Protecting forests can prevent future pandemics, and we all have roles to play

By Eric Daishin McCabe
Des Moines Register
December 8, 2020

Our use of the land has contributed to the pandemic. Better management would take into account the need for maintaining ecosystem biodiversity.

While hopes of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are on our minds, little attention is given to the role a healthy ecosystem plays in protecting humans from new diseases. The pandemic is the result of a virus that was originally contained within animal populations, so far unidentified, that then jumped to humans. 

SARS, Ebola, Zika, malaria, avian flu and even HIV, though different from the virus that causes the illness COVID-19, also infected animals first. In the wake of increased and ongoing human encroachment into wild ecosystems, humans are becoming more vulnerable to diseases to which we do not have immunity.

According to the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative, an interfaith international alliance that works to bring attention from a moral perspective to the urgency of ending deforestation, “the COVID-19 crisis and the potential for future pandemics are closely tied to … deforestation, habitat loss, and ecosystem decline.” 

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