Why should SLTs care about climate and ecological crisis?
I often feel that, in comparison to other Allied Health Professionals, I have to work a bit harder to justify why we, as SLTs, should care about the climate and ecological crisis (CCE). OTs deal with occupational practice and are thus well suited to be talking to people about how they engage with their environment. Physiotherapists encourage healthy movement. Together they are both responsible for prescribing equipment with life cycles to consider. The British Dietetic Association has started recognising that sustainability is key to public nutrition and published new guidelines in relation to this.
But how about SLTs? What’s our role? Here are some thoughts:
• Climate change is real and looming. Action needs to take place ASAP. And that means it’s everybody’s business, every layer of society should be engaged. Whereas once we had faith institutions to quickly disseminate cultural values and norms, we now have a myriad of different networks. SLTs – as professionals – are members of civil society and as such bear the responsibility to address it.
• Not only are we members of civil society but we are health professionals. Climate change is a health issue (and there are lots of excellent issues exploring this -here is a great short video for starters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp6avcskCcg ).
• The CCE will also directly impact our client group (eg through increased strokes), as outlined in this recent article by Sue Sherrat in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders. Not only this, the CCE will impact our clients in an inequitable way. The RCSLT has done some excellent work this year, raising awareness to our role in addressing health inequalities – acknowledging and addressing climate-related health inequalities naturally follows from this.
• Lastly, as resource users, we should be reviewing our own practice to make sure we’re working as sustainability as we can. Are there ways (such as telecare) where we can reduce our carbon footprint? At the same time, in comparison to other services we are relatively less resource intensive. More often than not we engage in preventative healthcare practices (thus inherently more sustainable) that we should be proud off and need to showcase and celebrate!
So I (humbly) conclude that it is definitely our role and it would be great to build networks of collaborations – locally, nationally and even globally - to rejuvenate share ideas and rejuvenate our practice. For everyone’s sake.