Last week, the Rockefeller Foundation, with the Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, released an important report that emphasizes the interconnections among climate change and other ecological harms, equity (across regions and generations), population growth, and governance. We are pleased to announce that Climate for Health leader Dr. Howard Frumkin is one of the authors of this report.
The report features 4 key messages:
1. The concept of planetary health is based on the understanding that human health and human civilization depend on flourishing natural systems and the wise stewardship of those natural systems. However, natural systems are being degraded to an extent unprecedented in human history.
2. Environmental threats to human health and human civilization will be characterized by surprise and uncertainty. Our societies face clear and potent dangers that require urgent and transformative actions to protect present and future generations.
3. The present systems of governance and organization of human knowledge are inadequate to address the threats to environmental health. We call for improved governance to aid the integration of social, economic, and environmental policies and for the creation, synthesis, and application of interdisciplinary knowledge to strengthen environmental health.
4. Solutions lie within reach and should be based on the redefinition of prosperity to focus on the enhancement of quality of life and delivery of improved health for all, together with respect for the integrity of natural systems. This endeavour will necessitate that societies address the drivers of environmental change by promoting sustainable and equitable patterns of consumption, reducing population growth, and harnessing the power of technology for change.
July 16, 2014
Far-reaching changes to the structure and function of the Earth’s natural systems represent a growing threat to human health. And yet, global health has mainly improved as these changes have gathered pace. What is the explanation? As a Commission, we are deeply concerned that the explanation is straightforward and sobering: we have been mortgaging the health of future generations to realise economic and development gains in the present. By unsustainably exploiting nature’s resources, human
civilization has flourished but now risks substantial health effects from the degradation of nature’s life support systems in the future. Health effects from changes to the environment including climatic change, ocean acidification, land degradation, water scarcity, over-exploitation of fisheries, and biodiversity loss pose serious challenges to the global health gains of the past several decades and are likely to become increasingly dominant during the second half of this century and beyond. These striking trends are driven by highly inequitable, inefficient, and unsustainable patterns of resource consumption and technological development, together with population growth.
We identify three categories of challenges that have to be addressed to maintain and enhance human health in the face of increasingly harmful environmental trends. Firstly, conceptual and empathy failures (imagination challenges), such as an over-reliance on gross domestic product as a measure of human progress, the failure to account for future health and environmental harms over present day gains, and the disproportionate effect of those harms on the poor and those in developing nations. Secondly,
knowledge failures (research and information challenges), such as failure to address social and environmental drivers of ill health, a historical scarcity of transdisciplinary research and funding, together with an unwillingness or inability to deal with uncertainty within decision making frameworks. Thirdly, implementation failures (governance challenges), such as how governments and institutions delay recognition and responses to threats, especially when faced with uncertainties, pooled common resources, and time lags between action and effect.
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