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Matter: Earth Day 2017

Matter: Earth Day 2017

I always have moments of anxiety before Earth Day, coming up with the concept, not quite trusting my creativity and inspiration. It’s funny how events converge in the creative process. A crazy month of dental meetings, a TED talk, bristle cone pine trees, they all helped form the idea behind our Earth Day theme. I take responsibility for the craziness as the same classes were also available later this year, but I felt that the information was important for the quality of care for my patients.

People see the end result of scientific advances on the news and think it happens as if by magic, but the science has been evolving for many years. People have been staying up late pondering, trying, analyzing, changing, reanalyzing, developing, systematically and persistently for decades. I’m sure there were doubters and critics, but persistence, creative thinking, scientific analysis, and like most of us in the field, a bit of obsession, pays off.

I saw a TED talk about the concept of BIG TALK. A college student, feeling isolated and alone, learned that what connected her to others was exactly that feeling, of being alone. I remember feeling that way in college, still do sometimes. I began to read her questions and wrote some of my own. How many people in the world believe they can’t make a difference? I work with kids all day. I wonder how often they get to reflect on important questions, or whether they're rushing day in and day out from school, to practice, to homework, to bed. What about adults? Always obligations, rushing. We are blessed with only so many days.

The bristlecone pine trees, a few over 4000 years old, are dying. They live in high altitudes, in hard cold sparse conditions, their growth too slow to adapt to the changing climate. I was fortunate to see a grove in Great Basin National Park last year. I struggled through the snow short of breath from the altitude, but I made it and it was worth it. Will we be able to adapt or be like the bristlecones?

What is essential? That is one my questions for Earth Day. Everyone’s answer is different. For me it is clean air and water, a concept stressed repeatedly while in the Master’s program at the Harvard School of Public Health. Increasingly, I see kids with airway problems. This is one reason I go to class. I had airway issues as a child too. Allergies and asthma are common. I see it on almost every health history. As an orthodontist, I can help with breathing, as science is showing us that we can take steps at younger ages and help change structures in order to promote better breathing. The incidence of sleep apnea is also increasing, another disease that orthodontists are helping with. But why are we seeing such an increase in the first place?

Questions… this Earth Day is to honor questions and the scientists that work to find the answers that help our lives and our world. I hope everyone asks the big increasingly necessary questions. If someone reads the back of our Earth Day shirt and it inspires them to act, then that would be rewarding for me because people matter. You matter.

Dr. M

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