Years of lifelong calls for radical changes in our daily lives and economy for the good of nature and for a healthy ecosystem have gone Without being heard. Even international commitments that environmentalists saw as a step in the right direction are collapsing due to their abandonment by big countries, such as the Paris Agreement. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic to throw spotlight on the complex interdependencies between human and nature and to explore the level crossing of the environment, public health, and national security.
The pandemic has imposed changes that governments would never have sacrificed. To date, more than 38 million people have been infected with the COVID-19 virus worldwide, with no end in sight.
The global pandemic was and remains a shock to many, except for epidemiologists who have been sounding the alarm for years about the existence of clear signs of the risks that humanity faces from animal-to-human transmission of viruses, including Ebola and SARS.
Zoonotic causes are until now the culprit behind the emergence of COVID-19 and calls have been made to prevent future similar pandemics of zoonotic origin.
“An estimated 70 percent of new human infectious disease outbreaks come from pathogens that originated in animals,” said Sharon Guynup, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center and a National Geographic Explorer.
Indeed, more evidence suggested that the worsening state of degradation of ecosystems has made them more fragile for the generation and transmission of such viruses. The ecosystems are shrinking in an accentuated rhythm the last decades and their health is declining due to a range of biotic and abiotic factors.
So to prevent future epidemics, the first idea discussed was to minimize human-nature contact. This is an obvious solution but obvious in its impossibility! All we need is to reduce human environmental and ecosystem harm and no longer examine one of the components – people, animals, plants and environment – independently of each other. All of this shows the need for decisive interdisciplinary action.
To this end, a “One Health” approach has been defined by WHO in 2017 to encourage the collaboration of expertise from several disciplines in effective research to understand the complex interweaving of pathogenic, human, animal and environmental factors that influence the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases.
To clarify the purpose of One Health, WHO wrote on its online site: “Information on influenza viruses circulating in animals is crucial to the selection of viruses for human vaccines for potential influenza pandemics. Drug-resistant microbes can be transmitted between animals and humans through direct contact between animals and humans or through contaminated food, so to effectively contain it, a well-coordinated approach in humans and in animals is required.”
At the end of 2019 with the starting of the pandemic, international governments blamed the WHO for the delay in prevention and in their approach but this delay was in fact driven in some way by their unwillingness to bring about a faster and more effective change in the global economy.