It’s been over a year since the heat dome in British Columbia killed 619 people within just one week. It was the worst weather disaster in Canadian history. In Central Europe a heat wave with record temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius has claimed more than 1,000 lives in Portugal alone. On World Health Day in April 2022, Doctors for Planetary Health – West Coast (D4PH) issued a report titled “CODE RED for British Columbia: Time to declare a climate and ecological emergency and make peace with nature.” The intention was to ensure a copy of this document gets into the hands of every MLA in BC.

On July 21, Kootenay West members of Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health – Kootenay Boundary (DNPH-KB) were delighted to have the opportunity to discuss the importance of the document and pass it on to Kootenay West MLA and Minister of Forests, Katrine Conroy. The extreme urgency of the climate crisis we are in cannot be overstated. It is the biggest threat to our health, and at the same time, our greatest opportunity for improving global health. We know how busy healthcare workers have been since the start of the pandemic. But those of us involved in Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health in the Kootenays and on the coast see the urgency of the climate crisis and have prioritized our efforts to work towards climate action and a just recovery.

The Code Red report is based on a document published last year by The Lancet medical journal which demonstrated the relationship between health and climate change. This BC-Focused Code Red lays out the extent of damage human-generated greenhouse gas emissions are causing all beings and the planet. It also shows how five climate and ecological actions “will have clear benefits for all people and natural ecosystems, offering a path to a more prosperous, just, and equitable society.”

Code Red urges our government to act now to:

  • Declare a climate emergency
  • Take action on climate change
  • Protect and restore nature
  • Create broad transformative change focused on human well being in balance with nature
  • Ensure a just transition

Doctors, Nurses and health researchers are sounding the cry; we are seeing the impacts in our patients and around the world. Code Red concludes that we have the opportunity to vastly improve our world. BC is positioned to be a global leader in climate and ecological policy and action. The Clean BC road map is a start, but it will take every person, business, industry and government to play a role in implementing these plans. The connection between planetary and individual health and climate change is undeniable. As climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe says, “It’s not our planet itself: it will orbit the sun long after we’re gone. What’s at stake is literally us.”

Code Red can be read at doctorsforplanetaryhealth.com DNPH-KB is part of the West Kootenay Climate Hub. Check out their website at www.westkootenayclimatehub.ca and find a group that you can work with on the most important issue of our time.

DNPH-KB