Climate change: From embryo to end of life
Helena Murcelle Nadem
L’information ci-bas est disponible en anglais seulement.
Intergenerational equity involves the distribution of health throughout time, placing emphasis in ensuring the well-being of current and future generations of populations (Summer & Smith, 2014). Intergenerational equity refers to all generations having the right to access the benefits of the same natural and cultural resources as prior generations, thus placing responsibility on the present generation to assist with conserving the planet and distributing health and wellbeing overtime (Summers & Smith, 2014; Venn, 2019). By fostering this goal, intergenerational equity utilizes a social justice approach to suggest that current generations have a duty to protect the diversity in resources, environments, and allowing future generations to equitably benefit from the environment (Summers & Smith, 2014; Venn, 2019). By forming a deep-rooted partnership across generations, intergenerational equity is relevant to ecological sustainability goals and actions (Summers & Smith, 20140).
“Climate change is a threat multiplier for children’s physical and mental health. It exacerbates existing disparities in children’s health that are a direct product of poverty and structural racism” (Chalupka et al., 2020). The ongoing battle of the climate change crisis has continued to impose devastating consequences for us all. Children and youth are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, where a significant amount of vulnerability rests with their immature physiological defense systems and their direct contacts with the physical environment (Sanson, Wachs, Koller, & Salmela-Aro, 2018). Further, children in developing nations (which account for 85% of children in the world) will endure the greatest consequences of climate change impacts (Chalupka et al. 2020). Both sudden and long-term climate change impacts can introduce a variety of harms (indirect and direct) to a child, including exposure to environmental toxins, infectious, gastrointestinal, and parasitic diseases, heat-related illnesses fatalities, and injuries (Sheffield & Landrigan, 2010). There has been research supporting evidence of connections with climate impacts causing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, sleep problems, cognitive deficits, as well as learning problems among children (Garcia & Sheehan, 2016; Majeed & Lee, 2017). Further, children may face obstacles with feelings of distress, anger, grief, loss of identity, feelings of hopelessness, higher rates of suicide, aggression, and violence (Clayton et al. 2017). Climate change generally speaking, may go beyond the bounds of childhood, to pre-birth, where bodies may be exposed to environmental stressors, which in turn can affect the embryo (Gislason et al. 2021). “The vulnerability of any group is a function of its sensitivity to climate change-related health risks, its exposure to those risks, and its capacity for responding to or coping with climate variability and change.” (Chalupka et al., 2020). A multitude of factors can affect the ways in which some populations are affected, this can include low-income communities lacking the resources necessary to respond to extreme weather events. The elderly community tend to associate happiness with their original living place, where social connections and sense of identity are formulated (Longino, 1994). Interruptions to living places from the climate crisis may result in dislocations. Older persons have a sensitive relationship to changes amongst their external environment including exposures with noxious agents, toxins, and infectious agents (Carnes et al. 2014).
There is clear evidence of the lethal impacts climate change effects are imposing today, tomorrow, and for future generations. Older adults feel a moral obligation for future youth’s well-being (Puaschunder, 2020). Ecological determinants of health (EDoH) are a vital component to the climate crisis. Water systems, agricultural systems, and more natural resources are directly connected to global environmental changes (pollution, biodiversity loss, etc., Gislason et al. 2021). An eco-social lens acknowledges a holistic nature of public health and showcases the harsh implications for the basic determinants of health (Gislason et al. 2021). An eco-social lens, where both social and ecological components are recognized as essential to children and future generations well-being, can be adopted to develop appropriate public health interventions that address concerns of climate change. Building upon children’s agency and encouraging both creative and resilient solutions through participatory actions are additional approaches that can take place (Gislason et al., 2021). Protecting, advocating, and engaging collaboratively with equity-deserving communities is vital. Mitigation efforts towards a sustainable future for our land and communities are imperative, and possible.
Helena Murcelle Nadem
Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Carnes, B. A., Staats, D., & Willcox, B. J. (2014). Impact of climate change on elder health. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 69(9), 1087–1091. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glt159
Chalupka, S., Anderko, L., & Pennea, E. (2020). Climate Change, Climate Justice, and Children's Mental Health: A Generation at Risk?. Environmental Justice, 13(1), 10-14.
Clayton, S., Manning, C., Krygsman, K., & Speiser, M. (2017). Mental health and our changing climate: Impacts, implications, and guidance. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica. Retrieved from http://ecoamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ea-apa-psych-report-web.pdf
Garcia, D., & Sheehan, M. (2016). Extreme weather-driven disasters and children's health. International Journal of Health Services, 46, 79– 105. https://doi.org/10.1177/0020731415625254
Gislason, M.K.; Kennedy, A.M.; Witham, S.M. The Interplay between Social and Ecological Determinants of Mental Health for Children and Youth in the Climate Crisis. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 4573. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18094573
Longino, C.F., 1994. Where retirees prefer to live: the geographical distribution and
migration patterns of retirees. In: Monk, A. (Ed.), The Columbia Retirement
Handbook. Columbia University Press, New York, p. 40.
Majeed H, Lee J. 2017.The impact of climate change on youth depression and mental health. Lancet Planet Health.
Page, L., Hajat, S., Kovats, R., & Howard, L. (2012). Temperature-related deaths in people with psychosis, dementia and substance misuse. British Journal of Psychiatry, 200(6), 485-490. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.111.100404
Puaschunder J. (2020) Intergenerational Equity. In: Governance & Climate Justice. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-63281-0_2
Sanson, A. V., Wachs, T. D., Koller, S. H., & Salmela-Aro, K. (2018). Young people and climate change: The role of developmental science. In S. Verma & A. Peterson (Eds.), Developmental science and sustainable development goals for children and youth (pp. 115– 138), Social Indicators Research Series, 74. New York, NY: Springer.
Sheffield, P. E., & Landrigan, P. J. (2010). Global climate change and children’s health: Threats and strategies for prevention. Environmental Health Perspectives, 119, 291– 298. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1002233
Summers, J., & Smith, K. (2014). The Role of Social and Intergenerational Equity in Making
Changes in Human Well-Being Sustainable. AMBIO, 43(6), 718-728.
Venn, A. (2019) Social Justice and Climate Change. In T. M. Letcher (Ed.), Managing Global
Warming: An Interface of Technology and Human Issues (pp. 711-728). Elsevier Inc.