ALPHA Board Blog 13 Feb 2021

ALPHA members who attended the membership meeting at the 2021 Health Summit last month participated in one of our primary forms of member engagement, the annual vote to adopt resolutions. This year we adopted seven resolutions on a wide range of topics, all drafted and submitted by members. (You can always find ALPHA’s resolutions, past and present, under the Advocacy & Policy tab above.) In coming weeks, we’ll review each of the 2021 resolutions here, beginning with “Human Health and Protection of Nature.”

It’s a truism that we take the natural world for granted. Far too many of us humans do our darnedest to mentally distance ourselves from nature, in complete denial of reality. ALPHA Resolution 2021-03, “Human Health and the Protection of Nature,” reminds us that we directly connect to the natural world with every breath we take. Besides clean air, it mentions clean water, food production, and medicines derived from nature. “Healthy ecosystems, and their associated biodiversity… support strong social networks and mental health,” the resolution continues, describing the therapeutic and preventative value of time spent outdoors and its important role in children’s physical and emotional development.

Why dedicate an ALPHA resolution to a truism? We all know why: the natural world is in trouble. “In the midst of a climate crisis, the impacts of ecosystem and biodiversity loss continue to mount, while the inadequacy of current responses becomes more apparent.” That’s a clear need, and so that’s why ALPHA wants to weigh in. As the resolution notes, the American Public Health Association believes that the public health community must be involved in climate change interventions that protect people’s health. APHA declared 2017 the Year of Climate Change and Health, and since 2017 the need has only grown more urgent.

After the “Whereas”es, the resolution makes its “ask”, namely that ALPHA “express support for the protection and stewardship of Alaska’s ecosystems and biodiversity.” That’s all there is to it. No specific program or legislation, but rather, simply asking us all to open our eyes and pay attention to what is slipping away.

Is that a good use of ALPHA members’ time, to even consider a resolution like this one? Well, it depends. As soon as we turn to thinking about something else, do we stop giving any attention to the protection of nature? Or do we finally start to make taking action a habit? Resolution author David Ryan Krause and I discussed whether the “Therefore Be It Resolved” sentence should call for more concrete action. But we decided that if we started listing what ought to be done for the preservation of nature, there would be no end to it. Best to let the reader refer back to the “Whereas”es to see what needs tending to.

ALPHA Resolution 2021-03, “Human Health and the Protection of Nature,” probably does not make anyone aware of something they didn’t know before. It simply helps us to see an omnipresent set of problems from a new perspective, through a new lens. But as with so many issues, looking through the lens of public health can make things finally come into focus.

Tim Hinterberger, ALPHA president