November 1, 2019; Scientific American
The editor-in-chief of one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, The Lancet, is encouraging all health professionals to engage in nonviolent social protest to address climate change in the face of government inaction.
In a video released by Rubber Republic, Richard Horton makes the case that climate change is the most existential crisis facing the communities that doctors and other health professionals serve, “and since medicine is all about protecting and strengthening the human species, it should be absolutely foundational to the practice of what we do every single day.”
Similar to scientists, doctors are often characterized as conveyors of facts and not prone to wading into politically charged debates. Horton argues that the climate crisis has dire consequences on health that health professionals are obligated to address regularly, even if their actions are small.
With this statement, The Lancet joins multiple health organizations in the United Kingdom taking action against climate change including hospitals and professional membership organizations for doctors. Additionally, many health professionals have already been on the front lines of protests against government inaction over the climate crisis.
In September, some of the protestors arrested for gluing themselves to the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in London were members of Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, a doctors collective with the mission to recognize that climate change is a public health catastrophe in the making.
In his video, Horton recognizes doctors arrested for protesting and requests that they be protected from any damage to their careers.
Doctors for Extinction Rebellion recognizes that the changes needed to battle climate change may be unpopular, but that doctors can play a key role in easing the pains of inconvenience by lending voices from a highly regarded field. And the message they share is clear—the climate crisis requires immediate action.—Julie Euber