One Health by Design
75% of new or emerging infectious diseases that all of us are susceptible to, including the current COVID-19, originate in livestock or wildlife, resulting annually in millions of people’s deaths, and billions of dollars of economic impact (National Institutes of Health). The root causes of those diseases are human in origin, including changing land use patterns, resource extraction, livestock density, global trade, antimicrobial drugs, and climate change. This is One Health: the concept that human, ecological, and animal health are inextricably intertwined.
COVID-19, HIV, MERS, SARS, and Ebola are examples of the increasing frequency and scale of environmental origin pandemics, which will only continue to increase with population and pressure on ecosystems. COVID-19 is only one symptom; however, that indicates problems in much larger underlying systems that allowed COVID to bring the world to its knees. We need to examine not only the virus, but our built and natural environments, how we move people and things across the face of the earth, and how we can plan for a more resilient and generative future.
The science of how One Health systems interlink is clear, but what needs to change? We need a new playbook to apply it, a way to put our academic and clinical knowledge into daily use. We need a way to operationalize One Health. I call this One Health By Design.
As a landscape architect, working within the design field, I see choices that individual disciplines make, such as construction material choices, land use planning, natural resource use, etc. On a large scale, governments and planners need to design systems and work across disciplines to find solutions that not only do not compromise human, ecological, or animal health for one another – e.g. to reduce natural areas to grow more food, but to find ways in which systems can build and leverage each other – e.g. using agroforestry methods that increase biodiversity and agricultural output. We designed RICA, the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture based on this premise.
Also today, we, including you, have choices in everyday life that feed into those larger ecological systems that we need for resiliency to protect against pandemics. One example of a choice that everyone can make, regardless of whether for your personal property, or if you are the head of a national agency, is to advocate for native species to be planted. Plants are the basis of the food web, supporting caterpillars and insects that feed the food web. This includes pollinators. The food you ate today relied on pollinators at some point, which rely on a diversity of native plants for year round food sources. Exotic, ornamental species may look nice, and not have disease problems, but that is also because they are biological deserts. Pick native plants!
Another choice you can make is in materials. Research the carbon footprint of the next materials you use, whether for a backyard, garden shed, or a giant skyscraper. Concrete, as ubiquitous as it is, has a huge impact on the environment. Could you perhaps use a different material? Think about where you live and natural resources that can be used from there, as opposed to mined or harvested from another country, including shipping’s carbon footprint. Could you build with wood? Rammed earth?
All of our decisions have an impact on the environment. We need to find ways to choose systems, materials, and other ways to bolster the diversity and breadth of the natural environment that has provided a buffer and resilience to other outbreaks. Nature has a checks and balances system — One Health. What choice can you make today that has a ripple impact somewhere else?
Jessi’s background includes site planning, landscape design, and construction administration for several MASS Design Group projects, using the concept of One Health Design (that human, ecological, and animal health are inextricably intertwined), including the University of Global Health Equity (Rwanda), New Redemption Hospital Caldwell (Liberia), Butaro Oncology Support Center (Rwanda), Nyarugenge District Hospital (Rwanda), Equal Justice Initiative’s Memorial for Peace and Justice (United States), and The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (Rwanda). She has also worked in ecological design/build and residential landscape design, as well as urban multi-modal design projects. She is a Massachusetts certified arborist and horticulturalist with a specialty in the research and use of native plants. Jessi served in the Peace Corps in Panama as an agro-forestry extension agent; as the Conservation Program Officer for Earthwatch Institute, coordinating research centers in Belize, Brazil, Australia, Kenya, and the United States; as a Regional Recruiter for the Peace Corps; and as an Urban Forester for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. Jessi is a 2015 graduate of the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the Boston Architectural College and has a BA in Journalism and Environmental Studies from Ohio Wesleyan University.
Mikiodo (Mike) is a photographer living in NYC. Originally from Buffalo, NY, he intended on becoming a geneticist until realizing his heart was in the arts. After 15 years as a graphic designer/production artist, Mike returned to his true passion, photography. Mostly self-taught, Mike’s photographic interest lies somewhere between documentary and fine art. He currently focuses on photographing portraits, construction, skyscapes, and the BLM movement, as well as his “pet project,” a fine art series entitled “FloraMUS” (“flower/mouse”). His photos have been featured by, The Stuttering Association for the Young, BroadwayCares, New York Historical Society Museum, and numerous musician projects and publications. Mike is also Creative Director and songwriter for Holidelic, an annual funk holiday show.