Global Warming and Health

Tennessee and Alabama are in the grips of one of the longest droughts in memory and now it’s coupled with triple digit heat. At the same time, floods are disrupting life in many areas of the world including the United Kingdom, India and Bangledesh. A tornado touched down in Brooklyn yesterday causing one incredulous resident to say, “This isn’t Kansas!” The caption on the Weather Channel today is “Deadly Heat and Savage Storms.”

As we endure the third day of 100+ degree heat, health warnings are issued for those vulnerable due to upper respiratory stress, heart conditions and other complications. The connection between this unusual heat and health is clear. Human service agencies are receiving donated window air conditioners and giving them to people with health concerns who can’t afford to buy the units. In casual conversation, people speak of difficulty breathing the humid air that hangs in a gray overcast. Local weather advisories tell us the air is holding pollution in a dome during the day. Fortunately, skies clear at night and today it’s sunny.

But heat and drought are causing people to take note and to ask if the weather extremes are related to global warming. The heat and drought also remind us of an axiom we tend to forget under normal conditions. Even in this most developed and affluent nation, if you are poor or vulnerable for other reasons, a few degrees of heat and lack of water can be deadly.
This heat wave is also a reminder that health, poverty and our individual lifestyles are not separate and compartmentalized. They are connected. We’re all in this together. And the threat to our health and well-being is bound up in our individual actions as well as our collective behavior as a nation. The sooner we learn <i>this</i> axiom, the sooner we can begin to make the changes necessary to restore balance and contribute to the health of our Earth Mother.

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