The latest report by the WWF seeks to create awareness on how zoonotic diseases like the COVID-19 will continue spreading if we don’t put an end to wildlife and environmental exploitation.
By Natalia Bonilla
This June the World Wide Fund for Nature launched “Covid-19: Urgent Call to Protect People and Nature“, a 40-page report highlighting the causes and consequences of the unbalanced relationship between Earth and Humankind.
The new document reveals the rising emergence of zoonotic diseases (deriving from animals and transmitted to humans) in the past 30 years is linked to land conversion and degradation, forest fragmentation, the intensification of agriculture and animal production as well as the consumption of high-risk wildlife.
The origin of the COVID-19 pandemic is commonly attributed to wet markets practices in Wuhan which, according to WWF, also resemble similar patterns to the appearance of other novel diseases in the past such as: HIV/AIDS, SARS, Swine Flu, MERS, Nipah and Ebola.
“Poor food safety standards, including permitting the trade and consumption of high-risk wildlife species, are increasing human exposure to animal pathogens. Globally, demand for wild meat is growing, as either a delicacy or a necessity, driving increased sale and consumption, and increasing the potential for exposure to diseases during high-risk sourcing, handling and preparation practices”, the report reads.
Unsustainable food systems and large-scale conversion of land for agriculture and livestock production, in particular meat, soy and palm oil, need to be revisited accounting for 70 % of planetary biodiversity loss.
Several studies have linked extensive deforestation in West and Central Africa to the appearance of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Congo, a country which just this week declared an end to its second deadliest outbreak.
The report offers a glimpse of how Human and Corporate activities have exploited natural resources mostly for financial gain due to the fact that more production and resources have not actually led to sustainable, fair and healthier lifestyles for all.
The call to mend the disconnection between People and Nature is what needs to be answered in this “new normal” if we want to stop the spread of zoonotic diseases among populations and if we can to mitigate the consequences of climate change.
To embark on a “new path forward”, the WWF explains that a systemic change needs to be encouraged through a multi level approach.
“Whether tackling environmental issues, health crises or economic challenges, solutions with a single focus or leverage point are unlikely to be successful, given the deep interconnections of different systems. Cross-cutting responses are required, such as promoting more sustainable and efficient food systems, encouraging healthier and more sustainable diets, reducing overproduction and consumption, and moving towards nature-positive and climate-neutral financial systems that incorporate environmental risks in their decision-making processes. These solutions must be coordinated between different actors, including governments, the private sector, the public, IPLCs, and environment, animal and health specialists, leading to a general societal shift to embrace a healthier relationship with the planet”, the 2020 report says.
There are three recommendations with individual and systemic actions that the organization underlines: stop illegal, unregulated and high-risk wildlife trade and consumption; support sustainable food systems that halt encroachment on nature and; build a more sustainable relationship between people and nature through sustainable and just economic recovery approaches with defined and holistic goals.
Photo Credit: Kristy Kravchenko