One of the core ideas that animated Bioneers from our inception over 30 years ago was that environmental and social impacts on human health were not sufficiently recognized and integrated into the mainstream medical system: a much broader understanding of human health was urgently needed. In our 2004 book, Ecological Medicine, we highlighted the voices of visionary thought leaders from a wide range of fields (Environmental Justice, “Green” Chemistry, Eco-psychology, the Precautionary Principle, Holistic/Complementary Medicine, etc.) who were all pointing in their own ways to this idea of the need to radically expand the concept of public health.
It was clear to us that a new medical system, one that drew from the most enlightened edges of modern science and the wisdom of ancient traditions of “natural” healing, that understood that human health was inextricably linked to the integrity and vibrancy of ecosystems and the entire biosphere as well as to socio-economic and cultural structures, was being born, but hadn’t yet fully coalesced. Since the publication of that text, much progress has been made as new thought-leaders have come forward to further refine and deepen that understanding, but we still have a long way to go, and the Covid-19 pandemic has just dramatically driven home just how critical social inequities and human perturbations of animal habitats and whole ecosystems are in shaping human health outcomes.
Samuel Myers, a leading figure in the study of the impacts on human health of the accelerating disruptions to Earth’s natural systems shares the guiding principles and implications of this newly emergent, rapidly growing field, recently dubbed “Planetary Health.”