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Galaz 2009 Pandemic 2.0 Environment

Galaz 2009 Pandemic 2.0 Environment

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Published by: elvato on Dec 07, 2009
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09/24/2013

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Can InformatIon teChnology
help
Save the Planet 
?
The World Helth Orgnzton
(WHO) hosted the rst large scientic meetingabout the previously unknown A/H1N1 infuenza on 29 April 2009, headinga teleconerence that included more than 100 participants and ollowing upwith a continuous stream o international scientic, technical, and consulta-tion meetings to integrate and disseminate scientic inormation and help itsmember countries to mitigate the adverse impacts o the infuenza A/H1N1.That the WHO has assumed a leading role in combating the ongoing spreado the “swine” fu might seem expected. In act, the heavy burden o such aresponsibility would have been impossible or this international organizationto carry only a decade ago.In September 1994, or example, WHO ailed to respond to a devastatingoutbreak o bubonic plague in Surat, India. The local newspaper
The Hindu Universe 
reported, “People feeing the aected zones are heading in all direc-tions and taking the hysteria with them. With the discovery o three peopleaficted with plague in a Bombay hospital, panic has gripped that city aswell. Tetracycline, an antibiotic or plague treatment, has disappeared romchemist shops not only in Bombay but also in Delhi.”
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B y  Vic TOr Gala z
   ©    m   a   c   k   y_   c   h   /   I   S   T   O   c   k
 
Asthecrisisescalated,WHOdidnottakeactionbeyondissuingpressre-leasesandorganizingoneofficialvisittoSuratmorethantwoweeksafterthefirstreports.Thehuman,economic,and politicalimplicationsweresevere.Althoughfewerthan60peoplediedfromtheplague,theoutbreakledtoeconomiclossesestimatedtoUS$260millioninSuratalone,boycottsandtravelrestrictionsagainstIndia,aswellashighlyspeculativeallegationsinna-tionalmediathattheplaguewasthere-sultofcovertU.S.geneticengineering.In2003,lessthan10yearslater,WHOwasabletomeetthechallenges posedbythepreviouslyunknowninfec-tiousdiseaseSARS(severeacuterespi-ratorysyndrome).WhenSARSspreadrapidlyacrosstheworld,fromsouthernChinatoHongKong,Vietnam,Canada,Singapore,andtheUnitedStates,WHOswiftlydisseminatedinformationandcoordinatedlaboratorynetworks,na-tionalhealthagencies,andnongovern-mentalorganizationstocontainthespreadofthedisease.
2
Whatexplainsthissuddenincreaseintheinternationalorganization’scapacitytodealwithsurprisingin-fectiousdiseaseoutbreaks?Whatlessonscanbelearnedforaddressingtheadditionalchallengesposedbyglobalenvironmentalchange?TheexplosiveemergenceoftheInternetandassociatedinformationtechnolo-giesseemtoprovideafundamental partoftheanswertothefirstques-tion,withdeepimplicationsforsus-tainabilitygovernance.
Governne for Sustnblty
Socialsciencescholarsarebecom-ingincreasinglyinterestedinanalyzingtheabilityofactorstodealwithnotonlyincrementalenvironmentaldegra-dationbutalsosurprisingshocksandstresses.Despitetheexplicitinterestamongscholarsinresearchtopicssuchassociallearning,adaptability,flexi- bility,andresilience,weknowsurpris-inglylittleabouttherepercussionsofarapidlychanginginformationland-scapeandmediaenvironmentoncol-lectiveactionandgovernance.Practicallyeveryapproachtocom- plexitygovernanceforsustainability,including“adaptivegovernance,”“re-flexivegovernance,”and“transitionmanagement,”
3
treatsthedynamicsofinformationtechnologyasablack box—thatis,scholarsseldomelaboratetheimplicationsofarapidlyexpandingsetofinformationandcommunicationstechnologiesonsustainabilitygover-nance.
4
Thisistroublesomeconsideringthefundamentalrolethatinformationcollectionanddiffusionplaysinanyat-tempttoperceiveandlearnfromchang-ingcircumstances,aswellastosolve problemsandcoordinatewithinacom- plexsystemmadeofmanyparts.Oneofthemostimportantinsightsevolvingfromresearchregardingtheinstitutionaldimensionsofglobalenvi-ronmentalchangeisthatanincreasinglyinterconnectedworldisgovernedbyin-stitutionsthatremainfragmented,poorlycoordinated,andunabletodealwithunwantedimpactsofrapidtechnicalandecologicalchange.
5
Decentralization,theproliferationofpublic–privatepart-nershiparrangements,thegrowingin-fluenceofnongovernmentalorganiza-tionsandexpertcommunitiesonpolicy processes,andtheincreasedimpactofmultilateralagreementsondomestic policyareallindicationsofanincreaseddiversityininstitutionallandscapes.
6
Asaresult,decision-makersatthelocal,national,andinternationallevelsat-temptingtodealwithepidemicout- breaksorrespondtocomplexhumani-tarianemergenciesareforcednotonlytoactquicklydespiteuncertaintybutalsotopromptlycoordinatetheiractionswitharangeofgovernmental,semi-governmental,andnonstateactors.Insuchafragmentedandmulti-actorcon-text,mechanismsforrapidinformationsharingarevital.Thespreadofsocialmediasuchas
Twitter 
and
 Facebook 
,Internet-basedsurveillancesystems,andonlinecoor-dinatedcollaborationsarealreadyhavingatangibleimpactoncollectiveaction,politicalbehavior,andsocial
movementsinternationally.
7
As
WHO’sincreasinglyeffectivere-sponsetoemerginginfectiousdiseasesillustrates,inaneraofglobalenviron-mentandtechnologicalchange,achievinggovernanceforsustainabil-ityrequiresthatwereflectonarangeofinformationmanagementchal-lengesfacingcountries,organizations,andinternationalpartnerships.
Globl chnge, HumnHelth, nd Governne
EmerginginfectiousdiseasessuchasinfluenzaA/H1N1,avianinfluenza(H5N1),Ebolahemorrhagicfever, Nipahvirus,denguefever,andSARSarehealthrisksthatemergeatthein-terfacebetweenglobalizationandglobalenvironmentalchange.
8
Theunderlyingexplanationforthein-creasingrateofemerginginfectiousdiseasesgloballyisfarfromsimple:theyproliferateastheresultofacom- binationofinteractingmultispeed(rapidandslow)andmultiscale(localtoglobal)changesinhumanandnatu-ralsystems.
9
Anumberofrecurringdengueepi-demicoutbreaksinBrazilbetween2007and2009illustratethecomplex-ityunderlyingarapidlychanginghealthrisklandscape.Dengue’srapidexpansionandincreasingimpactonvulnerablecommunitiesinLatinAmericaaredrivenbyanarrayoflarge-scalefactors.Theseincludeun- plannedurbanization,extremeweather
in  frgmented nd mult-tor ontext,mehnsms for rpd nformton shrng re vtl.
22 EnvironmEnt WWW.EnvironmEntmAGAZinE.orG voLUmE 51 nUmBEr 6

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