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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Feb 15, 2022

It’s no secret that human health and the health of Earth’s systems — in particular, the air, water, biodiversity, and climate — are inextricably linked. It’s also no secret that Earth’s systems are changing in ways that can feel daunting and unwieldy. But with all great change comes great opportunity, and the emerging field of Planetary Health offers glimmers of hope rooted in actions, strategies, and a deepened understanding of our interconnectedness.

In Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves, editor and University of Washington professor Howard Frumkin brought together a comprehensive collection of topics to guide our understanding of how a changing environment affects our health. With contributions by dozens of authors, the book covers a wide range of health impacts that include food and nutrition, infectious disease, non-communicable disease, mental health, and more. But the goal of the book isn’t to deliver a message of doom; it also offers optimistic strategies to combat the ill effects of environmental changes, such as controlling toxic exposures, investing in clean energy, and improving urban design, among others. Together, the two dichotomies illustrate how an interconnected approach to public health can benefit both people and the planet. In the Town Hall Forum, Frumkin talked about the field of Planetary Health, our changing environment, its impact on everyone from health professionals to students — and far beyond.

Howard Frumkin is Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, where he was dean from 2000 through 2006. He was previously head of the Wellcome Trust “Our Planet, Our Health” initiative, and director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is also the author of Planetary Health: Safeguarding Human Health and the Environment in the Anthropocene

Joseph Winters is an early-career journalist covering climate as Grist’s News and Politics Fellow. He recently graduated from Harvard University, where he was involved in journalism and climate advocacy — including in his role as senior U.S. editor for the Harvard Political Review and as an organizer for Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard. He has previously interned at the Public Radio International show Living on Earth and at NPR’s Oregon Public Broadcasting. 

Buy the Book: Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves from Island Press

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