Our global gardens need some tending

Frankly Speaking

Health

Picture of Tamsin Rose
Tamsin Rose

Senior Fellow for Health at Friends of Europe

Picture of Seán Flynn
Seán Flynn

Communications Assistant

Springtime has arrived and the tomatoes, radishes, peppers, courgettes, peas, cress and sunflowers that I planted with my kids are all sprouting.

The theme of World Health Day (7 April) is ‘our planet, our health’: an invitation to re-examine our relationship to the world as a source of life, health, and abundance. But our global garden needs tending and we are the gardeners. In the desolate soil of war, hunger and epidemics – what seeds could flourish with community care?

Let’s start with weeding. Removing things that choke what we want to grow. From climate change denial and COVID disinformation to discrimination, this toxic environment prevents us from coming together to act in favour of human and planetary health.

Human connection is the oxygen of society. Lockdowns allowed thorns in relationships and triggered mental health challenges. Just as the health of the soil is built by the interconnections between fungi, plants and animals, we need to focus on bringing people together. Strengthening the individual connections that create wellbeing and collective thriving.

Policymakers are now exploring new visions for urban zones that address climate change, transport and energy poverty, as well as contributing to citizens’ health and wellbeing

The pandemic taught us that each person’s behaviour is part of the collective solution. The same approach is needed for the global health challenge of climate change. This doesn’t mean letting corporates off the hook and making citizens solely responsible for changing their lifestyles. Rebalancing the climate-health nexus requires an end to polluting economic models and deforestation. Our rainforests, the lungs of the earth, are so heavily exploited that they are beginning to release more carbon than O2.

So if collective actions are the seeds, how do we water them so that they grow? COVID-19 flourished in the arid soil of our unequal society and widened the cracks. Some policymakers are now exploring new visions for urban zones that address climate change, transport and energy poverty, as well as contributing to citizens’ health and wellbeing. The ‘15-minute city’ is designed on the recognition of the value of green spaces towards community interaction, leading to big gains in respiratory, cardiovascular, and mental health. The European Commission’s New European Bauhaus offers citizens, cities, and towns an opportunity to restore the microorganisms of the community soil through collaborative action.

Earth unfit for planting can be carefully nourished over a few years giving the hope of life to come

Of all the billions of planets that have been discovered, ours is the only one that we know of that can support life. How much longer can our glorious blue and green planet continue without drastic action to protect the harmony of the global garden?We must do it together. Gardeners know that companion planting gives the best harvests: some plants do better together, they are complementary. Life exists in a delicate balance. In garden hedges and wild rainforest canopies, there are ecological niches for the tiniest plant and the tallest trees. In the gaps in the rainforest canopy, the damage to our biodiversity is visible. We need to restore the balance of nature everywhere because our ecosystems are planetary and we all have a role to play. To co-create a viable future for humanity and the planet, a new social contract needs to put individual needs into the context of society. Ensuring that no individual, company or country can extract wealth at the expense of the planet.

I think about the garden I planted with my children. We made holes in the earth and planted seeds in the hopes that they would grow, contribute food and bring delight to the bees. Not all of them have pushed up shoots. There are challenges even the greenest of thumbs can’t resolve.

Our global soil has become depleted through overexploitation and inequalities.The return of war to the Europe continent has further poisoned the ground. But earth unfit for planting can be carefully nourished over a few years giving the hope of life to come. The theme of this World Health Day is a reminder that we can, through our individual actions and collective energy, create the environment that allows humans to flourish in harmonious co-existence with nature.

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