The Public Health Nursing Series is a 20-blog collection, written by William (Billy) Rosa, author of the recently released title, Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership (June 2016), that sparks a dialogue about each and every nurse's role in advancing and creating the future of global health. With a focus on cultural considerations and the current status of healthcare in nations worldwide, nurses will learn how they are called to contribute to each of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, an international initiative that seeks to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all over the next 15 years.This series makes the case that every nurse, regardless of title, position, or credential, is a public health leader.

Sustainable Development Goal #12 – Responsible Consumption and Production

The statement below should concern you and throw you into action. You might find yourself reflecting on what you can do or how you can procure future global well-being while mitigating the unavoidable human suffering. You might wonder if you have the skills and resources necessary to impact positive change for individuals and populations at large. If you’re like me, you may lose your breath for a moment only to soon realize that we are capable, as impossible as it may seem, of both reversing this trend and preventing the complications and human-made disasters implied by such a projection.

Here it is: “Should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles” (United Nations Sustainable Development [UNSD], 2016). Personally, I will be 67 years old in 2050. My spouse will be 81. What about you? What about your partner? How old will your children and your children’s children be? What will be left for them to eat and breathe and drink? What will be the quality of their lives as they struggle to maintain optimal health and well-being? While these questions might be intimidating to reflect upon, they could not be more essential to ask at this pivotal time in human development and globalization.

Imagine, if you will, a world where water scarcity becomes a daily reality for even the most affluent of nations: bare store shelves and empty refrigerators. Think about the food deprivation that may occur as farmland is further degraded as a result of unsustainable practices, overfishing continues to pillage lakes and oceans, and food is wasted at exponential, almost unthinkable, rates. Consider breathing air so polluted by the irresponsibility of industrial waste emissions that respiratory diseases become the norm and not the exception.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) # 12 seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” by 2030 (UNSD, 2016). Some of the targets include:

  • Developed countries taking the lead in implementing 10-year program frameworks on sustainable consumption and production
  • Improve the efficient use and management of natural resources
  • Reduce by 50% global food waste and decrease food losses along production and supply chains
  • Responsibly manage chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle
  • Encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices
  • Disseminate knowledge and education to the global community regarding sustainable development awareness and creating lifestyles more attuned to nature

Previous blogs within this series have addressed the partnerships and initiatives that public health nurses can engage with to achieve and address many of these targets. One additional responsibility of nurses in public health includes promoting self-reflection for individuals and communities to better understand their roles in sustainable consumption. This includes the dissemination of accurate information for all people to understand the implications of their lifestyles on the health and well-being of the global village.

Self-reflection in this regard means that we are able to gauge our individual and communal contributions to the greater environmental status of the world at large. Luck and Keegan (2016, p. 559) provide these questions for consideration:

  • What does it meant to be human?
  • What does it mean to be an Earth citizen?
  • What are our beliefs about health when we tell our story?
  • Do we consider all of the possible influences that affect our daily lives and those with whom we live and work?
  • How can we face the great ecological crises of our time?
  • How do each of our stories contribute to the larger story?
  • How does changing our own story lead to planetary change?

As we identify the places and spaces where our lives intersect with the priorities of global well-being, we gain the opportunities to improve the choices we make and affect meaningful, positive changes for both self and others.

The considerations of SDG #12 are not the problems of some far off and unlikely future of which we won’t be a part. On the contrary, many of us (with fate’s blessing) will be alive and well to reap the consequences of the choices we are making and the industrial practices we are supporting right now. We have a duty, as global citizens, to take a hard and uncomfortable look at how we live, eat, drink, work, play, and sustain ourselves in respect to the natural resources of the planet. This self-reflection is a part of responsible living: a vital component of the desire we have to see our families and communities thriving in health and happiness.

References

Luck, S. & Keegan, L. (2016). Environmental health. In B.M. Dossey & L. Keegan (Eds.),           Holistic nursing: A handbook for practice (7th ed.) (pp. 557-587). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

United Nations Sustainable Development (UNSD). (2016). Goal 12: Ensure sustainable    consumption and production patterns. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/

More About the Author

William (Billy) Rosa, MS, RN, LMT, AHN-BC, AGPCNP-BC, CCRN-CMC, is currently Visiting Faculty, University of Rwanda and ICU Clinical Educator, Rwanda Military Hospital, Human Resources for Health Program in partnership with the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing. He currently has over 65 publications for refereed and non-refereed journals, newspapers, magazines, and national platform blogs and his book, Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership, was recently published by Springer Publishing in June 2016. Billy currently sits on the US Advisory Board for the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health, and most recently received the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses' 2015 National Circle of Excellence Award and the Association for Nursing Professional Development's 2015 National Change Agent/Team Member Award.

Quick Links

Part 1 -  Understanding the Nurse as a Public Health Leader

Part 16 - Sustainable Development Goal #13 - Climate Change