Nearly 4 million people participated in last Friday’s youth-led Global Climate Strike - the largest climate demonstration in history, millions of adults joined to show solidarity and to call for urgent action to address the climate crisis. Across the U.S. and around the world, health and medical professionals showed their support for the youth-led global climate strikes by marching with students, writing letters to the editor, signing our Medical Excuse Note and sharing it on social media, and in many other ways.
Video and blog
Check out this video montage of health professional action around the globe and this strike focused blog from our partners at the Global Climate Health Alliance making the case for health professionals to support the students and highlighting how they can continue to drive attention to the global health emergency that climate change represents.
Wearing white coats, scrubs and stethoscopes, Boston area physicians gathered at City Hall Plaza and staffed a “planetary health urgent care clinic.” Doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Medical Center and other local hospitals provided information about the impacts of climate change on the health of young people along with advice about how to reduce the risk. Across the river in Cambridge, Harvard Medical School instructor Dr. Gaurab Basu joined former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy on the podium at a rally during the Harvard Strike for Climate Justice and addressed the crowd. Physicians then marched together to the State House carrying signs about the climate health emergency, their solidarity with the youth climate strikers, and the need to take urgent climate action to protect public health.
Medical students at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University walked out of school at noon to show solidarity with the youth climate strikers in Providence. Students are also implementing a Climate Week action program to encourage medical students to take a different strategy each day to promote sustainability at home and in health care.
Instead of attending classes, Natasha Sood MPH, now a second year medical student at Penn State College of Medicine, addressed a crowd at the Pennsylvania State Capitol. “Climate change is the defining issue of our generation and the health of my patients lives are at stake, my health is at stake, my family’s lives are at stake,” she said. Speaking about our leaders she told the crowd, "I want them to take this as a crisis, the public and health crisis that it is.”
In Saint Paul, members of Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate took to the streets to advocate for climate action. Among them were multigenerational nurses, physicians, and public health professionals - currently practicing, retired, or in school - all marching on behalf of patient health across the state of Minnesota.
In San Francisco, a large contingent of physicians and medical students in white coats had a full day of action to focus on climate change as a health emergency. The group, all members of the newly formed California Climate Health Now coalition, spent the day meeting with legislative staff for Speaker Pelosi, Senators Feinstein and Harris, and Representative Barbara Lee to call for increased attention to the health impacts of climate change and ask for bold policies to address the climate crisis. The physicians and medical students also set up an “Urgent Climate Care Clinic” at the start of the climate strike march, giving out medical excuse notes and prescriptions for activities that benefit climate and health.
“Our message to the electeds is that climate change is a medical emergency and needs to be framed as such in the American discourse- it’s about our children’s asthma, and our own allergies, and our parents’ increased risk of heart attacks and strokes from air pollution and heat,” explained Dr. Ashley McClure, internal medicine physician, and organizer of California Climate Health Now.
Letters to the editor
There were also powerful letters to the editor published in local newspapers highlighting the local health impacts of climate change and the impact on children and youth. Dr. Claire Gervais, from Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action, had her LTE published in the Wisconsin State Journal explaining how “children in my clinic and worldwide are affected by air pollution and worsening asthma.” Dr. Kristi White, a Psychologist in Minnesota had her LTE published by the Star Tribune writing “as a clinical health psychologist, I have seen firsthand how climate change impacts both the physical and psychological wellness of the patients I treat.” Consider submitting an LTE to your local paper this week!
Sign the note
More than 750 health and medical professionals have already signed the note and it’s not too late. Millions of students will continue to strike this week and every Friday until there is meaningful climate action by our leaders.