The Failure in Realizing What Shouldn’t Be Taken for Granted

Image Source: https://usaherald.com/whats-deal-climate-change-not-end-world/

As we live our busy days filled with daily routines and countless hours at work, have you ever stopped to take a look around you and notice your surroundings? If you live in the hustle and bustle of the Philippine Metro, would you still see traces of greenery? Is there even such thing as “let me step outside for a breath of fresh air” anymore these days?

This is only just the beginning — our beloved home, at large, continuously experiences rapid rise in temperatures, leading to oceans warming and ice sheets shrinking. Mother Earth is crying for help. Thankfully, there are countless organizations who gather to address such cause; yet, in reality, there’s still an even larger problem that we tend to overlook.

Last January 19, 2018, at the elegant Mirèio Salon, the Harvard Business School Club of the Philippines had another of its business breakfast series. Gracing the forum as speaker was second year Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) candidate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Dr. Renzo Guinto MD, who discussed what was, at first, a rather peculiar topic — “Advancing Health in the Era of Climate Change.”

Upon learning about the topic, I initially couldn’t quite grasp the connection between health and climate change. Thus, it was of great help that Dr. Guinto started by going over the basics of defining health, public health, and the health sector.

Health, in general, was defined as our whole state of being — our balance of fluids and going beyond just the physical attributes. While in the same, yet somehow different sense, he defined public health came as the equality or equity of society’s health, as a whole. Lastly, the group came to realize how we all are part of the health sector — whether you are a doctor in a hospital or a farmer out in the fields, we all play an important role in the health sector.

Throughout the session, we slowly pieced together that our health heavily relies on the environment surrounding us. As shared by Dr. Guinto during his discussion, “What good does it do to treat people’s illnesses, only to send them back to the conditions that made them sick?” This line made the most sense — we might not have realized it yet, but the cars we drive affect the air we breathe and the immense trash we don’t recycle end up in landfills, contributing to greenhouse gases and other health hazards.

If you still don’t quite get the picture of how this issue affects us all, let’s take a closer look and try to understand this from a Filipino perspective. Our country experiences an average of eight to nine tropical storms a year. We all know how storms affect us — heavy traffic, flooded streets, and suspended classes; however, how do these storms affect our health and how does this relate to climate change?

As presented by Dr. Guinto, climate change increases the occurrence of typhoons. Furthermore, due to our unsustainable development plans, our country inevitably experiences flooding, placing communities in affected areas at high risk for diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, meningitis, and the like. In other words, how we treat Mother Earth affects each and every one of us. We need to step up and realize that our home is sending us signals and it is time for us to take care of our home, not only for our own health and well-being, but also for our future generations to come. Simple actions such as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, unplugging electric appliances when not in use, and recycling are small steps that can collectively make a huge difference.

On a larger scale, Dr. Guinto advocates for the cause of from “public health” to “planetary health” through the realization of converting our hospitals into eco-friendly facilities. Hospitals are known as safe facilities — we rely on those for treatment; however, we fail to realize that hospitals alone consume a large amount of energy and water, as well as produce a massive amount of waste. Can you just imagine the difference it would make if our so-called “little steps” in saving the Earth are applied on a larger scale?

With the help of advocates like Dr. Guinto, who work passionately in spreading awareness of such cause, we all need to work together and do our part in making our home the place it deserves to be. Let us begin to realize what is happening around us before it’s too late.

(starting from left) HBS Co-President; Nabbie Alejo, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Dr. Renzo Guinto MD, Harvard Alumni Association Director for Asia; Carol Dominguez

About the Author:

Kayleen Cheng graduated with honors from De La Salle University-Manila with a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies. Currently she is working as the club administrator of the Harvard Business School Club of the Philippines, where she coordinates among the alumni.

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