Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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A Holiday Hope

My oldest son, Brian, loves the outdoors. He is an avid scuba diver and trekker, among other things, and has accompanied me to Mexico to dive and to Mt. Everest Base Camp. He's spending this year in Japan teaching English at Ehime Medical University as he prepares for graduate school. When people ask me to describe him, I tell them that "he's the man I wish I was." As I am of all my children, I'm very proud of him. He's a smart and fun person with whom to hang out, and my wife and I recently had the pleasure of his company when we visited him overseas.

One of our days was spent walking around Hiroshima, which was an emotional and sobering experience. Brian has expressed some of his thoughts about that day on his blog. On this Christmas day, in the midst of the holiday season for persons of many nationalities and faiths, I would like to diverge from my usual medical topics and add a few sentiments to those of my son.

There is nothing more important than achieving peace and preserving our planet, because without these two essentials, there is no future for mankind. My writings at Medicine for the Outdoors are intended for the times when people encounter difficult situations in a sometimes hostile natural environment or under adverse circumstances associated with adventure, exploration and recreation. I would prefer to not have to apply my medical knowledge in a disaster or holocaust situation.

The Genbaku Dome at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial represents the culmination of an enormous failure of mankind. The proposition of nuclear war contemplates unspeakable horror, which is truly understood only by victims of devastating physical and emotional injuries and soul-crushing personal losses. It is barely possible to imagine the aggregate evil that necessitated unleashing such destruction, but however it is characterized, it was the work of man and not nature. The causes and effects cannot be allowed to happen again, because escalation would likely be far worse the next time around.

As we face an unstable world on many fronts, it would serve us well to periodically view the final paths we wish to avoid, and then take steps to build a better world while we protect its current inhabitants. Doctors are healers, but they are realists, so understand that in the medical world, they will always encounter human behaviors that cause illnesses and injuries. It is with awareness, early intervention and containment that we help the world's inhabitants to survive. Outside the hospital, then, we must be extraordinarily vigilant and dedicated, so that we may both build and defend. Wisdom, compassion and strength must co-exist as we become tolerant and less destructive. As we work to make the world a better place, let's never forget the consequences of becoming complacent or dropping our guard.

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.