Health Education: Focus on Ecosystem Conservation and Food Production

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Of all our readings, the seventh module struck me the most. I am rarely piqued by any subject ‘cept it has something to do with writing, reading or any theme with a dash of feminism. I must admit that I learned a lot from our previous modules; I never realized that there is so much new to learn because I thought health was a non-complex topic. Nevertheless, we are here, we now know about the deeper meanings of health; the concept that health education and its role in individual and societal wellbeing; health promotion programs (who ever knew that such programs take too much planning insomuch that we now know models such as PRECEDE PROCEED and MAPP).

I know what I’m going to write about now is not a major part of our reading but it is the sub-topic that hit me the most.

My Love for Food and the Ecosystem

Okay, I love food. I looooooove it. But I never knew that this love for one need could turn into something destructive to our environment. The terrestrial system has a measly 14% protected areas.

You would wonder what’s up with the rest of that percentage.

Ecosystem conservation is a difficult task to take on in an ever-changing climate. Food production is the dominant force that drives the destruction of ecosystem at the moment, with about 40% of the earth’s land area used for pasture and crop production.

In the past 50 years, though, the UN human development index has shown that humans’ wellbeing has improved. People now live longer because they are better nourished; also, literacy rates have soared.

The downside to this is that the health of our ecosystems are starting to decline. So, yes, the ratio of our health as opposed to the health of our environment is directly non-proportional.

So what’s wrong?

We all know that tropical and sub-tropical forests are being converted to areas for crop production. Also, the freshwater supply of the world is now greatly reduced. My MS1: Oceans and Us course two trimesters ago led me to realize that the introduction of alien water species have led to the extinction of the native types (I just love that my courses now interconnect with each other).

We also have ourselves to thank for the pollution that brought about climate change.

Ending the Paradox

So, what can we do to end this increasing ecosystem degradation as our food production ever asks for more? Surely, upping food production will challenge policymakers and concerned people like us.

We need to confront the issue by conserving the ecosystem. It means acting upon issues such as climate change, ecosystem services that fortify food production, pollination, water regulation, agriculture inputs, and such.

Concerned decision makers should assess the risks involved in food production. Which foods, when produced, will have the most impact on our environment? Strategies should be developed in managing such risks. For instance, the reduction of climate stresses upon pollinators through the use of integrated pest management. Wild flowers may also be planted to switch to wind-pollinated crops which are not that sensitive to high temperatures.

Our conservation goals must be directly proportional to our food production requirements. Future food production must recognize the interdependence of ecosystem and the strategies in sustaining them. Agriculturalists must learn to work hand-in-hand with biologists and food security specialists in order to minimize biodiversity loss.

How to do all these?

First, existing farmlands can be used for increased productivity. This is an effective way of veering away from ecosystem trade-offs.

Food production needs redesigning. Location-specific information must be taught to those who till the land.

Food wastes must also be reduced while sustainable food production is being taught through education programs.

At our home, we are already exercising the simplest concepts of food conservation, recycling, waste segregation and reduction. My two kids eat everything that they put on their plates (yes, down to the last grain); we separate the plastic bottles from biodegradable wastes; and we buy – as much as we can – only the foods that have been organically-produced. In the process, we live a healthier lifestyle plus we get to help Mother Earth in the most basic way that we can.

As educators, we also have a role to play in teaching younger generations about – not just their health but also about – the factors that contribute to their well-being. It’s just wrong that we consider ourselves to be healthy while our habitat suffers.

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