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Introduction to Planetary Health

Progress in human health and poverty reduction in the 20th century was built on a foundation of earth’s existing natural systems. Nutrition improved as people converted land for agriculture, and energy capacity grew as people dammed rivers and mined coal. Simultaneously, freshwater, forests, and fish were depleted. As humans pressured the  environment to improve their own health and wellbeing, they destroyed earth’s natural buffers against threats such as flooding and disease, undermining human health progress.

Successful efforts to improve human health came with increased carbon dioxide emissions, ocean acidification, tropical forest loss, and energy, water, and fertilizer use. The impacts of climate change are already undermining human health progress, particularly in poor communities. Current and expected climate- and weather-related health threats include flooding, droughts, and vector-borne diseases.

As the availability of legal sources of timber in the Indonesian forestry sector decline, protected areas such as national parks face increased pressure from illegal logging. Tens of millions of cubic meters are lost to illegal logging each year, costing the Indonesian economy between US $1-5 billion annually in the form of lost royalties and national tax revenue, and the smuggling of merchantable timber. In addition to the loss of valuable environmental services, illegal logging generates illicit wealth that fuels social conflict and widespread corruption.

Learning Objective

Broadly understand the concept of planetary health and summarize some of the worldwide ecosystem transformations and health trends.


Planetary Health Principle: A Planetary Health Lens

“Many global challenges come into sharper focus when they are viewed with the idea of planetary health in mind.”

ASRI’s transformative approach to human health provides participants with a better understand of crucial linkages, cause-effect relationships, and feedback loops between environmental change and human health. It allows them to recognize and explore how human stewardship of the Earth is a primary determinant of future population health.