By Ana De Luca
The environmental crisis is here, now, and it is one of the reasons why you are reading this text in confinement. There is a strong link between the pandemic and the current state of environmental deterioration. We are facing a scenario – one of the many already warned – that came to explode with enormous power in our faces.
The pandemic is a complex phenomenon. What does this mean? That we have to understand the environmental crisis together with other systems such as the economic, the health, the scientific-technological systems, among many others.
Here is an example. We don’t just need to understand how a person got infected. It also influences the economic system and its operation. For example, someone in China goes on a business trip and, infected with COVID-19 (and without knowing it), the next day is in New York at a business meeting. It influences the cultural system because perhaps after a sneeze he greets his colleagues by the hand because that is the custom. The health system is linked because faced with this ease of contagion, public hospitals become saturated because they have not planned and prevented such a situation.. It influences poverty and inequality that leads to many people having to go out to work and expose themselves to the virus because they are hungry. And so we can continue.
Environmental crisis and pandemic
For now I will focus on the link between the environmental crisis and SARS-CoV-2. The pandemic is linked to the loss and degradation of ecosystems, our relationship with animals and the food system. Let me explain in detail. Animals and humans have transmitted diseases to each other throughout history. They infect us, but we also infect them. This is known as zoonosis. According to the WHO, transmission can occur through direct or indirect exposure to animals, by eating products derived from animals – such as meat, milk – or by the environment. Many of these diseases are known and controlled, but we do not know the impact that other animal pathogens that we have not lived with can have on humans.
Increasingly we are penetrating spaces where animals live that have been kept away from people for millennia. In other words, there is an accelerated loss of animal habitat due to the “conversion” of nature for human use. Forests, and other forms of biodiversity that serve as a barrier, prevent the virus from migrating from natural habitat to human-inhabited spaces. Each time we lose more of this nature and at an accelerated rate. The latter creates the ideal conditions for animal-borne viruses to jump into humans. What is worrying is that according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) zoonoses are occurring with increasing frequency
In addition to this, agriculture and industrial livestock – where we get most of our food – are having harmful effects on ecosystems and on our own health. They are carried out through methods that involve loss of biodiversity and the excessive use of pesticides (in the case of agriculture) and antibiotics (in the case of livestock).. All this large-scale process affects our health; plays a fundamental role in creating the favorable conditions for the evolution of viruses and their spread.
If this were not enough, we know that environmental degradation increases the chances of death of people with COVID-19. For example, air pollution has been reported to be a factor that increases the death rate. In addition to this, the lack of water that is experienced in many parts of the world, puts in check the possibility of obeying the apparently “easy” slogan that, to avoid contagion, we must wash our hands continuously.
Green I want you green
While these are some of the issues that are linked to the pandemic, the environmental crisis we are facing encompasses other very serious problems, including climate change. The pandemic has shown us that forecasting is not a game. The scenarios that have been set for us for our future may be more serious than the current situation.
Given the complexity of the subject, efforts to confront this phenomenon must take place in all spheres – in society, in politics, in the economy – and at all levels, from the individual to the international. It must be promoted by various actors, from governments, companies, academic institutions, civil society organizations, as well as the media.
That is why we will be discussing in this space, which we will call Green I want you green, the current state of the environment from complexity. We will do it from a sensitive and human posture; from the vision that we need a deep and ethical transformation in the way in which our life has been built and organized.
The wound is open, but someday this pandemic will be a scar
Green I love you green will be a weekly reminder that we cannot return to normal. This message of wanting to forget what happened will seduce us with tremendous power. When we go outside and return to our usual activities, we will think that everything is already solved. Much more when they make the vaccine and it is available to everyone. That supposed “normality” will captivate us because remembering this moment will make us uncomfortable. It will hurt.
I invite you to think of this pandemic as a scar that we will carry on our bodies. May these months of pain and uncertainty – the wound that is now open and dying – become a scar that will accompany us in the future. Returning to “normality” and pretending that this pandemic that is shaking us did not happen, is a perverse proposal that puts our lives in check. Green I love you green will be an active way to recognize the scar that this pandemic left us.
And that this scar is an indelible mark that things must and must be transformed. Make it an indelible reminder that we are vulnerable people, that we can affect others and be affected by them. To remind that we must place life at the center of our activities.
Ana De Luca She is a candidate for a PhD in Political and Social Sciences from UNAM. He has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science in Development and Environment, and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from UNAM. It is part of the National Network for Research on Gender, Society and the Environment; She is also the co-author and coordinator of several books related to the environment and gender equality. She is editor of the environment section of Nexos magazine.
Twitter: @ anadeluca21