In our trusted position within the healthcare profession and the public, the Comox Valley Nurses for Health & the Environment (CVNHE) are actively engaging in our community. We seek to raise Awareness, implement Action and undertake Advocacy efforts on issues of sustainability that threaten the health and well-being of the citizens of the Comox Valley and our planet as a whole.
Despite our name, this organization is not limited to nurses, nursing students, and retired nurses. We wish to be inclusive and seek to work in conjunction with other existing local environmental groups that are equally concerned with the well-being of our planet. We believe that the synergy of these groups coming together for a common purpose is the catalyst required to bring much needed attention to our current environmental challenges.
We work according to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which underscore the specific areas to be addressed to ensure the livability of our planet and its people. In particular, SDGs 11 to 15 speak to our ecological needs.
Helen Boyd is the Coordinator of the Comox Valley Nurses for Health & the Environment. Following a decade of anti-poverty advocacy and founding of the Care-A-Van for our homeless population, her focus is now on the health of the people and the planet. She is a Registered Nurse and Mental Health Therapist who is passionately committed to raising awareness and enriching our natural environment for generations to come by taking action now.
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SDG Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
"Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable."
The target for 2030 is to ensure access to safe and affordable housing. The indicator named to measure progress toward this target is the proportion of urban population living in slums or informal settlements. Between 2000 and 2014, the proportion fell from 39 percent to 30 percent. However, the absolute number of people living in slums went from 792 million in 2000 to an estimated 880 million in 2014. Movement from rural to urban areas has accelerated as the population has grown and better housing alternatives are available.
SDG Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
"Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns."
The targets of Goal 12 include using eco-friendly production methods and reducing the amount of waste. By 2030, national recycling rates should increase, as measured in tons of material recycled. Companies should also adopt sustainable practices and publish sustainability reports
SDG Goal 13: Climate action
"Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy."
In May 2015, a report concluded that only a very ambitious climate deal in Paris in 2015 could enable countries to reach the sustainable development goals and targets. The report also states that tackling climate change will only be possible if the SDGs are met. Further, economic development and climate change are inextricably linked, particularly around poverty, gender equality, and energy. The UN encourages the public sector to take initiative in this effort to minimize negative impacts on the environment.
SDG Goal 14: Life below water
"Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development."
Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface. They are essential for making the planet livable. Rainwater, drinking water and climate are all regulated by ocean temperatures and currents. Over 3 billion people depend on marine life for their livelihood. Oceans absorb 30 percent of all carbon dioxide produced by humans.
The oceans contain more than 200,000 identified species, and there might be thousands of species that are yet to be discovered. Oceans are the world's largest sources of protein. However, there has been a 26 percent increase in acidification since the industrial revolution. A full 30 percent of marine habitats have been destroyed, and 30 percent of the world's fish stocks are over-exploited. Marine pollution has reached shocking levels; each minute, 15 tons of plastic are released into the oceans. 20 percent of all coral reefs have been destroyed irreversibly, and another 24 percent are in immediate risk of collapse. Approximately 1 million sea birds, 100 000 marine mammals, and an unknown number of fish are harmed or die annually due to marine pollution caused by humans. It has been found that 95 percent of fulmars in Norway have plastic parts in their guts. Microplastics are another form of marine pollution.
Individuals can help the oceans by reducing their energy consumption and their use of plastics. Nations can also take action. In Norway, for instance, citizens, working through a web page called finn.no, can earn money for picking up plastic on the beach. Several countries, including Kenya, have banned the use of plastic bags for retail purchases.
Improving the oceans contributes to poverty reduction, as it gives low-income families a source of income and healthy food. Keeping beaches and ocean water clean in less developed countries can attract tourism, as stated in Goal 8, and reduce poverty by providing more employment.
The targets include preventing and reducing marine pollution and acidification, protecting marine and coastal ecosystems, and regulating fishing. The targets also call for an increase in scientific knowledge of the oceans.
SDG Goal 15: Life on land
"Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss."
Goal 15 articulates targets for preserving biodiversity of forest, desert, and mountain eco-systems, as a percentage of total land mass. Achieving a "land degradation-neutral world" can be reached by restoring degraded forests and land lost to drought and flood. Goal 15 calls for more attention to preventing invasion of introduced species and more protection of endangered species. Forests have a prominent role to play in the success of Agenda 2030, notably in terms of ecosystem services, livelihoods, and the green economy; but this will require clear priorities to address key tradeoffs and mobilize synergies with other SDGs.
In other words...
Our natural and built environment constitutes an important Social Determinant of Health (SDoH) and has a profound impact on why some people are healthy and others are not. It is central to the task of the CVNHE to focus on preserving and restoring biodiversity and climate stability to ensure a healthy global ecosystem for all.