Dr Kate Charlesworth
Medical Consultant in Environmental Sustainability
South Eastern Sydney Local Health District
“I always wanted to be a doctor. You go into medicine because you want to do something worthwhile. I’m looking at research around carbon accounting, so measuring different models of care and their carbon costs, as well as the financial and the environmental costs.
Once you start looking at the evidence around climate change and environmental degradation, you pretty quickly realise it is of the upmost importance and urgency.
An example of why climate action and environmental protection is important for health is the cone snail. They are a small group of predatory snails who live on coral reefs. They paralyse their prey by firing a poison coated harpoon at them, and scientists are discovering their extraordinary pharmaceutical potential. One of the chemical compounds derived from them is used to treat severe chronic pain unresponsive to opiates. It is remarkable because it is 1,000 times more powerful than morphine but it doesn’t cause addiction. It’s like the holy grail of medicine. The tragedy is that cone snails might not be around in 10 years due to the coral reefs dying, so we lose this vast potential of life saving medicines. To lose something that could potentially create so much good is tragic.”