It’s the lack of nature, stupid!

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The current exceptional situation reveals the flaws in our system and will call into question the standards of our society. What if nature is the solution? The president of the EUROPARC Federation, Ignace Schops, reminds us of the essential importance of protecting nature in the face of these crises and, above all, of the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Every crisis is an opportunity for a paradigm shift.

Article issued by Ignace Schops.

Sometimes, the world needs a shock therapy! With the Corona outbreak we abruptly lost our comfort zone. The pandemic puts our world completely upside down. What was a standard yesterday will be questioned tomorrow. We need to reinvent ourselves and accept that the solutions of the past are not fit for purpose anymore in the future. The new sustainable and transformative change can boost the interest in the restoration and the protection of our natural heritage as well.

What was a standard yesterday will be questioned tomorrow.

“It’s the economy, stupid”! This famous oneliner was used by Bill Clinton to compete with George W Bush in his race to win the presidential elections in 1992. At the time US and global leaders were convinced that the economy was the only and most important element to develop a prosperous and healthy community. Bill Clinton won the elections and a blind faith in “globalization” was the solution. The voice of environmental movement was not emerged to full power yet, so the call for a sustainable balance within the planetary limits was not heard. But as we know of Bob Dylan: “The times, they are A-changin”.

With the Corona outbreak, a new environmental episode arises, and this episode is there to stay. Infectious diseases exist as long as we walk on this planet. They appear in many ways and with various impact. They can be friendly or deadly. Coronaviruses that are endemic to humans are not deadly at all, but those who hang out in animals can become deadly. These viruses have not been circulating in humans before, so there is no immunity system to protect us.

Over time we witness more zoonotic diseases, animal infection diseases that jump over to humans like Ebola or AIDS. The Coronavirus is a zoonotic disease as well. But there is more. The coronavirus and the SARS outbreak of 2003 have two things in common. They are both related to the coronavirus family and are both coming from animals of a “wet market” in China. At a wet market you can still buy living or dead animals like dogs, cats, bats, snakes, chickens, pangolins, etc. The Wuhan coronavirus is thought to have originated in bats, which may have passed the disease to one of a few potential intermediary species (a pangolin), which then passed it to humans.

If they are so dangerous and cause deadly diseases, kill all the bats” is loudly heard. But we rarely hear this request of scientists because – like environmentalists – they know that killing bats is not the solution, quite the opposite! The reasons for an increasing zoonotic disease are the rapid loss of biodiversity and the silent collapse of natural ecosystems! Human induced ecological destruction increasingly brings animal pathogens (infection agents, germs) into contact with human populations, while human technology and activities spread those pathogens on an ever increasing scale and faster than ever before. By traveling we spread them across the world in no time!

It is not the economy, but the lack of nature !

Instead of increasing the problem we urgently need to restore and increase our natural habitats. Make and give space to save ourselves as well. EUROPARC Federation will take this message forward and will convince our decision-makers that business as usual is not good enough! And we have a damn good access with the New Green Deal of the European Union!

Ignace Schops, President of the EUROPARC Federation, March 2020