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Canadian Public Health Association

Human and ecosystem health: Canadian perspectives, Canadian actions


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In 1968 our world view changed - literally and forever. Photographs from moon orbit let us see ourselves in true perspective, as invisible inhabitants of a beautiful, fragile planet spinning in the vast black emptiness of space. To be sure, we had been jolted into an awareness of the harm we are doing to our environment by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring a few years earlier and would be jolted again, a few years later, by the Club of Rome's report The Limits to Growth, but now, for the first time, we could truly both think and see globally. It has been an important change of view; surely no-one who has seen the earth, our home, viewed from space can fail to be moved. The harm that we are doing to this living planet - Gaia - and thus to ourselves, should also move us to sadness, perhaps to anger, but most of all, to action.

This report is written with that hope in mind: that CPHA and its members, public health workers and Canadians in general will be moved to action. Public health is based on the premise that we should anticipate and prevent health problems, protect people from health hazards and promote health and well-being. Now we have to apply these concepts not only in our homes and communities, our town and cities, our provinces and nations, but also at the global level. For now it is not simply human health that is threatened, but the health of our ecosystem, of Gaia herself.

It is the greatest challenge public health has ever faced, and one we have come to - late - but not too late, we hope. There is still time for us to do what we have to do: to join with the environmental movement, with governments and business, with our friends and colleagues, our neighbors and our families. Only by becoming part of the growing global movement to protect and enhance human and ecosystem health can we hope to ensure that generations to come will also be able to see the Earth as we see it - a beautiful, living planet - and to be moved by that sight.