Medical students across the globe are becoming increasingly aware and engaged in climate action. With all that they have on their plates during their years of medical schooling, how do they possibly have time for this? As med student Ele Dow writes below, many of them don't feel they have a choice as they see the need for transitioning away from fossil fuels a critical means of prevention. Prevention has always been key to good medical practice. Ele speaks about the need for us to shift our societal emphasis away from the mere focus of our own personal responsibilities (consumer actions which we will continue, but are limited), to broader state and nation-wide approaches. Once she graduates from medical school, Ele will join a team of health professionals that have taken the lead to work toward eliminating climate health threats. "There needs to be a widespread culture change but the biggest barriers are found upstream. I urge you to join the global social movement for climate justice, by joining campaigns such as divestment, anti-fracking, challenging fuel poverty and air pollution, taking direct action and standing in solidarity with those at the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction." Have we inspired you yet? Join the team by becoming a part of Climate for Health today.
By Ele Dow, Medical Student I October 4, 2015
Climate change is a health emergency. I am a medical student and climate activist, working with a group called Healthy Planet. Taking action on climate change and social justice is something I see as essential to my future duties of care as a doctor. Many of the changes we need to make in order to alleviate the impacts of climate change are those that should be done to improve the crisis in public health anyway. Our fossil fuelled economy is making us sick and continuing on the current trajectory will just increase the already widening health inequalities and the impacts this has on social welfare.
Many of the health impacts come directly through climate related floods, storms, wildfires and heatwaves, which are causing rising deaths and injury, an estimated 400,000 in 2012 (1). This year we’ve seen some of the worst droughts in history sweep across Australia, California, the middle East and Sub-saharan Africa. Climate change is a health emergency.
We’ve seen heatwaves kill thousands in India (2). We’ve seen bushfires, floods, receding ice and sea levels rise faster than expected threatening the existence of pacific island and low lying countries. This has contributed to food and water insecurity, and is a driving factor of increased migration and conflict (3). The ongoing conflict in Syria has been attributed in part to a mega-drought (4) which is now forcing many to make the long, dangerous and often life-threatening journey to Europe, and there is only likely to be more conflicts driven by similar factors in the near future. Climate change is a health emergency.
In the UK, economic losses due to our increasingly erratic weather are already putting a severe strain on many British farmers, whilst the flooding seen in recent years has been found to have profound effects on mental health. Climate change is a health emergency.
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