Charlotte Calhoun


“We’re all in this together” is a phrase sometimes heard when we speak of climate change. This causes me to wonder how some of the drastic effects predicted will affect our own body and health. I believe that our internal health is intricately connected to our outer environment and any danger to the environment is a danger to these inner functions. Water, air and soil are three environmental factors that come to mind when I think of these connections, and we all have three distinct yet interconnected body organs that are “in it together” in working to maintain good health.

Water has an interesting effect on climate change. About 3/4 of the natural greenhouse effect is due to water vapor. Rising sea levels, more violent storms and flooding can lead to habitat destruction for many living things, in addition to water pollution of all types. When we speak of a rise in water levels and water pollution, our kidneys have a direct reaction as they are affected by their filtering out waste products found either directly in the water we drink or indirectly in our food. Widespread kidney damage and failure may be one future consequence of climate change.

In addition to causing rising levels of greenhouse gases, continued mining and burning of coal, oil and natural gas leads to increased levels of air pollution. Our lungs do not care about the cause of our bad air, they simply need to work harder at trying to filter out the pollutant particles in the air we all breathe. Think not only of those with asthma or chronic breathing problems, but of the many who are forced to live and work in heavily polluted cities and elsewhere. Our lungs cannot function as well as they might with poor or questionable air quality.

Airborne pollutants that fall on agricultural lands, along with either too much or too little water for crops over the growing cycle, will have negative impacts on global food supplies. Worse yet, our soil has been damaged because of the overuse of artificial fertilizers and insecticides which often end up in the food we eat and the air we breathe. Consequently, our liver is stressed to filter out the invasive chemicals that may damage it in the process, putting our very lives in danger.

The existential threat that climate changes pose for living things on our planet can sometimes seem far removed from more immediate concerns. Yet when we think of the challenges these threats pose to our own bodies, and how our life-sustaining organs function together, connections might seem less distant. If we want to protect our kidneys, lungs and livers, we need to act both individually and together as concerned citizens to achieve our common good.

The Chequamegon Bay Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby is one such group that is actively working to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging changes in both public policy and individual actions. In addition to promoting the national CCL objective of Congress adopting a carbon fee and dividend program, our local chapter is looking into several of Wisconsin’s climate change objectives set by Gov. Tony Evers to avoid or mitigate the likely damages, for example, through changes in agricultural and forestry practices that encourage carbon sequestration. You are invited to join us in our continuing efforts to restore an environment that works for all creatures, great and small.

Charlotte Calhoun taught biology, Spanish, and high school students regarded as at-risk in Kenosha before retiring a few years ago to the town of Bayfield.

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