Monday, July 24, 2017

Climate Change and the Health of Nations (Anthony J. McMichael)

Climate Change and the Health of Nations was written by Anthony J. McMichael and published after he passed away in 2014.  McMichael was an epidemiologist at Australian National University and spent a significant amount of his career researching the impact of climate change on human health.  His work is a remarkable historical reflection of that but sadly doesn’t finish up what was started due to his death.

The author spends much of his book noting the historical ebb and flow of Earth’s climate, its significance on life, and the impact that disease and illness have had on populations over the era of human existence.  McMichael ties in natural fluctuations in climate to changes in agricultural productivity during human existence and how they impacted disease spread.  As an example, the spread of Bubonic Plague in the 6th and 14th centuries was tied directly to temperature changes that occurred in various parts of the world, spread by human migration and trade.  The author ties all of these points together with solid impact to deliver a very solid first 200+ pages.

In my opinion, more attention should have been given to potential impacts of future climate change on human health.  Whether the author’s passing lead to an abbreviated closure or whether it was an oversight is not important -- but it does fail to bring proper closure to the book given how much time was spent talking about human health and climate.  While some health impacts are discussed, more attention could have been given to future health and economic impact for Earth’s populations and less to politics to deliver a more powerful concluding impact. Climate change as a subject, whether we like to admit it or not, has become overtly politicized, and it would have been refreshing to see a less political ending