The health of people or the health of our planet? They should be a joint policy ambition.
The 5th June marks the United Nation’s World Environment Day, with a message of action to protect biodiversity and nurture nature for a more prosperous future.
Within the web of life, all living things and actions are connected. This is important as we look to the future for policy development. No more so is the connection between social sustainability and living within our planetary boundaries. In this way, the health of both people and the planet and its biodiversity require each other to thrive. As air pollution attacks our lungs, it adds to the climate change effect. As we reduce green space, we increase human stress and reduce the planet’s natural climate defences. The links are endless.
The economist Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics helps provide a map which shows this connection. Derived from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the compass outlines the social foundation which we all require to lead good quality, equal lives. But it shows that we also must take into account the planet’s natural resources and live within our means: the ecological ceiling. The two are intrinsically linked. Not two sides of the same coin, but in fact both elements of what should be the same side.
Action is starting to be taken within the world of policy. The European Union’s ‘A European Green Deal’ sets out the ambition for the continent to protect citizen’s health and wellbeing from pollution and environmental deterioration. Similar policy initiatives have been presented by prominent politicians both in the United Kingdom1 and in the United States.2
A more sustainable planet
Locally and regionally, cities have taken the call to provide a more sustainable planet themselves by adopting carbon neutral policies and declaring climate and biodiversity emergencies. Amsterdam has taken up the Doughnut Economics approach, helping them in their ambitions and to transform their area in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic.3 The C40 cities group is helping connect city practitioners and mayors around the world to enable stronger collective climate action. Finally, the movement started by Greta Thunberg has led to children and young people taking action to influence politicians across the planet.
More however needs to be done. The power of research is that it can provide the evidence base for policy interventions to promote the health of people and the planet. LongITools is carrying out such research, working as part of the European Human Exposome Network of projects studying the impact of environmental exposure on human health. LongITools will help provide evidence-based policy options by studying the interactions between the environment, lifestyle and health in determining people’s risks of developing chronic cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. By taking an exposome and life-course approach, we can target policy options for different stages in a person’s development, to reduce risks and help promote early prevention.
To ensure policy options are effective, LongITools is taking a collaborative approach – to build a consensus between the research and evidence base and to enable the policymakers to enact change. We are establishing a Policy Forum to help build this consensus. By working together with policymakers, LongITools will be able to contribute to the United Nation’s call to provide policy options that will enhance environmental sustainability and improve population health. Protecting and improving the health of our planet and our people, together.
1A green industrial revolution, Labour Manifesto 2019 and The Green Party Manifesto
2US Congress H.Res.109 – Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal and Bernie Sanders ‘The Green New Deal’
3The Amsterdam City Doughnut