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COVID-19: Understanding novel pathogens in coupled social–ecological systems

Baker, Susan ORCID:, Bruford, Michael W. ORCID:, MacBride-Stewart, Sara ORCID:, Essam, Alice, Nicol, Poppy and Sanderson Bellamy, Angelina ORCID: 2022. COVID-19: Understanding novel pathogens in coupled social–ecological systems. Sustainability 14 (18) , 11649. 10.3390/su141811649

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The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and the spread of COVID-19 is explored using a social-ecological systems (SES) framework. From an SES perspective, the pandemic is the outcome of feedback loops and cascading interactions within an anthropologically disturbed system. However, the SES framework tends to overemphasize human agency as drivers of system disequilibrium. Drawing on posthumanism theory in social science, the agency of the non-human world also plays a critical role in disturbances in SES. Non-human agency is incorporated into the SES framework, applying it to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and the spread of COVID-19, and public health responses. The paper is interdisciplinary, and a non-systematic literature review was combined with Socratic dialogue to examine how human-induced changes trigger feedbacks in SES, such as SARS-CoV-2. The non-human world, embedded within a coupled system of material relations; the natural/biological element, that finds expression in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 and in generating the genome novel recombinant, which aligns with the conceptualization of the non-human as “vibrant”, all play a role in shaping systems dynamics. This calls into question the anthropocentric view that human agency has the capacity to drive ecosystem dynamics. The implications for SES theory are discussed and we conclude with a case for a new ethics of interdependency to better serve SES analysis. The implications for practice, particularly considering projected future novel virus outbreaks, are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Publisher: MDPI
ISSN: 2071-1050
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 September 2022
Date of Acceptance: 13 September 2022
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2024 10:20

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