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3 Ways Future Pandemics Can be Caused by Climate Change and Deforestation

"The more we endanger wild species, the more we endanger ourselves."

- Christine Kreuder Johnson, project director of USAID PREDICT and director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the One Health Institute

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

1.0 Don't cry for me, Quarantina

2.0 Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na... BATMAN!

3.0 Accelerating global deforestation as a direct cause of spreading viruses from animals to humans

4.0 Climate Change - a changing and warmer planet destroys habitats similar to deforestation

5.0 Climate Change - increases in extreme weather, especially flooding and heavy rainfall, increase risk of viruses

6.0 Conclusion

 

7.0 Sources

 

 

 

1.0 Don't cry for me, Quarantina

 

This whole quarantine thing is really starting to suck, right?

 

For many of us, even Netflix and Amazon Prime are running out of shows to binge....at least good ones anyway.   There are only so many Facetime and Zoom meetings we can handle, and doing body weight exercises at home isn't the same as the gym.  A significant other, kids, or even a furry pet.....well, they might start getting on your nerves.  Do you miss going out to eat, or grabbing a drink after work with a buddy?

 

Us, too.

 

It's getting boring for many of us.  And highly annoying. But chances are, if YOU are reading this, you aren't wondering where your next meal is coming from.

 

Chances are, you aren't one of the millions, like in India, with a COMPLETE lockdown and also in extreme poverty. India has 73 million people in EXTREME poverty, and right now we are watching, in real time, tens of millions of people that have to decide between getting sick or going hungry.  

 

As annoying as this is for MOST of us, hopefully, the quarantine isn't literately killing us.  

 

However, it may be safe to say that this pandemic, is one of the few events in history that has pretty much negatively affected everyone.  The entire world.  

 

The super wealthy are unable to do what they do best, travel around the globe.  No more jet setting. No more fancy hotels or restaurants. 

 

The middle class has globally found itself out of work, with millions of people losing their livelihoods in a matter of days.  According to the U.N., the Corona Virus may wipe out nearly 200 million jobs.  

 

And the global poor, especially in developing countries, are literately facing life or death.  Poorer countries also have little to no unemployment insurance or any other type of government benefits. 

 

In conclusion, rich or poor, old or young, male or female, gay or straight, black or white, and regardless of where you live........This sucks for EVERYONE.

 

So perhaps, it makes sense to look at how to prevent future pandemics?

 

Perhaps, this horrific virus can sound a global alarm bell that climate scientists have been ringing for decades?

 

Now might be the best chance we have in over a generation to really try to create real change, and completely redesign a sustainable world and circular and cyclical economy. Once and for all.

 

We'll get to that in another post.

 

For now, lets look at major underlying environmental causes of this pandemic (and all pandemics) to ensure this never happens again. 

 

Because once in 100 years is enough for me, and probably you too!

 

 

 

2.0 Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na... BATMAN!

 

Although no one knows for sure, there is a high probability that this current Corona Virus pandemic originated from a bat in a wet market in Wuhan, China.  (At the minimum, China did a terrible job at being transparent and informing the rest of the world and sharing data, but we'll save that for another post).

 

Additionally, it is KNOWN that bats were also the originators of both the SARS virus and Ebola.  

 

Perhaps, the young batman, and Jim Carey in Ace Ventura 2 were on to something and right to fear bats!

 

Boston University Partnership for Global Health Technologies explains,

"Bats by far have proved to be the most fascinating creatures they have sampled. This is not surprising considering bats have long been known to carry a host of killer viruses and were the originators of the Ebola virus in West Africa as well as the pneumonia pandemic in 2003, known as SARS"

 

That article was posted over three years ago, but seems eerily recent. Or prophetic. 

 

 

Now, a lot of you may be thinking at this point, "Shouldn't we just all stay the fuck away from bats?"

 

 

 

Yes. Yes, we should.  It's pretty simple, really.

 

Humans are mammals. Bats are the only mammal that can fly.  It doesn't seem like a coincidence to me that a mammal that can fly has among the highest probabilities of spreading diseases to other mammals, namely us.

Bats host the highest zoonotic (zoonotic viruses are viruses that are able to infect humans) viruses per species, of 1.8 zoonotic viruses per bat species.  

 

Dr. Melvin Sanicas from Health Care in America explains further, "When it comes to carrying viruses that can be transferred to other species including humans (so-called “zoonotic” viruses), bats are in a league of their own. These flying mammals host over 60 zoonotic viruses. This is rivaled only by rodents that carry a wide range of bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and helminths (worms)."

 

The bottom line: bats, especially bats in dense forests and rain forests, are amongst the most common mammal hosts for zoonotic viruses, especially those related to corona viruses (such as SARS).

 

 

3.0 Accelerating global deforestation as a direct cause of spreading viruses from animals to humans

 

The question is, how do humans come in contact with zoonotic species, like bats?

 

Encroachment and destruction of their habitat. And we destroy species' habitats indirectly through climate change and directly through deforestation.

 

Both climate change and deforestation are directly increasing the probability for a future pandemic.  They are also directly related, because deforestation itself accelerates climate change. 

 

 

 

Let's start with deforestation.  

 

 

Christine Kreuder Johnson, project director of USAID PREDICT and director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the One Health Institute, a program of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, explained our dire situation best:

 

"The more we endanger wild species, the more we endanger ourselves."

 

Sadly, an increasingly globalized world is leading to higher and higher levels of deforestation around the world.

 

Rain forests have the most species density, non coincidentally, they are also home to species hosting some of the most dangerous viruses to humans.

 

Currently, only 15% of rain forests remain intact, globally.

 

Starting to see a connection?

 

Humans are coming into contact with species and ecosystems they never have been before due DIRECTLY to deforestation.  

 

And because they have never come into contact with those species before, collectively, WE have little to no immunity to them.  

 

Aleksandar Rankovic, a senior research fellow working on biodiversity governance at the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations, clarifies this point clearly:

 

"When you destroy habitats, you increase vastly the amount of contact that human populations will have with different species, and some of these species will host a range of viruses.

 

Experts agree that as the planet's hot spots -- typically tropical climates along the equator -- are suddenly disrupted by development, workers come into too-close contact with wild species and pass along viruses to nearby villages and towns, from there to larger cities."

 

 

4.0 Climate Change - a changing and warmer planet destroys habitats similar to deforestation

 

As mentioned previously, climate change and deforestation go hand in hand, and as we cut down trees en masse in combination with an accelerating carbon footprint of fossil fuels, the planet heats up and increases climate change!

 

One of the reasons climate scientists changed the name "global warming" to "climate change" is because of how unpredictable the global climate will become overall as it progresses and the situation worsens.

 

Although overall the planet will continue to warm, some areas may be actually be colder, in the short run. That "short run" could be years or decades.  This is largely due to climate change weakening of the polar vortex, and this vortex largely stabilizes the internal temperature of the Earth. 

 

Ethan Siegel P.H.D. in Astrophysics and Forbes contributor explains,  "As the Earth continues to warm, extreme weather events like this will become commonplace, with many climatologists predicting an unstable polar vortex bringing storms like this to us multiple times per decade. Welcome to the new normal, courtesy of global warming, where the Arctic can't even remain cold in the dead of winter."

 

 

The key words to remember here are:  unpredictable and unstable. 

As our climate becomes increasingly unpredictable and unstable, it will ultimately have the exact same effect as deforestation of millions of species: destruction of their habitat.  

 

And JUST like deforestation, it will put humans into close contact with species that they otherwise would have limited or no human contact.  

 

 

 

5.0 Climate Change - increases in extreme weather, especially flooding and heavy rainfall, increase risk of viruses

 

As we mentioned previously, climate change is unpredictable and is destabilizing phenomenon. 

 

Climate change is known for creating extreme and unpredictable weather events, as well as increased natural disasters. 

 

One of the most obvious of these is rising global sea levels, as glaciers begin to melt around the world as the temperature continues increase.

 

Of course, this increases the risk of flooding. 

 

Extreme flooding, like deforestation, is another example of putting humans into contact with species they normally wouldn't come into contact as frequently, such as mosquitoes.  

 

Heavy rainfall, also with increased frequency and severity due to climate change, also has similar effects. 

 

Patrick Dayscue, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Contagion states, "Increases in extreme weather events, as predicted by climate scientists, may also lead to increases in infectious disease outbreaks. Epidemics have previously been seen in the wake of natural disasters, which can lead to displaced and crowded populations, hotbeds for infection transmission.

 

Severe rainfall or flooding is particularly effective at creating environments suitable for the transmission and propagation of infectious diseases such as measles or cholera. Conditions, as currently seen on the devastated island of Puerto Rico, are often more amenable for mosquitoes to breed in flood-affected regions and as a result, may increase disease risk in those areas."

 

6.0 Conclusion

 

Deforestation,  Habitat destruction resulting from climate change, extreme weather events resulting from climate change are 3 Ways Future Pandemics Can be Caused by Climate Change and Deforestation.  

 

By far, the quickest solution to the problem is to STOP CUTTING DOWN FORESTS, ESPECIALLY RAIN FORESTS.  Unlike the planet's climate as a whole, forests can be fixed relatively quickly and grow back in one person's lifetime.  Wealthier nations must get tough on other nations while still being conscious of their economic reality: they should create either economic incentives as a reward for nations and regions that commit to sustainable forests as well as punitive measures for poorer nations that systemically chop down their forests unsustainably.  

 

The other two are not so simple, they are both related to the core of the problem: climate change itself. We know the ONLY way to fix this problem is to reduce our global carbon footprint, and while there are many creative and innovative ways to do this, it all starts (and likely ends) with ENDING OUR RELIANCE ON FOSSIL FUELS. For electricity. For cars. For EVERYTHING.

 

Although it won't be easy, the average person is FINALLY starting to wake up and realize that pandemics, deforestation, and climate change are intricately linked.  

 

Unless we all want to spend an entire season every couple of years quarantining at home, we have to try.  If we ever had a chance to make a global, powerful, long lasting and positive change to our environment and planet....

 

....it's now.

 

 

 

 

 

7.0 Sources

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3367616/

https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/29970/pandemic-alarm-climate-change-covid-19-coronavirus-environment/

https://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/how-climate-change-increases-our-risk-for-pandemics

https://news.mongabay.com/2020/04/rapid-deforestation-of-brazilian-amazon-could-bring-next-pandemic-experts/

https://www.bu.edu/globalhealthtechnologies/2017/03/03/pandemics-and-deforestation-a-surprising-connection/

https://abcnews.go.com/Health/deforestation-environmental-problem-public-health-crisis/story?id=69939640

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/07/covid-19-expected-to-to-wipe-out-67-of-worlds-working-hours

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01096-z

https://healthcareinamerica.us/what-makes-bats-the-perfect-hosts-for-so-many-viruses-3274c019bb4d

https://www.contagionlive.com/news/the-ripple-effect-of-climate-change-on-epidemic-risk

https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2019/01/30/this-is-why-global-warming-is-responsible-for-freezing-temperatures-across-the-usa/#7268652cd8cf

https://images.financialexpress.com/2020/02/image-11.jpg

 https://static01.nyt.com/images/2020/03/29/opinion/sunday/27Crist/27Crist-superJumbo.jpg

 https://specials-images.forbesimg.com/imageserve/1212142730/960x0.jpg?fit=scale

https://endingpandemics.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Ending-Pandemics-One-Health-Approach.png

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/271/31519187894_317ffeb7f4_o.png

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcQ2Argy6RWDy997WICesTjF8Z2F-JVKKlW4_3GrO8NJRuC4xwUt&usqp=CAU

https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2020/04/14/bats_linfawang_wide-f3faab76c8a6aa5224f71b110ae7208a64e5e9c2-s800-c85.jpg

https://images.mosquitomagnet.com/is/image/woodstream/flood_checklist_shutterstock_402398188?$fullpng$

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fstartswithab

 

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