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Policy & Global Development

Human Health Depends on the Planet Resources

A forum puts the spotlight on planetary health as a new way of defining human health and well-being


How can we pursue social and economic progress while protecting the planet and the well-being of future generations? A forum coorganized by ISGlobal, the Pompeu Fabra University and the European School of Humanities on February 18 and 19 at the Palau Macaya, “la Caixa”, aimed at answering this question from a planet sustainability perspective.    

The event was introduced and presented by Josep Ramoneda, Director of the European School of Humanities, and Rafael Vilasanjuan, Director of Policy and Global Development at ISGlobal, who reminded the audience that the drastic population increase (10 billion by 2050), particularly among the middle class, will place further stress on the planet. 

Josep M Antó, Scientific Director at ISGlobal, exposed three thesis and one proposal that were the central thread of the debate: first, the huge impact of air pollution on human health (more than 9 million people die each year due to pollution). Second, we still know little about the indirect effects that climate health will have – and is having- on our health. Third, human health has much improved in the last decades, but at the cost of the planet’s resources and without reducing social inequities. To respond, the knowledge system needs more interdisciplinarity and changes in governance must occur in order to translate this knowledge into actions that take social justice into account. In this sense, taxes could be a mechanism to regulate consumption and guarantee equity, underlined Humberto Llavador, an environmental economist.  

The role of governance was a recurring topic. For Josep Lluís Mármol, vice rector of Innovation at UPF, we do not have the political instruments to tackle global problems, and the few that exist are not democratic and open enough. “We need to break with the classical order in international law,” he explained, where the new actors are no longer states but for example cities, and the new mechanisms include citizens. Xavier Rodó, head of ISGlobal’s Climate and Health programme, reiterated the idea that cities would be more effective than states in taking certain actions. The increase in temperature is expected to be even higher in the Mediterranean Basin, and Barcelona must start acting.   

“When you go from knowledge to action, politics come in,” said Ramoneda, and this is one of the major challenges, according to the participants. We need a strategic thinking that includes future generations and ensures all actors are equal. Along this line, ISGlobal epidemiologist Cristina O’Callaghan, insisted on the importance of including local communities in the solution, since they are already suffering the consequences of climate change. Moreover, they have the best knowledge of their environment, said the etnoarchaeologist Carla Lancelotti. “There is a profound disconnection between human beings and the natural system on which we depend,” underlined the environmental economist Antxon Olabe.

Jaume Casals, UPF Rector, underlined the urgency and need to tackle these challenges in a transdisciplinary way and incorporate planetary well-being as a cross-cutting concept in all areas and academic activities.