by Sarah Schmitt, April 02, 2014

On Saturday, March 15th the Community Food and Justice Coalition (CFJC) represented PHI’s Center for Climate Change & Health at Walk with a Doc, a free community event in Berkeley’s San Pablo Park, to talk about the connections between climate change and health and how walking can improve both.

Walk with a Doc co-hosted the event with the City of Berkeley, the Ecology Center, Lifelong Medical Care, and Heart 2 Heart. Walk with a Doc is a national, non-profit program that coordinates events in community parks across the country focused on bringing together local residents with  physicians, health specialists, and health care professionals. Saturday’s 2.5 mile walk included a conversation on the connections among individual and community health, physical activity, and climate change. Participants learned the importance of active transportation, spent time with their families and neighbors, and took a walk around San Pablo Park.

CFJC talked with attendees about the connection between health and climate change, and join in on the walk. Through a carbon footprint game, CFJC engaged participants in thinking about how climate change affects them. They may not have had an answer at the start of the game, but by the end they did! Physicians at the event explained how walking benefits your health by reducing stress and fatigue, improving circulation, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and more. The Berkeley Climate Action Coalition discussed how increased active transportation can help to mitigate climate change. Climate change puts the health of our communities at risk, but by walking, biking and leading a more active lifestyle, a community can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also significantly improving health. It’s a win-win.

Events like Walk with a Doc bring people together and provide an opportunity to speak openly about how climate change is adversely impacting the health of individuals, communities, and the entire planet, as well as how strategies to address climate change – like shifting to more active transportation – can offer many, many health benefits.

 

 

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by Jeni Miller, PhD, March 14, 2014

Monday night, 31 U.S. Senators staged an all-night “talkathon” (hashtagged #Up4Climate) to urge their colleagues in Congress to begin, in earnest, to address climate change. Their key points: Action is critical, the scientific consensus is clear, the window of opportunity is closing, and denial won’t keep climate change from wreaking untold harm on U.S. communities. At PHI’s Center for Climate Change & Health, we couldn’t agree more. If the U.S. does not take major action to mitigate and adapt to climate change, people here, and around the world, will continue to feel the ravaging effects of amped up storms and flooding, worsening droughts, extreme heat, increased wildfires, sea level rise, and the many health impacts these changes directly and indirectly produce.

Noticeably not among the outcomes of the #Up4Climate event: the introduction of any new climate legislation. Indeed, it is precisely the inability to advance any climate change legislation whatsoever in this divided Congress that provided the impetus for this week’s event, the explicit aim of which was to get climate change back on the political agenda.  The last time Congress seriously engaged with a bill on climate change was in 2009, with the Waxman-Markey bill. That bill unraveled in 2010. Though more recent bills have been proposed – such as the Boxer-Markey carbon tax of 2013, or Capps’ bill of the same year to strengthen public health system capacity to respond to climate change impacts – they have been widely understood to be ‘dead on arrival.’ Many legislators continue to deny that climate change is even occurring, flying in the face of sound science.

From the White House we’ve seen renewed efforts to tackle climate change through executive action (Keystone XL pipeline aside). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with support from the President, is moving forward with regulations to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, a major greenhouse gas source. Though the House passed a bill that would block the EPA’s authority to regulate these health-harming carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act, the Senate won’t take up the House bill; but even if it did the President has already vowed a veto.

As bills to address the issue get repeatedly shut down by Congressional gridlock, the impact of climate change has been increasingly felt across the U.S., including the historic drought we are still grappling with in California. Communities in California are looking at dangerously low drinking water reservoirs, fallow fields and unfed cattle, job loss, damage to fish stock, Valley Fever and the prospects of another raging fire season.

#Up4Climate comes at crunch time. The best time for U.S. action to begin to address climate change would have been nearly 25 years ago, when the first President Bush first put climate change on the Washington agenda. What we face now, instead, is the last possible moment for action. The #Up4Climate Senators are right – it’s high time to start pulling all-nighters.

View the entire #Up4Climate conversation.

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by Staff, February 14, 2014

In today’s Huffington Post, Public Health Institute's Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change, offers his read on the recently passed federal Farm Bill.

“I see a Farm Bill that supports increased spending on research, specialty crops, healthy food access, small farmers, farmers markets and organic transition,” says Dimock, who thinks that perhaps “Congress is beginning to hear the message that public funds should be focused on growing health-promoting foods and programs that stimulate more diverse, regionally-oriented, ecologically sensitive farming systems.”

Dimock notes that “Funds for the Bill's primary Research Title rose by $1.1 billion, a critical improvement in this age of climate change and resource depletion.”

“The Agricultural Act of 2014 contains the seeds of a new kind of Farm Bill,” that is “heading in the right direction,” Dimock concludes. “It offers conditional incentives to guide farmers and consumers to make choices that support health and resilience.”

Read Dimock’s piece, Progress but Not Yet Perfection: A Californian's Perspective on the New Farm Bill

Michael Dimock, MA is president of Roots of Change, and former chair of Slow Food USA.

 

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by Staff, February 10, 2014

Despite recent wet weather in parts of California, the state remains in the grips of the worst drought on record. Scientists tell us that we can expect to see increased frequency and severity of droughts throughout the Southwest and California, as climate change unfolds.

In a recent guest editorial in the Sacramento Bee, the Public Health Institute’s Dr. Linda Rudolph looks at the drought's serious health implications for the people of California. In the Bee, and in an interview with Capital Public Radio, Rudolph considers the health impacts of current and future droughts, and urges both long-term, health-oriented solutions, and addressing the immediate water needs of the communities hardest hit by the current drought. 

Sacramento Bee: Viewpoints: Action needed to protect health during drought and dry days ahead

Capital Public Radio: Health Experts: Drought Poses Health Risks

California Healthline: State Plagued by Bad Air, Scant Water

Linda Rudolph, MD, MPH is the co-director of PHI’s Center for Climate Change & Health, and co-leads the Center’s Creating a Climate for Health project. 

 

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by Jeni Miller, December 20, 2013

Science journalist Linda Marsa’s recent book, Fevered: Why a hotter planet will hurt our health – and how we can save ourselves, paints a vivid picture of the mounting impact of climate change on health in the U.S. With a sharp focus on the sorts of major changes needed in our systems, infrastructure and ways of life, and a deep appreciation for the essential role that public health must play, Marsa makes the case that we can tackle climate change, that we must  do so to protect our health, and that we have no time to waste.

She has done her homework. Combining extensive research with with a keen eye for the details that bring a story to life, Marsa describes some of the major ways that climate change threatens our health. The stories she tells at the outset of the book are sobering.

Marsa provides a benchmark for the warming we’ll see by introducing us to an Oklahoma farming family on Black Sunday, the day of the worst dust storm in U.S. history. The Dust Bowl, she tells us, which drove hundreds of thousands of desperate Americans off of their dessicated Great Plains farms in the 1930s, was triggered by a mere 1°F change in ocean surface tempertures.

Marsa’s tour of the U.S. health impacts of current day climate change takes us inside Charity Hospital during Katrina, shows us a hanta virus outbreak in the Four Corners region of the Southwest, describes the effects of worsening air quality in California’s Central Valley, and more, carefully drawing links in each case to climate change.

She also takes us to Australia, a developed Western nation much like the U.S., but one that has been hit early and hard by climate change. Australia, Marsa suggests, foreshadows what the U.S. may expect to see in just a few years. After a decade long drought, rural communities are in shambles and suicide rates among despairing Australian farmers have become a significant public health concern – and that’s just one small part of the Australia story. The picture Marsa paints at the outset is grim.

But ultimately, Marsa’s is a message of hope. She wants us to get it – to understand how significantly climate change threatens our health and that of generations to come – so that we’ll do something about. And, she suggests, there is so much that can be done, not only to reduce and address climate change, but to make our lives better in the process.

Marsa shows us vibrantly walkable and increasingly green cities such as New York and Vancouver, that produce a fraction of the per capita carbon emissions of the U.S. average (and have lower obesity rates to boot). She shares with us forward thinking water management plans that have slashed water usage in Las Vegas, Nevada. She descirbes ecosystem rebuilding along the Gulf Coast that should eventually help buffer Lousiana from incoming storms. And Marsa calls for a “medical Marshall Plan” to build up a robust public health system capable of promoting and informing climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience.

They don’t know it yet, but several people on my gift list will be receiving this book for Christmas. Like Marsa, I want the people around me to get a very clear picture both of just how serious a threat to our health climate change is; and that we can tackle this problem if we jump in, full tilt, now. As Marsa puts it in her closing, “we can’t waste another minute.”

Join us in 2014 for a Google Hangout with Linda Marsa

At PHI’s Center for Climate Change and Health, we want to learn more about Fevered and Marsa’s perspective on climate and health. She’s agreed to join us for a Google Hangout On Air in early 2014. Stayed tuned, to learn when and how to join us for a conversation with Linda Marsa.

 

 

 

 

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by GoJoven, November 22, 2013

Originally published by GoJoven: Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health Program

With international leaders currently gathered at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19) in Warsaw, Poland to negotiate and develop policies and procedures to address climate change, it seemed the perfect time to explore the connection between the issues of reproductive health and environmental degradation and our Youth Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health Program’s (GOJoven) work to address both. Typically treated as separate fields of work, we believe that environmental degradation (ED) and lack of access to reproductive health (RH) education and services are actually interwoven issues that negatively impact each other and the health and well-being of the most marginalized populations in developing countries, including women, girls, youth and adolescents, and indigenous, poor and rural peoples.

Fellows of PHI’s GOJoven program are seeing firsthand how rapid population growth and lack of reproductive health are impacting the environments in their local communities. In her essay “Cancun: A Lost Paradise”, part of a larger anthology entitled A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice & the Environmental ChallengeAdriana Varillas, a journalist and GOJoven fellow from Mexico, explains that the consequence of rapid population growth in Cancun is the destruction of natural resources to make way for development to respond to increased tourism and a growing population. Saúl Paau Maaz, a GOJoven fellow from Guatemala, tells a similar story to Varillas in an article on the impacts of population growth on his native Petén. According to Maaz, multinational companies and sprawling human settlements are destroying the forests. He calls the jungle where he was born a “disaster area” that’s been “plundered and exploited”, that every year, 100 to 150 square miles of forest are lost.

In both Cancun and Petén, Varillas and Maaz note that the local population lacks access to sexual education and resources to plan their pregnancies and the use of condoms and other contraceptive methods are still stigmatized. And as the population grows, so does the use of natural resources. And although population growth in these countries is not responsible for climate change, local population growth due to lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education and services can negatively affect the population’s ability to adapt to climate change or to mitigate it’s effects.

GOJoven’s Work to Address Reproductive Health and Environmental Protection

In 2010, at the 16th UN Climate Summit in Cancun, Mexico, PHI’s GOJoven program was one of 13 organizations, including the Sierra Club and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, that developed the COP16 Policy Statement, titled: Global Youth Support Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for a Just and Sustainable World.

The statement, presented by GOJoven and the youth attending COP16 was based on the fact that at least 215 million women worldwide want to limit or space their births, but don’t have access to modern family planning methods. UNFPA estimates that this unmet need for family planning is twice as great for young people. It also demanded that an effective approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation must support young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), as doing so is essential for adaptation while contributing to reducing the impact of future climate change.

In addition to working side-by-side to develop the COP16 Policy Statement, GOJoven fellows helped facilitate the Council on Youth (COY) pre-conference to the COP 16 and actively participated in COP16.  GOJoven has also worked for many years with the Sierra Club on the Sex and Environment Tours, with GOJoven fellows visiting college campuses throughout the US to engage US students on the topics of reproductive health and environmental protection. Sierra Club joined GOJoven in Guatemala to train additional youth leaders on the connections between population and the environment. See video here.

Currently, GOJoven fellows in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras are engaging youth and collaborating with community groups, local organizations and the media to see that young people in these countries, and globally, have access to sexual education and resources to plan their pregnancies. And the GOJoven Belize Alumni Association (GOBelize) has as core to it’s mission to prepare the next generation of leaders in sexual and reproductive health and rights and environmental conservation. GOJoven will continue to work to link these important issues, fighting to support youth SRH as an important strategy for climate change and mitigation. We look forward to joining COP20 in Peru in 2015!

 

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