Planetary Health Ethics: Beyond First Principles
2. Capturing the Zeitgeist: Opportunities and Threats
3. The Unique Approach of Planetary Health
4. Thoughts into Action
5. The Value of Interdisciplinarity
6. A 12-Step Programme for Earth
7. Planetary Health Ethics: Beyond First Principles
7.1. Imagination Challenges
- Planetary Health involves the continual act of attunement to our bodies, the environment, the cultures we exist within, other inhabitants of the Earth and Earth’s complete biosphere. Human actions should aim to inflict no harm on the planet.
- Humans are inescapably part of the animal kingdom and of Earth’s biosphere. Re-alignment with human evolutionary history, and an understanding of what costs or benefits may be involved when alignment is abandoned, should be an imperative for Planetary Health.
- Planetary Health considers each human generation to be the custodians, not the masters, of Earth and its biosphere, responsible to future generations as well as to their own. We must leave the planet in a healthy state for future generations; they have equal rights to live on a healthy planet.
- Planetary Health is a transdisciplinary ethos open to all. It does not belong to any one particular profession or social group. It not only requires voices to be heard from within academia, civil society, government (at all levels, especially at the local), the world of business and from outside traditional institutional powers, but also must facilitate the incorporation of these actors into a collaborative discussion.
7.2. Knowledge Challenges
- The biosphere—particularly with regard to the potential for broad ecological diversity that exists within it—must be valued for its own sake, not only for the production of the food, medicines, and ecosystem services that are of benefit to humanity. New ways to understand, measure and value nature may require the entire biosphere to be afforded legal rights. It is insufficient and unjust to confer rights to individual nonhuman entities on the basis of how humans perceive it and/or on calculable economic measures, such as ecosystem services.
- Improving human relationships with the natural world, and ultimately improving human health by reducing environmental damage, may challenge the current dominant paradigms of economic growth and development. We must not shy away from new ways of thinking about economic growth [20,43] that eschew exponential growth rates forever if planetary damage is a byproduct. We must seek to redefine the notion of economic output and what it means to be productive. Planetary Health will benefit from indigenous populations’ understandings of the value of air, land and sea.
- Planetary Health workers must seek ways to balance equity of, and accessibility to, the past, present, and future benefits derived from human innovations. Future progress and development must not be impeded, but new benefits must not further stress the Earth System addressed by the planetary boundaries model. This will need us to critically debate and formulate new ways to deal with the complex equity issues at the heart of planetary health, that are simultaneously inter-generational, inter-species and social.
- Early indications of ecosystem and planet-wide harm must be recognized and acted on at an international level with a fair sharing of the costs, assessed on ability to pay and responsibility for the damage caused. Practical alternatives to the cause of the harm must be developed, shared and implemented, not just discussed.
7.3. Implementation Challenges
- As an ethos, Planetary Health must not only be a way of working, but also a way of living with which all people can engage. Active engagement with community groups and smaller organizations must be facilitated.
- Planetary Health followers should attempt to enhance the early recognition of severe deviation from healthy environmental conditions and seek to realign human societies with their ecosystems at the earliest possible opportunity, supported by robust evidence of the detriments of inaction. Much of this evidence will be locally specific, requiring us to think globally and act locally.
- Actions to address Planetary Health should follow a precautionary principle until we can identify where the risk of further deviation from optimal environmental conditions lies in future. We must also provide solutions and support for mitigating these risks, including strengthening the legal instruments for protection of nature . This support may come in the form of financial and technological assistance, new legislation and structures of international governance, or knowledge sharing as appropriate. For each context, participatory approaches with local partners should be key to developing the best solutions.
- A Planetary Health approach will provide the evidence on the basis of which sound policy decisions can be based and locally sensitive action taken. In the face of ideology and vested interests that often seek to ignore, denigrate, and undermine evidence, the Planetary Health approach must seek to sustain advocacy and action.
8. Next Steps
Conflicts of Interest
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Foster, A.; Cole, J.; Farlow, A.; Petrikova, I. Planetary Health Ethics: Beyond First Principles. Challenges 2019, 10, 14. https://doi.org/10.3390/challe10010014
Foster A, Cole J, Farlow A, Petrikova I. Planetary Health Ethics: Beyond First Principles. Challenges. 2019; 10(1):14. https://doi.org/10.3390/challe10010014Chicago/Turabian Style
Foster, Alexander, Jennifer Cole, Andrew Farlow, and Ivica Petrikova. 2019. "Planetary Health Ethics: Beyond First Principles" Challenges 10, no. 1: 14. https://doi.org/10.3390/challe10010014