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COVID-19 Should Make Us Rethink Our Destructive Relationship With the Natural World

Jane Goodall
 

By Jane Goodall (original source Slate) 

“Of all the things I learned during my years in the rainforest of Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania conducting my research into the behavior of chimpanzees, one of the most important is how all life is interconnected. Every species has a role to play in the complex web of life. As an example, deforestation in the Congo Basin, the Amazon, and the tropical forests of Asia may seem unimportant to people in the United States or Europe, yet the loss of these forests (as well as other ecosystems) is altering global weather patterns and affecting people in all parts of the world. We humans are part of the natural world—we relate to each other and with all the other animals who inhabit the planet with us. Similarly, in many parts of the world, people may not know—or care—about the little animal called a pangolin (or scaly anteater). But that changes once they know the role that pangolins probably played in the emergence of the current pandemic of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

Close proximity to wild animals, especially in “wet markets” that sell live animals, can give rise to diseases caused by viruses that cross the species barrier and jump into us. The SARS outbreak originated in a meat market in China from a civet (a small mammal), MERS from a camel in the Middle East. Evidence suggests that COVID-19 may have originated in bats, transferred to pangolins, and then infected humans at a live animal market in China. Of the many new diseases that have emerged since 1960, scientists estimate that more than half were caused by transmission from other species to humans. You’d think by now we would have learned how easily it could happen again.”

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