British doctors use civil disobedience to give an urgent climate emergency health warning

Photo from Extinction Rebellion London: Doctors at the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Contributed by Joe Montero

In London last week (Wednesday 25 September 2019), a group of doctors from Doctors for XR (Extinction Rebellion), glued themselves to the building of the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Other doctors were there to support them.

Their action was part of the leadup to the International Rebellion, which begins  on 7 October, and it underlines the depth and breadth of a growing movement, which is also rising in Australia.

Photo from Extinction Rebellion London

Doctors for XR was formed earlier this year. Its membership is growing rapidly, due to criticism of the failure of the British government’s emission reduction strategy.

Doctors are joining those who are saying that words without proportionate action to match what the science is telling us is needed means very little..

legal requirements under the British Climate Change Act and commitments made under the Paris agreement are not being met.

Doctors are prepared to get out of their usual comfort zone,take direct action, and even risk damaging their careers, because they know that “climate and ecological breakdown poses one of the greatest threats to public health the world has ever faced. Yet the government is failing to take meaningful steps to protect its citizens. Nonviolent peaceful protests like today are essential public health intervention for getting the government to take immediate action,” said Dr Chris Newman, co-founder of Doctors for XR.

Taking on the government’s 2050 net zero target, they say it is insufficient to protect young people alive today. It does not match what the science is telling us.

Climate and ecological breakdown are already having severe impacts (including death) on the lives of millions of people around the world. Ninety percent of the global population is breathing toxic air, causing 8 million early deaths per year – 64,000 in the UK alone.

Disease spread by mosquitoes and ticks is becoming more common worldwide, with several hundred more people at risk of malaria, from the rise in global temperatures. This is the tip of the iceberg, with many more suffering impacts on their physical and mental health.

Another of the co-founders of Doctors for XR, Dr Rita Issa, said:

“If a patient collapsed in my clinic, I would be negligent in my duty of care as a doctor if I didn’t act immediately. Yet we have signs of our life support system collapsing all around us; rainforests are burning, rising atmospheric carbon, ice cap melting. We need to respond with the urgency required. That’s why we are taking peaceful direct action…and calling on the health community to join us on the streets of London on 7 October, to pressure the government to take the rapid, lifesaving action we need.”

Responding to the climate crisis is an issue of justice.

Although the poor, the elderly, children and women will suffer the most from the impact of the impending crisis, no one will escape the effect. It is even worse in developing nations.

One hundred companies are responsible for 71 percent of global carbon emissions. Just 25 of them account for 50 percent.

Unless this is recognised and enough done to compel them to change, little will happen.

For a start, subsidies for the fuel industry must end. It must be made unprofitable to continue business as usual, and this must be backed with enough legal penalties against those guilty of continuing to do so.

This is where Australia comes in.

Our nation is a major exporter of fossil fuels and the domestic economy is tied to this dangerous industry. This means that Australia can make a significant contribution towards overall global emission reduction.

But the Australian government is even worse than its British counterpart. It must be compelled to change or brought to account.

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morisson and the infamous lump of coal he brought into the parliament to show his support for the coal industry

The danger of massive species extinction is real. This is enough to act. If this wont motivate some, they should consider that human beings are also under threat.

Changing weather patterns, as the British doctors have reminded us, will affect health from the rise of disease. Add to this escalating shortages of water and food.

Australia is already experiencing unprecedented ongoing drought, which is having an impact on agricultural output. Water shortages are becoming an increasing reality. If it continues unchecked, Australia will reach a point where we will no longer be able to feed ourselves. Economic and social collapse will come next.

AGL Wayswater power plant in NSW is a significant contributor to Australia’s carbom emissions

The claim that turning towards sustainability will cost economic growth and jobs is false. Failure to act and reduce carbon emissions in time will cause this.

It is possible to manage a transition with minimal impact, in a way that it becomes and engine for a new economy and creates jobs. There just must be a will to do it.

Australians will be joining the international rebellion on 7 October, except that it’s called the Spring Rebellion.

Coming to a capital city near you.

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