Planetary Health 

Planetary health is a solutions-oriented, transdisciplinary field and social movement focused on analyzing and addressing the impacts of human disruptions to Earth’s natural systems on human health and all life on Earth.

There is no doubt that our global environment is changing – from the hottest years on record, to the worldwide disappearance of pollinators, to the global collapse of fisheries, and to our use of about half of the planet's livable surface to feed ourselves.


We are now in a new geological era, the Anthropocene, characterized by humanity’s dramatic impact on Earth’s biophysical conditions. And though the average global citizen’s health has improved over the past century, the stability of our planet’s life support systems has sharply declined—putting recent public health and development gains at risk.

It is not just climate change; it is everything change! We face not only a disrupted climate system, but the 6th mass extinction of life on Earth; global scale pollution of air, water, and soil; shortages of arable land and freshwater; pervasive changes in land use and cover; and degradation of marine systems.

These anthropogenic environmental changes affect the quality of the air we breathe and of the water we drink, the quality and quantity of food we produce, our exposure to infectious diseases, and even the habitability of the places where we live. Changes to natural life support systems are already impacting our health and are projected to drive the majority of the global burden of disease over the coming century, hitting today’s most vulnerable people and future generations the hardest.


Everything is connected — changing our planet’s natural systems comes back to affect us, and not always in ways that we would expect. Understanding and acting upon these challenges calls for massive collaboration across disciplinary and national boundaries to safeguard our health.

Why Planetary Health?

 Never before  has humanity’s footprint on...
Never before has humanity’s footprint on Earth’s natural systems been so large. We are outstripping available resources from the only habitable planet we know. Since 1950, the human population has increased by nearly 200%; fossil fuel consumption by over 550%; and marine fish capture by over 350%. We’ve placed dams on about 60% of the world’s rivers, we’ve cleared nearly half of temperate and tropical forests, we use nearly half of accessible freshwater every year, and we appropriate about half of the planet’s livable surface to feed ourselves
 Our environment is changing.  Atmospheric carbon dioxide...
Our environment is changing. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are rising at a record pace, with the current levels having increased by about 24% since the 1950s. 2016 was Earth's warmest year on record, and 2018 was the warmest one for oceans, which have also become 30% more acidic since the Industrial Revolution. Pollinators, which are needed for plants and crops to grow, are disappearing worldwide. Biodiversity is rapidly being lost as an estimated 150 species become extinct each day, which is 1,000 times higher than the "natural" or "background" rate.
 And it's affecting    our health  . Climate...
And it's affecting our health. Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, and other factors affect where, when, and how intensely infectious diseases emerge. Increased drought, declining pollinators, and extreme storms make it harder to grow food, and some crops are also becoming less nutritious because of atmospheric changes, making people more susceptible to malnutrition and disease. Air pollution, whether from industrial emissions or smoke from fires clearing forests for agricultural use, can lead to cardiorespiratory illnesses and other diseases. Hurricanes and other major storms put people’s lives at risk. And witnessing the degradation of our world can have severe consequences for our mental health.
 Everything is connected  —   what we do...
Everything is connected  what we do to the world comes back to affect us, and not always in ways that we would expect. Understanding and acting upon these challenges call for massive collaboration across disciplinary and national boundaries to safeguard our health.

Introductory planetary health videos
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Explore how our environment is changing

Explore how this is impacting our health

Research articles

Browse relevant planetary health research articles through our bibliography, featuring more than 1,200 articles spanning a variety of planetary health thematic areas. This bibliography is updated monthly with the latest research articles. If you are aware of a reference related to planetary health that you have noticed is missing, please bring it to our attention by contacting us at pha@harvard.edu.


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Planetary Health Alliance

The Planetary Health Alliance is a consortium of over 300 universities, government entities, research institutes, and other partners around the world committed to understanding and addressing global environmental change and its health impacts.
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