The COVID-19 pandemic has been a nightmare for all of us. As vaccines are deployed across the world, many hope we’ll soon be able to return to our previous lives. But before we rush to resume ‘business as usual’, we should pause to consider where COVID came from.
Like many infectious diseases, COVID-19 has its origins in the encroachment of human activity into the natural world. As countries have sought to grow their economies, activities like logging, mining, road building, agricultural expansion and urbanisation cause massive habitat destruction.
This in turn has brought people into ever closer contact with wild animal species, many of which carry dangerous pathogens and diseases. When humans venture into ecosystems and destroy the habitats of wild species, these diseases can jump from animals into the human population.
Around three-quarters of new diseases that infect humans come from other animals. In the case of COVID-19, scientists believe the virus originated in the wild bat population before being transmitted to humans
COVID-19 is not a random event. It is a symptom of a global economic system that is destroying the living planet and killing off our magnificent wildlife.
COVID-19 might be the first pandemic many of us have experienced. But unless we change course, it will almost certainly not be the last.
So before we spend billions of dollars reinstating the status quo, perhaps it’s time for a rethink. In order to prevent future pandemics and tackle ecological and climate breakdown, governments must take a different path. What would this look like?
It means investing to decarbonise the global economy as fast as possible, and shrinking our environmental footprint. It means bringing an end to destructive activities like deforestation and intensive mining. And it means ending our addiction to economic growth and putting the needs of people and the planet first.
After the financial crisis in 2008, we bailed out the banks. In 2021, we need to bail out the planet.