Sustainable Development: Where Are We Heading?
University of Zürich, Switzerland
Complex system theory suggests that life consists of hierarchically nested open systems. Thus, global ecology is the largest hierarchical level and regional ecosystems, species, populations, individuals, organs and cells are its subsystems and components. Theoretical physics provides evidence that open stationary complex systems converge to a state of minimal entropy. States away from this minimum (dissipative states) require supplementary energy to be maintained. It can thus be argued, that since mankind has begun herding animals, it invests energy to maintain a dissipative state. According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy cannot be destroyed nor generated, and the resources necessary to maintain that dissipative state must come from what is available in the environment. Thus, any cultural and technical development results inevitably in a loss of resources (energy) for the environment. It is noteworthy that a number of proxies for human wellbeing, namely economic activity and burden of disease are relative to the distance from the global minimum. Maximising and minimizing respectively, is increasing the distance from the global minimum. If it is consensus that some parts of the environment are to be conserved, this process must be constrained, and the current surrogates replaced by metrics that assess wellbeing without driving the depletion of environmental resources. Aspects such as diversity, connectedness and adaptability are candidates that could be applied to human and animal wellbeing, and research into such surrogates is a key element of a sustainable one health strategy. Furthermore, the theoretical aim of freedom from disease requires a thermodynamic isolation of human activity from its environment and should thus be questioned as a point of reference.
Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in West Africa: The Lessons We Have Not Learned
1FAO, Dakar, Subregional office for Emergency, Rehabilitation and Resilience in West Africa (REOWA); 2Center for Mountain Ecosystem Studies, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences; 3World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), East and Central Asia Region; 4School of Humanities and Social Science Nanyang Technological University; 5Global Health Asia, Faculty of Public Health, Mahidol University
The outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa represented a crisis of massive scope and cross-sectoral nature. First reported in March 2014, the Ebola outbreak severely affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and threatened to impact neighbouring countries. EVD caused tragic loss of life, adversely impacted agriculture and gravely threatened food and nutrition security in the region. Governments, institutions and infrastructures struggled to cope with the enormous challenge while the way of life of affected populations hung in the balance. Now that the number of cases is declining and the situation is slowly returning to normal, questions are emerging on the incapacity of the international community and national public health systems to react timely and prevent the dramatic spread of the disease across 6 countries in Africa and beyond in Europe and the United States. What have we missed and what are the lessons we have not learned from One Health experiments that took place in various parts of the world, more particularly in Asia? Here we explore the social and ecological determinants of emerging infectious diseases, with the hope they may help lay a foundation for a preventive approach to EIDs. What can be learned from this and other EIDs (H5N1, SARS, NIPAH) is the need to focus on understanding the temporal and spatial coalescence of social and ecological factors promoting intensification of transmission. This must include considering how emergence processes operating on different scales interact, and how loss of system resilience sets the stage for disease emergence. This should include how the dynamics of critical factors lead to potential epidemic foci, locally. It should also include how these dynamics coincide with critical processes occurring on a regional scale, such as increasing movement of pathogens via humans or other “vehicles” for inter-foci pathogen transmission.
A Matter of Life and Death: Reproductive Health Should be Part of One Health
Independent author, United Kingdom. Author of "The Domestication of Women"
As child deaths are driven down by a global campaign on health, there is a tragic failure to offer women the means to match births to deaths. The death and injury toll to women and children from unwanted or unintended births and abortions is unacceptably high, and parents - especially mothers - are being left literally "holding the baby" or rather many babies. Their struggle to feed, house and clothe these children - with nothing left for education - is dragging families down. The same applies to many developing countries with their enormous dependency ratios, low levels of education and internal investment, and high levels of unemployment especially among young people.
We have a unique opportunity, through health campaigns, to provide a better life for many poorer families through death control and birth control. Contraceptive methods, and innovative programmes for delivery, are better than they ever were. Some poor countries are showing that contraception is rapidly taken up if offered in an appropriate way. We now have to confront the failure of the international community to finance contraceptive programmes, and the diversion of funds to HIV/AIDS work which should have its own funding. We should also challenge UN agencies and many international aid organisations for their failure to offer contraceptive services with health care. I suggest that the best way forward to cut through international bureaucracy is a resolution at the General Assembly.
The Effects of Ebola on African Tourism
Global Risk Forum GRF Davos, Switzerland
The outbreak of Ebola not only led to several thousand fatalities, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but also the economies and the tourism sector are heavily affected. The Ebola crisis was even made worse as there is a negative perception by tourists of Africa being a country, instead of a continent when it comes to risk assessment. This perception evoked fear, which spread faster than the virus itself. As a consequence, not only the Ebola-infected countries were suffering from economic losses, but also other African countries. Although not having had one case of Ebola, countries such as Kenya or Namibia were and still are affected by it, as tourists are avoiding the whole African continent. The recent decreases in tourism numbers in Africa show that there is a need for a strategy that prevents further losses in case of another crisis – the question remains, which one the most effective is. Interviews with National Tourism Organizations of African countries were conducted to answer this question. This presentation will show that a disease has the power not only to infect people, but also to affect several countries, and will provide recommendations and effective strategies for stimulating the tourism industry.