After the “unsurpassed dishonesty and irresponsibility from national political leaders on Australian climate and energy policy” (according to former oil, gas and coal industry executive Ian Dunlop, writing at RenewEconomy), it seems timely to turn to some inspirational, aspirational and big-picture views about health.
As those who have been following #OHEH2016 on Twitter will know, an international conference in Melbourne this week has brought together scholars and practitioners working at the intersection of human, animal, environmental and planetary health.
According to Dr Kate Auty, the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and Environment and a Climate Change Ambassador for the City of Melbourne, the One Health EcoHealth 2016 conference was typified by systems thinking, collaborations, participation, and transdisciplinary thinking/action.
“Human health, animal health, environmental health, social, medical and biophysical scientists and practitioners shared ideas from across the globe,” she says.
“Technology got a look in, as did grounded, community centred practical action. Climate change, taken as a given, was front of mind. Pandemics were viewed through multiple lenses.”
Below is an “Aspiration Statement for the Next Generation” developed by conference participants and coordinated by Dr Neville Ellis, Hon Postdoctoral Associate at the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability at Murdoch University. It is also published here.
(And below the statement are some video interviews conducted by Croakey’s roving reporter, Marie McInerney, at the conference.)
Aspiration Statement for the Next Generation
The OHEH 2016 Aspirational Statement sets out the aspirations of Emerging Scholars and Practitioners located within communities of inquiry and practice working at the intersection of human, animal, environmental and planetary health.
It is towards a collective community capable of imagining and manifesting a radically sustainable future to which we aspire. The aspirations outlined here represent the values and principles we feel are needed to orientate our efforts as a collective community towards this task. At the heart of this document is a firm belief that out of diversity come strength and resilience, and that a collective community drawn from diversity is stronger and more effective than the sum of its individual parts.
In recent years new fields of inquiry have emerged recognising the complex connections that exist between human, animal, environmental and planetary health.
Fields such as Ecohealth, OneHealth, Planetary Health, Ecological Public Health, Future Health, Environmental Health Justice, Environmental and Occupational Health, Human Ecology, Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development, amongst multiple others, are representative of the growing ecology-health nexus.
The expansion of these fields speaks to a growing recognition of the complex interdependencies that exist between the social, physical and planetary dimensions of heath, giving rise to a convergence of ecologically informed health-related research and practice.
We understand that such ways of conceptualising health are rooted in ancient and diverse ways of knowing. This is outlined in key United Nations documents such the Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
That such a convergence is occurring now is, perhaps, to be expected. Environmental science indicates that we will be the first generation of human beings to knowingly step into a new geological era. Receding before us is the Holocene – an 11,000 thousand-year-old period of extraordinary environmental stability that gave rise to societies of increasing social complexity.
Looming in front of us is the Anthropocene – the era of humankind. The Anthropocene metaphor comes at a time when human influence upon the Earth rivals natural processes in shaping the evolutionary trajectory of all life. We recognise that our collective actions have fundamentally disrupted the biophysical processes that underpin ecological stability, pushing earth systems beyond a safe operating space for humanity and into an uncertain and largely unknowable future.
This ‘field convergence’ will present opportunities and challenges for scholarly and practice-based communities alike. In response, the purpose of this Aspirational Statement is to chart a direction for our respective fields and communities of practice in the context of field convergence, based on our shared goals, values and aspirations.
The aim is not to deliver a ‘roadmap’ with a specific destination; but rather to articulate a broad set of principles to help us to work to create a more equitable, positive, healthy and sustainable future.
This Aspirational Statement is about ‘transformational change.’ Current ways of doing health research and practice need to evolve if we are to address the major human-environmental health issues confronting us in the Anthropocene era.
In order to disrupt existing paradigms that have produced many of the challenges associated with the Anthropocene, we believe that we must occupy new and uncomfortable spaces, and commit to bridging disciplinary and practice-based divides to innovate and activate a global consciousness for collective action.
Moreover, we hope this Aspirational Statement will inspire a new generation of scholars to take up the complex challenges before them, while encouraging our Elders to provide the mentorship that is supportive of the aspirations outlined in this document. We believe the following principles and values are fundamental to these change efforts
This document is for anyone interested in and inspired by connections between animal, human, environmental and planetary health.
A group of emerging scholars and practitioners was motivated by their Elders to develop an aspirational statement speaking to the increasing convergence of actors, institutions and disciplines converging on issues of human, animal, environmental and planetary health.
Prior and throughout the OHEH 2016 Congress an invitation was extended to delegates to articulate what they aspire to achieve in their work, which was subsequently shared with global communities operating in this space. This is a living document to be revisited as our collective communities continue to evolve.
Aspiration 1: Negotiating Shared Identity
We aspire to be a collective community that is courageous and passionate. As individuals and communities respectful of our diverse identities, we recognise that we are connected to each other and to the places that nourish us. From this understanding we aspire to connect across our differences. By listening and hearing from people, places and living systems fundamental to our collective wellbeing, we will continue to negotiate a shared sense of identity.
Aspiration 2: Leveraging Shared Values
We aspire to foster and act upon our shared values that include equity (intergenerational, intra-generational and inter-species), diversity, openness, responsibility, accountability and respect for the people, places and processes that sustain life. Our values drive our actions, shape our ways of knowing, and inform who we are.
Aspiration 3: Strengthening Collaboration
We aspire to address wicked social-ecological problems through collaboration. We want to create opportunities to collaborate and to reach out to others who share our aspirations. We want to facilitate understanding across cultural and community divides, and to cultivate a common language from which we may work together. We are interested in creative ways to achieve transformational change, drawing on science, technology, the arts and diverse ways of knowing/being. We recognise that power naturally arises in our collaborative work and commit to acknowledging and naming that power.
Aspiration 4: Integrating Knowledges
We aspire to embrace the complexity of our world while recognising that our knowledge is only ever partial and open to interpretation. We recognise multiple legitimate ways of knowing and we aspire to harness their creative and transformative potential. Our knowledge is informed by our lived experiences tied to the places in which we live, play and love, as much as it is by globalised ways of knowing.
Watch Marie McInerney’s interviews
Dr William Karesh is the Executive Vice President for Health and Policy for the EcoHealth Alliance, and was the first to coin the term “One Health” to describe the interdependence of healthy ecosystems, animals and people. He talks about progress so far and where momentum may come.
Professor Jonathan Rushton is an agricultural economist based at Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool. He talks to Croakey about the implications of the current huge imbalance in healthcare resources across the species.
Declaration: Croakey acknowledges and thanks Professor Kerry Arabena for enabling Marie McInerney to attend the conference by providing one-day registration at One Health Eco Health 2016.