Trevor Hancock

One reward of studying as a Fellow of the Interfaces of Global Change program is the opportunity for in-depth experiences with visitors to the university beyond the seminar auditorium.  Dr. Trevor Hancock visited campus last week to share his presentation titled “How do we live in good health in the Anthropocene?”, hosted by the Fralin Life Science Institute as part of the Ecological and Human Health in Rural Communities Seminar Series.  Dr. Hancock is a public health physician and health promotion consultant, a Professor and Senior Scholar at the School of Public Health and Social Policy at the University of Victoria, and one of the founders of the Healthy Cities and Communities movement.

A breakfast invitation for IGC Fellows to join Dr. Hancock allowed for both stimulating conversation and hearty nourishment to kickstart their day.  Topics over breakfast included ideas for reducing the carbon footprint of cities, addressing relationships between mental health and obesity trends to urban sprawl, and Hancock’s “one world region” notion.  Our health as human beings is directly influenced by our basic needs of food, water, shelter and energy.  As an increasingly urbanized species, how can we steer our communities to adapt in innovative ways that bridge the benefits of the natural world to our daily lives within built environments?

Dr. Hancock writes for a weekly column for the Times Colonist, Victoria’s daily newspaper, about population and public health issues.  Column topics focus on broad ecological, social, political, economic and commercial determinants of the health of the population and the role of public health professionals and organizations in protecting and improving the health of the population and preventing disease and injury.

One of his recent articles cites growing trends in the medical community for negative perceptions of general practitioners, described by some as “undemanding and easy” when compared to the work of specialty practitioners.

Hancock reflects, “what I think is really going on here is a wider phenomenon, found across many professions and disciplines, rooted in a societal tendency to value specialism over generalism. This attitude fails to recognize that generalism, perhaps better described as holistic thinking, is a specialty in its own right.  Rather than knowing more and more about less and less, holistic thinkers know about a great many different things, and work to synthesize and integrate them, looking for what anthropologist Gregory Bateson called “the pattern that connects.

Many of the challenges we face in the 21st century are complex, cut across and involve many sectors, and interact as complex systems. They cannot be solved by narrow specialists, who indeed might make the problem worse. We need people trained in holistic thinking who understand complex systems and how to manage them.”

More information about Dr. Hancock and links to his column writings are found on his website at