Magazine article Canadian Dimension

News from Ecology and Public Health

Magazine article Canadian Dimension

News from Ecology and Public Health

Article excerpt

WHY CALL a column that combines news from ecology and public health "The Emperor's New Clothes"?

Well, ecology and public health may seem like sanitized abstractions, but both fields aim to make everything and everyone visible. There's no hiding, no pretending in these fields that look at interactions and inter-relationships.

Echoing Dr. Seuss' Horton, "a person's a person no matter how small," for ecologists, there's as much grief and worry about disappearing ocean plankton as about polar bears on icebergs. For James Farmer's Partners in Health, "the bottom billion" are entitled to the same health care as the top 225 people whose combined wealth equal the annual income of the poorest 47 percent or 2.5 billion people!

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Public health studies show that increasing economic inequity is the most significant contributing cause of premature death and misery worldwide, even more significant than wars. According to the UN Development report, the additional cost of achieving universal access to basic education, health and reproductive care for all, adequate food and safe water and sanitation for all, is a small fraction of the wealth of the world's three richest people.

UNICEF recently gave Canada a failing grade for not providing basic services to children and to Aboriginal people, not to mention all the nameless and invisible victims of Canadian mining practices here and abroad.

Blame it on the Tar

The tar sands is a fitting inaugural subject for this column. The public health and ecological disaster is obvious. The tailing ponds contain carcinogens and other contaminants that have resulted in a rare and fatal form of cancer and autoimmune diseases in adjacent aboriginal communities. But instead of treating the people and cleaning the water, the government fired the doctor. …

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