More than 80 residents attended “Your Health & Climate Change: Up Close & Personal” at Peterborough Public Health last Thursday evening to hear from national and local experts about the effect of climate change on their health, and how community action can address it.
“We’re already living in a time of climate disruption, where global warming has changed weather patterns to the point where weather-related emergencies have now become the leading threat to our safety,” explained Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health. “Today’s event reinforced how climate change is already impacting the health of each and every one of us and how much local residents want to alter this path. It’s clear we need to engage all levels of society to mitigate the impact of climate change on public health.”
Mayor Diane Therrien gave opening remarks, and then keynote speaker Dr. Edward Xie, an expert on climate change and public health, described the specific ways health is affected at the community level. This includes more heat-related illness, respiratory and cardiovascular disease caused by poor air quality, increased water and food borne illness, more injuries from extreme weather, and increased vector-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and Lyme disease.
“When our health and environment are so closely linked, we need to have an honest discussion about choices going forward. In Ontario, if we act together, we have opportunities to build strong and sustainable communities,” said Dr. Xie.
Following Dr. Xie’s presentation, there was a panel discussion featuring Brianna Salmon from Peterborough GreenUP, Melanie Kawalec from Sustainable Peterborough, and Kerry-Anne Charles from Cambium Aboriginal, based in Curve Lake First Nation. They described many of the local environmental responses already in progress and the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Greater Peterborough Area Climate Change Action Plan, households are responsible for 36% of our greenhouse gas emissions.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical,” said Dr. Salvaterra. “At the individual level, we can transition towards more plant-based diets, reduce our energy and water use, reduce waste and park those fossil-fuel dependent cars so that we can walk or bike our way towards a healthier future.” She stated that more needs to be done to reduce emissions provincially, as 75% of the Ontario economy is still dependent on fossil fuels.
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“Hopefully today’s event will shore up the good work already happening and inspire more residents to advocate for the changes needed to improve public health.”
“Your Health & Climate Change: Up Close & Personal” was organized by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), For Our Grandchildren, Peterborough Family Health Team, Peterborough GreenUP, and Peterborough Public Health.