Owen Dan Luo is a medical student in the Class of 2023 at McGill University. He is also a committee member on the Health and Environment Adaptive Response Task force (HEART) of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS).
On inspection, we would observe her febrile state,
As heat waves grow stronger and longer,
With her body covered with painful, red blisters,
As wildfires rage unrestrained over her epidermis.
On palpitation, we’d run our hands along her prominent rib borders,
Cachexic wasting from malignant clumps of plastic waste in her oceans.
With clear signs of respiratory distress,
Trapped underneath a cloak of greenhouse gases – she gasps for air.
Imagine yourself as a family physician seeing a 68-year-old woman with type 2 diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, and chronic knee pain. While these medical concerns are well-managed, things for your patient are tough socially. She has become increasingly isolated since her husband passed. Her apartment is in an older building with good heating but no air-conditioning and near to no sidewalks, green spaces, or public transit routes in the area. She often requires friends or a cab to drive her around.
How can you assess and mitigate the acute and chronic environment-related health risks faced by this woman, and other patients like her? ...continue reading →
Trevor Hancock is a professor and senior scholar at the University of Victoria’s school of public health and social policy
The Iroquois Confederacy’s Great Law is said to include the principle of making decisions taking into account impacts on the seventh generation, which means thinking 140 – 175 years ahead. That is a far cry from our modern politicians, who can barely think past the next election, never mind our businesses and stock markets that are too often focused only on the next quarter’s bottom line.
As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, it seems a particularly good time to think about the next 150 years. Of course we can’t predict that far ahead; imagine how much of today’s world we could have predicted in 1867. But there is no doubt that what we do today will have impacts at least 150 years into the future, and probably much further. ...continue reading →
Dr Genevieve Gabb is a Senior Staff Specialist in General Medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia; she also works at the Veterans Heart Clinic, Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, in ambulatory cardiovascular medicine. Genevieve has an interest in drug safety, particularly in relation to medicines commonly used in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease
We have scientific consensus that global temperatures are rising. Despite this, debate and argument continues about whether global warming is occurring, the extent, possible causes and potential solutions to the problem.
In early January 2013, as this debate continued to rage, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was confronted with a dilemma. Forecast temperatures were so extreme that they exceeded the colour range available for its isotherm charts. Isotherm charts are used to indicate temperature across the continent, and have lines that join points of equal temperature. Different colours, starting with cool blues; increasing to yellows and a deep burnt orange are used to show areas of similar temperature. An ominous, solid black topped the scale, indicating a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius. ...continue reading →
This morning I swam at my local YMCA with Canada’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change. Minister McKenna and I belong to the same Masters Swim Club. I don’t see her as much as I used to….well, I see a great many photos of her on my Twitter and Facebook feeds, but I don’t see her much in the pool. She's a busy lady and last week she attended the ceremony for the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement on behalf of Canada at UN Headquarters in New York. It was Earth Day – 22 April – and 175 Parties (174 countries and the European Union) signed up to the agreement that day. This number of signatories far exceeded the historical record for first-day signatures to an international agreement. It was joyous occasion in which Canada could and did participate with pride. Like a wedding on a perfect spring day.
But just as a wedding is an ideal thing and marriage a real thing, and confusing the ideal with the real never goes unpunished ...continue reading →
Nicole Kain is a PhD Candidate in Public Health Sciences at the University of Alberta
Cindy Jardine is a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta
Autumn 2003: Hurricane Juan claims eight lives, destroys countless buildings and residences causing power outages across the Maritimes, and is recorded as the most damaging storm in Halifax’s modern history.
June 2013: Southern Alberta is pummeled by torrential rains, combined with melting ice that causes rivers to overflow their banks; paralyzing communities and resulting in the loss of four lives and an estimated $6 billion in damages. Hospitals are forced to close, physicians can’t get into their offices due washed out roads - including portions of the Trans-Canada Highway.
In this week of the Paris climate change summit, it is worth considering the health care system’s contribution to climate change and how it can be reduced.
Health care, not surprisingly, is a bit of an energy pig. After all, health care comprises a large part of our economy – about 11% of GDP – and with around 2 million workers, it's the third largest employment sector in Canada after retail and manufacturing. Moreover, our hospitals run 24/7, use a lot of energy-intensive equipment and maintain an even temperature no matter the temperature. That's why hospitals are among the most energy-intensive facilities in our communities. ...continue reading →
Security has emerged as an important issue in the lead up to this year's federal election in Canada, but the understanding of it by the main parties is very narrow. It is focused largely on policing, criminal justice and the military.
If we look at the definition of security it is “the state of being free from danger or threat”; the dangers and threats we face globally are far greater than those posed by militant fundamentalists or even by criminals. This is not to deny the real danger and sense of threat that some of us experience from such people, nor is it to deny that some people are hurt, or tortured, even killed.
But if we step back and look at the bigger picture, the greatest universal threat to our security and that of our descendants – in Canada and globally - arises from climate change and from other global ecological changes that are underway and that we are causing. ...continue reading →
Is Sea Sick a one-woman play or a live TED-esque talk? Hard to know, but harder still to care about applying labels to the medium when the message is so powerful: the ocean’s chemistry is changing with climate change. “It’s warm, breathless and sour,” says Alanna Mitchell, a long-time reporter with The Globe and Mail, turned freelance. And when the ocean dies, so do we.
Mitchell’s international best-seller, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis(2009; McClelland & Stewart), is now hitting the stage in what is billed as a ‘one-woman nonfiction play’, but is more like an animated lecture, replete with blackboard, albeit with a few theatrical-effects. No matter. If she reaches a new audience, so much the better, and last night she reached a couple of CMAJ editors at Ottawa’s Gladstone theatre.
In a sea-shell, her extensive investigation — 3 years and 13 trips worldwide — led to one conclusion: ...continue reading →