March 2020 Champion!
Dr. Chirantan Mukhopadhyay
The prospect of a planet with an increasingly unhealthy climate fills Dr. Chirantan Mukhopadhyay with concern. It’s not the world he wants for his two children – or anyone else’s. It’s driving him to action, with an impetus that he considers all the more salient because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a medical student and then a practicing ophthalmologist, Dr. Mukhopadhyay had been following the scientific consensus since the 1990s, but he says, “It was a pretty theoretical concern for me.” Then the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, along with the birth of his second child, made things more real.
During that time, Dr. Mukhopadhyay realized what the future could hold for his kids. “It was affecting my day-to-day outlook,” Dr. Mukhopadhyay recalls. “My wife recognized this, and she encouraged me to do something about it.”
The Milwaukee ophthalmologist turned from anxiety to action. He looked more deeply at data. He started talking with friends, government officials – “I discussed with every group I was a member of how we could work together to reduce our carbon footprint.”
His search for allies brought him in touch with Dr. Mark Mitchell, a longtime climate crisis activist whose work for the Medical Society Consortium focuses on empowering health professionals at the state level. About six people, including Drs. Mitchell and Mukhopadhyay, held a first meeting in Milwaukee in June of 2019. Now, says Dr. Mukhopadhyay, there are over 200 health professionals and others organized as Wisconsin Health Professionals for Climate Action and affiliated with the Medical Society Consortium.
The group’s three main areas of interest are education, advocacy, and policy. Dr. Mukhopadhyay is working on encouraging all Wisconsin hospitals to be carbon-neutral by 2030, and on creating patient-centered information packages about the health harms of climate change.
Health harms are, of course, weighing heavily on the world’s mind as we come to grips with coronavirus. Dr. Mukhopadhyay considers coronavirus a kind of horrific case study for a climate crisis future, but he says the wracking changes from government to daily lives shows “people are able to come together and do what they need to do.” It’s a level of commitment he says we’ll need for the climate crisis.