Helena Clements: Clean Air Day
I write this as I return from a climbing holiday in France. We have travelled by train and coach and have been using our electric Brompton bikes bought for the purpose just before Covid.
There is a new term in the climbing world: green pointing. It refers to low carbon climbing which avoids those quick flights and long drives to our favourite locations. But sometimes I think it is all ‘greenwash’, and as a privileged and highly paid doctor I am kidding myself. I spend my cash on green kit, more expensive modes of transport and on reducing my carbon footprint where I can, but I still accumulate stuff and travel widely across the UK - even if most is by electric vehicle (EV) and by train in Europe. We are transitioning to a lower carbon future where climate justice dictates that travel will not be solely for the rich but that taking cheap flights when there are lower-carbon alternatives are a thing of the past too. Our world cannot sustain this.
We have eaten and drunk well in France too. Again, compromise and transition to that low carbon diet that as doctors we should be recommending for our health and wellbeing. We are mostly veggie/ vegan but have enjoyed delicious French cheeses of course. And struggled to compromise on the wine.
As I return home and to the NHS, I consider what is next on my horizon as Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust and ICS clinical lead for climate action. I have meetings booked regarding green transport, onsite EV charging and sustainable food then more medical things such as monitoring our plans to reduce nitrous oxide from theatres and maternity, progressing with inhaler switches and the installation of sensors in theatres. I will be catching up with the Midlands clinical senate fellows who are working on the barriers to adopting low carbon practice in elective care. Why don’t we just do it?
On 15 June it is Clean Air Day. Surely something close to the heart of respiratory physicians but really, to all of us. The medical harms of air pollution are well documented. Why don’t we all shout out for children - and everybody - leave our high-end vehicles at home on the 15th and make some noise about this.
I am keen on amplification. So, whilst we mark Clean Air Day, we need our friends and family, as well as local schools and businesses to engage in this too. This matters right now for all of us and surely is not controversial. As doctors we should continue to keep the focus on health. This includes the air we breathe, the food we eat and everything we do in the vast carbon-producer that is the NHS.
As you enjoy your holidays for the rest of the year it is worth thinking about what else you and I should be doing to continue that transition to low carbon life and work. Answers on a postcard please!
Alice Joy: Sustainability is good for patients
Alice Joy from the Patient and Carer Network on the complex subject of sustainability and how it's good for patients.