Monday, 9 April 2012

Climate Matters. H is for Health

This is for H in the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2012. Link in the sidebar.

We instinctively know we function better when we’re healthy, when we have hope for the future. When we feel a sense of control over our lives we show courage in the face of adversity – we feel empowered. The converse is also true, when we feel disempowered, when life feels hopeless, depression increases throughout communities.

Most people think of climate change as a purely environmental issue. But it affects more than the environment. In itself, even without being personally impacted by an extreme climate change event, knowledge about the devastating effects of extreme weather and environmental degradation can lead to depression.

Climate change also affects the fundamental requirements for health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.

As people in bushfire prone areas are aware, extreme heat can lead to devastating bushfires, resulting in deaths, higher pollution levels and asthma attacks as well as long term impacts as a result of trauma for those impacted directly and indirectly. Heatwaves affect health in a variety of ways - by triggering heart attacks, strokes, accidents and heat exhaustion – all potentially requiring hospitalisation. Vulnerable people such as the very young and elderly may die. High temperatures can also lead to increased pollutants in the air that afffect those with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases including asthma.

Increasing drought leads to food and water shortages. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are likely to lead to further malnutrition in many countries.
Floods can cause drownings and physical injuries, damage homes, businesses and infrastructure and disrupt all services including the supply of medical and health services. The economy is affected by lost work and school days, population displacement and disruption of transportation leading to food and fresh water shortages.

Floods contaminate freshwater supplies. Gastroenteritis and waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid outbreaks could also become more common because warmer temperatures would make it easier for bacteria to multiply in food and contaminated water after infrastructure has broken down due to flooding.
Residents in Townsville QLD were warned to preserve drinking water
after the devastation of Cyclone Yasi.
Diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Ross River virus may become more prevalent as mosquitoes extend their range and flourish in a generally warmer climate and breed in stagnant water after floods. Tick borne diseases such as lyme disease are also expected to increase.

Rising sea levels and increasingly extreme weather events will destroy homes, farms, businesses, medical facilities and other essential services. More than half of the world's population lives within 60 km of the sea. People will be forced to move, which in turn heightens the risk of a range of health effects, from emotional distress to coming into contact with new diseases.
Food prices skyrocket and seaside communities are devastated
after extreme weather events worldwide.
When forests are decimated for timber, agriculture or mining, the native animals are crowded together in fragmented, smaller areas. One ill animal can infect others more easily and because they crowded together, and are closer to settlements, the disease carries far more easily and can transfer to humans easier than would be possible if their habitat was intact.

The health of the world’s people depends on truly sustainable development. This will ideally incorporate all areas of human activity and include our interactions with land, ocean and atmospheric environments to ensure that they, and we, are reslilient in the face of increasing pressure to use them with little regard for the outcomes.

Social, economic, public health and environmental needs must all be addressed in order to fully achieve sustainable progress - at local, national, regional and international levels. Policy makers, scientists, stakeholders, (including big business) and the wider public must learn to work together if we are to transition successfully through this period of climate change.

Last year I wrote about Harassment and Health for H in my theme on workplace bullying. Here.


Pearson Report said...

Hi Sue - I'm dropping by to say how much I'm enjoying your topic "Climate Matters" for this year's Challenge.

Today's topic "Health" is very interesting - thank you for sharing this information with us! It is amazing how our health is adversely affected by what happens when climate change is factored in.

Jenny @ Pearson Report
Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Sue said...

Thanks Jenny. There are so many interlinked aspects of climate change that don't seem to get as much press as they deserve. The health impacts related to climate change are beginning to be discussed very seriously in farming communities here.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Important post. I agree with all of it.

MynameisEarl said...

I remember when the floods hit Brisbane CBD hard, couldn't really get to some places. :(

Sue said...

Thanks for visiting Cathy

MynameisEarl - it was dreadful wasn't it. So many people were evacuated and the damage is still evident (talking about the street-scapes etc, not peoples inner scars)

Anonymous said...

This is a terrific series. I am learning much and having my eyes opened. Thank you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. as the others have said - an important series for us to reflect on now, but more importantly here for later on ..

Having good health to start with means we are in a position to help ourselves, when things go wrong, and/or to help others.

There is an awful lot of change going on that is out of our control .. invading mosquitoes, drought, floods etc .. - but if we can think now what we can do .. we may be able to help ourselves in a few years time ...

Be prepared ... is a very good motto - cheers Hilary

Karen Walker said...

This is very interesting - glad I found you. I am very aware of these things, living in New Mexico, where we always have draught. And my health has been impacted by the dryness and allergies. But it is a beautiful place to live, despite these things.

M Pax said...

We had a dryer than usual winter. Snow pack was low. Will effect the entire state come summer. I often worry about our planet and what we plan to do about.

Sue said...

Hi Karen, I've been reading about the drought in New Mexico, it sounds dreadful. It's interesting how we can love a place even though the climate might not be the best for us.

Mary, The lack of snowfall will have impacts not only with ground water, but creatures and plants that need the cold season as part of their life cycle. I wonder how it'll affect creatures that hibernate.

Sue said...

Sorry my replies are out of order, oops.

Delores, thankyou so much, your comment is just what I need this morning :)

Hilary, good health is so often overlooked and taken for granted, until we're confronted with our own illness or the ill-health of someone we love.

- I like your comment that when we have good health we can look after ourselves AND others - I'd completely overlooked that. That's a good motto too; one which seems to be totally overlooked by some companies. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.