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It is hard to predict the future: the evolving nature of threats and vulnerabilities

Author(s) : G.A. Ackerman

Summary :

This paper describes the evolving nature of threats and vulnerabilities associated with biological disasters with animal origins, and introduces some of the pitfalls and opportunities associated with anticipating future threats. Evolving threats and vulnerabilities include continued deforestation and encroachment on virgin habitats, the effects of globalisation on trade and transportation, the increased interdependence and social vulnerability of modern society, the commingling of intensive agriculture and traditional farming methods, the periodic appearance of pandemics and epizootics, and indications that numerous human actors are displaying an increasing interest in and capability of using biological agents as weapons. These developments must be viewed in the context of various impediments to accurately gauging future threats, such as the appearance of new elements that depart from current trends and the inherent difficulty in anticipating human, and especially terrorist, behaviour. The paper concludes with some broad recommendations for structuring a policy response to the threat in an environment of uncertainty about the future.

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