Planetary Health: Measuring and Managing Planetary Biomarkers

June 27, 2023 | Earth.Org | Source 

The article highlights the importance of measuring and managing the five fundamental elements of nature: Water, soil, air, energy, and space, to ensure a sustainable and circular economy. While Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has traditionally been used as a metric for economic progress, it fails to account for the environmental costs of economic activities, such as pollution.

To complement GDP, the author suggests measuring these five elements as planetary biomarkers, akin to human biomarkers for health assessment. These biomarkers are essential for guiding strategies to achieve sustainability and addressing climate action goals.

  • Measuring Water: The health of water bodies is crucial for carbon sequestration and marine life. Monitoring fish diversity, water quality, and other factors can help gauge water health.
  • Measuring Soil: Soil health, measured by soil organic carbon content, plays a significant role in carbon sequestration. Sustainable and organic farming practices are vital for maintaining soil health.
  • Measuring Air: Monitoring CO2 and methane levels is essential for assessing air quality. Aggressive reforestation and transitioning away from fossil fuels are proposed solutions.
  • Measuring Energy: Evaluating the percentage of carbon-free energy and per capita energy consumption can guide energy production strategies.
  • Measuring Space: Tracking space debris to prevent threats to spacecraft is essential. Initiatives like Clearspace-1 aim to clear space debris.

The author emphasizes that addressing each element independently can lead to a systems approach to managing the environment. Developing a simple Environmental Health Index (EHI) that combines these elements can help countries benchmark their contributions to planetary health, alongside GDP, which measures wealth.