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Not What the Doctor Ordered: Rapid Environmental Change Threatens the Foundations of Human Health
Date:11/4/2009

tribution of infectious diseases, increased air pollution, natural disasters, and population displacement—that collectively threaten large segments of the human population. But most of the death and disability from these threats is fundamentally preventable, Dr. Myers writes, if the political will can be mobilized to take strong, concerted action. The report outlines the need for national-level risk assessments to identify the greatest threats in different regions, as well as unprecedented technical and financial assistance from the international community to help developing countries adapt to the health impacts of accelerating environmental change.

Ultimately, the report argues, we will need to find new ways to generate economic growth that do not cause serious ecological deterioration, or the progress that has been made toward global health, nutrition, and poverty alleviation will be undone. “At present, all of the major types of human caused environmental change—climate change, changes in land use and cover, and ecosystem service degradation—are accelerating,” Myers says. “To reduce the avoidable human suffering that will result, we must redouble our efforts to slow the pace of environmental change, reduce the rate of human population growth, and reduce the vulnerabilities of those in harm’s way.”

In her preface to the report, Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Special Envoy on Climate Change to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, describes the report as “a call to action.” She writes that, “The knowledge that we can make a difference means that we have a large responsibility to act. By fighting ignorance, inaction, and inequity, we can create the conditions under which health threats can be averted. Most importantly, we must take targeted collective action to reduce the vulnerability of the poorest people on the planet to threats they played litt
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