Thursday, March 26, 2020

Corona 19 and Our Common Home the Earth

The coronavirus 19 is in the news, conversations, and thoughts. In the Peace Column of the Peace Weekly, a representative of the bishops' committee on the environment gives us some reflections to mull over during these days of stress.

The writer attended a recent wedding this spring. It wasn't enough to bring her desire for blessings; she had to wear her mask. It would be wonderful if the long lines to buy masks, and campaigns to reduce face-to-face contact were only once in a lifetime events.

The '2020 Global Risk Report', published by the World Economic Forum in January, ranked infectious diseases as one of 10 risk factors in its impact on society. In the era of hyper-connections, where the world is connected by a fast transportation network, the spread of viruses is accelerating and the threat of infectious diseases is getting bigger due to the climate crisis. Now we live in a time when, like SARS, MERS, and now Corona19, we don't know when and how to face new epidemics.

It is known that the new viruses are characterized by a common transmission of infections, due to increased contact between humans and animals. In fact, about 75% of infectious diseases affecting the human body are common infectious diseases that both animals and humans can get. In particular, there are pathogens in the body of wild animals that can mutate and transmit to humans. The most prominent theory is that the Corona 19 virus came from bats and spread to humans through intermediate hosts. It was known that SARS was a civet and MERS was transmitted to humans by camels as hosts. A professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine of a  national university says, "60% of the pathogens that cause human illness come from animals."

Why are there so many human-animal contacts? Wild animals have lost their lives due to the destruction of forests caused by human greed, natural disasters, and climate changes and have entered our human space. When animals with many viruses, such as bats, lose their place to live, they have no choice but to come into human space, where viruses are spread to host animals.

We also need to look at the growing threat of avian influenza, the factory farming method for meat animals, and the growing popularity of animal cafes (also called pet cafe where customers can interact with various animals), and animal contact in zoos.

Some scientists say the outbreak of new viruses is linked to the climate crisis. Korea's greenhouse gas emissions are at their highest every year. Currently, Korea is equipped with medical technologies and systems that can overcome Corona 19, but this is not enough if we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have been warned of environmental disasters by scholars, such as the recent wildfires in Australia and the extreme weather around the world, which have killed great numbers of wild animals, is a reality, threatening not only wildlife but also human life.

All living things on Earth, are interconnected, and climate problems affect us all. For a more convenient life, disposable items that we inadvertently use, energy use, deforestation, and excessive meat consumption eventually all in some way destroy the earth's environment and return to us like a boomerang. For the health of all of us, we need to take action now.

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