Urgent protection for the environment needed to safeguard human health

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Numerous studies have shown that the best cure for depression, anxiety, and ADHD is exposure to nature—the very thing we are destroying as fast as we can. We need to pay more attention to the health of the planet to save lives and improve global mental and physical health, now and in the future, Dr Samuel Myers said at The Academy of Medical Sciences & The Lancet International Health Lecture1 last week an accompanying article in The Lancet is here). Dr Myers is the Principal Research Scientist at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Director of the Planetary Health Alliance He stressed that human impacts, such as pollution and overconsumption on Earth’s natural resources, are already intensifying almost exponentially. Action is needed to prevent this having an increasingly negative effect on human health. Dr Myers called for increased funding for planetary health science. This important area of research involves the investigation of the impacts of human activity, including pollution, overconsumption and climate change, on the health of the planet and its corresponding impacts on human health. He gave alarming examples of how our changing planet may pose serious risks to human health in the future, including:

Staple food crops growing in fields which have an environment of higher carbon dioxide levels can contain lower quantities of iron, zinc, and protein. This is likely to push 150-200 million people into the onset of zinc deficiency, and a similar number into protein deficiency. This can lead to serious mental and physical disorders.
The decline of insect pollinators could increase global disease burden as a result of reduced intake of vitamin A, folate, and food groups such as fruit and vegetables that protect against diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. A total collapse of animal pollination could result in 1.4 million excess deaths annually.
More frequent and dramatic extreme weather events, such as heatwaves and droughts, will likely increase the forced displacement of people, increasing the risk of malnutrition, infectious disease, trauma and mental illness to large populations.

“We are already seeing significant impacts on human health from our changing planet, and this will only get worse as pollution, climate change, and overconsumption increases. The challenges we face are quite unlike anything scientists have had to deal with before. Humans have disrupted the natural systems of the Earth for thousands of years, but the scale of population growth and consumption in our recent history is putting an irreversible strain on our planet.”