Saturday, August 10, 2013

Health, Environment, Population

Invited lecture to Department of Public Health and Environment, 
World Health Organization

My slides are now accessible here.

August 26, 2013
Dr Margaret Chan (W.H.O. Director General) recently criticized “Big Soda” (and other “Bigs”) as driving forces which generate non-communicable diseases. This criticism could be extended not just to Big Carbon, but big Capitalism too, and for many additional adverse health outcomes. But when it comes to the nexus between population, environment, development and health, it is not just capitalists and the Right who have a narrow vision; so too does the Left, which for at least two centuries has argued that redistribution is not only necessary but sufficient to solve poverty and resource scarcity.

This lecture will attempt to review and explain the decline of understanding and interest in Limits to Growth and population growth; the nascent but fragile revival of interest in these issues, and why these issues are central to global development, security and health: past, present and future.

This is a preliminary meeting which might lead to the establishment of a WHO- led working group to re-examine these issues; hopefully to re-consider the orthodox view which has dominated the Right since about 1980, the Left since at least 1800 and academia since about 1985.

For example: "The Population Association of America, representing US demographers and population specialists .. questioned the basis of the White House policy (at the 1984 Population Conference in Mexico City): ("the PAA prepared a statement commenting that the authors of the draft report was "either unaware of 50 years of demographic research, or deliberately ignored it" .. "Dr Sheldon Segal, the co-recipient of the 1984 UN population prize also questioned the US position.")

Finkle, J. L. & Crane, B. 1985. Ideology and politics at Mexico City: The United States at the 1984 International Conference on Population. Population and Development Review, 11, 1-28. (footnote 61).

Prof Colin Butler is funded by the Australian Research Council, as a “Future Fellow”, a four year research grant. His topic is called “Health and Sustainability: Australia in a Global Context”. He has published many articles on topics relevant to these themes, against the mainstream current, including “Overpopulation, overconsumption and economics" (Lancet, 1994) and "Human carrying capacity and human health" in PLoS Medicine (open access).

In 2009 he was named one of 100 doctors for the planet. He was lead author for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment chapter on future human well-being in the scenarios working group, where he collaborated closely with Carlos Corvalan. He is trying to make "Limits to Growth and Health" a legitimate and central issue for global public health. He is also a contributing author to the IPCC health chapter.