2011 update: On Thursday 20 October the latest intake of 16 international Health Master’s students came to Abrazo House for the field trip portion of the course on Health, Ecology and Sustainability. The weather was lovely (though muddy underfoot after 24 hours of heavy rain). Students learnt about the discipline of ecological design and the history of the Abrazo House project, and began an exercise on designing health care systems along ecological lines.
Below you will find the course materials (presentations, reading list, recommended videos) for the use of the students and anyone else who might be interested…
2010 update: Last Wednesday (13/10) a group of international students came to Abrazo House for a field trip. The students, mostly from the areas of medicine and public health, have come from 14 different countries on 4 continents to study for a European Master’s in Sustainable Regional Health Systems. This includes a semester at the University of Deusto in Bilbao, as part of which I’m teaching a course on Health, Ecology and Sustainability.
The central idea of the course is that, just as individual health depends on the health of the population to which the individual belongs, so population health depends on the health of the ecosystem within which the population exists.
The weather for the field trip was beautiful if chilly, and some of the students got their surgical gloves on and threw themselves into plastering the outside of the playhouse with cob.
Session 1: Indicators and Stories (1.5Mb pdf)
Field trip: Ecological Design (3.8Mb pdf); Health and Nature (1.2Mb pdf)
Session 2: Essay writing guidelines (96kb pdf)
NB. The slideshow on the development of the Abrazo House project is too big to post here as a pdf; I recommend you take a look at the photo galleries instead.
Download the course synopsis (including resource list) as a pdf (172Kb)
Course session 1: Indicators and Stories
- Wikipedia (2010): Entry on Sustainability, among others. If you aren’t familiar with Wikipedia, it is a free web-based encyclopaedia edited entirely by volunteers. It is often a good place to start (but not to finish!) your research.
- Global Footprint Network (2009): Ecological Footprint Atlas. The Ecological Footprint is the best available indicator of sustainability at a national and global level although I have doubts about the accuracy or usefulness of the “individual footprint calculators” you can find on the web.
- New Economics Foundation (2009): Happy Planet Report. NEF created the Happy Planet Index to try to get governments to take happiness seriously as a policy goal. Unfortunately, there are no reliable data on happiness (is it even possible to measure it?) and NEF, among others, use data on “life satisfaction” instead - which is not necessarily a good indicator of happiness - see Life Satisfaction is not a Balanced Estimator of the Good Life by Joar Vittersø et al., J Happiness Stud (2009) 10:1–17.
- World Bank (2010): World Development Indicators. The World Bank’s education indicators show how easy it is to get it wrong and end up measuing inputs instead of outcomes.
- Jean Giono (1953): “The Man who Planted Trees”. Written to exemplify generosity of character, this short story has become a classic fable of sustainability, though not a practical guide to reforestation.
- Jared Diamond (2004): Collapse. Sections on Easter Island and on Tikopia. How two similar societies succeeded or failed to sustain themselves and their ecosystems.
Field trip: Ecological design
- Alcock, R (2010) Abrazo House website.
- Smith, Michael G. (2002) “The Case for Natural Building.” The Art of Natural Building.
- Whitefield, Patrick. (2004). The Earth Care Manual. (excerpts)
Designing sustainable health systems
- Chivian, Eric and Bernstein, Aaron (eds.) (2008) Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity.
- Wilson, E. O. (2002) The Future of Life (excerpts)
- Bird, William (2007) Natural Thinking: Investigating the links between the Natural Environment, Biodiversity and Mental Health. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
- Bird, William (2004) Natural Fit: Can Green Space and Biodiversity Increase Levels of Physical Activity? Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
- UK Sustainable Development Commission (2008): Health, Place and Nature: How outdoor environments influence health and well-being. A report that summarises evidence on the health effects of natural (and manmade) environments.
- St Leger, Lawrence (2003): “Health and nature—new challenges for health promotion”. Health Promotion International, Vol.18, No.3
- Maas, J. et al. (2009) “Morbidity is related to a green living environment.” J Epidemiol Community Health, 967:73.
- WHO (2008) Social determinants of health.
- Schettler (2006) Toward an Ecological View of Health: An Imperative for the Twenty-First Century.
- Resurgence Trust (2010) Sustaining Life: Resurgence issue 261. A magazine with an ecological/spiritual focus; this issue is about ecology and health.
- Stott, Robin (2000) The Ecology of Health: Schumacher Briefing 3.
- Therapeutic Landscapes Network (2010). A resource for gardens and landscapes that promote health and well-being.
- Centre for Health Design (2010). Designing hospitals and other health care facilities using “evidence based design.”
- TED videos: Despite the name, the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference series includes a lot of interesting videos on topics related to ecology and sustainability. Particularly recommended are talks Hans Rosling (on global health and development), Willie Smits (on ecological design in Borneo), Wade Davis (on ethnic diversity), Cary Fowler (on crop biodiversity), Jessica Green (on microbial diversity in buildings, including hospitals).
- Greening the Desert and Greening the Desert 2: Greening the Middle East. Ecological design projects in Jordan with Permaculture designer Geoff Lawton.
- The Man Who Planted Trees. Canadian animation based on the classic ecological fable.