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Saturday, June 16, 2007

How to Save 13 Million Human Lives A Year (Part One)

The World Health Organization just released its first ever country-by-country analysis of environmental degradation and its damage to human health and life.

The findings?
  • Environmental improvements could save an estimated 13 million human lives worldwide annually, chiefly but not wholly in the materially poorer nations. (No doubt millions more animal and plant lives could be saved and bettered, too, at the same time.)
  • In some nations, fully one-third of the impact of disease is due to environmental damage.
  • In 23 of the world's poorest countries, over 10% of deaths are caused by polluted, contaminated water and/or indoor air pollution from fuel burning. Most of those who die--74%-- are children under five suffering from diarrhea and/or respiratory ailments. [I know indoor air pollution also disproportionately affects women, and causes a great deal of fetal deaths and injuries.--Marysia] Around the world, children under five are the main victims and make up 74% of deaths due to infectious diarrhea and lower respiratory infections.
  • Even in the wealthiest & environmentally healthiest countries, about 1/6 of what public health experts call the "national disease burden," especially in the areas of cardiovascular disease and traffic accidents, could be prevented through better environmental measures.

What to do?

(My feeling here, as usual, is that there's no point in handwringing as an end in itself; it needs to be a prelude to taking action.)

  • Mass movements of individuals surely do need to shift to more eco-friendly ways of daily living, we all need to each and collectively do our parts this way, especially in the wealthier countries whose overconsumption and greed disproportionately damages the environment among Earth's poor.
  • However, it's both a matter of daily living changes and challenging various socially institutionalized practices that make it slightly inconvenient to difficult to downright finncially and logistically impossible to secure & enjoy the clean, eco-friendly life every creature, including every human being, needs and deserves.

In my next post I will have some practical action ideas.

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