Planetary Health: Human Health in an Era of Global Environmental Change

planetary health

Jennifer Cole
CABI, £30.00

I have seen the enemy and we are (still) it.

The year 2020 will be remembered as the year of Covid-19 by many, but in future it may also be remembered as a year of lost opportunity. It may be remembered as being the hottest year recorded so far, when a temperature in excess of 54°C (130°F) was reached, although by the time that such memories are elicited it may be considered to be on the ‘cool’ side.

Many years ago, Marshall McLuhan famously said that we live in a 'Global Village', but a village implies a space surrounded perhaps by fields and the occasional wood or stream where animals and birds can be found. Perhaps the metaphor should now be that we live in a Global City (since most of the world’s population are now urbanites). A better metaphor I feel is that we live on a Global (Easter) Island where mankind is wantonly destroying our resources (and all that goes with them) for the sake of some kind of monument that will remain after our passing. This bleak prospect can sometimes be made starker by unassuming prose, without hyperbole, as is the case in this (pre-COVID-19) publication on Planetary Health.

In 19 chapters that take an evolutionary biology approach to human health and global environmental change, the picture is clear for all to see. The information in the book is not new but the very blandness makes it chilling reading.

At the same time the political processes of neo-liberalism and free markets which have come to dominate world economics are not mentioned (nor indeed are the possibilities of pandemics). Yet many would argue that they are responsible for many of the ills described in the book. The apparent scramble to return to a pre-pandemic status quo by many of the worlds politicians only bodes ill for the future – a future where yet again economics takes precedence over health.

Books like this should surely be on more bookshelves, particularly those of our cherished leaders.

Derek Charlwood