How can we learn to care for the planet?

As climate change accelerates, so does our understanding of how to care for the planet. While concepts like recycling and renewable energy remain important, planetary health encourages us to find deeper meaning in our relationship with the earth. After all, a healthy planet is necessary to sustain human life, from the food we eat to our mental and social well-being.

It has become more evident that planetary health is a critical component of living in harmony with the natural world. “planetary health” is a term that measures human well-being in relation to the well-being of the earth. While we’ve made great strides in increasing life expectancy, reducing poverty, and building a strong health care system, much of that success has simultaneously harnessed essential resources.

These problems can be seen with regard to climate change: human behaviors have exacerbated global warming, causing extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Humans become more susceptible to disease when floods occur. Food production also falters amid prolonged droughts and heat waves. These climate challenges have affected many people living in vulnerable parts of the world.

Industrialization and urbanization have certainly improved our quality of life; however, dependence on fossil fuels has simultaneously increased air pollution. In 2019, air pollution was responsible for 6.7 million deaths worldwide.

Cost constraints have delayed the transition to widespread deployment of renewable energy. One solution could be to issue a wealth tax on the rich to raise money for renewable energy, making it more equitable for everyone.

Moderate consumption of goods and services to take care of the planet

The same can be said of the natural resources that we overconsume for our goods and services. For every resource we extract by polluting the land, for example through mining, restoring the land to its previous state will ensure clean and sustainable water resources for future generations.

Turning the other cheek to the planet is no longer an option. This means analyzing, defining policies and encouraging behaviors that minimize pressure on natural resources. Planetary Health aims to promote reflection on what it means to live beyond our means and shift focus to living within the balance of the natural world.

Addressing human impacts on the planet

Measuring the health of the planet allows us to more easily address our environmental impacts and adopt new standards. Planetary health addresses ways to collectively improve the economy, education system, health services and food security within ecological limits.

One of the first components of a healthy environment seeks to understand consumerism and the adoption of ecologically correct buying habits. When considering planetary health, economists look to behavioral economics to understand why humans behave in certain ways and how learning by doing can change those behaviors.

Human beings tend to follow social norms. That’s why it’s best to give people the choice to adopt sustainable purchasing practices on their own terms. This allows them to act according to individual interests. However, policies derived from planetary health metrics can promote a more environmentally conscious economy.

Environmental education is equally important, as it is yet another way for us to learn to measure the health of the planet. While many schools offer environmental science curricula, a standard planetary health education is a crucial first step in transforming and promoting ecological awareness among today’s youth.

Planetary health education must understand cultural ideologies relating to our relationship with the earth. Students will learn to better address future environmental and restoration challenges by immersing themselves in indigenous wisdom and various sustainability practices.

Taking care of the planet is also taking care of our health

Planetary health is closely linked to human health. The increase in the world’s population has imposed greater challenges to sanitation and hygiene. Currently, water scarcity affects nearly 1.6 billion people as cities struggle to provide enough water to meet demand.

Water scarcity and poor sanitation lead to disease, putting ever-increasing pressure on limited health systems. The study of planetary health must ultimately focus on redefining health care amid socio-environmental barriers and inequalities such as policy interventions, wealth and affordability.

A sustainable future is possible with a more environmentally conscious public health system. Reducing air pollution, transitioning to sustainable agriculture and preventing water pollution are necessary measures to reduce epidemiological risks.

The field of planetary health is also crucial to addressing our food system. The agricultural sector is known to produce high global emissions. Livestock production is responsible for 57% of agricultural greenhouse gases, including toxic methane.

Promoting a planetary health diet would require halving global consumption of meat and sugar and eating more fresh produce, vegetables and nuts. Studies suggest that plant-based eating can prevent an estimated 11 million premature deaths per year, up to a 23.6% reduction from current numbers.

Everyone has a personal responsibility to maintain a healthy planet. If we use our environmental resources, we must do so sustainably. Instead of separating ourselves from the natural world, we must remember that we are part of it.

By Jane Marshall. Article in English

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