Dr. Michael Forster

Cut carbon emissions for human health

So clearly, now, the debate is over – Climate change is all-too-real, “a” if not “the” principal cause is carbon emissions related to human activity, and many of the expected effects of climate change – extreme weather, disruption of food supplies, shifting disease vectors among them – pose grave threats to public health. The landmark Paris climate accord this past December left no doubt – global carbon emissions must be reduced, radically and rapidly.

So why is Ernest Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, celebrating, in today’s Clarion-Ledger, a court-related delay in the Environmental Protection Agency’s imposition of state-by-state carbon emissions?  Yes, Mr. Pyle, regulation to cut carbon pollution may mean that “higher costs will be passed on to Mississippi families in the form of higher energy bills.”  But it just may be that those families recognize that a hopefully healthy future for their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren is worth the price of some higher costs now.

Short-term pocketbook issues are real, but they’re not all there is, certainly not when a livable future hangs in the balance.  Let’s take our heads out of the sand once and for all, and look ahead to the long term.

Dr. Michael Forster

Flint, Michigan public health crisis: isolated incident, or more to come?

Eyes around the country are on Flint, Michigan, where a money-saving switch in water source has led to dangerous levels of lead leeching into the water supply, disproportionately affecting poor children and threatening all drinkers’ health, both immediately and for years to come.  There’s plenty of blame for bad decision-making, incompetence, and poor response to go around.  Michigan Governor Synder has taken his share of blame, apologized, and promised to correct the problem.

The Flint debacle is fraught with issues – of race, poverty, and austerity politics among them.  But how unique is Flint, really?  A key proximate cause of the lead contamination is a badly decaying water carrying infrastructure – a condition plaguing urban areas, large and small, in the “rust belt” and outside it, all over the country.  Is Flint unique, or just first?  We can only neglect fundamental conditions of  sanitation and safety before human health starts to suffer – often in painfully dramatic fashion.

Dr. Michael Forster

CoH Dean’s Council Should Be Busy in 2016

I spent some productive time yesterday afternoon with Ryan Kelly, current chair of my Dean’s Council (external supporters/advisory group), looking ahead to 2016.  There’s a lot on the agenda, including formation of three core Council committees – in “workforce data,” “professional development,” and “fund-raising.”  The intent is to boost engagement of Council around issues of importance to the CoH in ways that substantially advances the mission.  In addition to new member recruitment, and near-certainty that we’ll sponsor another innovative “Health Summit” by summer, I look forward to a busy and exciting spring under Mr. Kelly’s leadership.

Dr. Michael Forster

Great progress toward new College of Health/College of Business building at Gulf Park

Since so many things do not go as either planned or hoped for, it’s quite refreshing when they do.  Such is the case with the planning for a new College of Health/College of Business building on the Gulf Park campus.

Work with colleagues in CoB, VP Steve Miller, and the architect group McCarty and Associates could hardly have gone more smoothly, as we’ve worked our way through the phases of planning the new structure, which will include first-floor classrooms and second-floor faculty and administrative offices.

I tend to mix up my document names, but I believe we have now successfully navigated the waters of “Schematic Design” and “Design Development,” leaving McCarty to craft the detailed “Construction Documents” that will guide the actual building process.

Oh, if we could only report similar progress with the Joseph Greene Hall project on the Hattiesburg campus!  The contrast between the two building tales is not quite one of tortoise and hare – but the analogy is not too far off.

Dr. Michael Forster

Paris climate talks commence against backdrop of worldwide anxiety and protest

The Paris talks on climate action by the world’s nations start today in the shadow of the recent terrorist attacks.  It’s safe to say that anxiety is running high, for a number of reasons.

To be sure, Parisian/French security concerns, with scores of diplomats gathering in one place, are at center stage.  Scheduled public demonstrations by groups pressing for strong climate action have been banned, and for the most part the ban has been respected by climate activists.

But anxiety is apparent elsewhere, as well, with large popular demonstrations demanding climate action cropping up across the globe.  As climate scientists attest that destructive climate change is already well underway – melting glaciers and massive storms get top billing, but damaging health effects due to ecological disruption are also coming more and more into news focus – the sense that “time is running out” appears to be gaining in the popular consciousness.

If so, it is arriving none too soon.