Sanitation and hygiene are critical to health, survival and development.
Many countries are challenged in providing adequate sanitation for their entire populations, leaving people at risk for water.
Throughout the world, an estimated 2.4 billion people lack basic sanitation (more than 32% of the world’s population).
Basic sanitation is described as having access to facilities for the safe disposal of human waste (feces and urine), as well as having the ability to maintain hygienic conditions, industrial or hazardous waste management, and wastewater treatment and disposal.
The importance of sanitation and good hygiene cannot be overemphasized.
A healthy environment helps protect women and children from communicable diseases.
Around the world, over 800 children under age five die everyday from preventable diseases; diarrhea related diseases caused by lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
This can be combated through a healthy lifestyle and habitual sanitation.
Psychotherapist and philosopher Erich Fromm (1900-1980) called the longing for nature biophilia. This is people’s love for nature, for the living. The term comes from the Greek and literally means “love of life or living systems.”
After Fromm’s death, the evolutionary biologist and professor at Harvard University, Edward O. Wilson, adopted this term and introduced the “biophilia hypothesis.” Wilson spoke about the “human urge to affiliate with other forms of life,” in other words, about our connection with nature. It is a connection that has evolved over millions of years. Human beings come from nature. We evolved and interacted with nature. We should therefore be considered a part of nature, just like all other life forms. The same life force in us is also in animals and plants. We are a part of the “web of life,” as Wilson expressed it.
The biophilia effect stands for wilderness and the conception of nature, for natural beauty and aesthetics, and for breaking free and healing.
The lessons of wilderness
Scientists call what goes on in humans when they’re in the wilderness an immediate conscious experience (ICE). The main focus here is on the psychological aspects of the experience of nature and wilderness. It’s about what individuals experience personally when they come into contact with nature, about what’s going on inside, what states of consciousness they are experiencing, what new ways of thinking and seeing they develop, how they find new solutions to problems or learn to deal with physical or psychological stresses. Whatever happens in the consciousness when a human being is immersed in the wilderness, environmental psychologists call it an immediate conscious experience in nature.
On top of perceiving the physical reality of our environment with our five senses, we humans also tend to derive additional meaning from the impressions we see, hear, smell and feel. This is true for our social environment as well, which we analyze, trying to make sense of everything that goes on around us. In general, the human species is the only one on this planet that searches for so much sense and meaning in life — and in nature. We can interpret nature and find metaphors and symbols that “tell” us something. It’s a very individual process. Depending on our background or our current state of mind, reading nature can differ completely from person to person and moment to moment.
A seedling can, for example, symbolize our own desire for children, a growing business idea, or a new life plan. A mighty tree standing in a wild place, defying wind and weather, can trigger associations with steadfastness. I recently saw a perennial growing out of a sidewalk grate. It took root in a small handful of soil that had collected there, and it was in full bloom. I suddenly thought how it’s possible to make so much from so little, when there is a will. This association came to mind while I was looking at the determined perennial.
Or think of a sprouting willow tree after a clear-cutting. The tree defies its destiny, revitalizes itself even after a radical interference in life, and attempts a new beginning. It grows above and beyond the harm done. Those who are in a similar situation, wanting to leave old wounds behind and to feel revitalized, might find solidarity with this unfaltering willow and feel inspired to find new energy. The willow may be whispering, “You’re not alone. I made it. You can rise again, too.” The symbolism of a damaged, downright mutilated tree that defies its destiny and maintains its will to live is intense. It may also be relevant in cases of physical trauma — for example, if a person has to cope with a physical impairment or negative physical changes and wants to say yes to life, just as the mutilated willow does.
The value of retreating into nature
Nature offers us impressions that we can see and interpret as symbols and, at the same time, it offers us a place of retreat, where self-reflection is accessible. It thus supplies us with the material and, at the same time, the space to reflect on it. The value of the wilderness experience lies in the “being away;” that is, being elsewhere. When we get out of the usual everyday experiences and find ourselves in a completely unfamiliar, inspiring environment, we gain a little distance from our problems.
Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, environmental psychology professors at the University of Michigan, identified “being away” as one of the most important mechanisms through which our nature experience affects our psyche and gives our soul space. These conclusions came from their numerous studies with test subjects who found a retreat in nature and then reported on what the wilderness did for them. “Being away” also means having a time-out from society, escaping human civilization for a while, alone or in selected company. It represents being away from consumerism, away from the digital world, away from the expectations of others, away from the performance pressure and the corset into which modern life often squeezes us. It signifies being far away from a world in which we must constantly fit a certain image and in which we are force-fed what it means to be a “good” person, a “well-adapted” person, a “hardworking” person, or a “productive” person.
“Being away” means we are in an environment where we can be as we are. Plants, animals, mountains, rivers, the sea — they are not interested in our productivity and performance, our appearance, our paycheck, or our mental state. We can be among them and participate in the network of life, even if we are momentarily weak, lost, or bubbling over with ideas and hyperactivity. Nature does not send us utility bills. The river in the mountains does not charge us for the clear, clean water we get from it when we wander along its banks or camp there. Nature does not criticize us. “Being away” means freedom from being evaluated or judged, and escaping from pressure to fulfill someone else’s expectations of us.
“Being away” is the ideal way to experience the therapeutic biophilia effect of nature.
Can getting in touch with the Earth’s electrons improve your well-being? We look at the science.
The concepts are ones that we all can understand. Celebrating nature. Improving health. Getting a good night’s sleep. Strengthening the primordial bond between humans and the planet on which we live.
The science of it all? Well, that’s a little harder to grasp. Which is why earthing — the practice of physically getting in touch with Mother Earth to better your health — remains fact for some and fiction for others.
The article concludes that, “Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth — whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems — may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, [autonomic nervous system] dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed [heart rate variability], hypercoagulable blood and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.”
Picture by Pixabay
How does one “earth?” Well, it can be as simple as the act of walking barefoot outdoors. There, with bare skin on bare earth — this, again from the JEPH article — “Reconnection with the Earth’s electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being.”
It is, earthing proponents state, all in the electrons. The Earth’s surface is electrically conductive, enabling free-ranging electrons to jump into the human body. That is, providing nothing else — say, that pair or rubberized sneakers — gets in the way.
Once at one with the body, the electrons “rebalance” the electrical state of the body and create, according to the article by Gaétan Chevalier, Stephen T. Sinatra, James L. Oschman, Karol Sokal and Pawel Sokal, “a stable internal bioelectrical environment for the normal functioning of all body systems.”
Photo by Pixabay
OK. But what about indoors, sleeping or working or eating? Can you get your electrons on indoors?
Many earthing products — sheets, pillowcases, mats for the floor, etc. — are sold (red flag! red flag!) so that you can get all that good earth energy with a roof over your head. The products all have some kind of energy conductive material — metal strips of some kind — woven into the product. The product is plugged into the grounding hole of any electrical outlet. That ground, of course, should have a direct line to the earth.
So, from ground to your king-sized bed on the second floor — you’re earthed. All you need are a couple grounding products, sold on several websites. These sites, it must be pointed out, have direct ties to some of the the authors of the aforementioned study (red flag!).
“Basically, it’s the overlaying of ‘science-y’-sounding terminology to earth worship, where the power of the earth somehow maintains and protects us, and the cause of all illness is because of man’s ‘disconnectedness’ from the earth,” writes Gorski, a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit. He’s also chairman of the board of directors for the Society for Science-Based Medicine, a group which is dedicated to promoting good science in medicine and opposing pseudoscience in medicine.
“Basically,” Gorski writes, “it’s magical thinking on par with homeopathy.”
The Wall Street Journal did a look into earthing in a 2014 article entitled, “Will Getting Grounded Help You Sleep Better and Ease Pain?” and found it lacking in credibility, too. Author Laura Johannes interviewed professors and electrical engineers who confirmed that, yes, walking barefoot outdoors, or inside on a grounded mat, can cause the body to absorb electrons.
But, they point out, that happens all the time. Plus, they say, nothing is special about the Earth’’ electrons.
Johannes writes that there is “little credible proof of health benefits,” according to the experts the Journal interviewed.
Dr. Andrew Weil is the founder, professor and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He’s also a best-selling author of books on holistic health.
“We’ll need additional studies of better design and with more participants before we can know whether it is really possible to derive health benefits from earthing,” Weil wrote. “While the studies done so far are intriguing, some of the hype for earthing is over-the-top.”
In the end, there are proponents of earthing who are steadfast in their belief that it works, and that the science-based community (along with some journalists and other unsavory characters) are out to get them. And there are hard-nosed skeptics who look at earthing as a scam, as a bunch of scientific hooey and, at worst, as a capitalistic enterprise designed to take money from sick people.
As Weil suggests, more studies are never a bad thing. Until then, though, most would probably agree that a little barefoot walk in the park now and again can’t hurt.