Planetary Health and The Great Transition
"Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the people of the earth."
~ Chief Seattle
Disruption is what humanity seems to excel at, for better or worse. In fact, we’re so good at disrupting Earth’s natural systems we have a geologic epoch named after us – the Anthropocene. Humans are wreaking havoc with Earth’s natural systems1, which negatively impacts our own health and the rest of life on the planet2. We are experiencing Chief Seattle’s wisdom about our connection to nature in increasingly dangerous ways. Through complex pathways, changes in natural systems alter exposure to infectious disease, natural hazards, and impact just about every dimension of human health and well-being3.
Staying on this course holds little promise, so can we disrupt in a positive way? Can we change our relationships with our planet, each other, and shape the future we wish to have for ourselves and generations to come? Achieving a regenerative future – one that is more just, equitable, inclusive, and respects our planetary boundaries4,5 – is entirely possible.
Planetary health is a new scientific field that has emerged over the last several years to do just that6.7. Planetary health research provides the knowledge base demonstrating that human health and the health of our planet are inextricably linked and that creating positive change is a matter of urgent self-interest requiring integrated social, economic, and environmental approaches to address these challenges. Planetary health also encompasses a powerful, solutions-oriented global movement with an active transdisciplinary and transgenerational community that welcomes people of all ages and life experiences to bring their knowledge, stories, and solutions to bear. To achieve a regenerative and positive future, we will also need a paradigm shift – often referred to as “The Great Transition” – which entails a fundamental shift in human values and in the way we produce, consume, and live with each other and nature 8. To achieve this ambitious vision and to promote, mobilize, and lead an inclusive field of practitioners, the Planetary Health Alliance (PHA) was formed in 2016 and is growing quickly9.
Opportunities are emerging that enable different sectors to incorporate planetary health into their work and take part in “The Great Transition.” One such example is, “A pledge for planetary health to unite health professionals in the Anthropocene”10,11. It is an interprofessional planetary health pledge based on the 1948 Declaration of Geneva that calls for including, “planetary health principles in the professional ethos, education, and practice of all health professionals.”12
If you’d like to be involved in planetary health, please consider one or more of these actions:
—Adapt this pledge or create a new one for your profession to create awareness of planetary health, “The Great Transition,” and foster transdisciplinary action for a healthier future.
—If you are in the health profession, consider having this pledge adopted by your organization.
—Help translate the pledge into other languages. The pledge is available in Arabic, English, German, and Spanish and we are actively seeking additional translations.
—Visit the PHA website to learn more and sign-up for our newsletter. Attend the virtual Planetary Health Annual Meeting, April 25-30, 2021.
Please let us know if you can help or have questions by sending a message to PHA@harvard.edu.
2. Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves (chapter 1)
5. Kate Raworth: Exploring Doughnut Economics
6. The Lancet Commission, 2015 (The Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on planetary health Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch: report of The Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on planetary health)
7. Planetary Health Alliance (website)
9. Planetary Health Alliance (website)
10. The Lancet. 2020 (A pledge to unite health care workers in the Anthropocene
11. U of MN video (University of Minnesota School of Nursing’s Planetary Health Pledge
12. The Lancet. 2020 (A pledge to unite health care workers in the Anthropocene)
Marie is enthusiastic about connecting people with scientific endeavors, learning opportunities, and actionable steps dealing with planetary health and sustainability topics. Studer received my PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Massachusetts Boston and a BA in Chemistry from Wheaton College, Norton, MA. Marie is the Senior Program Manager at the Planetary Health Alliance, a consortium of over 220 member organizations from 50+ countries, focused on creating a regenerative future for all people, based at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Bajracharya is a storyteller at heart, fascinated by the human story of diversity revealed in life, art, culture, heritage, spiritual rites, and rituals. He is engaged as a social entrepreneur working with academica at Kathmandu University and Tribhuvan University in Nepal.
His work has been exhibited in South Korea, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. Bajracharya has published in leading national and international, daily newspapers and independent magazines. He has received a three-month residency from UIJAE Art Museum, was invited by STONE AND WATER to exhibit, and organised a talk for LITMUS on photography, in South Korea. In Nepal, he has initiated several personal projects.