The Global Environment Outlook, a report crafted on behalf of the United Nations by 250 scientists from 70 countries, is decidedly more substantive than the periodic jaw-jaw on climate change in Copenhagen, Cancun and Paris, as often as not abortive endeavours. It will not be easy for the likes of Donald Trump to ignore the heart of the matter, despite the American President’s abstention from the climate-change conference in Paris last December. The report highlights what it calls a “growing chasm between rich and poor countries as rampant over-consumption, pollution and wastage of food in the developed world leads to hunger, poverty and disease elsewhere”. The crisis, therefore, is as societal as it is environmental. Rightly has the document been welcomed by responsible sections in the West as a “landmark report on the planet’s parlous state”. It has been a remarkably forthright articulation of grim reality, and the world ought now to accept that it is a parlous planet ~ a point of fact that is terribly unfortunate for the Earth to which the world belongs. The findings will bear on public health not the least because a quarter of all premature deaths and diseases worldwide are due to manmade pollution and environmental damage. In terms of statistics, damage to the environment, which is endemic to say the least, is responsible for one in four global deaths. The document is riveted to issues that are close to the bone and in critical contrast to hi-falutin platitudes at the high table. Theoretically, the UN-sponsored report has expressed the voice of the comity of nations, and it now devolves on the world body to take action in the follow-through, instead of prevaricating as in the storm-centres of the world.

The striking feature of the document must be that it is riveted to issues pertaining to public health, instead of merely climate change and rising sea levels. Less easily grasped either by the developed or developing countries is the impact of pollution, deforestation, and the mechanised foodchain on health ~ a primary index of public policy. It thus comes about that “poor environment conditions cause approximately 25 per cent of global disease and mortality ~ around 9 million deaths in 2015 alone”. Not to put too fine a point on it, the report has called for a “root-and branch detoxification of human behaviour” while insisting that the problem is not intractable. It is above all a stern prognosis of what will happen if the world doesn’t change its ways. It is imperative for nations, whether big or small, to adapt to the environmental reality that is facing everyone on the planet. However unpalatable to the developed countries, the subtext of the report is pretty obvious ~ there may be hope yet if there is concerted action. Which in itself is a scarce commodity. It is an iffy scenario.