A meaningful commentary here – in the light of a timely OIE article making clear world global priorities – whereby ‘...bolstering the resources of the UN generally and OIE in particular as well as veterinary and human public health systems needs to become a top global priority, including placing a huge emphasis on preventive measures and providing the infrastructure necessary to sustain human and all other life -especially in low and moderate income nations.’
By George Lueddeke PhD MEd Dipl.Aves (Hon.)
Programme Lead, International One Health for One Planet Education Initiative
Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Resilience, University of Pretoria
Advisor in Higher, Medical and One Health Education
Southampton, United Kingdom
Co-authored by Dr. Bruce Kaplan, co-founder, One Health Initiative and Dr. Richard Seifman, Board Member, United Nations Association, Washington Area
This timely and informative article makes clear where global priorities lie. There are over 8.7 million animal and plant species on Earth (“vast majority are animal”) with most remaining unidentified and ‘cataloguing them all could take more than 1,000 years‘.
We – homo sapiens– are but one of these – unquestionably responsible for the on-going sixth extinction phase (last one wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago) and, as underscored in Survival: One Health, One Planet, One Future , all 7.8 billion of us and with numbers rising exponentially – are paying a steep price for placing most of our faith and values on technology and scientific progress while ignoring, even tolerating, on economic grounds, known human rights abuses and the criticality of social harmony and peace to ensure sustainability of the planet and species.
Mirrored throughout human history, divisive ideologies (ism’s), ruthless ambitions and basically human greed continue to characterise a globe in 2021 where only about 6 per cent of all nations are now categorised as fully democratic: governments freely elected by and for the people at a time when climate change, the biosphere and zoonotic pandemics – which cross all boundaries- remain our biggest threats. Without a moral compass to guide us, we appear to be heading toward a scenario where data runs the world, not humanity and compassion for those disenfranchised or most in need, where truth is subordinated to disinformation and where military use of force to deny freedoms and extremist “thuggery and disorder” have become all too commonplace.
The yearly funding allocations assigned by the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) clearly favour human- centrism over eco-centrism as USD $5.6 billion (2020/2021 budget ) are allocated to the WHO; $2.8 billion, to the FAO ; but only c. $36 million, to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
In sharp contrast, global military expenditures in 2020 amounted to roughly $1.9 trillion (one trillion = 1,000 billions). Given the devastating impact of Covid-19 on economies and society generally, bolstering the resources of the UN generally and OIE in particular as well as veterinary and human public health systems needs to become a top global priority, including placing a huge emphasis on preventive measures and providing the infrastructure necessary to sustain human and all other life -especially in low and moderate income nations.
Underscored in Survival, public health presently receives only about 5 per cent of global / national health budgets while most funding (c. 95 per cent) is allocated to treatment or clinical health -mostly in high income nations and certainly not to preventive measures related to infectious diseases originating from animals (c.75 per cent) or conditions (environmental degradation) caused directly by us that undermine the sustainability of the planet – causing climate change and destruction of the biosphere and impacting mostly on those living in poverty (in poor and rich nations!).
The return on investment (pay-off) from “robust veterinary and human public health systems” and reduction of pandemic risk was estimated at a 11:1 ratio in a 2014 report. This data was based on a severe pandemic costing c. USD $3.6 trillion (4.8 % of GDP). However, largely because of a “cycle of panic and neglect” since 2014 (e.g., prioritising military security over health security), the cost of Covid-19 to Oct 2020 was already USD $11 trillion (rich countries) and c $42 billion (low income) with likely trillions to follow in 2021 and perhaps more in 2022. While the root cause is the spread of the coronavirus with 124,389,117 cases and 2,737,666 deaths (23.03.2021), the world is learning that it is very much a social class crisis and should be a wake-up call for those ignoring or oblivious to this reality.
Education, formal and non-formal, remains our best route toward sustaining the world we inhabit. New knowledge and competencies are required to tackle global, regional, and national risks, including poverty, inequality, racism / social exclusion, corruption and, in the immediate, undoing the damage done by Covid-19. As we prepare for a “new” normal, our most important challenge is re-shaping global belief systems that depend on competition rather than on collaboration and seek to divide rather than unify. The younger generation has the most to lose if things don’t change now but most to gain when they do.
Supporting the aim of ‘delivering an education to all’, the international One Health for One Planet Education initiative (1 HOPE) focuses on recognising the interconnections of humans, animals, plants, in a shared environment with a view to underpinning the UN-2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the final analysis, building trust, compassion and resilience among the global community while nurturing respect for the whole Earth are the essence of achieving planet sustainability. Sadly, however, many lessons have not yet been learned by decision-makers – political and corporate – as human progress – to our peril- continues to be seen in economic, competitive and expansionary terms rather than through the UN-2030 Transformative Vision – economic, social and environmental.
In light of the timely OIE article, let’s hope we are not sleep-walking to dystopia but give the animal world the opportunity to thrive as without it – and plants of course – we would all surely disappear as have 99.9 percent of the species that have lived on this planet previously. Time to stop, think and do?