Earth Day is only a week away, so what better time is there to consider how everything is interconnected, for instance the COVID crisis and climate change. At first glance that may seem an unlikely pairing. After all, what would a foodborne virus have to do with changing weather patterns?
Quite a lot, actually.
In an interview with Inside Climate News, Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Interim Director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment for Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, explains how we have “transformed the nature of earth.”
Burning fossil fuels has changed atmospheric conditions, increasing respiratory diseases and decreasing our ability to fight off pathogens, and the strain of the exploding human population is resulting in a world where there is little separation between people and wild animals.
“We have, as a species, grown up in partnership with the planet and life we live with. So, when we change the rules of the game, we shouldn’t expect that it wouldn’t affect our health, for better or worse. That’s true of the climate. And the same principle holds for the emergence of infections,” said Dr. Bernstein.
At the same time that we push further into forests to build cities, grow crops, and house livestock, animals are migrating to escape increasing temperatures around the world. Migratory studies show that animals and plants are moving away from the hottest parts of the planet towards the poles. The more warming an area has, the more movement among species is detected.
Wildfires, floods and deforestation also push wild animals from their habitats. All of this movement contributes to the spread of animal-borne pathogens, as evidenced by recent outbreaks of bird and mosquito borne diseases in areas far from original outbreaks.
Scientists who study climate change look beyond weather patterns to the systems that we use globally to function as societies: trade, food production, distribution, health care, and energy investments.
They have been warning us for decades that we need to be prepared for what would come with global warming, logistically, economically and health-wise. Unfortunately, many times those warnings are politicized.
It’s time for everyone to join the efforts to stop climate change. You can do many things to make a difference.
- Learn where your financial institutions are investing your money. Consider banking with an institution that lets you decide to support renewable energy instead of fossil fuels.
- Make informed decisions as a consumer and support globally conscience companies.
- Find out what your carbon footprint is at climateneutralnow.org, and how you can offset it.
- Teach your children how to live more sustainably.
- Support organizations that lobby for climate change policy.
- Vote for policies and politicians who support change.
- Exercise your right as a consumer to influence corporations.
- Eat less meat and dairy to reduce the effects of animal agriculture and deforestation.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle at home and at work.
- Shop local to reduce transportation emissions.
Switch to green power if available where you live.