COVID-19: Nature is sending a message
IN A recent article in The Guardian, Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said nature was sending humanity a message because we were placing too many pressures on the natural world - with damaging consequences.
These consequences include serious environmental problems such as habitat and biodiversity loss, as well as a multiplicity of impacts from climate change and the spread of new diseases.
"Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people," she said.
She noted 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife because our continued erosion of wild spaces brings us close to animals and plants that harbour diseases that can jump to humans.
Ebola, bird flu, MERS, Rift Valley fever, SARS, West Nile fever and zika virus are infectious diseases which have all crossed from animals to humans in recent years.
She said there are too many pressures 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," she said.
"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."
It is believed the source of the COVID-19 outbreak was a market in China. China has since banned such markets but experts such as Professor Andrew Cunningham of the Zoological Society of London want the ban to be permanent. He believes the ban needs to be global as there are similar markets in sub-Saharan Africa and many Asian markets other than those in China.
Cunningham points out that although the SARS outbreak of 2002-03 was a massive wake-up call that should have brought about significant change, it resulted in a business-as-usual approach once the epidemic finished.
He hopes this will not happen with COVID-19. Perhaps the significant health, social and economic effects we are already seeing from COVID-19 will lead to change.
Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition