• Laarianne Jaja Lubiano


Updated: May 2

Humanity has made significant strides to global health gains such as increased life expectancy and mortality rates.

However, with rapid progress, the various impacts of human activities became so profound that it ultimately disrupted natural systems and continues to do so. This led to major environmental changes including global pollution, climate change, destruction of biodiversity, depletion of natural resources, and unprecedented shifts in food production systems.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)’s report notes that since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled in amount, raising the global average temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius.

Also, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an alarming average of 68 percent decline from 1970 to 2016 occurred due to decreasing numbers of mammals, birds, fish, plants, and insects.

These dramatic changes in the environment adversely affect our health, giving rise to noncommunicable and infectious diseases like COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance, civil strife, community displacements, and mental health burdens.

The Tipping Point

Tipping points are the critical moments that trigger large changes and irreversible development in an evolving situation. The tipping point concept is pervasive in nature.

How the normal spread of the COVID-19 disease within a community can trigger a global catastrophe, abruptly keeping the world at a standstill. How the melting of the Arctic summer ice bred negative implications to the surrounding ecosystem of polar bears. These are examples of tipping points that may prompt a collective shift in a complex environmental system.

In the grand scheme of things, the tipping point that we must consider is the possibility that Mother Earth may arrive at a deteriorated state when everything would be irreversible. Indeed, this is a cause for concern.

How do we keep the planet from tipping over?

Understanding new tools imbibed with nature-based solutions such as biomathematics and the study of Planetary Health can redirect the trajectory of humanity and our planet’s fate.

According to the Planetary Health Alliance, an emerging, transdisciplinary field and global movement called Planetary Health focuses on characterizing and assessing the human health impacts of human-caused disruptions on Earth’s natural systems. Meanwhile, the Oakland University describes Biomathematics as an interdisciplinary field that utilizes mathematical tools, techniques, and strategies to model biological and natural processes.

These weapons may serve as the game-changers in safeguarding the health of humanity and the world we live in. The biomathematical models can contribute to the attainment of the goals of Planetary Health. Hence, these necessary tools should be coupled with intensive efforts, effective international advocacies, and global campaigns to spark an immediate environmental action, forwarding creative stewardship of Mother Earth to keep her from tipping over.

Beyond the Tipping Point

The inextricable and even paradoxical links between planetary health and human health are evident. Because as much as we humans live longer, our planet’s health continuously deteriorates. Because as much as we humans drive tremendous changes to the environment, the laws of nature will directly affect us in ways that are unexpected or worse, catastrophic.

To reach the tipping point may seem inevitable, but the future is now. What lies beyond can possibly be altered by the actions we currently make and by the decisions we currently take.

Thus, we should amplify our calls for sustainable development and encourage global collaborations across all sectors and nations to intensify efforts in saving our planet. After all, it is the only home we have.

Want to know more? Then, catch the eye-opening talks from the fields of biomathematics and planetary health this May 2 (Sunday) in TEDxUPLB 2021: Sign of the Times!

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