When engaging people in discussions on climate change I always get asked ‘yes ok, but what do you want me to do about it?’. They look at me as if the things I suggest aren’t going to make the slightest difference. Most people seem to fail to recognise the difference that any one individual can make.
* “What difference can I make when governments and big companies wont make changes?”
* “Does it matter what we do in the UK if other bigger countries won’t do anything to change things?”
* “As if turning off my lights is going to make any difference!”
* “Who are you kidding? If I use my car less it wont help because everyone else will still be using their car!”
* “No-one will care what I think. I’m not important enough to make a difference”
I’ve heard them all. It’s difficult for people to envisage making a difference. But it can be done. Many social movements in the past have started with individuals and produced tremendous change. It is our job as public health professionals to empower patients into making changes to lead healthier lifestyles to enhance their overall well-being. Motivational interviewing, health belief models, stages of change theory… any health promotion models or tools you use in your professional lives can be used in this same scenario. We are asking people to make small changes in their own lives – walk and cycle more, eat more organic or locally produced foods, use less electricity in the home, use the car less – which will as a result begin to have an effect on carbon emissions.
When patients feel they cant make a difference to their own health, we are the ones who have the skills and resources to help them through this. Lets use the skills we already have to try and make a difference to the climate change problem. And if fellow health professionals want to know “what can I do to help?” there are plenty of resources we can direct them to. The Climate and Health Council have Ten Practical Actions for Doctors which are just as applicable for us nurses. See how many you already do, and how many you think you can take action on today.