“Ultimately, there are 3 core values in western society, and for that matter, in global society, that have to change. One core value is about growth and materialism. The second core value is liberty and individualism, which has to be rethought because the kind of individualism that is preached by neoliberals is part of the problem. It advances the individual over the collective, it says ‘as long as I get what I want, bugger you,’ and it leads to a huge number of problems, and it undermines the collective process. A third core value that has to change is around our separation from nature, and somehow, we’re separate and apart from nature. And I’m sure there’s 2 or 3 other important ones, but those to me are the 3 most important.”
The above-noted core values, which are undermining public health and well-being, are known. But public health systems have been successful in reorienting societal values. For example, public health research and communications have changed our societal relationship with tobacco products.
“We’ve actually done core values shift in public health. We did it around tobacco … so, what’s a health-based perspective on liberty, on growth, on relationships with nature? And that latter one in particular, a lot of connection there to Indigenous values, Indigenous beliefs and understandings and all of that. … How do we shift to a one-planet society? We can’t do it if we don’t shift those core values … and if we don’t, then we are well into that existential threat and large population die-offs on the horizon.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has declared that “the scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future”.Footnote 9
“If you look at what the UN [United Nations] has been saying the last few years, they constantly talk about the triple ecological crisis. … When the WHO [World Health Organization] says it’s the greatest threat to health in the 21st century, why aren’t we taking them at their word? Why aren’t we accepting that? Why aren’t we treating it that way? If you look at all the resources we threw at COVID, which killed about half the number of people in 2 years that pollution kills every year … where are our priorities? If this is the greatest threat to population health in the 21st century, let’s start treating it like that.”
The health impacts of climate change are resulting from extreme weather events (e.g., heat domes, droughts, flooding, tornadoes), wildfires, sea level rise, permafrost thaw, and increased risk from zoonotic and vector-borne diseases. These threats have direct, environmentally-mediated, as well as indirect, deferred, and displaced health impacts, including: heat-related illness; insecurity in access to water, food, and medicines; respiratory disease; cardiovascular disease; stress, uncertainty, and mental illness (including post-traumatic stress disorder); and exposure to infectious disease