TUMBY BAY - While a number of conspiracy theorists, alarmists, doomsayers and social media terrorists have tried to insinuate that there is a link between the coronavirus epidemic and climate change, more level-headed minds have been trying to alert us to the connection between the health of the planet and the health of humanity for some time.
In 1993 the Norwegian physician, Per Fugelli, wrote: "The patient Earth is sick. Global environmental disruptions can have serious consequences for human health. It's time for doctors to give a world diagnosis and advise on treatment."
It is thought that Covid-19 originated in an exotic animal market in Wuhan, China. This supports the view that wildlife harbour many viruses and pathogens that can lead to new diseases in humans such as Ebola, SARS and HIV.
SARS, for instance, originally emerged in bats, then hopped into nocturnal mammals called civets before finally infecting humans.
After triggering an outbreak in China, SARS spread to 26 countries, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing more than 770 over the course of two years.
However, an increasing number of researchers today think that it is humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses.
They say that the invasion of wild landscapes creates conditions for new diseases such as Covid-19.
In March 2014 the medical journal, The Lancet, called for the creation of a movement for planetary health that took into consideration the importance of surrounding natural ecosystems on human health.
“Global health does not fully take into account the natural foundation on which humans live – the planet itself. Nor does it factor in the force and fragility of human civilisations," the journal said.
In 2015, the Rockefeller Foundation and The Lancet launched the concept as the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on Planetary Health.
The new commission explained that planetary health refers to the "achievement of the highest attainable standard of health, wellbeing, and equity worldwide through judicious attention to the human systems – political, economic, and social – that shape the future of humanity and the Earth's natural systems that define the safe environmental limits within which humanity can flourish."
The underlying principle of this approach is that human health depends on "flourishing natural systems and the wise stewardship of those natural systems".
In establishing this principle it was deemed axiomatic that the recognition that human activities, such as energy generation and food production, have led to substantial adverse effects on the Earth's systems.
One group of scientists has identified nine environmental limits that must be maintained to ensure that humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come.
However, according to an update in 2015 they noted that at least four of these limits have already been breached and exceeded. They are climate change, biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows, and land-system change.
They concluded that urgent and transformative actions are needed to address these four aspects to protect present and future generations.
To that end they say immediate attention has to be paid to changing our systems of governance and human organization.
In particular they said that there needs to be a redefinition of prosperity to focus on the enhancement of quality of life and delivery of improved health for all, together with respect for the integrity of natural systems.
In other words they suggested that neo-liberal systems and laissez faire economics need to be abandoned for everyone’s good.
Perhaps the Covid-19 outbreak and the way it is being tackled is an indication that their warnings have been falling on deaf ears.