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Population Media Center & The São Paulo Declaration on Planetary Health

October 8, 2021 • Global Sustainability

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The São Paulo Declaration on Planetary Health is a multi-stakeholder call to action co-created by the global planetary health community. It outlines the actions necessary for humanity to achieve a “Great Transition” — defined as a just transformation to a world that optimizes the health & well-being of all people and the planet.

Population Media Center is a signatory to the declaration, joining over 250 other organizations from over 40 countries to help raise an alarm that the ongoing degradation of Earth’s natural systems is a clear and present danger to the health of all people everywhere.

Developed by the global planetary health community with support from the United Nations Development Programme, the Declaration states that humans must make transformational shifts now in how we live in order to optimize the health and well-being of all people and the planet we depend on. It also guides people across society with suggested concrete actions that support a more just and regenerative post-pandemic world.

The Declaration notes that achieving the Great Transition will require rapid and deep structural changes across most dimensions of humanity. This includes how we produce and consume food, energy, and manufactured goods; how we consider and measure growth; and a rethinking of our values and relationship with Nature and to each other – from human exceptionalism, domination, and scarcity to interdependence, equity, and regeneration.

Certainly, these principles are at the heart of Population Media Center’s own efforts to raise global sustainability. We focus our contributions on work to continually create a more equitable, flourishing world for all people and ecosystems across four vital, interconnected dimensions—individual, social, economic, and environmental. In so doing, we benefit the world of today and the planet of tomorrow.

There is no doubt that, as of today, global sustainability remains a destination. Contemporary human civilization functions mostly in ways that make global sustainability farther away and less attainable.

For global sustainability to be achieved, overexploitation of the Earth’s environment must stop. Human civilization has evolve to function in a way that helps biodiversity flourish. Humanity must help maintain and preserve, rather than perturb, the planet’s energetic balance. To accomplish these transitions, a great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required. Population Media Center contributes to this process by promoting things like species protection, sustainable framing practices, and reductions in material consumption. We also work diligently to help create the conditions for population growth to slow down, stop, and naturally reverse.

In a truly just and equitable world, all people will have an equal claim to the sustainable yield of the planet’s renewable resources. An ecologically right-sized humanity will be able to live their lives with comfortable, equal standards of living, while nested benignly within the complex systems of nature. Global sustainability, when it happens, will not be just for humans. It will be for the co-evolving, complex, living system that we are a part of. Because the climate and biosphere make the world habitable, they can be only be defined as the guiding and preeminent arbiters of humanity’s success or failure as a global civilization. Therefore, global sustainability will be, fundamentally, ecological in nature.

As noted by The Lancet, “Humanity, and indeed all of life on Earth, is at a crossroads. Over the past several decades, the scale of human impacts on Earth's natural systems has increased exponentially to the point where it exceeds our planet's capacity to absorb our wastes or provide the resources we are using. The result is a vast and accelerating transformation and degradation of nature. This includes not only global climate change but also global scale pollution of air, water, and soil; degradation of our planet's forests, rivers, coastal, and marine systems; and the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.

“The core insight of planetary health is that these disruptions and degradations of natural systems are a clear and urgent threat not only to the web of life but to humanity itself. The scale of our own environmental impacts is threatening our nutrition and mental health, increasing exposure to infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases, and driving population displacement and conflict. On our current trajectory, we can no longer safeguard human health and wellbeing.”


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Written by Joe Bish

Joe is the Director of Issue Advocacy at Population Media Center. He holds a Master of Science in Environmental Advocacy and Organizing from Antioch University New England.