Linking Human Health and Biodiversity: CEC members give seminar in Guadalajara

27 November 2010 | News story

CEC members Abelardo Brenes and Jean Perras led a seminar at the conference Healthy Environment, Healthy People (Ambiente sano, gente sana) at the invitation of organizer Arturo Curiel, CEC Regional Vice Chair for Mesoamerica. View their presentations.

By Jean Perras

The University of Guadalajara (Mexico) held the first international conference on human health and environmental health, Ambiente sano, gente sana, Primer Congreso Internacional de Salud Ambiental, from 18-22 October 2010 in Zapopan, Jalisco.

One of the key organizers from the university was Dr. Arturo Curiel, IUCN CEC Regional Vice Chair for Meso America. Arturo invited two CEC members, Dr. Abelardo Brenes of Introspections Costa Rica and Jean Perras, a strategic planning consultant from Canada, to lead a seminar on health and biodiversity. More than 25 health and biodiversity professionals and students participated in a one-day workshop conducted by the CEC members.

This workshop proposed to review the relationship between human health and biodiversity, and may be considered part of CEC’s contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity, a modest input into the ongoing dialogue on protection of biodiversity.

IUCN estimates the current species extinction rate is between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than it would naturally be. The main drivers of this loss are converting natural areas to farming and urban development, introducing invasive alien species, polluting or over-exploiting resources including water and soils and harvesting wild plants and animals at unsustainable levels.

There is general consensus the rate of loss of biodiversity could endanger human health. If we cannot find a better way to conserve and protect our biodiversity, our inaction could have a major impact on our health and livelihood, agriculture and food security, and on medicine (both traditional and modern). Key points are made in the presentation The Crucial Importance of Linking Health and Biodiversity.

The importance of health and biodiversity was emphasized during the presentation: 'Ecosystem Human Health Consciousness, An Earth Charter-based social learning strategy'. This was followed by an ecocentric experiential learning exercise titled ‘Inner and Outer Ecology’. For CEC members, the presentation may be of interest as an activity that speaks to the importance of promoting cooperation and testing diverse strategies and methodologies; in this case, the aim was to promote cooperation between the education sector (at different levels and modalities) and the health sector for joint efforts to pursue environmental health goals in general and biodiversity conservation goals in particular.

The importance of the ethical dimension was also introduced, particularly as expressed in the Earth Charter. The importance of developing ecocentric awareness was also emphasized.

Five breakout groups were created to address a particular issue in the form of a project submitted by one participant. These projects were then shared in the last plenary session, along with short reports to capture the essence of the discussions in the breakout groups.

The workshop covered many issues and identified strategies, methodologies and tools aimed at giving support to the participants’ own projects.