Western’s Ecosystem Health Research Group, including Biology's Charles Trick and Irena Creed, awarded the Inaugural Western Humanitarian Award
Western’s Ecosystem Health Research Group [Charles Trick (Biology, Microbiology & Immunology), Irena Creed (Biology), Jack Bend (Pathology) and Regna Darnell (Anthropology)] have been awarded the Inaugural Western Humanitarian Award for their “ Ecosystem Health - Africa Initiative Program”. This award recognizes the success to improve the well-being of an individual, a community and a nation and optimistically by extension of findings to similar issues in the entire sub-Saharan region of Africa.
To understand the value of Ecosystem Health one needs to stand at the edge of a community in crisis. A traditional response rushes into the community and makes repairs, but in an ecosystem health approach you incorporate input from as many in the community as possible to determine where the environmental insult comes from and then you deal with the environment and community concurrently. At the end, the healthy community is allowed to recover in a healthy environment. This is a unique, “made at Western” approach where scientists, social scientists, engineers and medical doctors come together to work with community members to solve a problem where the community owns the problem and the solution.
The “ Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative”reflects a concerted effort by faculty, staff and students from a number of faculties over the past five years. Their initial focus for the “ Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative”is Lake Naivasha, which was identified by Maude Barlow in her book “Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water” (2007) as the window into which one may look to see future calamities that will occur because of our changing climate. One of the most vulnerable communities, it is globally adored and embedded in the hearts of westerners as a cultural hotbed where movies such as “Born Free”, “Living Free” and “Out of Africa” brought the tender nature of the land and community into our homes. Globally appreciated this region has grown at unimaginable rates – from 19,000 people in 1990 to more than 400,000 today. It has become the developmental “hub” of Kenya – the source of economic wealth for the country in the form of ecotourism, geothermal energy production, and floriculture. Yet the land is no longer as fertile, the fisheries are almost lost, and Lake Naivasha has become the source of all water needs and the sink of all residential and industrial wastes. The inhabitants of Naivasha rely on the lake as a direct source of drinking water and food, and it serves as a foundation of their economy and social structure, but the lake and the land around it are under siege from unsustainable use of resources, pollution and the threat of climate change. This economy-environment conflict is exacerbated by societal conflict as members of many of the 47 different tribes who live in Kenya travel to Lake Naivasha seeking employment opportunities. With this “hub of opportunities” comes unwanted relationships and behaviors, social diseases, an increased incidence of HIV/AIDS, as well as respiratory and intestinal diseases.
Team members have brought to Lake Naivasha their integrated ecosystem health approach and a wealth of experience gathered through long term ecosystem health research partnerships with Canadian First Nations communities (including Walpole Island and Attawapiskat). It is also modeling the way for an ecosystem health approach to other countries working in Lake Naivasha, including the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and the UK.
The recognition that our ecosystem health approach works to protect the future of communities-at-risk has captured the attention of the Vice-Chancellor of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology. As Kenya’s own “Western University” this relatively new university has accepted ecosystem health as a core competency for their students. In this situation, Western’s Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative team will create, with their academics and community leaders, the first application of the ecosystem health approach to the Kakamega Forest, Kenya's last remnant of the ancient Guineo-Congolian rainforest that once spanned the African continent. The long-term presence of a university that believes that a healthy environment is critical to the future of their society will outweigh all the strong scientific advances.
The humanitarian aspect of our Africa Initiative is not just a “band-aid”, rather it is the fostering of a culture of understanding of the relationships between sick ecosystems and human illness so that underprivileged individuals learn to help themselves.
Receiving Western’s Humanitarian Award would bring much needed attention to the efforts of all the collaborators, as well as to the relationship between ecosystem and human health. We often consider the problems of the environment to be separate from those of the human population, but especially in areas where human subsistence is so closely linked to the land, a healthy ecosystem is essential to maintain the health of the human population. The award to the Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiativewill be spent in honour of its global vision and will be used as seed money to start a documentary, made by local residents, on their view of the ecosystem and their health that will be shared, under Western sponsorship with communities around the world. We also expect our international work to rebound back to our Canadian work as humanitarian aid is needed both at home, in our aboriginal communities, and abroad.
LINKS TO PAST FEATURED FACULTY and STAFF
- Dr. Liana Zanette and Brenda Beretta
- Dr. Richard Gardiner and Elizabeth Myscich
- Dr. Chris Guglielmo and Ian Craig
- Dr. Beth MacDougall-Shackleton and Kim Loney
- Dr. Robert Cumming and Jacqui Griffin
- Dr. Irena Creed
- Dr. Amanda Moehring
- Dr. Brent Sinclair
- Dr. Jack Millar
- Dr. John Wiebe
- Dr. Brent Sinclair
- Dr. Greg Kelly
Check back to this page regularly as we will be highlighting news breaking research/awards by other members of our Biology Department. To find out about other research in our Department please follow the links to individual faculty web sites
This page was last updated on
May 26, 2011
Biology Web Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org