On December 8, we hosted the digital conference ‘Health in the Anthropocene’ and discussed with international experts how public health, economic and social policies can maximise health equity within planetary boundaries. The event was the opening of the Centre for Planetary Health Policy’s (CPHP) new webinar series “Planetary Health Dialogues” which saw the launch of our latest publication, The Need for Transformation to a Post-Growth Health and Economic system.
In her keynote presentation, international expert Dr Katherine Zywert provided insight into her forthcoming book “Cultivating Human and Planetary Health for a Sustainable Future” in which she explores the potential of community-based approaches at the margins of health systems and considers how they might become unexpected solutions to health challenges in the Anthropocene. As economic growth undermines planetary health, Zywert wants her work to “begin to articulate what a post-growth sustainable health system in the Anthropocene might look like and consider what it might take to get there”. Speaking to this, she presented practice examples of this work, including a detailed description of the “Soil Health” movement. This is a movement mostly among farmers who, by improving soil health, make land more resistant to the effects of climate change, increase crop yields and the nutrient content of food. This is also important for human health, as many of the vital nutrients in food are only available because they come from the soil, so healthy soil is critical to healthy food. “What is most exciting to me about this example is that it is by nurturing the micro scale that we have an effect on the planetary scale,” remarked Zywert.
During the panel discussion, Dr. Nicole Redvers, Associate Professor, Western Research Chair and Director of Indigenous Planetary Health at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and member of the Deninu K’ue First Nation highlighted the importance of community and municipal level interventions and suggested that we need “not a complete transformation, but more a reconnection process to who we actually are as human beings, as small members within the system of the planet”. Meanwhile, Dr. Olumide Abimbola, Director of the Africa Policy Research Institute (APRI) pointed to the need to include the concept of justice when thinking about post- and degrowth systems. He reminded the audience that there are still many parts of the world to which development and growth are very important and whose populations have not contributed to the effects of climate change that we face today. Further to this, he suggested that new partnerships should be formed in a decolonoized, collaborative and reciprocal way. This was also underlined by Dr. Martin Herrmann, Chair of the German Alliance for Climate Change and Health (KLUG) who explained that “in the end implementation always takes place within neighborhoods, within families, within networks of friends, or in workplaces.” In these partnerships, it is essential according to Herrmann, that more players are becoming aware of their ability to act.
Closing the discussion, our senior research fellow Dr. Remco van de Pas presented his latest think piece The Need for Transformation to a Post-Growth Health and Economic System. In this short paper, he highlights the unsustainable economics of the German health system, provides an overview of post-growth economic alternatives, and outlines a way forward. Van de Pas introduced new ideas which CPHP intends to use to continue the conversation on policies for health within planetary boundaries.
On January 24, we will host the second installment of our new webinar-series “Planetary Health Dialogues” with Cornelia Betsch, Heisenberg Professor for Health Communication at the University of Erfurt, and Carel Mohn, founder and chief-editor of klimafakten.de, on the topic of communicating about planetary health for policy and practice (in German). More information available in the coming weeks.