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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Health and the Environment: Inseparable companions

Environmental issues are taking an ever increasing place in science and politics.  The optimists will be happy, the pessimists would ask how can you ever put environment, science and politics into the same sentence.  With the Keystone pipeline filling US election debates, and the Northern Gateway pipeline debates causing a stir north of the border, should we be at all surprised at the “Harper” government’s announced intention to streamline approval processes for environmentally sensitive projects. 

A few environmental health stories have been popping up on the radar.  

March 22 was World Water Day.  Did it flow right past you?   The week of March 19-23 was Canada Water Week; the Canadian celebration that we continue to have one of the highest per capita water usages of any country in the world, although slightly behind the US in this respect.  While Canada collectively has more than its fair share of fresh water, water stewardship and prudent use are sustainable habits to be promoted.  Areas of the country suffer from water shortages, and many communities still do not have access to quality drinking water.   

The second story is a dire prediction from the OECD that by 2050, air pollution will surpass poor water quality as the leading environmental cause of death globally, to an estimated 3.6 million lives each year.  OECD outlook summary.  Most of this increase will be in non-OECD countries with South Asia and India having the greatest impact.   The full document which can be linked from the webpage, has many interesting gems hidden and includes estimates of greenhouse gas emissions, global economy growth, and water demands.  If there is a consistent theme to the OECD document, look to most of the change occurring because of Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China, and South Africa.

Domestically, while pipelines have dominated the news,  a small piece of Nova Scotia on reduction of coal gas emissions was notable.   Nova Scotia was the first province to place hard cap reductions in emissions and is leading the political charge in achieving reductions and this piece is a joint federal-provincial initiative to meet these targets while reaffirming the Canadian commitment to the revised greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets which Canada bought into in Copenhagen in 2009 when they abandoned any efforts to meet the Kyoto accord commitments.   Nova Scotia - federal commitment on coal gas emission reduction.   Check out the previous DrPHealth posting on GHG reductions http://drphealth.blogspot.ca/2011/12/kyoto-bali-cancun-now-durban-are.html 

Remember Earth Day is April 22th   http://www.earthday.ca/pub/ .  While the protecting the environment may at times conflict with health promoting ideals, there is a reasonably intimate relationship to monitor activity in both realms. 

Consider participating in Earth Hour - Saturday March 31, from 2030-2130.  Lights out for the environment

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