Air pollution. We have been living with it ever since we began burning fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, cause temperatures to rise and produce chemicals and particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals and plants. A pivotal part to stopping climate change is reducing air pollution.
The COVID-19 pandemic cruelly demonstrates the vulnerability of human life and how our actions can impact the health of others. Earth Day gives us the opportunity to think about how the health of people and animals is closely linked with the changing climate and intensifying environmental conditions.
Exactly how do climate change and the environment relate to our health?
At the start of each year since 1999, we have released the plans that guide WiRED International’s efforts for the next 12 months. Last year our objective was to launch a major new community health worker (CHW) training program. After COVID-19 struck, we had to make a number of mid-course corrections to stay on track. By the end of 2020, though, we met our goals to test the CHW training program in four countries. That success was due to the flexibility of a small and nimble organization, good working relationships with partners abroad and, admittedly, a bit of luck.
COVID-19 has understandably preoccupied us for months, nevertheless many other critical threats have not taken a holiday. One threat — climate change — looms large, and will punish the earth long after the virus is off the front pages.
An exhaustive study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that pregnant women exposed to air pollution or high temperatures intensified by climate change risk preterm birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.
The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to Kisumu, Kenya, is placing a heavy burden on a population already suffering routinely from disease and lack of basic health care. If that weren’t enough, since early 2020, East Africa has experienced unprecedented waves of locust swarms — a crisis linked to climate change — which has destroyed livestock and crops and threatens to worsen food scarcity.
WiRED International’s goal is to provide free medical and health information materials and training to low-resource communities around the world. We place all our work within the context of One Health principles — that all life on our planet is interconnected. While COVID-19 is drawing everyone’s attention, conditions leading to climate change are increasing as the federal administration is rolling back nearly 100 environmental and land use regulations in our own country. In this article, WiRED board member, Dr. Elizabeth Fine, reviews a recent film that addresses how the loosening of environmental protection laws in the United States impacts our health.
COVID-19, climate change, neglected tropical diseases, recently released health education modules and videos on our work, a new smartphone app — these are all topics of recent stories posted on WiRED International’s website.
As governments around the world rightly focus on the growing COVID-19 outbreak, we need to be mindful of a variety of other existential threats that will not disappear with a cure or a vaccine. The most evident threat is climate change; throughout the next decades, it will severely impact every aspect of life, including human health. In this article, one of our young writers shares her passionate concern, and her words remind us that her generation faces huge challenges even after the COVID-19 issue resolves.
How we treat ourselves, our animals and our planet is a matter of life or death. Earth Day 2020 reminds us to address climate change in terms of One Health — the intersection of human, animal and environmental health. The COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us that we must be responsible for each other — everywhere.
Solving the climate crisis. Stopping infectious diseases. Preparing for epidemics. Training health workers. These issues and more make up the World Health Organization’s (WHO) newly issued 13 global health challenges which we face in the next decade.