Earth Care: Public health, disease, and environmental inequalities in the Anthropocene


Over the past century, advances in biomedicine and primary health care have delivered untold benefits to human beings across the globe. Yet these gains have often come at the expense of nature’s ecological systems and have been distributed unevenly within nations and around the planet. This class will be an interdisciplinary examination of how long-standing health concerns, such as infectious disease and malnutrition, may be exacerbated as the Earth’s life-support systems face increasing pressures. We’ll explore how new health threats are emerging as a result of biodiversity loss, climate change, technological transformation and persistent and growing social and environmental inequalities. We’ll conclude by assessing the tradeoffs between economic and development gains, including improved public health, with the degradation of the Earth’s ecological systems and the uneven distribution of resulting benefits and dangers.

Optional background readings:
Anthony J. McMichael, “Globalization, Climate Change and Human Health,” New England Journal of Medicine 368 (April 4, 2013): 1335-43

“Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene: Report of the Rockefeller Foundation-Lancet Commission on planetary health,” The Lancet 386 (in press), advance copy posted July 15. 2015, available via Online First: