We are destroying wilderness around the world as the human population expands and our systems of inequality drive people ever farther into previously unexplored areas in their efforts to survive. In this Guardian article, disease ecologist Thomas Gillespie of Emory University says, “I am not at all surprised about the coronavirus outbreak. The majority of pathogens are still to be discovered. We are at the very tip of the iceberg.”
“Humans, says Gillespie, are creating the conditions for the spread of diseases by reducing the natural barriers between host animals – in which the virus is naturally circulating – and themselves.” Protecting biodiversity protects us too.
Americans may think that we are not much a part of this problem of diseases coming from loss of wilderness, but we are, as suburban sprawl paves forests and exposes more people to the tick-borne Lyme disease.
Similarly, our enormous consumer appetites have global effects, and coronavirus is one way in which the consequences of our actions are coming back to us. We have enjoyed for too long the cheap goods produced by underpaid, exploited workers in far-off places. Our habits have a direct impact, as our demand leads to polluting factories and desperate people.
It is time to build regenerative places that help to re-localize our economies, bringing back home meaningful jobs and putting shops and services within walking distance of all. We need to shorten our supply chains and produce and consume more thoughtfully. And we need to support regenerative agriculture here at home to revive our own soil, heal local ecosystems, and feed people with fresh, nutritious, living foods grown locally.