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Deforestation and pandemics
With so many solutions at hand, there is all the more reason for renewable energy stakeholders to make habitat and forest conservation their top priority, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As reported by an expert panel convened by the international Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), pandemics are becoming ever more frequent due to climate change and habitat loss. Rather than responding to outbreaks after they occur, the global community must focus more attention on pandemic prevention through habitat conservation.
“The underlying causes of pandemics are the same global environmental changes that drive biodiversity loss and climate change,” IBPES explains. “These include land-use change, agricultural expansion and intensification, and wildlife trade and consumption.”
“Escape from the Pandemic Era requires policy options that foster transformative change towards preventing pandemics,” IBPES concludes.
The rise of the Indigenous voice
The IPBES panel advocates for the “One Health” model of land use planning, which links human, animal and environmental well-being. One Health is a global, collaborative and multidisciplinary effort. In the U.S. It is spearheaded by the Centers for Disease Control.
That is a good start, but the voice of Indigenous people appears to be missing. The CDC describes One Health as a network of health and science professionals collaborating with “law enforcement, policymakers, agriculture, communities, and even pet owners.”
The failure to highlight the Indigenous voice stands in contrast to action elsewhere in the Americas. In particular, Costa Rica has become a model for Indigenous empowerment in government. The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging the resiliency of Costa Rica’s Indigenous population like never before, sparking calls for more government help. However, Levi Sucre Romero, coordinator of the Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques, points out that the relationship is reciprocal.
“In Costa Rica, we Bribri [an Indigenous people living within the country] not only produce world-class cocoa, we have knowledge and a way of life that keeps our forests standing and our environment in ecological harmony,” he wrote last May, when the pandemic was new.