By Sarah Bates
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2710

Climate groups warn that environmental destruction will lead to more pandemics

This article is over 3 years, 8 months old
Issue 2710
Destruction of natural habitats is leading to a higher risk of animals transmitting deadly diseases to humans
Destruction of natural habitats is leading to a higher risk of animals transmitting deadly diseases to humans (Pic: CIFOR/flickr)

Environmental destruction lies behind health crises—and sweeping changes will be needed to avoid further pandemics, argued conservation and health leaders on Wednesday. In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, they say that most emerging infectious diseases such as Covid-19 “are driven by human activities”.

Representatives from WWF International, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the World Health Organisation pointed to endangered animals being sold for meat, at close proximity to humans. Their letter focused on stopping deforestation and destruction of natural habitats.

And it argued that “the way we currently produce and consume food, and our blatant disregard for the environment more broadly, has pushed the natural world to its limits.”

“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, and a well-resourced and equitable economy,” they said.

They called for diversified agriculture and diets, sustainable animal farming, green urban scopes and renewable energy.

And a report from the WWF wildlife charity, also released on Wednesday, argued that “pressures on nature from wildlife exploitation and our unsustainable food systems increase the likelihood of future pandemics.”

The “Urgent call to protest people and nature” report calls on governments to protect and restore natural habitats and link the health of humans, animals and the planet.

It also argues that vulnerable communities and indigenous land must be protected. The report also looks to individuals to “shift their dietary and consumption habits to make more sustainable choices.”

The report said Covid-19, and other diseases like it, are caused by how human populations “increasingly encroach into natural ecosystems. Resulting in accelerating levels of contact between humans, wildlife and livestock.

“This results in additional exposure to new animal pathogens and creates dangerous conditions for spillover from one species to another.” it continues.

It said that 60-70 percent of new diseases have emerged in humans since 1990 came from wildlife.

The warnings come as there are 7.9 million confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 435,000 deaths worldwide.

Some countries, such as China, Iran and Indonesia look perched on the crest of a second wave.

Now it’s the time to heed the warnings from the environmental movement and use them as a weapon in battles to come.

It will require a revolutionary change to a system that places profit about the health of people, planet and wildlife

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