Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics

Global Environmental Governance, Technology and Politics

The Anthropocene Gap

Victor Galaz

We live on an increasingly human-dominated planet. Our impact on the Earth has become so huge that researchers now suggest that it merits its own geological epoch - the 'Anthropocene' - the age of humans. Combining theory development and case studies of 'planetary boundaries', emerging infectious diseases, financial markets and geoengineering, this groundbreaking book explores the 'Anthropocene Gap' otherwise known as society's current failure to address the most profound environmental challenges of our times.

Chapter 4: Epidemics and supernetworks

Victor Galaz

Subjects: environment, climate change, energy policy and regulation, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, innovation and technology, technology and ict


In the beginning of 2010, I took a short flight from cold Toronto, to an even colder Ottawa to meet with two of the key individuals behind the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN): Michael Blench, main technical advisor, and Abla Mawudeku, the network's main Chief. Two things surprised me during our conversation. The first was the incredibly spartan furnishing of the network's headquarters, placed within a huge grey concrete complex hosting the Public Health Agency of Canada. The second surprise was their complete honesty as they described the vast challenges facing GPHIN in the next few years. I will get back to this interview shortly, but readers should take note of one thing. GPHIN is not just any health network. GPHIN is - without exaggeration - the central nervous system of global early warnings and responses to surprising infectious disease outbreaks of international concern. More precisely, GPHIN is at the very epicenter of information gathering, processing and diffusion of early warnings of lethal infectious diseases such as the known highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, its less known relative H7N9, the 'new flu' H1N1 (better known as 'swine flu'), and Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Just to mention a few. Focusing on emerging and re-emerging diseases, and some of their critical governance challenges, might seem like an odd choice for a case study in a book about technology and politics in the Anthropocene.

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