A Healthier Planet for a Happier New Year

Many Bruins will start 2023 resolving to take better care of themselves. But what about our planet’s well-being? Environmental health and human health are intrinsically linked, in obvious ways like air, soil, and water pollution, and other ways, like emerging infectious diseases.

Human health depends on flourishing natural systems and wise stewardship of those natural systems. Environmental hazards like chemical contamination, poor water quality, and extreme weather and temperature events pose risks to people.

Climate change threatens health and well-being, aggravating illnesses like respiratory issues and causing anxiety-related responses to disasters like flooding or prolonged drought. Its impacts also trickle down to the most vulnerable, particularly disadvantaged communities disproportionately hurt by negative actions against nature.

Our planet needs to be in good shape — for the present population and future generations.

Recognizing that sustainability is the key to improved planetary and human health, UCLA and UCLA Health are taking action through several initiatives, including setting health-specific goals in the UCLA Sustainability Plan.

With professional schools in medicine, nursing, and public health, and centers like Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Center and Center for Healthy Climate Solutions, UCLA is in a unique position with several outlets for advancing planetary and human health.

The Center for Healthy Climate Solutions, located in the Fielding School of Public Health, produces research to inform policy changes to benefit communities: for example, the creation of a heat risk map to help the City of Los Angeles target resources to the most vulnerable areas exposed to extreme heat.

Within the UCLA Health system are several efforts: to reduce waste, conserve water, and even green operating rooms. Already an energy efficiency program implemented in 2015 at the Ronald Reagan and Santa Monica hospital facilities is decreasing carbon emissions by 22%.

And at the Geffen School of Medicine, planetary health topics are part of the curriculum. Future health professionals are engaged in coursework on the changing geography of vector-borne diseases, the health consequences of air pollution, environmental health inequities, and disaster response principles.

UCLA is invested in making Earth a healthier place to live, and every Bruin can be too. Start 2023 off on a good (and smaller!) carbon footprint. Some ways to take action include bringing your own shopping bags and shopping locally, getting a reusable water bottle, eating less meat, recycling and upcycling, and carpooling and taking public transportation. Find more ways to get involved in sustainability on campus here.