OUR PLANET’S HEALTH
How our health & the planet’s health are closely linked
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.
WATER IS RUNNING SHORT.
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.
CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS.
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.
THESE TWO SMALL CHANGES ARE:
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.