Since Ecohealth combines health and environment, by definition it is everybody's business. Academics, politicians, medical and environmental practitioners, and everyone who lives in the world has a stake in EcoHealth practice. Students in EcoHealth courses have perhaps the greatest stake of all. Ecohealth practice is both their personal and professional future.
For the last three decades a group of us here in Canberra (Australia) have been working on transformational whole-of-community change towards a humane and sustainable future. Working in partnership with communities from all around Asia, we have developed a theory and a practice of collective learning which sits at the heart of EcoHealth. Collective learning theory is based on the collective thinking needed to bring together the diverse ways of knowing involved in resolving the wicked problems at the interface of environment and health. The theory and the ten case studies illustrating the theory have been published in Brown VA, Harris JA and Russell JV "Tackling Wicked Problems through the transdisciplinary imagination" Earthscan London 2010.
Among the learning from the Local Sustainability Project was not only the rich tapestry of ideas from all our partners, but a great deal of practical know-how. The experiences of 16 case studies, drawn from over 300, have been drawn together in a handbook, Brown VA and Lambert JA "Collective learning for transformational change" Routledge-Earthscan 2012. The basis for collective learning practice rests on two legs: The first is the experiential learning spiral of David Kolb. This follows a repeated cycle of developing ideals for a change process, finding facts, creating options and putting the options into practice. The spirit of the practice is that of a celebration. Key individuals, community members, experts, organisations and creative thinkers from a community come together to act out the cycle on an issue important to the community. It is crucial that the process is challenging, inspirational and fun.
At EcoHealth 2012 I will be putting forward the idea of a Transformation Science based on collective learning theory and practice. Everyone on the blog is most welcome to discuss this further.
The rapid changes in the environment and in society are bringing about changes in the practice of science. The complex health issues arising from the shifts in climate, population, food security and urban expansion involve a wide diversity in the cultural responses and the use of professional skills. EcoHealth, with its work at the interface between health and environment, is in a good position to offer leadership in this new field. The emergence of a Transformation Science adds social, ethical, aesthetic, interpersonal and personal questions to the traditional biophysical inquiries. Each of these questions has its own methods of inquiry and tests for the truth of the findings. The seventh reflexive question asks whether, after many generations of specialization, we can find ways to combine these diverse answers into a meaningful whole. The presentation will draw on many years of practical experience in offering ways of establishing Ecohealth as a collective enterprise, capable of answering the full set of questions.