Our survival depends not only on military balance, but on global cooperation to ensure a sustainable biological environment. Report of the Brandt Commission, 1980
Those that work on the front lines of security and disaster response see the effects of climate change and our human responsibility for it on health and human security. Dr. Chris King and PEC member Dr. Rick Randolph are just two of those front line individuals who work diligently, teaching others to understand the threats and risks to world peace. They urge us to change our lives for the peace and health of all the creatures in the world around us.
In conversations with them, they highlight how changes in climate are altering the world. Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and ever increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide are closely associated with allergies and other health related issues, especially in urban areas. More than 109,000 asthma attacks, 220,000 lost work days, and over 2,500 premature deaths are estimated to have resulted from passenger vehicle emissions in 2015 in the 10 western states alone. These numbers alone are alarming, Dr. Randolph states, for health, health care costs, and health care systems everywhere.
Agriculturally important food crops (wheat and rice) are found to have decreased nutritional values in proteins and essential minerals due to the rising levels of carbon dioxide. Fossil fuel combustions, according to Randolph, are altering ocean acidification and deoxygenation, and are having major consequences on coral reefs, fisheries, and aquaculture (which provide nutrients to about four billion people). Poor nutrition is associated with graver outcomes when populations are fighting health challenges, either living in or recovering from disasters.
Dr. King, referencing the Tibetan plateau, describes some of those factors in this area of the world where3.2 billion people’s lives are at risk, where three of the world’s four largest armies and three of the five largest nuclear arsenals are located. Key environmental issues disturb peace and stability in the world. Climate related drivers, such as loss of snow and ice cover, stresses available water resources, escalates flooding and droughts, intensifies the rate of warming temperatures, and is associated with increased and more intense fires.
According to King and Randolph, environmental degradation is a major threat to peace and stability in the world. It will bring on increased refugee/emigration/immigration population, poverty inequality, and epidemic diseases affecting the least of these first.
Solutions must work toward curing basic problems, not treating symptoms.Peace is not the absence of war. Existence of stable human communities that have their basic needs satisfied means assuring regional stability.
Dr. Randolph relates the story of a patient who came into a disaster response clinic complaining, “My heart hurts.” While their heart was being tested, the patient shared that they had lost their home as well as families members – Their heart just hurt.
…national security is not just about fighting forces and weaponry. It relates to watersheds, croplands, forests, genetic resources, climate and other factors that rarely figure in the minds of military experts and political leaders. Norman Myers, The Environmentalist, 1986
Matthew 5: 9 Blessings on the peacemakers
Help to remember with each step we walk we are connected to all of creation. Help us to learn what we have done. Help us to find out path to walk in a way that will honor your creation and make this creation a place that is safe and healthy for all.
Jo Randolph is a PEC member, Moderator at Heartland Presbytery/Maya Quiché Presbytery Partnership, Rotarian and member of the Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group.