Biology & Public Health

Deep Dive Toolkit

Interdependence is literally hardwired into our neural networks. Explore the resources provided below to learn more about how our innate desire to understand one another and build vast social networks can and should enable us to affect change at the global level on issues ranging from the Covid-19 pandemic to the climate crisis — and how you can take action now.

On Interdependence, Social Interaction and Health

Scholars have demonstrated the immense importance of social interactions to the human psyche, finding that social pain impacts our brains in the same way that physical pain does…

On Interdependence, Pandemics, and a Necessary Global Response to Covid-19

Our action, or lack thereof, in addressing this crisis will lead to the suffering of millions of people all over the world.…

On Environmental Injustice, Race, and Public Health

COVID-19 has also illuminated and ignited further action and conversation about the relationship between environmental injustice, race, and public health…

On Interdependence, Social Interaction and Health

Scholars have demonstrated the immense importance of social interactions to the human psyche, finding that social pain impacts our brains in the same way that physical pain does…

On Interdependence, Pandemics, and a Necessary Global Response to Covid-19

Our action, or lack thereof, in addressing this crisis will lead to the suffering of millions of people all over the world.…

On Environmental Injustice, Race, and Public Health

COVID-19 has also illuminated and ignited further action and conversation about the relationship between environmental injustice, race, and public health…

“Studying together” photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash
“Coronavirus” photo by CDC on Unsplash
“Humankind be both” Photo by Hybrid on Unsplash

On Interdependence, Social Interaction and Health

A plethora of studies in the field of social cognitive neuroscience found that humans rely heavily on social interactions to reduce stress and sustain happiness. Other scholars have demonstrated the immense importance of social interactions to the human psyche, finding that social pain impacts our brains in the same way that physical pain does. Discover more about the importance of social interaction to your health below.

INTERDEPENDENCE

Interdependence amongst humans is a biological necessity for us, as it improves our health outcomes, our sense of well-being, and helps us live longer. The videos below investigate the importance of social interactions and understanding among humans as well as the impact of these connections on public health.

  • Guiding Questions
    • How do your social interactions impact your mental health?
    • How can our connections across the globe enable grassroots movements?
    • Do you think social interaction is a necessity like other basic needs?
  • Watch the Ted Talk, The Secret to Living Longer May Be Your Social Life, by psychologist Susan Pinker ,where she explores how social interactions may increase the lifespans of residents on the island of Sardinia.
  • Watch The Empathic Civilization, where author and political advisor Jeremey Rifkin delves deep into the evolution of empathy and the impact it has had on the development of human society.
HEALTHY SOCIAL INTERACTION

Experience the impacts of healthy social interaction first-hand:

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood with a friend or family member and have a conversation. Use our Hope Talks conversations guides to inspire your discussion!
  • Get involved with a community group like a local book club or cultural organization. Many organizations are holding gatherings online during the pandemic!
  • Guiding Questions
    • Do these activities have emotional impact?
    • Do you feel that these activities satisfy a need?
    • Why do you think social interactions are so important to individuals and more broadly to the world?
BOOKS AND ARTICLES

Below are some books and articles that will help you explore and discover the connection between our biological make-up and human interdependence.

Books

Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect by Matthew Lieberman

The Development of Social Engagement: Neurobiological Perspectives by Peter J. Marshall and Nathan A. Fox

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John C. Maxwell

Articles

Grassroots Activism: Make that Change by JoJo Swords

Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health by Jane E. Brody

How Casual Daily Interactions Protect Your Health by Jennifer Breheny Wallace

On Interdependence, Pandemics, and a Necessary Global Response to Covid-19

The rapid spread of Covid-19 demonstrates that viruses are not confined to a single country or landmass. Our action, or lack thereof, in addressing this crisis will lead to the suffering of millions of people all over the world. Our human biological similarities make all of us susceptible to this disease. This public health crisis can only be countered with a connected global response that recognizes our shared humanity.

WATCH

A global Pandemic Calls for Global Solutions by Larry Brilliant

The Corona Virus Explained & What You Should Do by Kurzgesagt

UNSG Mandela Day Speech

How the Pandemic Will Shape the Near Future with Bill Gates

Can Technology Help Build a Shock-Resistant Planet?

ARTICLES

Visualizing the History of Pandemics by Nicholas LePan

Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve” by Harry Stevens

Covid-19 offers a chance to build a better world. We Must Seize It by Jamie Metzl

#RiseOrFallTogether Report

UN Response to Covid-19

Resources on WHO Pandemic Preparedness 

WHO checklist for influenza pandemic preparedness planning

GUIDING QUESTIONS

How does the Covid-19 pandemic compare to past pandemics?

How does the present pandemic underscore the importance of joint global action?

What actions should the global community take to address the urgent needs of the world’s most vulnerable populations during this time of crisis?

How has the Covid-19 pandemic revealed the flaws in our global system?

Take Action!

On Environmental Injustice, Race and Public Health

COVID-19 has also illuminated and ignited further action and conversation about the relationship between environmental injustice, race, and public health. With the onset of this global pandemic, the inequities from one community to another have become even more clear. Not everyone is equipped with the same social determinants of health – which is defined by the CDC as the “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play” — to live a healthy life.

Notably, data detailing cases of COVID-19 have been the highest in Black and brown communities, and this is not by chance or coincidence. Racism has long been described as a public health issue, with many states and localities across the United States declaring it a public health crisis. As far as being declared at the federal level, multiple organizations have called on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to state racism as a national public health crisis — including the CDC’s own employees.

A Deeper Dive

The Environmental Justice movement, which began as a grassroots movement predominantly by people of color, seeks to address the inequity of environmental protections within Black and brown communities. Over the years, activists have brought attention to how racism and the environment are intertwined. Environmental racism is a concept which defines the relationship between environmental injustice and race, and has been defined by the Green Action Organization as “the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color.”

To learn more about the history of the Environmental Justice movement, environmental racism, and how this relates to public health — you can view an interactive timeline put together by the Environmental Protection Agency here, and explore the resources listed below.

WATCH

Short Videos

What is Environmental Justice? by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC)

What is Environmental Racism? by AJ+ (Al Jazeera Media Network)

Flattening the COVID-19 Curve in the Black Community: Interview with Harvard’s Dean Michelle Williams

READ

Articles

When a Virus Exposes Environmental Justice by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC)

The Fullest Look Yet at the Racial Inequity of Coronavirus by Richard A. Oppel Jr., Robert Gebeloff, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Will Wright and Mitch Smith

What Do Coronavirus Racial Disparities Look Like State By State? by Maria Godoy and Daniel Wood

COVID-19’s Disparate Impacts Are Not a Story about Race: They’re a story about racism by Jennifer Tsai

States are Calling Racism a Public Health Crisis. Here’s What That Means” by Harmeet Kaur and Skylar Mitchell at CNN Health

State and Local Efforts to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis by Betsy Lawson and Dawn Hunter at The Network for Public Health Law

Environmental Racism Has Left Black Communities Especially Vulnerable to COVID-19 by Casey Berkovitz at The Century Foundation

Unequal Impact: The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change an interview between Beth Gardiner and Activist Elizabeth Yeampierre

Why Racism, Not Race, is a Risk Factor for Dying of Covid-10

Structural Racism, Social Risk Factors, and Covid-19 — A Dangerous Convergence for Black Americans

Climate Change and Social Inequality by S. Nazrul Islam and John Winkel

Books

Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color by Robert D. Bullard

Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders by Angelou Ezeilo

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

Climate Change From the Streets by Michael Méndez 

Environmental Justice in a Moment of Danger by Julie Sze

Indigenous Environmental Justice edited by Karen Jarratt-Snider and Marianne O. Nielsen

Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J. Cooper with Marc Aronson

Take Action!

The link between systemic racism and public health is clear – and there is an urgent need for people like you to get involved. To learn more about policies regarding our environment, and to advocate for the protection of people’s health and communities, check out the organizations below and take action today.

Natural Resources Defence Council

EarthJustice

Green Action

WE ACT for Environmental Justice

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