Even amongst the small and highly-biased sample of the world's 7bn+ population likely to read the average Healthy Planet blog, I'd guess that few see themselves as the next HP coordinator. I say this because few of the past HP coordinators I've known saw themselves in that role until, for one reason or another, they ended up occupying it. I certainly couldn't envision it. I've never had the silver tongue or inspiring manner of a feted leader, not even the logistical nous of a good organiser; but, as it turns out, that doesn't really matter. All that really counts for being a great HP coordinator is a passion for fighting for a healthier, fairer future for the environment and humans whose lives depend upon it.
In large part, that's because you'll never be alone or unsupported. HP works with an amazing circle of academic and activist collaborators like Medsin, the IFMSA, Medact, and People and Planet; and through our work with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, Climate and Health Council and Sustainable Healthcare Education Network we have access to an impressive network of more experienced academics and clinicians with a wealth of knowledge (and plenty of letters after their names when you need to impress some people in suits). Not to mention our greatest resource - the Healthy Planet network itself.
As a coordinator, you'll be able to work with the networks to decide priorities for education, advocacy and action on climate and health, and work out how best to utilise the voices and abilities of young people to fight for environmental and climate justice. For me, in the year or so running up to the high-profile UN climate negotations at COP21 in Paris, that meant: ramping up our fossil fuel divestment campaigning to ensure the world heard that the business practices of the fossil fuel industry were incompatible with a healthy climate; acting locally on homegrown environmental justice crises like air pollution and fracking; and continuing our work on climate and health in medical education in partnership with Medsin and the Sustainable Healthcare Education Network. Healthcare students can provide a unique perspective on the issues that will define the practice of tomorrow's health workers, and people will call upon HP coordinators to give voice to that perspective - it's taken us to global health and medical education conferences from Glasgow to Barcelona, seen us published in general media like the Guardian and specialist journals like the BMJ, even taken some of us (though alas not me personally, finals getting in the way as they do) to the COP21 talks in Paris.
There are, of course, some tough bits to the role. Activist burnout is always going to be an issue for anyone trying to confront such an all-encompassing structural injustice as climate change, and self-care will play a central role in handover to our successors. Managing a geographically-distributed network with international partnerships can be tricky (if only for trying to timetable group calls across multiple timezones); here the face-to-face contact opportunities provided by our training weekend and conferences run by our Medsin and Medact allies are invaluable in bringing the network together. And, as with most things in the UK, organising can sometimes seem a bit London-centric - but Ele and I have managed from our bases in Sheffield and Edinburgh respectively, and HP at least focuses well beyond the capital, hosting events from Norwich to Aberdeen.
We hope that our successors will be able to make HP a stronger, more unified and tight-knit group, even better able to educate, advocate and act for a fairer, healthier planet. We know you're up to the job - even if you don't yet.
I first started getting involved with climate activism around 2 and a half years ago, after becoming increasingly aware of the crisis we are heading into, and have already began to experience. Since then, things have gotten even worse. As predicted. However, I think the movement that has risen to confront it has got stronger, and being a part of this as Healthy Planet co-ordinator has helped me out of a pretty hard period of depression, and given me hope to keep fighting for a more just world.
From leading fossil free health workshops in Barcelona, to occupying a university building for ten days over their fossil fuel investments, the last 2 years have been pretty incredible. Being part of Healthy Planet has given me so many opportunities to meet other healthcare students interested in this, teach others about climate+health impacts and attend global climate conferences to either take part in the policy making, or protest the policies! It's also helped me when I struggle to find the meaning in memorizing hundreds of drug names and anatomy, as I'm motivated by the importance healthcare professionals have in tackling climate change and social injustice.
We are heading into a crisis, and often I've heard people say, 'It's too late, why bother trying to make a difference?'. I can definitely relate to feeling like that at times, and then I remember all the awesome, life-changing, empowering and invaluable reasons as to why I'm still part of this movement and would encourage others to get involved....
Amplifying people's stories and supporting their struggles is so vital. I'm still learning so much about how to be a genuine ally, but the process so far has been profoundly meaningful.
I look forward to supporting the new Healthy Planet national committee, and am excited about what we can achieve over the next year!