Loss of Nature Increases Our Vulnerability to Disease

Nature and biodiversity do not top the global agenda despite the peril they face, says an official from a conservation organization who warns that losses to the natural world pose a major threat to the global economy, as well as people’s health.

“The loss of nature is increasing our vulnerability to disease outbreaks, undermining efforts to tackle the climate crisis, and threatening livelihoods,” Gavin Edwards of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) told Anadolu Agency.

Speaking on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity, observed annually on May 22 to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues, Edwards pointed out the nature-based solution to the sustainability of a healthy planet.

“From nature-based solutions to climate, health issues, food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity is the foundation that sustains us all and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety net upon which we can build back better,” said Edwards, who currently serves as the WWF’s New Deal for Nature & People global coordinator.

This year’s theme is “We’re part of the solution,” a slogan chosen to be a continuation of the momentum generated last year under the over-arching theme, “Our solutions are in nature,” according to the UN.

Underlining that there is a strong link between nature loss and the risk of zoonotic diseases, which jump from animals to humans, Edwards said the novel coronavirus has shown that it was time for transformative action to preserve natural ecosystems and build nature-positive, carbon-neutral and sustainable societies.

Systematic change needed

“The COVID-19 crisis demonstrates that systemic changes must be made to address the environmental drivers of zoonotic disease outbreaks — land-use change, expansion and the intensification of agriculture and animal production, and the consumption of high-risk wildlife,” said Edwards.

Touching on how COVID-19 affected wildlife and biodiversity conservation efforts, he said thousands of rural tourism-based jobs would be at risk if action is not taken.

“Conservancies use their nature-based tourism income to sustain their natural resource management activities as well as supplement members’ livelihoods and wellbeing with direct payments, or support for food, schooling and more,” he added.

Citing a last year’s report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the potential of a nature-positive economy that could generate more than $10 trillion in annual business value, he said the green recovery would not only create more jobs and more economic opportunity, but also help the world avoid future pandemics.

In response to a question about possible steps on protecting biodiversity and nature, Edwards said the Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity was scheduled to take place Oct. 11 – 24 and added that world leaders were scheduled to make critical decisions on the climate and environment.

“Countries are due to adopt a post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework,” he said, adding that the WWF was urging nations to secure a biodiversity agreement that tackles both direct and indirect drivers of nature loss.

Around 1 million species already face extinction, with many at risk of being wiped out within decades unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss, according to a report by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

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