Johannesburg - Unprecedented environmental degradation is jeopardising the health of future generations.
This is according to the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission report on Planetary Health, released by Discovery in Joburg, Manila and New York on Thursday.
The report provides the first comprehensive evidence showing how the changes to the structure and function of the Earth’s natural systems represent a growing threat to human health.
The commission comprises 15 leading academics and policymakers from institutions in eight countries, including the head of the Vitality Institute, Dr Derek Yach.
The report is titled “Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch”.
The commission notes: “We have been mortgaging the health of future generations to realise economic and developmental gains in the present. By unsustainably exploiting nature’s resources, human civilisation has flourished but now risks substantial health effects from the degradation of nature’s life support systems in the future.
“Climate change, ocean acidification, land degradation, water scarcity, overexploitation of fisheries and biodiversity loss pose serious challenges to the global health gains of the past several decades.”
Projections estimate that the world’s population could increase from the current 7.2 billion to up to 13.2 billion by 2100. “The growth in urban populations emphasises the importance of policies to improve health and the urban environment.”
In addition, urban water shortage projections show that those affected are expected to increase from 150 million to 1 billion by this year due to growth in urban populations.
The committee identified three categories of challenges that have to be addressed: conceptual and empathy failures, such as an over-reliance on gross domestic product as a measure of human progress; knowledge failures, such as failure to address social and environmental drivers of ill-health; and implementation failures, such as how governments and institutions delay recognition and responses to threats.
Probably the most important way to address environmental degradation was to appeal to individuals for action, Yach said.