7 ways helping the environment will benefit human health
From switching to clean energy and greener agriculture to promoting cycling and public transport — what's good for the planet is also good for our physical and mental well-being.
Link between CO2 and less nutritious food
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions would not only slow global heating, it would also ensure our food remains nutritious. When plants absorb excess CO2, they produce less protein and fewer nutrients like zinc and iron. Deficiencies in those nutrients can result in many health problems, especially in children. If CO2 keeps rising, hundreds of millions more people will face chronic undernutrition.
Clean energy equals clean air
Outdoor air pollution causes around 4.2 million deaths a year, due to illness like heart disease and lung cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Burning fossil fuels to power vehicles, homes and industry as well as agriculture and waste incineration is behind much of that pollution. Switching away from climate-killing fuels to green energy would benefit human and planetary health.
A cure for collapsing biodiversity
Plant and animal species are declining at an unprecedented rate. But these species and the ecosystems in which they live provide the services central to all life on Earth, including our own. They deliver food, energy, clean air and water, and provide the basis for many medicines and livelihoods. Protecting the integrity of ecosystems ensures the health of communities around the world.
Greener transport for better health
More than half the world's population lives in urban areas, and that figure is rising. Those living in cities are already experiencing air pollution from road traffic and industry. Creating a greener transport network that includes trains, bikes and plenty of room for pedestrians would improve air quality, reduce noise pollution and traffic accidents as well as encourage a more active lifestyle.
Caring for the land
Driving biodiversity loss is the transformation of habitat for industrial or agricultural use, such as the destruction of forests in Borneo for palm oil plantations. Changing land use could be pushing the emergence and spread of infectious disease, while runoff from agriculture and industry pollutes water and air. Promoting protected areas and sustainable land use would help on both scores.
Global warming is making extreme weather, such as super storms, wildfires, flooding and serious drought, more likely. According to the WHO, weather-related disasters cause more than 60,000 deaths a year, mainly in developing countries. Adaptation measures and limiting warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would lessen the health impacts and future death tolls.
Trauma of environmental breakdown
Destruction wrought by extreme weather can cause post-traumatic stress in those caught up in the events, particularly if people are forced to flee their homes and cannot return for some time. Climate and environmental breakdown are thought to be affecting the mental well-being of people around the world. Protecting nature and combating climate change would reduce the toll on mental health.