressive. The health organizations' policy recommendations, while a stark departure from President Donald Trump's approach, represent a back-to-basics approach for an internal Democratic climate debate that has so far revolved around the liberal precepts of the Green New Deal .
"The health, safety and well-being of millions of people in the U.S. have already been harmed by human-caused climate change, and health risks in the future are dire without urgent action to fight climate change," the medical and public health groups wrote in their climate agenda, shared with The Associated Press in advance of its release.
Among other things, the groups are pressing elected officials and presidential candidates to "meet and strengthen U.S. commitments" under the 2015 United Nations climate agreement from which Trump has vowed to withdraw. They're also pushing for some form of carbon pricing, although without any reference to potential taxation of emissions, and "a plan and timeline for reduction of fossil fuel extraction in the U.S."
Former Vice President Joe Biden's climate change plan, released earlier this month, tracks broadly with several of the medical and public health groups' priorities. While the groups call for a reduction in petroleum and natural gas use in transportation, they do not go as far as several of Biden's rivals in supporting an outright ban on the oil and gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves injecting high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals into rock.
Other groups signing onto the list of climate policy priorities include the American Lung Association, the American College of Physicians and multiple state-level and academic public health organizations. That the agenda's endorsing groups do not operate with "a political axe to grind" could help them draw more attention to climate change, said Ed Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.
To read more, click here.
A Retreat To Nature Can Boost Immunity And Mood
June 17, 2019
When my editors asked me to report on forest bathing, I packed a swimsuit. I assumed it must involve a dip in the water.
It turns out, my interpretation was too literal.
I met certified Forest Therapy guide Melanie Choukas-Bradley and several other women who'd come along for the adventure at the footbridge to Theodore Roosevelt Island, a dense jungle of an urban forest along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C.
Here, I began to get it. Forest bathing isn't a bath. We sat on the banks of the river, but we did not get in the water.
It's not a hike, either. We did walk the forest trails, but we meandered with no particular destination in mind.
The aim of forest bathing, Choukas-Bradley explained, is to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment. She helped us tune in to the smells, textures, tastes and sights of the forest. We took in our surroundings by using all our senses.
As we passed through a stand of pawpaw trees, we touched the bark. We smelled the black walnuts, which give off a lovely citrus fragrance. We got a little shower of ripe mulberries, too.
"Close your eyes and just breathe, just breathe," Choukas-Bradley intoned. It felt a bit like a meditation retreat.
It took me a few minutes to clear out the clutter in my brain, and tune in to the natural world.
"When you open your eyes, imagine you're seeing the world for the very first time," Choukas-Bradley told us.
After I opened my eyes, the green looked a lot greener. And I began to see things I hadn't noticed before: the flutter of birds, the ripple of the water, the swaying of trees.
A forest guide "helps you be here, not there," says Amos Clifford, a former wilderness guide with a master's degree in counseling, and the founder of the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy, the organization that certifies the guides.
Clifford's goal is to encourage health care providers to incorporate forest therapy as a stress-reduction strategy. There's no question that stress takes a terrible toll in the United States; a 2015 study found work-related stress accounts for up to $190 billion in health care costs each.
"It's my hope that the health care system will include [forest therapy] into the range of services they reimburse for," Clifford says.
The practice began in Japan. Back in the early 1990s the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term Shinrin-yoku -- which translates roughly as forest bathing.
For more from NPR.org, click here.