November 26, 2007
Climate Change dinner serves hot potatoes on global issues
By Carol Clark
No public health, medical or nursing school in the county is adequately preparing its students for climate change, said Howard Frumkin, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"For the entire next generation of health care providers, this is going to be an essential part of their knowledge base, so we're pushing very hard to get this knowledge integrated into curriculums," he said.
Frumkin made the remarks at the November dinner of the Emory Climate Change Working Group, the last in a series of dinners that began in the spring to generate dialogue among University faculty, students and staff about global warming.
A former professor of public health and medicine at Emory, Frumkin outlined the health implications of climate change — including deaths, injuries and illness expected from increases in heat waves, severe weather events, air pollution and shortages of food and water. As the average temperature of the earth rises, scourges such as ragweed and mosquitoes will thrive, leading to more allergy attacks and more cases of vector-borne diseases.
Educating the public, along with health care professionals, is vital, Frumkin said, stressing that an effective health marketing campaign should focus on positive messages. "The problem is so big and so intimidating, that people are likely to disengage otherwise,” he said.
The public has heard the wake-up call — what's needed now are inspiring messages "to get people out of bed and moving," said Katy Hinman, a recent Candler graduate and executive director of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit dedicated to energy conservation.
Faith communities are becoming more involved in environmentalism, Hinman said. "For everyone in this room, there is some moral underpinning for you getting involved in climate-change work,” she said. “The faith community is now bringing that moral voice out in ways it hasn't come out before."
More than 100 members of the Emory community applied to join the series of climate change dinners, although only 40 spaces were available, said Peggy Barlett, professor of anthropology and a member of the Climate Change Working Group. "I really appreciate the energy bubbling in the room. From almost every school across campus, we've had a faculty member, a graduate student and an undergraduate present. It's just amazing how many people want to come together from across campus to learn more about this issue."
Karen Ventii, a graduate student of biochemistry, said she joined the dinner series because she thought it would provide material for a science blog she writes for lay people. "I'm interested in how science affects peoples lives — from the drugs they take to the food they eat," she said.
"I come from India," said Ashutosh Jogalekar, a graduate student in chemistry, "and one of our biggest challenges is how to balance economic progress and the threat of environmental changes."
"This room is packed with great people," said Ciannat Howett, director of Emory's sustainability initiatives. She urged participants to put their heads together and think about ways Emory can make a positive difference on the issue of climate change.