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Reality check-up

Harriet Clifford investigates how climate change is affecting our health

I started researching this piece feeling naively optimistic. I thought I had a fairly good understanding of the impacts of climate change on human health, what with the dangers of pollution and the risks associated with extreme weather, but it turns out what I knew was only the tip of the (rapidly melting) iceberg. With every new article or report I found, my urge to quickly close all of my internet tabs, slam down the lid of my laptop, crawl into bed and escape into the dystopian world of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments grew harder to ignore. But shying away from the facts is what got us into this mess in the first place, so hiding under my duvet isn’t going to make it all go away. In fact, doing nothing will almost definitely make it worse.

I am aware that there’s a tricky tension between wanting to save the planet for the planet’s sake and wanting to save the planet to avoid human suffering, but there’s probably a sensible middle ground to be found. Realistically, there’s little point having a healthy Earth if there are no healthy humans left to populate it – we’ve got to do it for ourselves just as much as for the animals and for nature itself. And let’s be honest, most people in today’s individualistic society will struggle to find the motivation to act unless there’s some sort of personal threat. But is this threat something new?

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About Be Kind

Hello, If a genie appeared and offered you three wishes, what would you choose? Whilst thoughts of living on a paradise island with a personal chef and marrying Leonardo DiCaprio are tempting, I think most of us would wish for the same thing – good health for ourselves, our friends and our family. You’re very lucky if you haven’t experienced a bout of ill health, or helped a loved one through a bad time with theirs. Most of us can recall a rush to A&E with a broken limb, a hospital birth or a visit to a family member with flowers and chocolates. And, for most of us in the UK, we need to thank the NHS for the care received. The National Health Service was one of the most discussed issues in the last election and every day we hear news of how its future hangs in the balance, with threats of privatisation and further cuts to the service. We are incredibly fortunate to have a service like we do, and whilst there are faults in any huge system, we should be grateful. This issue we’ve taken some time to get to know the people of the NHS – the patients, the nurses, the midwives, the paramedics, the blood donators and the cancer survivors. We take a look at how services compare across the globe and also how climate change is affecting our health (think of the implications of air pollution, flooding and drought), both now and in the future. With the scary changes happening to our planet, it’s more vital than ever that we protect the precious lifeline that is the NHS. Have a great month, Phillipa Editor