Health Ecology: Health, Culture, and Human-Environment Interaction

By Morteza Honari; Thomas Boleyn | Go to book overview
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Health and conservation

Shared values

Dan W. Walton and Peter Bridgewater

Abstract

Conservation and health are defined and their common roots in cultural values of society are discussed. Some of the principal components of both, such as scale, distribution, change, diversity, information, non-linearity, ethics, institutional competence and management are considered. The importance of the quality of life in a broad non-taxon specific sense is emphasised. Cultural inheritance and its relationship to technology, as well as the impact of technology on the environment, are discussed. Human population in relation to conservation and health practices is noted. The relationships between social pathologies of people, their cultural practices and the environment are issues of great import. The inadequacies and flaws of commonly used economic measures, especially as indicators of the quality of the environment and human health, are presented. The concept of carrying capacity is discussed, as is the significance of social equity. Concern about health and the environment is concern about the relationships which exist between people and the rest of the biosphere and, while there have been isolated successes, people have generally handled these relationships poorly. The need to integrate more fully the goals of conservation and health ethics for a sustainable society is acknowledged. The quality of any life, any living system cannot over time exceed the quality of the environment.

The challenge is to make the basic attitudinal changes, shed the undesirable baggage and make sure that our values and priorities coincide.

The extent of communication between environmental and human health professionals has, in some instances, been excellent. The European Charter on Environment and Health can be taken as an example of success. The role played by international health organisations in the activities leading up to and following UNCED is disappointing. Whether this is an example of barriers supported by the operators of professional theme parks, bureaucratic apathy or some bizarre division of the 'spoils' (= hegemony), is not clear. The joint involvement of health and environmental establishments in improving environmental quality at the national level, we suspect, varies widely between countries. In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council has solicited public debate on the issues and continues to seek input. How well the various professional and

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