Howard Frumkin, of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, highlighted the concept of “peak oil” and its relevance to public health. It’s scary when you realize how much we rely on petroleum products in our everyday lives — and how quickly, relatively speaking, our society became so reliant on petroleum for transportation and the manufacturing of so many everyday products.
Even if you walked over to the conference from your hotel today, you probably used something made from petroleum without even realizing it. Did you put in contacts? Take a medication? Drink from a disposable cup or bottle?
We in public health need to work with our colleagues in transportation, agriculture, housing, planning, architecture, manufacturing, etc. as we work toward a society less reliant on petroleum — because it won’t always be cheap and plentiful. Although Frumkin emphasized the need for planning and educating the public over the more apocalyptic story lines, he still said it’s not a matter of if, but when the dwindling quantities remaining in oil reserves become too difficult and expensive to extract. The scientific consensus is that the world will reach maximum oil production, also known as “peak oil,” sometime between 2005 and 2030.
Turning to water, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, described water access as one of the most devastating crises, but said she is encouraged by a growing grassroots movement to amass political will to improve access to clean water and reduce the massive burden of water-related diseases worldwide.
“The good part of the story is there is this water justice movement that is growing,” she said, as is increased pressure on the international financial institutions she said are responsible for many of the failed policies that have privatized and taxed water out of reach of the people who most need it.
Click here to read more about Food and Water Watch’s take on the Water for the World Act, legislation introduced in Congress to provide clean water and sanitation to 100 million by 2015.