In Solidarity With Science, Climate Marches, Nurses Say, â€œScience Over Profit!â€
Nurses call on elected officials to value scientific evidence over corporate profits—because our lives depend on it.
In the aftermath of post-earthquake Haiti, in the Philippines post-typhoon Haiyan, volunteer nurses with National Nurses United’s Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) traversed both physical and emotional wreckage to help provide care. They did not always have a common language with patients or local healthcare providers. Nevertheless, there was a solid foundation on which nurses could always rely: their training and education.
Nursing crosses language and cultural barriers on a raft of science. The same work-worn, nurse’s hands that have guided babies into the world and helped tend to dying patients—have also turned more pages than our patients may ever realize in text books on chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. Every day, on the job, no matter where we are in the world, to make the decisions about what is best for our patients, nurses rely on science.
What nurses would like to say this month, loudly and clearly, is that we expect our elected officials to do the same.
April marks two national marches—the March for Science on April 22 (Earth Day), and the People’s Climate March on April 29. Both of these marches call on those shaping the policies that impact the health and safety of everyday people to respect scientific evidence. Thousands of people all across the country will take to the streets to make it clear that we will not stand for anything less.
The era for downplaying climate science, to uphold corporate profits, must end. When our patients’ daily environment is polluted—when they live near the path of uncovered coal trains, dirty oil pipelines, fracking—all of the human activities that contribute to a poisoned planet and result in climate catastrophe—that disaster plays out on our patients’ bodies.
The science on climate change is extensive. The evidence pointing to the burning of fossil fuels as the key cause of climate change is clear. On the eve of these critical marches, nurses urge elected officials to respect climate science, and to be a bold voice for change—because the lives of our patients, their constituents, hang in the balance.
We must stop regulations rollbacks that put the cost to corporations over the cost to human lives. As the current administration conducts massive regulation rollbacks and federal agency cuts, citing employer costs, those concerned with public health and safety have begun to wonder: “What is the human cost?” This recent article covers the rollback of a silica exposure safety standard 45 years in the making, as well as a delay on enforcing regulations on occupational exposure to Beryllium.
The Beryllium and silica protections are just a few of the staggering number of regulations halted or rolled back since January 20, on everything from a host of climate and environmental policies, to no longer requiring employers to report when workers get sick or hurt on the job. And there are the promise of more regulation rollbacks to come, with input not from the everyday people whose lives are impacted, but from the industry, whose bottom line is impacted.
When 45 years’ worth of evidence exists for silica exposure protections, and studies have provided a number of lives lost per year without these protections—600 lives—it is unconscionable to further delay these regulations. And yet, the workers who are exposed must wait even longer, as the cost to employers is given primary focus—even when the proven cost to workers is illness and even death.
Rather than just say human activities are changing the environment, this month, nurses would like to be more specific and focus on the way corporate activities are changing the environment. Elected officials are responsible for regulating these corporations—so we expect them to put scientific evidence and human need above corporate profit when it comes to policy.
Nurses will be in the streets on April 22 and 29, because we do not just respect science; we practice science. It is the foundation of nursing, and it helps us protect and heal those in our care. We will stand up until our leaders also base their decision on scientific evidence, in the name of the public—the public’s health.