A friend of mine took this photo of a beautiful Montana landscape. Climate change is threatening these pristine environments, as environmental pollution threatens our bodies. As physicians we need to look at the bigger picture of climate change and our ailing planet so that our patients can make informed decisions about their health, their families, their communities and their future.
Our legislative leaders need to understand the sources of our air pollution and their health consequences. They need to understand the true financial burden of our current energy
As a medical doctor, I remember when my field used to think of clean air as important because of the link of pollutants to lung cancer. Now we understand that the toxins and particulate matter in the air not only affect the lungs but have systemic affects on the cardiac system, neurologic system as well as on chronic inflammatory diseases. In fact, the disease burden from polluted air contributes to 4 out of the 5 leading causes of death in the United States.
Often the polluters are big corporations with political influence. Their objective is profits not public health. But the health impacts will far outweigh the small profits in selling this coal. Our legislative leaders need to understand the sources of our air pollution and their health consequences. They need to understand the true financial burden of our current energy policies and who is profiting from them. They need to understand the alternatives and prioritize the health of individuals and the planet. And my senators from Montana specifically need to understand that Montana is sitting on one and half billion tons of coal, and what that means to our bodies and our future.
Everyone, not just Congress, the President and the EPA, must commit to this struggle, and follow the lead of many of the indigenous people who understand profoundly the interconnectedness of life and man’s degradation of the natural world. It is impossible to harm the planet without harming ourselves too. Is this what we really want to do?