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Book Review Author: Paul R. Epstein, MD, and Dan Ferber Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Changing Planet, Changing Health

By Paul R. Epstein, MD, and Dan Ferber
Apr 8, 2011 - 2:35:47 PM

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How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It

( - On April 4, 2011, the University of California Press published CHANGING PLANET, CHANGING HEALTH: How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It (University of California Press, April 4, 2011). Proclaimed “a landmark” by Al Gore, this eye-opening book reveals the complex links between global warming and cholera, malaria, Lyme disease, asthma, and other health threats.

A brilliant collaboration between health and disease expert Paul R. Epstein, MD and award-winning science journalist Dan Ferber, Changing Planet, Changing Health is much more than a primer on climate change. Connecting stories of real people with cutting-edge scientific and medical information, this book presents the first in-depth, on-the-ground investigation of the health risks posed by climate change. In concise yet accessible language, these experts describe the web of connections that link global warming to declining human and environmental health. Along the way, they offer insight and inspiration for shaping a healthy global future.

Changing Planet, Changing Health takes us to a host of places where the effects of climate change can already be observed—not only through now-familiar indicators such as extreme weather events, drought, flooding, and species decline, but also by the resulting impacts on human health. Epstein describes his personal experience of treating patients with cholera in Mozambique, almost a century after that disease was considered eradicated. He details research into the history and ecology of cholera, revealing that this bacterium thrives in warming ocean waters. In the wake of 1988’s devastating Hurricane Mitch, Honduran citizens were overwhelmed by a myriad of diseases associated with contaminated water and the pathogens that proliferate therein—from common diarrhea and respiratory infections to comparatively rare leptospirosis and dengue fever. Residents of the East African highlands, a region settled as a refuge from disease-carrying mosquitoes, now face a rising tide of malaria.

Reports of Lyme disease are increasing in the United States and Canada as warmer winter temperatures allow its host insect, the black-legged tick, to expand its range steadily northward. And in urban areas, including New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, millions of people—especially children—suffer from allergies, asthma, and other chronic lung conditions prompted by elevated greenhouse gas levels. Meanwhile, research indicates that crop pests are also likely to thrive in the higher-carbon dioxide environment of the future, cutting into food supplies and further stressing the health of large portions of the human population.

Applying the principles of ecology, economics, and systems theory, Epstein reveals why climate change and its impacts are inseparable from the other challenges currently facing governments around the world, including fuel
shortages, rising food costs, and financial instability. He advocates sustainable solutions that encompass all of these concerns, encouraging and emphasizing humanity’s own capacity for change and the multitude of options already within our grasp. Witness the work of researchers in Africa and North America who have developed prediction systems providing advance notice of risky environmental conditions. Learn of green initiatives instituted by businesses and innovative solutions implemented by communities and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. From ground source heat pumps and small wind turbines that help citizens ease off the coal-burning electrical grid to corporate and governmental policies, it’s clear that the capacity for change is within us.

“If we are to find real solutions, it will be by deploying the scientific talents and humanistic efforts so richly on display in this book, serious inquiry in full rigor; the capacity to work across disciplinary lines; a perseverance in the face of enormous obstacles and uncertainties; the highest of intellectual integrity; and a breathtaking love of humanity and nature, knowing that it is our responsibility to be stewards of this glorious planet and the generations to come.” — Jeffrey D. Sachs, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, from the book’s Foreword

About the Authors:
In the dozen years since award-winning journalist Dan Ferber launched his career, he has specialized in putting a human face on groundbreaking stories on science, technology, health and the environment. As a contributing correspondent for Science and a contributor to national magazines such as Reader's Digest, Popular Science and Audubon, he’s covered topics from malaria to cancer, from air-pollution to coral reefs, from fire modeling to wetland conservation. His work on Changing Planet, Changing Health helped him tie such threads together and grasp the fundamental interconnections human health, healthy ecosystems, and a livable climate. Ferber holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Duke, a Ph.D. in biology from Johns Hopkins University and a masters in journalism from the University of Illinois.

Paul R. Epstein, M.D., M.P.H. is Associate Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School ( and is a medical doctor trained in tropical public health. Paul has worked in medical, teaching and research capacities in Africa, Asia and Latin America and in 1993, coordinated an eight-part series on Health and Climate Change for the British medical journal, Lancet. He has worked with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to assess the health impacts of climate change and develop health applications of climate forecasting and remote sensing.

Changing Planet, Changing Health
How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health and What We Can Do about It
By Paul R. Epstein, MD, and Dan Ferber
Foreword by Jeffrey Sachs
$29.95 cloth / 368 pages / 6 x 9"
23 b/w photographs / 17 line illustrations / 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-520-26909-5
Publication date: April 4, 2011
Published by University of California Press /


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