Planetary health definition and how you can contribute to it

The term "planetary health" was coined by a commission in 2015 – the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health. It is a collaboration between two international institutions:

– The Rockefeller Foundation: a foundation that supports humanitarian projects worldwide. – "The Lancet": one of the most prestigious medical journals.

In the same year, various professional organizations, such as universities, environmental associations, and government agencies, joined forces to research the links between environmental degradation and health risks. The so-called "Planetary Health Alliance" now has over 200 members.

The United Nations honors projects that aim to solve global problems – including cooperation with the Planetary Health Organizations. Funded lighthouse projects are intended to show how active environmental protection also improves the health situation, or how medical care and environmental protection complement each other. Some examples:

Solar energy – It can create a power supply independent of electrical grids. This is demonstrated, for example, by mobile solar kits that supply electricity to clinics or maternity homes – the solar power helps in situations such as after earthquakes or in very remote areas. Doctors and midwives have access to electric light and electricity for medical equipment. Compost and toilets – This combination succeeded in limiting the spread of typhoid and cholera in Haiti. A mobile toilet system composts waste right away. About 1.100 households have already gained access to sanitary facilities as a result.

In 2019, the journal "The Lancet" published the so-called Planetary Health diet presented. This food plan is designed to feed a growing world population without exploiting the planet. This could be achieved if we halved our consumption of red meat and sugar and made a number of other changes. It could also halve the consumption of water or arable land and the emissions of greenhouse gases. You can find more info here: For earth and health: researchers:inside develop the perfect diet.

Planetary Health combines medical research with environmental protection

The organizations around Planetary Health published a detailed report on their work in 2015, "Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch". In it, they discussed the basis of their work: the health of the Earth is rapidly deteriorating, environmental degradation and climate change are visibly affecting the planet. But at the same time the health situation of the world population is improving. The report also immediately answer the question: how does this fit with Planetary Health's thesis that environment and health are interconnected?

In an infographic, Planetary Health summarizes the key messages of their work. This shows that the health situation is improving, measured by: higher age, decreasing child mortality or poverty.

But these successes are leading to unprecedented exploitation of the planet. Including rising energy demand as well as reckless consumption of water or land area. For example, more and more tropical rainforest has to be cleared to make room for arable land.

In the report, the experts come to the following conclusion: the Earth's systems are likely to respond only very slowly to human intervention. Therefore, in the statistics, the impact on health is not yet noticeable.

In their report, the researchers also express the fear that the achievements shown will therefore be at the expense of future generations. You have to bear the consequences from today's environmental degradation.

Planetary Health points out the consequences for the environment

The exploitation of the earth has already left visible consequences in the environment.

Energy: The consumption of mainly fossil fuels such as Crude oil, coal or Natural gas contributes to the Global Warming At. The increasing demand for energy, especially by industrialized nations, is leading to an ever-increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This accelerates the warming of the earth and leads to climate change. Planetary Health points out in their report mentioned above that in Antarctica and Greenland larger and larger areas of ice are melting.

WaterAgriculture increasingly consumes water. This leads, among other things, to the fact that the groundwater level sinks in places. In the report, the researchers cite examples from India, China and Pakistan. They also indicate incipient signs of water shortages in California or the Midwestern U.S. Your conclusion from the above observations: Increasing water consumption combined with hot. Dry weather periods lead to regional water shortages. This is likely to affect subtropical regions in particular.

Soil areaFarmers around the world face the challenge of growing enough food for an ever-growing global population. The infographic shows a population of around seven billion people in 2014. The number of people with allergies is expected to rise to 9.6 billion by 2050.

Soil erosion – The intensive use of land and use of artificial fertilizers seems to be a solution to the food problem. However, this causes soil erosion to progress. Fertilizers leach the soil. Wind wears away the humus soil in freshly plowed fields. Planetary Health warns in their report that this could turn more and more fertile fields into deserts. They report that the cause of about 55 percent of today's infertile soils was their previous intensive cultivation. DeforestationRainforests – Instead of forests and rainforests, fields and plantations are created on the deforested areas. Plants for food, animal feed, biofuels or raw materials for the cosmetics or food industry grow there, such as Oil palms. Planetary Health researchers express concern about the loss of forests, particularly rainforests, in their report. deforestation have several effects on the environment at once. Forests provide a habitat for countless species, thus counteracting the Species extinction contrary to. Trees regulate climate and store greenhouse gas CO2. They are therefore an effective means of combating global warming. The often common fire clearing destroys on the one hand this storage possibility – on the other hand the fire releases additionally the already stored CO2 from the wood.

Planetary Health, the risks to health

Planetary Health highlights what humanity will have to contend with in the future. With under the events already stand out.

Some forecasts from the Planetary Health report:

Air pollution – According to one study, about 16 percent of annual deaths are caused by air pollution. Particulate matter and ozone in the air we breathe cause diseases such as strokes, heart attacks and respiratory diseases. This makes these diseases the most common cause of death worldwide. Water pollution – Planetary Health expects diarrheal diseases to increase. Triggered by bacteria spreading in dirty water. According to the infographic, 40 percent of the world's population is expected to live in regions with water scarcity by 2050. As a result, clean drinking water will soon become a scarce and valuable commodity. Malnutrition – Rising temperatures, water scarcity and soil erosion will exacerbate the global food problem in the future. In addition, increasing meat consumption or demand for biofuels leads to conflict over the use of agricultural land. Why meat? According to the Albert Schweitzer Foundation, for example, the consumption of beef in Germany alone requires twice as much land as the consumption of wheat and potatoes combined – one kilo of meat already takes up 27 to 49 square meters of land. Because the animals need food for years before they are slaughtered. Weather extremes – Global warming increases the number of hurricanes or floods. The storms endanger people's lives by flooding, among other things. Infectious diseases – As temperatures rise, diseases such as malaria can spread to more northern regions. The insects that carry such pathogens are migrating to new areas with the warm climate. For example, the Robert Koch Institute reported the first case of West Nile virus infection in Germany in 2019. The virus is transmitted by immigrant mosquitoes. Zoonoses – These are viruses that were originally specialized for certain animal species and suddenly infect humans as well. Studies see a link between the loss of biodiversity. The increased risk of these virus transmissions. Planetary Health's foundational work is from 2015, so the Corona pandemic was not yet an ie here. However, the WHO also warns that zoonotic diseases can spread more widely. It cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a recent example. According to WHO, wild animals come into contact with humans more often due to habitat destruction. This increases the risk that pathogens can be transmitted to humans.

Planetary Health is working to raise awareness

Planetary Health points out the importance of a broad understanding of the links between environmental degradation and the consequences for health. For this reason, the scientists are working with institutions at all levels of society.

Local level – Here especially with medical professionals to reach the population through them. The Planetary Health Academy – It addresses with lectures. Information material to interested parties from health care professions. It aims to raise awareness about the health consequences of being thoughtless with the environment. – German-language initiatives – including KLUG – the German Climate Change and Health Alliance or Health for Future. You can follow these organizations on social channels. For example, they explain to you on Youtube the connections between climate change and health.

National level – Working with governments.

In its landmark 2015 report, Planetary Health cites tax and subsidy policies as an example. Governments can mobilize funds with these tools. Incentivize global health goals. One example of how such taxes work is the CO2 tax. Imposes a surcharge on fossil fuel use to compensate for the greenhouse gases it creates. Through such taxes, the actual polluter:s of environmental damage should also be responsible for the cost of it.

Global level – Cooperation with the United Nations.

In an article Planetary Health published in The Lancet, they see their work as a fitting complement to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals – the 17 SDGs. With the Agenda 2030 the international community agreed on sustainable development goals for society.

Planetary Health: What you can do

In the Planetary Health infographic, there are tips you can implement for yourself. You are doing something for your health. Help protect the planet.

Planetary Health Diett – This diet relies on lots of vegetables and fruit. Red meat from cattle or pigs, on the other hand, is rare. The benefit for the environment: it saves greenhouse gases, water as well as land area. It's also healthy: one study, for example, links a plant-based diet to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Don't waste food – Infographic says between 30 and 50 percent of food doesn't end up on our plates. This waste costs energy and water. The arable land needed for this could be used more wisely.

– With these 10 tips you can avoid food waste. By the way, you can still buy almost all foods after the expiration date indicated Best before date Eat without worrying. Eating leftovers – with these three recipes you can succeed.

Reduce water consumption

– You can, for example collecting rainwater and use for the flowers or vegetable beds. For this you need, for example, a rain barrel in which you collect the precipitation. – With these tips you can lower your hot water consumption.

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