EcoHealth Forum 2008

In a globalized world in which trade agreements and the war on terrorism run the political agenda, equally important issues such as environment and health sadly take a backseat. This is why conferences like the International EcoHealth Forum 2008 are essential in bringing environment and health concerns to the forefront and building global awareness on how these forces are shaping the lives of future generations.

It is the perfect opportunity to move forward the mandate of the Commission for the Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the body created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to ensure U.S., Canada and Mexico enforce their environmental laws. After all, promoting a healthy environment is what makes this planet safer.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Diodora Bucur and I am a Canadian journalist based in Mexico. I am writing in hopes of convincing you that I am a candidate worthy of covering the International EcoHealth Forum 2008 in Merida this December.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I hold a bachelor in broadcast journalism from Concordia University and I am fluent in English, French, Romanian and Spanish. I am the recipient of several national and international awards. In 2005, I earned an Honourable Mention from the Quebec Community Newspapers Association for a series on waste management and recycling in Montreal.

Since my arrival in Mexico two years ago, I have been doing work for the Canadian Press and English-language dailies The Herald Mexico and The News. Assignments included Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s visit to Ottawa in October 2006, followed by former foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay´s trip to Mexico City. I also covered the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico and contributed to reports on the Merida and Montebello summits in 2007. As a reporter in Montreal, I worked in both print (The Suburban) and radio (940News). Environment and healthcare were among my top beats.

I am currently working on several environmental stories, including a piece on Chapala Lake, Mexico’s largest lake and among the most contaminated natural treasures, assignments that have allowed me to both become acquainted with green issues in this developing nation and learn from the expertise of prominent Mexican environmentalists.

I have a natural ability to work well under pressure and with others, can handle multiple stories simultaneously and deliver them quickly and accurately. I am confident that my skills and experience make me the perfect candidate for the job.

Essay: Why I should win the opportunity to cover the International EcoHealth Forum 2008?

I believe I should win the opportunity to cover this event because I could give important visibility to current research on health and environment both in the website where I work and in other publications I regularly write for. Furthermore, I can act as a multiplier of my experience covering this forum by sharing information and contacts collected during the event with colleagues.

I work as the editor of Ciência Hoje On-line (www.cienciahoje.org.br) – the electronic version of a monthly magazine published by the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science (SBPC). Ciência Hoje was created in 1982 by a group of researchers intending to enhance the public visibility of Brazilian science. It features articles written by both scientists and journalists and aimed at the general public. Besides reproducing texts from Ciência Hoje, CH On-line has its own exclusive news stories published in a daily basis. The team of these publications includes ten journalists and three journalism students interested in developing their skills for science reporting.

Our website and magazine give considerable importance for environment and health issues, covering mainly (but not limited to) themes of national interest. Among the issues most frequently covered in our articles, are the way Brazil is facing climate change and its impacts; the role of the Amazon in the global warming scenario; the challenge of finding a model of sustainable development and fighting deforestation driven by the pressure for more land for agriculture and cattle; the challenge of maintaining Brazilian energy policy heavily based on ethanol and other biofuels, without affecting native vegetation and food production; and the recurrent epidemics of diseases linked to poor basic infra-structure and to the expansion of cities over areas of natural vegetation areas.

Not surprisingly, these issues will be addressed in the main conferences of the International EcoHealth Forum. I am convinced that covering this event will allow me to keep updated with the latest tendencies in research and policies regarding health and environment, and this will improve my every daily work as the editor of CH On-line. Moreover, the forum is especially relevant to Latin American journalists, because important questions of regional interest will be discussed by specialists.

I can give visibility to the debates of the forum by publishing in CH On-line several news stories inspired by conferences and contacts made during the event. A feature article or a longer report could also be published in Ciência Hoje print version. Finally, I could propose news stories about the forum to two publications I regularly write for as a free-lancer: Biofutur, a French magazine on biotechnology, and SciDev.Net, a website focused on science issues relevant for the developing world.

Essay: Why i should win this competition

Firstly, I am a science journalist. I am still improving my professional skills in science writing with the online course offered by the World Federation of science journalists (WFSJ) and the mentoring program which is associated.
Since 2004, i was specialized to environmental issues in my newsroom. Before de mentoring program, i didn’t know how to write science stories to make them understand to the public. And now my writing skills are increasingly improved and i can now compete with other science journalists and made it.

Secondly, in our African countries, health and environment are our daily preoccupation. We have for example malaria who kill more than HIV and we also know that malaria has a link with environment. Dust, forest, non respect of public health advices for using the nets impregnated with insecticide have negative effects on the heath of people.
Many diseases afflicting the African peoples in the south of the Sahara are linked to their immediate environment. In my country Cameroon, there are serious diseases which are related to the environment. These include malaria, Onchocerciasis or river blindness, Buruli ulcer. The last two diseases have a link with water. Indeed, the Onchocerciasis which causes lesions on the skin and cause blindness in Cameroon has its area of choice in the centre of Cameroon, around a large river that hosts flies whose bites cause the disease.
As far as Buruli ulcer is the water of the river Nyong which houses the bug responsible for ulcers, the female Anopheles, the malaria vector lives in pools of stagnant water and rivers with low speed. I should win this competition because I have proposed articles show how the immediate environment of man may pose a threat to his health. I am also confident of having my articles written in compliance with the rules in writing scientific stories.

Finally, I really want to win this competition because it will give me the opportunity to meet with leading scientists worldwide, and interview them. As science journalist, it is an occasion for me to enrich my knowledge on the relationship between health and the environment and also see what experiences of other countries i can report to health my country to do the same.

Essay: Why I should have the chance to interview the world’s top experts on health and the environment

very week, my inbox brims with e-mails from Québec, West Africa, and the Maghreb. Almost one year ago, the Institut de l’énergie et de l’environnement de la Francophonie asked me to contribute to Médiaterre, an international Web portal on sustainable development [ www.mediaterre.org ]. This initiative is spearheaded by the Organisation mondiale de la Francophonie and attracts some 8 500 visitors from 108 countries daily. Every week, I write news stories on climate change, water contamination, air pollution, and other environmental issues. And every week, I receive e-mails from readers suggesting topics on which they would like more information.

The same question often arises: what is the impact of a given environmental issue on my health or the health of my family? Readers are concerned with the intimate link that exists between ecosystem and human health. And though the connection is clear, there is little information available to help them better define it.

Taking part in the International EcoHealth Forum next December will give me the opportunity to learn more on the leading research underscoring the linkages between public health, ecosystems, and social and economic conditions. Médiaterre readers would greatly benefit from this information, and the special focus on developing nations will be of particular interest to the vast majority of readers in the francophonie.

The EcoHealth Forum will also provide me with ideas and material for other publications to which I contribute. In fact, as of October, I will be penning a monthly environmental column in Châtelaine – the most widely-read women’s magazine in Québec – and the issues discussed at the Merida conference will probably turn out to be valuable content for future articles on original and relevant topics.

Québec Science, L’actualité, and Protégez-Vous, the other publications for which I write on a regular basis, would also most likely be interested in publishing articles on the links between health and the environment.

Relying on my knowledge of French, English, and Spanish, I hope to make many new contacts in Merida. Through this new network, I will be able to remain abreast of the latest research and information in the environmental health field long after the Forum.

Essay: Why I should win the competition

I am a development journalist-photographer with a special interest in health and environment. I have been closely following these issues for over 20 years. Most of my reports are from South Asia, but I also have field experience in Europe and other parts of Asia. This year, I was fortunate to win an international award which offered a field trip to Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas. The trip allowed me to see first hand the reality of access to health care for most people in that country. Following my Haiti visait, I wrote several reports for an Indian news agency, and a special report in the Lancet (UK) – Haiti’s Forgotten Emergency (23 August)

Currently, I live in Delhi, India’s capital city, and freelance for national, international, specialist and mainstream publications. Over the years, I have got increasingly interested in the ‘global’ dimension of many of the issues I have been following, because I am convinced that in the inter-dependent world of today, there is no such thing as a purely ‘local’ environment or health issue.

To me, one of the most telling illustrations of the link between a changing environment and exotic diseases, and the ‘global’ and the ‘local’ is a story which is familiar to Indian readers and others across the world. It broke in the summer of 2007 in Castiglione di Cervia. This village in northern Italy acquired international infamy because of its dubious distinction of playing host to the first outbreak in modern Europe of a disease that had previously been associated with the tropics. Panic gripped the residents as one person after another fell ill with weeks of high fever, exhaustion and acute pain in the bones. The mysterious malaise stalking the village sparked a hundred rumours: people pointed fingers at river pollution, the government, and most of all immigrants.

At the end, the mystery was solved. Italian public health officials disclosed that the people of Castiglione Di Cervia were, in fact, suffering from a tropical disease, Chikungunya, a relative of dengue fever, normally found around the Indian Ocean.The much-maligned ‘immigrants’ suspected of spreading the disease were tiger mosquitoes who had begun to thrive in a warming Europe. Its presence in Italy was the result of the Italian climate growing warmer, and more humid, favouring the proliferation of these mosquitoes. Chikungunya made its way into mosquitoes in northern Italy though no one in Castiglione Di Cervia had been abroad, because one of the first men to fall ill in the Italian village had a visitor in early July. That visitor, a relative, an Italian, had previously travelled to Kerala in India. The epidemic in a rural pocket of Italy established that tropical diseases were no longer necessarily confined to the tropics and that tropical viruses are now able to spread in new areas, far north of their previous range.

The link between degradation of the environment and resultant human diseases is known and reported in the Indian media, but forms a small percentage of the overall reportage on environment. From my personal experience, I feel that the ‘health’ angle, in a way, has made it easier to ‘sell’ environmental stories to gatekeepers in the media. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly clear that infectious diseases do not respect geographic boundaries, and can cause sudden panic, as the Chikungunya flare-up in Italy demonstrated.

I am keen to cover the International EcoHealth Forum 2008, in Mérida (Mexico) early December and hope to be selected as one of the 5 journalists for this honour because the event offers a fantastic opportunity to interact with international experts on key issues underpinning the relationship between environment and health and to consolidate the field experience I have accumulated for over 2 decades. This would equip me to write on these critical issues with greater depth and understanding for the Indian media as well as for my international clients such as The Lancet, the British Medical Journal and the Bulletin of the WHO in the future.

Essay: Application

Science is the key to the progress of our nations. In Latin American has been hard understand it, specially governments and mass media. Science journalists have to figth daily in order to that science and health information have an favoured place or first page. It’s a constant war that we only can win with preparation and a correct update of knowledge.

During my career I’ve tried to improve the way I do science journalism. It’s a challenge with myself. But, at the same time, it’s a commitment to my readers. Every word I write and every article I prepare could become a hope of more and better life for people who reads me.

Venezuela’s crisis has influenced our journalism. The politics is the favorite source for editors and even journalists, despite even our contry history as being a pioneer in Latin America’s journalism. For example, Arístides Bastidas was an world icon of this area. He won Kalinga Prize on 1982. This award is considered as the Nobel Price of science popularization.

I would like to have the chance to cover the meeting of the world’s experts on the relationships between health and the environmentt. I would
certainly take advantage of this experience.It would be a golden oportunnity to learn how can I write with a higher impact by knowing more specifics details, statistics and information about science’s world.

Venezuela needs to rescue its science communication and I really to wish be a part of a new generation ready to do it.

Essay: Opportunities for All, Everywhere

Writing about science, health and environment can still look like a crazy thing for many people in countries like mine that has a lot of subsistence problems. Although there are people like me, who believe that the future starts with the democratization of knowledge, with the real access to all the opportunities for all the people, everywhere.

I want to be part of this progress. The way I can help is talking and writing about the research efforts that are made in my country every day and talking about what is being done in other countries, analyzing the things that work and the things that don’t work, the process of science and not only the science’s show.

I should win this competition because I want to be in touch with important health and environment organizations and specialists and also make links with people of countries with similar realities that are working to improve their systems. The bottom line: always, learn and use this learning in my own reality.
Nature has been very generous with Bolivia , but to show how lucky we are, the importance of preserving and using our resources wisely, and how science and technology can help with this responsibility with our present and future, is a work that still has to be done. On the other hand, Bolivia has a lot to teach to the world and it is necessary to find efficient channels to communicate.

I have a project to create a Science Information Agency, with the support of the Bolivian Association of Science Journalism, in order to generate more and better research information, politics and science current events, information, discoveries, etc.
The idea is to involve communication students and work with the state universities, entities who administrate most of the researching funds of the government thought its research centers.

It is a way to incentive the students to specialize in science journalism and, at the same time, stimulate the interest in the science developing.
The information could be used by national mass media, to generate a favorable public opinion about science and generate the civil society demand of more financial support. It’s a mechanism to make the interface between science and society.
I certainly know that putting this proposal into practice could be very useful and could contribute to the experience of covering the International EcoHealth Forum 2008, in Mérida (Mexico), meeting important contact people, launching health and environment opportunities and responsibilities, closer to all the people, everywhere.