The Anthropocene Gap
Chapter 4: Epidemics and supernetworks
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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