Thursday, March 4, 2010

Harvard medical, how could you?

Medical students in Australia would like to have you believe that there are a few medical schools that somehow have some additional kudos. There are a few "Sandstone" universities, such as the University of Melbourne, University of Sydney etc. that are as close to venerable as you get in this young country. Generally I find this rather laughable, "After all", I would say "its not like its Harvard or anything."
Even here in Australia, Harvard has a mystique. Oooh, Harvard, the best and the brightest, the pinnacle of medicine.

Then I recieved a flyer advertising a series of speaking engagements here in Australia by one Harvard Medical faculty member, Aaron Bernstein MD, who is speaking about the health effects of climate change and biodiversity loss. He seemed familiar somehow, then I realised he had annoyed me before. I had previously encountered the work of Dr. Bernstein, who is a paediatrician, when he was recommending that we tell the parents of sick children that they need to reduce their carbon footprint. Given my time-poor lifestyle at the moment, it turned out that I had missed the deeper significance of his work and his status in the climate change alarmism sphere. That was remiss of me, so allow me to address it now.

Bernstein is speaking at a few engagements in Australia, including the upcoming "Healthy Parks, Healthy People" congress in Melbourne, where he keynotes with other famous faces such as Tim Flannery (who clearly wasn't embarassed enough by chairing the Copenhagen Climate Council to go away on sabbatical indefinitely, as we had hoped).

Turns out Dr. Bernstein is a best selling co-author of 'Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity', which earned praise from Al The Gore-acle himself. In Dr. Bernstein's words "...we are living at a time of rapid depletion of biodiversity, one of the most extreme in Earth's history." Which is interesting, because I always thought that the biggest mass extinction we know about in Earth's history was the Permian-Triassic extinction 250 million years ago, where 90% of life went bosoms up. Closely followed by the end-Cretaceous extinction where around 85% of all species died (bye bye T Rex).

Anyway, Bernstein is also the course director of the Harvard medical program Human Health and Global Environmental Change, which "...examines the human health consequences of global environmental change, with an emphasis on climate change and biodiversity loss". And here was me thinking I had to learn a whole bunch of useless stuff in my public health class.

Apparently its OK to turn out cohorts of medical students who can't confidently auscultate a heart murmur or perform a pap smear, but who have been tutored extensively in fisheries management by such "luminaries" as Carl Safina from the Blue Ocean Institute. Just in case you were confused by the words "fisheries management", Carl Safina doesn't really want fisheries "managed", he would prefer that they were stopped altogether and locked up in Marine Protected Areas. To prove this, I discovered that he is also a fellow of the Pew Environmental Group, who are well known for eradicating coastal economies and fishermen's livelihoods and now want to lock-up Australia's virtually un-utilised fisheries (see Jenifer Marohassy's article on the topic here)

If that wasn't enough to make you dubious about Carl Safina, perhaps I should also note that he wrote a new Forward to Rachel "Silent Spring" Carson's book The Sea Around Us. The Blue Ocean Institue is also responsible for FishPhone, which is apparently a "sustainable seafood text messaging service", and they also run a novel program combatting the effects of climate change called the Friendship Collaborative, which "brings together scientists and evangelical Christian leaders in face-to-face conversations about climate change and our collective moral responsibility to care for creation." No news yet on how thats working out for them or creation.

In any case, why are medical students sitting through a series of lectures in topics such as this? Do they honestly have that much time on their hands over at Harvard that they cant think of something else they should probably be doing instead? Like seeing patients?

1 comment:

  1. Harry the HackerApril 4, 2010 at 7:29 PM


    Can I throw up now?


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