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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Learning to Love Mother Earth

I remember my first summer living in Southwest Florida in the early 1980s after having spent all previous summers dipping into the cool lake waters of northern Michigan. It took a couple of years to acclimate to the heat and humidity, but I grew to love this area’s perks, like the sudden onset of afternoon thunderstorms that cool things down and turn my yard into a rainforest, early morning swims in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and beautiful sunset walks along the shore that make me feel like I’m living in a Maxfield Parrish painting.

But summers, I’ve learned, can also bring scary hurricanes, which have become increasingly stronger and more frequent over the years. Despite the stress of boarding up my house and preparing for disaster numerous times over the years, I’ve been pretty lucky, with only minor home damage. In 2017, Hurricane Irma toppled my neighbor’s huge oak tree into my swimming pool.

As we head into another hurricane season, fears linger in anticipation of the kind of storms we saw last year that ramped up quickly and broke records across the board. 2020 set new benchmarks on all disaster fronts, racking up never-before-seen damages in the billions of dollars, including more than 52,000 wildfires that burned 9 million acres across the United States.

The wake-up call that climate change is a key culprit in these astonishing natural disasters is undeniable, but is it too late? With every new wildfire, hurricane and flash flood, people are understanding that the warming of the planet has dire and immediate consequences not only to the Earth, but to our personal health and well-being. 

In this month’s feature story, “The Human Costs of Climate Change,” on page 28, Sandra Yeyati focuses on the health consequences of a warming planet, suggesting that these emerging realities offer us opportunity for global transformation and justice. On the public policy front, we can start holding polluters responsible and invest in clean energy, mass transit and mitigation solutions. At the personal level, we can make socially and environmentally conscious consumer and lifestyle choices.

Getting involved locally to ensure a healthy environment is as easy as calling The Conservancy of Southwest Florida and joining their efforts mentioned in “Environmentally Speaking” (on page 19) to make sure that the multiple new towns and villages planned for 45,000 acres in eastern Collier County is done right. If these lands are developed as currently planned, Collier County could add more than 300,000 residents to the present population of 370,000.

It’s time to turn our eco-anxiety into solutions, and in this Sustainable Living edition you will find plenty of great suggestions—including tips for home and body detoxification, helping kids connect to nature and becoming an eco-athlete.

It may sound corny, but get out and hug a tree. Put your toes in the Gulf of Mexico and tell Mother Earth how much you love her this Earth Day and every day. She sustains and nurtures us, and it’s time for us to give back. We need each other.