What We Can Learn From Covid-19

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How Covid-19 affects air pollution

The quarantine and lockdowns are a burden to all of us. Above all, of course, the reason for the restrictions, the Covid-19 virus, is anything but positive. However, the developments that can be observed in our environment are remarkable. The health policy measures are leading to a large-scale decrease in traffic, both long-distance and short-distance traffic, whether by car, train or plane, as well as reduced industrial activities. What is clearly visible in satellite images is the huge reduction in air pollution this has resulted in. The concentration of pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, which is released by human activity, mainly by cars, has decreased rapidly.


Source: https://www.mdr.de/wissen/umwelt-profitiert-von-corona-100.html


This effect was first observed in China, which suffers greatly from high levels of air pollution. The smog cloud over northern Italy has also largely disappeared after about a month of the start of the restrictions, and in Venice, for example, the water in the well-known canals has become so much cleaner that many fish return there. Since the lockdown came into force, a reduction in pollution has also been observed in the Madrid area.



Source: https://muhimu.es/medio-ambiente/nasa-coronavirus-contaminacion-china/


What this has to do with our health

The WHO warns that air pollution severely affects the health of the world population. According to WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) data, 92% of the population lives in areas where contamination exceeds tolerable levels. The number of deaths directly or indirectly caused by pollution was estimated at 8.8 million in 2019, 800,000 in Europe alone. Clean air therefore has a very high value for health worldwide. Covid-19 diseases also tend to be more severe when the lungs have been pre-stressed for years, for example by high levels of air pollution.


Source: https://www.br.de/nachrichten/wissen/faktenfuchs-was-hat-luftverschmutzung-mit-corona-zu-tun,Ru4gWgF


The WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”, and therefore goes beyond physical integrity. It is precisely in this period of exceptional circumstances that we learn to value health more highly again: Not only our concern about physical illness, but also our psychological and social well-being are very much under attack during this time. So what do we learn from this? Hopefully, to take better care of our physical, mental and social well-being in the future.

kirsty-barnby-JbZG7U093Bw-unsplashSource: https://unsplash.com/photos/JbZG7U093Bw


What we can do for our health

We would all benefit from less air pollution. The developments during the lockdown caused by the coronavirus show us what positive developments in air pollution and climate-damaging exhaust gases are possible. Of course, it is neither desirable nor advisable to maintain the current measures longer than necessary. However, this is a good time for each of us to consider whether climate-damaging and air-polluting activities need to be resumed at the same rate – or whether activities that are not necessary at both individual and industrial level can and should be eliminated. In addition to this indirect contribution to health promotion, it is also important that we all strengthen our own health, even before we become ill.

juniperphoton-KKFKrOu3BVc-unsplashSource: https://unsplash.com/photos/KKFKrOu3BVc


How the forest strengthens our health

The forest provides people with many services and benefits – in addition to wood and non-wood products, it provides us with clean water and clean air. It also provides great benefits to people thanks to its influence on the climate.

In our blogs we have also mentioned on occasion that the forest is good for our health – and not only because of the medicinal plants it contains. It has a therapeutic effect, which is also the basis of our concept of Forest Coaching. But at Social Forest we are not the only ones who build on this effect. Especially in Japan and Austria the concept of forest therapy is not unknown. Also in Germany these practices are becoming more and more popular. Many have probably experienced it for themselves: after a walk in the forest we feel vitalized and relaxed. The fresh cool air, the pleasant shades of green and brown, the soothing sounds of animals and leaves in the wind are extremely relaxing. But to what extent can this effect actually be scientifically explained?


Source: SocialForest


Much of the research in this area is of Japanese origin: Shinrin-yoku, which translates as “Forest Bathing“, is an officially recognised therapy option and has its own branch of research at universities. Among the proven effects are, for example, the weakening of anxiety and depression, as well as the lowering of blood pressure and cortisol levels. Inhaling antibiotically acting defence substances, so-called phytoncides, strengthens the body’s immune system and increases the production of NK cells, which detect and attack cancer cells. It has been observed that just one day in the forest increases the activity of these killer cells by 50%. Trees can also release specific communication molecules, so-called terpenes, which strengthen our immune system. The concentration of these molecules is particularly high in the summer months. If stays in the forest are also regularly used for walking, hiking or cycling, the risk of heart attack is greatly reduced.


Source: SocialForest


All in all, our physical, mental and social health is extremely valuable and should therefore be consciously looked after. The forest offers us the opportunity to do this in a completely natural way and at no cost. In any case, we can’t wait to be able to go back to the forest and take care of it again, as it deserves and needs!


Related SDGs

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