A Mother's Warning: This Pandemic is a Dress Rehearsal

Guest Editorial
For many women, Mother’s Day is a time for celebration and joy, but for others, it is one of the most difficult days of the year. This is especially true with the world under COVID-19’s shadow. Many have lost their parents, siblings, or other family members and the confinement has not made it any easier. For me in particular, the knowledge that our human health crisis and climate change have finally collided is worrisome.

Unlike the Coronavirus, which captured global attention, the climate change crisis spread has not been fast and furious, but like the virus, the environmental crisis is a deadly contagion that does not discriminate race, gender or location.

In Florida, my home state, sea levels are projected to rise faster than the global average, with coastal land disappearing in the near future. Higher sea levels indirectly increase flooding. In the city of Miami alone, flooding events have increased 400% since 2007, and such lead to greater saltwater intrusion posing a contamination threat to our drinking water. More than any other state, Florida is most susceptible to damages from tropical storms, such as Maria and Irma. 

We see the harmful algal blooms causing outbreaks of paralytic shellfish poisoning resulting in liver, neurological, digestive, and skin diseases. Warmer conditions also favor the production and release of airborne allergens such as fungal spores, and consequently, there may be an effect on asthma and other allergic respiratory diseases, as well as conjunctivitis and dermatitis. Children are particularly susceptible to most allergy illnesses.

The Lancet report of 2019 explains how a child born today will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre­industrial average, with climate change impacting human health from infancy and adolescent to adulthood. Children are among the worst affected by climate change and these effects accumulate over time, and into old age.

Rising temperatures will also affect food security through the impact of heat on farmers’ efficiency. Increased heat and drought across Florida are projected to have negative effects; higher temperatures will reduce livestock output, and breeding productivity. As a mother of six, three adults, one teenager and twin toddlers, I want to leave a better future for them, as I’d think it’s every mother’s wish.

This pandemic is a worldwide dress rehearsal for climate crisis, but now we know that the human race can be inventive, focused, ingenious, and effective, when the desire is strong enough to solve a problem. When we align our love and compassion with scientific data and facts we can create, develop and implement systems and processes to solve major global challenges. 

We have the technology and the will power to make a difference. Let’s all use our voices and build a coalition as quickly as technology advances, respecting the principles of social, economic and gender justice along the way. Together we can create positive, practical and beneficial solutions for everyone and especially for our loved ones.

Thais Lopez Vogel is Co-founder/Trustee of VoLo Foundation, a nonprofit foundation focused on science-based climate solutions, education and health. For more information, visit: www.VoLoFoundation.org.