Kristi White, a clinical health psychologist in Minneapolis, also treats many young adults for issues that stem from the changing climate.
“Some of the things in the patients that I work with are things like asthma exacerbation due to poor air quality from wildfires [and] concerns around the risk for heat-related illnesses during extreme heat waves,” White said. “In addition to helping people deal with the stress of the environmental uncertainty, I’m also helping people adapt their care plans so that they can keep themselves safe during these climate-related events.”
As a young physician in the southeast Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Laalitha Surapaneni treated day laborers who couldn’t cool off after a day’s work in the extreme heat. She saw the temperatures rising and the coastline eroding.
“I could see the changes in the environment that were hurting our health,” Surapaneni said.
As Minnesota ramps up the fight on climate change it will soon require developers to measure the greenhouse gases from large new projects. The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) approved the pilot approach Wednesday, after years of work. It plans to collect feedback and make improvements on the revised form, called an environmental assessment worksheet, by the end of 2022 and then set final changes.
In an interview, Kathleen Schuler, policy director at the nonprofit Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, expressed impatience with a pilot project.
“It feels like just requiring this type of information … is like a very small step and they’re not even taking that small step,” Schuler said.
“There are many ways that health and climate change intersect,” said Anna Rahrick, a third-year University of Minnesota Medical School student.
Rahrick’s interest in the relationship between climate and public health led her to Health Students for a Healthy Climate, an interdisciplinary student group aimed at helping health professionals learn about the impacts of climate change and ways to advance action as future health leaders. The student group is affiliated with Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate (HPHC), a nonprofit organization founded by a number of advocates affiliated with the University of Minnesota, including executive director Brenna Doheny, PhD, MPH, a postdoctoral associate at the Medical School’s Duluth Campus.
The effects of working in this heat can be dire, especially for workers who are not acclimated to high temperatures, said Laalitha Surapaneni, M.D., MPH, an assistant professor and hospitalist at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
Health professionals and Indigenous activists held a day of solidarity in St. Paul, Minnesota, and other U.S cities on Aug. 17 calling for an end to the construction of the Enbridge Line 3 project. They describe shutting down Line 3 as a critical health protective measure. In St. Paul, a delegation of health professionals delivered a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office calling on the Biden administration to revoke permits for Line 3.
Authored by members of Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, the letter cited the United Nations recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report declaring climate change as a health crisis, noting that burning tar sands oil to be carried by Line 3 would exacerbate the problem.
Medical professionals around the country rallied on Tuesday against the expansion of Enbridge’s Line 3 crude oil pipeline, calling it a threat to human and planetary health.
“The health of Minnesotans is at risk,” said Teddie Potter, director of planetary health at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing, addressing a crowd in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Tar sands oil threatens the health and wellness of future generations; we must stop the line.”
U.S. doctors, nurses, and other health professionals came together Tuesday for a national day of solidarity against Line 3 that included various events and a letter calling on President Joe Biden to block Enbridge’s tar sands project.
What we’ve been experiencing statewide isn’t just a little bit of air pollution. It is a prolonged period of the worst air quality Minnesota has ever experienced. As a nurse specializing in environmental health, I am both deeply concerned for the health of the residents of my state and frustrated by the lack of coordinated statewide and local responses to this slow-moving, smoky health crisis.
As physicians, our duty is to protect the health of all Minnesotans, now and for the future. As daily witnesses to the importance of clean air, water, and land to human health, we are deeply distressed about the Enbridge Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline currently under construction across our state and through 1855 Treaty lands.
On July 20, we traveled to northern Minnesota to better understand the efforts of Indigenous-led water protectors, who tirelessly worked for seven years through legal and political channels to prevent Line 3’s construction, and why they are now risking arrest — and their lives.