At the recent ecoAmerica National Health and Climate Forum, I was invited to present some thoughts about self-care for those of us engaged in the climate fight. I believe we must continuously invest in ourselves to do our best work now and to maintain this commitment over time.
For everyone involved in stopping climate change, it’s challenging not only because of the enormous complexity of the problem, but also because the rest of life doesn’t stop, with work, family, personal or health issues demanding our attention and energy at the same time.
But for those of us in health care, we get both the benefit and the burden of that added perspective. Although we’re not climate scientists, our health background allows us to understand and communicate climate change better than many. But in addition, we truly get the extreme risks we’re running with the worsening dis-ease of nature, which can add even more weight to our worries about the future.
Our medical culture is steeped in the notion of all-knowing and always able practitioners- which is not only false but it actually undermines our impact and resilience. So, let’s stop for just a moment and acknowledge some of our own concerns.
We live in particularly challenging times; on the heels of a deadly global pandemic, we’re witnessing an ongoing frontal assault on democracy, a new administration struggling to pass their progressive agenda, the shocking reversal of Roe vs. Wade, mass shootings too common to get headlines- all of it amidst a steady drumbeat of data about our worsening climate.
Here in San Diego, I dwell on our drought and dread fires and heat waves- but – and this is just as important- I celebrate the positive signs. There are so many EVs around now, we call this place Tesla Town. I’m particularly excited to see the big surge in healthcare worker engagement on climate, here and nationally. And I’m always buoyed by the growing fellowship of this group and others, the compassionate and inspiring people we connect with by joining this challenge.
So, take a moment and write down your personal climate “worries and wins.” Next, take the time to remind yourself of your purpose in doing this work- a safe future for your children, a healthy and vibrant natural world, environmental justice, or whatever resonates most strongly for you.
Finally, reflect on all the lives that you’ve touched by engaging in this work- those you’ve educated and inspired and those you’ve helped to protect. We are privileged to have you with us as we work towards a just and safe climate future.
About the Author
Bruce Bekkar, ObG physician, Climate for Health Fellow, Editorial Board Jnl Climate Change and Health, lead author JAMA article