World Environmental Health Day – An annual reminder for action for everyday of the year

By Dr Liz Hanna. Chair Environmental Health Working Group

Initiated by the International Federation of Environmental Health, World Environmental Health Day - is to be celebrated annually on 26 September. The 2019 theme was Climate change challenges, time for global Environmental Health to act in unison

Environmental Health is re-emerging as a core issue for public health. The World Health Organization reports that, roughly a quarter of all human disease and death in the world can be attributed to environmental factors.

To thrive, humans need ready and affordable access to clean air, clean nutritious food and clean water. Global population growth, combined with industrialization of processes of resource extraction, food production and waste generation have degraded the global environment. Precious water supplies are contaminated, and 9 out of every 10 people breath polluted air. Oceans are filling with plastics. Chemicals are ubiquitous, and through relentless burning of fossil fuels for energy, we have even interfered with the climatic systems that support ecosystems and agriculture.

Once, the earth could supply all human needs and replenish what we used. Yet by 2019, collectively, humanity had used all that the earth could sustainably generate by July 29th, known as Earth Overshoot Day, which creeps forward every year, as humanity’s demands keep growing, and we continue to generate waste.

Essentially our patterns of consumption are killing us. If everyone on the planet lived as Americans do, we would need 5 planets to support us all, 4.1 if everyone lived as the Australians do, yet only 0.7 Earths would be required if everyone consumed like the average Indian. The Japanese need 7.7 Japans to support their national consumptive patterns, the British need 4 Britains, and the Chinese need a landmass of 3.8 China’s to supply all their needs. To calculate your personal ecological footprint and find out your Earth Overshoot Day, visit the following link: https://www.footprintcalculator.org/

Destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems is a health issue, an equity issue and ultimately, a survival issue. Armed with this knowledge, humanity needs to adjust how we treat the earth that supports us. We must curb our consumption, consider our fellow humans and strive for a more just world. To ignore this plight is tantamount to marching relentlessly towards a gruesome contaminated and brutal future.

We can no longer take the environment for granted. We urge everyone, all public health practitioners to lead the transition to a more caring and mores sustainable society.

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The WFPHA co-signed an open letter calling on delegates of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to reject engagement and partnership with the tobacco industry. This falls in line with The Charter and WFPHA's belief that the public health community must be united to protect the world from tobacco industry interference.

The STOP partners have posted the letter to delegates on exposetobacco.org and can be read in full HERE.

 

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The WFPHA has written a letter to the Queensland Premier to support the position of the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) and the Doctors for the Environment of Australia (DEA). In this letter, the WFPHA expresses concern for the negative impacts of opening new coal mines on the health of employees, local population, Australia and the world. The WFPHA urges the Queensland Premier to reconsider her decision regarding the opening of new coal mines such as Adani’s Carmichael mine in the Galilee Basin of Queensland. 

For more information, click here

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The WFPHA has written a letter to the Pacific Island Forum to express support of the recent Nadi Bay Declaration by the Pacific Island Development Forum declaring a Climate Change Crisis in the Pacific. 

In this letter, the WFPHA:

  • Recognizes the vulnerability of Pacific Island Nations to climate change and urges the Forum to keep climate change at the forefront of discussion.
  • Supports the call to urge States to meet their emission goals as described in the Paris Agreement.
  • Supports the call to cease the opening of new coal mines and phase out existing coal production, especially in Australia.

For more information click here