Plenary Session V: Climate Change, Environmental Health and Systemic Approaches: Links, Implications and Needed Emphases for the One Health Paradigm

Chaired by Andrew E. Collins

Colin D. Butler
Forty years after the publication of Only One Earth by Barbara Ward and René Dubos we still need to think globally and act locally. There is currently a shift in emphasis away from the Millennium Goals towards sustainability, but do we really mean survival? We have a duty of care to speak out in times of crisis, and the alternative would be a mere placebo. Whereas the increasing price of oil once drove more exploration and discovery, since 2005 there has been a plateau. We have reached peak oil and will soon see peaks in other resources. The era of cheap food may be over: there have been two food price spikes, one in 2007 and one in 2010. So is civilisation at risk? There is a raw materials emergency. We also have an archaic economic system which promotes inequality.

Systems thinking can be applied to pandemic influenza. Claude Bernard (1813-78) deliberated on milieu vs. microbe: in reality both matter. The pathogenicity of avian influenza is much higher in industrial bird farming. "Spanish" influenza killed 2.5 per cent of the global population. Could the failure of civilisation breed conditions for a mega-pandemic? There are large cognitive barriers to thinking globally, but it has to be done. One should think systemically but act reductionistically. In some respects World War I produced the conditions of an industrial farm of human beings, and it thus may have created the conditions for the diffusion of influenza.

Patricia Moser
described how climate change impedes the application of One Health principles to the poor. This is an inconvenient reality. We need inclusive growth that provides more opportunity and access that is more equal. Moreover, it needs to be environmentally friendly growth. There should be regional integration of markets, trade and public goods. The social and economic risks associated with health risks are well recognised. Interest in the health-poverty-environment nexus is growing. Opportunities reside in the migration to urban areas, the growth of trade, electrification and irrigation. Yet 40 per cent of the population of India has no access to electricity. Moreover, small farms and artisans produce dangerous chemical pollutants. Insecure urban environments are changing vector patterns. Then there are the disaster risks. Too many of the data that are used to describe these problems are about the formal sector. There is of course an unregulated informal sector.

In the increased intensity of human-livestock-wild mammal interaction, the poor are least able to adapt. There is a need to promote sustainable transportation, urbanisation, food production, energy production and green growth. Prevention, surveillance and timely response are needed, along with environmental monitoring and regulation. Explicit design is needed for health security. Tools need to be developed for cross-sectoral inclusion. Human health security is only as strong as its weakest link.

Bron Taylor
discussed the land and biosphere ethic inherent in the work of Aldo Leopold (1887-1948). This regards the individual as part of a community, which includes soil, plants and animals. One Health must be premised on three understandings: evolutionary, ecological and post-colonial. Wrongful land-use decisions destroy biotic communities. Colonialism is now accepted as wrong. Instead we need mutual respect and healthy synergistic relationships between species, an approach that opposes imperial and colonial exploitation. Abuse of land is less likely if we see ourselves as part of it. Rhetoric, populations, symbols, values and emotions matter. Predators are bellwethers of social pathologies.