Thursday, May 7, 2020

when nature is sick, we're sick

Today in the National Geographic Daily Newsletter, bRachael BaleANIMALS Executive Editor

One year ago, a landmark global report announced a shocking finding: One million species are at risk of extinction. Over the past 50 years, it found, populations of land-based species have fallen 40 percent, freshwater species more than 80 percent, and marine species 35 percent. The evidence was overwhelming: It’s our fault.

It can be hard to contemplate putting energy into environmental protection when global COVID-19 cases have surpassed 3.7 million. But the pandemic is a result of humankind’s destruction of the planet. “Rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people,” the reports’ authors wrote a few weeks ago. (Pictured above, an endangered baby Bornean orangutan with her adoptive mother.)

The authors issue a stark warning: Future pandemics will happen more frequently, will kill more people, and will cause greater economic damage unless we start recognizing the inextricable links between human health and the health of the planet, its ecosystems, and its nonhuman living creatures. This is not a radical concept. The framework of OneHealth, recognized by the CDC, the World Health Organization, and governments and organizations around the world, does just that. 

It’s easy to think—especially for those of us who live in urban areas—that ecosystems are something separate from us. But the coronavirus crisis has shown that even people in the most advanced, developed cities around the world are vulnerable when ecosystems are degraded.

The bottom line: When nature is sick, we’re sick.