Raging wildfires, severe flooding as well as droughts and increasing levels of biodiversity loss, are just some of the crises that have become more frequent due to a warming climate. Then there is Covid-19, the new coronavirus follows a number of diseases that have emerged in recent decades that originated in animals. Increasing evidence shows that humanity’s overexploitation of nature is one of the factors behind the spread of new diseases.
All indications are that we, as humans, must change our relationship with the natural world for the better and seek out more sustainable paths to progress. Placing the spotlight on the opportunity for South Africa to build back better, as we emerge from the pandemic, is the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF South Africa). WWF South Africa is encouraging people to stand up for nature, calling everyone to lend a hand “For Nature. For Us.”
As part of this drive, WWF South Africa is offering supporters a chance to reconnect with nature by winning two nights for two people at Thakadu River Lodge in Madikwe Game Reserve. To be eligible, participants should make a small donation of between R100 and R500, to “adopt” vital conservation projects, among them the fight for clean air and plastic-free oceans, as well as rhino conservation.
“Ecosystems are declining rapidly because of what we are doing as humans. If we continue to encroach on the natural world at our current rate, our quality of life will be severely reduced, and the lives of future generations will be threatened. We must act now if we want to continue to have access to all the ‘free’ services that nature offers us – from the food we eat to the air we breathe. That is why we are calling on society for support so that we can continue to do the vital work that we do every day in order to safeguard our future,” says Justin Smith, Head of Business Development at WWF South Africa.
Future pandemics may be caused by human actions
Although the Covid-19 virus may have its origins in a province in China, it has become a global crisis, illustrating a larger truth: that we pay dearly when we destroy nature. Many experts have also feared that future pandemics would emerge from the rapid destruction of the environment. By some estimates, three out of four new diseases are zoonotic (meaning they jump from animals to humans). This means that as humans infringe on once-wild environments and animals lose habitats, we are at greater risk of spillover events and zoonotic diseases.
WWF’s The loss of nature and rise of pandemics report illustrates the links between humanity’s impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity and the spread of certain diseases. While many of these links are not yet fully understood, it is clear that human and planetary health are closely connected.
Nature is our ally, not our enemy
The population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970. As per the findings of WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020, our relationship with nature is broken. Biodiversity, the rich diversity of life on earth, is being lost at an alarming rate and the impacts of this loss on our health and way of life are mounting.
The UN has dedicated the 2020s as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Conserving and
restoring our ecosystems and the services they provide should be seen as a fundamental part of maintaining human and planetary health.
“We need to value nature as the indispensable resource that it is. We rely on the natural world for our daily survival. It is possible for us to stabilise and actively reverse the damage we have done through more ambitious conservation efforts and by making fundamental changes to the way we live,” concludes Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF South Africa.
For more information on WWF South Africa or to make a donation, visit the website. The competition runs until 5 June 2021.