The concept of planetary health blurs the artificial lines between health at scales of person, place and planet. At the same time, it emphasizes the integration of biological, psychological, social and cultural aspects of health in the modern environment. Our grandest challenges in the Anthropocene ultimately stem from human attitudes to each other and to our environment. However, solutions rarely confront the underlying value systems that created these interconnected problems, or the attitudes that perpetuate them. Too often, the dominant focus is on the “worst of human nature”, and devalues or neglects the importance of empathy, kindness, hope, love, creativity and mutual respect—the deeper values that unite, empower and refocus priorities of individuals and groups. Here, we call to normalize more creative, mutualistic approaches—including the perspectives of traditional and indigenous cultures—to positively influence normative value systems. We revisit the power of inspiration with the profound example of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo which galvanized a fledgling planetary health movement over 50 years ago. Through the inaugural Earth Day that followed, we are reminded that its early organizers were not constrained in how they defined the “environment”. They and their primary speakers were as concerned about value systems as they were about pollution—that we cannot hope to solve our problems without addressing the attitudes that created them in the first place. We explore the ways in which the awe of Earthrise—and the contemporary science of creativity and studies of utopian thinking—might reinvigorate imagination, kindness and mutualism. We revisit the fundamental challenge offered by Pulitzer-Prize-winning microbiologist Rene Dubos and others in the afterglow of the Earthrise photo, and the inaugural Earth Day. This is a question of imagination: What kind of world we want to live in?
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