There’s been a lot of finger pointing over where the coronavirus originated.
Did it come out of a Huanan seafood market, otherwise known as a wet market, in Wuhan, China?
Was it transmitted to humans from a pangolin?
Was it somehow contracted from a bat?
Did China develop it as a bio-weapon?
Is George Soros behind it?
Maybe no one is responsible.
We’re all familiar with climate change‘s role in increasing extreme weather.
It’s also plausible this pandemic is simply another result of our environmental degradation.
Zoologist Peter Daszak, who heads EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that studies the connections between human and wildlife health, said in an interview with Slate:
“You know how this story goes. First there’s the panic, the search for something or someone to blame. In the case of the novel coronavirus, there was the story that the outbreak got its start at a local food market in Wuhan. But stories like that can get in the way of the bigger picture: More and more people are also living and working closer to wildlife. It isn’t about one or two individuals putting people at risk. The risk also comes from clear-cutting rainforests, remote mining, and even widespread suburbanization.”
A recent study out of the University of the West of England and the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the University of Exeter hypothesizes that biodiversity and natural processes are “ultimately interlinked” with diseases.
Lead author, Dr. Mark Everard, explained:
“Ecosystems naturally restrain the transfer of diseases from animals to humans, but this service declines as ecosystems become degraded. At the same time, ecosystem degradation undermines water security, limiting availability of adequate water for good hand hygiene, sanitation and disease treatment. Disease risk cannot be dissociated from ecosystem conservation and natural resource security.”
The United Nations’ environment chief, Inger Andersen, asserts humanity’s overtaxing the natural world has dire consequences, one of them being the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Explaining that 75% of all emerging infectious diseases originate in the wild, Andersen asserts:
“Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people. Our continued erosion of wild spaces has brought us uncomfortably close to animals and plants that harbor diseases that can jump to humans.”
“There are too many pressures at the same time on our natural systems and something has to give. We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not. If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves. And as we hurtle towards a population of 10 billion people on this planet, we need to go into this future armed with nature as our strongest ally.”
Infectious diseases researcher at the University of Montpellier in France, Roger Frutos, adds:
“When you cut down trees and remove the forest, you eliminate the natural environment of some species. But those species don’t just disappear. We instead create a patchwork, a mosaic of their environment that’s closer to ours, with houses that attract insects or sheds where bats can rest and find shelter.”
One Health Institute at the University of California epidemiologist, Tierra Smiley Evans, explained:
“When you’re building human homes right up on forest edges, you’re destroying wildlife habitats and squeezing animal habitats into smaller areas.”
“The presence of a large reservoir of Sars-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a timebomb.”
Peter Daszak added:
“We’re not doing it on purpose, but it’s our everyday way of going about business on the planet that seems to be driving this. The big things that drive these diseases are places on the planet where there’s lots of wildlife diversity, because they carry viruses, some of which can become pandemics in places where the human population is dense and growing. Because our contact with wildlife is higher, there’s more of a chance for viruses to get to us. I’ve found that things like land use, change, deforestation, road building, mining, and agricultural intensification are the reasons we push ourselves into wildlife habitat and get infected.”
Ecocide is already underway and putting society at extreme risk, according to a recent 1,800-page United Nations (UN) global assessment Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES) report more than 450 scientists and diplomats took over three years to compile from 15,000 academic studies and reports.
16 to 33% of all warm-water coral reefs are suffering bleaching; rainforests are devolving into savannahs; wild mammal biomass has declined 82%; natural ecosystems’ have lost about half their area; and a million species are at risk of extinction, most alarmingly at least one in 10 insects and two in five amphibian species.
Humans’ damage to the planet is due to an explosion in population (doubled since 1970), staggering economic growth, and global trade that has led to destruction of forests, particularly in tropical areas.
Between 1980 and 2000, 100 million tropical forest hectares disappeared, mainly due to cattle ranching in South America and palm oil plantation farming in Southeast Asia.
The wetlands are worse.
Only 13% that existed in 1700 were still around 300 years later.
Our urban areas have also doubled since 1992.
Plastic pollution has increased ten times since 1980, and each year we dump 300-400 million metric tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge, and other waste into our oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams, from which 33% of fish stocks were harvested at unsustainable levels in 2015, compounded by evidence that our appetites for fish and meat are growing.
In most animal and plant groups studied, approximately 25% of species are already facing extinction.
On average, natural ecosystems have declined by 47%.
Wild mammal biomass has dropped by 82%.
Now we have the COVID-19 virus against which the United States appears to be completely powerless.
In her book This Changes Everything, author and activist Naomi Klein argues the reason the United States fails to adequately address climate change is because of the obscene amounts of money fossil fuel companies pump into lawmakers’ (mostly Republican) campaigns.
We have already passed too many tipping points to avoid some of the climate’s most devastating effects, and many scientists theorize the world has begun a sixth mass extinction.
Yet there is still hope as long as we heed the experts’ advice.
The question is, will we?
Or will we continue doubling down on a smash-and-grab strategy to extract every drop of fossil fuels the planet can yield for pure profit?
Image credit: urbanevolution-litc.com