This is the third in a series of posts providing rolling coverage from the #CoveringClimateNow Twitter Festival. It is being compiled by Marie McInerney and Melissa Sweet.
Community health – our role in the global response to the threat of climate change
Delighted to be taking part in the Twitter festival for #CoveringClimateNow to highlight the impacts climate change will have on the community health sector, and our role in responding to it.
Climate change is a health emergency that is an unprecedented threat to human health. Our very future relies on us all taking action on climate change and the community health sector needs to be an active voice in this conversation.
The people most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are generally those of lower socio-economic status, those already suffering with pre-existing health conditions, Indigenous populations, the young and the elderly.
If the government continues to delay action, the vulnerable people in our communities will suffer most. These are our people.
Many of the actions and levers that will address climate change lie beyond the health system, but notwithstanding this we must play an active part. We all have a role in responding to the global threat of climate change.
The community health sector has a social responsibility to minimise the health and service delivery impacts of climate change on our communities. It starts with using our voice to speak out on the crisis. We must be vociferous about the health impacts of climate change and advocate for enhancing the capacity of community-based health services to respond to climate events.
I commend @healthy_climate for their great work in informing and mobilising the health workforce against the threat of climate change.
cohealth has 800 workers, and the health sector is estimated to be 600,000 strong across Australia. This workforce, with a mission to maintain, protect and promote the health of our communities, can be a powerful force advocating for action on climate change.
Our world has awakened: change is now
I am tweeting from Turrbal and Yugara country where @QUT now stands – I pay respect to their Elders, lores, customs, creation spirits, and recognise these have always been places of teaching, research and learning.
I’m focusing on global actions from Public Health and Social Work at @QUTphsw where we strive to enable students and policy makers to act on climate change and its huge direct and indirect impacts on human health and wellbeing.
As Aboriginal people have deeply known for 65,000-plus years, health of ecosystems = health of people via our basic human health needs for clean, secure and sufficient supply of water, food, clean air, safety, meaning and purpose, and social cohesion.
Climate change threatens ALL these.
Good news first – as we all know, last week more than four million young people and supporters took to the streets around the world to demand #ClimateActionNow – raising hopes of a global tipping point to save our climate.
But the task is daunting. A new report from the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City, The Heat is On: Taking Stock of Climate Ambition, says we can still win this race with #ClimateActionNow.
It says we MUST NOW increase emissions reductions ambition by 5 TIMES ASAP to have a chance to limit warming to 1.5DegreesC – and 3 TIMES to meet 2DegreesC limit.
Yet again, Sir David Attenborough this morning called out the Australian Government on the lack of policy, commitment and action on climate change – and highlighting the biodiversity crisis happening now.
Our young people have the answers – that means no new fossil fuel developments, supporting our neighbours to transition and adapt, no gas expansion which threatens our water, health, climate and air.
Stop the rhetoric that Australia’s increasing emissions – that are mostly due to gas mining, production and processing for export (LNG) – is no worries, mate. The rapid reduction of methane emissions is absolutely necessary.
If you work in health and are keen to help address greatest health challenge of our time, consider joining/supporting Doctors for Environment Australia @DocsEnvAus;Climate and Health Alliance @healthy_climate; Ecology EnviroSIG of PHAA @phaa_eco; and @CroakeyNews.
Tackling healthcare waste
Professor Linda Shields: @lshields50
I’ll start by acknowledging the original custodians of the land on which we are all based and their elders past, present and emerging. They can teach us all a lot about climate action.
I’m a nursing academic with a long work history as a perioperative nurse. Operating theatres produce mountains of waste, from single use items, which go into landfill, creating a huge environmental problem – think about what leaches into the soil/water table.
What are health services doing about the amount of waste they generate? I suggest they have got so caught up in risk aversion use of single use items, they have completely lost sight of the idea of reusing and recycling anything – hence the mountains of waste.
I’m now based at the University of Queensland, and have been working with James Cook University for many years to develop a better way of dealing with hospital waste, with very little traction.
Our project involves a new way of dealing with hospital waste which will leave us with a small amount of residue that can be sold to be used in other ways – in other words value-added. Health departments should love it.
We run into trouble with this project because we cant get funds. Grant bodies won’t give us the money until we’ve done the testing to prove it’s safe and efficient, but we can’t do the tests until we get some funds, so we go round and round in circles.
One of the big international waste companies have expressed interest in our hospital waste project, but we are waiting to see if anything comes of it. Like all these things in research, we won’t get our hopes up too high.
What can ordinary on-the-job health professionals do? A major factor in generation of hospital waste is the way of thinking. Single use is so ingrained in the way we think that it is very, very hard to convince anyone that something can be reused or recycled.
A recent observational study of Operating Room (OR) waste – drapes, gowns, curtains, plastic tubing and sucker bottles, drainage bags, bean bags (r positioning patients), dressings. Other items included laryngoscopes and other equipment used in anaesthesia.
Other things in OR waste: metal instruments, syringes, nappies, tampons, safety glasses, goggles and shields, tourniquets, a range of dressings, and various other pieces made from largely plastics, and metals of all kinds in operating theatres.
Fluids also go into the bags – intravenous fluids, preparation fluids such as betadine and chlorhexidine, formalin, and body fluids such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, et cetera.
Plus other OR waste: cytotoxic, other drugs, bone graft material, valves, heavy metals in things like electrical equipment leads, body parts that are amputated, eg limbs &internal organs sent pathology for examination, other bits and pieces straight into waste – tonsils and adenoids, tissue scraped off anywhere, body parts that don’t need pathological investigation…and everything from plastic equipment, to food waste, and clinical waste.
Single use only to prevent blood-born disease effective, but problems now: so ingrained cultures that nurses, doctors, others think nothing of throwing out single use, even if not used, it’s cheaper to dispose of tray with dressings, instruments, etc vs cleaning, sterilising, reusing or finding alternative uses.
The other problem is risk averse litigious culture in health services and community. Can’t be that hard to get health professionals, supply companies and research organisations, and waste companies to work together to develop ways of recycling hospital waste items.
Health professionals can be aware of the waste they are generating, step back for a minute, and think about where it goes once it is put into rubbish bags.
With climate change at a tipping point, with dire consequences if it is not lessened, individual health professionals have a duty to know where their waste goes, what impact it’s having on the environment, and how it can be reduced
We need to lobby politicians, make management aware if they are not already, talk to communities and people within them about the waste problem generated by healthcare, and take individual responsibility for what we do where we work.
Beyond apathy and despair to action
Reflections from roving Croakey reporter Amy Coopes: @coopesdetat
I live on the arterial waterway of the Murray River – Milawa to the Wiradjuri people – and a sacred site locally known as Mungabareena has just been formally slated as a ‘Declared Aboriginal Place’
Mungabareena, which translates as ‘Place of Plenty Talk’, was the location of an Indigenous Parliament which met annually, bringing together seven local peoples to discuss matters including land and water use. After, the group would travel to the Alps for the Bogong Moth harvest
In just a few generations we have laid waste to a fruitful, abundant continent that sustained Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples, who lived here in peace with one another and the environment for 60,000+ years. The hubris of eschewing their wisdom & ways is costing us all.
Congrats to the @CroakeyNews team on the #CoveringClimateNow Twitterfest this morning. We trended in Australia, and as you can see, had an absolutely HUGE impact. Now let’s keep the discussion rolling, and translate it into action.
Summer May Finlay
It’s clear from #CoveringClimateNow Twitter festival that health professionals in all fields has a passion for improving #ClimateCrisis and have a role to play in advocacy. What we need is political action.
El Gibbs @bluntshovels
What we’ve learnt from #CoveringClimateNow
Marie McInerney @mariemcinerney
I’ve been more blown away than I expected by the (lack of) scope of coverage. Am very used to a world where Murdoch media contests climate change, but shocked still by the revelations of other ‘mainstream coverage’ told at the launch of #CoveringClimateNow in New York.
The standout fact about the need to flood the news with climate coverage, to learn that when the IPCC released its critical report last year, warning we had just 12 years to act, 28 of the 50 biggest newspapers in the US did not report on it.
Have been standout stories for me from the global coverage: Many of these stories have popped up on my feeds before, but what’s been important about #CoveringClimateNow is that finally we are “drawing the dots”, seeing the context.
Insights from India and Amitav Ghosh about the need to explore climate change through tools of culture.
But above all, it’s system change, consumption, inequity, and, ahem, capitalism: Living in the End Times… As my mother in law says: “Buy as little as you can, sell as little as you can”.
At #ClimateStrike I was struck by how respectful the young organisers were: to the leadership of First Nations people, to the great impact on them and on the Pacific nations, to those who had contributed least to climate change but were bearing the brunt, and then to the fossil fuel workers and communities for whom they demanded a just transition.
We had similar such conversations here today at CoveringClimateNow TwitterFest. May they lead the way to climate action.
Melissa Sweet @MelissaSweetDr
What an incredible morning it has been, watching these hashtags trending: #ClimateActionSummit #ClimateCrisis #HowDareYou #Greta #ClimateChange and #DavidAttenborough. And also #CoveringClimateNow.
It’s an indication of the global mobilisation that is occurring (despite, or perhaps because of, gaps in political leadership) around this profound crisis: a crisis for the planet, humanity, our health, ecosystems, communities, societies, for us all.
And, as the young people have reminded us so powerfully, with their words and deeds around the world, it is a crisis for future generations.
I was struck, attending the #climatestrike in nipaluna/Hobart last week, of how young peoples’ voices just cut through. I read a lot about climate, but hearing young people speak directly is transformative.
A suggestion for the health sector (though I know some of you already doing this): privilege the power of youth voices – when meetings with pollies, organising conferences, events, doing media etc. Support youth movements like @SeedMob @AYCC.
Another clear message from #CoveringClimateNow and many other fora: privilege the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ voices and Indigenous peoples globally. They have led the way in activism and fight to protect Country for a very long time.
The health sector must do more to support and grow activism and mobilisation, crossing all sectors and ideologies. And also to push mainstream media to do a better job.
It’s hard to see how we can address failures in climate governance without addressing the upstream determinants of so many other health concerns, through electoral reform, regulation of digital platforms etc
In wrapping up, a big shout out of thanks to everyone who has contributed to the #CoveringClimateNow series at Croakey (and there are still more stories to come), and also today’s Twitter Festival.
We are so grateful for the contributions of Croakey Health Media chair Janine Mohamed in launching #CoveringClimateNow, to the ACE moderators Summer May Finlay and El Gibbs – and awesome commentary by Paul Dutton.
Special thanks to Marie McInerney these past week who has been working SO hard on #CoveringClimateNow, to Amy Coopes for Twitter action today, and to other members of the Croakey team.
We also acknowledge the vision of the Covering Climate Now organisers, including Kyle Pope and Mark Hertsgaard, for starting this juggernaut. It’s been huge – check out the thread for hundreds of articles published globally.
In coming weeks we will publish an e-publication that brings together all our related articles, as well as the discussions from today’s Twitter Festival. So please stay tuned.
Just to give you an idea of the scale of #CoveringClimateNow (even though many mainstream media outlets did not join), here are the Symplur analytics from when we published our first story on 29 August, with more than 36,000 participants and more than 1.76 BILLION Twitter impressions globally!
And here is a link to the Twitter transcript via Symplur; it will link you into hundreds, if not thousands, of interesting articles from around the world.
A final shout out – it is stunning that the health organisations doing most to advocate for climate action in Australia are probably also the most under-funded in the health sector. Support @healthy_climate @DocsEnvAus.
We’d love if you could pitch in to support our Patreon account for public interest journalism to focus specifically on health and climate. Croakey News is a low budget operation and we desperately need to increase our capacity to cover this vital issue.
This article is published as part of the Covering Climate Now initiative, an unprecedented collaboration involving more than 300 media outlets around the world that is putting the spotlight on the climate crisis in the leadup to a Climate Action Summit at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 23 September. It is co-founded by The Nation and the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), in partnership with The Guardian. Croakey invites our readers, contributors and social media followers to engage with these critical discussions, using the hashtag #CoveringClimateNow. See Croakey’s archive of climate and health coverage.If you value our coverage of climate and health, please consider supporting our Patreon fundraising campaign, so we can provide regular, in-depth coverage of the health impacts of the climate crisis, taking a local, national and global approach. All funds raised will go to a dedicated fund to pay writers and editors to put a sustained focus on the health impacts of climate change. Please help us to produce stories that will inform the health sector, policy makers, communities, families and others about how best to respond to this public health crisis.