Plenary Session Descriptions

Public Health Summer Institute 2020

Think Globally, Act Locally

Public Health and the Anthropocene

Thursday July 9th & Friday July 10th, 2020



Thank you All for an Excellent 2020 Public Health Summer Institute!

Please stay tuned for the release of the post-summer institute resource package & the call for abstracts for the 2020 fall PHABC conference!


Plenary Session Descriptions

The purpose of the main plenary sessions are to introduce the main theme of each half day and provide a detailed overview of a number of aspects of public health and the Anthropocene. Check out the session descriptions below, and please note that all session times are in Pacific Daylight Time.



Traditional Acknowledgement of Territory

9:00am-9:15am, July 9th, 2020

Our two-day event is to be opened with a traditional acknowledgement of the unceded Indigenous lands on which we live, work and learn. Presented by: Wii Esdes, Sandra A. Martin Harris



Introduction to Public Health and the Anthropocene

9:15am-10:00am, July 9th, 2020

We are entering the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch that is a reflection of massive and rapid human-caused global and local ecological changes. These changes include not just climate change but also ocean acidification, widespread pollution and ecotoxicity, depletion of both renewable and non-renewable resources and a sixth, human-created Great Extinction. Together, these changes are arguably the greatest threat to health and to societal and economic functioning in the 21st century, barring nuclear war.

To abate the consequences of these ecological changes we must reduce our ecological footprint to the equivalent of One Planet’s worth of the Earth’s biocapacity and resources. To do so we are going to have to undertake a profound transformation of our entire way of life, our society and our economy. High income people and countries, who take far more than their fair share, must dramatically reduce their footprint to ensure others – including future generations and other species – get their fair share.

The transformation we need is, fundamentally a form of cultural evolution. In the process we will need to re-learn values and world-views that are widely found in Indigenous communities, a point emphasised in the Waiora – Indigenous Peoples’ Statement for Planetary Health and Sustainable Development issued by the Indigenous participants in the 2019 IUHPE World Conference on Health Promotion (Rotorua, Aotearoa New Zealand).

These issues, which frame the entire Summer Institute, will be addressed by Institute co-chairs Trevor Hancock and Maya Gislason together with Shannon Waters, an Indigenous public health physician from the Cowichan Valley region. Presented by: Dr. Trevor Hancock, Dr. Maya Gislason, Dr. Shannon Waters



Understanding Cultural Evolution and Societal Transformation

12:30pm-1:15pm, July 9th, 2020

In the last century, rates of wretched poverty, infectious disease, and mass violence have all plummeted globally. In some ways, we are living in a Golden Age. Yet threats to this collective wellbeing are now multiplying and combining in force. Study after study indicates that if humanity continues on its current path, a confluence of severe global stresses—environmental, demographic, economic, political, and technological—will cause devastating harm in coming decades. These stresses will disrupt vital natural systems, cripple economies, deepen social divisions, and ultimately generate widespread violence and societal breakdown. They may also hit tipping points that would result in very rapid change.

The Cascade Institute is designed to address this emerging crisis. It identifies high-leverage intervention points in cognitive, institutional, and technological systems – potential social tipping points – and also practical ways to exploit such intervention points at all levels, from the local to the global. If effectively exploited, these interventions could trigger a virtuous cascade of cultural and societal changes that could shift global civilization away from a path that leads to calamity and towards one that leads to fair and sustainable prosperity.

The Institute’s unabashedly bold goal is to trigger such a fundamental, positive, and rapid change in humanity’s trajectory. We seek, in other words, a form of rapid cultural evolution leading to societal transformation that will result in a just, sustainable and healthy future. Presented by: Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon



One Planet Healthy Cities

9:15am-10:00am, July 10th, 2020

In 2018, the District of Saanich was one of four international cities chosen to participate in the One Planet Cities Project. Organised by the UK-based Bioregional, the Project engages organizations and individuals in the pursuit of a happy, healthy future within the natural limits of the planet.

The initiative engages schools, businesses and community groups to create their own One Planet Action Plans, using Bioregional’s One Planet Living framework. At the framework’s core are 10 sustainability principles including health and happiness, sustainable food and zero carbon energy.

At about the same time, coincidentally, the Conversations for a One Planet Region initiative, initially based at the University of Victoria, was getting started. The vision of the Conversations is that “the Greater Victoria Region achieves social and ecological sustainability, with a high quality of life and a long life in good health for all its citizens”.

The One Planet Saanich project informs the development and implementation of Saanich’s updated Climate Plan and commitment to 100% renewable energy. Now One Earth, in partnership with the District of Saanich, the Conversations, Vancity Credit Union and South Island Prosperity Partnership is launching a region-wide initiative.

Cora Hallsworth and Mayor Haynes will provide an overview of the One Planet Cities Initiative, while Trevor Hancock will discuss the potential health co-benefits of what might also be called ‘Healthy Cities 2.0’. Presented by: Mayor Fred Haynes, Cora Hallsworth, Dr. Trevor Hancock



Creating Local Change: Citizen Engagement, Respecting Diversity, Political and Social Action

12:30pm-1:15pm, July 10th, 2020

The slogan “think globally, act locally’, has been with us for many decades, and remains good advice. Grounded in experience from community, Indigenous and watershed contexts in northern BC, this session will examine how we can create local action that links public health practice with the global the local imperatives of the Anthropocene?

Local action for public health has a long history, whether through the wisdoms of Indigenous peoples in dynamic reciprocal relationship with the health of their shared local environments, or through the successive ‘reforms’ over several hundred years to enhance public health and livability in the cities that are the shared home for much of humanity. The importance and challenge of local engagement to ensure sustainable, just and healthy communities have amplified in the era of the Anthropocene, where local change is a critical part of a suite of nested solutions, spanning watersheds and One Planet regions, to the global planetary dynamics.

Using an interactive panel format, this session will examine ways that engaging and respective diversity is an essential feature of effective local public health action: spanning Indigenous and settler communities; embracing cultural, faith and identity-politics; calling on business and non-government; connecting local politicians and artists. Our panel reflections will draw on context and lived-experience of working with ‘unusual allies’ to promote public health, and exemplars that integrate the ecological and social determinants of health in locally coherent ways, as part of working toward a more sustainable, just and healthy future.  Presented by: Dr. Margot Parkes, Dr. Theresa Healy, Wii Esdes, Sandra A. Martin Harris