Written by Loic Gillerot
Posted on May 14 2020
It’s not nature itself we need to worry about, but the many and varied disturbances we inflict upon it.
The main threat to biodiversity is land-use change, in particular the encroachment of agricultural land upon natural areas. Half of the world’s habitable surface is now used for agriculture, 77% of which for livestock and meat production. The resulting deforestation and fragmentation of natural systems has important consequences for the transmission of diseases from wild animals to humans. A recent study showed that forest fragmentation could facilitate the diversification of pathogens, which can then be more easily transmitted to humans via wildlife. As humans venture deeper into untouched forests, the potential contact between wildlife and humans is multiplied, increasing the risk of infection.
As humans venture deeper into untouched forests, the potential contact between wildlife and humans is multiplied, increasing the risk of infection.
What about the link with climate change?
The WHO acknowledges the link between climate change and large-scale contagions since many years. Causes are similar though: as climate change disrupts the usual provision of natural resources for wildlife, animals can be driven towards human settlements. They can even be forced to migrate over large distances, entering into contact with novel species and exchanging diseases. A warmer climate and longer summers can also expand suitable habitats for disease vectors, such as malaria- or dengue-transmitting mosquitoes.
Don’t blame nature, don’t blame the Chinese, blame the harmful relationship we have developed with our food and agriculture.
Don’t forget climate change is also jeopardizing your health, only less visibly and less immediately!