Oskar Masztalerz, 2019 Planetary Health Campus Ambassador
By Oskar Masztalerz, 2019 Planetary Health Campus Ambassador
When I first read about planetary health in summer 2017, I instantaneously felt strongly connected to its vision and ideas. And this intuitive excitement has become my beacon and my drive for the last two years, over which I dedicated a rather extensive part of my time and energy to advancing planetary health — both the field and the health of the planet itself.
Back in 2017, I couldn’t even imagine the beautiful collaborative projects that would derive from my engagement, and how many beautiful people I’d get the chance to inspire with my enthusiasm. And vice versa: Two years later, I am unbelievably thankful to have gotten in touch with so many most inspiring human beings on my way. Through my engagement with the Planetary Health Alliance, I not only learned so much about the interactions between human beings and our living planet in their whole interconnectedness, but so much more — I learned a lot about myself as a thinking, feeling, and spiritual human being embedded in and indivisibly connected to all other beings and nature as a whole.
In the few last years, I recognized planet Earth as my homestead in the universe and planetary health as my homestead in the deep jungle of disciplines, movements and concepts existing throughout the world. Since I founded the Students for Planetary Health Berlin (SfPH Berlin) in December 2017 together with other fellow human beings, I already felt like an unofficial planetary health ambassador. As we were the first planetary health initiative in Germany, we had a lot of creative freedom to develop ourselves and our group. And although we had never felt lost or lonely, our encounter with the beautiful global planetary health community at the Planetary Health Annual Meeting in June 2018 in Edinburgh made me feel even more supported and secure. Back in Berlin, I shared the spirit of the meeting and the community with our group and I am sure they had similar feelings like me. Since then, the global planetary health community has always felt like a big family for SfPH Berlin and the Planetary Health Alliance has always felt like kind of a strong backbone for my engagement.
When I was nominated as an official Planetary Health Campus Ambassador for 2019, these feelings of connectivity grew even stronger. This was of particular importance for me, because in the tension between my two fields of study — medicine and geography — and between my two heartfelt desires of environmental protection and health promotion, I sometimes felt a little caught between two stools; even though these stools are indeed one interconnected stool. Being part of the ambassador program helped to officially recognize my engagement at the intersection between these two stools, and helped me to truly see both sides of the same coin.
I still draw on the great support and companionship of Sarah Walpole, who was a brilliant and beautiful mentor for me throughout the last year. Sarah’s mentorship opened spaces for reflection in my head and enabled me to widen my perspective and concretize my focus at the same time. Although we are in very different positions and career stages, our interaction always felt like it was on an equal footing — a concept of equanimity and equality between all human beings and biodiversity which I’ve always valued in the planetary health community.
My last two years of planetary health engagement — thus my time as an unofficial and official ambassador — can only be described as a whole. I now want to briefly outline what we at SfPH Berlin achieved over the past few years convey how
all of your actions, no matter how big or small, merge with thousands of other actions into a collaborative flow of change.
In total, we organized 16 workshops and events on planetary health in very different settings for very different audiences. We gave workshops in schools and thus contributed to the creation of fertile ground for the Fridays For Future movement. We gave workshops to activists at climate camps and the Extinction Rebellion and thus contributed to an all-embracing awareness in society of planet Earth as a complex organism. We gave workshops to medical students and contributed to the formation of strong demands for the integration of Planetary Health into the medical curricula. And finally, we did a lot of networking and engagement across disciplines, such that in Germany today, the emerging topic of climate change and health is practically always told together with the positive vision of planetary health. My point is, every action has its effects.
What did I learn from my planetary health engagement? Be inclusive, be collaborative, be enthusiastic. Always and radically question everything, no matter how obvious something seems, and decide by your moral compass what is right. Let yourself be led by your intuition! Connect rational, emotional and spiritual learning. Connect with yourself, your fellow human beings and the nature you are part of.
I learned that we need a new bio-psycho-social-spiritual-ecological health model and a salutogenetic understanding of health. We need a new mode of practical clinical prevention that recognizes environmental factors as most important for the very individual health, beyond depersonalized and strictly epidemiological approaches. We need a revolutionary idea of prevention enabling all individuals to behave consciously in a positive way with positive effects on the well-being of themselves, their surrounding human beings, society as a whole and Earth as a living organism. I learned to never think that environment, society and individual health are separated from each other. I learned to include critical approaches like critical sustainability, feminist political ecology or environmental justice in my thinkings. I learned to reconnect all the different disciplines and release boisterous synergystic effects, which planetary health provides the holistic framework for. And last but not least, I learned to trust and to pass on responsibility. Care for your own well-being! Only if you love yourself and practice regenerative living for yourself, you can really contribute to change. You are the change and you‘ve got the power!
Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin