2nd annual Planetary Health Guest Lectureship focuses on decarbonizing health care

April 25, 2022

Elizabeth Shenk at the lectern

Elizabeth Schenk, PhD, RN, FAAN, executive director of Environmental Stewardship at Providence Health System, delivered the School of Nursing’s second annual Planetary Health Guest Lectureship on decarbonizing health care. Schenk is a nationally recognized leader in decarbonization, bringing her nursing knowledge and skills to lead Providence’s goal toward carbon negativity by 2030.

“The school has an unwavering commitment to planetary health,” said Dean Connie White Delaney, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, FNAP, at the March 25 event in the Health Sciences Education Center in Minneapolis. “We recognize that this commitment is transforming the level of human consciousness of all we are in the expanse of life.”

“We believe it’s not too late, but we also believe that we need to work together across disciplines, across demographics, across the nation, across the world to make our future a better possibility,” said Planetary Health Director Teddie Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN, FNAP, in her opening remarks.

Schenk said her role at Providence requires her to spend thinking about health care and planetary health, noting planetary health means, “we can’t be healthy ourselves if we don’t have a healthy planet.”

She sees climate change as a medical emergency. “Health care professionals are the best folks to talk about that and nurses are particularly good because we’re the most trusted profession,” she says.

Health care systems have a responsibility to act, she said, as they are responsible for 8.5% of greenhouse gases in the United States. Some of those sources include employee commutes, meat procurement and food transport, waste anesthetic gases, energy uses for heating and cooling, and supplies and materials.

“There are lots of ways to take action,” said Schenk. “I am optimistic. We have the technology, we have the ideas, we have the commitment. I’m not always sure we’re going to pull it off, but I know it is up to us.”

Categories: Planetary Health


Media Contacts

Steve Rudolph
School of Nursing