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Energy efficiency as a unifying principle for human, environmental, and global health.

  • Author(s): Fontana, Luigi
  • Atella, Vincenzo
  • KAMMEN, Daniel M.
  • et al.

A strong analogy exists between over/under consumption of energy at the level of the human body and of the industrial metabolism of humanity. Both forms of energy consumption have profound implications for human, environmental, and global health. Globally, excessive fossil-fuel consumption, and individually, excessive food energy consumption are both responsible for a series of interrelated detrimental effects, including global warming, extreme weather conditions, damage to ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, widespread pollution, obesity, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and other lethal chronic diseases. In contrast, data show that the efficient use of energy-in the form of food as well as fossil fuels and other resources-is vital for promoting human, environmental, and planetary health and sustainable economic development. While it is not new to highlight how efficient use of energy and food can address some of the key problems our world is facing, little research and no unifying framework exists to harmonize these concepts of sustainable system management across diverse scientific fields into a single theoretical body. Insights beyond reductionist views of efficiency are needed to encourage integrated changes in the use of the worlds natural resources, with the aim of achieving a wiser use of energy, better farming systems, and healthier dietary habits. This perspective highlights a range of scientific-based opportunities for cost-effective pro-growth and pro-health policies while using less energy and natural resources.

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