Caring For The Planet At A Public Health School: Four Women Converge in London

A COVID kind of portrait. Clockwise from top left: Kathy, Nina, Rosa, Kelly
An LSHTM crowd laughs and learns at the annual Planetary Health Pub Quiz on December 5, 2019
Kathy spoons jam into a vegan cookie well past midnight on the night before the Christmas Fair.
Kathy and Rosa entice customers to try vegan cookies at the Bloomsbury Colleges Sustainable Christmas Fair on December 11th, 2019.
Nina offers a selection of wildlife photography cards at the Bloomsbury Colleges Sustainable Christmas Fair on December 11, 2019.
Nina made this sketch to advertise our eco-anxiety workshop.
  • As you go about your work for a healthy planet, whatever your work might be, seek out a community. We are stronger when we work together, and we all need support at times.
  • Listen and read deeply. We each have much to learn and a limited perspective. Listen to others who have different experiences from you and read the writings of previous generations who built this movement. It’s neither a sprint nor a marathon — it’s a relay race.
  • Work to decolonise your school, workplace or other communities. LSHTM is having hard conversations about the links between the environment, health and equity, but we have yet to accomplish meaningful change. If the Planetary Health movement does not seriously decolonize public health and centers equity, it alienates those of us who are immigrants, people of color, and White allies. We find hope in the widespread protests to end racism, and we encourage everyone to see the connections among racism, environmental degradation, climate change and ill health. LSHTM’s director, Dr. Peter Piot, recently called racism “a public health crisis” and pledged to collaborate with LSHTM’s Decolonizing Global Health group “to ensure the lived experiences of staff and students are embedded throughout.” The time is right to listen to historically-marginalised voices understand what kind of Planetary Health movement makes sense to them. Only then will we achieve our goal to unite instead of alienate.
  • Be courageous. Try practicing a cycle of educate-act-reflect: read deeply to understand what you are advocating, take action, reflect on your emotions and impact, and repeat. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes — we all make ‘em! Get out there and try. Be ready to take criticism and learn from your mistakes. You have nothing to lose.
  • Use your voice. “Planetary Health” is a new term, and many people may not understand the connections between health and the environment. You may not feel like an expert, but whoever you are, you know a lot. If you’re a scientist, translate technical jargon into accessible concepts. If you’re a nurse, talk to your patients about climate change and health. Give examples of what Planetary Health means on the ground — the Planetary Health Alliance Anthology of Solutions is a great place to start.
  • Tell your story. Each of our passions for a healthy planet is underpinned by our own experiences and the places we grew up in. Kelly found her passion growing up in the Peruvian Andes, working with farmers and piloting community-designed greenhouses to adapt to climate change and secure nutrition. Nina grew up observing organisms in the rainy evergreen forests of Washington State and the rocky tidepools of Puget Sound, and turned her love of microbes into research on restoring ecosystems for human health. Rosa grew up near forest, and from a young age connected with nature to play, reflect, and calm down. Later, she found her passion and responsibility in environmental activism while studying medicine in Berlin. Kathy studied medicine in the German city of Tuebingen with a vision of making positive changes in peoples’ lives which, paired with reverence for the ecosystem called Earth, fuels her passion to ignite transformative actions for planetary health. These are stories worth telling. What’s yours?

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Planetary Health Alliance

Planetary Health Alliance

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Generating better understanding of the links between accelerating global environmental change and human health to support policy making and public education