Do No Harm: Climate Change and Our Health

פורסם: 9 ביולי 2013, 11:42 על ידי: Sustainability Org

Dr. Susan Pacheco,on being named a White House Champion of Change, 27q6q2013

As a pediatrician I thought I’d never find anything as fulfilling and joyful as taking care of children. In 2006 I took my children to watch the documentary An Inconvenient Truth as part of their school homework. I remember my hesitancy. I was obviously aware of climate change, but it had always seemed too distant. The soundtrack from Melissa Etheridge’s song “I Need to Wake up” still runs through in my mind. So does the closing message: “Write to Congress, and if they do not listen, run for Congress.” I still remember my children telling me the theater was empty and it still brings a smile to my heart.

I am now overcome by an overwhelming sense of responsibility towards my patients and their families. I needed to share the real story about climate change. Before I knew it, I was a volunteer for The Climate Reality Project (, and I decided to share the climate story with any person able to listen. Shortly thereafter I became a Climate Reality mentor, and then a district manager for Puerto Rico – I led volunteers to share the climate story with anybody willing to listen. I remember a few of my close friends, patients and colleagues sharing their concern of “losing me to this climate thing.” I disagreed. As a physician I am committed to the art of healing. I have to approach anything and everything that may affect my patient’s mental, or physical well-being.

The reality is that climate change is here to stay for generations to come. I have the responsibility to share the challenges we face as a society – particularly where the vulnerable health and security will be totally disproportionate to their contribution to the climate crisis. Knowledge is not proprietary; the right to receive information must be made available to all.

I still give talks as a Climate Leader with the Climate Reality Project to help fill the knowledge gap on climate change. I have geared my efforts not only to engage the overall public, but also towards individuals and groups involved in health care. As health care providers, we are trusted advocates and messengers. I have found that even in the Texas Medical Center, the largest in the world, knowledge regarding the health dangers imposed by the changing climate is limited. I have and continue to share my knowledge through a myriad of venues: academics, medical students, and other health-related groups in the Houston Medical Center and the state of Texas, as well as Puerto Rico and other Spanish speaking countries. I have chosen to work as the health representative for the Puerto Rico Climate Change Council, have worked with Puerto Rico’s “Enlace Latino de Accion Climàtica,” sponsored by “El Puente Community Group for Peace and Justice”, and have participated as a representative and author for Puerto Rico’s “National Climate Assessment” -SE Region-Health Sector Report (2012). I am currently working with the American Academy of Pediatrics and am co-authoring a position statement on the need to acknowledge the harmful effects climate change has on US children. Additionally, I am leading the efforts with the American Lung Association Plains-Gulf Region in Houston to release a statement regarding the changing climate in our state and the need to “fight for the air”. One of my key projects, in consultation with Dr. Ronald A. Sass from the James A. Baker III of the Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, is the formation of a coalition of individuals with different backgrounds (including those involved in health care, local communities, faith groups, student organizations, academics, and scientific fields), who are aware of the threat of climate change and willing to openly acknowledge the need to engage our communities in open discussions that will facilitate the implementation of mitigation and adaptation strategies for the state of Texas.

As a physician, my role extends beyond my interaction with patients in the office; I have the responsibility to help restore balance in the life of my patients. I cannot do anything less for our planet.


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