Pandemics such as coronavirus are the result of humanity’s destruction of nature, according to leaders at the UN, WHO and WWF International, and the world has been ignoring this stark reality for decades.
The illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade as well as the devastation of forests and other wild places were still the driving forces behind the increasing number of diseases leaping from wildlife to humans, the leaders told the Guardian.
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They are calling for a green and healthy recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, in particular by reforming destructive farming and unsustainable diets.
A WWF report, also published on Wednesday, warns: “The risk of a new [wildlife-to-human] disease emerging in the future is higher than ever, with the potential to wreak havoc on health, economies and global security.”
WWF’s head in the UK said post-Brexit trade deals that fail to protect nature would leave Britain “complicit in increasing the risk of the next pandemic”.
High-level figures have issued a series of warnings since March, with the world’s leading biodiversity experts saying even more deadly disease outbreaks are likely in future unless the rampant destruction of the natural world is rapidly halted.
Earlier in June, the UN environment chief and a leading economist said Covid-19 was an “SOS signal for the human enterprise” and that current economic thinking did not recognise that human wealth depends on nature’s health.