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Richard Smith: Trying to save the forests of Western Kenya

18 Mar, 11 | by BMJ Group

Richard Smith

Until very recently the Western Highlands of Kenya (once known as the White Highlands) were thick with forest, but many of those forests have been cut down. A friend in her mid 20s pointed out to me fields on the edge of Eldoret, the main city in the region, that were forest when she was a child. An older friend said that the region was covered with forest just 20 years ago.

It’s not surprising that forests are disappearing in Western Kenya. Many people are hungry and need land, and traditionally people cook with wood. It used to be, my older friend told me, that the forest produced enough dead wood for everybody, but now there are more people and less forest. more…

Ian and Tom Roberts: Do not go gently – two plays on climate change

3 Mar, 11 | by BMJ

Ian and Tom Roberts(IR) Although I cannot be certain, I suspect that humans are unique amongst animals in the ability to contemplate their own death. We all know that death is waiting. We might rage against the dying of the light but we know that the darkness will win. We scrutinize death solemnly and earnestly as we would examine a swollen lymph node. Montaigne believed that by practicing an awareness of death we rip off its fearful mask and since we can never know where death awaits us we should “wait for it everywhere.” more…

Richard Smith: How to get people in the NHS to act on environmental sustainability?

17 Feb, 11 | by BMJ

Richard Smith“There’s a 50% chance that humans will be extinct by the end of the century because of climate change,” said Hugh Montgomery, director of the UCL Institute for Human Health, at last week’s conference on environmental sustainability. I’d heard that before, but it made me think of my daughter, who can expect to live for most of this century. And what about any children she might have? And then I wondered if the apocalyptic vision, true as it might be, is the best way to spur people to act on climate change. more…

Richard Smith: Can the NHS become environmentally sustainable?

3 Feb, 11 | by BMJ Group

Richard Smith“We live in a world of competing sorrows,” said Daniel Moynihan, the US senator. We also live in a world of competing agendas, and the NHS has to think about saving money, increasing productivity, improving quality and access, and many other issues as well as achieving environmental sustainability. And despite their fine words, the health minister and chief executive of the NHS clearly do not think environmental sustainability that important because neither turned up for the launch of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit’s Routemap for Sustainable Health. more…

Juliet Dobson on eating animals

21 Jan, 11 | by BMJ Group

Juliet DobsonOn Wednesday night at the London School of Economics, US novelist Jonathan Safran Foer took part in a discussion about his latest book, Eating Animals, as part of the Forum for European Philosophy. The book, a departure from his previous two novels, is part memoir, part exposé. He writes about his struggle with vegetarianism and explores factory farming methods and the food industry. more…

Tony Waterston on an inspirational lunch

12 Oct, 09 | by julietwalker

Tony WaterstonCan a book launch set the mind afire? Unlikely – sounds more a chance to get cheap copies and the author’s autograph and maybe some nice canapés. But the launch I attended this week for the ‘Health practitioners’ guide to climate change’ (Jenny Griffiths et al, published by Earthscan) was indeed inspirational. It was partly the inspired speeches – and partly the perceptive audience, specially invited so no doubt especially knowledgeable. more…

Tejshri Shah on scrapping healthcare fees in developing countries

24 Sep, 09 | by BMJ Group

A group of doctors warned last week that if climate change is not effectively tackled we all face a health catastrophe. What they did not say is that the catastrophe is already here for millions of the world’s poorest people, because when they get sick, or even have a baby, they cannot afford the medical bills. A new mother who has to undergo an emergency caesarean section in Sierra Leone can expect to be presented with a bill of up to £175 –three times higher than the average annual salary. Her family then risks slipping into even deeper poverty than it is in already. more…

Richard Smith on doing the right thing – but at a snail’s pace

6 Jul, 09 | by julietwalker

Richard SmithOne of the things about being an “old guy” is that you realise how extraordinarily slow we are at doing the right thing. You also see wheels being constantly reinvented.

This morning, for example, I heard on the radio how the Health Select Committee had “discovered” that 10% of people suffer harm on being admitted to hospital. The chairman of the committee was shocked and thought that the NHS wasn’t doing enough. more…

Tauseef Mehrali on meat free Mondays

16 Jun, 09 | by BMJ Group

My grandfather used to counsel my mother’s worries about my insatiable carnivorous tendencies as a child by suggesting that the only solution would be to ensure I gain a butcher as a father-in-law. I would frequently be teased at dinner parties when it looked like I was struggling to make it to dessert with mock incentives such as the profiteroles actually being meatballs. My meat eating was so ingrained by my teens that an aunt felt compelled to proclaim that I should stop making my stomach a graveyard for dead animals. more…

Tony Waterston on climate change talks at the Commons

14 May, 09 | by BMJ

Tony WaterstonA meeting in the House of Commons to discuss the health impact of climate change? Surely that would be worth 32kg of CO2 to travel from Newcastle for – since there appears to be a severely lacking awareness of this subject among our MPs, who are not well known for their low carbon lifestyles. And to have talks by the editors of both the BMJ and Lancet, together with a new Lancet report on the topic, made it seem well worth the trip. more…

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