So today, I spent my day off from working as an A&E doctor, not in any recreational pursuits or undertaking any hobbies, but feeling a bit silly standing in the cold outside of JP Morgan’s headquarters.
Why would I undertake such a strange action? A tiny, seemingly pointless gesture in the grand machinations of the world.
In my work as an emergency doctor I have worked in British A/E departments and in refugee camps. I see and treat the most vulnerable in our society and around the world. They arrive into my departments or tent hospitals at the worse points of their illness, at the culmination of a series of negative events leading to one of the worse days of their lives. But I am relaxed, generally positive and in control.
I have power in these situations. I am looked to automatically with authority and for reassurance, which I can provide. In this country I prescribe oxygen for those suffering from asthma, in refugee camps in Sudan I re-hydrate children with life-threatening infections and on the islands of Greece I try and reassure those with the psychological after-effects of torture they suffered during their journeys’ to Europe.
In these very narrow encounters I know what I can do; oxygen, medications, fluids. However, taking a step back from the immediate, and looking at the paths that have led these diverse people to need my help, I am lost. I have no control of the myriad of factors that have led to these dire but preventable emergency situations that should never have happened; inequality, poverty, war and toxic leadership.
But luckily, we have reached a stage of collective understanding as a society that we can draw lines and connections between massive global trends and the individual acts of harm. I am no expert, but even I can draw the invisible threads connecting this massive, impenetrable issues to the suffering I see before me. The air pollution making my asthmatic patient’s exacerbations more frequent, the droughts making the lives of those forced to live in desert regions more severe and the temperature changes having direct impacts on conflict, leading to unstable governments and more forced migration.
We all know climate change is real. We all know it is preventable. We all know this will get worse without immediate action.
But in this regard I feel powerless. When the situation gets bad enough to spill over into my hospital or clinic then I am able to treat it. I am trusted implicitly by patients and by society to fix these problems. But at this preventable stage, before this global event spills over and creates more and more individual suffering, all I can do, as well is making individual changes in my own life, is to implore those who do have power to make those vital change.
So, as part of doctors for XR, I hope they will listen to us when we say we have an opportunity to fix these problems before it gets too late.
They are capable of making this change happen.
So, I stand, asking politely, that the powers that be trust us and listen.
The time to act is now.