Title

Impacts of Global Climate Change on Human Occupation: Educational Initiatives

Location

Room D

Start Time

18-10-2013 2:40 PM

End Time

18-10-2013 3:10 PM

Session Type

Theoretical Paper

Abstract

Background

There is significant evidence that occupational patterns have influenced global climate change, and that global warming will in turn impact human occupation and well-being in multiple ways. Health problems and occupational challenges are likely to increase as a result of direct and secondary effects of climate change in a world already experiencing environmental degradation. Direct effects of climate change may include a greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (drought, floods, storms, etc.), reduced air quality, and greater spread of illnesses (US Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). However, secondary effects, including food and water vulnerability, poor sanitation, unemployment, displacement, and migration will likely have even greater effects on world health and human occupation (Costello et al., 2009). Social, economic, and environmental factors that support physical and mental health will be strained. As Costello et al. noted, “Climate change will have its greatest effect on those who have the least access to the world’s resources and who have contributed least to its cause” (2009, p. 1694), increasing inequity and challenging concepts of social and occupational justice. On a more personal level, these events may result in disruption of occupational habits, which allow efficient management of occupations, or interruption of socialization patterns, which individuals use to help navigate times of difficulty. In addition, the effects of stress and anxiety that people may experience related to concern for the future may affect their mental health and well-being (Fritze, Blashki, Burke, & Wiseman, 2008).

Rationale

Two primary approaches to dealing with the effects of climate change have been identified by researchers: mitigation and adaptation (Laukkonen et al., 2009). Efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change include fostering individual, regional, and global actions designed to limit emissions, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and to foster sustainable development. Adaptation strategies are best enacted at the local and regional level, where specific strengths and vulnerabilities can be assessed, and plans developed to increase the resources necessary to cope with changes that may follow climate change. Personal adaptation measures represent coping with change, for which occupational therapists are well-positioned.

The World Federation of Occupational Therapy’s position statement on environmental sustainability encourages occupational therapists and students to use their knowledge with respect to occupational performance to help resolve the impacts of global climate change “to enable human development and individual well-being whilst promoting environmentally sustainable well-being” (2012, p. 1). Education is emphasized as a significant way to change human behavior, and the development of educational materials is stressed to help therapists respond to the global crisis.

Method

In this presentation, we will discuss pre- and post-service educational strategies that may help occupational therapists to expand their understanding of how human occupation and issues of occupational justice relate to climate change. We will present examples of how the occupational therapy department of an institution of higher education has embraced a sustainability initiative that has impacted curriculum, campus and community activities, and student/faculty research. Examples of efforts in each of these areas will be highlighted, and future directions will be discussed.

References

Costello, A., Abbas, M., Allen, A. . . . Patterson, C. (2009). Managing the health effects of climate change. The Lancet. 373, 1693-1733.

Fritze, J. G., Blashki, G. A., Burke, S., & Wiseman, J. (2008). Hope, despair and transformation: Climate change and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 2(13), http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1752-4458-2-13

Laukkonen, J., Blanco, P.K., Lenhart, J., Keiner, M., Cavric, B., & Kinuthia-Njenga, C. (2009). Combining climate change adaptation and mitigation measures at the local level. Habitat International, 33 (3), 287-292. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.habitatint.2008.10.003

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.). Human health impacts and adaptation. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/health.html

World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) (2012). Position statement: Environmental sustainability, sustainable practice within occupational therapy. Retrieved from http://www.wfot.org/ResourceCentre.aspx

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Oct 18th, 2:40 PM Oct 18th, 3:10 PM

Impacts of Global Climate Change on Human Occupation: Educational Initiatives

Room D

Background

There is significant evidence that occupational patterns have influenced global climate change, and that global warming will in turn impact human occupation and well-being in multiple ways. Health problems and occupational challenges are likely to increase as a result of direct and secondary effects of climate change in a world already experiencing environmental degradation. Direct effects of climate change may include a greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events (drought, floods, storms, etc.), reduced air quality, and greater spread of illnesses (US Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). However, secondary effects, including food and water vulnerability, poor sanitation, unemployment, displacement, and migration will likely have even greater effects on world health and human occupation (Costello et al., 2009). Social, economic, and environmental factors that support physical and mental health will be strained. As Costello et al. noted, “Climate change will have its greatest effect on those who have the least access to the world’s resources and who have contributed least to its cause” (2009, p. 1694), increasing inequity and challenging concepts of social and occupational justice. On a more personal level, these events may result in disruption of occupational habits, which allow efficient management of occupations, or interruption of socialization patterns, which individuals use to help navigate times of difficulty. In addition, the effects of stress and anxiety that people may experience related to concern for the future may affect their mental health and well-being (Fritze, Blashki, Burke, & Wiseman, 2008).

Rationale

Two primary approaches to dealing with the effects of climate change have been identified by researchers: mitigation and adaptation (Laukkonen et al., 2009). Efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change include fostering individual, regional, and global actions designed to limit emissions, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and to foster sustainable development. Adaptation strategies are best enacted at the local and regional level, where specific strengths and vulnerabilities can be assessed, and plans developed to increase the resources necessary to cope with changes that may follow climate change. Personal adaptation measures represent coping with change, for which occupational therapists are well-positioned.

The World Federation of Occupational Therapy’s position statement on environmental sustainability encourages occupational therapists and students to use their knowledge with respect to occupational performance to help resolve the impacts of global climate change “to enable human development and individual well-being whilst promoting environmentally sustainable well-being” (2012, p. 1). Education is emphasized as a significant way to change human behavior, and the development of educational materials is stressed to help therapists respond to the global crisis.

Method

In this presentation, we will discuss pre- and post-service educational strategies that may help occupational therapists to expand their understanding of how human occupation and issues of occupational justice relate to climate change. We will present examples of how the occupational therapy department of an institution of higher education has embraced a sustainability initiative that has impacted curriculum, campus and community activities, and student/faculty research. Examples of efforts in each of these areas will be highlighted, and future directions will be discussed.