21. New Coronavirus Pandemic ― Earth Day and Biodiversity
As of April 22, 2020, the COVID-19 continues to spread around the world. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), one new infectious disease emerges in humans every 4 months, 75% of these emerging diseases come from animals. This shows the close relationship between human, animal and environmental health. In recent years, man-made changes to nature as well as crimes that disrupt biodiversity such as deforestation, land use change, intensified agriculture and livestock production or the growing illegal wildlife trade, is responsible for the increase contact and the transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases) (United Nations).
In 2019, the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services based on the systematic review of the impacts of economic development on nature over the last 50 years. The report warned of an unprecedented situation in human history, of which one million out of estimated eight million species of plants and animals on earth are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. The decrease in biodiversity is due to human activities that include, in descending order of impact, (1) changes in land and sea use, (2) direct exploitation of organisms, (3) climate change, (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species. Loss of biodiversity can delay progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans, forests etc. It is therefore necessary to recognize that within the context of increase in zoonotic diseases, biodiversity conservation is not only an environmental issue, but also a developmental, economic, security, social and moral issue as well.
Today is April 22nd, 2020 and the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of "International Earth Day”. On this day dedicated to Mother Earth, the UN referred to COVID-19, climate crisis and loss of biodiversity, and called for the urgency to shift to a more sustainable economy that works for both people and the planet. The agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors are closely linked to the major drivers of biodiversity loss such as (1) changes in land and sea use, (2) direct exploitation of biological organisms, and (3) climate change, and a shift to a system consistent with biodiversity conservation is necessary.
Note: Pick Up 20 mentioned that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is used as a measure of air pollution. The World Economic Forum created a visualization tool to illustrate the improvement of air pollution in places that went into lockdown and suspension of economic activities.
United Nations. International Mother Earth Day April 22. Accessed on April 22, 2019.
World Economic Forum. COVID-19 restrictions have cleared the air. For now. Accessed on April 22, 2020.
Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Research Strategy Office)