Australian Sustainable Food, Environment, & Social Systems 2015

Blog site for the 2015 MSU study abroad program.

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My name is Joey Leider. I’m a sophomore neuroscience major at Michigan State University. One day I hope to be a neurosurgeon just like Dr. McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy (only way less handsome). My main goal in life is to help people. My mother always told me that anyone who is granted the privilege to attend college is very lucky and it is important for people like us to give back to the community. Going to Australia was very appealing to me because excluding all-inclusive trips to resorts; I have never been out of the country. I’m not much of an outdoorsman but I really want to step outside my comfort zone and see the world from a different perspective in this trip.

Research Question:

How does the extreme climate of Australia affect the health of Australians and, in turn, affect the medical system of Australia?  Comparing and contrasting overall health and the medical systems between the U.S. and Australia.

The U.S. has a very stable climate. Beside minor droughts and hurricanes that effect the coast, most of the U.S. is unaffected by extreme weather. On top of the we own more than half the world’s fresh water supply with the great lakes.

When Europeans first came to Australia water levels were high. There was plenty water to go around which lead to many dams being built and elaborate irrigation systems throughout the country. Australia quickly became one of the world’s greatest producers of food, making enough food to feed 70 million people when it only had a population of 20 million. This lead to Australia exporting tons a food which became an integral part of their economy. Not only did their vast amounts of fresh water help them produce food but using that water in hydro-electric dams produced vast amount of electricity for Australia to use.

Up intil very recently Australia has experienced what is thought to be one of the worst droughts in the history of human existence.  All the irrigation systems that have been set up in the past relied on vast amounts of rain to work properly. However, the average inflow to dams from 1911-1974 was 338 gig liters. This fell down to 167 gig liters from 1975-2001. The dip in rainfall had obvious negative effects on the Australian production of food but these were exacerbated by the fact that the irrigation systems and damn were reliant on huge amount of incoming water causing what is known as the “Double Drought”. The water in dams evaporates more quickly than it would in a flowing river so the systems backfired. As a result water had to be allocated for human use. The problem soon became that there was more water allocated for human use than there was actual water. Leaving people with no option.

In recent years the trend has reversed. Massive floods have been hitting the northeastern state of Queensland. Natural disasters like Cyclone Tasha only made things worse. An area the size of France and Germany combined was turn into a giant lake. Floods caused cause billions in damage and lead to 25 deaths and hundreds injured.

Natural disaster and variant flooding makes Australia dangerous for human to inhabit. I hope to see how this effect hospitals in Australia to see how the prepare for floods/natural disasters in terms of hospital design and treatment of those injured by such events. I’d also like to see how the medical system is affected by these events in terms of health insurance coverage and how insurance cost is different from the U.S.

Sources:

http://origins.osu.edu/article/dry-days-down-under-australia-and-world-water-crisis/page/0/1#update

http://time.com/7320/is-drought-becoming-the-new-normal-for-australia/

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