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USC director retains optimism about climate change

Jonathan Samet, director of the USC Institute for Global Health, speaks of the need for stewardship of the planet. (Photo/Richard Fukuhara)

Images of shrinking glaciers and stranded polar bears give powerful evidence of the need for people to work together on the common problem of protecting the planet. Adding art and the voices of community leaders to the data being compiled by scientists may help convince decision-makers to take action to deal with climate change, according to Jonathan Samet, director of the USC Institute for Global Health.

Samet spoke on challenges and opportunities in arts and health care and the need for stewardship of the planet at an Earth Day forum on April 22 at Los Angeles City Hall.

Pointing to examples of air pollution from traffic in Beijing and from indoor cooking fuels and diesel vehicles in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Samet said, “Now the air pollution of Beijing and Addis is everyone’s problem in our global world. At 7 billion, we have exceeded the absorptive capacity of the planet, polluting one of our global commons — the atmosphere.”

Yet Samet, holder of the Flora L. Thornton Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine in the Keck School of Medicine of USC, remains optimistic.

“The move to green-energy technology will make a difference,” he said. “Already the market is responding to the climate crisis with carbon-free strategies for energy production and for saving energy. New fuel efficiency standards and public preferences have already begun to shift the vehicle industry from SUVs to hybrid and electric vehicles. People will continue to make the right choice, if they have that option.

“I have confidence that people will unite around a common goal of saving our planet,” he added. “They know that we may be able to procrastinate for a while, but inherently we all want a better world for our children and grandchildren.”

Samet spoke on one of three panels presenting the perspectives of health as well as international and private sectors. The international panelists came from the consulates of Bhutan, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico and New Zealand.

The seventh annual Global Environment Forum held at the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery on the Health Sciences Campus was organized by a steering committee chaired by Muriel Wood and B.K. Rao in collaboration with the Sisters Cities of Los Angeles Inc., and the gallery’s public, private, nonprofit/faith-based, academic and media partners.

USC director retains optimism about climate change

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