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Research Paper(s)

Dr. Colin L. Soskolne


Public health to shift policy towards sustainable paradigms


Global ecological integrity and sustainable development


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Public health to shift policy towards sustainable paradigms




Colin L. Soskolne, PhD, FACE
Professor: Department of Public Health Sciences
Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Anthropocentrism is degrading life-support systems world-wide. No longer can humans be permitted to see themselves as being disconnected from or independent of the ecosphere. Simply put, human well-being is not separate from naturesí processes. Accelerating global change is helping to bring these facts to the publicís realization. Anecdotal evidence from Canada is used to support a model in which the integration of human self-interest could, in fact, be serving the interests of all life forms. Based on the intuition that human well-being is dependent on the health of life-support systems and that, in turn, these systems are dependent upon biodiversity, the two sets of interests, namely anthropocentrism and biocentrism, become one in a mutually unified notion of ecocentrism.

Since 1996, human health was recognized as an integral component of a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) grant in the area of Global Ecological Integrity (P.I.: L. Westra). By integrating human health concerns into the grant application, this apparently added to its fundability. Since then, numerous meetings promoting the notion of global ecological integrity together with its relationship to human health have been well-received. In fact, the World Health Organizationís European Centre for Environment and Health, Rome Division, was responsible, in December 1998, for hosting a Workshop on the connection between global ecological integrity and human health. The Preface to the Discussion Document arising from this Workshop states that "Ö global change has become an issue warranting public health involvement. The public health community needs to face the challenges presented by global change and equip itself with the necessary scientific and technical means to anticipate and, where possible, prevent human health consequences arising from degrading life-support systems".

The message of the "Integrity Group" also was supported at a NATO-sponsored meeting in Budapest in July, 1999. The model that has evolved by "SSHRCC Integrity Group" actions has resulted (at time of writing) in what is seen as minimally a tentative acknowledgement that human population health -- under a model of development driven by growth -- is placed at increasing risk as natural capital declines and ecological systems fail.

Because of WHO's strengthening commitment to healthy environments, social equity and sustainable development -- essential ingredients for the improvement and maintenance of population health -- it would be appropriate for the Organization to consider integrating the issue of failing life-support systems onto its agenda. In so doing, tools to monitor and evaluate changes in the quality of life-support systems, their subsequent health effects and the effects of interventions will have to be developed. Engagement with this topic would require public health sciences to become proactive; their more typical reactive role of documenting the adverse health consequences of recent-past circumstances is no longer adequate under global change.

The features of the model established by the actions of the "Integrity Group" are identified and generalized to future possible initiatives so as to maximize success worldwide for the shifting of social paradigms towards sustainable futures. The key element in the model is the integration of human health concerns into any initiatives designed to impact social and/or economic policies. The modelís success will, however, likely depend on social awareness of declining life-support systems. (528 words)


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Global ecological integrity and sustainable development

by Dr. Colin L. Soskolne, Ph.D., F.A.C.E.
Department of Public Health Sciences
Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
13-103 Clinical Sciences Building
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada

It covers the issues of energy, environment and sustainable development.

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