Saving the Environment Could Help Prevent the Next Pandemic

By Zac Amos, Features Editor at ReHack

The origins of COVID-19 are still unknown to the world, making the generation having lived through it anticipatory for the next global pandemic. Resilience has never been more at the forefront of people’s minds, primarily as climate change and economic distress pollute survivalist conversations.

Protecting the planet and its people from the next pandemic requires similar strategies to mitigating the climate crisis. Obtain peace of mind by making it more challenging for a disease to sweep the planet with these eco-conscious strategies.

The Research Inspiring the Overlap

Many would not immediately bundle a health crisis like a pandemic with combating climate change. Ecology, economy and public health experts joined forces to research the connection and formulate solutions.

The results prove investing in environmental healing over a decade will cost 50 times less than the planet already paid for during COVID-19’s peak. Funding climate crisis mitigation acts like preventive medicine — it minimizes the severity of potential pandemics by 27%. Some expenses include the social cost of carbon, implementation of technological oversight for trade programs and compensation for the spillover effect, which is how national economics impacts other nations.

The study examined a three-prong approach to environmental restoration and how it links to public health, including:

  • Reducing deforestation
  • Restricting the global wildlife trade
  • Monitoring the emergence of new viruses

Here’s more on the research’s impacts and novel proposals by companies and innovators worldwide.

Saving the Environment Could Help Prevent the Next Pandemic

1. Prevention Equals Poverty Reduction

Pandemic prevention requires worldwide regulators to look at underprivileged areas. These regions are affected the most during pandemics because of a lack of resources. They are also more vulnerable to natural disasters and adverse effects of climate change. For example, populations in lower-income areas are more likely to recieve illegally dumped electronic waste, and they are more likely to accept jobs contributing to environmental destruction because of limited options. These side effects seem irrelevant to the likelihood of a pandemic spreading, but they coincide.

The WHO performed a study on women and children working in dumpsites. They are laden with medical e-waste containing infectious toxins and metal peripherals poisoning soils and waterways. This line of work has over 1,000 potentially harmful contaminants, including the spread of viruses. Tackling poverty, classism and discrimination improve environmental health and pandemic defenses in geographies most susceptible.

2. Improving Air Quality Keeps Illness Contained

Air quality was one of the hottest subjects during COVID-19 because infectious disease manifests as delicate particulate matter. The invisible threat piqued interest in keeping air quality in the best shape it has ever been — but climate change makes it a more significant challenge.

The persistence of air pollutants makes disease spread faster. It increased the likelihood of death from COVID-19 by 15%, but one way to contain this threat is through technology.

Clearing the air to help the planet means fewer airborne particles spread viruses. Digital transformation is a crucial player in pandemic prevention and fixing the atmosphere. Around seven in 10 experts in their sectors stated COVID-19 inspired more intensive environmental, social and governance objectives in their business. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can help everyone gather data on air quality in every structure. Continued air quality development manifests as:

  • Incorporating smart air quality monitors for analytics
  • Pushing regulations to curb air pollution
  • Updating ventilation systems and filters worldwide
  • Investing in public transportation
  • Moving away from wood-burning heating

3. Reducing Deforestation Keeps Animals Safe

Minimizing clear-cutting and habitat removal differs from afforestation, which is replanting and regrowing those areas. Each has its benefits, but ending deforestation is more critical to preventing unnecessary disease spread. Animals are displaced and exposed to novel diseases when humans enter previously untouched habitats in deep forests. Invasive species may arrive this way, too, exacerbating environmental harm to wildlife and communities.

The disease’s severity depends on the land’s intention after deforestation. Will it become a warehouse, highway or agricultural co-op? Each has pollution and cross-contamination associated with it in varying degrees. Direct contact with humans and infrastructure spreads pathogens to animals, but people also bring waterborne illnesses or spread viruses to other vectors like mosquitoes and ticks.

Encouraging afforestation after curbing deforestation is a powerful way to create barriers against disease. It does this by rehoming animals to their native zones, getting them out of the way of humans. Additionally, it reinforces that toxic infrastructure should not replace precious nature. It reduces pollution, disease spread and environmental degradation, like a literal wall keeping pandemics out of the population.

4. Increasing Monitoring Improves Detection

If the world had been outfitted with recent detection technology, humanity may have uncovered COVID-19 faster than it did. The tech that tracks health could also monitor environmental analytics. For example, investing in funding could help nonprofits expand zoonotic disease tracking with biosurveillance, protecting nature and humans simultaneously.

A more commercial option is IoT. Internet of Things-connected devices monitor soil health and automate diagnostics. Smart farming is an innovation that could reveal disease spread before it becomes unmanageable.

5. Minimizing Wildlife Trade Reduces Exposure

Deforestation contaminates animals, but trade increases the reach of the viruses. Nations advocating for extensive animal trade networks, mainly through unethical means, are more likely to contribute to spreading a pandemic. Illegal markets usually trade exotic wildlife not meant to mingle with humans, and because the market is unregulated, nothing is treated or evaluated for health.

It makes sense how disease spreads faster, whether the trade is providing someone with a pet or food. Every transaction opens more traffic routes for an outbreak to flourish. Lobbying for stricter oversight of wildlife trade helps the planet maintain biodiversity while reducing exposure vectors.

Preventing the Next Pandemic With Environmental Advocacy

Protecting humans from pandemics requires battling climate change. These worlds seem disparate, but the wellness of wildlife correlates with the intensity of infectious diseases. People, plants and animals will live longer and free of fast-spreading disease if everyone increases awareness of the benefits of healthy natural habitats. Healing the planet will, in turn, heal the human race and may prevent future pandemics from wreaking havoc on the world.

About the Author

Zac Amos covers sustainable tech and enjoys sharing the ways we can use tech to overcome environmental challenges. He is also the Features Editor at ReHack. You can find more of his work by following him on LinkedIn or Twitter.