Archive for February, 2009
Healthier Planet, Healthier People – The Dual Fight for Health Care and Climate Change Solutions at PowerShift09Saturday, February 28th, 2009
This is a guest post from the GFF– We recently attended the Powershift conference that brought in 11k youth to talk about climate change
At PowerShift09, I attended the session: Healthier Planet, Healthier People – The Dual Fight for Health Care and Climate Change Solutions. I’m very interested in both public health issues and climate change, so I though this session would be a good mix of both topics. The speakers were Cindy Parker and Anna Gilmore Hall of HealthCare Without Harm; and they spoke about how climate change has, and will continue to have, a dramatic impact on healthcare and how we need to fight both issues simultaneously. The session room was completely full, clearly many people are interested in these issues.
Cindy focused her remarks on how climate change is affecting health. She spoke about how climate change is affecting our food supply, causing droughts and floods, and increasing the risk of infectious diseases. She used the example of West Nile Virus, which as she said, came to the US because of globalization, but spread rapidly because of climate change. When mosquitoes infected with West Nile first arrived in New York City, there was a drought, which cause animals to gather at the sparse water sources. This made it much easier for the mosquitoes to infect others and spread the disease. This was certainly a great example of how climate change really is affecting the diseases that we are now fighting.
According to Cindy, the World Health Organization (WHO) di d a study to get a rough estimate of how many people are dying as a result of climate change. They used measures such as deaths from infectious diseases, storm surges, and droughts. I would argue that there are probably even more indicators they could have used, but I’m sure that gave a good rough estimate. What WHO determined from the study was that about 150,000 people around the world each year die as a result of climate change. I think, and Cindy agreed, that the actual number is much much bigger and that number will probably only increase.
The most interesting, though unsurprising and depressing, aspect of the WHO study was that most of those dying as a result of climate change are people living in the developing world. But as we all know, most carbon emissions come from developed nations. I think Cindy put it best in her remarks:
The developed countries are producing the problem; the developing countries are suffering the consequences.
How depressing, and completely unfair to the rest of the world. After this depressing news, Cindy closed her presentation with a bit of optimism, saying:
the bad thing about climate change is that we’re all part of the problem, the good thing is that we can all be part of the solution.
Anna then spoke about how hospitals and other health care organizations are working to green their operations. She spoke about a tool that allows hospitals to see the direct impact of their energy usage on the health of their communities. I’m sure that would be a sobering thing for any hospital administrator to look at.
Anna also spoke about things that individuals can do, including becoming more efficient in our personal energy usage, in how we drive and use transit, and how we eat. She noted that we need to think of climate change as affecting our children and our future, more than just the polar bears and other wildlife. She said we need better community design and a better food system in our country to really address climate change.
The big point of the presentation was that:
global warming is a global issue with global solutions.
But each individual person has a role to play. It is a huge opportunity, as well as a huge challenge. I really couldn’t agree more.
After taking a few questions and discussing a few other topics including healthier food and a greener pharmaceutical industry, the presenters wrapped things up. It was, overall, a phenomenal session. It was a great way to tie health care and climate change together and show that we can, and should, work on both these issues simultaneously.
I think the pictures speak for themselves
Learn more at Courage Campaign
Tons of very interesting reading from last week but as always I’m a bit behind on getting them to you. I think they they are worth the reading. Have a look a let me know what you think.
The Audacity of Whiteness - Jill Nelson makes the argument that there should be more black Journalist covering the White house.
The Meaning of Michael Steele – While it hasn’t made the headline as much as it should have, the election of Michael Steele as RNC chairman is a huge deal. Michael Fauntroy dives into the the meaning of the election. The NY Times also had an nice piece about the new leader of the RNC.
In Daschle’s Tax Woes, a Peek Into Washington – This article tries to give a inside view about what’s wrong with the political system in DC. Most believe that Daschle didn’t really do anything wrong but what instead a victim of the system as is. Joe Trippi proposes a solution in this HuffPost article. If you think something should be done about the system, consider joining change-congress.org.
The Social Media Echo Chamber Makes Me not Want to Listen - This is a blog post I think every social media experts/guru/whatever should read. I firmly believe that sometimes we get lost into our world and forget to pay attention to those around us that still have something important and intelligent to say.
And to appeal to your light hearted side of you:
The District - Think of the Hills (or any other MTV show) staring Barack Obama and every other major political figure; Kind of funny.
Olympic-Size Bong Hits – Juliet Lapidos of Slate breaks down whether of not Michael Phelps’ extraordinary lung capacity enables him to take larger bong hits.
What Women Want - The million dollar question. It turns out they are not quite sure either.
Have you read anything interesting lately? Please share.
I believe that this is one of the biggest question that we, as a generation, must answer. Paraphrasing Al Gore, the numbers are out, the climate is changing and humans are the cause. Assuming we all agree on that, the question then remains: What are we going to do about it? and How far are we willing to go to change things? NPR’s Intelligence Squared held an Oxford style debate addressing these questions. Unfortunately, the show was aired minutes before the Superbowl and I don’t think many folks got a chance to listen to it. A brief summary from the NPR website states:
Three experts argued in favor of the motion; three against. Before the debate, the audience at Symphony Space in New York City voted 16 percent in favor of the motion and 49 percent against, with 35 percent undecided. By the end of the debate, those arguing for the motion had changed the most minds: Forty-two percent voted in favor of the proposition "Major Reductions in Carbon Emissions Are Not Worth the Money," while 48 percent voted against it and 10 percent were still undecided.
Diving in slightly more details, arguing for the motion was:
- Peter Huber – the co-author of The Bottomless Well, is a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans and Figel, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a columnist for Forbes.
- Bjorn Lomborg – the author of Cool It and The Skeptical Environmentalist, is an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. In 2004, he began the Copenhagen Consensus, a conference of top economists who come together to prioritize the best solutions for world problems.
- Philip Stott – Professor emeritus and a biogeographer from the University of London, was the editor of the Journal of Biogeography for 18 years.
Arguing against the motion was:
- L. Hunter Lovins – president of Natural Capitalism Solutions, which creates practical tools and strategies aimed at enabling companies, communities and countries to increase prosperity and quality of life.
- Oliver Tickell – the author of Kyoto2, in which he sets out an international framework for the control of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere intended to be effective, efficient and equitable.
- Adam Werbach – global chief executive officer at Saatchi & Saatchi S, a sustainability consulting division of Saatchi & Saatchi, is regarded as one of the world’s premier experts in sustainability. At age 23, he was elected as the youngest president ever of the Sierra Club, the oldest and largest environmental organization in the United States (This guy is ridiculously impressive on paper).
The summary of the debate:
The debate that ensued was very interesting and engaging. My recap will do it no justice so I suggest that you listen to Podcast when you get a chance. Mr. Lomborg went first and presented what I would submit is a false choice argument. Essentially, he said that resources are tight, and we should spend time and money focusing on issues we can solve today such Malaria, famine and water provision. Tickell countered that Global warming is real, urgent and has major consequences should we choose to do nothing about it. He argued that we can address the problems that Lomborg brought as well as global warming. He went as far as saying that we solving global warming in a smart and efficient manner would be address some of the issues brought up by Lomborg and would also be seen as investment. Hubert followed by arguing that pouring money into global warming was putting the rich nations of the world at an economic disadvantage because “5 billion poor people are already the main problem”. As he put it, “their fecundity has beaten out our gluttony” therefore they will continue to use the cheapest resources available to them (i.e. coal, oil) while the western nations will impose unnecessary “taxes” on their companies thus making it impossible for them to compete on the international market. Mr. Werbach summed up Mr. Huber’s argument as “No, we can’t”. He then presented several anecdotal evidence how become green would positively influence the economy at individual level, the company level and the macro level. However, he did couch the cost as investment instead of expenditures. Mr. Stott then presented what I thought was the most irrationally, incoherent argument of the debate. He argued that climate science is “sub-prime science, sub-prime economics and above all sub-prime politics and will cost us dearly”. He added humanity resides in temperatures raging from –20 degree Celsius to 50 degree Celsius, implying that a change of 2 or 3 degrees Celsius will not inflict much change in the planet. And if it were to inflict any changes, the humanity would simply adapt. In her presentation, Mrs Lovins argued that there would be not much of a cost associated with major carbon reduction. she stated that we could do this by focusing on the low-hanging fruits. She said “we simply need to smart about how we use energy”. The debate then entered a QA section.
I found the debate to be very interesting. However I felt that none of the panelists really addressed the question heads on. The panelists for the motion simply argued that we had better things to do with our money and that global warming is a farse. The panelists against the motion argued that it’s an investment and would barely cost anything. The fact of the matter is that it will cost us, the tax payers, an insane amount of money to curb Carbon emissions. The fact that none of the panelists against the motion were willing to admit that was slightly discerning. If we going to make any progress of climate change, these expert have to start making a real and honest case for it. I think the vast majority of the people (despite the result of the survey at the end of programs) are for fighting climate change, they just need to presented with a convincing argument. However as some of the panelist pointed out during the debate, we must let climate change overshadow other issues we face today. In my opinion, they are just are critical and consequential as climate change.
P.S. If you think congress to should act fast on the issue of climate change, you should consider joining the Energy Action Coalition and their powershift09 campaign. They’ve done some good stuff thus far.