Resolution inaugurating the planetary health committee

Having regard to Section 5.1 of the Academy’s Regulations, the Academy Board has resolved to establish a 'Planetary Health Committee' (referred to below as 'the Committee').

Section 1. Remit of the Committee

The Committee’s remit is to carry out an exploration the field. That remit is twofold:

  1. to survey the situation: what is the current state of scientific knowledge regarding planetary health, what is already happening in the Netherlands and elsewhere in this field, and what knowledge gaps are apparent?
  2. to draw up an – ambitious – agenda for knowledge development in the Netherlands in the field of planetary health: what opportunities are there for this field of science, both in terms of scientific content and with regard to facilities and cooperation (national and international), and how should these be prioritised?

Planetary health is a new, interdisciplinary scientific approach to the relationship between human health and the health of the biophysical systems on which humans depend: what is the impact of the “health” of the Earth on human health? This involves not only climate change and loss of biodiversity but also such things as large-scale environmental pollution, deforestation and land erosion, and other worldwide human-induced changes that entail new risks to health. Besides infectious diseases, those health risks also concern food and drinking water, migration and conflict, and mental health. 

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an illustration of those risks: due to the increasingly intensive exploitation of nature, a new virus was able to leap from a bat to a human somewhere in Asia and – thanks to urbanisation and globalisation – that virus was then able to spread extremely rapidly across the globe. Despite all our progress – or perhaps because of it – we remain vulnerable. That vulnerability has changed over the centuries, but it has not disappeared. The “Anthropocene” confronts us with new challenges. In order to identify the resulting risks, an integrated approach is needed. 

That integrated approach is captured in the term “planetary health”. In this interdisciplinary subject, in addition to the medical and health sciences, natural science disciplines such as biology and geology play a major role. The behavioural and social sciences are also needed, for example to fully understand the economic drivers of global environmental change, to understand behavioural change, and to resolve the governance issues involved in controlling planetary health risks. The humanities are also needed, among other things for proper historical analysis and for disentangling the ethical dilemmas that arise in balancing the many interests that are at stake. 

This exploration adopts a broad approach to the subject of planetary health, with the aim of creating productive links between the disciplines involved and their knowledge agendas, and to ensure that the need for sustainability is reflected better – or even better – in the research priorities. The target group comprises knowledge institutions, bodies that fund research, and the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science. 

Section 2. Composition of Committee and Appointment Period

The following persons have been appointed (in their private capacity) to membership of the Committee: 

Chair

Johan Mackenbach (Professor of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Centre) 

Members

  • Vera Araujo Soares (Professor Health Psychology and Planetary Health,Twente University)
  • Lisa Becking (Assistant professor Tropical marine biodiversity, Wageningen University)
  • Frank Biermann(Professor Global sustainability governance, Utrecht University)
  • Tatiana Filatova (Professor Computational economics, TU Delft)
  • Ron Fouchier (Professor Molecular virology Erasmus University Medical Centre)
  • Louise Fresco (Professor Food, agriculture and horticulture, Wageningen University)
  • Pim Martens (Professor Sustainable development, climate change & health, Maastricht University)
  • Jan Luiten van Zanden (Professor Global Economic History, Utrecht University) 

The Committee is appointed for the duration of the project involved. The Committee will submit its draft report to the Academy Board before 1 June 2022. 

Prof. Linda Steg will serve as portfolio manager on behalf of the Academy Board. The Committee will receive support from Hanneke van Doorn and Dr Maartje Aukes (both Academy Bureau) as secretary to the Committee. 

Section 3. Quality and Integrity

Prior to the first meeting of the Committee, the members took note of the 'Code to Prevent Improper Influence due to Conflicting Interests' [Code ter voorkoming van oneigenlijk beïnvloeding door belangenverstrengeling]; they confirmed having done so in a written statement. The Committee members familiarised themselves with the 'Manual Concerning Academy Advisory and Exploratory Reports' [Handleiding adviezen en verkenningen KNAW], adopted by the Academy Board on 18 September 2017. The policy set out in that manual will be followed when assessing the draft advisory report.

Section 4. Work Plan

The Committee will draw up a work plan specifying its working methods and its communication and implementation strategy.

Section 5. Costs and Remuneration

The Academy will reimburse the Committee members for their travel expenses but will not make any other payment to them.

Section 6. Confidentiality

The Committee members will treat all information as confidential to which they become privy while implementing this resolution and which can be assumed to be such. 

Adopted in Amsterdam by the Board of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences on 16 February 2021. 

On behalf of the Board of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, 

M. Zaanen

General Director of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences