On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced that the world is in a pandemic condition due to the spread of the COVID-19 disease. This disease is caused by a virus called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). This virus outbreak was first detected in the city of Wuhan, China, on December 1, 2019. The virus, which was originally found in one city, now has spread across the world and affected various sectors ranging from health, economy, education, social, to the environment. The emergence of this virus is closely related to environmental damage that has occurred on earth because this disease is categorized as a zoonotic disease.
The emergence of new diseases such as COVID-19 can be caused by several factors such as changes in nature and microorganisms that can cause disease. These microorganisms are usually transmitted through contact with animals or the environment where these microorganisms develop. Diseases that originate from these animals are called zoonoses. In other words, zoonoses are diseases caused by infectious organisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites which can be transmitted from animals to humans, or vice versa. 60% of infectious diseases in humans today originally comes from animals. This happens due to the increased contact between humans and wildlife through environmental destruction activities. For example, hunting and exploitation of wild animals, the destruction of wildlife habitats caused by deforestation, monoculture agriculture, etc. Besides, climate change can also contribute to the emergence of zoonotic diseases.
Hence, we can infer that the pandemic that we are currently facing today is highly related to environmental destruction. If we continue polluting the earth, other types of zoonotic diseases might exist and create new pandemics in the future. Furthermore, climate change or global warming which also threatens human life would make the pandemic becomes worse. For example, if our current food system is threatened to be failed due to climate change, we would face other crises such as the economic crisis and the food crisis, which will make the pandemic more difficult to handle.
We must be able to solve this pandemic with a Build Back Better approach strategy. In other words, we must not only seek to recover from the pandemic but we also should make societies to be more resilient to crises such as pandemics and the impacts of climate change that may occur in the future. Hence, the recovery of this pandemic needs to pay attention to the environmental and sustainable aspects. We need collaboration between various stakeholders such as the government, private sector, non-profit organizations, and grassroots communities in realizing policies that support the sustainability of our environment. Apart from structural changes, we can also start making a betterment for the environment at the individual level such as starting to adopt a more environmentally conscious lifestyle and maintaining strict health protocols to reduce the spread of the virus.
Written by Siti Aisyah Novitri
United Nation Environment Program. (2020). Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic Disease and How to Break the Chain of Transmission