Stewardship: We Worry More About the Environment than Our Own Bodies


Sooner, rather than later, we will be driving electric cars because of the environment. We use energy efficient light bulbs and recyclable packaging for the same reason. And there is a growing debate about the environmental impact of what kind of food we produce and consume. But I still don’t hear enough about the internal impact on our own bodies when we consider stewardship of natural resources.

Our bodies and our health are the most important resources we have, and yet the focus in our culture seems to be on our external environment.

Just like the consumption culture has ignored its effect on our planet in favor of customer convenience and business profits, it has ignored the effect it has had on the health of the human beings it set out to serve. And just as we now are fearing for the future of our planet, we ought to be more than a little bit concerned about the future of the human race.

But, just as we really can’t expect the corporate world to lead the environmental effort, unless we can engineer a way for them to see profit in doing that, we cannot expect it to lead any kind of effort to make the population healthier. That is something that has to start with the individual.

We all need to take responsibility for our actions, large and small, external and internal. Idling your car to warm it up before your morning commute is bad for the environment and eating corn flakes, instant oatmeal or pop tarts for breakfast is bad for your body. And, for lunch, I see cars lined up, idling, at takeout restaurants that don’t have fruit, vegetables or unprocessed grains on their menu. And just think of the soft drinks that come with those meals.

Driving to make a short, nearby errand is bad for the environment. Choosing not to walk that distance on foot is bad for your body.

The one good thing that may have come with the Covid pandemic is that people are cooking and eating more at home and I hear there is a renewed interest in growing your own vegetables. Someone wrote recently that in some way our physical world has gotten smaller and more important to us while the nation and the world have come to feel almost virtual.

Maybe that offers some hope that we will pay more attention to our own health and our own habits.

If we don’t, the chronic diseases plaguing the industrial world will dominate our lives in ways that one day will make the environmental disasters seem irrelevant to the growing majority who will suffer from the failures and breakdowns of their own bodies.

Hans Duvefelt is a Swedish-born rural Family Physician in Maine. This post originally appeared on his blog, A Country Doctor Writes, here.