Listen to “The Connection Between Human and Planetary Health”.
Human activities have profoundly altered our beautiful planet. Climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, land-use changes, and disrupted water cycles, nitrogen, and phosphorus, to name just a few.
Our actions have a massive impact on the planet and have far-reaching implications for human health, particularly on the most vulnerable.
The premise of planetary health is that long-term human well-being depends on the earth’s well-being, including its living and nonliving systems.
Planetary health is one of several competing narratives for thinking about health in the 21st century.
Planetary health goes beyond interrupting the spillover of pathogens from animals to people and vice versa. Planetary health goes beyond seeking equal access to health care. Once, it was common to think of health with the individual as a person’s absence of illness. Planetary health recognises the planet’s health as an entire single system and as a whole living organism.
The natural environment and global health are no longer separate. Instead, they’re two sides of the same coin because the life support systems underneath us are starting to crumble due to the scale of our activities.
The size of our global consumption pattern now exceeds our planet’s capacity to absorb our waste or provide the resources we’re using sustainably. This then affects the quality and quantity of food we produce, air and water quality, exposure to extreme weather events, exposure to infectious disease, episodes like the pandemic, even the habitability of some of the places we live.
Environmental degradation also affects the mental and emotional health and well-being of communities and individuals. In urban settings, lack of access to green spaces has also contributed to poor moods and sleep cycles. It is worth noting the increase in the global prevalence of depressive disorders and their correlation with environmental change and increasing social and economic inequality.
The only solution is the ability for people worldwide to have a rapid global collective behaviour change in response to an exaggerated threat.
Here a several positive steps that we as individuals can take:
Recognise yourself as part of the natural world
The world needs a spiritual awakening to recognise that there’s something very broken in our relationship to nature that needs to be reasserted. Spirituality is alive in most indigenous traditions and knowledge systems and most faith traditions. Many of us feel a sense of reverence toward the natural world, but it’s lost its authority to guide our decisions.
Reduce meat consumption
Most climate change experts agree that reducing meat consumption is one of the most important tasks we have as a global community. In addition to being more eco-friendly, plant-rich diets may also reduce the risk of some chronic diseases and add years to your life.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
First, reduce your consumption of waste-producing products, such as plastic. Then, reuse what you can to avoid purchasing more. Finally, when you can no longer use it, recycle the product so it can re-enter the stream of consumer goods with a new life and a significantly lower carbon footprint.
So many of our daily activities at home involve water – bathing, cleaning, washing dishes, laundry, using the toilet, cooking, watering the lawn – that we rarely stop to contemplate how much we are actually using. When it comes to saving water, every little helps. You can start small with little habits such as turning the tap off while brushing your teeth or showering instead of bathing.
Reduce Food Waste
Although millions of people on this planet are hungry every day, food waste remains a big problem in both agricultural systems and home kitchens. To make matters worse, producing all of that waste food also wastes energy and resources. People who need food are not getting it, and food that is not getting consumed is heating the planet. In short, reducing food waste is an urgent priority for planetary health.