Sometimes when I give a talk, I'll say that if there is some Grand Designer or some Great Intelligence that creates the Universe, chances are that He, She or It did not create a system in which what was good for the planet would be bad for the people (unless that He, She or It had a very low IQ).
More than likely, I say, since the planet and people are interconnected, the Designer figured it so that what's good for the planet is also good for the people.
I rediscover this truth over and over with environmental lifestyle adaptations. Biking, for example, is better for the planet than cars and turns out to keep people healthier, too (the bad news is that our culture is not built in a way that everyone can get where they need to go--like to work--by bike).
Anyway, some new support for the idea that what's good for the planet is also good for the people comes in this week from Indiana University. Greening the urban landscape, it turns out, improves children's health:
In the first study to look at the effect of neighborhood greenness on inner city children's weight over time, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the University of Washington report that higher neighborhood greenness is associated with slower increases in children's body mass over a two-year period, regardless of residential density.
"Previous work, including our own, has provided snapshots in time and shown that for children in densely populated cities, the greener the neighborhood, the lower the risk of obesity," said Gilbert C. Liu, M.D., senior author of the new study, which appears in the December issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. "Our new study of over 3,800 inner city children revealed that living in areas with green space has a long-term positive impact on children's weight, and thus, their health."
This follows, it turns out, because:
Trees and other urban vegetation improve aesthetics, reduce pollution and keep things cooler, making the outside a more attractive place to play, walk or run.
Meanwhile, more vegetation means more carbon dioxide taken out of the atmosphere, less storm water run off and its associated toxins into our water ways, the removal of diesel particulates from the air, and a reduced heat island effect, meaning less power used for air conditioning.
We help the planet, we help the kids. The point here is that spending money on environmental adaptations need not be the luxury of the elite. It can actually improve the lives of the underpriviledged.
Photo courtesy of NRDC's Switchboard.