I was reminded of it as I listened to science writer Dan Ferber talk about a book he has written with Paul R. Epstein, Associate Director of the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. He was speaking at the Authors @ HSLC (UW-Madison Health and Science Learning Center).
One of the MANY health issues that are arising out of climate change is what warming weather does to the cold-blooded insects that transfer a number of our most feared diseases. What difference does a couple of degrees make? It can make all the difference if suddenly your part of the world – which was too cold for something like Anophebes gambiae (a tiny mosquito that transmits malaria) – is now open season.
In Africa, warming conditions are extending the malaria regions.
In the Americas, we are watching Dengue fever move north. Because of limited surveillance data and gross under reporting in most disease-endemic countries, The National Center for Infectious Diseases says the economic and public health impact of dengue is greatly underestimated. They have compiled this underestimated yet still frightening map.
I’ll bet you’ve heard of Lyme disease. You may have even already contracted this bacterial, tick-borne infection. Because I spend a lot of time scrabbling around fighting invasives in my woods, I live in fear of it.
Let’s just look at one more of the health issues that are turning ominous as a result of climate change. We all know that the weather is becoming more unstable and the numberof intense precipitation events is rising. Extreme weather takes a long-term toll in so many ways but a nagging one is disrupting clean water supplies. Ironically, after flooding, what people can’t find anywhere is drinkable water.
If you want to know more examples, get Epstein and Ferber’s book. Don’t bother to look in your local news sources. They are staying pretty mum. I think they’re shying away from these troubling topics . But the scientific evidence is out there (see my last post Three Climate Blogs You Should Be Reading), and so are the solutions.
Ferber and Epstein break the solutions down into levels of action, from individual to international. Even if you don’t feel up to reading the first part of the book with chapter like “The Mosquito’s Bite,” “Every Breath You Take” and “Harvest of Trouble,” it’s well worth reading “Gaining Green by Going Green,” “Healthy Solutions” and “Rewriting the Rules.”
There are so many levels to get involved. One place Ferber suggested exploring the Union of Concerned Citizens. They have proposed 5 common sense solutions.
- Build and buy better cars – we already know how
- Modernize America’s electricity system – 20% Renewables by 2020
- Increase the energy efficiency of our homes and businesses
- Protect our Threatened Forests
- Trust and support American ingenuity – the Manhattan Project, the Apollo Program, the silicon chip, the internet – now it’s time for technological breakthroughs to help us correct our course.
Is the impact of our changing climate on public health a concern for you? What do you think you should be doing today?