Sustaining Planetary Health: Putting a Stop to Ecosystem Decline, Unsustainable Practices and Associated Human Suffering

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The natural environment is considered a free resource for humans to utilize, but doing so comes with costs associated with how it is used, e.g., degraded ecosystems, fragmented landscapes, pollution and climate change. These negative effects make humans’ place on Earth inhospitable. The inherent challenge is the inability to connect or simply deny the association of the poor health currently experienced by people to the cumulative degradation of various ecosystems. A degraded ecosystem is not just a loss to a diverse planetary system or a waste in its own right, but because of the complex relationships involved, it becomes a health threat to other ecosystems. Studies have shown that there is interdependence between the quality of ecosystems and human health. Initiatives to protect environmental resources are being made, but they continue to fail at the adoption and implementation stages, and thus, the expected outcomes are not obtained. While there are many ways to restore and maintain planetary health, putting a stop to activities that cause ecosystem decline in regions that have deficits and unsustainable practices is the most viable way to restore and maintain a healthy planet. This chapter attempts to make this connection through detailed qualitative and quantitative data analyses of reports showing the cumulative depletion of ecological resources, initiatives designed to protect the environment, case studies and peer-reviewed literature. The findings show that the rates of use of ecological resources and the waste dumped on this planet are higher than those that the Earth is able to process and renew itself. It is therefore safe to conclude that humans are suffering from poor health due to poor environmental quality. The study recommends that countries that are facing ecological deficits start to reduce consumption, give back to nature an equivalent of their cumulative ecological deficits, and increase investments in compensation schemes to offset their ecological deficits. Regions with a surplus of resources should develop modern and targeted sustainable use practices to avoid going into ecological deficits and to develop policy tools and management processes that can stop ecosystem decline. The global community should create relationships and a culture that recognizes the cumulative effects of ecological decline, work together to reverse the trend, and keep the planet healthy for current and future generations.


Original published version available at https://link.springer.com/book/9783031098789


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Publication Title

Handbook and Human and Planetary Health