Skip to main content Accessibility help

Perspective: a healthy planet for healthy people

  • Paul Ekins (a1) and Joyeeta Gupta (a2) (a3)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.

Non-technical abstract

This perspective article from the co-chairs of the United Nations Environment Programme's Sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) uses the assessment of the literature in the GEO-6 to show how a healthy planet and healthy people are linked together. It argues that the health of the planet is deteriorating and that this deteriorating ecosystem health has major direct and indirect impacts on human health and well-being. Direct impacts include the impacts of polluted air on the lungs of people, while indirect impacts include the impacts of land degradation on food security. Therefore, protecting the environment will also have major benefits for human health and well-being.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Perspective: a healthy planet for healthy people
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Perspective: a healthy planet for healthy people
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Perspective: a healthy planet for healthy people
      Available formats


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Prof Dr Joyeeta Gupta, E-mail


Hide All
Althor, G., Watson, J. E. & Fuller, R. A. (2016). Global mismatch between greenhouse gas emissions and the burden of climate change. Nature Scientific Reports, 6, 20281.
Angeles, L. (2017). Transporting difference at work: taking gendered intersectionality seriously in climate change agendas. In Cohon, M. G. (ed.), Climate Change and Gender in Rich Countries: Work, Public Policy and Action (pp. 103119). Routledge.
Ashbolt, N. (2004). Microbial contamination of drinking water and disease outcomes in developing regions. Toxicology, 198, 229238.
Barnosky, A., Matzke, N., Tomiya, S., Wogan, G. O., Swartz, B., Quental, T. B., Marshall, C., … Ferrer, E. A. (2011) Has the Earth's sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature, 471, 5157.
Binion, E. & Gutberlet, J. (2012). The effects of handling solid waste on the wellbeing of informal and organized recyclers: a review of the literature. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 18(1), 4352.
BSCD (2012). Better Business, Better World. The report of the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. Retrieved from
Burke, L., Reytar, K., Spalding, M. & Perry, A. (2011). Reefs at Risk Revisited. Retrieved from
CDC (2017). Zoonotic Diseases. Retrieved from
Ceballos, G., Ehrlich, P. R. & Dirzo, R. (2017). Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(30), E6089E6096.
Climate Central (2018). The 10 Hottest Global Years on Record. Retrieved from
Cohen, A., Brauer, M., Burnett, R., Anderson, H. R., Frostad, J., Estep, K., … Forouzanfar, M. H. (2017). Estimates and 25-year trends of the global burden of disease attributable to ambient air pollution: an analysis of data from the global burden of diseases study 2015. Lancet, 389(10082), 19071918.
Cohen, M. G. (2015). Gendered emissions: counting greenhouse gas emissions by gender and why it matters. In Lipsig-Mummé, C. & McBride, S. (eds.), Working in a Warming World (pp. 5982). McGill-Queen's University Press.
Croppenstedt, A., Goldstein, M. & Rosas, N. (2013). Gender and agriculture: inefficiencies, segregation, and low productivity traps. World Bank Research Observer, 28(1), 79109. Retrieved from
Costanza, R., de Groot, R., Sutton, P., van der Ploeg, S., Anderson, S. J., Kubiszewski, I., … Turner, R. K. (2014). Changes in the global value of ecosystem services. Global Environmental Change, 26, 152158.
Crimmins, A., Balbus, J., Gamble, J. L., Beard, C. B., Bell, J. E., Dodgen, D., … Ziska, L. (eds.) (2016). The impacts of climate change on human health in the United States: a scientific assessment. US Global Change Research Program.
Court Case 200.178.245 (2018), Gerechtshof (Den Haag, 2018).
de Groot, R., Brander, L., van der Ploeg, S., Costanza, R., Bernard, F., Braat, L., … van Beukering, P. (2012). Global estimates of the value of ecosystems and their services in monetary units. Ecosystem Services, 1(1), 5061.
Diaz, S., Pascual, U., Stenseke, M., Martín-López, B., Watson, R. T., Molnár, Z., … Shirayama, Yoshihisa et al. (2018). Assessing nature's contributions to people. Science, 359(6373), 270272.
Do, M. & Kurimoto, N. (2012). Women's empowerment and choice of contraceptive methods in selected African countries. International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 38(1), 2333.
Dobbs, R., Oppenheim, J., Thompson, F., Brinkman, M. & Zornes, M. (2011). Resource revolution: meeting the world's energy, materials, food, and water needs. Retrieved from
EEA (2015). The European environment – state and outlook 2015. A comprehensive assessment of the European environment's state, trends and prospects, in a global context. Chapter 2. Retrieved from
Ekins, P. & Hughes, N. (eds.) (2017). Resource Efficiency: Potential and Economic Implications. A report of the International Resource Panel. Retrieved from
Ekins, P., Gupta, J. & Boileau, P. (eds.) (2019). Global Environment Outlook GEO-6: Healthy Planet, Healthy People. Retrieved from
ELD (2015). Report for Policy Makers – Key Facts and Figures. Retrieved from
FAO (2006). Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options. Retrieved from
FAO (2011). The State of Food and Agriculture 2010–2011. Women in Agriculture. Closing the gender gap for development. Retrieved from
Ferreira, B., Rice, J. & Rosenberg, A. (2016). Chapter 10. The Oceans as a Source of Food. In The First Global Integrated Marine Assessment – World Ocean Assessment I. Retrieved from
Forest Peoples Programme/The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity/The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2016). Local Biodiversity Outlooks. Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Contributions to the Implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020. A complement to the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook. Retrieved from
GBD 2017 Population and Fertility Collaborators. (2018). Population and fertility by age and sex for 195 countries and territories, 1950–2017: a systematic analysis for the global burden of disease study 2017. Lancet, 392(10159), 19952051.
Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (2014). Better Growth, Better Climate: The New Climate Economy Report. Retrieved from
Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (2016) Food systems and diets: Facing the challenges of the 21st century. Retrieved from
Habitat for Humanity (2016). Shelter Report 2016. Level the Field: Ending Gender Inequality in Land Rights. Retrieved from
Haines, A., Amann, M., Borgford-Parnell, N., Leonard, S., Kuylenstierna, J. & Shindell, D. (2017). Short-lived climate pollutant mitigation and the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Climate Change, 7, 863869.
Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162(3859), 12431248.
Health Effects Institute (2017). State of Global Air 2017. A Special Report on Global Exposure to Air Pollution and its Disease Burden. Retrieved from
Higgins, D. & White, R. (2016). Collaboration at the front Line: INTERPOL and NGOs in the same NEST. In Pink, G. & White, R. (eds.), Environmental Crime and Collaborative State Intervention (pp. 101116). Palgrave Macmillan.
Hoekstra, A. & Mekonnen, M. (2012). The water footprint of humanity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(9), 32323237.
Hubacek, K., Baiocchi, G., Feng, K. K., Castillo, R. M., Sun, L. & Xue, J. (2017). Global carbon inequality. Energy, Ecology and Environment, 2(6), 361369.
IDMC/NRC (2017). GRID 2017. Global Report on Internal Displacement. Retrieved from
ILO (2018). Women and men in the informal economy: a statistical picture. Third edition. Retrieved from
Jambeck, J. R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T. R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., Narayan, R. & Law, K. L. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347(6223), 768771.
Joosten, H. (2015). Peatlands, Climate Change Mitigation and Biodiversity Conservation. An Issue Brief on the Importance of Peatlands for Carbon and Biodiversity Conservation and the Role of Drained Peatlands as Greenhouse Gas Emission Hotspots. Retrieved from
Karesh, W., Dobson, A., Lloyd-Smith, J. O., Lubroth, J., Dixon, M. A., Bennett, M., … Heymann, D. L. (2012). Ecology of zoonoses: natural and unnatural histories. Lancet, 380(9857), 19361945.
Kettunen, M., Genovesi, P., Gollasch, S., Pagad, S., Starfinger, U., ten Brink, P. & Shine, C. (2009). Technical support to EU strategy on invasive species (IS) – Assessment of the impacts of IS in Europe and the EU. Retrieved from
Kuehr, R. (2014). Solving the E-Waste Problem (Step) White Paper: One Global Definition of E-Waste. Retrieved from
Landrigan, P., Fuller, R., Acosta, N. J. R., Adeyi, O., Arnold, R., Basu, N. N., … Zhong, M. (2017). The Lancet Commission on pollution and health. Lancet, 391(10119), 461512.
Lautenbach, S., Seppelt, R., Liebscher, J. & Dormann, C. F. (2012). Spatial and temporal trends of global pollination benefit. PLoS One, 7(4), e35954.
Le, Q., Nkonya, E. & Mirzabaev, A. (2016). Biomass productivity-based mapping of global land degradation hotspots. In Nkonya, E., Mirzabaev, A., & von Braun, J. (eds.), Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement – A Global Assessment for Sustainable Development (pp. 5584). Springer.
Lipinski, B., Hanson, C., Lomax, J., Kitinoja, L., Waite, R. & Searchinger, T. (2013). Reducing Food Loss and Waste. Installment 2 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future. Working paper. Retrieved from
Lixil/Water Aid/Oxford Economics (2016). The True Cost of Sanitation. Retrieved from
Markandya, A., Sampedro, J., Smith, S. J., Van Dingenen, R., Pizarro-Irizar, C., Arto, I. & González-Eguino, M. (2018). Health co-benefits from air pollution and mitigation costs of the Paris Agreement: a modelling study. Lancet Planet Planetary Health, 2(3), 126133.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Board (2015). Ecosystem and Human Well-being: Policy-Responses, Volume 3. Retrieved from
Nachmany, M. & Setzer, J. (2018). Policy Brief Global Trends in Climate Change Legislation and Litigation: 2018 Snapshot. Retrieved from
NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (2017). Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128.9 million children, adolescents, and adults. Lancet, 390(10113), 26272642.
OECD (2018). Meat consumption (indicator). Retrieved from
O'Neill, J. (2012). Review on the Antimicrobial Resistance. Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a Crisis for the Health and Wealth of Nations. Retrieved from
Oxfam, International Land Coalition, Rights and Resources Initiative (2016). Common Ground: Securing Land Rights and Safeguarding the Earth. Retrieved from
Pimentel, D., Zuniga, R. & Morrison, D. (2005). Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States. Ecological Economics, 52(3), 273288.
Prüss-Üstün, A. & Neira, M. (2016). Preventing Disease through Healthy Environments: A Global Assessment of the Burden of Disease from Environmental risks (World Health Organization). Retrieved from
Qadir, M., Quillérou, E., Nangia, V., Murtaza, G., Singh, M., Thomas, R. J., … Noble, A. D. (2014). Economics of salt-induced land degradation and restoration. Natural Resources Forum, 38(4), 282295.
Rulli, M., Saviori, A. & D'Odorico, P. (2013). Global land and water grabbing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(3), 892897.
Samir, K. & Lutz, W. (2017). The human core of the shared socioeconomic pathways: Population scenarios by age, sex and level of education for all countries to 2100. Global Environmental Change, 42, 181192.
Schandel, H., Fischer-Kowalski, M., West, J., Giljum, S., Dittrich, M., Eisenmenger, N., … Fishman, T. (2016). Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity. An Assessment Study of the UNEP International Resource Panel. Retrieved from
Shindell, D., Borgford-Parnell, N., Brauer, M., Haines, A., Kuylenstierna, J. C. I., Leonard, S. A., … Srivastava, L. (2017). A climate policy pathway for near- and long-term benefits. Science, 356(6337), 493494.
Smith, K. R., Bruce, N., Balakrishnan, K., Adair-Rohani, H., Balmes, J., Chafe, Z., … HAP CRA Risk Expert Group (2014). Millions dead: how do we know and what does it mean? Methods used in the comparative risk assessment of household air pollution. Annual Review of Public Health, 35, 185206.
Sobrevila, C. (2008). The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation: The Natural but OftenForgotten Partners. Retrieved from
Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Cornell, S. E., Fetzer, I., Bennett, E. M., … Sörlin, S. (2015). Sustainability. Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223), 1259855.
Sukhdev, P., Wittmer, H., Schröter-Schlaack, C., Nesshöver, C., Bishop, J., ten Brink, P., … Simmons, B. (2010). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions and Recommendations of TEEB. Retrieved from
Sutherland, W. J., Gardner, T. A., Haider, L. J. & Dicks, L. V. (2014). How can local and traditional knowledge be effectively incorporated into international assessments? Oryx, 48(1), 12.
UN (2016). Delivering on the Environmental Dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – a concept note. UNEP Session /EA.1/INF/18. Retrieved from
UNCCD (2017). The Global Land Outlook first edition. Retrieved from
UN DESA (2014) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision. Retrieved from
UNDP (2006). Human Development Report 2006. Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. Retrieved from
UNEP (2011). Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication – A Synthesis for Policy Makers. Retrieved from
UNEP (2016a). GEO-6 Regional Assessment for Africa. Retrieved from
UNEP (2016b). GEO-6: Regional Assessment for Asia and the Pacific. Retrieved from
UNEP (2016c). UN Environment Annual Report: Empowering People to Protect the Planet. Retrieved from
UNEP/UNITAR (2013). Guidelines for National Waste Management Strategies: Moving from Challenges to Opportunities. Retrieved from
UN General Assembly (2015). General Assembly Resolution A/70/L.1. Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A/RES/70/1. Retrieved from
UN General Assembly (2018). General Assembly. Resolution 72/277. Towards a Global Pact for the Environment, A/RES/72/277. Retrieved from
UN-Habitat (2003). Slums of the World: The Face of Urban Poverty in the New Millennium? Working Paper. Retrieved from
UNISDR/CRED (2015). The human cost of weather-related disasters 1995–2015. Retrieved from
van Bavel, J. (2013). The world population explosion: causes, backgrounds and projections for the future. Facts, Views & Vision in ObGyn, 5(4), 281291.
Watts, N., Amann, M., Ayeb-Karlsson, S., Belesova, K., Bouley, T., Boykoff, M., … Costello, A. (2017). The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: from 25 years of inaction to a global transformation for public health. Lancet, 391(10120), 581630.
Wilkinson, C., Salvat, B., Eakin, C. M., Brathwaite, A., Francini-Filho, R., Webster, N., … Harris, P. (2016). Chapter 43. Tropical and Sub-Tropical Coral Reefs. In The First Global Integrated Marine Assessment - World Ocean Assessment I. Retrieved from
Wilson, D. C., Rodic, L., Modak, P., Soos, R., Rogero, A. C., Velis, C., … Simonett, O., (2015). Global Waste Management Outlook. UNEP. Retrieved from
World Bank (2012). Hidden Harvest: The Global Contribution of Capture Fisheries. Retrieved from
World Bank & Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2016). The Cost of Air Pollution: Strengthening the Economic Case for Action. Retrieved from
World Health Organization (2014). Air Quality Deteriorating in Many of the World's Cities. Retrieved from
World Health Organization/UNICEF (2012). Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation: 2012 Update. Retrieved from
WWF (2016). Living Planet Index. In Living Planet Report 2016. Risk and Resilience in a New Era. Retrieved from
WWF (2018). Living Planet Report – 2018: Aiming Higher. Retrieved from
Xu, Y. & Ramanathan, V. (2017). Well below 2 °C: mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(29), 1031510323.
Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (2018). Environmental Performance Index: Global metrics for the environment: Ranking country performance on high-priority environmental issues. Retrieved from


Perspective: a healthy planet for healthy people

  • Paul Ekins (a1) and Joyeeta Gupta (a2) (a3)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed

A correction has been issued for this article: