This paper shows how the Energy System Sciences provide the theoretical backbone and empirical substance we need to connect findings from across the human and natural sciences in a way that is practical, rigorous, and heart-warming at the same time. Our premise is that the same energy science that explains systemic health in ecosystems can be used to create an empirical explanation of systemic health in human systems too. This integrated understanding of planetary health directly addresses the underlying socio-economic drivers of today’s crises in a rigorous yet emotionally compelling picture of how to save civilization socially, economically and environmentally.
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.
There are lots of things coming together, economic crises, ecological crises, social crises. My friend and mentor Fritjof Capra once said if you follow the rivers of these crises upstream, you meet a crises of consciousness, a crises of perception. A crises of how we see our selves and our role in this living planet. Read More
The term planetary health—denoting the interdependence between human health and place at all scales—emerged from the environmental and preventive health movements of the 1970–80s; in 1980, Friends of the Earth expanded the World Health Organization definition of health, stating: “health is a state of complete physical, mental, social and ecological well-being and not merely the absence of disease—personal health involves planetary health”. Planetary health is not a new discipline; it is an extension of a concept understood by our ancestors, and remains the vocation of multiple disciplines. Planetary health, inseparably bonded to human health, is formally defined by the inVIVO Planetary Health network as the interdependent vitality of all natural and anthropogenic ecosystems (social, political and otherwise). Here, we provide the historical background and philosophies that have guided the network, and summarize the major themes that emerged at the 7th inVIVO meeting in Canmore, Alberta, Canada. We also provide the Canmore Declaration, a Statement of Principles for Planetary Health. This consensus statement, framed by representative participants, expands upon the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion and affirms the urgent need to consider the health of people, places and the planet as indistinguishable. Read More
Oxford Martin School Streamed live on May 2, 2018 There is mounting evidence that the planet’s capacity to sustain a growing human population, expected to be over 8 billion by 2030, is declining. The degradation of the planet’s air, water and land, combined with significant loss in biodiversity, is also resulting in substantial health impacts,… Read More