Self-Body-Nature: The Green and Healthy Frome Thing

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So, What is Green and Healthy Frome? What’s our Thing?

If you were passing through the town, you might mistake it as a campaign for local parks, or healthy eating. It’s always difficult to select a title for a project that make its ‘thing’ immediately obvious. This is particularly true when the activities that the project encompasses are as wide-ranging as Green and Healthy Frome.

Read the blurb on our website, and you’ll see that our thing is the close relationship between our health and the health of the planet—and how actions that benefit one also benefit the other. Riding your bicycle to work instead of using a car, for example, is one of the key changes that our Cycle Together scheme aims to support in our community. 

‘Co-Benefits’

Cycling improves health through the physical and psychological benefits of exercise. Meanwhile, driving less means reduced emissions, air pollution and climate heating, in turn leading to a healthier environment for all. This ‘win-win’, cyclical relationship between our planet and our health is the core message of Green and Healthy Frome. 

These health-climate ‘co-benefits’ apply to a range of other things too, including improving the energy efficiency of our homes; repairing clothes as part of a shift towards a less consumer-driven ‘circular’ economy; growing and eating locally; or joining together with neighbours to share knowledge and skills that support us to make changes that are mutually positive for our health and the environment.

Nature Disconnect

But there is also a sense in which ‘green and healthy’ is linked to deeper questions about both the origins the climate emergency and the growing social and health inequalities faced by people here and across the world. 

Beneath the idea of climate-health ‘co-benefits’ is an understanding of the growing disconnect between ourselves, our bodies and ‘nature’ that has accompanied the growth of the global oil economy, which itself led to the current crisis

Climate Trauma

This awareness was brought into focus recently by one of our team, Sue, who shared with us a conversation among a group of indigenous scholars and activists about climate trauma and what can be learned from indigenous understandings of our relation to nature. 

As Sue reminded us, the climate crisis is based on deep racial and social injustice, both historic and contemporary. We are part of a drive for systemic change that is not just about our community and place on the planet.

Extraction and Exploitation

For me, this conversation made me think about how climate change began with colonialism, the traumatic dispossession of lands and resources, and the imposition of new a relation to nature—that of the resource or commodity—by technologically advanced regimes on indigenous people, and subsequent acceleration in carbon emissions.

In the process, indigenous people have seen the degradation of their environments and cultures. In times of crisis, reciprocal relationships that once supported poorer members of these communities were displaced by those of coercion, exploitation and appropriation of resources for the global market.

From ‘Externality’ to Roosting Chickens

As Eriel Tchekwie Deranger suggests, those of us in the global north who have historically benefited from this process now experience climate change as an “externality”. We worry about the trees, the water, the sea levels, the species. But our lives have been disconnected from those things—a distant, filtered, processed, convenient nature—such that its degradation has little bearing on our lives.

At the same time, being a part of society demands that we sell most of our time and labour in order to live, rather than doing those things which previously bound us to the land and oceans. This disconnectedness makes us less conscious of our ecological dependence and less resilient to the effects of climate change.

But, like chickens coming home to roost, climate trauma is now arriving on our own doorsteps. Extreme heat, food prices, flooding, energy poverty, pandemics, geopolitical and economic instability, multiple ecological and social crises, all of which have an impact on our health.

Reconnecting Self, Body and Nature 

So, in linking climate and health, Green and Healthy Frome breaks down the false psychological walls that enabled global extractivism and led us to a climate crisis. It challenges those ideas that have separated ourselves from nature, the human from the non-human, and even our ‘selves’ from our own bodies.

As much as our relationship with nature has become increasingly mediated by the natural sciences, perceptions of our bodies have become increasingly mediated through medical science. We no longer seek medicine or therapy in the forms which may once have prevented us from becoming ill in the first place: in food, in rest, in the senses, in the feeling of water or air on the skin, in movement, in quietness, in conversation, in sharing, in exchanging, in relation, in togetherness. 

Instead, we are told: take this pill, treat the symptoms, forget about the cause.

Indigenous Lessons

We can learn much from indigenous efforts to preserve and reclaim relationships between the earth, its climate, the environment, nature, health and bodies.

As well as improving our own wellbeing, by working to decolonise our own environments, systems of knowledge, traditions and norms, we might promote an understanding of the historical injustices inflicted by colonialism.

All of this speaks to the radical heart of the Green and Healthy Frome programme. For example, through promoting social prescribing at the town medical practice, supporting local food and textile networks, initiatives to make nature more accessible, signposting residents to home improvement funding, and by sharing the knowledge and skills that can help us transition away from being passive consumers to active and healthy citizens.

It is this, I think, that is our thing.

Author

Annabel Crooke

Annabel Crooke

Green and Healthy Communications Lead

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