On one of my favorite walking routes, there is a beautiful oak tree that shades the street corner. Its sprawling roots heave through the sidewalk. One day, a dreamy song played through my earbuds, and as I walked toward the tree I felt the urge– almost like a spiritual calling– to touch its sturdy bark. Making contact with its trunk, a tickling, buzzing static traveled through my arm and zapped my ears like some energy had traveled through the cord on my earbuds. Stunned, I stepped back and gazed up at the oak’s gangly branches overhead, for a second believing that I’d connected with some otherworldly force. The sun shone down on the scene, casting a stark outline between the tree’s branches when I realized they were intertwined with telephone wires overhead.
Human innovation and nature entangled.
April 22, 2020 marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and as this video points out, while we breathe through masks, our planet breathes a sigh of relief.
Healthy Children Project faculty, Master Herbalist, Certified Aromatherapist and author of Growing Green Families: A Guide for Natural Families and Healthy Homes Donna Walls, RN, BSN, IBCLC, ICCE, ANLC agrees that Earth Day this year has a “different look.”
“Around the world we are seeing the rebound of the earth when there is reduced human impact,” she says. “We see fish returning to the waters of Venice, kangaroos jumping in the streets of Sydney and comparison pictures of Los Angeles two months ago and now with clear, blue skies.”
Walls wonders if these spectacular phenomena will motivate humans to better care for our planet moving forward.
She explains: “Being a maternity nurse for many years I usually go directly to ‘how does this impact new families?’ Maybe this is the opportunity to educate families on a cleaner life for our children, grandchildren and the planet.”
In 2013, Walls pioneered Miami Valley Hospital’s Green Team in an effort to provide safer, toxin-free products for families.
“Anyone who says healthcare is not about cleaning up the environment is not well,” she laughs.
The Green Team worked to eliminate disposable diapers, formaldehyde-layden mattresses and unsafe, employee hand soaps, Walls reports. They found a clean, safe line of products and ultimately saved money.
Looking ahead, Walls poses: “At this time of renewal for the earth, can we make it the beginning of a new way of thinking, starting with the care and feeding of the newest members of the human race?”
The environmental cost of infant formula milk is well documented in some countries.
For instance, “For the UK alone, carbon emission savings gained by supporting mothers to breastfeed would equate to taking between 50,000 and 77,500 cars off the road each year,” recorded in research by UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at Imperial College London.
IBFAN and BPNI published Formula for Disaster , a document that details infant formula’s detrimental impact on the environment and by contrast, breastfeeding’s sustainability.
WABA also includes information on “the most ecologically sound food available to humans”– breastmilk.
Bethany Kotlar, MPH, Program Manager, Center of Excellence in Maternal and Child Health at Harvard Chan School Center of Excellence writes in Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, We Must Remember Maternal Health, “The pandemic gives us the unique opportunity to reassess the cracks in our society…”
We’ve been granted the opportunity to reevaluate our responsibility to our planet and pledge to protect it so that we may continue to receive its bounty and find solace in its beauty.
“Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents—it was loaned to you by your children.” —Native American proverb