Nature is sending us a message through coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, says UN environment chief Inger Andersen

UN environment chief Inger Andersen on Wednesday (March 25) said that the nature is sending a clear message to billions of people across the world with the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis.

Talking to Guardian, Andersen said that too much pressure has been put on the nature through human actions with damaging consequences. Andersen added that failing to protect the planet meant human are not taking care of themselves.

Referring to the coronavirus outbreak across the globe, Andersen noted that the COVID-19 outbreak was a “clear warning shot” that today’s civilisation was “playing with fire”. 

Andersen noted that the immediate priority for everyone now is to protect people from the coronavirus and curb its spread. “But our long-term response must tackle habitat and biodiversity loss,” she added.

“Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people,” she told the Guardian, adding that around 75% of all emerging infectious diseases come from wildlife.

“Our continued erosion of wild spaces has brought us uncomfortably close to animals and plants that harbour diseases that can jump to humans,” noted Andersen.

The UN scientists also remarked that other environmental impacts, such as the Australian bushfires, broken heat records etc are sending us a message that we need to protect the environment.

“At the end of the day, [with] all of these events, nature is sending us a message. There are too many pressures at the same time on our natural systems and something has to give. We are intimately interconnected with nature, whether we like it or not. If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves. And as we hurtle towards a population of 10 billion people on this planet, we need to go into this future armed with nature as our strongest ally,” Andersen noted.

“The emergence and spread of Covid-19 was not only predictable, it was predicted [in the sense that] there would be another viral emergence from wildlife that would be a public health threat,” said Prof Andrew Cunningham, of the Zoological Society of London.