Schoolchildren’s activism is a lesson for health professionals

Transcript

1 2 1 of Page 2019;365:l1938 doi: 10.1136/bmj.l1938 (Published 1 May 2019) BMJ Editorials BMJ: first published as 10.1136/bmj.l1938 on 1 May 2019. Downloaded from EDITORIALS s activism is a lesson for health Schoolchildren ’ professionals Like them, we must campaign relentlessly for carbon net zero by 2030 2 1 3 , Richard Smith , Rowan Williams executive member Robin Stott , Fiona master former editor 2 editor in chief Godlee 3 2 1 Magdalene College, Cambridge, UK , London, UK; The BMJ UK Climate and Health Council, London, UK ; In March, hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren in 2000 t want ’ t want your hope. I don ’ But I don ’ to give them hope. you to be hopeful. I want you to panic ... If you have a child cities from 123 countries left school to call for action on climate change. They inspired millions more, including the non-violent that is standing in the middle of the road, and cars are coming at full speed, you don ’ direct activists participating in the Extinction Rebellion protests, t look away because it is too hard to see, 1 and set an example for those of us who are older (and possibly you run out and get that child away from there. ” less wise). Now the Friday strikes happen in many countries The schoolchildren s action follows last year ’ s warning by the ’ every week (#FridaysForFuture). Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that raising the http://www.bmj.com/ global temperature by more than 1.5°C could make the world It is young people who will be most affected by the floods, 2 desertification, fires, hunger, disease, mass migration, and wars uninhabitable — and yet we are heading towards a 3°C increase. caused by climate change. These disastrous consequences have Keeping below 1.5°C of warming requires “ rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, says the already begun and will grow rapidly worse without urgent ” 2 Globally, we must conserve energy, generate renewable report. action, which must include the abandonment of fossil fuels. Health professionals and their organisations must support and energy, prioritise walking, cycling, and public transport, produce learn from the schoolchildren s action, finding more effective food with a much smaller carbon footprint, promote a largely ’ on 5 May 2019 by guest. Protected by copyright. vegetarian diet, introduce an escalating carbon tax, and care for ways to help people and politicians understand that climate agricultural land and wild areas so that they maintain change is by far the biggest threat human health has ever faced. biodiversity and become important carbon sinks. Such The story of the student protests is a good example of cultural developments will protect human health in the future and bring “ ’ anthropologist Margaret Mead s well known quote: Never substantial benefits now. doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it s the only thing that ever has. ” The ’ Yet despite the increasingly ominous warnings of the past 30 movement began with Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish years no country in the world has acted on the scale needed. We carry on arguing about Brexit, prioritise curing disease rather student who in August 2018 started to miss school every Friday and protest about inaction on climate change outside the Swedish than preventing it, plan new airports, be creative, go to work, and bring up our children as if nothing was happening. parliament. For weeks she protested alone, but slowly and exponentially Delusional thinking others followed her example. Since then, Thunberg has spoken “ an anthology of We enjoy what David Wallace-Wells calls at the World Economic Forum and attended the United Nations comforting delusions: that global warming is an Arctic saga, meeting on climate change. She has been nominated for a Nobel unfolding remotely; that it is strictly a matter of sea level and Peace Prize and has 400 000 followers on Twitter. During her coastlines, not an enveloping crisis sparing no place and leaving Easter holidays she travelled to London, where she spoke to no life undeformed; that it is a crisis of the “ natural ” world, not politicians from all parties and joined the Extinction Rebellion the human one; that those two are distinct, and that we live today protests. somehow outside or beyond or at the very least defended against Thunberg has Asperger s syndrome, which she calls ’ “ a gift. ” nature, not inescapably within and literally overwhelmed by it. ” She speaks bluntly: “ Why should I be studying for a future that 3 He lists other delusions in his book The Uninhabitable Earth: soon will be no more, when no one is doing anything to save A Story of the Future Life , but the greatest may be that that future? ... We must change almost everything in our current technology alone can save us. Adults keep saying: ‘ We owe it to the young people societies ... Correspondence to: R Stott [email protected] http://www.bmj.com/permissions Subscribe: For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

2 2019;365:l1938 doi: 10.1136/bmj.l1938 (Published 1 May 2019) BMJ 2 2 of Page EDITORIALS With their relentless protests, Thunberg and other schoolchildren To facilitate this, we call on governments to create and be led around the world have shown a commitment that other groups, by citizens assemblies on climate change and ecological justice, including health professionals, have not managed. Despite the and on health professionals to vote only for representatives who efforts of, for example, the Global Climate and Health Alliance prioritise climate change. BMJ: first published as 10.1136/bmj.l1938 on 1 May 2019. Downloaded from (climateandhealthalliance.org), the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change (lancetcountdown.org), and the UK Health Competing interests: We have read and understood BMJ policy on declaration of Alliance on Climate Change (ukhealthalliance.org), the interests and declare the following interests: RSt and FG are executive members commitment of health professionals to this issue has been of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. All authors are supporters of the patchy, intermittent, and sotto voce. schoolchildren ’ s action (#FridaysforFuture) and Extinction Rebellion. Climate breakdown is an immediate health threat not a distant ve been the invisible girl. ‘ All my life I ’ 1 ’ Financial Times 2019 Feb Hook L. Greta Thunberg: environmental inconvenience. Now is the time for health 22. https://www.ft.com/content/4df1b9e6-34fb-11e9-bd3a-8b2a211d90d5 professionals to share the demands of schoolchildren and Global warming of 1.5 C. IPCC, 2018. https: 2 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. //www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ Extinction Rebellion activists, to insist that all governments tell Wallace-Wells D. 3 The uninhabitable earth: a story of the future. Allen Lane, 2019. the truth about climate change, declare an ecological and climate Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already change emergency, and act urgently to halt biodiversity loss http://group.bmj.com/group/rights-licensing/ granted under a licence) please go to and to reduce greenhouse gasses to carbon net zero by or before permissions 2030. http://www.bmj.com/ on 5 May 2019 by guest. Protected by copyright. Subscribe: http://www.bmj.com/permissions For personal use only: See rights and reprints http://www.bmj.com/subscribe

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