Healthy new year!
Here at the Zoo, a new year means a new lens through which to explore our place in the wildlife conservation movement. Throughout 2022, we’ll explore connections between the health of people, wildlife, and the environment. We’ll also examine how a variety of factors influence each of these and the relationships between them. This is a concept known as “One Health.” It sounds complex, and individual examples of One Health in action certainly can be, but the general concept is quite simple. Our health, both personal and public, is inextricable from environmental health, and all are impacted by external factors in both direct and indirect ways. These connections can be considered at the individual, local, regional, national, and global levels.
A One Health approach considers how environmental, social, political, economic, and other factors interact and relate to the issue at hand. Take climate change, for example. Sources of greenhouse gas emissions (a primary driver of climate change) vary by region and are driven by complex relationships between a multitude of factors. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, some areas may prioritize economic opportunities in the sustainability industry, like bamboo farming. Another area may focus on policies that encourage people to make choices with a lower carbon footprint, like offering tax breaks for electric vehicle purchases. Although these efforts focus on economics and politics, they are clearly related to environmental health (and therefore the health of people and animals).
With a One Health approach, nearly every issue facing communities and ecosystems around the globe can be related to conservation, often in complex and multiple ways. Considering climate change again, there can be both direct and indirect effects. Climate change directly affects wildlife populations when rising temperatures reduce food availability or when extreme weather events like wildfires and hurricanes occur more frequently and degrade habitat quality. But climate change also affects wildlife through things like reduced crop productivity, which might force people to expand their farmland, resulting in habitat loss.
There are endless relationships to explore within the concept of One Health. You can even apply the One Health concept to your daily life by considering how your actions and choices may affect the people, places, and animals in your community and beyond. As our mission is to save wildlife and their habitats, each Conservation Blog of 2022 will focus on ways to achieve this goal with a One Health approach. Next month, we’ll consider how a One Health perspective supports successful conservation efforts. In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year!