'Planetary health declaration' issued ahead of key biodiversity summit

'Planetary health declaration' issued ahead of key biodiversity summit
Royalty-free stock photo ID: 603601574 closeup of bees on honeycomb in apiary - selective focus, copy space.

Just ahead of a major United Nations summits on biodiversity and the climate—and amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—a global consortium has launched a planetary health declaration in which they "raise an alarm that the ongoing degradation of our planet's natural systems is a clear and present danger to the health of all people everywhere" that must be countered with a fundamental paradigm shift transforming nearly every aspect of society.

"The planetary health science is clear," the São Paulo Declaration on Planetary Health, published Tuesday at The Lancet, states. "We can no longer safeguard human health unless we change course."

Authored by the Planetary Health Alliance, a global coalition hosted within the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the declaration is endorsed by over 250 organizations representing 47 countries.

"The urgency of this moment is hard to overstate," said declaration lead author Sam Myers, director of the Planetary Health Alliance and research scientist at Harvard, in a statement ahead of the launch.

The document centers on what various stakeholders—from urban planners to governments to artists—must urgently do as part of the "Great Transition," what the declaration authors frame as the necessary "fundamental shift in how we live on Earth."

To the agricultural sector, the document recommends utilizing "all ways of knowing, including the latest science and millennia of traditional and Indigenous knowledges, to implement agricultural systems that meet demand and reduce pressure on natural systems."

Economists, meanwhile, are urged to reject a focus on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in favor of "metrics and investments that support preservation and regeneration of Nature, human well-being, equity, and happiness—the things we truly value."

Numerous recommendations are laid out for governments with "an urgent first step" being promoting "public access to health services as a human right." Covid-19 recovery plans must also focus on decarbonizing the energy sector and ensuring equity for the most disenfranchised and marginalized communities.

The general public is also called to action.

"We invite you to consider yourself a partner in planetary healing," states the declaration. "We all live together in an interconnected world and the actions of each of us inspire others. Therefore, together, we pledge to dedicate our lives to the service of humanity, and to the protection and restoration of the natural systems on which humans and all other species who share our home depend."

Put together, the document says its recommendations should serve as "a compass guiding us towards the most promising pathways to support a more just and resilient post-pandemic world."

Courtney Howard, an emergency physician in Canada and a contributor to the declaration, put the document in the context of global vaccine inequity.

"In the midst of Covid, disparities in vaccine accessibility must be part of the same conversation as addressing planetary emergencies," Howard said in a statement.

"On an interconnected planet, no one is safe until everyone is safe," she added. "We need vaccine equity, and in the long run, protecting nature will be the true vaccine against future pandemics and other planetary emergencies."

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