By PETER MUSA

As scientists spend quality time burning the midnight oil researching on Covid-19 vaccine, an international conference on how to save the planet from the danger of zoonotic diseases is being organized. The conference would be held in Kunming, China in May 2021.

The 15th Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is expected to come up with a plan of action. It includes how to reduce damage to the ecosystem, prevent more zoonotic pathogens exposure currently being accelerated by market-driven production and growing consumerism.

The meeting is expected to bring together scientists, researchers, conservationists, environmental experts and policy-makers. It would also draw a roadmap of activities on how to reduce negative effects of human activities on the environment, deal with global warming and climate change.

The 15th CBD to be held in China the origin of Covid-19 is expected to inform on economic and financial to the policy-makers the far reaching consequences of interfering with nature while creating world wealth.

In preparation for the meeting, Africa policy-makers and environmental experts recently (July) held an online discussion on a study report. It cautions that for the world population to maintain the current standards of production and consumerism, it would need 1.7 Earths.

The study report published in April this year and titled “Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity” follows a global environmental impact review which was commissioned by Her Majesty’s Treasury (HM Treasury) the United Kingdom’s Economic and Finance Ministry.

The lead consultant for the study Prof Partha Dasgupta, a Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Cambridge, says deforestation, conversion of primary forest for intensive agriculture, extractive industries such as logging, mining and plantations, and illegal wildlife trade are playing a negative role in biodiversity loss and the emergence and spread of infectious diseases.

“Land-use change has been identified as the leading driver of recently-emerging infectious diseases. This destabilization of nature is increasing contact among people and wildlife that carry zoonotic pathogens as human activities expand. This leads to ‘spill-over infections’ where disease-causing organisms are transmitted from animals to human hosts,” Pro Dasgupta explains.

Human beings should put into consideration relying on nature for food, water and shelter, climate regulation and disease control. Nature also maintains nutrients’ cycles and oxygen production while providing spiritual fulfillment and opportunities for recreation.

“Globalisation and our remarkable ability to enter every ecological niche that exists have raised the chances of pandemics. Humans now enter territories occupied by organisms with which we have not evolved. That exposes us to unfamiliar pathogens. Moreover, biodiversity loss creates niches for pathogens that are lying in wait in small numbers to explode in their populations and for new pathogens to evolve,” Prof Dasgupta asserts.

As the world struggles to deal with proliferation of diseases and disasters associated with disrupting the ecosystem, among them Covid 19, solutions will have to come from efficient practices during the conversion of goods and services into wealth.

“These processes should recognize nature’s critical role in sustained livelihoods. Such practices should include acceleration of innovation and investment in non-fossil fuel energy sources and storage technologies that reduce carbon emission that contribute to greenhouse gases,” Prof Dasgupta advises.

The Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity states, in the past four decades, there has been an average decline of 60 percent in mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians populations, mostly in the tropics. Since 1950s, the worldwide estimated number of wild bee species has fallen from 6,700 to only 3,400 in the year 2010.

In addition, a quarter of animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Current extinction rates are around 100 to 1,000 times higher than average over the past several million years. Studies show that 70 percent of remaining earth’s forests is within one kilometre of forest’s edge. The loss of natural habitats owing to further extensions of land for agriculture is expected to increase by nearly 20 per cent by 2050.

Dr Philip Osano, Africa Centre’s Director of Stockholm Environment Institute, one of organization that hosted the online African discussion, says many African countries’ economies such as agriculture, health and tourism depend on biodiversity and its resources. Its loss will significantly impact on the continent’s Gross Domestic Product, lead to poverty increase and food insecurity.

As the world seeks practical innovative ways to deal with COVID-19 recovery and resilience strategies, Prof Dasgupta states consumption patterns are driven partly by our own private desires, and desire to compete with others. Our desire to consume goods is significantly influenced by what others around us are consuming and what they aspire to consume.

The Dasgupta Report states there is “a pervasive institutional failure globally” to achieve collective action in limiting climate change following nearly 30 years of diplomatic effort. Through appropriate technologies and institutional frameworks, we will need to act on dimensions of demand such as population, consumption and efficiency.

This is how to help keep the global mean temperature closer to levels advocated for in the international agreements made among countries around the world.

Dr Milton Ochieng, African Development Bank, Director for African Natural Resources Centre says it calls for collective, corporate and individual behavioral change. This is because man’s economic prosperity is embedded within the ability of nature’s carrying capacity.

“Now that the ‘economics of biodiversity’ report shows the limitation nature places on man’s economy, this should inform economic and financial policy-makers the far reaching consequences of tampering with nature,” Dr Ochieng cautions.

 

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