Public Health in the Anthropocene: The grandest challenge, the wickedest problem
25 September 2015, Nathan campus
Human activity is creating massive and rapid change in the Earth’s natural systems. So great is our impact that geologists suggest we are entering a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene. Many of these changes affect the ecological determinants of health: clean air and water, food supply, materials, fuels, recycling and detoxification of wastes, and of course climate stability. Human communities and societies are embedded in and ultimately dependent upon natural ecosystems, and when these systems decline or collapse, so to do the associated societies. This will have profound impacts on the health of current and future populations. If we are to successfully manage this decline, avoid collapse and transition to a more just, sustainable and healthy future, public health must adopt an eco-social approach, find new partners, and build healthy, equitable and sustainable communities.
Dr Trevor Hancock is a public health physician and a Professor at the School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria. He is one of the founders of the (now global) Healthy Cities and Communities movement and pioneered early work on the concept of 'healthy public policy' in the 1980s.
Dr Hancock has a long-standing interest in health and the environment, in the links between health and sustainable development and in the ecological determinants of health. He has just completed a three-year-long process of leading a workgroup of the Canadian Public Health Association to develop a Discussion Document and supporting technical paper on the ecological determinants of health, the public health implications of global ecological change and the necessary public health response to the issue.
He has also played a key role in founding several environment-focused organisations, including the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care. In the 1980’s he was one of the founders and the first leader of the Green Party in Canada.
Recent publication - book chapter - Managing decline: global change requires local action