Meet the Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group: Sam Myers

“Meet the Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group” is a new regular series where we profile advisors of the Nourishing the Planet project. This week, we’re featuring Dr. Samuel Myers, who is an Instructor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and a member of the Worldwatch Institute Board of Directors.

(Photo: Harvard University)

(Photo: Harvard University)

Name: Dr. Samuel Myers

Affiliation: Harvard Medical School; The Worldwatch Institute

Location: Boston, United States

Bio: Samuel Myers is an Instructor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. His research interests include human health impacts of large-scale, anthropogenic environmental change including climate change, land use change, and deterioration of ecosystem services. Dr. Myers also studies the  consequences of large-scale environmental change to human nutrition and impact of food production systems on the environment. He is Board Certified in internal medicine and is a Staff Physician at the Mount Auburn Hospital where he continues to see patients. Dr. Myers is also a member of the Worldwatch Institute Board of Directors.

Recent WorkGlobal Environmental Change: The Threat to Human Health Emerging threats to human health from global environmental change (see citation below)(1).

On the Nourishing the Planet project: At the same time that billions of people are suffering from protein-calorie malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, we are encountering numerous environmental headwinds in nourishing the global population. These include land degradation, soil nutrient depletion, biodiversity loss and a host of factors associated with climate change including temperature rise, altered access to water, more natural disasters, increased ground level ozone concentrations, and altered exposure to pests and pathogens. These challenges will manifest differently in different locations, and overcoming them will require solutions that have been developed in a way that is sensitive to local context. I see this as the great value of the Nourishing the Planet project. We need to identify a suite of agricultural innovations appropriate for different locations and contexts that we can employ to improve nutritional security around the globe. Nourishing the Planet is a very valuable effort towards this goal.

In your report ‘Global Environmental Change: The Threat to Human Health’ you describe the health impacts of climate change as an opportunity as well as a challenge. Can you describe those challenges and the alternate opportunities they present? Why should countries like the United States, who are the primary source of climate change, care about the health impacts of climate change on people in developing countries? Let me just say that there is a clear moral imperative for people in the wealthy world to address the suffering of people in the poor world given that our consumption patterns have put them in harm’s way. Addressing the health impacts of climate change is an opportunity as well as a challenge, because if we recognize this moral imperative, and rise to the challenge of helping to address these health threats, we will be addressing some of the most entrenched scourges of human wellbeing: malnutrition, poverty, infectious disease, inadequate water and sanitation, etc.  I believe that Nourishing the Planet can play an important role in helping to identify and highlight approaches to meeting nutritional needs that increase resilience to climate change—as well as other types of ongoing environmental change. This need for the wealthy world to help the poor world increase its resilience to environmental threats is central to all the health-related challenges of climate change and an area where Nourishing the Planet has a lot to offer.

1.         Myers SS, Patz J. 2009. Emerging threats to human health from global environmental change. Annual Review of Environment & Resources 34: 223-52

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