• Dirk

Biodiversity loss, emerging pathogens and human health risks

The current pandemic has shown something important: We, the human population, is not above nature and the environment, but a part of it, even when living in cities. We are facing a tremendous challenge and it is quite apparent from the way political decisions are made that politicians have not done their homework. Science has generated a lot of useful knowledge and has even made this available for a non-scientific community, but has been largely ignored.

There are many challenges ahead of us, as the current pandemic is the result of the actions of everyone of us, as much as wrong decisions taken by our leaders. These challenges are societal and will either push us to take the responsibility to make a transformative change as asked for in the Global Assessment produced by IPBES and recently also outlined in several UN reports, or it will push the human population over a cliff, on the bottom of which we find ourselves challenged as never before to swim and survive.

In a recent paper I wrote together with my two colleagues Ger Killeen and Franck Courchamp, we make a clear point: Everything is connected.

Outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases are occurring with increasing frequency and consequences, including wildlife diseases and zoonoses. Those have potentially long-lasting effects on human and wildlife populations, with inevitable direct and indirect effects on ecosystems. The intensifying emergence of infectious pathogens has many underlying reasons, all driven by the growing anthropogenic impact on nature. Intensifying pathogen emergence can be attributed to climate change, biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, and an increasing rate of wildlife–human contacts. All of these are caused by synergies between persisting intense poverty and a growing human population. Improved global management of the human-driven biological degradation and international dispersal processes that exacerbate those pandemic threats are now long overdue.

Our article can be accessed at the site of Biodiversity and Conservation.

How biodiversity loss is linked to increasing risks for human well-being due to increasing temperatures, losses of ecosystem services, leading to lower air and water quality and zoonoses, I explain in the following video from a webinar I have given during the corporate responsibility week of the insurance company AXA. The audio is understandable, but of course not perfect due to the format of recording.