Pandemics result from destruction of nature, say UN and WHO
Experts call for legislation and trade deals worldwide to encourage green recovery
Mangroves in Morondava, west Madagascar. The UN has described coronavirus as an ‘SOS signal’ for humankind. Photograph: Alamy
Pandemics such as coronavirus are the result of humanity’s destruction of nature, according to leaders at the UN, WHO and WWF International, and the world has been ignoring this stark reality for decades.
The illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade as well as the devastation of forests and other wild places were still the driving forces behind the increasing number of diseases leaping from wildlife to humans, the leaders told the Guardian.
A WWF report, also published on Wednesday, warns: “The risk of a new [wildlife-to-human] disease emerging in the future is higher than ever, with the potential to wreak havoc on health, economies and global security.”
WWF’s head in the UK said post-Brexit trade deals that fail to protect nature would leave Britain “complicit in increasing the risk of the next pandemic”.
High-level figures have issued a series of warnings since March, with the world’s leading biodiversity experts saying even more deadly disease outbreaks are likely in future unless the rampant destruction of the natural world is rapidly halted.
Earlier in June, the UN environment chief and a leading economist said Covid-19 was an “SOS signal for the human enterprise” and that current economic thinking did not recognise that human wealth depends on nature’s health.
Twice the size of California, the South American Gran Chaco is the second largest forest reserve in South America. It is an immense and scarcely populated region, many parts of which are dry and arid. The residents of the Chaco include campesino, or farmer, families and indigenous communities. The small and dispersed communities often face deep poverty.
CWS has worked in the Gran Chaco since 2005 to build the skills and expertise of indigenous men, women and youth to advocate effectively for their basic rights and their ancestral lands. These rights include water, education, health, food and a life free from violence and discrimination.
“We have seen many diseases emerge over the years, such as Zika, Aids, Sars and Ebola and they all originated from animal populations under conditions of severe environmental pressures,” said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, head of the UN convention on biological diversity, Maria Neira, the World Health Organization director for environment and health, and Marco Lambertini, head of WWF International, in the Guardian article.
“Worryingly, while Covid-19 has given us yet another reason to protect and preserve nature, we have seen the reverse take place. From the Greater Mekong, to the Amazon and Madagascar, alarming reports have emerged of increased poaching, illegal logging and forest fires, while many countries are engaging in hasty environmental rollbacks and cuts in funding for conservation. This all comes at a time when we need it most.
“We must embrace a just, healthy and green recovery and kickstart a wider transformation towards a model that values nature as the foundation for a healthy society. Not doing so, and instead attempting to save money by neglecting environmental protection, health systems, and social safety nets, has already proven to be a false economy. The bill will be paid many times over.”