Six Opportunities to Benefit Children's Health and the Climate

March 2, 2016 by Elizabeth Sawin

Health and climate both benefit from green space Green space benefits both health and climate protection.

As climate change worsens, health risks increase. Less well recognized is the converse - many of the attitudes and actions that protect the climate of the future also help improve health today.

Here are six ways to improve the health of children and families that protect the climate at the same time:

  1. **Get off of fossil fuels. **Burning, extracting, and refining fossil fuels creates air and water pollution that hurts kids. And, replacing fossil fuel use by moving around on our own two feet (or by bicycle) reduces obesity and chronic disease.
  2. Improve the design of our communities. Designing for people, not cars, reduces energy use and carbon pollution and increases health and well-being.
  3. **Invest upstream. **Investing in the health and well-being of young children and their parents is much more cost effective than interventions later on. And we know that investing in becoming fossil fuel free is the most cost effective response to climate change.
  4. Bring nature into our lives and neighborhoods. From improved mental health and happiness to better air quality, reduced energy needs and more climate resilience, finding ways to bring soils, water, and plants into human systems has huge payoffs for health and for climate.
  5. **Stop tolerating inequality. **If those bearing the impacts aren’t making the decisions, whether those are health impacts or climate impacts, then the decisions are very unlikely to lead toward health and well-being for all.
  6. **Extend time horizons. **If policy were oriented toward children and future generations then we’d see better investments that would serve children and climate, which in turn would serve all of us.
  7. **Put parents to work accomplishing #1-4. **From planting urban gardens to insulating homes, there is so much good, honorable work to be done. Access to a fair wage and meaningful work has the potential to improve the lives of families and thus the health of children. And a parent-powered revolution to increase efficiency, clean energy and the greenness and walkability of our communities would certainly improve the prospects for the climate.