Healthy Planet, Healthy You: February 2023 Climate News To Know
Having access to green space during pregnancy can positively impact birth weight.
New research that spanned nine European countries and nearly 70,000 births found a correlation between living within close proximity to residential green space during pregnancy and giving birth to a baby that is a healthy weight.
In contrast, living farther from parks, gardens, and forests was associated with an increased likelihood of giving birth to a small-for-gestational-age baby, in the bottom 10th weight percentile. This connection seemed to be strongest among parents who lived in more northern countries and those who had lower educational levels.
The climate-friendly diet of the future might be heavy on seaweed.
Seaweed is a sustainable food source that also shows promise for protecting coastlines2 and reducing the environmental impact of animal agriculture. (It makes cows less gassy—no joke). New research set out to quantify just how much we stand to gain by investing in more seaweed farming in the future.
As for the results, substituting seaweed into 10% of the average human's diet could save up to 110 million hectares (271 million acres; about the size of California and Texas combined) of land from being developed and prevent 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere each year. (Read the research here3.)
For now, stick to a Mediterranean diet if you want to reduce CO2.
In addition to seeking out a kelp-forward diet, following a Mediterranean eating plan can also help reduce your personal carbon footprint.
New research published in the journal Environmental Health found that those who had higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet (which is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, omega-3-rich fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, yogurt, olive oil, herbs, and spices) had lower dietary CO2 emissions. Following this eating pattern was also associated with lower land use, water consumption, and energy consumption. And like so many sustainable actions, this one is great for your personal health, too. (Read the research here.)
Human activity is literally changing the way that birds look and interact.
How's this for disturbing: A study published in Acta Ethologica found that birds who are exposed to urban noises develop different color beaks from those who are not. Researchers are unsure why this happens, but they suspect it could have to do with the way that human sounds increase corticosterone (a primary stress hormone in birds, akin to our cortisol), which impacts beak appearance. By driving these aesthetic changes, urban noise might also influence the way birds interact and choose mates. (Read the research here4.)
The side effects of phthalate exposure may be passed down through generations.
A first-of-its-kind study found that phthalates' adverse effects on metabolic health were passed down from male mice to two generations of offspring. "We found paternal exposure to endocrine-disrupting phthalates may have intergenerational and transgenerational adverse effects on the metabolic health of their offspring," lead researcher Changcheng Zhou, Ph.D., said in a statement. "To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first to demonstrate this." The next step is to test whether something similar is happening in humans. (Read the research here6.)
Monthly focus: Embrace the chill.
Cold, wintry weather has a way of keeping us tucked inside. But research proves that the health benefits of spending time outdoors don't dip with the temps. Instead, getting outside in the winter seems to be just as mentally restorative and cognitively beneficial as stepping out on a warm, sunny day. Plus, shutting ourselves in when things get a little chilly further divorces us from nature, and it likely contributes to the winter blues that so people feel right around now.
Those in the Northern Hemisphere can strive to get outside for at least two hours a week (the threshold that researchers have identified for boosting well-being7) through the frosty days of February. There's no need to go full Wim Hof here: Bundle up in plenty of layers to explore the landscapes around you through afternoon walks, winter sports, or mindful moments in the snow. We'll catch you in the spring.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.