Environment, biodiversity and human health – harmony or chaos
The integrated dynamic between the human species, the environment in which we live and other living things is deep as it is broad. Ecosystems provide the life support systems for all life, including ours, on Earth. We depend on benefits delivered by ecosystems such as healthy food, clean water, unpolluted air and resources for any number of enterprises and activities e.g. building materials, clothing, drugs, beauty products etc. Ecosystems break down wastes, bind and detoxify poisonous substances and recycle nutrients, carbon and water and have a significant impact on mitigating human-caused climate change. We also have to face challenges delivered by a range of species which cause infectious diseases, parasite infestation and predation. Evidence is now abundant that the human species are the cause of changes to the earths chemical, physical and biological systems, and this is resulting in increasing threats to human health. Most of us scarcely think about our relationship to other life forms, and act as if we can change the composition of the atmosphere, clear and degrade the land and use our oceans as a waste-disposal receptacle, without these alterations having an effect on us. A slow awakening to consciousness about the consequences and risks of our actions is happening around the world. But the awakening process is mainly instigated by media outlets whose currency is mostly the "30-second grab" and an attention-stealing, ratings-elevating headline. The result is often delivery of information without perspective or context, at best leaving the recipients none-the-wiser, and at worst, precipitating a polarization of views into "believe-it" and "believe-it-not" extremes, neither of which are properly informed choices. Pharmacists should have no difficulty in pondering the integrated relationship that our species has with the diverse biological realm - not only in reviewing the potential for outbreaks of serious human disease as world ecology changes, but also in reflecting on the enormous value that biological diversity has and is providing to our profession - our central "tools of trade" - modern drugs !