Health of the Planet: How can viruses affect environmental policy?

Health of the Planet: How can viruses affect environmental policy?

Today, many researchers and ecologists agree that the coronavirus pandemic is the result of active human intervention in nature.

A little less than two decades ago, after the Ebola virus became widely known, it was disseminated belief that tropical forests and pristine natural environments with exotic flora and fauna threatened people, harboring unexplored viruses and pathogens leading to unknown diseases.

But many researchers today express their opinion that the destruction of biodiversity by humanity creates the conditions for the emergence of these viruses and diseases, including COVID-19, which appeared in China in December 2019. And this affects both people’s health and the economy of countries. In fact, it is emerging a new discipline – the health of the planet, which focuses on the interdependence of human well-being from the well-being of other living beings and entire ecosystems, in other words, the science of balance.

“We have invaded the rainforests and other wild landscapes that shelter so many species of animals and plants. And do we find it unexpected that there are so many unknown viruses within these systems? – writes a researcher of “Times: New York” David Quammen, author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic”. – We destroy ecosystems and shake off viruses from their natural hosts – trees and animals. When this happens, they need a new environment for replication and life. We – people often become this environment.”

The US Centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) estimates that three-quarters of “new or emerging” diseases affecting humans come from non-domesticated animals. Among them are Ebola fever, SARS, avian flu, COVID-19, plague, rabies, middle East respiratory syndrome, Lassa fever, Zika virus.

Kate Jones, head of the Department of Ecology and Biodiversity at the University of California, considers emerging infectious diseases transmitted by animals to be “an increasing and very serious threat to global healthcare, security and the economy”,

– As a result, the transmission of diseases from wild animals to humans is now the price of human economic development. There are just so many of us, in any environment. We are entering substantially untouched places and are in greater and greater danger. We create life environment where viruses are more easily transmitted, and then we are surprised that they’ve been appearing.

“It’s encouraging that human health research is increasingly taking into account surrounding natural ecosystems,” says Richard Ostfeld, a Distinguished Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York.

Today, the state of the environment is one of the most important factors in assessing the health of nations. And scientists hope that the current situation in the world will cause a revision of the approach to economic development not only at the state level.

“We are now in an epoch of chronic emergency,” concludes Brian Bird, a research virologist at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. – Most probably, diseases will move further and faster than before, which means we need to respond faster. This requires investment, changes in human behavior, and it means that we need to listen to people at the community level.

According to him, it is important to inform about pathogens and diseases to the initial link of economic chains – hunters, plant breeders, loggers, market participants and consumers.

“Epidemics and pandemics start with one or two people. And solutions to these problems start with education and awareness. We need to make people aware that things are different now. And I know that people want to know what to do. They want to learn.”