World Health Organization, calls for the integration of human health, environmental health, and sustainable development at the Rio Conventions:
Health is our most basic human right and one of the most important indicators of sustainable development. We rely on healthy ecosystems to support healthy communities and societies. Well- functioning ecosystems provide goods and services essential for human health. These include nutrition and food security, clean air and fresh water, medicines, cultural and spiritual values, and contributions to local livelihoods and economic development. They can also help to limit disease and stabilize the climate. Health policies need to recognize these essential contributions. The three so-called Rio Conventions arising from the 1992 Earth Summit – the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification – together aim to maintain well-functioning ecosystems for the benefit of humanity.
There is growing evidence of the impacts of global environmental changes on ecosystems and people, and a renewed consciousness among peoples and nations of the need to act quickly to protect the planet’s ecological and climatic systems. In the last two decades, the Rio Conventions have brought global attention to the impacts of anthropogenic change on the ecosystems of the planet. Increasingly unsustainable practices are placing pressure on natural resources to meet the demands of our economies and the needs of a rapidly growing global population, resulting in soil, water and air pollution, increased emissions of greenhouse gases, deforestation and land use change, expanded urban areas, introduction of non-native species, and inadequately planned development of water and land resources to meet food and energy needs. These changes are having both direct and indirect impacts on our climate, ecosystems and biological diversity. More than ever, the pursuit of public health, at all levels from local to global, now depends on careful attention to the processes of global environmental change.
Traditional knowledge and scientific evidence both point to the inexorable role of global environmental changes in terms of their impact on human health and well-being. In many countries, anthropogenic changes to agriculture-related ecosystems have resulted in great benefits for human health and well-being, in particular through increased global food production and improved food security. These positive impacts, however, have not benefited everyone, and unsustainable levels of use of ecosystems have resulted in irreparable loss and degradation, with negative consequences for health and well-being. These range from emerging infectious dis- eases to malnutrition, and contribute to the rapid rise in noncommunicable diseases. Large-scale human transformation of the environment has contributed to increased disease burdens associated with the expansion of ecological and climatic conditions favourable for disease vectors. For all humans, the provision of adequate nutrition, clean water, and long-term food security depend directly on functioning agro-ecosystems and indirectly on the regulating ecosystem services of the biosphere; these ecosystem services can be eroded if overexploited and poorly managed.
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