As climate change hits home, it's not only our shorelines that are taking the hit. Increased risks of vector-borne diseases, heat-related deaths, allergies and environmentally-induced asthma are some of signs that human health is also taking a battering. Health professionals must be ready to address these impacts, not merely with reactive approaches, but proactively. Preventative care is, after all, the best care. ecoAmerica's report, 2012 Climate Impacts: Take Care and Prepare, offers suggestions about how to take steps to prevent changes from causing further damage, and prepare for those that we can’t avoid.
The impacts of climate change are tremendous and diverse. In order to "take on" climate change, medical professionals will need to work well with peers and patients across generations. We need to learn how to bridge our generation gaps in order to make the most of the climate solutions movement.
As Dr. Moyer reports in her Huffington Post article below, "Elders and youngers working together can not only meet the epic challenge of climate change but also heal age divisions in western societies." It certainly can't hurt to try.
By Ellen Moyer, Ph.D I August 20, 2015
After decades of uncontrolled greenhouse gas emissions and mounting impacts, we now need an "all hands on deck" cooperative approach to develop workable, long-term solutions to climate change. This presents an opportunity for elders and youngers to collaborate, to bridge what climate scientist and "father of global warming" James Hansen calls the "geezer-young person gap."
Pope Francis writes in his May 2015 encyclical letter "On Care for Our Common Home" that "Each community ... has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations...." "We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity," he observes. "Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us."
What Geezer-Young Person Gap?
With the Industrial Revolution, the number of generations at many western dinner tables shrank from three to two, with grandparents living elsewhere. The Baby Boom following World War II -- combined with an increase in average life expectancy -- has created growing numbers of retirees. Baby boomers began reaching age 65 in 2011 at the rate of 10,000 people every day in the U.S. Many elders feel cut off from the rest of western society, which considers them to be finished contributing and tends to exclude and think negatively of them.
Likewise, many young people are increasingly "siloed" - more often with their peers than at the family dinner table, only occasionally with grandparents, and communicating remotely over the internet. Some feel anxiety and dread about climate change.
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