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Health: Human health and well-being in an era of energy scarcity and climate change

Health: Human health and well-being in an era of energy scarcity and climate change

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Published by permaMedia
Health: Human health and well-being in an era of energy scarcity and climate change
Health: Human health and well-being in an era of energy scarcity and climate change

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Published by: permaMedia on Oct 18, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Post Carbon Reader Series: Health
Human Health and Well-Being in an Eraof Energy Scarcity and Climate Change
By Cindy L. Parker, MD, MPH, and Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS
About the Authors
Cindy Parker is on the faculty at the Johns HopkinsBloomberg School of Public Health, where she co-directs theProgram on Global Sustainability and Health. Her professional interests include education, policy work, practice, and research on the global envi-ronmental topics of climate change, peak petroleum,and global sustainability. She is a frequent speaker onthe health effects of global climate change and recentlyco-authored
(2008).Parker is a Fellow of Post Carbon Institute.Brian Schwartz is a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the Johns HopkinsBloomberg School of Public Health, where he co-directs both theProgram on Global Sustainability and Healthand the Environmental Health Institute.He has conducted extensive research on the healtheffects of chemicals via occupational, environmental,and molecular epidemiology studies. His career hasincluded research, teaching, and training, as well asclinical and public health practice. Schwartz is a Fellowof Post Carbon Institute.Post Carbon Institute© 2010613 4th Street, Suite 208Santa Rosa, California 95404 USAThis publication is an excerpted chapter from
The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’sSustainability Crises
, Richard Heinberg and DanielLerch, eds. (Healdsburg, CA: Watershed Media, 2010).For other book excerpts, permission to reprint, and purchasing visithttp://www.postcarbonreader.com.
In the past hundred years, we have created lifestyles,communities, food systems, water systems, transporta-tion systems, and health systems that are entirely relianton cheap and plentiful oil and that assume a favorableand stable climate. Our health and well-being havebeen shaped by these lifestyles and systems, but theyhave not necessarily been well served: Climate changeand the threat of energy scarcity now pose serious chal-lenges to our “health system,” specifically health careservices and public health services.The consequences of climate change and energy scar-city will be wide ranging and complex, will affect allaspects of our lives, and will touch all people—somemore so than others. Energy scarcity will result pri-marily in reduced capacity, capabilities, and servicesin the health care and public health systems. Climatechange will cause new and increased demands on ourcurrent capabilities and services. Without preparation,early responses to these challenges will likely be moti- vated simply by rising and volatile energy prices—andcharacterized by trial and error, incorrect decisions,and highly politicized debate. Fortunately, we can plan ahead to provide communities with the essen-tial capabilities and resources they’ll need to be resil-ient, safeguarding individual and family health in anincreasingly uncertain future.
Health and ts Many Determinants
 Health is a state of complete physical, mental and  social well-being and not merely the absence of  disease or inrmity.
—World Health Organization, 1948
Physical, Mental, and social Well-Being
A denition of health as merely the absence of diseaseis much too limiting. e broad denition of healthabove was formulated more than sixty years ago andhas remained widely useful. Although
healthis important to well-being, humans also need
 health, which starts with the absence of mental illnessbut also includes such concepts as freedom from fear of  personal harm, freedom from fear about not meeting basic needs (food, water, shelter, safety), and so on. Inaddition, we are
creatures and require a sense of community: stimulating, trusting, and regular interac-tions with others, plus a sense of usefulness, satisfaction,and security in what we do and how we live our livesas members of groups. Without all three kinds of well-being—physical, mental, and social—we are not healthy. When health and well-being have been definedbroadly, it becomes easier to understand what thehealth impacts of energy scarcity and climate changeare likely to be. Many things that are not consideredto be “health related”
 per se
are nevertheless importantdeterminants of health; all of the factors below contrib-ute to physical, mental, and social well-being—or lackthereof—and each of these is likely to be influenced bythe coming energy and climate challenges:
Community economic vitality
Employment rate
Social stability
Dependability and affordability of basic needs likefood and water

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