Nature and health research has ignored populations that were not white, western, or wealthy
A growing body of research shows that nature can benefit mental health and well-being. But an analysis of this research reveals that it focuses almost exclusively on white, wealthy, Western populations.
The analysis, led by researchers at the University of Vermont, looked at 174 peer-reviewed studies on the link between nature and well-being and found that 137 of them were conducted in Western countries. , such as the United States, Australia and western countries. Europe, while 166 of them were conducted in high-income countries, including non-Western countries like China, Japan and Israel.
The studies analyzed show that spending time in nature can be therapeutic and restorative; some health experts even prescribe time in nature to the sick. But not all cultures view nature in such a transactional way, said co-author Rachelle Gould, an assistant professor at the university. That’s just one reason more research needs to be done to understand how other cultures find wellness in the natural world, she said.
“Everyone needs water, you know, and everyone needs protection from storms. And that kind of operation works the same for everyone,” Gould said. “But these mental health benefits may not work the same way for everyone.”
These differences underscore the importance of distinguishing between the tangible benefits that nature can provide, such as food, she said, and the intangible benefits, such as the comfort that the aroma of a pine forest provides. to some people.
“If we want to understand our reliance on nature, the intangibles may vary across the world,” Gould said.
Lead author Carlos Andres Gallegos-Riofrio, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vermont, said the paper is a “call to action” for researchers to “cross the border” and study what is universally true and which is culturally specific in this field of study.
“Psychologies are different around the world,” Gallegos-Riofrio said. “So we can’t pass a generalization from one segment of the world to the rest.”
Bag Lady finds only one thing makes the difference
When Lisa D. Foster and her family moved from California to Australia in 2005, one cultural difference that puzzled her was a question the grocery store clerk asked her on her first shopping trip: “Would you like a bag? »
Foster was used to being asked “paper or plastic?” before an employee puts away their groceries. But in Australia, shoppers were starting to carry their purchases in reusable cloth bags that they brought to the store to reduce paper and plastic bag waste.
This moment inspired Foster, a high school English teacher, to start a reusable bag business upon her return to California, helping to spark a cultural shift among American shoppers to buy and use reusable grocery bags. She tells her story in her new memoir, “Bag Lady: How I Started a Business for a Greener World and Changed the Way America Shops.”
Inside Climate News recently discussed the book with Foster. This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How did the culture around reusable bags in the United States change after you started your business?
When I started I met a woman from Safeway who told me that 3% of Americans used reusable bags and that number hadn’t changed since 1970. She didn’t expect that exchange. And when I sold my business [in 2017], my research indicated that 60% of US shoppers used reusable bags most of the time when shopping. Everyone told me at first, Americans don’t take their bags back to the store and they’ll never pay for a bag, that’s European. I can’t tell you how many people said, “No, no, no, they do that in Europe.” They don’t do that in America, it will never happen.
How did your experience as an English teacher lead you to the story that you offered reusable bags to shoppers?
The mythical hero story of, you know, change is hard, but when you see it as heroic, and when you see it as inspirational or aspirational. We want to gravitate around that. What a mythic story is about is making a new culture something desirable, beautiful and aspirational. And so I took those skills, and I wrote the tragic story of a plastic bag and honestly, when I was on the phone introducing store shoppers for years, I would tell it as a tragic story . And my storytelling skills were really, really important to my success. And I’ll end with, “We can solve this problem for 99 cents.” I have a new technology product that solves this problem for 99 cents.’
Your friends encouraged you to “just do one thing” when you were overwhelmed with all the global problems that needed to be solved. Is this any advice you would give to people who want to be part of the solution to climate change?
My role model was really Rachel Carson. In her book, “Silent Spring”, in the dedication she says, “this book is about DDT”, and she dedicates the book to the thousand other battles we must win to make our environment sustainable for us. And we are those thousand battles, that’s what we are. But pick one, you can’t win them all, if you try to do too many things, it won’t work. It’s hard enough to do one thing, trust me. Choose one thing and do it. Put your whole heart into it. Know that you will make mistakes and believe in yourself to get over them. I really hope my book will inspire other people to do just one thing.
A new school to tackle the climate crisis
Stanford University will open its first new school in 70 years dedicated to educating students about global warming and solving the climate crisis.
The university announced in a Press release Wednesday that the Doerr School of Sustainability will open in September with mechanical engineering professor and renewable energy expert Arun Majumdar as inaugural dean.
The school was made possible by a $1.1 billion donation from John and Ann Doerr. John Doerr is a venture capitalist worth over $10 billion which has invested in startups such as DoorDash and Slack. He and his wife have supported online tutoring site Khan Academy and the Climate Reality Project, the nonprofit founded by Al Gore. This donation is the second largest ever given to an institution of higher learning, according to a compilation of the Chronicle of higher education. Additional donations from other donors bring the school’s total funding to $1.69 billion.
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The School of Sustainability will absorb existing departments for energy and the environment, and will include a “sustainability acceleratorthat will elevate technology and policy solutions to stakeholders who can help put the solutions into practice.
“With a strong track record of groundbreaking scholarship and impact, and a critical mass of subject matter experts and innovators, Stanford is uniquely positioned to make a measurable difference in climate and sustainability challenges,” they said. the Doerrs said in a statement. “This is the breakthrough decade, and we must act with full speed and scale.”
Old tires can find new life in concrete
Australian researchers have tested a product that partially replaces sand in concrete by crushing used rubber tires. They found the product is a viable alternative to regular concrete and could be a way to recycle tires and divert them from landfills.
Researchers from the University of South Australia conducted real-life tests on two concrete slabs. One slab was made of conventional concrete, the other was made of a concrete that replaced 20% of the sand content with a product called “crumb rubber”, a material a few millimeters in diameter made from shredded recycled tires.
The tests were done for assess strength and durability of two different types of concrete for use in residential construction, and found that the alternative containing recycled tires was a viable substitute for conventional concrete. Rubber-containing concrete was harder, more ductile, more crack-resistant, and lighter, but was less resistant to compression than conventional concrete.
Co-researcher Professor Yan Zhuge, who studies sustainable concrete, said the research is an important step in bringing crumbling rubber concrete out of the lab and into the real world.
“That’s why the main focus of our research is from the lab to the slab,” she said. “There is a big gap between research and practice.”