Obesity is still increasing in prevalence in almost all countries and is an important risk factor for poor health and mortality. The current approach to obesity prevention is failing despite many piecemeal efforts, recommendations, and calls to action. This Commission following on from two Lancet Series on obesity looks at obesity in a much wider context of common underlying societal and political drivers for malnutrition in all its forms and climate change. The Commission urges a radical rethink of business models, food systems, civil society involvement, and national and international governance to address The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change. A holistic effort to reorient human systems to achieve better human and planetary health is our most important and urgent challenge.
I have been involved in studying and working within what is now called the Anthropocene for almost 50 years, and in all that time, not only have we failed to make much progress, but the state of the Earth’s ecosystems has generally worsened. Yet somehow we must create a world in which everyone on Earth has good health and a good quality of life—a matter of social justice—while living within the physical and ecological constraints of the one small planet that is our home; this is the focus of the new field of planetary health. Our worsening situation is not due to lack of knowledge, science and technology; in broad terms, we knew most of the challenges and many of the needed solutions back in the 1970s. Instead, the challenges we face are social, rooted in cultural values, political ideologies, legal and economic systems, ethical principles and spiritual/religious beliefs. Therefore, we have to move beyond science and technology and address these broader socio-cultural issues by engaging in economic, legal and political work, complementing and supplementing ‘head stuff’ with ‘heart, gut and spirit stuff’, and working from the grass roots up.
- Design has a role to play in facilitating heterodox economic transitions.
- Climate change makes ecologically engaged economics and design an imperative.
- Visualizations are tools to conceptualize and reconceptualize economic ideas, models, and more.
- Economies are complex systems that can be mapped using visual strategies.
- Redirected, distributed, regenerative economies are viable alternatives.
Economics is a field under fierce contestation. In response to the intersecting challenges of the Anthropocene, scholars who take a broader and more critical view of current economic models have described the shortcomings of orthodox economic theory along with the severe consequences of its systemic discounting of the environment. Heterodox economists describe how the logic of neoclassical and neoliberal economics disregards the interests and needs of the natural world, women, workers, and other historically disadvantaged groups. Explorations of the household, the state, and the commons as alternative economies open space at the intersection of economics and design for incorporating and valuing the provisioning services provided by the ecological context and the undervalued work provided by certain groups of people. Design theorists, economists, social and cultural theorists, and anthropologists describe the relationship between value and values in ways that reveal how sustainable and socially just futures depend on the priorities (notions of value) embedded in the systems that determine what is designed. With these ideas, design can contribute to economic transitions with conceptualizing, modeling, mapping, framing, and other future making practices. Ecologically engaged, heterodox economics is a basis for societal responses to climate change on a scale that can make a difference.
Anthropocene, Climate change, Heterodox economics, Ecological economics, Value and values, Design transitions for sustainability