Reports on Health and the Environment

Biodiversity, a fundamental for Human Health - an update

Three years ago DEA produced a poster on Biodiversity - the Web of Life. It asked “Will the next generation inhabit a healthy earth?” The poster was very popular especially with schools.

In the intervening years DEA has commented occasionally on biodiversity and ecological services-  and we have devoted ourselves to one of the causes of loss of biodiversity, climate change. On every measurement, biodiversity continues to decline. Usually our attention is drawn to some attractive species of animal nearing extinction but I commend the recent report “Plants under pressure a global assessment” from the International Union of the Conservation of Nature”. Click here  The report says that more than 20% of plants are threatened with extinction, the most threatened habitat being rainforest and the greatest threat is from human activities such as the conversion of natural habitat for agriculture and livestock. Human impact is the main threat in the case of  87% of threats to extinction. A further 10% of plants are ‘near threatened’ which means they may become threatened unless conservation action is undertaken.

Pharmaceuticals; Permanent Pollutants in the Environment

This article prepared for the ISDE web site raises the issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment and their possible appearance in recycled water, a highly relevant topic as we move to a world with water scarcity. This is a comprehensive review of how pharmaceuticals reach the environment and their possible harmful effects. Click here to read the full article.

The Gulf of Mexico oil calamity—a blessing in disguise?

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Many have thought that action on climate change may have to await a calamity. The question is whether the Gulf oil spill will change the course of history by encouraging the USA to serious development of alternative energy.

Furthermore will this spill draw attention to the appalling environmental and health impact of Big Oil around the world and make it more difficult to exploit poor legislation in developing countries and the political process in the rich countries.

History suggests business will be as usual.   In 1989 the Exxon Valdez spill of 11 million gallons was the worst in American history. It damaged 1,300 miles of shoreline, disrupting the lives and livelihoods of people in the region and killing hundreds of thousands of birds and marine animals. Despite the clean-up, oil remains on beaches and the ecology has not recovered. The herring fishing was lost completely. After 20 years in court $500m damages was awarded, a pittance.

Toward a Mercury Treaty that protects public health: A health sector platform

This proposed Treaty is promoted by four organisations of Which the Internatioanl Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE) is one.
 ISDE is DEA's parent body.
I remind you that by being a member of DEA you are part of in international organisation which works on a whole range of health issues. Furthermore this particular initiative is highly relevant to two DEA initiatives. In greening hospitals and clinics we must note proposals which we can all pursue in our own work places. In our "Coal is a Health Hazard" initiative we can recognise and educate on the role of coal combustion in mercury pollution. In educating about this issue we will soon have the backing of international agreement for action

The Tasmanian Water Saga and Plantation Timber

This is a remarkable story and if you saw both episodes of Australian Story Something in the Water  on ABC TV then you don’t need to read this introduction.
For the videos Click here and Here

Introduction
Alison Bleaney is a general practitioner (and DEA member) in St Helens, NE Tasmania. She was concerned by the number of unusual cancers and other illnesses that were diagnosed in her small community and when in 2004 a large flood of fresh water from the surrounding catchment rushed into the St. Helens bay and there was a large oyster kill, her attention turned to pesticide spraying in the catchment plantations. This was an appropriate question for the spraying practices in forestry had been a concern of many Tasmanians for a considerable time. She had difficulty getting government to investigate the problem and her experiences are detailed in our previous article, Click here  Spraying practices were detailed in a further article, Click here

Dr Linda Selvey - New CEO Greenpeace Australia Pacific

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This appointment  is great news for health and the environment. The message is important, here is an eminent medical doctor and environmental expert appointed to a major organisation. It signifies the strong inter-relationship between health and the environment.
My membership in Greenpeace had lapsed-- I have now rejoined!  David Shearman, Editor
The following is the press release from Greenpeace

Dr Linda Selvey is taking on the top job at Greenpeace Australia Pacific after a solid career as a senior public servant in Queensland. For more than 12 years Dr Selvey has held senior management positions in Queensland Health including being Executive Director, Population Health Queensland  for almost 4 years.  She is highly respected professionally and personally within the field of public health in Queensland and nationally.

Nanotechnology and the environment: A mismatch between claims and reality

In this report the European Environmental Bureau and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) Nanotechnology Working Group, challenge industry claims about the potential environmental benefits provided by nanotechnology products:
 
Nanotechnologies are presented as providing unprecedented technological solutions to many environmental problems including climate change, pollution and clean drinking water. Proponents claim that it enables economic growth through better products and new markets while dramatically reducing our ecological footprint. However there is emerging evidence these claims do not provide the whole picture, with serious environmental risks and costs being trivialised or ignored.

Are Commercial Banks a Health Hazard?

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Global determinations will determine whether humanity survives relatively unscathed from the ecological crisis. One of the major players in determining the outcomes will be the international banks for they determine whether money will be spent on environmental innovation. Since we all accept the relationship between the environment and health then it is quite clear that some operations of the banks are a health hazard.

The indictment
The history of banking is one of recurrent financial crisis due to greed and mismanagement, each crisis necessitating government funds to restore economic equilibrium. ‘Government funds’ means your money and so there is less money to be committed to health and the environment.  In the savings and loans crisis in the US in the mid eighties, deposits were gambled or stolen in the wake of deregulation and between 1986 and 1995 the cost was huge-- 3% of GDP, most of which was covered by the taxpayers. This lead to the Commissioner of the California Department of savings and loans, William Crawford, saying “the best way to rob a bank is to own one” Five hundred and fifty of those involved were convicted and 326 went to jail.

Clean and Green Tasmania?

The Premier of Tasmania says that Tasmania is clean and green and its future is to provide clean, green food produce to the world. Water will be provided to irrigate a productive centre of the island.

 

To be clean and green is laudable but perhaps the Premier needs to be reminded of three major problems to be solved if his claim is to be accepted.  Firstly, the material below relates to meetings held in Launceston and at the Royal Hobart Hospital which documented chemical spraying practices dangerous to the environment and to human health. Secondly,the proposed pulp mill assessment procedures question the judgement of the Tasmanian government. Thirdly, forestry practices which include the wood chipping of old growth and regrowth forest are now reprehensible in terms of Australia fulfilling its necessary role in reducing green house emissions. Once the Premier has acknowledged and acted on these problems it will be satisfying for us to remove the question mark from the title of this article.

Are we meeting Sustainable Development Goals?

According to a recent study, the challenge to increase sustainable development is currently falling short, in spite of national and international sustainability goals. In fact, almost all national and regional trends are moving away from sustainable development, particularly in high income countries.

The World Commission on Environment and Development of the United Nations (UN), better known as the Brundtland Commission, stated in its 1987 report that Sustainable Development is development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, adopted in 2000, called on all countries to integrate the principles of sustainable development into national policies and programmes.

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