The dawn of the New Year and new decade in a very favoured country ought to be greeted with positive anticipation and firm new resolutions. Yet our thoughts are with all Australians that are suffering so much loss and distress across the nation. Much of our country is in a prolonged drought and on fire and the world is in great environmental and geo-political peril.
Governments at home and abroad have not heeded the most authoritative scientific evidence and advice available. Many influential politicians and media commentators remain climate change sceptics. It gives no pleasure to observe that what DEA and so many other scientific bodies and organisations have been predicting and working hard over decades to minimise is becoming a reality.
It can at times seem overwhelming but as present and future doctors we know our duty is to do all we can to protect heath and lives. DEA in 2020 will increase our efforts and activities to uphold DEA’s Mission to “protect health through care of the environment”, continually inspired by the great bravery, community spirit and wonderful commitment by many individuals demonstrated across the nation.
Environmental and ecosystem disruption and associated threats to health, lives and livelihoods will significantly worsen unless far more decisive effective action is taken without further delay. To reduce the probability that these events will recur, the future will require much more wisdom from our leaders than has been shown to date.
Current emission reduction targets remain far too low and creative accounting cannot disguise the fact that Australian fossil fuel consumption and exports add disproportionally to the greenhouse gas composition of our atmosphere.
Medical practitioners who wilfully ignore the best available evidence in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients can be accused of mismanagement. When that evidence is abundantly available to them and continues to be rejected, they can be accused of negligence.
The Federal government can be accused of negligence in its approach to tackling the underlying causes of climate change with its associated atmospheric and oceanic warming and pollution. Whilst it is not the only national government that is negligent, each must play their part and it is presently our government that has been a laggard at home and perhaps worse still, disruptive to regional and global climate agreements abroad including the 2019 Pacific Island Forum and recent COP25.
DEA considers it a responsibility to help educate, influence and mobilise the health profession and the wider community. We will use our medical and scientific credibility and understanding of the health impacts of climate change, air pollution and environmental destruction to influence State, Territory and Federal policy makers. There is a climate, environmental and health emergency which cannot go on unaddressed.
DEA will use the knowledge, skill, energy and resources of DEA members across the country to increase our extensive evidence base resources, develop further strategies, nurture collaborations with like- minded organisations and individuals, and increase capacity to advocate for and protect the environment upon which our health and all life depends.
In 2020 our collective actions must lead to rational decisions and major advances. It is imperative that we not only “manage the unavoidable’ but “avoid the unmanageable”.
Prof Kingsley Faulkner and Dr Eugenie Kayak Co-chairs DEA