Health Consequences of Environmental Degradation and Social Injustice Martin Donohoe, M. D., F. A. C. P



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  • Martin Donohoe, M.D., F.A.C.P.

Am I Stoned?

  • A 1999 Utah anti-drug pamphlet warns:
  • “Danger signs that your child may be smoking marijuana include excessive preoccupation with social causes, race relations, and environmental issues”

Our Home

Portland, Oregon Mount Hood

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Causes of Environmental Degradation

  • Overpopulation
  • Pollution
  • Deforestation
  • Global Warming
  • Agricultural/Fishing Practices
  • Overconsumption / Affluenza
  • Militarization

Causes of Environmental Degradation

  • Maldistribution of Wealth
  • National and Global Political and Economic Institutions
  • Poor education
  • Media manipulation and inaccurate reporting
  • Unbalanced political influence
  • Citizen apathy

Consequences of Environmental Degradation

  • Increased poverty and overcrowding
  • Famine
  • Weather extremes
  • Species loss

Consequences of Environmental Degradation

  • Medical illnesses
  • Infectious diseases
  • War
  • Malthusian chaos and disaster
  • Tragedy of the Commons

Economic Costs of Environmental Diseases

  • Estimated at $132-165 billion/year in the U.S. alone
    • Does not count the psychological and emotional costs of the human suffering involved for the victims, their families, and their communities

Overpopulation

  • World population - exponential growth
    • 1 billion in 1800
    • 2.5 billion in 1950
    • 6 billion in 2000
    • 6.5 billion in 2006
    • est. 8 billion by 2050
  • More people added to the planet in the last 40 years than in all previous recorded history

Overpopulation

  • Africa, Asia, and Latin America primarily affected
  • Causes:
    • Poverty
    • Women’s rights issues

Overpopulation

  • Urbanization
    • 20-30 million people/year leave rural for urban areas
    • 2007: first time in history that more than half the world’s population will live in urban areas
  • World migrant population = 100 million -economic, war and environmental refugees

Urban Sprawl

Wallace Stegner

    • “We simply need … wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope”

Air Pollution

Air Pollution

Air Pollution

  • Top ten most polluted cities in the world are in China and India
  • Most polluted areas in US:
    • 2001 – LA
    • 2002 – Houston
    • 2003 – San Joaquin Valley in Central California
    • 2004, 2006 – LA

Health Effects of Air Pollution

  • Causes approximately 75,000 premature deaths/yr. in U.S.
  • 1.8 million worldwide

Health Effects of Air Pollution

  • Air pollution causes asthma and impairs lung development and function
  • Deaths from cardiopulmonary diseases correlate with air pollution levels in US cities
    • Both day to day and over time

Health Effects of Air Pollution

Effects of Ozone Destruction

  • Ozone hole over Antarctic (2½X size of Europe)
  • Increased cataracts (UV damage)
  • Increased lifetime melanoma risk
    • 1/1500 - 1930
    • 1/68 - today

Automobiles

Automobiles

  • Number of autos -US: 1 car/2 people -Mexico: 1/8 -China: 1/100 (increasing; leaded gasoline)
  • Global auto population to double in 25-50 years

Automobiles

  • Average miles traveled/car/year in U.S.
    • 1965 - 4,570 mi.
    • 1975 - 6,150 mi.
    • 1985 - 7,460 mi.
    • 1995 - 9,220 mi.
    • 2006 – 12,000 mi.

Automobiles

  • Average fuel efficiency of U.S. autos stagnant
  • Relatively low oil prices
  • Growing market for low-efficiency pickups, minivans, and sport-utility vehicles
  • Ford Model T – 25 mpg (1908); Avg. Ford vehicle – 22.6 mpg (2003)

Automobiles: Alternatives

  • Rapid transit -industry squashed in 1930’s and 40’s (GM, Standard Oil, Firestone, etc.) -Convicted under Sherman Antitrust Act

Automobiles: Alternatives

  • Car sharing
  • Pay-as-you-drive auto insurance
  • “Peak Pricing” and “Congestion Fees”
    • E.g., London → 30% decrease in traffic, 37% increase in bus ridership, cleaner air
  • Bicycles/walking

Alternatives to Automobiles

  • Busses
  • Trains
    • 15 x more efficient per passenger than autos
    • Amtrak receives 1/3 the amount of federal funding (adjusted for inflation) that it received 20 years ago

Automobiles: Alternatives

  • Electric cars -killed by oil companies, automakers in early 20th century
  • Natural gas, gasohol, and biodiesel
  • Telecommuting
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