The Landscape Can Protect Our Health… If We Can Protect The Landscape
Human alterations of the land — from deforestation to erosion caused by modern agriculture — can speed climate change by releasing stores of carbon. They can also prevent the landscape from providing incidental benefits to humans, such as filtering water, thwarting the spread of infectious disease and buffering against storm surges, flooding and landslides. Experts also warn that a changing climate may be making the consequences of these losses all the worse.
“Natural defenses are important against extreme weather events, whether they are a result of sustainable forest management or plain good land use decisions,” added La Vina, who is also dean of the School of Government at Ateneo de Manila University.
A report published this week details what lead author Dr. Samuel Myers of the Harvard School of Public Health calls the “quiet public health crisis” of landscape change.
Roughly half of the world’s temperate and tropical forests have been cut down, write members of the Health and Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages (HEAL) consortium in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Meanwhile, half of all ice-free, desert-free land has been converted to crop lands or pasture, and more than 800,000 dams currently impede the flow through more than 60 percent of the world’s rivers.