Countering 21st Century Social-Environmental Threats to Growing Global Populations

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See if you have enough points for this item. Sign in. This book brings together in a single volume a grand overview of solutions - political, economic, and scientific - to social and environmental problems that are related to the growth of human populations in areas that can least cope with them now. Viktor Schauberger. Challenging Legitimacy at the Precipice of Energy Calamity. Debra J. Anthony J. Eric Marland.

Destruction of the Environment as a Consequence of Overpopulation

Food Waste Reduction and Valorisation. Piergiuseppe Morone. Renewable Energy in the Middle East. Michael Mason. China's Energy Efficiency and Conservation. Bin Su. Dinesh Surroop. Enrico Fels. Meeting the Challenge of Sustainable Mobility.

Table of contents

Harry Geerlings. Zhenjiang Shen. Ozay Mehmet. The Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. Barbara Janusz-Pawletta. Daniel Spreng. Barun Deb Pal. Resilience-Oriented Urban Planning.

Environmental degradation

Yoshiki Yamagata. Energy Solutions to Combat Global Warming. XinRong Zhang. Climate-Smart Technologies. Walter Leal Filho. Global Energy Demand and 2-degree Target, Report Valentin Crastan. On the Compatibility of Flexible Instruments. Wytze van der Gaast. The Next Economics. Woodrow W. Clark II. The Nuclear Imperative. Jeff Eerkens. An Evaluation of Japanese Environmental Regulations. Toshi H. Green Fuels Technology. Carlos Ricardo Soccol.

Cars and Carbon. Theodoros I. Peeking at Peak Oil. Kjell Aleklett.

Carbon Capture, Storage and Use. Wilhelm Kuckshinrichs. A Primer on Nonmarket Valuation. Patricia A. Antonio Colmenar-Santos. In this paper, we discuss several of the emerging health issues. Lacking space to be comprehensive, we focus upon infectious diseases, the decline in life expectancy in several regions, the increasingly ominous challenge of large-scale environmental change and how globalization, trade and economic policy relate to indices of public health. Other emerging health issues not discussed here also reflect major recent shifts in human ecology.

They too pose great environmental or social risks to health. They include urbanization, population ageing, the breakdown of traditional culture and relations and the worldwide move towards a more affluent diet and its associated environmentally damaging food production methods McMichael, There are two fundamental causes for the selected emerging health risks.

First, most important, is the global dominance of economic policies which accord primacy to market forces, liberalized trade and the associated intensification of material throughput at the expense of other aspects of social, environmental and personal well-being. For millions in the emerging global middle class, materialism and consumerism have increased at the expense of social relations and leisure time. The gap between rich and poor, both domestically and internationally, has increased substantially in recent decades United Nations Development Program, Inequality between countries has weakened the United Nations and other global institutions.

Foreign aid has declined, replaced by claims that market forces will reduce poverty and provide public goods, including health care and environmental stability. The second fundamental threat to the improvement and maintenance of population health is the recent advent of unprecedented global environmental changes. The scale of the human enterprise numbers, economic intensity, waste generation is now such that we are collectively exceeding the capacity of the planet to supply, replenish and absorb.

Stocks of accessible oil appear to be declining. Meanwhile, the global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion, and of other greenhouse gases from industrial and agricultural activities, are rapidly and now dangerously altering the global climate. Worldwide, land degradation, fisheries depletion, freshwater shortages and biodiversity losses are all increasing. The human population, now exceeding million, continues to increase by over 70 million persons per annum.

The number of chronically undernourished people over million is again increasing, after gradual declines in the s and early s Food and Agricultural Organization, Famines in Africa remain frequent, and million undernourished people live in India alone.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of people are overnourished and, particularly via obesity, will incur an increasing burden of chronic diseases, especially diabetes and heart disease. The scale of these health risks is unprecedented. The global food crises of the s were averted by the subsequent Green Revolution.

Today, a broader-based revolution is required, not only to increase food production again , but also to promote peace and international cooperation, slow climate change, ensure environmental protection, eliminate hunger and extreme poverty, quell resurgent infectious diseases and neutralize the obesogenic environment.

This enormous population health task goes well beyond that envisaged by the MDGs. It is, of course, difficult to get an accurate measure of these emerging risks to health. Some, such as climate change, future food sufficiency and the threat from weapons of mass destruction, may prove soluble. However, because of the inevitable time lag in understanding, evaluating and responding to these complex problems, the health promotion community should now take serious account of them.

There is an expanding peer-reviewed literature on these several emerging problem, areas. In the early s, it was widely assumed that infectious diseases would continue to decline: sanitation, vaccines and antibiotics were at hand. The subsequent generalized upturn in infectious diseases was unexpected. Worldwide, at least 30 new and re-emerging infectious diseases have been recognized since Weiss and McMichael, Diarrhoeal disease, acute respiratory infections and other infections continue to kill more than seven million infants and children annually Bryce et al.

Mortality rates among children are increasing in parts of sub-Saharan Africa Horton, The recent upturn in the range, burden and risk of infectious diseases reflects a general increase in opportunities for entry into the human species, transmission and long-distance spread, including by air travel.

Environmental degradation - Wikipedia

Although specific new infectious diseases cannot be predicted, understanding of the conditions favouring disease emergence and spread is improving. Influences include increased population density, increasingly vulnerable population age distributions and persistent poverty Farmer, Many environmental, political and social factors contribute. These include increasing encroachment upon exotic ecosystems and disturbance of various internal biotic controls among natural ecosystems Patz et al.

Industrialized livestock farming also facilitates infections such as avian influenza emerging and spreading, and perhaps to increase in virulence. Both under- and over-nutrition and impaired immunity including in people with poorly controlled diabetes—an obesity-associated disease now increasing globally contribute to the persistence and spread of infectious diseases. Large-scale human-induced environmental change, including climate change, is of increasing importance.


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We inhabit a microbially dominated world. We should therefore frame our relations with microbes primarily in ecological not military terms. The world's infectious agents, perhaps with the exceptions of smallpox and polio, will not be eliminated. But much can be done to reduce human population vulnerability and avert conditions conducive to the occurrence of many infectious diseases.

This is an important focus for health promotion. The upward trajectory in life expectancy forecast in the s has recently been reversed in several regions, especially in Russia and sub-Saharan Africa McMichael et al. These could, in principle, be either temporary aberrations or unconnected to one another. However, identifiable factors appear to link these declines.

The fall in life expectancy since in Russia is unprecedented for a technologically developed country. Many proximal causes have been documented, including alcoholism, suicide, violence, accidents and cardiovascular disease. Multiple drug-resistant tuberculosis is widespread in Russian prisons. Collectively, these factors reflect social disintegration and crisis Shkolnikov et al. More broadly, indebtedness and ill-judged economic development policies, including charges for schooling and health services, have also impaired population health in Africa, following decades of earlier improvement.

The intersectoral implications for health promotion are clear. Age pyramids skewed to young adults have almost certainly played a role in this violence Mesquida and Wiener, , together with resource scarcity, pre-existing ethnic tensions, poor governance and international inactivity when crises develop. Sustainable population health depends on the viability of the planet's life-support systems McMichael et al. For humans, achieving and maintaining good population health is the true goal of sustainability, dependent, in turn, on achieving sustainable supportive social, economic and environmental conditions.

Today, however, human-induced global environmental changes pose risks to health on unprecedented spatial and temporal scales. These environmental changes, evident at worldwide scale, include climate change, biodiversity loss, downturns in productivity of land and oceans, freshwater depletion and disruption of major elemental cycles e.

In coming decades, these long-term change processes will exact an increasing health toll via physical hazards, infectious diseases, food and water shortages, conflict and an inter-linked decline in societal capacity. Our waste products are also spilling over e. We are thus bequeathing an increasingly depleted and disrupted natural world to future generations.

Although the resultant adverse health effects are likely to impinge unequally and, often, after time lag, this decline could eventually harm, albeit at varying levels, the entire human population. Global climate change now attracts particular attention. Fossil fuel combustion, in particular, has caused unprecedented concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases. The majority expert view is that human-induced climate change is now underway Oreskes, The power of storms, long predicted by climate change modellers to increase Emanuel, , appears in combination with reduced wetlands and failure to maintain infrastructure to have contributed to the New Orleans flood.

WHO has estimated that, globally, over deaths annually result from recent change in the world's climate relative to the baseline average climate of — McMichael et al. This number will increase for at least the next several decades. The most direct risks to future health from climate change are posed by heatwaves, exemplified by the estimated 25 extra deaths in Europe in August , storms and floods. Climate-sensitive biotic systems will also be affected. This includes: i the vector—pathogen—host relationships involved in transmission of various infections, vector-borne and other, ii the production of aeroallergens and iii the agro-ecosystems that generate food.

Changes in the world's climate and ecosystems, biodiversity losses and other large-scale environmental stresses will, in combination, affect the productivity of local agro-ecosystems, freshwater quality and supplies and the habitability, safety and productivity of coastal zones. Such impacts will cause economic dislocation and population displacement. Conflicts and migrant flows are likely to increase, potentiating violence, injury, infectious diseases, malnutrition, mental disorders and other health problems. The important message here is that, increasingly, human health is influenced by socio-economic and environmental changes that originate well beyond national or local boundaries.

The major, perhaps irreversible, changes to the biosphere's life-support system, including its climate system, increase the likelihood of adverse inter-generational health impacts. Major pathways by which global and other large-scale environmental changes affect population health based on McMichael et al. Relationships between: i social and environmental conditions and their underlying economic and demographic influences and ii the MDG topics. Two of this paper's main issues, environmental changes and infectious diseases, are explicitly represented as boxes.

Many of the MDG targets are already in jeopardy. Without it, the other concomitants of sustainability—economic productivity, social stability and, most importantly, population health—are unachievable. An additional reason to advance the MDGs is because that will slow population growth rates and thus reduce our collective ecological footprint Wackernagel et al. Both the demographic and epidemiological transitions are less orderly than predicted. In some regions, declining fertility rates have overshot the rate needed for an economically and socially optimal age structure.

In other countries, population growth has declined substantially because of the reduced life expectancy discussed earlier McMichael et al. In the s, there was widespread concern over imminent famine, affecting much of the developing world. Meanwhile, the earlier view that unconstrained population growth had little adverse impact upon environmental amenity and other conditions needed for human wellbeing gained strength. However, in the last few years, this position has been re-evaluated United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division, There is an increasing recognition of the adverse effects of rapid population growth, especially in developing countries, including from high unemployment when population increase outstrips opportunity.

Some argue that unsustainable regional population growth is characterized by age pyramids excessively skewed to young age, high levels of under- and unemployment and intense competition for limited resources. These circumstances jeopardize public health.

Although Russia and parts of sub-Saharan Africa have vastly different demographic characteristics, there are important similarities in their recent declines in life expectancy. Both regions have a significant scarcity of public goods for health Smith et al. In Russia, there is a lack of equality, safety and public health services. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, there is inadequate governance and food security as well as public safety and public health services.

Viewed on an even larger scale, the miserable conditions for millions of people in these regions accord with a global class system, in which privileged groups in both developed and developing countries act often in concert to protect their own position at the expense of others Butler, : Navarro, The growth of the global population and its environmental impact means that we may now be less than a generation from exhausting the biosphere's environmental buffer, unless we can rein in our excessive demands on the natural world.

If not, then the demographic and epidemiological transitions, already faltering, will be further affected. Population growth may then slow not only because of the usual development-associated fertility decrease but also because of persistently high death rates elsewhere. Meanwhile, the growing awareness of these issues, the publicity of the MDGs, the ongoing campaigns against poverty and Third-World debt, calls for public health to address political violence and the renewed vigour of social movements for health McCoy et al. These should be welcomed and acted upon. Although differing viewpoints Bettcher and Lee, are inevitable, the strength of this debate signifies that the net gain for population health from globalization is uncertain.

Several important health dividends often attributed to globalization have plausible alternative explanations. Many health gains in developing countries may be the time-lagged result of development policies and technologies introduced before the era of structural adjustment and partial economic liberalization, which heralded modern globalization.

The accelerated demographic transition in China is a greatly under-recognized role in that country's rapidly growing wealth, as were China's earlier investments in health and education. In reality, wealthy populations have long tilted the economic and political playing field in ways that ensure a disproportionate flow of trade benefits towards privileged populations Mehmet, A powerful real-politic impediment to the complete removal of trade-distorting national subsidies is that this would probably entail a relatively greater loss for wealthy populations than for the poor.

In contrast, the economic disadvantages incurred to date through partial market deregulation have largely been confined to relatively poor and politically weak populations in developed countries.

The pre-eminence of modern economic theory presents a major obstacle for health promoters. The narrow focus of the World Trade Organization, which largely discounts the often adverse social, environmental and public health impacts of trade, underscores the problem.



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