What is Planetary Health? ~Thinking a step beyond SDGs~
Have you ever heard of the term “Planetary Health”?
You may have never heard of this term before. The concept of “Planetary Health” was first proposed in 2015 in the world-renowned academic journal “The Lancet.” Thus, it is still a relatively new concept.
Less than 10 years after its proposal, the idea has spread around the world and, in Japan, universities are working to raise awareness and promote the initiative, which has been garnering much attention.
Read on to find out more about Planetary Health.
What is Planetary Health?

What do you think of when you hear the term “planetary health?”

I think of global issues like environmental pollution and climate change.

Not far off! Taken literally, Planetary Health means the health of our planet, so you naturally thought of environmental issues.

Yes I did!

However, Planetary Health is a concept that proposes that the health of the planet and we, the people that live on it, are interrelated.

Hmm, Iʼm not sure I understand what youʼre getting at....

Letʼs take global warming for example. When the temperature of sea water rises, fish near the equator go north in search of moderate temperatures. This can lead to problems such as malnutrition for people who rely on fish as they will not longer be able to catch them.

So what youʼre saying is that when the planet is unhealthy, it can lead to unhealthy people and by extension unhealthy societies. However, the people who live on the planet are also the root cause.

Under the concept of Planetary Health, we work to solve these current challenges by pooling our wisdom to create a new world.

Planetary Health and the SDGs

How does Planetary Health differ from SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)?

They are similar in the sense that the aim of both is to achieve a sustainable society or global environment for future generations. Did you know that SDGs comprise 17 goals to be achieved by 2030?

Of course I do. Many initiatives are being conceived all across the world by individuals and organizations to achieve SDG targets.

However, I feel that there are some contradictions that do not get enough focus. A typical one is the fact that we often choose only some of these targets to work on when we should be paying attention to all of them.

I suppose that is fairly common.

Since planetary health is about achieving balance around the world, we focus on the relationship one thing has to another.

Can you give me a specific example?

Take the case of a forest thatʼs cut down and converted into farmland. Doing this might solve a food problem, but it can also lead to global warming and negative impacts on the ecosystem and negative impacts on the ecosystem.

I see…

Always thinking about the relationship between nature and human society, local-local relationships, and local-global relationships, and continuing to achieve short-term goals with long-term goals in mind is what Planetary Health is all about.

Do What You Can for Planetary Health in Your Daily Life

Since people live on the earth as well, we should always be thinking about the health of the entire planet. I feel like I understand a little bit more about planetary health.

In order to promote the idea of Planetary Health, we at Nagasaki University have translated a book that provides a comprehensive explanation of Planetary Health and made it into a textbook that students in each department are required to read as part of their compulsory coursework.

Why is that?

By having people in diverse fields like economics, education, agriculture, medicine, and engineering think about Planetary Health, we can build a sustainable society. The members of the planetary health team at Nagasaki University work together as one entity.

I see Nagasaki University is really putting its all into cultivating students who are Planetary Health-minded .

Yes, but we shouldn’t think of Planetary Health on too large a scale. If we do, we are prone to think of it as something that is far removed from us.

What you mean is, we should be aware of the fact that our own surroundings have a connection with our planet.

That is correct. Our food, our clothes, the electricity we use, the cars we drive.... Thinking about how these things come to us and what happens to them after weʼre done with them is a good way to start thinking about Planetary Health.