When it comes to global warming, there is often talk of the environmental damage that is being caused, but what about the effect the changing climate has on people? One California doctor is trying to spread awareness on this subject.
Dr. Wendy Ring and her husband, Michael, have been on a cross-county journey giving lectures on climate change’s effects on people. They began in July on the northern coast of Washington State and on Tuesday, they passed through Newton on their way to Grinnell.
To make matters even more interesting, they are doing it on a tandem bicycle.
“The nature of our marriage is I get the wild ideas and Michael is pretty much up for anything I come up with,” Wendy said jokingly. “I said, ‘Let’s ride across the county.’ He said, ‘OK.’”
She provided an example of Michael’s willingness to adventure with her.
“I used to do this thing every year of kayaking and canoeing down this river,” Wendy said. “So when we got together, I said, ‘Oh, let’s do it.’ We were in the boat, in the water, just sitting out and he says, ‘Oh, how do you paddle?’ He was ready to go on this thing with me and he didn’t even know how paddle a boat.”
With that kind of unwavering support from her husband, it’s no wonder Wendy has no trouble booking speaking engagements for a cause she is very passionate about and wants more people to be informed of.
“I spent a good amount of time reading all of the research on how climate change affects our health in the United States,” Wendy said. “I’m kind of like a science translator. I tell people what all those research studies say, but I do it in plain English. Because there is a lot going on and people need to know and understand that.”
“This is building up to a crisis and we have to do something,” she continued.
“We are seeing effects in the air. We are seeing increases in asthma and people showing up in the emergency room with breathing problems,” Wendy said. “(It’s) because of increased levels of ozone and wildfire smoke and dust storms. Those kinds of things.”
Wendy has given her lectures on climate change more than 50 times since her journey has started and tailors the talks to specific regions she visits. On her site, she mentioned specifically how drought, which is a symptom of climate change, is affecting more than just crops in Iowa.
According to the site, drought increases the concentration of toxic chemicals in both surface and ground water. She said this increases the contamination of drinking water, specifically from nitrates, arsenic and pesticides.
“Nitrates (are) a problem in Iowa and arsenic, which is a problem in some other parts of the country,” Wendy said. “Microcystin, which is a toxin produced by green blue algae, is another problem you all have here.”
Her site said some of the side effects from too much nitrate include birth defects, miscarriages and cancer.
“I think people are surprised that we are seeing affects on people and that it is not just about polar bears,” Wendy said of climate change. “I think people are alarmed to hear (this). But there has been a lot of enthusiasm.”
“I’ve had several times where I’ve given a talk and people in the audience say, ‘Oh, boy such-and-such has to hear this,’ and people start calling the media and calling towns ahead saying, ‘You have to get to this woman to give a talk in your town,’” She continued. “So there has been a lot of that and all of my extra (free) days that I have put in so far, have been used giving extra presentations.”
Wendy spoke at Des Moines University on Monday, Grinnell College on Tuesday and Grinnell Regional Medical Center on Wednesday morning.
For information on climate change’s affects on the body or to track Wendy’s journey, visit www.climate911.org
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.