We must fight for clean energy the same way we fight for healthcare for all

Scenes from Peru

While government officials across the world are participating in United Nations climate treaty talks in Lima, people from all walks of life are taking part in an alternative People's Climate Summit.

These people represent international trade unions, NGOs from around the world and indigenous groups from here in Peru, as well as across Latin America. We're here as nurses to represent the public health issues the world faces.

Nurses talk about the health impact and the dangers of fracking.

We presented on a fracking forum, stressing not just the environmental impacts of fracking, but the health impacts of fracking on the human body, on developing children, on unborn babies. The US has the largest fracking industry in the world. The methods being employed to extract natural gas from miles below the surface of the earth have never been tested for their environmental impacts, but more importantly for their health impacts. Many studies are preliminary, but they are showing direct relationships between fracking and cancer, infertility, premature births, low APGAR scores, birth defects and learning disabilities. We shouldn't wait for definitive data to do what we know is right. We must follow the precautionary principle, not the profit principle.

One of the many banners seen during a climate march

We were part of a panel of international union leaders for energy democracy. Again, we presented the health care perspective. We have to return our energy to public control. We have seen the effects of the private energy industry – environmental degradation and the complete disregard for human health and the health of the planet. Clean energy is a necessity for life just like clean air, water, food and health care. We have seen the mess that privatized healthcare is in the United States.

RNs with Dante Alvaro, a leader of Peruvian water workers union in Lima that has led the way in fighting against the privatization of public water

We must fight to take make clean energy a public good in the same way that we fight for healthcare for all.

During all of these forums, it was apparent that people respond to our message. You could see faces lighting up and heads nodding when we spoke. People who didn't understand the climate crisis in terms of carbon emissions or acidification of the oceans were completely on board with the health message.

I cannot tell you how many people have approached me to say thank you. They are grateful that the US nurses are here and speaking on the behalf of the health of people everywhere.