News about DEA

News from the Secretary, January 2008

How times have changed! It is now reported  that “Climate change is the single most pressing challenge Australia faces over the coming decade, according to a confidential  Treasury brief prepared for the new Labor Government” The Age, Feb 1st 2008.
Your Committee is now reviewing our activities to determine how best we can deploy our limited resources to continue to have an impact. There is now wide community acceptance that climate change is upon us and using our knowledge of the health aspects of climate change, we must encourage urgent and effective action. We always welcome your thoughts. Meanwhile we continue to build on our achievements and ask you to note reference to our educational work in the article on global environmental change and health in the BMJ written by Tony McMichael and colleagues from WHO.(URL given later in this newsletter)

The Medical Profession and Environmentalism

by David Shearman

This paper was written in 2002 soon after DEA was formed and was intended as a summary of the reasons for our formation.

Solzhenitsyn said, "If you want to change the world you must first change yourself".

This article analyses the psychological and ideological mechanisms which impede doctors and the community from making appropriate responses to the many impending world crises. It is important to examine how these mechanisms have affected the conservation movement because in seeking sustainable health and wellbeing, we must teach and lobby for the maintenance of the global environment, the biosphere. Denial is caused by the size of the problem in question and the individual’s perceived inability to do anything about it. The ideology of economic growth and increasing individualism leads to antagonism towards environmentalists who work for community values and the preservation of the commons. The medical profession may counter some of these impediments by using its standing to facilitate its access to those in power and by setting personal examples in sustainable behaviour. Medical organisations that demonstrate a lack of self-interest will play a key role in effecting change.

News from the Secretary for December, 2007

Climate change in the Post-Howard era
Climate change is a health issue. Therefore DEA supported the ratification of Kyoto and with the change of government, this has now happened. However the task of mitigating climate change has only just begun, and overall the Bali outcome is disappointing. The meeting was intended to be no more than an attempt to agree on a timetable for future meetings and this was achieved but the disappointment was the revelation of continuing discord and indeed reluctance to act by some of the major powers. The fundamental problem is reflected in the blame game. One side says that the underdeveloped nations must accept mandatory reductions. China and others state that the responsibility for existing emissions that are warming the earth lies with the West. The fact is we are all in this together and one or more leaders is going to have to make the first big move.

News from the Secretary for November, 2007

Joint scientific meeting of DEA and Rural Health West
I can report to you that I believe that this was an outstanding success. To some extent it was the coming of age for a young and developing DEA. There were about 200 registrants of whom 28 were DEA members. The opening two lectures by Bill Castleden and Colin Butler were given to all delegates; the hall was full and attentive. In the remainder of the program there were 4 streams. The venue for the DEA stream had about 70 seats, all were full and registrants were standing at the back so we had attracted many members from the sessions designed for GP practice. This epitomised the success. Our DEA speakers were excellent (see names and topics at the foot of this newsletter) and there was considerable interest at the DEA stand which had posters, brochures and T-shirts.

News from the Secretary for October, 2007

The Good News

Dr Peter Tait
We congratulate DEA member Dr Peter Tait, who has been awarded The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ (RACGP) General Practitioner of the Year Award for 2007. The General Practitioner of the Year Award recognises an individual general practitioner’s understanding of, and commitment to general practice; their service to their community; and their involvement in ongoing training and continuing professional development. The full citation is at the College website  “Peter has an active engagement with peace and climate change issues including as a member and office bearer with the Medical Association for the Prevention of War and as a key member of the Alice Springs Climate Change Action Group. He is a true leader in Australian general practice. Dr Tait works actively to improve the health of indigenous Australians and plays a critical role in working for health equity in some of Australia’s most disadvantaged communities. His integrity and dedication is reflected in his efforts to speak three key local languages – Warlpiri, Arrnete and Pitjantjatjara – as well as in teaching others.”

The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

It is significant that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the IPCC and to Al Gore. It recognises the huge potential for conflict when global warming further reduces the diminishing supply of fresh water and food together with thousands of environmental refugees seeking refuge in other lands. It emphasis war and environmental destruction as the interlocking threats to humanity; the annual $843 billion expenditure on armaments, the green house emissions and land destruction and pollution they produce.  Many commentators therefore reflect their ignorance when they ask what has this award to Al Gore and to the IPCC got to do with peace.

Several members of DEA and the DEA Committees have been involved in IPCC work and we offer our congratulations to them on their contributions

This brings me to Al Gore. Whatever his decision on the next US presidential election, Gore represents the prototype of the required leadership if we are to survive the forthcoming crises.
 For those interested in US politics and the need for the US to accept world responsibilities there are two recent articles in the New York Times, worthy of your time

News from the Secretary, August 2007

Initiative on public transport and climate change
During August we have been involved in an initiative to publicise the importance of public transport as a health and climate change issue.

In Australia the largest contributor to transport greenhouse emissions is the private car in cities and government can help ease this growth with better public transport. At the same time the use of the private car carries significant responsibility for the epidemic of obesity and other life-style diseases, while its pollutants increase the burden of heart and respiratory disease in the 70% of the Australian public who live in urban communities. The article “Public Transport, Health and Climate Change—a DEA initiative” on the web site develops this topic.

News from the Secretary, June-July 2007

The Newsletter exists to inform members of what we are doing on their behalf and our current work has two interlocking themes. We need to explain to our representatives, firstly, that climate change is basically a matter of human health and wellbeing and secondly whatever the debate about nuclear power, clean coal and carbon trading, we have to reduce emissions now if we are to have any chance of controlling the ultimate peak of CO2 emissions. It is easy for our representatives to commit to 2050 targets, they will not be answerable for obvious reasons, and indeed 2020 targets will find most of them in their beach-houses, (or if they are wise, in the houses in the foot-hills). All our members recognise that only energy saving and renewables can have a significant impact in the short term. Some of the decisions are easy, eg expanding renewable resources which are already cheaper than fossil fuels if one accounts for externalities. Some are difficult for they need decisive legislation and financing to deliver them. However, at a personal level we can all help and set an example to others. How do the activities of DEA fit into this scenario?

News from the Secretary, May, 2007

The only positive outcome of the terrible storm over coastal New South Wales is perhaps that it reminds us that we must be better prepared for such eventualities as climate change progresses.  Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable. In the article on “However one interprets the science, it’s bad news” we reviewed recent evidence on sea-level rise which is relevant to storms and surges around our coast that will cause more damage, death and injury as climate change progresses. We reported that Jim Hansen of NASA, a most respected climate change scientist, reviewed satellite data on the disintegration of ice sheets in Antarctica that suggested the possibility of a 5 meter sea level rise this century whereas the most recent IPCC report had suggested only 0.5 meters at most.

News from the Secretary, April, 2007

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise

The Climate Institute issued a statement on April 27 about the increase in Australia’s  greenhouse emissions. It said

. “Greenhouse pollution increases in 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 are above Australian Government projections over the same period indicating current government policies are not having the desired impact. Even with Government projected trends, total emissions in 2010 will be more than 110% of 1990 emissions and it is looking increasing unlikely that Australia will meet its goal of meeting its Kyoto target of 108% of 1990 emissions.

DEA at Perth Sunfair

April 1st 2007

(Janet Roddy, left, Irene Kirczenow and Bill Castleden)

At its meeting on 28th February the WA State Committee of DEA decided it would be appropriate for DEA to have a stand at the 2007 Perth Sunfair at the University of Western Australia. This was seen as being an activity consistent with DEA’s aim to become more ‘visible’ in educating the public about the health effects of environmental and climate degradation.

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