close
Tuesday February 27, 2024

Report calls for global action to protect environment, secure health of future generations

IslamabadA new report released Thursday by The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, calls for immediate global action to protect the health of human civilization and the natural systems on which it depends. The report, ‘Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch,’ provides the first-ever comprehensive examination of evidence showing

July 17, 2015
Islamabad
A new report released Thursday by The Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, calls for immediate global action to protect the health of human civilization and the natural systems on which it depends. The report, ‘Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch,’ provides the first-ever comprehensive examination of evidence showing how the health and well-being of future generations is being jeopardized by the unprecedented degradation of the planet’s natural resources and ecological systems.
The report was written by a Commission of 15 leading academics and policymakers from institutions in 8 countries, and was chaired by Professor Sir Andy Haines of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK. It demonstrates how human activity and development have pushed to near breaking point, the boundaries of the natural systems that support and sustain human civilizations.
“This Commission aims to put the health of human civilizations, and their special relationship with the larger biosphere, at the centre of concerns for future planetary sustainability,” says Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet and one of the report authors.
The Commission warns that a rising population, unsustainable consumption, and the over-use of natural resources will exacerbate these health challenges in the future. The world’s poorest communities will be among those at greatest risk, as they live in areas that are most strongly affected and have greater sensitivity to disease and poor health.
“The Commission has issued a dire warning: human action is undermining the resilience of the earth’s natural systems, and in so doing we are compromising our own resilience, along with our health and, frankly, our future,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation.
“We are on the verge of triggering irreversible, global effects, ranging from ocean acidification to biodiversity loss,” says

Professor Haines. “These environmental changes - which include, but extend far beyond climate change - threaten the gains in health that have been achieved over recent decades and increase the risks to health arising from major challenges as diverse as under-nutrition and food insecurity, freshwater shortages, emerging infectious diseases, and extreme weather events.”
Solutions to these clear and potent dangers are within reach, say the Commission authors, but the world needs to take decisive, coordinated action to protect the environment and secure the health of future generations. The Commission outlines a range of beneficial policies and actions that can be taken by governments, international organizations, researchers, health professionals and citizens that are good for both health and the environment. Examples include benefits from reduced air pollution, healthy diets with more fruit and vegetables, active transport (walking and cycling), reduced urban heat stress from green spaces, and increased resilience to coastal flooding from intact wetlands and mangroves. In addition, the report identifies some major gaps in evidence and the research that is needed.
The 15 distinguished commissioners of the Planetary Health Commission are Chris Beyrer, Fred Boltz, Tony, Capon, Alex Ezeh, Gong Peng, Richard Horton, Sam Myers, Sania Nishtar Steve Osofsky, Subhrendu Pattanayak, Montira Pongsiri, Agnes Soucat, Jeanette Vega, Derek Yach. These commissioners are from academic institutions (Duke University, Harvard University, John Hopkins School of Public Health, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Tsinghua University, UCL and the United Nations University; government institutions (the National Health Fund (FONASA) of Chile and the United States Environmental Protection Agency); multilateral institutions (the World Bank); and civil society institutions (African Health and Population Research Centre, and Heartfile, Pakistan.
‘The News’ reached out to Dr. Sania Nishtar, one of the Commissioners based in Pakistan, to get to know what planetary health was first-hand. She explained, “Planetary health is the concept that the health of humans and the natural systems of the planet we live on are interlinked and that making positive changes to benefit the environment can also substantially improve the health and wellbeing of people everywhere. By taking a holistic or “planetary health” approach, we can help protect both the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends.”
Sharing her views about Pakistan’s situation in relation to the report, Sania Nisthar said, “Pakistan is facing threats from a combination of adverse environmental trends and high population growth rate. To cite an example, Pakistan’s per-capita surface water availability, which was 5,260 cubic meters per-person annually in 1951, is expected to decline to 1,100 by 2035, the water scarcity mark and less than 900 by 2050. On the other hand, the country’s population is exploding. From 34 million in 1950 to 190 million today, our population is expected to rise to 300 million by 2050. The two trend lines drawn based on these figures should be a wakeup call.”
Dr. Sania added, “Water scarcity has serious implications for economic growth since agriculture contributes 23% of the total GDP. It has grave implications for food and energy security in an already constrained milieu. Supply side water scarcity can be compounded manifold when complicated by demand-induced scarcity due to the country’s exploding population, especially when viewed in the context of constrained economic opportunities and joblessness.” She went on to explain that “Our existing pattern of inequitable distribution of resources is compounding water stresses-in particular rifts between the country’s agricultural and industrial elite over distribution of water for irrigation vis-à-vis water for hydroelectric power generation; rivalries between feudal strongholds over availability of water for irrigation and tenuous relationships between the provinces over the share of water and revenues tied to it. As climate change and environmental changes become more manifest, the chances of conflict due to competition for resources will increase. As a country, we need to think about these mattes strategically and with a view to taking definitive action.”
The Commission has ambitious plans for a number of regional launch events - in Johannesburg, New York, Los Angeles, Islamabad, Kuala Lumpur, Nairobi, Melbourne, Beijing, Santiago and London. The Islamabad launch is planned for July 24.