Incorporating the extrinsic and intrinsic benefits of Nature with the health sectors is a critical health protection and climate action strategy. While the hurdles are formidable (Rosenberg et ah, 2019), conserving and sustainably using Nature can be achieved through “transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors” (Diaz et ah, 2019). The health co-benefits of climate action are innumerable with simultaneous ecological benefits at the global scale: clean air, clean water, and the preservation of carbon sinks within habitats that protect biodiversity, populations, and species from the effects of climate change (Warren et ah. 2013) and offer opportunities to build health and resilience.
Climate change health impacts may be gradual, like increasing temperatures, or sudden as with extreme weather events. The extreme events have the most potential to cause the most damage to humans (Streets and Glantz, 2000). To minimize the impact of catastrophic events, we must enhance coping capacity within human and animal systems (Stephen et ah, 2015). This capacity can be expanded, in part, through conservation and preservation of biodiversity and Nature. Health benefits of Nature transcend species; and, therefore, foster reciprocal care/inter- dependence of health. Of importance is the need to link health professionals with environmental and climate advocacy groups (Barrett et ah, 2015). Intersectoral
BOX 15.1 UMBRELLA SPECIES CONSERVATION FOR CLIMATE MITIGATION
Improving health through mitigation can begin with a single species, even one that is only a few inches long. The monarch butterfly protects Nature across the urban to rural gradient from paved to forested landscape. It is an umbrella species whose protection and management conserve habitat and other species well beyond the umbrella species itself. Natural and anthropogenic influences have resulted in 80% decline in the monarch population over the past 20 years (Rendon-Salinas, 2015). The interest in protectinghabitat for monarch butterflies, a species that completes its 3,200 km migration in up to five generations, burgeoned with action at local, state/provincial, federal, and transnational levels. Monarchs require milkweed as a source of nutrition and a substrate for laying eggs. Milkweed is easy to grow in prairies, along road edges, and in backyard gardens. The advent of butterfly gardens in urban landscapes results in open spaces with a diverse plant and animal community. Conservation efforts encouraged planting milkweed and native prairie species along field and road edges to support monarchs and other species. Mexico protected millions of acres of habitat and banned logging on monarch overwintering sites. In 2015, the United States committed to creating a “butterfly highway” traversing North America, a “safe path” for migration. These efforts help protect and conserve thousands of additional species, and their habitats, which in turn act as carbon sinks and aid in the mitigation of climate change, thus supporting Nature and health.
health teams need to value and employ greater input from the environmental sector (Stephen and Karesh, 2014; Barrett and Bouley, 2015; Destoumieux-Garzon et al., 2018). Framing climate change as a health issue can accelerate response and position health professionals as leaders in this battle (Watts et ah, 2015). There is a need for more climate change mitigation and adaptation innovations as animal and human populations become increasingly vulnerable to climate change effects (Stephen and Wade, 2020). While high-functioning teams and diverse collaborations are critical components, climate mitigation and adaptations can take place while those are developed.
Mechanisms are in place to protect natural spaces through the hundreds of non-governmental organizations as well as governments that support biodiversity. The use of biodiversity-friendly practices is reported to be increasing (FAO, 2019), but loss of Nature continues to outpace protections. The ecosystems we share provide health protection and promotion for all species. Keeping each other healthy and resilient is one of the impactful ways we promote climate adaptation. The world can reverse this biodiversity crisis, but doing so will require proactive environmental policies, the sustainable production of food and other resources along with a concerted effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Aldo Leopold (1949) noted that “wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them,” resulting in more than the loss of landscapes. Conserving Nature in the urban landscape and in the wilderness, for pleasure and food, affords us the beauty, services, and resilience needed to adapt to a climate change. It is difficult to refute the importance that Nature plays in health outcomes and that degradation of Nature increases pathologic conditions. While the influence of individuals and civil society can result in big actions, the importance of government policy on the issue of climate change and Nature protection cannot be underestimated. The list of how to protect Nature is overwhelming, but actions need not be. Simple actions - such as planting a garden, riding your bike, appreciating Nature - have the power to promote the protection of Nature and the persistence of your health but must be accompanied by advocacy and voting to promote government change.