Dwindling supplies of fossil fuels are transforming “business as usual” in our world. Although we still hear mainstream pundits and media tell us the economy will improve in late 2009 or early 2010, the massive contraction of economic activity throughout the world informs us otherwise. Two areas of great importance and little-considered challenges are public health and medicine.  To stimulate attention and action in these areas, Bristol Community College in Fall River, MA is planning a one-day, first-of-its-kind regional conference entitled Public Health and Medicine at the End of the Oil Age: Challenges and Opportunities. It is sponsored by the college’s Institute for Sustainability and Post-carbon Education and supported by the college’s Center for Business and Industry. The director of the Institute, Nancy Lee Wood, Ph.D., says that the conference aims to bring together anyone and everyone concerned about the future of public health and medicine in this era of fossil fuel decline and fiscal/economic decline. “Public health and medical systems will experience significant challenges in the face of the impending world-wide energy crunch,” she said. “This day-long conference will address the threats to medicine and public health – threats which are beginning to affect us all.”

The conference is to take place on Tuesday, April 14, from 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the college’s main campus in Fall River in the Jackson Arts Center. The conference fee of $75 includes an all-organic lunch and refreshments, as well as the addresses and workshops. Continuing Education Units are available for nurses, social workers, and other healthcare providers. Information is on the Website at www.bristolcc.edu/postcarbon .

            The morning sessions will begin with an analysis of “Peak Oil and the Economy” delivered by Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost Peak Oil educators. Mr. Heinberg is author of numerous books, essays and articles on the subject of peak oil, including The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (New Society, 2003, 2005), Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World (New Society, 2004) and Peak Everything (New Society, 2007). His work is often featured on websites including Alternet.org, EnergyBulletin.net, GlobalPublicMedia.com, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com. He has appeared in numerous documentaries including The End of Suburbia and Leonardo DiCaprio’s 11th Hour. Mr. Heinberg will deliver his talk live via webcast from California.


            The second presentation will be given by Pittsburgh sociologist Dan Bednarz, Ph.D., who will speak on “Peak Oil’s Impact on Medicine: The Coming Crisis.” He is involved in building a consortium among public health and health care stakeholders and actors to address the bottleneck of ecological crises facing medicine and public health. Dr. Bednarz was a key organizer in the recently held first-of-its-kind national conference “After Peak Oil” which took place at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD on March 12th.   Author of several articles addressing peak oil’s impact on health care, Dr. Bednarz has worked in academic public health, spending three years as the Associate Director of the Center for Public Health Practice at the University of Pittsburgh. His doctorate is in policy analysis from The Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.


Jill Stein, M.D. will deliver the third address – “The Converging Crises in Climate, Food and Health: The Oil Connection.Dr. Stein is a Harvard trained board-certified internist and previously served as a staff physician at Harvard Community Health Plan and Simmons College Health Center. She was also an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School for over 20 years. Dr. Stein co-authored the report, In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development and more recently Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging – With a Closer Look at Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.  As a leader in Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and the founder of the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, Dr. Stein has been a voice for the health of communities, assisting citizen groups which seek improved environmental and social conditions for health at the community, state and federal levels.


The afternoon sessions will consist of alternating workshops offered by Dr. Bednarz – Sustainable Healthcare: A Post-Peak Oil Blueprint and Dr. Stein – Climate, Food and Health in a Post-Carbon World: The Way Forward.


            “The conference is not merely technical, but is designed to provide practical information for anyone concerned about public health and medical care in the context of peak oil,” said Dr. Wood. “We are all consumers of healthcare and this day-long event will focus attention on this under-reported issue giving everyone who comes to the conference practical information and actions they can take to prepare for the post-carbon era.” As the supply of petroleum is expected to diminish steadily, and perhaps rapidly, in the near future, the Institute at BCC looks to provide education to help all professions and parts of society start to prepare now for the issues yet to come.


The full conference materials and registration are available on the College’s Web site at www.bristolcc.edu/postcarbon. For questions about registration, please call 508-678-2811, ext. 2154 or 2527.

For more information about the conference, please contact Dr. Wood at 508-678-2811, ext. 2043 or by e-mail: NancyLee.Wood@bristolcc.edu.