More people now live in cities than ever before, and projections indicate that by 2050, 70% of human populations will reside in urban areas. High population density results in concentration of food, energy, water, and other resource consumption. Health implications of global megatrends, including the food–energy–water nexus, present palpable challenges. For example, 80% of the global sewage production is not treated; instead it is returned to the environment and thus reused for various purposes, including agriculture. Implications for water security, food safety, and international trade are not routinely examined. Such considerations are critical because when water security is compromised, antimicrobial resistance (a leading global health threat) can increase significantly and threaten food safety.
Due to the growing importance of these issues, Dr. Bryan W. Brooks, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and Biomedical Studies and Director of Environmental Health Science at Baylor, and his students are actively engaging integrated environment and health research on six continents. Dr. Brooks and the students he mentors have been “flinging their green and gold afar” through international opportunities. For example, Dr. Brooks recently gave a plenary lecture on harmful algal blooms and participated in a panel discussion on antimicrobial resistance and mapping the antibiotics life cycle at the 3rd International Conference on Environmental Pollution, Restoration, and Management in Quy Nhon, Vietnam. During this meeting, Dr. Brooks had the unique opportunity to meet with the Minister of the Vietnam Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and his senior staff, as well as faculty and administrators from several universities in Vietnam regarding future collaborations. Dr. Brooks also gave a lecture and visited colleagues at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, and engaged additional collaborators at Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and University of Hong Kong.
Dr. Brooks is also spearheading the Global Horizon Scanning Project, which has identified dozens of timely interdisciplinary research needs related to environmental quality from around the globe using a “big questions” approach. Input solicited from thousands of scientists and engineers has been transparent, bottom-up, multidisciplinary, and multi-sector. Synthesis workshops, following big question solicitation from the scientific community, were held in Spain (for Europe), South Africa (for Africa), Argentina (for Latin America), New Zealand (for Oceania), Salt Lake City (for North America) and Singapore (for Asia). Each workshop was tri-chaired by experts from academia, government, and business. Key questions from these global workshops provide core materials for synthesis manuscripts, which are in various stages of peer-review or development. This project provides a first-of-its-kind global research agenda.
Through transdisciplinary engagement, both within Baylor as well as beyond – locally, nationally, and globally – Dr. Brooks and his colleagues seek to identify and address complex environment and health challenges that urgently require our attention.