Earth Day: A Health Advocates Perspective

Earth Day: A Health Advocates Perspective
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About the Author

Gary J. Machan

Gary J. Machan

Gary Machan serves on the Community Advisory Research Committee for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Through the course of his career he has received several provincial awards including the 2nd Stage of Medicare, Ontario Tobacco Network Innovation Award for Excellence, and Food Champion Award. In addition, Mr. Machan is an associate with the Centre for Inner Freedom where his work was featured by Tom Harpur in his best selling book ‘Finding the Still Point’.

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With the arrival of Earth Day, it seems rather apropos to ponder the wellbeing of our planet in which we are such an integral, albeit, ungrateful lot. Indeed, what has are our collective script been, if not that of some unruly, entitled teenager who doesn’t know how just how good he has it with dear old Momma Nature?

Lest there be some who are convinced the pictures of the thinning of the Arctic ice shield is some hoax conducted by proponents of the Leap Manifesto, let me remind you there was a time growing up in Oakville when we were able to play hockey on outdoor rinks from December to March. And I am not talking about the ones with refrigeration tubes, but the real deal.

And come to think of it, there was only one kid in my entire school that suffered from asthma. Not sure of what to make of this rarity, we just nicknamed him ‘Squeege’ because of his raspy breath. Meanwhile today, it seems like every other kid has a puffer. To which, there should be no great mystery here, since the science between air pollution and lung disease is irrefutable.

Take the new hospital now open in Oakville. If you were to observe admissions, what you would see is a dramatic peak for people with lung disease on high smog days. Why? Too much air pollution causes a toxic burn in your lungs akin to a bad skin burn. The inner tissue turns red, becomes enflamed, after which puss sets in and air passages become blocked.

Only here is the thing, it affects everyone the same. That’s right, air pollution reduces everyone’s capacity to breathe by about 3/4 of a litre when exposed to smog. The only difference is a healthy person can breathe in 4 litres of air, versus someone with lung disease which is closer to 3. Anything below 2.5 and a person goes into distress. Code Red.

Net cost to you the taxpayer of these hospital costs alone is estimated by the Ontario Medical Association to be 1.1 billion dollars per annum. Not exactly chump change is it? And that is not even factoring in visits to physicians, lost days of work, all the medications and paraphernalia that goes along with lung disease. Quite truly, we have made an industry of it.

Also, of real significance is children are far more vulnerable than adults because their lungs are not fully developed. But does that keep schools from forcing kids out on high smog days? Or parents from sitting in front of their kids schools with their engines idling away? All the while they live a block down the street.

Speaking of which, any guesses around the first design consideration for architects designing your children’s schools? Classroom size. (Nope). Creating an environment conducive to learning. (Nope). Library. (As if). Gym. (might interfere with the latest online game). Green space for kids to play outside. (You got to be kidding).

Still Stumped. Here is a hint, it starts with the letter ‘c’, ends with ‘r’, and has an ‘a’ smack in between. That’s right, the number one priority for designers is how facilitate the flow of cars through school parking lots. And we wonder why we have obese kids who have developed a new allergy … walkingitis

So here is an idea, Oakville, how about you institute a smog alert response plan that people actually know about, re-divert the savings from your hospital which should be in the range of two to three million dollars per annum and invest it into a subsidized recreation program that councils say they never have enough money for due to road costs to move your cars around.

Happy Earth Day. And may we all one day return home to Momma Nature, forever grateful, knowing now, what we never did before, ‘just how good we had it.’!



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Readers Comments (1)

  1. rob says:

    What drives me crazy are the people who sit and idle all over the place in their cars, while stopping at the food store, parked on a hot day, talking on their phone, while parked on a cold day talking on their phone, warming up their cars in winter, cooling off their cars in summer. Why are fines and enforcement not greater around this country we call home?? Fine them for doing, and they will fund the people placing the tickets in their hands!! Not to mention Air Conditioning running in their homes while at work all day… Or the grocery store frozen food display with no glass doors to hold the cold in! What about the restaurants cranking the AC just so the waiters are comfy but the patrons are wearing jackets.. We’ve become wasteful people…


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