Friday, October 16, 2009

Swine Flu, Climate Change and a Middle of the Night Tantrum

By Joellen Raderstorf, Director of MAU, on The Huffington Post

My tweetdeck is pinging like crazy since I began searching entries on swine flu, more than Oprah and three times more than climate change. In face-to-face conversations, I’ve heard dozens say “I think I had the swine flu.” I haven’t once heard someone say, “I sent my Senators a letter today, requesting immediate action on climate change” or “Today is my no drive day, I’m hoping to recover from climate change.”

So I consult the experts: I’m carpooling (chauffeuring) my teenagers, with the beautiful Colorado sky heavy with smoke from California fires, and NPR broadcasting another story of H1N1. I ask this captive crowd “Why aren’t people as concerned about global warming?” Their analysis is spot on: “People can imagine getting deathly sick from the flu; everyone has experienced this to some degree. However, most people don’t know what it feels like to suffer from climate change.” Interesting observation coming from children who literally ran from the Asian tsunami in 2004.

Three tweets cross my screen all reading “India's swine flu toll crosses 400.” A quick Google search yields perspective: 3,000 children die every day in India due to hunger and malnutrition, and 3,900 children die every day around the globe from water borne diseases (WHO 2004). According to UNICEF, climate change is expected to intensify these threats and also likely to accelerate certain large-scale environmental changes, including desertification, diminishing freshwater resources and biodiversity loss, which has far-reaching effects on child health and wellbeing.

Herein lies the kernel of my middle-of-the-night tantrum: where is our collective panic about climate change? Our energy consumptive lifestyles do not blink in the quake of devastating floods, receding glaciers and starving children. Instead we are arming ourselves with anti-bacterial gel and flu shots. "Swine flu and climate change are inextricably related," says Angela Mawle, CEO of the UK Public Health Association. "Both are the end results of unbridled economic growth, environmental degradation and industrial agricultural practices. When will we ever learn that prevention is better than cure?"

Consider this post an invitation to a full scale mother tantrum until we collectively get serious about addressing the grave threat climate change poses to our children and grandchildren, and start talking and tweeting about it.

Raise a ruckus on Oct. 24th, the International Day of Climate Action, find out how at and And that’s a tweet.

Download UNICEF’s report, CLIMATE CHANGE AND CHILDREN: A human security challenge, to read more about the threats of climate change as well as adaptation and mitigation strategies.

By Joellen Raderstorf, Director of Mothers Acting Up. Follow her on Twitter: