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The connection between the planet's health and yours

15th April 2022

We are aware that environmental pollution has several adverse effects in both the long and short term. Future generations are at the risk of growing up around all-time-high pollution levels while contaminants have a way of seeping into our everyday lives through the air, water and soil. However, there is a body of fast-growing evidence that suggests that planetary health and personal health are more closely connected than we thought. Let’s take a closer look at the ties between personal and planetary health, based on what research has suggested so far. 

Roughly around 70% of the world’s poorest people directly depend on services derived from the ecosystem for their survival. Ecosystem disruption disproportionately affects the well-being of this segment of the population, and it is possible to observe the effects in national economic indicators. The knowledge about the health of the Earth and human beings can be interlinked to assess the impacts of each the degradation of air, land, freshwater, oceans and biodiversity respectively.

Biodiversity

Biodiversity is the worst affected environmental component, followed by air, oceans, freshwater and land. Biodiversity loss from genes to ecosystems is largely irreversible at all levels and is indicative of a major extinction event. These losses are further exacerbated by the spread of invasive species and illegal practices in wildlife, timber and fishing. If biodiversity levels cannot recover, then the environment’s ability to sustain human welfare and health is adversely affected. 

Air 

Global warming has already exceeded an increase of 0.8 to 0.9°C compared to preindustrial levels. At the current rate of increase, the 1.5°C threshold will be crossed by 2030 unless policies are drastically revised to curb the increase in global temperatures. It is well documented how pollution causes and worsens respiratory illnesses, cancer, accidents and death. Today, up to 7 million early deaths occur because of air pollution, outdoor and indoor. Polluted drinking water causes 1.7 million deaths.

Water, weather and heat

Shortages of safe drinking water, as well as climate change-caused flooding, have led to the displacement of over 24 million people worldwide from across 120 countries in 2016. Rising global temperatures accelerate heat-related morbidities such as heat cramps, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. High levels of heat impact productivity and also cause tangential adverse effects such as food poisoning, and kidney disease while also indirectly contributing to an increase in crime rate and insomnia. 

Agriculture and food demand

Clearing land for farming and sudden shifts in agricultural practices are strongly associated with increases in contagious diseases as well as economical turmoil. Some of the diseases caused by changes in agricultural practices are Guinea Worm(10 million cases per year), schistosomiasis(200 million cases per year) and malaria(300 million cases per year).

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The more we learn about how the environment and personal health are interrelated, the faster we must act and make a positive contribution to the future of the planet. Together, let’s take a pledge to look after each other by making sure we take care of the health of our planet. 

Source 1 - The Lancet

Source 2 - MDPI


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