Humanity will face waves of epidemics if we continue to disrupt natural ecosystems, warned scientists from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (EPBES) in 2019. Their predictions proved correct: In 2020, the global economy has been just about shut down to reduce the impacts of the coronavirus.
Many scientists and the media have been quick to seek out a scapegoat in the animal kingdom to blame for the spread of COVID-19 to humans. Snakes, pangolins and bats have all been accused of being the vectors for the epidemic. But other experts look to the global economy that favors growth at any cost, and the massive unfair accumulation of wealth from exploiting raw natural resources, for answers.
Instead of blaming animals for the epidemic, it is the expansion of mining, roads, cities and agriculture that bring humans into contact with organisms and pathogens we are not familiar with that these scientists hold responsible. And, existing extensive trade in wild animals and their parts for human consumption as food or medicines exposes humanity to new infectious diseases. The intensive nature of global travel and economics makes the transmission of new diseases so much easier.
Humanity’s rapacious appetite for minerals, wood, food and sex mean that we are consuming natural resources as never before. Our growing populations demand more and more from the earth. Forests of central Africa and the Amazon are being decimated to supply world markets with wood, and to make space for cattle and palm oil farming. Mines scour the earth and spew toxic poisons into rivers. And in the process, many wild animals are captured in newly exposed ecosystems to be eaten as bushmeat, exported for pets, jewelry, medicines and fetish food items.
Nicolette Peters, a researcher for Political Animal Lobby (PAL) states, “We blame animals for the conditions on earth that humans have created, for the coronavirus. But our destructive behaviors and endless appetite for natural resources drive these epidemics. It is high time for us to rethink the way that we do business, and to stop exploiting earth simply to sponsor our luxuries and fetishes.”