Ride for Their Lives: The Time to Act is Now

27 Oct 2021, 11 a.m.

Member of the YPF cycling

We are Rose and Toby, members of the Young People's Forum (YPF) at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH), and for our entire lives, the colossal impact of climate change on our planet has been known. In fact, the effects of increased carbon dioxide levels, including ravaging wildfires and devastating flooding, became front page news in 1988.

Over 30 years on, we now know that the devastating consequences of climate change go beyond environmental changes, but impacts our health, too. In 2019 air pollution in Greater London was attributed to 3,600 to 4,100 deaths, a number that will continue to grow if changes to clean up our air are not made.

The climate crisis is absolutely a health crisis, the two are intertwined.

Toby, Vice-Chair of the Young People's Forum.

Although the climate and health emergency affects us all, the impact will be particularly significant in children and young people. The World Health Organisation estimates 80% of climate change-related illnesses, injuries and deaths will affect children and young people. Furthermore, the first countries affected by climate change will be those without a robust healthcare infrastructure, meaning those in the Global South with be disproportionally impacted by the Global North's actions.

As representatives of young people at GOSH, we want to lead the way towards a sustainable health care system and a healthy future for all. Therefore, together with 30 healthcare workers, we are cycling from GOSH to the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow at the time of COP26 in Glasgow. Here, the YPF will deliver the World Health Organisation’s COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health, and the Healthy Climate Prescription, an open letter signed by organisations representing 45 million healthcare professionals worldwide.

Two members of the GOSH Young People's Forum on bikes

YPF members holding the WHO report and open letter to be delivered at COP26

If we could ask one thing of the world leaders at COP26, it is to act now: devise a plan to reduce the impacts of climate change, commit to the plan, and follow through. Only through global efforts and collaborations will we make the change we need to see. This is essential for the future, our future.

As a young person, we are not allowed to vote, so it is important that we get our views and thoughts on our future across the best we can.

Rose, Member of the Young People's Forum.

During our 540-mile adventure we will stop off at children’s hospitals along the way, sparking conversations about sustainable healthcare. Whether it is reducing single use gloves to substituting anaesthetic gas for an intravenous anaesthetic, there is a part we can all play in reducing the climate impact of healthcare necessities.

It is inevitable that everyone will need healthcare at some point in their life. If we can find ways to deliver and receive this healthcare in a greener way now, then we can start reducing the carbon footprint of hospitals across the UK, as well as reducing climate change-related illness.

Toby, Vice-Chair of the Young People's Forum.

At the YPF, sustainability is a priority. We are helping to inform change at the hospital, and our voices are feeding into sustainability work throughout the trust. For example, supporting architects in designing a sustainable children's cancer centre. We also had a representative at the Climate Future Young Perspectives Conference which produced a report that fed into COP26's work. Through this work we hope to make a difference to the air quality of future GOSH patient's, which will also benefit staff and the local community.

Ride for their lives cyclists

Ride for Their Lives cyclists on the road

Looking forwards, our advice to young people who want to get involved in climate action is to join a group to help your voice be heard. Being surrounded by people with the same aims is motivating, and makes you feel like together, you can make the change.

We know this ride will challenge us, but it is also exciting to be able to come together as a group of likeminded individuals and do something good for climate change. We hope this cycle will inspire action by others and help pave the way to a more sustainable future for all.

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