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Human-Environment Interactions Influence Populations’ Health

Three selected readings highlight the global issue of human-environment interactions’ influence on populations’ health. While the world’s population and life expectancy continue to rise, there are many underestimated health threats associated with human activities, consumption, and the exploitation of natural resources. Initially, despite the development and progress of humankind in all directions, there are still many populations in the world who do not have access to health care, adequate nutrition, and fresh water. Insufficient economic and social development is observed in poor countries, as well as in isolated indigenous settlements around the world. Secondly, the thoughtless consumer behavior of people leads to the depletion of the Earth’s resources, which is significantly amplified by the rate of population growth.

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Finally, human activities directly harm health through climate change, and pollution of air and water (McMichael 54). Currently, an extremely relevant issue is the emergence of infectious diseases resulting from human-wildlife contact (Muehlenbein 80). Thus, a global multidimensional approach is necessary to cope with the health hazards arising from human activity. Humankind should support indigent populations, wisely organize human-nature interactions, protect wildlife, and provide better environmental issues awareness.

Given the relatively long life expectancy, one might conclude that humanity tends to maintain better health. According to McMichael, life expectancy has significantly increased during the last century in developed, industrialized, and high-income countries (49). Muehlenbein rightly notes that this is due to “advances in sanitation, medicine, and nutrition” due to “socioeconomic development and technological changes” (79).

However, these improvements did not affect everyone and everywhere; for example, indigenous populations still “have lower life expectancies, higher morbidity, and mortality, and higher rates of violent death compared to nonindigenous peoples” (Santos et al., 48). Research by Santos et al. describes decades of observation of the health transition in the Brazilian Xavante Indians, highlighting the importance of “relationships between health and environmental context” (49).

Enhanced health care services contributed to decreased mortality rates; nonetheless, socioeconomic development caused other issues such as dental health deterioration and overweight (38, 41, 45). McMichael also highlights a similar issue: increased diabetes rates associated with consumerism and wealth (49). Therefore, consumer behavior as a current lifestyle globally negatively affects natural resources and harms health in particular cases.

Both McMichael and Muehlenbein consider urbanization and climate change as hazards for populations’ health. Overindustrialization leads to pollution of habitats, water, air, and soil, which is a potential risk to human health (McMichael 52). Climate changes, in turn, affect health, directly and indirectly, resulting in psychological stress, undernutrition, and infectious diseases. Considering the current pandemic, it is essential to be aware of how these changes contribute to emerging infectious diseases. Human activity enormously contributes to land cover and climate changes which in turn affect wildlife and the environment.

Effects on nature may imply the migration of animals or insects and an increase in the number of individuals resulting in human-animal transmission of viruses, bacteria, and helminths (Muehlenbien). It is crucial since “over half of all human infections are zoonotic (nonhuman animal) in origin” (Muehlenbien 80). Although the author explains the existing risk of transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans, he notes that “pandemics were replaced with chronic degenerative disorders” (Muehlenbien 79). This statement appears invalid since humanity has witnessed the COVID-19 outbreak and demonstrates how tragic the consequences of human-wildlife contact can be.

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These articles discuss critical topics: social and economic development, impact on the environment, and dire consequences for nature and human health. Humanity needs to learn to wisely manage the planet’s resources, respect nature and eradicate consumerism. Such changes require a contribution of all populations, as well as changes in values, priorities, and attitudes. Through mutual efforts and maintaining favorable natural environments, humankind will acquire good health for many generations to come.

Works Cited

McMichael, Anthony J. “Population Health in the Anthropocene: Gains, Losses and Emerging Trends.” The Anthropocene Review, vol. 1, no. 1, 2014, pp. 44-56. Web.

Muehlenbein, Michael P. “Human-Wildlife Contact and Emerging Infectious Diseases.Human-Environment Interactions, edited by Eduardo S. Brondízio and Emilio F. Moran, Springer, 2013, pp. 79-94. Web.

Santos, Ricardo Ventura, et al. “A Half-Century Portrait: Health Transition in the Xavante Indians from Central Brazil.” Human-Environment Interactions, edited by Eduardo S. Brondízio and Emilio F. Moran, Springer, 2013, pp. 29-52. Web.

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