We are usually not big fans of the word ‘harnessing’, but for “harnessing the power of negative thinking” we happily make an exception. As André Spicer put it in a Guardian op-ed, “…Maybe pessimism could force us to realistically consider the worst-case scenario. Pessimism could help steel us against the inevitable anxieties that the future brings. A good dose of pessimism may actually motivate us in our attempts to address the problems we face. Pessimism could console and even free us. When mixed with some optimism, pessimism may help us to think more soberly and realistically about challenges that we face….” That sounds about right for our times, which again saw some planetary health tipping points crossed (or least approaching dangerously fast ) this week, as well as a rather dire global assessment in the WEF Global Risks 2019 report. So, rather good timing for the Lancet Planetary Health’s first editorial of the year, which (rightly) advocates for a reframing of planetary health (or rather: going back to the roots of the concept), focusing more on civilizational health.
There’s always a silver lining, though. The bright side of all this, of course, is that – in perfect sync with the “universal” SDG agenda – increasingly the whole world can be considered “fragile” (as compared to just some ‘fragile and conflict affected settings’ in the South that could be lectured from the North, before). Even France is rather fickle these days– ask Macron – in the slipstream of the yellow vests movement (and let’s not get into the UK). On an entirely different note, some colleagues of mine thought it might be appropriate to wear ‘yellow (fluo) vests’ this evening, at the annual ITM New Year reception as the dress code of the night is neon. The theme? “Shine bright like a parasite” !
More good news then. The long awaited “Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets for Sustainable Food systems” report came out this week, linking nutritional targets with environmental sustainability. Nutrition will be a special focus of Lancet journals this year, so let’s hope the “Great Food Transformation”, fit for the Anthropocene, will materialize sooner rather than later. As part of an overall global transition towards a socioecological economic model, argued for this week in a Lancet Planetary Health Comment.
Meanwhile, back on earth, the global health community is gearing up for the 144th WHO Executive Board meeting and some of the more powerful people in global health even for their yearly Davos retreat. In this newsletter, you also get some info on the Global Fund Replenishment, which properly kicked off end of last week, Ivanka Trump’s prominent role in Jim Kim’s succession at the World Bank, an update on the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, as well as the first international conference on Lassa fever (in Nigeria); a new Lancet Series, “Security and public health: the interface”,…. And oh yes, don’t forget to check out Kent Buse’s wonderful global health 2019 calendar (still being finetuned as we speak)!
Enjoy your reading.
(you find the pdf of the full newsletter here: IHPn505 )