Throughout history, humans have been afflicted by diseases transmitted from animals. The current coronavirus outbreak is the latest to have taken place in recent years from the 1998 Nipah virus in Malaysia to the 2014 Ebola virus across West Africa.
Over the past decade, the World Health Organization has declared four global health emergencies and research reveals outbreaks are becoming more common. How do diseases transmit from animals to humans and why are we seeing an increase around the world?
Tim Benton: The fundamental job of pathogens throughout evolution has been to maximize their chances of infecting susceptible organisms.
Pathogens can live in lots of different host organisms and so they are continually looking for an opportunity to jump from one species to another.… Seguir leyendo »
The way we grow, process and consume food — our food system — underpins human social and economic development for centuries. Innovations such as domesticating plants and animals, bread-making, the plough or the refrigerator have transformed what we grow, how we grow it, and how we prepare and consume food.
But our food system now faces its biggest ever challenge. How to feed a growing human population to avoid diet-related ill-health (through too much or too little food) but in a way that does not drive climate change or biodiversity loss.
Research on the future of our food systems has largely focused on incremental changes possible with existing technologies.… Seguir leyendo »
The 2019–20 fire season in Australia has been unprecedented. To date, an estimated 18 million hectares of fire has cut swathes through the bush – an area greater than that of the average European country and over five times the size of blazes in the Amazon.
This reflects previous predictions of Australian science. Since 2008 and as recently as 2018, scientific bodies have warned that climate change will exacerbate existing conditions for fires and other climatic disasters in Australia. What used to be once-in-a-generation fires now re-appear within 10–15 years with increased ferocity, over longer seasons.
In a country known for climate denial and division, debate has erupted around bushfire management and climate change.… Seguir leyendo »
A shared agenda: strengthening democracy at home
As Britain is set to leave the EU, many have argued that the US–UK relationship is bound to suffer a lasting setback, since a UK outside the EU cannot possibly be as important or helpful to the United States as one that is in.
To make matters worse, Trump’s policies on Iran, trade and climate are making it hard for the UK to align with its American ally. And Trump’s popularity among the UK electorate is reported to be as low as 21%, so the UK’s candidates for prime minister are likely to be cautious when considering how to engage this American president.… Seguir leyendo »
Whatever one thinks of Brexit, the process has highlighted a fundamental problem with the UK’s governance mechanisms – namely, that policymaking is often trapped within departmental silos too focused on the short term. In a complex world, decisions made for the benefit of one sector, or group, have the potential to affect other sectors in myriad ways over long periods of time, but government struggles to manage these competing interests.
For example, producing more food – in order to make it cheaper – impacts water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions, and potentially degrades the environment. That trade may allow these impacts to happen overseas and play out over many years doesn’t mean they go away.… Seguir leyendo »