Global Ecological Integrity, Global
Change, and Public Health
Colin L. Soskolne
Ecological degradation, precipitating large-scale ecosystem collapses, likely will have an impact on human health (McMichael et al. 1999). Bearing the principle of sustainable development in mind, a pilot workshop on “Global Ecological Integrity and Human Health” took place in 1998. It was convened at the World Health Organization (WHO) European Center for Environment and Health, Rome Division, Italy, 3–4 December (Soskolne and Bertollini 1999). An initial review of the available scientific evidence and philosophical considerations was undertaken to link global ecological integrity with the sustainability of human health and well-being. “Sustainable development” is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland Commission Report 1987).
The term “global ecological integrity” (global EI) is an umbrella concept that includes the following criteria: the ecosystem must retain its ability to deal with outside interference and, if necessary, regenerate itself; the systems' integrity reaches a peak when the optimum capacity for the greatest number of possible ongoing development options, within its time/location, is reached; and it should retain the ability to continue its ongoing change and development, unconstrained by human interruptions, past or present (Lemons et al. 1997; Westra 1994, 1998; Westra and Lemons 1995; Pimentel et al. 2000). More familiar terms include “ecological health and ecosystem health. ” Conversely, the terms ecological dis-