An online friend of mine, Dr. Sam Stea, tell me in a recent email that ”a large majority of the most learned, trusted and responsible individuals in the world are standing largely silent against a global threat to health unlike any this planet has ever known.”
So under the circumstances, Sam wrote an impassioned email to explore ”the exigent need for the American medical community to speak out and speak up about the impending hazards of climate change, from the perspective of one doctor in the USA who has spent the past two years writing a YA cli-fi novel to add his voice to the cause.”
First thing Sam tells me is this: “Let’s just get this fact out of the way at the outset: Climate change is real. Climate science is real. When 97 percent of all scientists dedicated to the subject agree on something to a greater or lesser degree? It is real, plain and simple.”
Sam feels very strongly that the potential for worst-case climate change scenarios are real, and the potential outcomes of those scenarios are dire for health care across the USA and around the world.
Climate scientists, he says, continue to shout from the mountaintops, warning the public of melting icecaps, flooded cities, shortages of food and water, extreme weather events, the inevitable migrating swath of climate refugees by the millions, and the health and disease epidemics that are certain to follow.
“Slow as it has been, the American public’s perception of climate change seems
to be shifting, from non-urgency towards seriousness, from denial towards a general
acceptance,” Sam tells me, adding: ”This problem exists and must be dealt with. Much credit is due to climate scientists who continue to shout louder and louder with each new study. With each new clarion call, there is a growing consensus that supports the claim of the monumental catastrophe and global health crisis that potentially lies ahead.”
”And if not within most of our lifetimes? Then certainly within the lifetimes of our
Sam feels there is a notable faction missing from these united voices, these men and
women of science who are simply reading the writing on the wall as loudly as possible. Who are the people in this faction?
“One of the most powerful voices in the room has remained mostly silent to the
point of becoming inconsequential. And from my seat? They are derelict in their duty,” Sam told me.
“I speak of the near entirety of the medical profession and American medical
community. Precious few physicians and organizations in America are playing an
active, leading role in what may well become the greatest threat to human health in
As a physician, a nephrologist, spending most of his working energy preventing
kidney disease and administering dialysis, Sam says he is hard-pressed to explain this disheartening disconnect between emerging health reality and the continued silence of those who swear an oath to “Do No Harm.”
“It haunts me, day to day, in casual discussion with my peers, during teaching
rounds and in staff meetings,” he told me. “It is as if the very concept of climate change has yet to permeate the hallowed halls American medicine.”
Doctors and medical professionals (like many working Americans) are now
tasked to do more than ever before, he adds, noting: “I know because I am one of them. Perhaps we are all much too busy, each within our spheres of expertise, separated by schedules of call, or vacation time, or hospital politics. The time goes by so fast, and like most of America, our pursuit of finding a professional and personal work-life balance grows more challenging with each passing day.”
“But it’s not just our own lives on the line here. We’re talking about the entire
planet,” Sam insists.
Sam ends his appeal this way: “The question I would ask of every person inside the medical community would be: Are we more than the sum of our infinite parts? Can we unite with one voice — a voice as powerful and respected as the unified voice we shared when we decried the potential ravages of nuclear war, or AIDS, or the epidemics of opioid abuse and obesity and heart disease?”
“Doctors, nurses, friends and peers, now is the time we must acknowledge
climate change as the grave health crisis is will most certainly become — if not today, then tomorrow. Tomorrow is where our children live, dammit!”
Note: Sam Stea is a nephrologist practicing kidney medicine in
Pennsylvania and the new author of a cli-fi novel titled “REIMAGINE,” a young adult (YA) adventure story about three teenage climate change refugees traveling back in time to save a music legend. (Hint: think of the music of John Lennon and look at the title again.) In the process, these teens might save the world, the book boldly proclaims.