HOW TO PREVENT CORONA & CO. IN FUTURE?
Once upon a time there was a horseshoe bat. Its future did not look too bright: it ended up on a Chinese wet market, a food market but also a mekka for wildlife lovers; to eat, not to admire. There, it met a pangolin, which it would hardly ever meet in nature, and the bat gave the pangolin a virus. Some wanted to devour the little pangolin, literally. The pangolin itself did not like too much and passed on the virus to the human. The rest is history.
Wait, not really… because this is how the pandemic probably started that we are experiencing right now.
This is not the first time that humanity has been hit by an infectious disease which is transmissable from animals to humans. The technical term for this is Zoonosis and diseases like Ebola, HIV, Yellow Fever, the Spanish Flu, SARS 1 and the current SARS-CoV-2 belong in this category. In fact, 2/3 of all big diseases originate from animals and 2/3 of these from wild animals.
HOW CAN WE PREVENT PANDEMICS IN THE FUTURE?
To answer this question we first have to see how infectious diseases actually evolve and spoiler art: holding Wuhan's wet market responsible for that would be a tiiiiny bit too simple.
If many animals come together on little space, a virus can spread rapidly. If it is then transmissable to humans, everything can happen very quickly. And where do animals come together? In mass husbandry, in nature when they lose their habitat due to deforestation or humans building houses, or on wet markets like in Wuhan.
In all of these places you can find humans too, because it is us keeping animals for mass production. We clear rainforest land. We build and take the animals' habitats. We buy on wet markets. And it's not just a few people here and there involved in that, these are all mass phenomena.
Talking of a "natural development" would be quite off point. Dirk Steffens, a nature film maker, explained that wonderfully: "We finally have to understand that our planet is a closed eco system and if you turn a screw at one point, something happens at another." That means: with our actions we trigger pandemics like COVID-19.
THEY WARNED US
For centuries scientists have warned of the world being hit by a pandemic of this dimension. Therefore, the question was never "if", but "when" we will have to face it. According to experts there are at least 40 viruses that can be transmitted by wildlife and have what it takes to become a Corona-like pandemic.
Now we can come back to the question as to how we can prevent something like that in future.
On a large scale:
Closing wildlife markets and the trade with wild animals – China has done so in the meantime
Eliminate mass husbandry
Why does all of this actually exist? Exactly! Because of demand. Wild animals are in demand as food or pets or because of alleged healing powers. Mass husbandry is in place because of over-population and because we humans are addicted to consumption. The same goes for deforestation; you can find palm oil in countless good nowadays. And also globalisation is man-made.
This is what we can do now:
Not look away – the problem does not vanish only because we close our eyes
Raise awareness – many are not aware of these connections and the effects of their actions
Question your own lifestyle – if there is one thing we have learned from this pandemic, it is that we actually are capable of limiting our own lifestyle for the greater good
Get involved – no matter if quietly by signing petitions, via posts on social media or really loud with megaphone, drums and banners at (online) protests
Then there could actually be a happy end – for humans AND animals.