Why We Need to Retool our Relationship with Conservation and Climate Change in the Wake of COVID-19

To most people, conservation is contentious, and climate change is a hoax. However, no matter how we may feel about both we can agree that there are existential threats to our planet that we can no longer ignore. Hence, we must address threats before they become our new reality. And for those of us who are still not convinced about the changes we are all witnessing, the question becomes how do we explain the occurrence of events all around the world, such as COVID-19 or the Amazon wildfires, the infestation of hundreds of billions of locust swarms through parts of East Africa and South Asia? These things don’t just suddenly happen out of the blue, they happen for a reason. There are causes and effects, ripples effects or chain reactions because something we are doing isn’t right or is triggering these events. If the cause or action, we are taking is good then the effect or reaction or outcome should therefore reflect the good we are doing. It is about time we pay attention and recognize these events not as coincidences but rather for what they are. We can claim many theories whether it be signs of the end times, to multiple other things, however, one thing stood out in all these events and that is the unbalance in our universe.

I consider myself a science and astrophysicist enthusiast and have recently fallen in love with works of astrophysicists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose work I have come to appreciate and love. And Carl Sagan whose classic “Baloney Detection Kit” has become my go to guide to spotting nonsense from a mile away. Not to mention my admiration for great works such as Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Newton's law of universal gravitation. If we are not convinced by scientist and what majority of scientific studies are finding, we should then listen to nature and the occurrence of these events in our beloved planet. It will take a village. I took a particular attention when I stumbling up on Dr. Jane Goodall’s article with Slate Magazine: COVID-19 Should Make Us Rethink Our Destructive Relationship with the Natural World; We need to chart another way forward. Goodall as you already know is one of the most credible and leading voices in conservation, climate change and a UN Messenger for Peace. Her pioneering and landmark work in primatology helped redefine behavioral science forever in helping us understand the relationship between humans and animals.

In the article, Dr. Goodall argued on the interconnected nature of all our lives, “every species has a role to play in the complex web of life.” As seen in the recent issues of deforestation in the Congo Basin, the Amazon, and the tropical forests of Asia all of which are evidence of the altering global weather patterns that is not only affecting people within these regions but people all parts of the world. “We humans are part of the natural world—we relate to each other and with all the other animals who inhabit the planet with us. Similarly, in many parts of the world, people may not know—or care—about the little animal called a pangolin (or scaly anteater). But that changes once they know the role that pangolins probably played in the emergence of the current pandemic of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.”

Evidence suggests that COVID-19 may have originated in bats, transferred to pangolins, and then infected humans at a live animal market in China. Of the many new diseases that have emerged since 1960, scientists estimate that more than half were caused by transmission from other species to humans. The reason behind such infections happen largely due to the trafficking of wildlife from their natural habitat to other parts of the world and this has a huge effect on the natural world for many species’ lives are being endangered. Pangolins according to Dr. Goodall are the most trafficked animals on Earth. “As we mourn the affect this trade has on the individuals that suffer it, we must also see that this global demand and tragedy created the circumstances that have likely resulted in the current pandemic. The risk it poses to humans is certainly another reason to stand up against this behavior.

Although China has already banned the trafficking soon after the emergence of COVID-19, including forbidding the importation, selling, and eating of wild animals and a few countries have followed suit however, the most pressing question is, will all countries of the world unite as one to stop this disturbance for the safety and balance that our magnificent planet is so in need of. Just as balance and harmony is important in our daily lives, balance is also very much important to our planet. It is the harmonious and collaborative working relationships between organisms that we could all seek to live in a more tolerant and democratic society. Balance then is our superpower that ought to be nurtured.

Here are a few practical solutions Dr. Goodall suggested and cannily argued that laws we create now to protect wildlife will also protect human communities. Solutions such as “restoring and protecting forests through legislation and empowering local communities will save species and prevent disease transmission. Creating alternative sustainable livelihoods will create more resilient, successful human communities. It is desperately important, in the window of time remaining, that we should all do our bit to heal the harm we have inflicted on the natural world—of which we are a part. Let us stop stealing the future from our children and from the other species with whom we share our home.”

Dr. Goodall’s wisdom is exactly what we need in understanding our relationship with other organisms for we all need each other. Therefore, we ought to care for the wellbeing of one another.

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