Reports In Jul 2015, members of The Lancet’s Editorial Board published an article on planetary health, defining it as “the health of human civilisation and the state of the natural systems on which it depends”. Here is an extract:
“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.” Wendell Berry, From The Long-Legged House (1969)
In the final report of The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, we define it this way: “the achievement of the highest attainable standard of health, wellbeing, and equity worldwide through judicious attention to the human systems—political, economic, and social—that shape the future of humanity and the Earth’s natural systems that define the safe environmental limits within which humanity can flourish. Put simply, planetary health is the health of human civilisation and the state of the natural systems on which it depends”.
Firstly, planetary health situates human health within human systems. The threats that our species faces are not abstract physical risks, such as disease, climate change, ocean acidification, or chemical pollution. The risks we face lie within ourselves and the societies we have created…. Second, planetary health concerns the natural systems within which our species exists—for example, the health and diversity of the biosphere. Human beings live within a safe operating space of planetary existence. If the boundaries of that space are breached, the conditions for our survival will be diminished.” Currently, natural systems are being degraded to an extent unprecedented in history, with known and as yet unknown and unquantified effects on human health.
What is abundantly clear today is that the dangers facing our species will demand “urgent collective action at both local and global levels”. Cooperation will be indispensable for our survival…
Planetary health is a new science that is only beginning to draw the coordinates of its interests and concerns. It demands new coalitions and partnerships across many different disciplines to meet the pervasive knowledge failures identified by this Commission. It demands new attention to governance and implementation. And, perhaps most of all, it demands more creative imagination among scientists and practitioners working in health—redefining the meaning of human progress, rethinking the possibilities for human cooperation, and revitalising the prospects for the health of human civilizations.