Evolving Governance Across a Stressed Planet
9. Governance, pathogens and human health No examination of the evolutionary trajectory of the human species and the implications for governance would be complete without reference to the evolving capacity of humans to satisfy one of their most important biological needs, namely health. Whereas, as we discuss below, both the definition of health and its relationship to human adaptation may be less direct than is sometimes supposed, it is clear that the two concepts are closely linked. In crude terms, a healthy society is likely to be more resilient, hence more able to adapt, especially in the face of biological challenges. This chapter examines how health has emerged as a critical factor in the challenge–response dynamic during the current period of transition. Health has stood as a valued goal throughout human history, as can be seen in the primitive practices of tribal societies, the urban planning of the Roman Empire, elaborate medical practices in both Roman and Greek civilisations, and in the contemporary complex health systems and celebration of fitness, diet and medicine. In the twentieth century, improved availability of nutritious food, growth in understanding and implementation of public health measures, including better sanitation and rapid developments in medical and biological science, created a cultural transformation in which a more or less healthy (or at least longer) life for many (although not all) in the industrialised world became, as Kickbusch and Payne put it, ‘a demographic fact, a societal goal, and a personal expectation.’1 In the post-1945 period, universal...
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