Top Ten Stories of 2020: The Pandemic and Its Links To Pollution and Biodiversity Loss

This year has been indelibly shaped by the COVID pandemic — it literally changed everything.  What has become clear as a result is that environmental injustice was exacerbated by the pandemic, and if we don’t repair our relationship with the natural world we are going to face more deadly pandemics in the future.  For the early months of the lockdown, we covered COVID every day and these two themes emerged.

In May we wrote that “For communities of color in the United States, years of discriminatory policies and environmental injustice have made them more susceptible to dying from COVID-19. And now, as we’re almost 2 months into lockdown, those same communities are grappling with more severe housing insecurity and worse access to medical care than their white counterparts.”   This injustice did not change over the course of the pandemic, and now as Americans begin to get the vaccine, racial injustice is making Blacks and other minorities wary of taking it, further exacerbating the disproportionate impact on BIPOC communities.

At the same time, we learned that the pandemic originated in bats and due to unsafe interactions between humans and animals, spread around the world, leaving no country untouched. Last August we wrote about this problem — Tara Stoinski, the president, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, explained our current predicament best:

“Covid-19 has made abundantly clear that our assault on the world’s biodiversity is also an assault on ourselves. It has proven that we can no longer afford to dismiss the problems scientists and conservationists uncover in faraway places. As forests are destroyed, people and wildlife increasingly come into contact; as the commercial wildlife trade expands, the crossover of diseases from animals to people occurs.  We simply must take better care of the natural world.” 
One way we can take better care of the natural world and prevent the next pandemic is by protecting 30% of the planet by 2030.  And if we do, we will be helping to tackle climate change as well.  A win-win.

Graphic: Annabel Driussi/ODP

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Can An App Predict The Next Pandemic?

Can An App Predict The Next Pandemic?

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

There are about 1.7 million viruses that afflict mammals and birds, and about half of them could potentially infect humans, just like COVID-19, SARS, HIV, and Ebola. But a team of researchers at UC Davis are attempting to help prevent another pandemic from disrupting the world, by creating an app called SpillOver.

Why this Matters:  The scientists creating the app believe that by creating a prioritized watchlist of viruses, we can better have improved detection and thus reduce the risk of disease transmission and maybe even preemptively develop vaccines, therapeutics, and public education campaigns for the viruses that pose the greatest risk.

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Pesticides Are Prevalent and Poisonous

Pesticides Are Prevalent and Poisonous

Pesticides are harmful to insects and other wildlife — including humans. The first real accounting of pesticide poisoning since 1990 found that: 

Why This Matters: We’ve been relying on old data about farmworkers’ exposure to pesticides for the past 30 years, and thus the full picture of the harmful impact of these products on people has been underappreciated.

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63 Organizations Sign Letter to Biden, Protect Wildlife to Prevent Pandemics

63 Organizations Sign Letter to Biden, Protect Wildlife to Prevent Pandemics

A coalition of 63 health, wildlife, and environmental organizations has written a letter urging the Biden administration to adopt policies to combat the increased threat of zoonotic disease spillover into human populations. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say that human population expansion and increased interactions with wildlife, present increased chances for future pandemics as well.

Why This Matters: According to the World Health Organization, there are over 200 known zoonoses, diseases that have jumped from non-human animals to humans.

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