Catelyn (the penguin) campaigning against Climate Change on the freezing Hobart streets way back in 2011. Nothing has changed – except the outfit!
Welcome to the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) Climate and Health Community of Interest’s (COI) Climate and Care Column: an opportunity for nurses to access inspiration, innovation and information on all topics related to climate and health. We started this column because, like many of you, we are worried about the future. The COI offers a communication stream for nurses that provides a clear explanation of the health effects of climate change and our role in influencing sustainability in the healthcare sector. Though we are worried about the future, we are also optimistic that we can make positive change.
I’m Catelyn, a registered nurse and Communications Coordinator for the COI. I grew up on the northeastern coast of Tasmania. For 16 years I breathed the cleanest air in the world. My childhood was characterised by running barefoot through the five acres of scrub that surrounded our property, scrambling up trees and pushing sand crusted hair out of my eyes so I could move onto the next activity. This upbringing instilled in me a deep love for nature and profound respect for my creaturely dependence on balanced ecosystems. In my teenage years, I was exposed to an oversaturation of businesses folding due to economic pressures, and thus I also had a grave awareness of the fragility of financial stability in a community like mine.
When the fires hit our communities this summer, leaving people jobless and terrified, I felt as though I knew that narrative well. Without committed, targeted action it will be one that many come to learn. I have long since accepted that reversing the effects of climate change will require a collective approach. My role in this has not been as simple to understand though. What I have come to learn is that the health care system contributes substantially to carbon emissions and climate change and there is an established link between this changing climate, extreme weather events and hazardous outcomes on health. We believe that nurses should act as leaders in guiding health care systems to reduce their carbon emissions and responding effectively to the health consequences of climate change.
I invite you to join us as we increase our understanding of this issue and learn from some of the experts who are leading this movement. From navigating the basics to identifying steps at home and showcasing innovative approaches to reducing carbon emissions across health care – this column is a space to highlight the incredible work that nurses are doing as champions of climate health.