These days, much of the news is about COVID-19 and the Coronavirus that causes it. In the weeks since the outbreak came to southern Vancouver Island, more and more media reports are now focusing on the political and social issues related to the pandemic. Some of these articles are important commentaries on the way different governments are handling (or have handled) their COVID-19 reactions while other stories are more polarized. There are also outlets reporting on how COVID-19 and Climate Change are “parallel” (UN News 28 April 2020), yet there are even fewer discussing how one is, like the image above hints, heavily linked to the other.
Unlike the image to the left, Climate Change isn’t “coming,” it is already here (LA Times, Opinion, 15 Sept 2019). Like the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a process with a “curve” very much similar to the line graphs we’re getting used to seeing with the “flatten the curve” strategy (Treble, 29 April 2020) - the less we do to mitigate the human causes of a drastically changing climate, the steeper the “curve” of its effects (on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human society) will be in the short term. The relationship between Climate Change and the COVID-19 pandemic also serve as very good reasons for continuing to support conservation and environmental initiatives during the pandemic.
Climate change, biodiversity, and habitat conservation are very much linked to the ongoing pandemic, mostly in how this novel coronavirus began. According to Nicole Mortillaro, the global decline in biodiversity is putting species into contact in new ways, creating more conditions for viruses and the diseases they cause to “jump” species (Mortillaro 2020). Doubling the impact of this, habitat loss contributes to the loss of biodiversity and often puts species into contact in very drastic ways, particularly when that loss is linked to resource extraction.
While the current pandemic did not begin in southern Vancouver Island, the experience is giving us an opportunity to see certain things happen at home. We are only as resilient as the ecosystems that sustain us, and they are only as resilient as the biodiversity that they’re made up of. Within this resilience are built in layers of protection that slow or even stop the advance of everything from contagious diseases (in the case of a pandemic) (Roston 2020), to wildfires (Goldman 2016). It seems that biodiversity isn’t just how diverse the biological mass of the planet is, it’s actually something that regulates the way many things interact!
Ecosystems are more resilient to alterations when they are functioning (Gunderson 2000). If COVID-19 is an indication, Climate Change will be felt in many different ways, sometimes in ways that maybe we didn’t expect, or even in ways we didn’t see as being related to a changing climate. That is one of the reasons it is so important to continue to support habitat conservation even during a critical and global medical emergency, like a pandemic. Because as events related to Climate Change become more commonplace and more diverse, we will need resilient and functional ecosystems to not only mitigate them, but to help us adapt to this changing world.
We are already in Climate Change’s curve, and it’s up to us to decide whether we are going to try and flatten that curve. For sure, if you have the disposable income, then please consider giving what you can to efforts that are underway to treat those affected by COVID-19. There are human communities all over the world experiencing this new face of Climate Change in very severe ways. If you already give to conservation, to ecological enhancement, restoration, and stewardship, please consider continuing if you can, or consider supporting a local conservation organization when you have the funds again. Biodiversity is under threat (CPAWS), and the more it is threatened the more we are threatened (Watts 2018).
Supporting conservation might not be the answer to COVID-19, and it may not bring biodiversity loss to a screeching halt. It will allow us to flatten parts of the Climate Change curve. Supporting those ecosystems that remain, what biodiversity we still have, will help the wellbeing of all species in this new future.
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) - Manitoba Chapter. “Canada`s Biodiversity Under Attack, Federal-Provincial Report Finds.” CPAWS - Manitoba Chapter Resources, https://cpawsmb.org/canadas-biodiversity-under-attack-federal-provincial-report-finds/, accessed 7 May 2020.
Goldman, Jason G. (2016). “Could Biodiversity Protect Against Wildfires?” Conservation Magazine (Online), 30 March, https://www.conservationmagazine.org/2016/03/biodiversity-protect-against-wildfires/ accessed 7 May 2020.
Gunderson, Lance H. (2000). “Ecological Resilience - In Theory and Application.” Annual Review of Ecological Systems Vol. 31: 425-439.
Mortillero, Nicole (2020). “Biodiversity loss and wildlife trade are making pandemics like COVID-19 more likely, experts say.” CBC News, 11 April, https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/pandemics-biodiversity-covid-19-1.5528063 accessed 30 April.
Treble, Patricia (2020). “Coronavirus in Canada: These charts show how our fight to 'flatten the curve' is going.” MacLean’s Online, 29 April, https://www.macleans.ca/society/health/coronavirus-in-canada-these-charts-show-how-our-fight-to-flatten-the-curve-is-going/, accessed 29 April 2020.
Roston, Eric (2020). “Want to Stop the Next Pandemic? Start Protecting Wildlife Habitats.” Time Online, 8 April, https://time.com/5817363/wildlife-habitats-disease-pandemics/, accessed 7 May 2020.
Watts, Jonathan (2018). “Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN.” The Guardian (online), 6 November, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/03/stop-biodiversity-loss-or-we-could-face-our-own-extinction-warns-un, accessed 7 May 2020.