Reports on Health and the Environment

Protecting the Health of Future Generations

The conference was organised by Giz Watson, MLC (Greens WA) and Jane Bremner, Alliance for a Cleaner Environment WA, a community advocacy group.

The aim was to bring together concerned community members, NGOs lobbying for changes to environmental health policy, professionals involved in issues including health and risk assessment, and the Health Department of WA (HDWA). The focus was on providing community members with the opportunity to voice concerns about the current decision-making processes and to provide input for a future environmental health plan. It was acknowledged that community members often have valuable local knowledge to contribute to the assessment of a risk or hazard but are often excluded from environmental health processes. This can lead to a distrust of industry and government agencies that try to reassure communities about risk. The speakers generally discussed broad issues but also some of the concerns specific to WA, which centred around the Bellevue fire (the worst chemical disaster in WA) and the Alcoa Wagerup refinery (community members and employees of Alcoa).

How Ethical is Australia? An Examination of Australia’s Record as a Global Citizen

The Australian Collaboration is a collaboration of leading national community organisations. The participating organisations are:

* Australian Council of Social Service;
* Australian Conservation Foundation;
* Australian Consumers Association;
* Australian Council for International Development;
* Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia;
* National Council of Churches in Australia; and
* Trust for Young Australians.

A new venture for the Collaboration is the Public Interest Series, a joint venture with the publishing house Black Inc., publishers of the award winning Quarterly Essay. The aim of the Public Interest Series is to publish short books on topical issues such as aspects of democracy, the environment, social justice and Indigenous issues and policy. The books will be written by prominent researchers and thinkers but are designed for a general readership.

BOOK REVIEW

The Biology of Civilisation. Understanding Human Culture as a Force in Nature
by Stephen Boyden, UNSW Press 2004

I read Stephen Boyden’s book whilst in the Alto Ticino, the Italian speaking region of Switzerland, the sunny south facing slopes of the Alps. I finished the book on a summer morning when I walked high in the meadows and realised I might be experiencing Western civilisation’s most sustainable system, one that was unchanged over many centuries and was still economically viable. Stephen’s conclusion came into my mind

“Successful cultural reform leading to ecological sustainability and equity and peace among the peoples of the Earth will not come about unless and until the dominant culture comes to embrace, at its heart a basic understanding of, and reverence for, nature and the processes of life. This bio-understanding would lead to a new world view and a seminal shift in the priorities of the dominant culture, so that the health and wellbeing of living systems would assume top position in the hierarchy of priorities.”

How healthy is the world? Commentary: Gilding the global lily.

Bjorn Lomborg ,"How healthy is the world?"
Anthony J McMichael,Commentary: "Gilding the global lily"
BMJ 2002; 325: 1461-1466.

Bjørn Lomborg is the ultimate skeptic who disagrees with many studies which show global environmental deterioration. In this BMJ article his view is challenged by Tony McMichael.

Click here for the full article

Late lessons from early warnings:The precautionary principle 1896-2000

Environmental Issue report No 22, European Environmental Agency, Copenhagen, 2001.

This publication describes the use, non use, and possible misuse of the precautionary principle. It derives a number of criteria, or lessons, for the future application of the precautionary principle that can help minimise risks and maximise benefits and innovation. It is designed to improve awareness, understanding and "framing" of the issues raised by the precautionary principle, and to help improve its contribution to "sound and effective" policy-making. The report contains case studies on some major hazards (asbestos, benzene, acid rain, Great Lakes pollution, antibiotics in animal feed, BSE, CFCs, PCBs, sulphur dioxide, fisheries, medical radiation, etc.) for which there is information on the science about the health/environment impacts, and the costs/benefits.

ANTS AND ANAPHYLAXIS

11/4/03 In South East Australia the jack jumper ant, Myrmecia pilosula, is responsible for about 90% of anaphylaxis due to ant venom. In Tasmania the rate of clinical systemic allergy to the venom is 2.7%, twice the rate for bee stings, and deaths have been reported.

Bob Heddle, immunologist at Flinders Medical Centre and a DEA member, together with colleagues at the Royal Hobart Hospital is working on a hyposensitisation treatment for sufferers from the bite of this ant. Treatment was shown to be effective in a double blind crossover trial and the results of the study have been published in The Lancet, 22 March 2003

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