Understanding the relationship between people and the planet is something that has become much higher profile over the last year due to global – and local – publicity and campaigning. We have known for decades that the increasing population of our earth – now in excess of 7.75 billion people – creates challenges, but when the earth itself is unhealthy, those challenges become far greater. However, it’s not just the number of people that is important – it’s their carbon footprint.
Programmes such as the BBC’s “Blue Planet”, fronted by Sir David Attenborough, the mobilisation of thousands of young people in support of Greta Thunberg’s climate change concerns, and the protests of groups such as Extinction Rebellion have crystallised the concern that many people have about the damage that is being done to our earth.
Local authorities in Devon and Cornwall have responded swiftly and assertively to this public challenge and planning for the Climate Emergency Response is now well underway: this local leadership is acknowledged.
But while public awareness has increased, there is less obvious evidence of sustainable change in human behaviour that will result in the sort of improvements that we need if we are to safeguard our planet’s health.
With increasing evidence about the importance of kindness in creating and sustaining social relationships and communities, there is a pressing need to be kind to our planet as well.
Behaviours that damage the health of the planet may also be damaging our own health as well. A recent global report on health and climate change has noted that, without change, a child born today will face a world that is, on average, 4°C warmer by their 71st birthday – putting their health under threat for a range of reasons.
The structure of this report covers different aspects of our environment and our health and explores the evidence, the impact on health and wellbeing and what can be done to manage the impact to create greater resilience. It complements Devon’s new Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2020-25: “Healthy and Happy Communities”.
The purpose of this report is to explore that human dimension: the relationship between the health of people and the health of our planet, and to make recommendations which will improve the health and wellbeing of both.
Professor Virginia Pearson, Chief Officer for Communities, Public Health, Environment and Prosperity; Director of Public Health for Devon