It’s a wrap – iDEA17

iDEA17 was held in Melbourne April 1st and 2nd.

Thanks to all who helped organise the weekend. Delegates were treated to two days looking at the ‘global problems and local solutions’ that face us.

Plenary talks can be viewed for free here

Enjoy the sessions you missed and pass along to colleagues.


Highlights for those who prefer to read:

Friday night, March 31st – Peter Doherty and Julian Burnside
DEA committees, delegates and invited guests gathered at the Woodward, University House, for the pre-conference evening supported by The Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at The University of Melbourne.

Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty spoke briefly on the political inaction on climate change before introducing Julian Burnside, who spoke around the theme “To Remain Silent is as much a Political Act as to Speak Out”. Julian addressed his personal passion, the rights and health of refugees and asylum seekers, giving case examples of vulnerable people in detention centres requiring urgent healthcare, and receiving far less than the Australian standard. He also spoke of the rise of Islamophobia, and quoted Helen Razer’s response to correction of calling Islamophobes “racist”. He then turned his address back to climate change, pointing out that climate change will only exacerbate the number of people requiring asylum and gave the audience a call to action in the absence of political leadership.

Saturday April 1st

Dr Karl Braganza from the BOM talked about CO2 monitoring and gave some alarming details of our changing weather patterns and record-breaking temperatures, rainfall and droughts. Climate modelling is showing that we need to reduce emissions now; adaptation may not be an option.

Dr Helen Szoke from OXFAM spoke about the devastation from extreme weather events in less developed countries but also inspiring stories of renewable energy projects. Since 2013, the world has been adding more new power from renewable energy sources than from fossil fuels. In many countries, and in the Pacific, renewables are cheaper than electricity from thermal sources.

After morning tea, our panel of College Presidents talked about the role of the Colleges in teaching about climate change: Dr Bastian Seidel (President of RACGP), Dr Simon Judkins, (President-Elect of ACEM), Dr Kym Jenkins (President-Elect of RANZCP), Dr Scott Ma (Council Member of ANZCA), and Professor John Middleton (President of the UK Faculty of Public Health. The Panel was facilitated by Prof Lynne Madden of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

  • It is crucial that the members of the colleges hold the presidents accountable by pushing climate change to the front of the agenda, and offering to be involved in its implementation
  • There is a role for the colleges to act together – the Council of Presidents will be meeting in 2 weeks’ time and a united voice would be powerful
  • We do not need to reinvent the wheel, looking to where it is done well by other colleges or sister colleges overseas is good place to start

Obesity and Climate Change – Dr Alessandro Demaio talked about Obesity and Climate Change and Dr Mark Pershin presented the Climatarian Diet

  • Dietary choices/food are the largest contributor to disease in Australia and food systems contribute to more than one third of GHG emissions.
  • Food is a commonality that we can use to come together and take action against both obesity and climate change
  • A low carbon diet initiative by Less Meat Less Heat ( called the The Climatarian Diet may be a fun way to do this yourself or suggest to your patients. Find the App at

Dr Bastian Seidel talked about the impacts of climate change on rural populations, requiring different responses according to local impacts. Extreme storms, floods, droughts, changing patterns of disease and agriculture, tourism impacts will all influence the health and wellbeing of residents. Children are especially vulnerable to disease, heat, exposure to allergens and toxins, and stress.

After lunch, there was a fascinating session on media – “Talking Publically about Climate Change and Health”

  • This was an enlightening panel with representation from 3 different types of media Jo Chandler from Croakey (online blog), Melissa Davey from The Guardian (online news) and Emily Rice from Channel 9 (TV news) facilitated by Dinah Ardt of The Climate Media Centre
  • It’s all about the pitch – sell your story to who you want to report it and be familiar with the program/news organisation that you want to pitch to so as best to understand the way they run/what they report on
  • Make sure that your story is evidence based – study size and publication matter!
  • Explain issues succinctly – ask the journalist to explain it back to you to make sure they’ve got it
  • The issue must have a visual element (critical for TV), humanised aspect or immediate relevance (note the delicacy of commenting directly during a crisis)

Dr Ken Winkel gave a very interesting lecture on the importance of biodiversity that goes back to the very beginnings of medicine, when healers relied on plants for treatment. The awareness of the connection between health and nature would improve our practice or medicine beyond the standard medical model.

Dr Marion Carey talked about biodiversity, the Great Barrier Reef and Health. 80% of life forms exist in the oceans, particularly around tropical reefs. Coral reefs provide income and employment and a whole range of functions including climate and hazard regulation, food, CO2 sinks and medicines such as AZT, anti-neoplastic agents, anti-TB agents and sunscreens.
Sunday April 2nd.

As well as looking at the ways we can improve our health and improve the planet by living sustainably, A/Prof. Linda Selvey asked the hard questions about whether we could achieve this in a capitalist system, in which consumption and growth are integral. Perhaps we need a much wider debate to define our system and our economic model, and to change the rules of engagement.

Tim Buckley gave a wonderfully positive lecture about the economic drivers that are rapidly transforming the world’s energy markets. He explained that China and India’s energy mix is changing, but not because of climate change. China is motivated by health concerns of air pollution (and the costs they incur) and India is paying a high price to import 80% of its fuel. Energy security, energy efficiency and cost are driving policy. There is no technical challenge to using renewables – the only hurdle is the mindset. In China, Australia, Japan and the US there has been a decoupling of decoupling of economic growth and carbon production over the last decade.

Dr Roger Dargaville from the Melbourne Energy Institute gave an outline of on the National Energy Market and a critique of the widely publicised “Energy Crisis”. We found out why electricity demands are falling while prices are rising, and some of the complex stories behind the SA blackouts. The take home message was that there might be some short-term pain as the system goes through change. But a high penetration of a renewable energy system is both technically possible and economically feasible. A lack of policy direction and stability is crippling confidence and investment in our current system.

Meg Argyriou from Climateworks reiterated the Paris agreement pledges, and
pointed out that addressing the carbon budget does not mean decreasing economic growth. Transforming the economy to 100% renewables opens up new opportunities for Australia such as being a regional carbon sink by sequestering carbon in forests, zero emissions, manufacturing, data management and education. Our natural resources could make us an energy superpower in solar and wind.

Larissa Baldwin, National Co-Director of SEED gave an inspiring talk about advocacy for remote indigenous communities. The majority of NT is under exploratory licence for unconventional gas, and there are complex legal, cultural and communication issues surrounding mining access to indigenous lands.

Dr Stephen Parnis, former Vice-President of the Australian AMA, talked about the increasing frequency of health crises – heatwaves, bushfires, asthma, communicable diseases, floods and mental illness. While the response to natural disasters has generally improved more expertise, resourcing and surge capacity, there are still challenges ahead. He spoke candidly about the “wilful distortion of AMA policy” from Dr Gannon about Hazelwood. See comments in the Guardian

After lunch, there were breakout sessions to discuss various climate problems and solutions. The topics ranged from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, mental health, air pollution to conflict and climate change and solutions ranging from medical education, action in hospitals and general practice to presenting, community organising and changing investments, diets and modes of transport! Each group presented their action points to take forward to the rest of their conference.

Three inspiring women filled the final session of the conference with powerful presentations. The first was by WHO Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, Dr Maria Neira, who spoke on creating global change.

Dr Neira pointed out that with action on the environment we have the power to reduce 25% of the global burden disease. She described what she calls the “lemonade movement” – when the global political climate gives us lemons, we respond by making lemonade!

Next, we turned to local action, where Kate Auty spoke of the outstanding actions within her community. Some of the achievements she noted in the Shire of Strathbogie included support for pump hydro energy storage, discussions on reuse of waste water, emboldening of other groups such as Doctors for Refugees and the election of representatives on the local council. The community produced a series of videos, Strathbogie Voices, which they took to COP 21 community events in Paris!

And finally, South Australian GP, Eleanor Evans, spoke of her incredible journey of advocacy, starting from iDEA14 in Melbourne. Eleanor connected with the sentiments of audience, stating that she frequently feels “somewhere between scared and terrified”, but that means she knows she is on the right track.


With some final words from convenors, Dr Laura Beaton and Jessica Shipley and Victorian Chair Dr Eugenie Kayak, another successful DEA conference ended and delegates left feeling empowered to translate this weekend into personal and collective action on climate change and related issues.

Stay tuned for a list of actions produced by our delegates in their breakout sessions – each small group worked on developing action plans for individuals and DEA.

Would you like to host and convene iDEA18? Talk to your state committee! It’s a great way to team build, inspire others and contribute to the growing movement of doctors protecting the environment. You’re not in it alone so if you’re up for the rewarding challenge – hands up!


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