For many coughing through the festive season in India, the revelation that the worsening environment causes health problems can only invite one reaction: “So, what’s new?”
It’s official. Climate change is injurious to health. A Canadian national, a senior citizen whose underlying health issues have apparently been exacerbated by heatwaves and wildfires, has been diagnosed by an emergency medicine specialist as suffering from “climate change”, possibly the first such diagnosis. Dr Kyle Merritt’s rationale for this label seems sound: “If we’re not looking at the underlying cause, and we’re just treating the symptoms, we’re just gonna keep falling further and further behind.” Dr Merritt’s frustration is understandable — British Columbia, like many parts of the world, has seen a growing number of fatalities and the intensification of health problems because of the effects of global warming. And his headline-grabbing diagnosis will perhaps draw greater attention to the issue. Yet, for many coughing through the festive season in India, the revelation that the worsening environment causes health problems can only invite one reaction: “So, what’s new?”
Twenty-three of the world’s 30 most polluted cities are located in India. People in Delhi were masked during the festive season long before Covid-19 hit, the people of Kanpur were gasping for breath before British Columbia woke up to a “climate change” diagnosis. Natural disasters exacerbated by global warming have devastated poor coastal and riverine communities. But like the proverbial tree falling in the empty forest, if a “disease” doesn’t affect the first world, is it even a disease?
Just as America was not “discovered” by Columbus, the first case of “climate change” is not the first. People have been suffering from its effects for decades, if not longer. Of course, Dr Merritt’s well-meaning diagnosis is not to blame for the insularity and self-centredness of the West as a whole. But, perhaps, the rest of the world will be forgiven for not marvelling at its novelty.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on November 10, 2021 under the title ‘The newest disease’.
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