The Why and How of Planetary Health Commission

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 in Blog, Global Health, Planetary Wellness | No Comments

Change characterizes so much of our lives, from birth to old age, to advancing science and technology, to changing social and political dynamics. In spite of this, however, it can be a challenge to take into consideration how our everyday actions, both positive and negative, are changing our global and local physical environments.

In 2012, I started publishing a newsletter called Global Health Weekly out of the University of Alberta. I continued this throughout my years in Edmonton and, in 2015, during my transition to Ryerson, it became clear to me that what has been and is happening to our physical environments all over the world, either due to climate change or pollution or various other causes, is intimately linked to health. Changes to the landscape cannot be separated from global health, where we pay special attention to inequalities, inequities and the denial of human rights to poor and marginalized populations.  With this in mind, I set about widening the scope of “global health” to include the actual health of the globe itself. I called it ecological wellness, a term I learned from my Ryerson colleagues.

When I moved to Ryerson in the latter half of January 2015, I hadn’t yet committed to reviving Global Health Weekly in this new community. I had been chewing on the term “planetary health,” a term I learned from an editorial in The Lancet, and was reflecting on the success of the Global Health Weekly at the U of A. My mind was aware of the connection between the Global Health Weekly and this new “planetary health” term, and I realized Global Health Weekly had evolved.  On March 12 of this year, I published the first issue of the Planetary Health Weekly.  Together with Research Assistant Anna Oda, we have been putting this newsletter out every Thursday ever since.

Planetary Health Weekly grew from my love of reading news and desire to be connected to a diverse, ever-growing set of digital and print media. Every week, I collect a set of diverse stories that showcase the strengths and weaknesses of people around the world, their contributions and impacts on human development; and after being inspired by the authors of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (dealing with First Nations/Aboriginal issues and positing the analysis of cultural genocide) we now include, each week, information about the health of Aboriginal Peoples.

We are now not only continuing to evolve the Weekly into a more branded and useful tool of knowledge dissemination, but also now a student organization and movement.  Using the Weekly as a base and inspiration and together with a small group of Ryerson students and staff, we have launched the Ryerson Planetary Health Commission.  This is a student-led, student-operated organization, whereby we (with me as a Faculty Advisor) will engage and provide opportunities to Ryerson students, faculty and friends to gain knowledge and get further engaged in these urgent issues of global health and ecological wellness.

Continually being motivated by the lack of knowledge and concern for these global issues among students and others I encounter, I motor forward with my new colleagues and now pass onto them this inspiration to communicate information and inspire action by example and advising them on challenges involved in forming this new Ryerson-based organization.  We will engage students and others, create “commissioners” who will get engaged in local and global actions to affect themselves and others in the quest of working towards a healthier world, for all life on it and in it.

Please join with us, in whatever capacity you can.  We welcome you.  Make a difference now and help create a sustainable world that will nurture life, not take it away.

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