From ostriches to carrier pigeons: How health professionals have a key role to play in the future of human survival

Summer 2015
Yannish Jones Naik

As part of my Master’s in Public Health I wrote a policy brief on whether a rights- based approach to nature could help protect it and in turn protect human health. The more I have learnt about the topic the more concerned I have become about the future state of our environment, and the more certain I am that radical shifts in our global approach will be required to minimise human harm. I hope to provide a balanced view of the potential offered by a rights based approach.


The Earth Community is a living system, whose health depends on our planet’s vital organs – the oceans, the soil and the atmosphere.Their ancient, highly evolved, complex dynamic equilibrium is fundamental to maintaining all life. But the scale of human over- consumption and ecocidal activity has begun to violate this vital planetary home- ostasis.And so the human community must begin to reconnect itself to this greater community, or a point will come when the Earth will be unable to sustain further evolution, or human life.

First Paragraph

The environment and human harm
This paper explores the evidence surrounding the potentially devastating health impacts of environmental damage and the urgent need for a rights-based approach to protecting the planet. Like ostriches burying our heads in the sand, health professionals mostly do not speak out on environmental issues. Although there have been calls for a new model of thought which fully embraces the ecological realm (Lang et al 2012), the environmental issues are broad and complex, and the people who will suffer most harm are outside our immediate awareness. Consequently
it is easier to focus on dealing with individual patients and the daily workload. Nor do most of us have the skills for lobbying on policy even if, with such complex issues as the environment, it was clear what we would be lobbying for. Yet as trusted professionals we are in a privileged position and could be important advocates for the health of whole current and future generations.