The first day of the Sustainability: Transdisciplinary Theory, Practice, and Action (STTPA) conference allowed people from various industries to come together to discuss the topic of health and well-being and its link to sustainability.

Titled “Health and Well-being,” the session was chaired by Jae Page, an MScSM graduate and teaching assistant at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM).

The discussion kicked-off with Sparkles Ransom presenting his talk called “Understanding the impact of legalization of Marijuana: A literature Review.” Marijuana is a mixture derived from the flower called Cannabis. It is comprised of around 400 living compounds and three different plant species: CBD, Sativa, and Indica.

According to Ransom, it is the most commonly used drug today with around 22 million people utilizing it per year. Marijuana has been grown for over 5,000 years with the oldest recorded policies dating back to 1619.

It was known to have quite a positive reputation as it was primarily used to treat sickness, and create fabric, paper, and food, amongst others. However, excessive use led to an increase in crime rates over the years and so it was criminalized and made illegal between the 1930s and the 1940s.

After much effort, the use of marijuana is starting to become legalized with California being the first state to legalize it in 1996.

However, legalization remains a controversial topic, since many people are still against the use of marijuana for many reasons. Others argue that the marijuana industry can provide an additional stream of revenue for economies, by creating an entirely new job market.

Ransom was followed by Paul Eme whose session was called “Review of Methodologies for Assessing Sustainable Diets and Potential for Development of Harmonised Indicators.” 

Eme emphasized the need to develop sustainable diets. Sustainable diets contribute to the intake of food and nutrients and aid in providing a healthy life for both present and future generations, but have a low environmental impact.

He defined such diets as being “protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems” while also being accessible, affordable, economically fair, culturally acceptable, healthy, safe, and adequate in terms of nutrition.

The idea was that whatever is in the community surrounding us is enough for us to survive and thus there is not a need to exploit the environment to create processed food.

His study looked at the different manners in which people have analyzed and created sustainable food systems and, based on this research, Eme proposed that there should be specific indicators to define food as being sustainable. These indicators need to be able to be applied globally across all different systems.

Byomkesh Talukder added on to Eme’s talk by addressing the idea that part of developing a sustainable food system is to create one that does not exploit the land.

Although the human population is thriving and healthier than before, our health has come at the expense of land degradation. As the population continues to increase, more land will be required in order to access more food and housing services.

In addition, practices such as deforestation, fragmentation, and livestock management have resulted in substantial declines in natural life and are giving way to diseases such as, but not limited to, Ebola, Dengue, and Malaria.

To close off the session, Fese Elonge touched on the importance of immigrants having access to healthcare services in order to eliminate and cure the aforementioned diseases, along with others.

While Talukder emphasized that increasing populations will have a detrimental effect on land, Elonge stated that increasing immigrant population leads to the exacerbation of healthcare system issues.

There are a lot of disparities in the policies associated with immigrant healthcare and if they are not solved, then it is essentially a violation of human rights to not be able to give this group of people the tools needed to survive.

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