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Planetary Health and the Future of Human Capacity: The Increasing Impact of Planetary Distress on the Human Brain

Chong Chen () and Shin Nakagawa ()
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Chong Chen: Division of Neuropsychiatry, Department of Neuroscience, Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine, Yamaguchi 755-8505, Japan
Shin Nakagawa: Division of Neuropsychiatry, Department of Neuroscience, Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine, Yamaguchi 755-8505, Japan

Challenges, 2018, vol. 9, issue 2, 1-10

Abstract: All awareness, thoughts, emotions, perceptions, memories, actions—everything that encompasses our human capacity and reality—are mediated through the biological interface of our brains. While the source of consciousness remains a fundamental and elusive question, it is also inescapable that threats to biological health can compromise any and all aspects of psychological and neurological functioning, from the first moments of life. The effects of environmental threats to specific aspects of individual brain health are well recognized, yet precious little attention is given to the collective effects of planetary-scale environmental damage, and the erosion of numerous planetary systems, on the biology of the human brain. Although, these are likely to vary widely with individual circumstances, it is also inevitable that the ‘dysbiotic drift’ (increasing life in distress) at the planetary scale is reflected at the personal scale, with a collective shift towards increased biological stress of all kinds. Here, we make the case that ‘ planetary distress’ is directly implicated in a collective increase in ‘ personal distress’ , and that multifaceted biological pressures, as well as psychological pressures, are implicated in the mental health crisis and predisposition to numerous disorders in brain development, functioning and aging. In turn, this has implications for every aspect of health, capacity, and the very essence of human experience for generations to come. Viewed on this scale, we call for a quantum shift in efforts to address the many factors affecting brain health, ranging from air pollution to disappearing greenspace. These all stem from ecological imbalance and point to a unifying need to restore planetary health. Ultimately, the future of human capacity depends on this.

Keywords: air pollution; biodiversity; brain; ecology; environmental degradation; greenspace; natural environments; neuroscience; planetary health; psychiatry (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A00 C00 Z00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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