This year’s speaker series: One Health

For the 2020-2021 academic year, LEAP's speaker series will center on the theme of One Health: The inseparable fates of animals, humans, and the planet.

Click here to watch previous events in this series. 

The term “One Health” was coined during an Ebola epidemic that killed both humans and 10,000 gorillas. A journalist asked Dr. William Karesh, of EcoHealth Alliance, whether the epidemic was a wildlife health problem or a human health problem. He responded, ”That’s all artificial; there’s only one health.”

Take Lyme disease, Connecticut’s very own zoonosis, first documented down the road from Yale in 1975. From a One Health perspective, deforestation causes Lyme disease, not Borrelia bacteria or deer ticks. The fragmentation of New England woods is a boon for white-footed mice, which host the illness, and a scourge to their predators and to the opossums who used to manage the tick population through grooming. Habitat changes also brought West Nile Virus to the United States: after hundreds of years of migratory birds carrying the disease from Africa to the Americas, West Nile finally gained a foothold after (sub)urban crows and robins replaced the old rail and woodpecker populations, which were immune.

One Health is the idea that we all have a multispecies immune system—opossums, rails, and woodpeckers, and the plants that provided their habitat, keep us safe from illness just as the white blood cells zipping through our capillaries do. And this planet-wide immune system is in distress, from climate change to habitat destruction to the farms that are breeding drug-resistant illnesses. But immune systems are resilient: antibodies remember the infections they’ve faced before, so that they might never invade the body again. LEAP’s speaker series this year is dedicated to bringing together students and leading experts, advocates, and artists to address the questions of how we can make the planet’s immune system similarly resilient and robust in the wake of current crises, including zoonotic infectious diseases, systemic social and economic injustices, climate change, and unprecedented biodiversity loss.

About the Speaker Series

Throughout the academic year, Yale Law School LEAP brings to campus a diverse array of leading thinkers and doers — including scholars, lawmakers, scientists, investigative journalists, writers, and artists — who focus in various ways on understanding and improving humans’ understanding and treatment of animals. These guests visit campus to enrich and inform LEAP’s work, and to inspire, deepen, and elevate conversations about animal welfare, human power, and the law.

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Yale students interested in hosting speakers or panels on topics to do with animal law, policy and ethics are encouraged to contact LEAP Executive Director Viveca Morris about funding opportunities.