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New Berlin University Alliance Project: Re-Scaling Global Health - Human Health and Multispecies Cohabitation on an Urban Planet

Uli Beisel and Charrlotte Adelina, in collaboration with partners from HU Berlin, TU Berlin, Charité as well as a network of transdisciplinary and international partners, have received funding from the Berlin University Alliance in their program “Exploration Projects of the Grand Challenge Initiative on Global Health”.

Our 3-year exploratory grant will analyze urban human-animal-environment relationships and how they affect human health in urban spaces. The project investigates the multiple links between health, biodiversity, and environmental pollution. The history of urbanization in conjunction with globalization, particularly since the industrial revolution, has repeatedly given rise to widespread contagious diseases. While pandemics have existed throughout history, their rate of occurrence has been increasing dramatically since the 1960s. Increasing urbanization and its effects on land use change, global mobility patterns, and environmental pollution are key interdependent drivers of this process. The effects of such urbanization patterns on biodiversity loss make (animal) populations more susceptible to the spread of viruses. We see a clear connection between urbanization, biodiversity, and global health that our project seeks to investigate in detail. If we want to work towards improving both human and ecosystem health, we need to pay close attention to the complexities of urban habitats and processes of urban environmental change, untangling the main drivers of urbanization and the interplay between biodiversity and human health.

Our project brings together a transdisciplinary team of urban scholars from the social sciences, the humanities, urban design and planning fields with ecologists and virologists to work towards conceptualizing and empirically examining the complex relationship between human health and the urban environment. Conceptually, the aim is to advance a theory and practice of multispecies urbanism that understands the environment not as a passive backdrop but as an active agent co-producing urban space and affecting human and more-than-human health. Working together with our transdisciplinary project partners, we take on the imagination challenge of reconceptualising urban health through a multispecies lens; and, we take on the implementation challenge of developing strategies and solutions for a practice of multispecies cohabitation with the ultimate goal of building healthier and more equitable urban futures. The project will be developed through four to five urban case studies that build on our existing expertise and networks (Berlin, São Paulo, Melbourne, and Nairobi in collaboration with long-term local collaborators funded through other projects) as well as establishing new collaborations (New Delhi, Singapore) thereby enabling comparative research themes to emerge along with the development of grounded theory. The project will be operationalized through explorative sub-projects developed with cross-cutting themes and in transdisciplinary teams as a starting point for a wider research agenda to be advanced over the three years.

Funding: Berlin University Alliance

Funding Period: 2022 – 2025

Project Team: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Beisel, Freie Universität Berlin; Prof. Dr. Dorothee Brantz, Technische Universität Berlin; Prof. Dr. Ignacio Farías, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Prof. Dr. Sandra Jasper, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; PD Dr. Sandra Junglen, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin; Prof. Dr. Jörg Niewöhner, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Prof. Dr. Jörg Stollmann, Technische Universität Berlin; Dr. Tanja Straka, Technische Universität Berlin; Charrlotte Adelina, Freie Universität Berlin


News from Feb 24, 2022

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