People with a single water source for washing, drinking and sanitation are at risk for health problems. (AP Images)
The relationship between climate change and health is one that concerns many people, because of the serious negative impacts environmental factors can have on “at risk” populations: children, the elderly, and the impoverished. For more information about current environment-health issues, such as the dangers of pesticides used on crops (which children are especially vulnerable to due to their small size), check out the Health section of the David Suzuki Foundation.
So why are certain populations more vulnerable than others to the negative effects of climate change? For starters, children and the elderly have less strong immune systems than most adults, making them more susceptible to diseases and extreme weather events like heat waves. According to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, children are most vulnerable to climate change, and those in East Asia and the Pacific are most at risk. According to Geoffrey Keele of UNICEF, “The leading killers of children worldwide are highly sensitive to changes in the climate…For example, higher temperatures have been linked to increased rates of malnutrition, cholera, diarrheal disease and vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria. Yet children’s underdeveloped immune systems put them at far greater risk of contracting these diseases and succumbing to their complications.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Climate Change and the Health of Children” website explains more about the issues that children face specifically: They provide links to background information on technical environmental and health issues for those who want to learn more.
For potential strategies for preventing these climate-related health problems for children, check out “Global Climate Change and Children’s Health: Threats and Strategies for Prevention” provided by the U.S.’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Environmental Health Perspectives Journal. It explains issues such as children’s susceptibility to excessive heat and provides examples of different climate-sensitive events children are exposed to throughout their lives, and possible effects.
This post was written by Laura Fernandez, a native of Colombia who lives in the US (she just graduated from school in Florida) and is applying for graduate school in the US currently. She wrote all about some of the actions the youth have been creating to demonstrate support for different issues that they are interested in.
Mobilizing Consciousness Through Positive Climate Actions
As the first week of COP17 comes to an end, youth involvement and activism has been great, and it looks slated to only get better. Wednesday was Young and Future Generations Day, which involved many actions from various youth delegates and non-governmental organizations. The morning kicked off with a delicious bake sale by the Canadian Youth Coalition in order to raise awareness about the dangers polluters pose to our environment. This was followed by a dance coordinated by the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) to deliver the message that girls are part of the solution to climate change, asking delegates if they were too.
Climate Super Heroes at COP17 (Photo courtesy of SustainUS)
A youth delegate from Belgium organized a campaign called “I <3 1.5oC” in a very visible area in the outside portion of the conference center. This action stressed the urgent need to limit the rise of global temperature to 1.5oC in order to avoid serious effects of climate change, and encouraged official country delegates to wear a necktie with the slogan (that they gave away for free!) in support. An action from our own country, the Sierra Student Coalition, charmed the day. A short skit by participating youth illustrated the important role clear renewable energy plays in the creation of a more sustainable climate, and the issues that fossil fuels and dirty coal cause. Youth interested in finance gathered to display the countries “on target” when it comes to smart ways to collect money for the Green Climate Fund, and awarding the “Robin Hood Award” to the country that made the most positive strides that day.
Robin Hood Tax (Photo courtesy of SustainUS)
The beautiful Durban sunny day ended with a youth brief with the UNFCCC President, Christiana Figueres, at a side event in which UNICEF youth and part of the Caravan from Nairobi sang and danced to the sounds of African beats. The week will close with few more actions on climate justice, forests and awareness about World Aids Days, to be lead by young ones from around the word who are part of the International Youth Climate Movement. It is truly an honor to be a part of this diverse and outgoing group of young people trying to influence decision makers for a better, greener and more sustainable planet.