Which of the following images illustrates an aspect of "planetary health"?
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
Planetary 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.
Learn more from the experts
If you want to develop a deeper understanding of planetary health, including the impact of human-caused activity on the environment, there are many organizations leading the charge for education, research, and advocacy in the field. We recommend you start with these:
- Project Drawdown - A nonprofit organization that seeks to help the world reach “Drawdown”— the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.
- Planetary Health Alliance - A consortium of over 200 universities and organizations from around the world committed to understanding and addressing global environmental change and its health impacts. PHA offers many educational modules for teachers who are interested in implementing planetary health curriculum.
- Nurses' Drawdown - A partnership with Project Drawdown and other organizations that offers tools to nurses interested in taking action toward planetary health.
- University of Minnesota School of Nursing - A top-ranked school of nursing committed to addressing the relationship between human health and the health of the planet. In 2019, the School named its first-ever Director of Planetary Health, Teddie Potter, PhD.
Pongsiri, M., Bickersteth, S., Colon, C., DeFries, R., Dhaliwal, M., Georgeson, L., et al. (2019). Planetary health: From concept to decisive action. The Lancet; 3(10), E402-E404.
Whitmee, S., Haines, A., Beyrer, C., Boltz, F., Capon, A.G., Dias, B.F., et al. (2015). Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch: report of The Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on planetary health. The Lancet; 386(10007), P1973-2028.