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Human activities are driving changes to Earth's natural systems at unprecedented rates. These changes are driven by deep technological, consumption, and demographic shifts that increase the use of resources globally. These underlying drivers of change occur at large scales and transform our natural systems, changing fundamental conditions for human health and well-being. All of this is underpinned by societal value systems, codified in our socio-economic systems, that drive change and worsen the habitability of the Earth.2.
These natural systems’ changes are taking place across the following Earth systems: disruption to the global climate system; widespread pollution of air, water, and soils; rapid biodiversity loss; reconfiguration of biogeochemical cycles, including that of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus; pervasive changes in land use and land cover; resource scarcity, including that of fresh water and arable land; and biophysical ocean changes, including increases in temperature and acidity of the oceans.3.
These changes interact with each other in complex and sometimes uncertain ways, altering the quality of the air we breathe, the water we access, and the food we can produce. Changing environmental conditions also alter our exposure to infectious diseases, harmful substances, and natural hazards such as heat waves, droughts, floods, fires, and tropical storms. How some of these natural system changes affect our health is still unknown.4.
At the core of the analysis of how anthropogenic changes to Earth’s natural systems affect human health is the use of eco-social determinants of health frameworks that allow an understanding of complex pathways connecting root causes of global environmental change with health outcomes.5.
These changes in our planet and our lives affect every dimension of our health and well-being, including nutritional outcomes, infectious disease, non-communicable disease, displacement and conflict, and mental health outcomes. Modified from
Myers, S.S., 2017. Planetary health: protecting human health on a rapidly changing planet. The Lancet, 390(10114), pp.2860-2868
Duff H., Faerron Guzmán, C., Almada, A., Golden, C., and Myers, S. “Planetary Health Case Studies: An Anthology of Solutions”. PHA, Boston, USA. 2020; https://doi.org/10.5822/phanth9678