The news of artist, environmental activist, documentary film producer and philanthropist Susan Swartz.

Susan Swartz and the Ecology of Disease

By Jim Robbins, New York Times

By Jim Robbins, New York Times

Susan was so moved by a sobering New York Times article, The Ecology of Disease, that she feels compelled to share it. The premise of the article is that human alterations of nature unleash infectious disease. “As someone who has long struggled with the negative impacts of environmentally-bred illnesses,” begins Susan. “I have long believed that human disease is essentially an environmental issue.”

The article details a developing model of infectious disease that shows that most epidemics — including AIDS, West Nile, Lyme and SARS — are the direct result of things people do to nature. “If we fail to understand and take care of the natural world, it can cause a breakdown of these systems and come back to haunt us in ways we know little about,” writes author Jim Robbins.

To better prepare for this haunting future, the U.S. Agency of International Development has launched a new project called Predict, which pairs veterinarians and conversation biologists to understand where infectious diseases are likely to move from animal species to humans, based on how and where people alter natural landscapes. Robbins writes that one of the critical goals of the Predict project is to study ways of “managing forests, wildlife and livestock to prevent diseases from leaving the woods and becoming the next pandemic.”