On May 5th, World Asthma Day, I attended the second annual Clearing the Air Summit hosted by the Asthma Society of Canada. The full day event, attended by leaders of government, industry, academic and non-profit organizations was most certainly an enlightening experience, providing a unique perspective on the impacts of climate change. Commonly, when people give presentations on global warming, there is a strong fixation on the effects on the natural environments: increased natural disasters, decreased biodiversity, rising temperatures, and the likes. Though at the Clearing the Air Summit, they focused instead on exposing the harsh realities of global warming’s impact on human health.
The warming climate coupled with harmful pollutants released into our atmosphere is increasing the duration and severity of allergy season. As well, air quality is decreasing, putting those with asthma at greater risk of suffering from fatal attacks, and all at a greater risk of developing lung cancer. Yet despite all the grim statistics and predications of the state of the earth, the conference was uplifting: it became clear that so many leaders across all sectors have the passion and drive to tackle the pressing issue of climate change. They discussed at length the best possible ways in which we can begin to solve this issue and all came away with a renewed sense of hope that, with effort, we can make tomorrow a brighter day. Overall, I learned a great deal from the conference, gaining new perspectives of the environment and health, and ideas of where we can take the YCRH’s Environment Working Group.
Stephanie Bertolo is from Hamilton, Ontario and is the lead of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health's Environment Working Group. Currently, she is a student in McMaster University's Arts & Science program with plans to earn a Masters in Global Health.