Everything is connected—Buddhism reduced to a sentence, according to an old professor I know—is an idea so obvious that we may just now be noticing it. A sign of the times (or of how far behind the times we are) is that the University of British Columbia is offering, for the first time ever, a course that takes a holistic look at the complex connections between human health and the environment.
The course is called Ecohealth, and, according to UBC, it "examines the interconnected nature of ecosystems to better understand issues that affect the health of individuals and the sustainability of their environment."
(The image above, "Tree of life," is a diagram of the evolutionary relationships between 3000 species. I found it at MassiveChange.com, where there are some other very cool visual representations of global patterns, human behaviour, etcetera. Take a look.)
Together professors, students, professionals, practitioners and researchers of various disciplines from seven provinces will explore ecosystem approaches to health in Vancouver through the lenses of food security, transportation and housing.This will include interactions with multiple community, academic, public and private sector stakeholders, as well as group presentations back to those involved.
The UBC farm will be used as a point of reference for learning throughout the course. “The farm is a microcosm at the rural and urban interface,” says Margot Parkes, a lead researcher for the pan-Canadian team based in the UBC Department of Family Practice and the College of Health Disciplines. “It is a great example of the interconnection between food, transportation and housing as important determinants of health in Vancouver.”
The course will also include a team project focused on the BC outbreak of cryptococcus gattii, “the killer fungus” as a learning scenario.
“A central theme for ecohealth is that health is determined at multiple levels with the whole being more than the sum of its parts,” says Parkes. “For any individual, health and well-being is embedded with the community, region, country and global ecosystems they live in however, we tend to examine these different components in isolation. Understanding the connections between these scales encourages integrated responses to health and sustainability issues.”
The inaugural Ecohealth course also marks the launch of the Canadian Community of Practice in Ecosystem Approaches to Health.