Use the future to build the present
Global resources stewardship on a healthy planet: the solution toolbox
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1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy
1Quantum Revolution& Advanced AI2HumanAugmentation3Eco-Regeneration& Geo-Engineering4Science& Diplomacy1.11.21.31.42.12.22.32.43.13.23.33.43.54.14.24.34.44.5HIGHEST ANTICIPATIONPOTENTIALAdvancedArtificial IntelligenceQuantumTechnologiesBrain-inspiredComputingBiologicalComputingCognitiveEnhancementHuman Applications of Genetic EngineeringRadical HealthExtensionConsciousnessAugmentation DecarbonisationWorldSimulationFuture FoodSystemsSpaceResourcesOceanStewardshipComplex Systems forSocial EnhancementScience-basedDiplomacyInnovationsin EducationSustainableEconomicsCollaborativeScience Diplomacy

Invited Contribution:

Global resources stewardship on a healthy planet:

the solution toolbox

Nature’s goods and services are the ultimate foundation — the resource — of life and health, and we humans are strongly interested in preserving health. And yet, while the availability of resources drives our individual and collective decision-making, we have allowed our public and private resources to be managed in an unsustainable way.

Resources, including the human resource, are the matrix of economic and political power systems, of history’s ups and downs, and they have great geopolitical sensitivity. They are the substance and driver of economic models and institutions, the “nutrients of the social ecosystem”. But resource overexploitation and strong economic stratification are structurally enshrined in social relations and mentalities.1,2 They can end up in societal collapse, as has happened throughout history.3,4,5 Today, critical state shifts in our resources are expected around 2030.6,7

Our resources are in trouble today because we have wrongly framed the issues: the short-term view has prevailed. This situation has arisen because of three inter-related problems. The first is that social and ecological issues have been considered as separate items. The second is that we have never quantified the value of the benefits that ecosystem capital delivers to human well-being. As a result, that capital has been allowed to slowly and continuously depreciate, leading to societal harm that is accelerated by cumulative tipping points and compound risks. Our third problem is that we did not use normative ideas of resource and opportunity distribution to build equity, equality and justice into the social foundations of our society.8 As a result, public policies are failing to fairly distribute resources and meet people’s needs.

Resources are vital for health, but coupled resources and health issues have not been the focus of grand agendas in the last decades. For example, the explicit interconnectedness between resources and health deserves particular attention when designing and implementing the SDG agenda (the social contract) and the maintenance of life support functions of the biosphere (the overshoot process). We estimate that 75 per cent of the 17 goals have resources and health at their core that inherently makes them the metrics, support, and vector of equitable and sustainable development in social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental terms. (See also UNEP).9 This is not surprising: individually and collectively, the 7.5 billion humans are concerned on a daily basis with accessing resources to sustain their health and be able to do so in the future.

According to the WHO’s 1946 definition, health “is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.10 Health is a notion that resonates strongly with us today. The strength of this resonance stems from the capacity of the word to encompass a range of meanings and contexts. There is the universal value that we place on bodily health, but there is also a metaphorical meaning: we all want to live in a healthy society. There is the actionable, factual, scientific evidence-based policy dimension of public health that plays out in the lives of individuals and societies; a socially just and environmentally responsible society ought to consider that “Health is a precondition, outcome, and indicator of a sustainable society, and should be adopted as a universal value and shared social and political objective for all”.11 And there is also the health state of ecosystems. In other words, the health of nature, society and people is inseparable, and can be termed “planetary health”.12

Integrating our approach to health with our approach to global resources helps address the dilemma we face, because this acknowledges the interconnection between social and ecological systems. The main question then is this: how can accessible resources be allocated in ways that reconcile the basic needs of populations with maintaining the life-support functions of the ecosystems those populations are part of?

To address this question, we developed a Resource-Planetary Health Toolbox (RPHT), built on the alliance of natural sciences, legal and social studies, and data and complex system science. (see also Ostrom).13 The objective is to articulate the nature-human relationship on universal and indivisible human rights and duties, to which resource-sobriety and inclusive health are cultural driving factors. That culture is based on technological and environmental literacy. The approach is systemic and preventative, and challenges the discarding of social and ecological factors that obliterates sustainability and justice today.

Through this approach we are reframing human agency with the temporality and limits of natural cycles and functions. We anticipate that RPHT is the most straightforward and non-prescriptive science-informed instrument to prompt the emergence of a virtuous dynamics of policy design for the public good.

We translated the Resource-Planetary Health strategy into research priorities, considering how those priority areas will look in the near and more distant future. Food systems and security are one such priority: the state of the underlying strategic resource base (land, water, biomass) can be a unifying proxy for developing political, economic, and diplomatic frameworks for the commons, circular economy, and indicative planning. More broadly, the toolbox can operate as a stress test in all areas of human life and activities; RPHT then becomes a compass of society’s preparedness to undertake radical change. That change implies a profound transformation in ways of thinking, institutions, practices, science and technology, policies and diplomacy, lifestyles and education.

In summary, while resources and health are considered separately, it will be difficult to resolve grand challenges such as poverty, equity and democracy, global pollution and biodiversity erosion, and climate change. But the state of our readiness to enact change can be assessed by a dedicated toolbox. This tells us that if resource justice and inclusive health are considered together — all resources, along with the health of the biosphere, societies, and people — we can meet the necessary and sufficient conditions for a peaceful future.

Acknowledgements

The work is based on the project “Resource stewardship and justice — taking the long view and a science-policy agenda for the next decade”, with the contribution of Ioan Negrutiu, Gérard Escher, Ole Peter Ottersen, Jason D Whittington, Philippe Gillet, and Nils C Stenseth.