This blog was written by Chris Kirkpatrick, Health Promotion Practitioner at Peninsula Health
Have you thought about how our health and the health of our family is connected to climate change? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Most Victorians haven’t thought about this. In this blog we will focus on the link between our health and climate change and how by healthy eating we can not only improve our health but also the health of the planet.
What is climate change?
Climate change is caused by increases in the amount of gases in the air, which make the earth’s temperature rise. These gases come from fossil fuels and are called greenhouse gases and are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. The consequences of climate change are higher than average temperatures and overall less rainfall. It is because of our human activity that we are seeing the excessive creation of these gases and the warming of our planet.
The health impacts of climate change
Climate change is affecting our health in many ways. Through extreme weather like heat waves, floods, storms and bushfires. A combination of these effects mean less suitable land is available for growing healthy, fresh and seasonal food and a rise in our temperatures also means an increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases and heat stress for humans and plants.
We are an important part of the solution
We have important choices to make to reduce greenhouse gases – which are the biggest cause of climate change. Our choices are about the foods we eat, how we travel, the things we buy and more.
Everyone; governments, industry and ourselves need to change the way we are behaving in order to protect both ourselves and our planet. Science tells us that one quarter of the overall effort to reduce climate change can be made by us, the individuals. We are an important part of the solution and our contribution is valuable.
Actions that will benefit our health and reduce climate change
By making small changes to what we eat and drink we can improve both our health and the planet:
- Eat more locally produced plant-based foods like fruit, vegetables and wholegrains
- Grow your own food in your garden or join a community garden near you
- Rely less on processed and pre-packaged foods
- Fill up your drink bottle at the tap rather than using bottled water.
How does changing what we eat or drink reduce climate change?
Eating locally produced fruit, vegetables and wholegrains reduces the amount of greenhouse gases which come from transporting, processing and packaging food. Also when we eat less food from animal sources, less space is needed for animals to graze and more space is available for food gardens, forests and bushland which cool our environment and improve our air quality.
How does changing what we eat or drink improve our health?
Fresh healthy foods improves not only our physical health, but our mental health too. Eating a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains provides much more health promoting nutrients than pre-packaged and processed foods.
Better yet, we can try growing our own food. It is a fun, creative activity and connects us with nature, reduces stress and improves our mental health. Gardening is also a great form of exercise that can improve your mobility, balance, flexibility, strength, bone density, muscle strength and it supports your immune system and heart.
- Better Health Victoria – Climate Change and Health
- Health Victoria – Tackling Climate Change and its Impacts on Health
- Climate and Health Alliance, 2018
- Climate and Health Alliance, 2021
- Sustainability Victoria 2020, Linking climate change and health impacts: research snapshot
- Einstein A Go Go Radio 3RRR episode 10.4.2022
- “Harvesting Better Health” by Dr Sandro Demaio, Diggers Garden Magazine, Issue 299, Autumn 2022