How our health & the planet’s health are closely linked

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Dr Tammra Warby

Plan­e­tary health is a rapidly ex­pand­ing area of study that recog­nises that hu­man health de­pends on flour­ish­ing nat­u­ral sys­tems. It also sug­gests that we need to wisely look af­ter the nat­u­ral sys­tems and the planet’s fi­nite re­sources on which we de­pend as it loops back and keeps us healthy. Think about the ba­sics of what keeps us alive and thriv­ing; wa­ter, food and air, all of which are af­fected by the ecosys­tem’s health and cli­mate. Our pro­tec­tion and care of these sys­tems is there­fore cru­cial, es­pe­cially for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and our planet’s health.


Let’s look at wa­ter as an ex­am­ple. Cur­rently, only 0.3% of the world’s fresh­wa­ter is avail­able for hu­man use and up to 70% of it goes to­wards use

in agri­cul­ture. As the world’s pop­u­la­tion and there­fore the need for food and wa­ter grows, there will be an in­creas­ing bur­den placed on wa­ter and land, es­pe­cially to raise live­stock. Ac­cord­ing to the CSIRO

Mega Trends re­port, se­ri­ous health im­pacts will be felt by the next gen­er­a­tion in the form of wa­ter scarcity and re­duced food se­cu­rity.


The fact is that our planet’s health and there­fore our health, starts at home. To im­prove the sit­u­a­tion, we need to con­sider our im­pact on Earth’s re­sources, such as via car­bon diox­ide emis­sions as well as the sus­tain­abil­ity of our choices. With that in mind, con­sider two small changes we can make that can in­crease our per­sonal health im­me­di­ately, as well as pro­tect­ing the planet’s health and sus­tain­abil­ity, a happy co-ben­e­fit.


1. The con­sump­tion of red meat. This is con­vinc­ingly as­so­ci­ated with an in­creased risk of bowel can­cer and places mas­sive pres­sure on the

ecosys­tem. Per­son­ally, I have vastly re­duced my red meat con­sump­tion and cho­sen to in­crease my fish in­take and plant-based pro­tein diet. This has less en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact and forms the ba­sis of the Mediter­ranean Diet, which is also con­sid­ered to be heart-pro­tec­tive. Choos­ing sus­tain­ably sourced seafood is vi­tal, as the pop­u­la­tions of com­mer­cially im­por­tant species of fish has been re­duced by 90% in the last 50 years.

2. In­creas­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity via ac­tive trans­port such as walk­ing and bik­ing.

‘Life­style ex­er­cise’ in­creases phys­i­cal and men­tal health and in turn de­creases the neg­a­tive im­pact on air pol­lu­tion and ecosys­tems. In the most

bike-friendly cities in the world, such as Copen­hagen (where 62% of the pop­u­la­tion rides to work), the pub­lic health sav­ings are stag­ger­ing. The in­fra­struc­ture, time and mo­ti­va­tion are needed to make these changes, but even small changes are pos­si­ble. I rode or walked ev­ery­where for 13 years be­fore I had to re­luc­tantly buy a car. And yes, I still ride my bike! Why not start with one less trip to the shops in the car per week, in­stead rid­ing your bike there? Or a Sun­day ride with friends or fam­ily? Bik­ing is much more fun. If you would like to fur­ther un­der­stand how you can im­pact on our planet’s health, you can use a car­bon foot­print

cal­cu­la­tor and start to re­duce your per­sonal bur­den on the Earth’s re­sources and keep the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions healthy. We can all work to­wards our planet’s health with the knowl­edge that ‘what is good for the world…will be good for us’. Dr Tammra Warby is a Gen­eral Prac­ti­tioner with a PhD, who works at Foxwell Med­i­cal. She is on the FRACGP Fu­ture Lead­ers pro­gram 2018 and man­ages chronic dis­ease such as asthma and di­a­betes, with fur­ther qual­i­fi­ca­tion in skin can­cer surgery. She can be fol­lowed on Twit­ter.

Our plan­ets health & there­fore our health starts at home.

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