Doctors, nurses and other health professionals urge G7 world leaders to accept that the climate and ecological crises cause global pandemics and constitute a public health emergency.
Doctors, nurses and other health professionalsfrom Extinction Rebellion gathered in Cornwall today, to ask world leaders at the G7 meeting to acknowledge the underlying reasons for global pandemics and accept that the climate and ecological emergency (CEE) is a public health crisis.
They gathered on Harbour beach in St Ives,near where the G7 meeting is taking place, and performed a mock inquest to determine the cause of death of victims of COVID-19. As in a real-life inquest, factors leading to or contributing to these deaths – including destruction of the natural world, air pollution and the climate crisis – were read out in evidence.
Dr Hoon Teo, Intensive Care Unit consultant stated:
“I have worked as an Intensive Care consultant in the NHS for over a decade, and have never lived through anything like COVID. In terms of human and social costs, it has been unbelievable. I have seen 30 year old men and women collapse within hours of arrival in hospital with untreatable hypoxia. I have personally lost 88% of all my patients in the first wave of this frightening virus. We saw hale and hearty people living full lives reduced by months of ventilation into a shadow of themselves, bedbound, unable to wash or feed themselves.
“I am appalled. Although I hate the limelight, I have come to believe that it is my duty to add my voice to the chorus. We cannot allow this to happen again. We can no longer indulge in the unsustainable overconsumption that drives the stripping of natural resources, we have to change our food systems that are overwhelmingly based on industrial agriculture, and the cruel and senseless wildlife trade, all of which are at the heart of the origins of most pandemics.”
They are calling for acknowledgement that the CEE is an urgent and immediate public health crisis (1) (2); and that the COVID-19 pandemic is the result of human impacts in natural habitats (3). In response to this predicament the group recommend the implementation of an integrated approach to planetary health. Such an approach would consider human health alongside animal welfare and ecosystems to prevent future pandemics (4) (5), and the widespread adoption of the “planetary diet” to massively improve both public health and environmental protection (6).
Mr Andrew Stevenson, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon stated:
“COVID has shown us that our place in this world, and the structure of our modern world is far more fragile than we think. COVID has killed millions, crippled healthcare systems and devastated economies. At last we are following the science in treating this pandemic, but we need to follow the science to prevent future pandemics. We need to protect the natural world, leave ecosystems intact and reverse the climate crisis. COVID, a virus previously isolated to a closed ecosystem, has been taken by humans and globalised, to horrific effect. We need to protect nature to protect ourselves.”
This event follows on from previous mock inquests held by the group in 2020, in London, Birmingham, Cambridge and in Cadiz, Spain. Doctors for Extinction Rebellion previously met with the director general of the World Health Organisation Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus in Geneva on 29th May 2021, calling on health authorities to prioritise climate and biodiversity loss as health priorities.
The Director General thanked them and has stated that:
“The risks posed by ClimateChange could dwarf that of any single disease. But there’s no vaccine for climate change. We have to act NOW, in solidarity, to prevent & prepare before it’s too late.”
In addition the group delivered a letter to G7 Health Ministers in Oxford on June 3rd 2021 with the same message.
Mr Andrew Stevenson FRCS
+44 (0)737 642 5956
Dr Teo Hoon Seong
+44 (0)779 271 7504
Notes to editors:
- Climate change is resulting in profound, immediate and worsening health impacts, over 120 researchers say. This short article summarises the Lancet Countdown 2020 report. https://www.preventionweb.net/news/view/75003?utm_source=Twitter &utm_campaign=PreventionSavesLives
- The full Lancet Countdown 2020 report can be found here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32290-X/fulltext
- Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Workshop on Biodiversity and Pandemics, 2020. This report finds that ecological disruption, land use change and unsustainable consumption by humans drive pandemic risk, and that by reducing human environmental impacts pandemic risk may be reduced. https://ipbes.net/sites/default/files/2020-12/IPBES%20Workshop%20on%20Biodiversity%20and%20Pandemics%20Report_0.pdf
- Preventing the next pandemic, Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission. United Nations Environmental Program, 2020.This report outlines the concept of ‘One Health’ whereby animal, human and environmental health are considered as inextricably interrelated. https://www.unep.org/resources/report/preventing-future-zoonotic-disease-outbreaks-protecting-environment-animals-and?_ga=2.159351418.1704045754.1623012381-673317437.1622145192
- No Protection from Pandemics unless we fix our food systems- an open letter from EAT advisory board to the G20. https://eatforum.org/learn-and-discover/no-protection-from-pandemics-unless-we-fix-our-food-systems/
- Can we feed a future population of ten billion within planetary boundaries? https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/the-planetary-health-diet-and-you/
About Doctors for Extinction Rebellion
Doctors for Extinction Rebellion is a health professional collective who, appreciating that climate change is an impending public health catastrophe, have decided to support and undertake civil disobedience with Extinction Rebellion in a worldwide movement. www.doctorsforxr.com
Credit: Jessica Kleczka, Twitter @jessicakleczka