BSS (Hon.) Economics
Hamdard University of Bangladesh
Introduction: Human survival critically depends on the environment- almost all material consumptions and life-saving services. Unfortunately, the man-environment relationship has become fragile, particularly since the middle of the 20th century, mainly because of the over-exploitation of natural resources for accelerating industrial production and the ever-increasing and quite greedy consumption on the other hand. Human economic activities like production and consumption are unthinkable without a sound state of the environment as they provide essential ingredients for our economic activities. Moreover, our environment also plays a critical role in assimilating the waste we produce and dump into nature, without which a comfortable life can not be imagined.
Unfortunately, our unwise actions and greediness in reaping more economic benefits create lasting negative environmental impacts. Most of the negative externalities our economies face today include climate change, deforestation, desertification, loss of wetlands and waterbodies, pollution- water, air, and sound- and indiscriminate dumping of waste into nature others, are due to such unwise actions, and our greediness. This is making our planetary health more fragile and vulnerable and making our economies vulnerable and unpredictable. Thus, we should take due initiatives to restore our planetary health to make our economies more resilient and predictable for maximizing social welfare.
Planetary Health: Planetary health is rooted in the indigenous knowledge and wisdom that our lives are intertwined with the land we live on. Human life depends upon the earth, and our actions determine the quality of our environment.
In other words, planetary health is described as ” the accomplishment of the maximum achievable level of health, well-being, and fairness across the globe by careful focusing on the political, economic, and social structures of society that will ultimately determine the course of society and the planet’s natural environments that define the safe environment limits within which humanity can flourish. Global well-being refers to the condition of the ecological systems that sustain human development.”
Planetary Health Initiative: The state of the planet, including its ecosystems, communities, and cultures, is directly linked to the quality of life on earth. They depend on. It’s a way to look at the political, social, and economic systems that the state impacts to find ways to improve its resilience. For instance, planetary health is the case of polluted water, soil, and air. In 2012, the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that 8.9 million fatalities globally might be attributed to exposure to these contaminated media, with 8.4 million deaths occurring in poor and middle-income nations. Despite its pervasiveness, national policies and International development almost always fail to address environmental contamination.
The Principles of Planetary Health: There is an emphasis on stewardship, a concept becoming increasingly relevant due to human activity, such as energy generation and food production, that adversely affects the systems. This has given rise to the Anthropocene, which describes the most recent period in history in which human activity has significantly impacted the planet’s climate and ecosystems. Planetary health is becoming essential as overconsumption habits have led to global warming, which has several adverse effects on people’s health and the environment. A group of earth systems and environmental scientists from the Stockholm resilience center introduced the idea of nine planetary limits. Within each, people may evolve through generations. The planetary boundaries, particularly climate change, biogeochemical fluxes, land-system change, and biosphere, have already been breached, according to a 2015 update to these rules.
In the planetary framework, the authors concluded that the transgression of these boundaries had created a risk of destabilizing the earth’s system. The boundary framework cannot mandate how societies should manage their growth or describe the necessity for deliberate political choices that incorporate human characteristics such as fairness and equality, which are not mentioned in the boundary framework. The Planetary Boundary Framework is cited for contributing to decision-makers to ensure that social development occurs sustainably and is long-lasting.
Fragile State of Man-Environment Relationship and World Economies Today: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), planetary health refers to the attainment of the highest possible level of fitness, well-being, and equity for all people everywhere by paying careful attention to the political, economic, and social systems that determine the course of human history and the natural systems of the planet that set the bounds of what is ecologically sustainable. Maintaining a sound planetary system is vital for human civilization and its flourishment. Unfortunately, if we look at our surrounding environment, we can easily understand how things are going far against the healthy state of the domain.
- Climate Change and Economic Consequences: Global warming-led climate change has enormous economic consequences on our economies. According to the famous Stern Review (2007), climate change threatens the essential access to water, food production, and healthcare are all crucial aspects of human existence., and the use of land and the environment. It also mentioned that the annual costs of stabilizing between 500 and 550ppm CO2e are around 1% of global GDP if we start to take intense action now. It would already be challenging and costly to aim to stabilize at 450ppm CO2e. If we delay, the opportunity to stabilize at 500-550ppm CO2e may slip away. The report also suggested that The worst effects of climate change may still be avoided. Suppose decisive collective action starts now. It indicates that our planetary health can be improved, and potential damages can be minimized only if the required steps are taken immediately.
- Deforestation and the Global Economies: According to the FAO (2020), forests cover 31 percent of the global land area, which is 4.06 billion hectares, or approximately 5000m2 per person, although forests are not equally distributed around the globe. It also mentioned that It is projected that 420 million hectares of forest have been destroyed since 1990 due to various land uses being developed in that area. However, the rate of deforestation has decreased over the past three decades. Between 2000 and 2010, 40% of tropical deforestation was caused by large-scale commercial agriculture (mainly cattle ranching and cultivation of soya beans and oil palm). Another 33% was driven by local subsistence agriculture. (FAO, 2020). According to ActionAid (), about 250 million people in poor rural areas live in forests, home to 80% of the world’s known land-based animal species. Thus deforestation not only means the loss of forest resources required for global consumption and production but also directly impacts those forest-dwelling people and their livelihoods.
- Land Degradation, Drought, Desertification, and Their Economic Consequences: According to the European Commission (EC, 2021), The economic development and population growth of the globe are both factors that are increasing the amount of strain placed on the world’s land resources. Poor land management leads to land degradation, reducing its capacity to carry out essential services, such as food production, economic value, and biological and cultural diversity. Desertification, the most severe type of land degradation, is a phenomenon that occurs worldwide and is impacted by various factors and affects climate change and biodiversity loss. It is understood that forest fires, droughts, and other forms of land degradation cost the global economy as much as 15 trillion dollars every year and are deepening the climate change crisis.
- Loss of Wetlands and Waterbodies: Wetlands are often called the most productive ecosystems on the earth’s surface, but most people consider their wastelands. Thus wetlands are misunderstood and converted quite indiscriminately. The COP-12 of the Ramsar Convention (2015) mentioned that 64% of the global wetlands had been lost since 1900. This costs the world an estimated US$20 trillion annually due to the loss of wetland ecosystem services. This information can help us understand how important it is to stop wetland degradation and loss of waterbodies for our economic interests.
- Pollutions and Their Economic Costs: Today’s corruption has become a significant cause of concern. According to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health (2017), in 2015 alone, Nine million premature fatalities, or sixteen percent of all deaths worldwide, were attributed to illnesses brought on by polluted air, water, and soil. More people are killed each year by being exposed to polluted air, water, and earth than by cigarettes, famine, natural disasters, war, AIDS, or malaria combined. It further observed that the global financial costs of pollution are enormous: a whopping $4.6 trillion per year or 6.2% of global economic output. This speaks to the urgency of controlling all types of pollution to make a better world and a more resilient global economy.
- Generation of Waste and Economic Consequences: According to the World Bank (2018), the world generated about 2.01 billion tonnes of waste in 2016 (of that 242 million tonnes were plastic waste only), which may increase upto 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050, if enough measures are not taken to address the issue on an urgent basis. The report also mentioned that 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent gases in 2016, over 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions, came from the processing and disposal of waste. The global emissions. This demands substantial budgetary resources for dealing with waste management issues by the world’s urban authorities. Municipalities in low-income countries spend about 20 percent of their budgets on waste management.
In addition to the problems mentioned earlier and concerns, the world has faced many other environmental and ecosystem-related challenges, particularly since the latter half of the 20th century. Issues of loss of biodiversity, floods and waterlogging, landslides, soil erosion, riverbank erosion, wildfire, the salinity of soil and waterbodies, and groundwater contamination, among others, are also causing severe economic challenges for world economies.
Restoring Planetary Health for Resilient Economies: Against the above backdrop, we must take immediate steps to assess the scale of these challenges and take appropriate steps to minimize their adverse consequences, including economic losses and costs on our economies. These demand designing all proper policy and planning levels, undertaking required investment, active collaboration, and cooperation. For these, some issues like investing in appropriate technologies and their equitable access globally can play a crucial role. Similarly, rearranging public health issues to facing challenges like the ongoing covid-19 pandemic and its health concerns is another area of great interest. It is believed that technology and health investment can make a big difference in our fight against many global matters related to the environment and health issues. Against this backdrop, I would like to suggest the following steps and initiatives be taken on an urgent basis to ensure a more resilient and equitable global economic system:
Global Level Initiatives: Global-level steps are needed to address issues faced by the global communities. Even many regional or country-level problems should also get international attention considering collective responsibilities and cooperation in the form of scientific, technical, and financial assistance are the keys to solving many such issues for the resource-poor developing and least-developed countries. Unfortunately, no effective dialogue and cooperation can be possible unless the world communities develop a proactive mentality and attitude. They are solving issues like climate change, deforestation, loss of wetlands, transboundary pollution, etc., and demand cooperation, partnership, and a true sense of brotherhood. This is extremely important to address the effective management of such global-level challenges.
Regional Level Initiatives: In addition to the global level steps and initiatives, it is equally urgent to have regional level collaboration and cooperation for addressing regional level issues like water sharing for transboundary rivers and watersides (e.g., water sharing for the Brahmaputra River), solving deforestation problem for common forestlands (e.g., for many African countries; Bangladesh and India for the Sundarbans), addressing transboundary water or air pollution, etc.
National Level Initiatives: Initiatives taken at the national level are incredibly urgent for addressing local, regional, and international issues and concerns responsible for weakening our planet’s environmental health. Appropriate policy and planning, designing suitable regulatory measures, initiating the proper enforcement mechanism, and large-scale awareness can play a vital role in addressing such issues at the national level.
Micro-level Initiatives: Every individual and firm must also play their role in addressing the issues facing our planetary system today. Individual actions as economic entities- consumers and producers can make a significant difference and thus can also produce a favorable macro-level outcome. Therefore, every individual, household, firm, organization, institution, and platform must play their responsibilities to make our actions effective for a more resilient world and its economic system.
Concluding Remarks: It is understood that our world has been facing severe environmental and social challenges, which are primarily responsible for many of the current conflicts and human suffering. Such challenges are also responsible for much of the world’s economic concerns in the form of loss of productivity, increasing costs of production and consumption, and thus a reduction in economic welfare and prosperity. It is, therefore, essential for us to recognize such challenges, come up with shared understandings and responsibilities, and try to fix them or minimize their adverse consequences to make our economies more resilient against such challenges to feed the unfed, bring out the poor from the vicious circle of poverty, create opportunities for the less fortunate ones and ensure economic justice with more economic prosperity.
- FAO (2020). State of the World’s Forests-2020. Available online at: https://www.fao.org/state-of-forests/en/
- ActionAid (??). The Economic Effect of Deforestation. Available online at: https://actionaidrecycling.org.uk/economic-effect-of-deforestation/
- EC (2021). Desertification and Drought. EU Science Lab. Available online at: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/research-topic/desertification-and-drought
- The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health (2017). Available online at: https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/pollution-and-health
- The World Bank (2018). What a Waste 2.0. Available online at: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/30317
- United Nations Climate change. Planetary health. Available online at: https://unfccc.int/climateaction/un-global-climate-action-awards/Planetary-health .