What will our future look like if we don't look at animal health? The second season of the anticipation podcast "Zootopic", produced by ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety) in collaboration with The Conversation, explores this question through four half-hour episodes mixing dystopian fiction and cross-interviews with experts.
The first part of the new series was recorded with virologists Béatrice Grasland (Anses) and Bruno Lina (Centre international de recherche en infectiologie de Lyon). It focuses on avian influenza viruses, the history of their circulation across continents and species, and the mechanisms by which they acquire the ability to circulate within the human population. The next three games, due to go online by the summer, will address fish health, antibiotic resistance and disease adaptation to climate change, respectively.
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Hosted by journalist Benoît Tonson, each episode of the podcast opens with a fictional newsletter. Anchored in 2031, it humorously considers the more or less plausible consequences of the disruption of our ecosystems. Organization of the Summer Olympic Games in Novosibirsk in Siberia, arrival of the tsetse fly in Andalusia, extinction of the French wine industry for the benefit of its British competitors, emergence of a formidable virus in a farm concentrating 1 million pigs in the region of Saint-Étienne. Or again: rush of elderly people to the Ardèche, where the tiger mosquito would proliferate, after the controversial study of a certain Professor Oultra would have highlighted the effectiveness of its bites in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease...
Thinking about tomorrow's threats
Such scenarios, as crazy as they may seem, refer to real questions. What is the purpose of monitoring the multiple strains of influenza viruses circulating in birds? What is animal welfare and how does taking this concept into account lead to a rethinking of our food production system? Will global warming encourage the emergence of diseases hitherto confined to other latitudes? And will our children tomorrow be condemned to spend their holidays "under a bell" to protect themselves from new viruses? To provide some answers, and try to dispassion debates, "Zootopic" crosses the points of view of experts from ANSES and other institutions. From their exchanges emerges a state of scientific knowledge, but also a number of questions that remain to be decided. A useful podcast to better think about tomorrow's threats.