Coronavirus: only a “warning” for the exploitation of the environment

Welcome back to the blog about the hottest topic right now, the Coronavirus. As we stated in the opening section, in this blog we will be discussing the consequences of the coronavirus on the economy and the environment. In these difficult times, we will look at the short-term impact and estimate the long-term effects of this pandemic, for good and for worse. 

For today’s blog, we have decided to look at particular policy recommendations by the executive director of the UN Environment Programme, Inger Anderson. Andreson was appointed Executive Director of the UNEP by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in February 2019 after gaining experience from being the Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) from 2015. The Danish economist has spoken recently about the ties between COVID-19 and the global climate crisis, and her words should have been echoed further than they have reached. 

Anderson claimed that COVID-19 is only but a warning for what is to come if we do not treat our environment better and address the concerning climate change. According to her, humanity has placed too many pressures on the environment via deforestation, mass farmlands, mining, urbanisation, etc. 

Truly enough, many of the worst diseases that humanity has faced are traced back to the industrial meal industry. In a recent report by World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and World Organisation for Animal Health, HIV, Ebola and Nipah, along with the coronavirus, are all related to the consumption of eating bushmeat. Moreover, the overuse of antibiotics in industrial animal products endangers the spread of these diseases and the human immune system.  

Zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 are created due to the irresponsible human exploitation of the environment, specifically animals. vegan influencer Ed Winters explained that “the likelihood of spillovers occurring is significantly increased, and if we weren’t using animals for food we wouldn’t have created situations where many of these diseases, including the latest coronavirus, were passed to humans.”

Continuing with Andreason, she encouraged authorities to put an end to live animal markets-the “ideal mixing bowls” for diseases-, in which Xi Jinping already took initial steps towards (the origins of the virus), and illegal international animal trade. Furthermore, she pushed for a “long-term response [that] must tackle habitat and biodiversity loss.” On a finishing note, Andreson said, “there are too many pressures at the same time on our natural systems and something has to give,” she added. “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. And 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.”

This period of lockdowns with minimal pollution is definitely a good break to reconsider how we, as humanity as well as individuals, are harming the environment. This pandemic is also a wake-up call for policy and decision-makers as Andreson claimed, so let’s stay tuned to see what will happen in the aftermath. 

Ariel Eva Segal

Team Member of Research & Analysis