I am a mental health student nurse in my final year. Last week, as part of one of my modules we were asked ‘should nurses’ be political?’ My opinion, one which is increasingly shared by the RCN is yes. Yes, nurses should be political. We are our patient’s advocates, we are one of the most trusted professionals (Ipsos Mori, 2018), surely it is our duty to be political, when doing so improves patient care? Surely it is our duty to use our position of public trust to speak up for things that matter?
The Lancet referred to the Climate crisis as “the greatest threat to human health of the 21st Century” (Watts et al, 2018). Surely then, as a future nurse it is my duty to take action. The RCN position statement on Climate Change states that nurses have a duty to protect and promote health and adds that “Their expertise, diverse roles and the trust invested in them mean they can be leaders in protecting the health of the public from the consequences of climate change.” (Royal College of Nursing, 2019).
I will be travelling to London to take part in the International Rebellion. It’s my final year, this isn’t something I wanted to have to do. But it’s something I feel I must do. The Climate Crisis is the biggest crisis of our times. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC report) unless Global Warming is limited to 1.5˚C, we will reach a tipping point where ecosystems will be lost, food supply will be hugely reduced, natural disasters caused by extreme weather events will be increased and the amount habitable land will be hugely reduced (IPCC, 2018). Heatwaves such as the European Heatwave of summer 2019, which is thought to have caused the deaths of 1500 people in France, will become at least five times more likely (Oldenborgh, 2019). To prevent Global Warming exceeding this 1.5˚C tipping point, we need to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
Extinction Rebellion has three demands:
Tell the Truth – partially achieved in May 2019 following the International Rebellion in April, demanding that the Government tell the truth about the Climate crisis
Act Now – Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. Why 2025 when the IPPC report says 2050? If we aim for 2025, we have a chance of achieving 2050.
Beyond Politics – Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice. A Citizens’ Assembly involves a representative group of the public being selected to hear evidence from experts and discuss and agree on a way of responding to the Climate Crisis.
Non-Violent Direct Action has a long history of success, from the Civil Rights movement to the Protests in April. Personally, it is the only way forward. I am one person and I care about the environment, but I still have to use my petrol car to travel to university and placements. I still use electricity generated from the burning of fossil fuels to light my home. I can make changes in my own life, but unless the Government Acts, the changes individuals can make won’t be enough. We need Government policies and investment in green energy to make this possible. That is why I am going to London. That is why I am willing to risk arrest, even if it means never getting my pin and the last three years having been for nothing. This is more important.
For more information about the Climate Crisis and to find out about Extinction Rebellion visit: https://rebellion.earth/
IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. P.rtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P. R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. P.an, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J. B. R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M. I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, T. Waterfield (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp
Royal College of Nursing (2019) Responding to Climate Change RCN Position Statement: RCN
Van Oldenborgh GJ et al (2019) ‘Human Contribution to the Record-breaking June 2019 Heatwave in France’ World Weather Attribution Science Available at: https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/wp-content/uploads/WWA-Science_France_heat_June_2019.pdf [accessed: 10/10/2019]
Watts N et al. (2018) ‘The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health’ Lancet. 391 pp. 581-630