“What a Wonderful World”: the unsettled relationship between Climate Change and Human Health

ice melting 2019

(Roxanne Desgagnés, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Lucas Diniz, Lucas Diniz is a second-year medical student at Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás, Brazil.. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


In 1961, during the Cold War, Lieutenant Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to leave the Earth’s atmosphere and, as a hero of the Soviet Republic, became famous for his declaration, while gazing at the planet: “The earth is blue. How wonderful. It is amazing.” Also, in the 1960s, the American trumpeter Louis Armstrong sang: “I see trees of green, I see skies so blue and clouds of white, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” Let’s forget the Cold War for a minute: both Soviet and American cultures were impressed by this wonderful world.

Gladly, neither of these remarkable men stood alive to see what ever happened to this unique and marvelous place, for the opportunity to “behold” the orb as it is today: stained with smoke, danger and death – the last two centuries, especially the latter, with the Third Industrial Revolution and, of course, the recent so-called “Industry 4.0”, abruptly interfered on the future of our House, engendering real problems, such as rising sea level, acidification of sea water and other impacts, whereby on agriculture and human flow all around the globe, derived from global warming, direct result of the climate change generated by deforestation, burning of fossil fuels, animal husbandry, oil extraction.

Nowadays, anthropic activities – our actions – are changing the world’s climate, increasing the atmospheric concentration of energy-trapping gases (the greenhouse gases or GHGs, containing carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other human-made halocarbons), thereby amplifying the natural “greenhouse effect” that makes our House a house. Along with natural consequences, our health is also impaired. Clearly, the existence of relations between the health of human populations and the environment was already present in the beginnings of human civilization, consonant to the Hippocratic writings. However, it seems like human beings turn blind eyes to the impact of the environment on their health. (1)

Hereupon, we must know that “environment” refers to a homogeneous combination of physical-chemical, biological and social factors, which have been recently highlighted for their significant importance on the directions of public health: according to CRED – Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, natural disasters have killed 1.3 million people in the last 20 years and caused losses of over $ 2908 billion, a 68% increase over the previous two decades, representing a threat mostly to European and Southeast Asian countries. N

ot only natural disasters, but lack of food and water supplies due to global warming can cause significant population migration and disorganization of countries, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. (2) These disorders are intimately involved with floods, droughts, heat and cold waves, as well as future scenarios for global climate change indicate a decline in agricultural production, notably in tropical areas, where you can additionally find climate changes operation in ecosystems where pathogens, vectors and natural hosts are part: an increase in the transmission of infectious diseases, like malaria, dengue, chikungunya, leishmaniasis, Chagas’ disease and trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), has been widely described by researchers. And we must acknowledge that these dreadful consequences depend not only on the vagaries of mother nature but also on the sociopolitical and individual choices we make. (3)

Therefore, health as the center of the discussion about Climate Change is rising as a major theme in population health research and social policy development, becoming a leading role in the sustainability debate: the biopsychosocial hazards of Climate Change are well known in the scientific community and general population is taking its baby steps to a future of awareness and preservation. Could we someday return to the glorious past of “What a Wonderful World”? That’s up to us. It’s time to think global, act local. Will mitigating Climate Change and improving public health be leading roles in our lives?

References

  1. WHO | Climate change and human health – risks and responses. Summary. WHO. World Health Organization; 2012;
  2. AFP. Aquecimento global pode favorecer migrações e terrorismo. Estado de Minas. 2015;1.
  3. Peralta S. Tsunami na Indonésia e sismo em Lisboa: a política faz a diferença. Público Portugal. 2018;3.

About the author

Lucas Diniz is a second-year medical student at Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás, Brazil. Interested in photography, cinema and other expressions of art, such as the art of medicine, he is passionate about understanding more than the science field, but also the psychosocial variables involved in the health-disease process. He believes in the power that has a single conscious action to change the world, combating inequalities and respecting diversity. He is a member of the IFMSA Brazil’s Administrative Team, works at the Academic Center and is the current Local Secretary and Chief Financial Officer of his university IFMSA Local Committee.

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