…or peak oil, or income inequality, or mass extinction, or any other issues that you’ll hear about in mainstream or alternative media. Not that those issues aren’t important – they’re all just too…I don’t know: negative. bleak. Too emotionally or politically charged to spur any real change. And the solutions proposed to address these problems tend to reinforce the very systems that created them in the first place.
I attended a conference and workshop recently hosted by the Association of Nurses for a Healthy Environment that addressed the health impacts of climate change.
There were some remarkable facts that were presented to the group of mostly Ohio nurses that gathered for the event.
- 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and is caused by humans (if 97% of oncologists were certain that you had lung cancer, it was caused by smoking and that the only possibility of cure included quitting, what would you do?)
- Climate and weather disasters in 2012 cost US taxpayers more than $100 billion
- O2 (oxygen), VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and NO (nitrous oxide) combine at low altitudes to create O3 (ozone), which potentiate the effects of allergens (e.g., ragweed), whose growth is selectively promoted by atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide), and results in:
- increased airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness
- decreased FVC and FEV1 (pulmonary function tests of restrictive and obstructive airway conditions like asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
- increased ER visits for respiratory and cardiac conditions
These alarming stats were echoed by an article published recently in the Lancet – a mainstream peer-reviewed medical journal – which asserts that climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of medical advances and designates it as the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century.” It cites World Health Organization (WHO) predictions of 250,000 deaths per year attributable to the effects of climate change, including: heat stress, pollution, food-, water-, and vector-borne diseases, food insecurity, displacement, and mental illness. To address these problems the commission proposes international agreements, research, monitoring and surveillance, and transitioning to healthier cities. ….
That’s the global perspective, but lets drill down into the local situation.
Ohio lawmakers passed a law that would have incentivized the transformation of our remaining fossil fuels into long-term renewable energy solutions – e.g., wind turbines, solar PV panels, etc. Then because of the lobbying efforts of a particularly influential energy company in the state, another law was passed that froze the original law for 2 years. Then the EPA released it’s Clean Power Plan. The standards will be set this month and then states will have a year to develop a plan to implement them utilizing a combination of 4 strategies:
- Converting to “clean” coal technology
- Increasing energy production from natural gas
- Increasing energy production from renewables
- Improving efficiency standards
Had the original law remained in effect, Ohio would have been poised to become a leader in the “green” economy and would have had a head start in meeting the new EPA standards, which require Ohio to reduce carbon emissions by about 30% by 2030.
If we had reformed campaign finance so that the voices of individual constituents were considered equally regardless of their economic influence, we would have much more efficiently and less-expensively met that now-mandatory 30% reduction and thereby prevented up to an estimated 150,000 emergency room visits per year due to asthma, up to 6,600 premature deaths per year, and saved up to $93 billion in climate related healthcare expenditures according to the EPA.
But … that’s not happening now. Ohio will have to fork out a lot more of Ohioans tax dollars to meet these standards since SB 310 passed.
Meanwhile, as we wait for politicians to act, we officially enter the 6th mass extinction, witness climate change events beyond even the most extremist predictions, and slide down Hubbert’s curve (despite his excusable faith in humanity and subsequent failure to account for unconventional, low EROEI, and frankly insane techniques like “fracking”).
But here we go again with the negativity – blasting people with the frightening reality rather than focusing on how we can respond.
…it’s about Resilience
Now resilience – that’s a concept that everyone can get on board with. And we can benefit from being more resilient, whether or not climate change (or any other scary issue) is real.
It goes beyond politics. Resilience demands a rigorously honest assessment of ones vulnerabilities, and if you fudge it, you only fudge yourself.
Let’s systematically assess our vulnerabilities and strategically target interventions to build resilience for our families and communities.
Until then – the Rule of 3s dictates that we can live for 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food …and I’m sure you could come up with other 3s for clothing, shelter, energy, interaction, etc. So let’s start there and take care of the basics.
What’s Up at Resilient Health?
Just this week we took another step towards resilience. Already situated on a 23-acre homestead with well water and a septic system – soon to be converted to composting toilets – we now have hybrid grid-tied and grid-free solar photovoltaic panels installed by Yellowlite, which will supply all of the electricity needed for our current operations (including the well pump – ensuring water security), and will help us to reduce the profits of large utility companies that would otherwise be spent influencing short-sighted energy policies.
In Ohio, the winters can be brutal and we are still powered by natural gas, but we have implemented energy efficiency measures, have a fireplace insert for heat, and plan to transition away from natural gas entirely within the next decade.
We have 2500 square foot annual/perennial keyhole bed garden for a little food security
a medicinal herb garden – for a touch of health security
and we’re planning and prepping the sites for our edible forest garden (more food security).
We are also working on developing models for integrative healthcare delivery that are not dependent upon fossil fuel consumption or current systems of reimbursement. We have an innovative time-bank in the incubator to help us transition to a more nature-based economy and to connect people within their communities. And we’re brainstorming Resilience assessment tools for individuals, organizations and communities to determine the most effective ways to improve their resilience.
We have lots of other plans aimed at promoting, enriching and sustaining resilient human and environmental health. So, in addition to writing your legislators, please consider a donation to an organization committed to helping us all become a little more resilient.