Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to Ross Kerridge and the Newcastle Institute for bringing Nobel Prize winner Peter Doherty to speak to a packed house in Newcastle last week. It is a rare thing to be able to sit and listen to such an eminent brain.
Since his ground-breaking work in immunology was recognised in 1996, he has taken up the gauntlet of the public spotlight with gusto, focusing on both further research and advocacy for the public good. His lecture was so enjoyable, full of humour, anecdotes and lessons for all of us.
Although only touching briefly on his work into the mechanisms whereby the white blood cells of our immune system kill virus-infected cells, we learnt how it led to an entirely new principle for cancer therapy and the 2018 Nobel Prize for Allison and Honjo.
Using influenza, ebola, bird flu, SARS as examples he reminded us of the connectivity of life on our planet, using the term One Health to include not only animals and humans but climate change. "Climate Change is a One Health problem, everything is interconnected. Climate Change is like lead poisoning, it is cumulative, aggressive and inexorable".
I was reminded of Barry Commoner's four laws of ecology: Everything is connected to everything else; everything must go somewhere; Nature knows best; and there is no such thing as a free lunch.
As Peter said, "we must embark on sustainable systems and clean energy. We are running a three-planet strategy but there is only one planet. We need to take on a duty of care for the effects of climate change".
He then introduced us to the Free Rider Problem of addressing climate change, as outlined by another Nobel winner, the economist William Nordhaus. A free rider wants others to pay for a public good but plans to use the good themselves.
If many nations act as free riders, the public good may never be provided. He quoted Tomasi "If we want things to stay the same then things will have to change", resonating for me with Seuss's Lorax "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, It's not".