As climate change worsens and humans push further into wildlife habitats, the risk of animal-borne diseases triggering global pandemics grows more likely. Journalist and filmmaker Harriet Constable joins CBSN’s Lana Zak to discuss.
The CDC’s relaxation on mask-wearing and social gatherings signal progress in the fight against the pandemic, but even with vaccination numbers going up and cases coming down here in the US, there are concerns about the next global health emergency, a particular concern climate change and encroachment on wildlife habitats. Let’s bring in journalist and filmmaker Harriet Constable. She is co-producer of the multimedia series, “Stopping the Next One, Scientists Race to Prevent Human Encroachment on Wildlife From Causing The Next Pandemic.”
How does transmission between animals and humans typically occur?
It is a human-created problem time and again. We see that human activities create opportunities for viruses to jump and spill. For example, one of the diseases that we looked at is the Nipah virus.
It’s a disease we find in Asia that comes from bats. And it’s deforestation of bat habitat that gives this disease the opportunity to jump and spill over. This is just one of many opportunities and many examples of human activity giving a virus a chance to reach us. So it’s a human-created problem, but also there are a lot of solutions out there that we can be implementing.
Global warming is altering ecosystems around the globe. China alone has seen 40 new bat species, according to the journal, “Science of the Total Environment.” Those bad species are estimated to carry more than 100 types of coronavirus variants. How do we protect ourselves given that the change in global warming in the environment is so much bigger than any scientist or one individual?
Climate change is a huge factor that’s driving up opportunities, deforestation. And deforestation is happening in Asia and in South America, largely to do with our food systems to create space for livestock and things like palm oil plantations. In South America, deforestation is driving up the chance for yellow fever to jump between humans and monkeys.
Another human activity that is creating opportunities for disease to spread, we found in Europe, is the intensive farming of pigs. This creates a lot of chances for disease to spread and proliferate among herds. So we need to be looking at the opportunities that we’re giving these viruses and how we can prevent them in the future.
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