I’m sure we’re all bored of listening to news about Covid-19. Yet it is altering our society, economy and lifestyles in an unprecedented way. Unimaginable just one month ago. Despite the constant news coverage, there is one that often goes unmentioned: the root cause of viral epidemics.
In recent years several researchers and virologists have posited a very plausible scientific theory. It goes like this: the more humanity destroys biodiversity the higher the likelihood of new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19, Ebola, MERS, or SARS. In fact there is now an entire study on planetary health focusing on the connections between the wellbeing of humans and the wellbeing of other living things and their ecosystems.
Monkey sold as bushmeat in small village in Gabon (where Ebola originated)
In 2008 a group of researchers led by Kate Jones (chair of Ecology and Biodiversity at UCL) identified 335 new diseases between 1960 and 2004. What they had in common? 60% had zoonotic origins.
“We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” – Jones
Human made environments provide the perfect storm for viral spread.
Example A: Urbanisation into pristine rainforests: disrupts ecosystems, destroys habitats and provides new hosts for wildlife viruses: humans.
Example B: Wet markets: a place with vast ranges of species in unsanitary conditions: an easy habitat for cross-species transmission of diseases.
Example C: Some species such as rats, bats, or ticks thrive when you destroy ecosystems—get rid of their predators. What they have in common? They are known for being age old promoters of animal to human transmissions. Just ask the East Coast and its lyme disease problem—is it just a coincidence that deforestation and lyme disease spread came hand in hand?
wet market in China
If one could dream one would have governments and political leaders closely vigilating the origins of the Coronavirus. Why? As to avoid another one in the near future.
Protecting nature = protecting humans = protecting economies.
Hopefully when this is over this connection will be made obvious.