What Is Planetary Health?

green tree from underneath

Which of the following images illustrates an aspect of "planetary health"?

three images: a blue recycling bin, a plate of salad, and three women in a rural village smiling

Bravo if you chose all three! Our understanding of how to care for the planet is evolving. While familiar concepts like recycling and reducing the use of fossil fuels still remain important, the field of planetary health encourages us to understand more deeply the interconnected relationship between our wellbeing and our environment. The health of the planet has a direct impact on all facets of human life, including the wellbeing of our communities, our mental health, the way we produce and consume food, and even our ability to create social equity

An interconnected view

Graphic with the words Healthy Planet and Human Wellbeing marked by arrows to show their mutual relationshipPlanetary health is rooted in the Indigenous knowledge and wisdom that our lives are intertwined with the land we live on. Human life is dependent upon the earth, and the quality of our environment is determined by our actions. 

At the heart of this relationship is a paradox: over the past several decades, human health has improved in part because of resources from the earth, such as fossil fuels, water, land, and forests. But in the process, our overconsumption has led to environmental changes, such as global warming, water scarcity, and pollution, all of which are now damaging our wellbeing. 

In order to reach the mutual goals of human and environmental health, we must examine all the factors that contribute to this system and be open to new solutions and ways of thinking.