Green in­vest­ment and re­silient com­mu­ni­ties lead to a brighter fu­ture

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Opin­ion - KIM PER­ROTTA Kim Per­rotta is a public health pro­fes­sional who has worked on en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues from a health per­spec­tive for 35 years.

The fed­eral min­is­ter of en­vi­ron­ment and cli­mate change has floated the idea of Canada re­build­ing its econ­omy by in­vest­ing in clean tech­nolo­gies and re­silient com­mu­ni­ties. This could be won­der­ful news for the health of Cana­di­ans to­day and in the fu­ture.

By in­vest­ing in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency, re­new­able en­er­gies, elec­tric ve­hi­cles, public tran­sit, and rail ser­vice, we can de­crease air pol­lu­tion, which would in turn, re­duce asthma symp­toms, lung can­cer, heart dis­ease, strokes and a host of other acute and chronic health conditions. Air pol­lu­tion is still a sig­nif­i­cant health risk fac­tor in Canada. Re­spon­si­ble for more than 14,000 pre­ma­ture deaths and 2.7 mil­lion asthma symp­tom days each year, Health Canada es­ti­mates that air pol­lu­tion costs $114 bil­lion in health im­pacts each year. These are health im­pacts that can be avoided by in­vest­ing in green tech­nolo­gies.

By in­vest­ing in walk­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties, cy­cling in­fra­struc­ture, public tran­sit and green spa­ces in our ur­ban cen­tres, we could fos­ter phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, which would in turn, re­duce chronic dis­eases such as coro­nary heart dis­ease, colon can­cer and Type 2 di­a­betes, and im­prove men­tal health. Ac­cord­ing to the Public Health Agency of Canada, chronic dis­eases cost Canada about $190 bil­lion per year in treat­ment and lost pro­duc­tiv­ity. By in­vest­ing in re­silient com­mu­ni­ties, we could also make it eas­ier for peo­ple, who can­not drive or do not own cars, to ac­cess jobs, ser­vices and recre­ational op­por­tu­ni­ties. These in­vest­ments could make our com­mu­ni­ties more eq­ui­table as well as health­ier.

In­vest­ments in green tech­nolo­gies and re­silient com­mu­ni­ties would also cre­ate a health­ier and more sta­ble fu­ture for our chil­dren by re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions that cause cli­mate change. While cli­mate change has re­ceded from the minds of many as we con­tend with the more im­me­di­ate health risks and fi­nan­cial con­cerns pre­sented by COVID-19, it has not dis­ap­peared.

While the health im­pacts are less ap­par­ent than COVID-19, cli­mate change is al­ready claim­ing the lives of tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, and en­dan­ger­ing the health of hun­dreds of mil­lions, each year. Over the last decade, the phys­i­cal and men­tal health of Cana­di­ans has been harmed by floods, ice storms, ex­treme heat, hur­ri­canes, wild­fires and air pol­lu­tion — all of which have be­come more fre­quent and more in­tense as the cli­mate has warmed.

While COVID-19 threat­ens the lives of mil­lions around the world to­day, cli­mate change is dis­rupt­ing the ecosys­tems upon which we are all de­pen­dent for our food, cloth­ing and hous­ing. It threat­ens our abil­ity to live on this planet and it threat­ens to do so within the life­time of our chil­dren.

Just a few months ago, 25 Cana­dian health organizati­ons en­dorsed a Call to Ac­tion on Cli­mate Change and Health, which iden­ti­fied cli­mate change as “the great­est health threat of the 21st cen­tury,” a phrase orig­i­nally coined by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion. But it also iden­ti­fied cli­mate so­lu­tions “as the great­est global health op­por­tu­nity of the 21st cen­tury,” a phrase coined by the pres­ti­gious med­i­cal jour­nal, The Lancet.

By in­vest­ing in green tech­nolo­gies and re­silient com­mu­ni­ties, the fed­eral govern­ment could turn the great­est health threat into the great­est global health op­por­tu­nity. It could im­prove the health of Cana­di­ans to­day, while pro­vid­ing a sta­ble and healthy fu­ture for our chil­dren. They could cre­ate some­thing good come out of the tragedy, grief and loss caused by the COVID-19 pan­demic.

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