Is there a link between the environment and global pandemics? A recent report issued by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES) says there is.
In the report, a panel of experts noted that “Future pandemics will emerge more often, spread more rapidly, do more damage to the world economy and kill more people than COVID-19 unless there is a transformative change in the global approach to dealing with infectious diseases.”
Although most of us don’t remember the others, the current COVID-19 situation is at least the sixth global pandemic since The Great Influenza pandemic of 1918. And it probably won’t be the last one either.
However, we can help reduce the risks of pandemics in the future; it just means taking better care of our planet, which most of us care deeply about.
Spread and Control
It’s understood that these health pandemics generally begin with microbes carried by animals – which are then passed on to humans who run wild with them.
Currently, the way we attempt to deal with these outbreaks comes after they have reached humans and focuses mostly on containment and control.
Provincial Is Critical
But the IBPES wants us to focus on prevention instead and reduce “the human activities that drive the loss of biodiversity, by greater conservation of protected areas, and through measures that reduce unsustainable exploitation of high biodiversity regions. This will reduce wildlife-livestock-human contact and help prevent the spillover of new diseases.”
The report suggests it won’t require a massive shift in our current environmental and wildlife protection mindset (although it does need people in power and decision-making positions to have said perspective – which is not always the case).
A Big Shift
The destruction of forests and various ecosystems to make more room for livestock and crops is terrible for the climate. It also brings man into closer contact with animals from ecosystems that could be carrying new viruses.
Also, as we mess with the environment and the earth’s climate, it can push animals out of their typical habitats and force them into ours. Therefore, changing many human activities would positively affect both the environment and reduce pandemic potential, making this a ‘two birds, one stone’ situation.
There Is Hope
Many look at the tremendous impact (much of it negative) humans have had on the planet and the environment and feel discouraged. But Dr. Peter Daszak, President of EcoHealth Alliance and Chair of the IPBES workshop, says “The overwhelming scientific evidence points to a very positive conclusion,” and, “The fact that human activity has been able to so fundamentally change our natural environment need not always be a negative outcome. It also provides convincing proof of our power to drive the change needed to reduce the risk of future pandemics – while simultaneously benefiting conservation and reducing climate change.”