Townley and Marta are medical students at Creighton University. Dethlefs, Maar, Cox and Schroeder are medical students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Before we knew it, the seemingly distant threats of coronavirus became real. Real in the way that businesses shut down and streets emptied. Real in the way that events were canceled and our community began “social distancing.” Real in the way that we were afraid to bring this virus home to our families.
Nebraska has demonstrated great capacity to come together during this unprecedented event, and as medical students at Creighton University and UNMC we are proud to see what can be accomplished when the community makes sacrifices to protect one another. Collectively we have taken extra precautions to keep our elders and at-risk neighbors safe and healthy. We better appreciate grocery clerks who ensure food and supplies are available. We support our health care workers as they tirelessly work the front lines to keep our community healthy.
Humanity finds its strength during times of uncertainty and suffering, but we must not lose this strength once the worst of this pandemic has come to pass. It is time to join together in this same way to protect our home and build a Nebraska that is capable of caring for future generations to come.
As future physicians of Nebraska, it is our mandate and our hope that we learn from the pain caused by this pandemic. As a community, we need to invest in strategies that prevent future public health crises. Like COVID-19, climate disasters will overwhelm our health systems in the years to come. The dangers of climate change are already becoming real — like the flooding throughout Nebraska and Iowa we saw just one year ago. We must come together to curb the progression of climate change before it is too late. We must begin flattening the curve of climate change now.
In our first few days of medical school, we were reminded of a simple lesson: Prevention is better than any cure. This week is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and as we look to the future, we must face the reality of climate change — the greatest threat to human health in the modern era. When it comes to the preservation of our planet, prevention is the only option.
We must begin by setting local and state standards for carbon emissions and lower those emissions by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. We must restore environmental protections and strengthen existing policies to keep the air clean for the lungs of our children and most vulnerable members of society. We must promote a transition to a green economy with jobs and investment in wind and solar energy that support a healthy, sustainable future. We must not only be conscientious of what we eat, but of the impact those choices have on our planet. We must all become lifelong learners and educate ourselves to become better stewards of planet Earth.
We believe we can create a healthy, sustainable future, but we know we cannot do it alone. Climate change cannot be solved by any one person; everyone is essential. Much like COVID-19 requires collective societal action, we can overcome the impacts of climate change only through social solidarity.
Let us partner now, so that we can give all members of our community the chance at a healthy future. Our response now will determine our quality of life and that of future generations. Join us in the fight for a safer and healthier future.